Top Stories

The Most Interesting Word Origins According To Etymologists

Young woman considering Oxford English Dictionary
Photo by Houcine Ncib on Unsplash

When it comes to the language we hear, read, and speak every day, it can be easy for us to take advantage of all the interesting ways it's transformed since its beginning.

But when etymologists are given the opportunity to nerd out over their favorite facts, they're not shy about sharing.

So when Redditor ocddoc shared a fun question, the etymologists lurking on Reddit were quick to reply.

"Etymologists of Reddit, what is the coolest origin of a word?"

When Definitions Expand

"Etymology: 'Dashboard.'"

"The dashboard is a board on the front of a horse carriage meant to keep mud from kicking up on the passengers when the horse dashes."

"And over time it came to mean the front part of anything, even a computer interface is sometimes called a dashboard."

- Cats**t-Dogfart

"Etymology: Shibboleth was a Hebrew word for a part of a plant. But at one point, it was used to determine whether someone belonged to one cultural group or another because the groups pronounced the word differently."

"Now, it refers to words and phrases like those that 'out' someone as part of a particular group whether it's by pronunciation or understanding."

"For example, get a native German speaker to say, 'squirrel,' and they almost definitely won't be able to."

- SmartAlec105

The ABCs... and More

"The Ampersand (&) used to be a letter in the English alphabet. It came after Z in the in the alphabet."

"In the alphabet song, after you finished with Z, kids would sing: 'and per se and,' which is where the name ampersand comes from. 'And per se and' basically means 'also and as itself.'"

- marsglow

Humorous Translations

"Pumpernickel comes from the German words pumpern ('to break wind') and Nickel ('goblin'), apparently due to its indigestibility."

"Their bread is so coarse, it would make the devil break wind."

"'Their bread is of the very coarsest kind, ill-baked, and as black as a coal, for they never sift their flour. The people of the country call it POMPERNICKEL,' from ‘The Grand Tour; or, A Journey Through the Netherlands, Germany, Italy, and France’ by Thomas Nugent, II."

- MuadDave2

"In my mind, the literal translation of pumpernickel is 'fart goblin.'"

"Incidentally, I encourage one of you to make a band called 'Fart Goblin.'"

- diogenes_sadecv

'Etymology: melon. It's not particularly interesting in itself, it came from Ancient Greek, through Latin, to Old French, before finding its way to English."

"All along the way, it referred to various gourds. However, and this is the interesting bit, melons was slang for 'boobs' in Greek, and it retained this slang definition as well as its 'real' definition all the way to English."

"Usually, in etymology, you keep one definition or the other, and never both, which makes it really interesting. Also 'boobies.'"

- KaiF1SCH

"The etymology of 'tawdry' is a real ride."

"There was a 7th-century Anglo-Saxon saint named Æthelthryth. Now, nobody, not even 7th century Anglo-Saxons, wants to go around trying to pronounce that dense forest of th's, so she was commonly known as St. Etheldreda, and later, linguistically lazier people called her St. Audrey."

"St. Audrey was the patron saint of a town called Ely, and the folks of Ely held a fair every year in her name. One of the primary products on offer at these fairs was lace. 'St. Audrey's lace' was said a few too many times, and got slurred down to 'tawdry lace.'"

"Over time, the lace fell out of favor. It was mainly made by peasant women, and thus viewed as cheap, and the Puritans looked down on lace garments of any kind as ostentatious. 'Tawdry' then began to be used to describe other things that were cheap and ostentatious, and the modern definition of the word was born."

- Rromagar

"Etymology: Nimrod was originally a compliment referring to one's hunting skills (Nimrod being a biblical figure known for his ability to hunt), but the definition changed because people didn't understand Bugs Bunny was calling Elmer Fudd a Nimrod sarcastically."

- seevian

Words Formed by Fear

"The word 'bear' in many languages in Europe (including English) just means 'brown thing.'"

"There used to be a proper name for bear, but it was taboo because saying it was believed to summon a bear, who would then kill everyone. It was so taboo, it was eventually forgotten and the euphemism (brown thing) became the name."

"Ancient people were scared pi**less by bears."

"The Arctic draws its root from 'arctus,' the Greek word for bear. So it's the 'land of bears,' and the Antarctic is thus, 'the land without bears.'"

- SolarDubstep

"In eastern Slavic languages, they were so scared that even the 'brown thing' became taboo."

"The word is still used as a part of 'the bear's lair' name, but the animal itself is referred to as 'the-one-who-knows-where-is-honey.'"

- ofedorov

"The Croatian word for bear is 'medved,' which has two parts: med for 'honey' and veď' for 'to know.'"

- Cayenns

"Random story... 'med' was one of the first words of Slovak I learned, because I used to make mead, so 'medovina' is 'med wine' or 'honey wine' made perfect sense to me."

"So we were walking past a bar in Bratislava that had 'medved' in its name, so I asked what it had to do with honey."

"She explained that it meant bear, and had in fact nothing to do with honey."

"A short google later, I won, and she learned a little about her own language, from this stupid Englishman whose knowledge of Slovak doesn't get much further than the dinner menu."

"(I'm trying, I really am. But I thought having genders in languages was complicated. You guys have like 5000 different word endings to memorize for each and every word!)"

- wosmo

"Etymology: Nightmare. The 'mare' part of the word 'nightmare' comes from Germanic folklore, in which a 'mare' is an evil female spirit or goblin that sits upon a sleeper’s chest, suffocating them or giving them bad dreams."

"So basically the word comes from a description of sleep paralysis."

- theonlydidymus

"Malaria. Malaria is an infectious disease characterized by chills and fever and caused by the bite of an infected Anopheles mosquito."

"This word comes from the medieval Italian mal (bad) and aria (air), describing the miasma from the swamps around Rome."

"This 'bad air' was believed to be the cause of the fever that often developed in those who spent time around the swamps. In fact, the illness, now known as malaria, was due to certain protozoans present in the mosquitos that bred around these swamps, and which caused recurring feverish symptoms in those they bit."

- Back2Bach

And One Redditor Couldn't Choose Just One

"I love love love this game! Here are some of my favorite recent ones, summed up very basically."

"'Scuttlebutt" was first a nautical term for a cask (butt) of drinking water with a hole (scuttle) for drawing it out. The term came to mean 'rumor' or 'gossip' because sailors would gather to idly chat around the cask. It is the predecessor of the term 'watercooler talk' for workplace gossip."

"Before 1860, the word 'pollution' commonly meant 'semen,' specifically semen released somewhere other than during conjugal activities, or 'defilement' or 'desecration.' Also, the words 'seminal,' 'disseminate,' and 'seminary' derive from the Latin 'semen.'"

"'Meteor' comes from the Greek metéōron, literally meaning 'thing high up.' In 15th-century English, 'meteor' could refer to any atmospheric phenomena, which were differentiated by various classifications of meteors. Hence 'meteorology' as the study of atmospheric conditions, rather than just meteors."

"Classifications included: aerial meteors (notable winds and tornadoes and such), aqueous meteors (water-based atmospheric phenomena such as rain, snow, hail, dew, frost, and clouds), luminous meteors (auroras, rainbows, and other light-based phenomena), and igneous meteors (fiery-looking phenomena such as lightning and shooting stars)."

"Around 1590, the English word began to take on the more specific, fiery extraterrestrial meaning we use today."

"'Ambivalence'was first a psychological term, literally meaning 'strength on both sides.' Paul Eugen Bleuler, the psychologist who coined it in 1910, also coined the terms schizophrenia ('a splitting of the mind') and autism (from Greek autos, 'self')."

"'Feisty' ('spirited, lively') arose in 1896. Before, feist meant 'small dog,' a shortening of 'fysting curre' ('stinking cur'), wherein fyst meant 'to break wind,' supposedly conflated because ladies would blame their gas on their lapdogs. In sum, 'feisty' means 'farty dog.'"

"'Alchemy' is from the Greek khemeioa, which was either from Khemia, a name for Egypt meaning 'land of black earth,' or the Greek khymatos 'that which is poured out.' It was often used as a scientific term until the 1600s when 'chemistry' arose from it, leaving 'alchemy' with its more mystical sense."

"The word 'tabby' came to refer to cats in the 1690s due to their fur pattern, which resembles a striped silk taffeta also called tabby, originally (via French) from the name of the Baghdad neighborhood Attabiy, where rich silks were made. The area was named after the Umayyad prince Attab."

"'Clone' as a term for the production of genetically identical individuals was coined in 1963 by J.B.S. Haldane. It was predated by the horticultural sense of "clon" or "clone," the process whereby a new plant is created using cuttings from another. Both are from the Ancient Greek klōn, 'twig.'"

"'Jargon,' adopted from French in the 14th century, originally meant 'unintelligible talk, gibberish; chattering, jabbering.' It wryly took on its current meaning, 'phraseology peculiar to a sect or profession,' in the 1650s due to the fact that such speech was unintelligible to outsiders."

"'Moxie,' (general use from the 1930s) comes from the brand name of a bitter syrup first marketed as the medicine 'Moxie Nerve Food' in 1876, then sold as a soft drink starting in 1884. The brand may be from a Native American Abenaki word for 'dark water,' from Maine lake and river names."

"And, finally, an entomological etymology! The praying mantis (Mantis religiosa) and other insects in the order Mantodea get their name from the Greek mantis, literally 'one who divines, a seer, prophet,' which in turn is from mainesthai or 'be inspired.'"

- articulateantagonist

Languages are fascinating as they continue to change with society's needs and popular culture influences. But to look back in time at the many ways a word may have changed might be the most interesting study of all.

People Reveal The Weirdest Thing About Themselves

Reddit user Isitjustmedownhere asked: 'Give an example; how weird are you really?'

Let's get one thing straight: no one is normal. We're all weird in our own ways, and that is actually normal.

Of course, that doesn't mean we don't all have that one strange trait or quirk that outweighs all the other weirdness we possess.

For me, it's the fact that I'm almost 30 years old, and I still have an imaginary friend. Her name is Sarah, she has red hair and green eyes, and I strongly believe that, since I lived in India when I created her and there were no actual people with red hair around, she was based on Daphne Blake from Scooby-Doo.

I also didn't know the name Sarah when I created her, so that came later. I know she's not really there, hence the term 'imaginary friend,' but she's kind of always been around. We all have conversations in our heads; mine are with Sarah. She keeps me on task and efficient.

My mom thinks I'm crazy that I still have an imaginary friend, and writing about her like this makes me think I may actually be crazy, but I don't mind. As I said, we're all weird, and we all have that one trait that outweighs all the other weirdness.

Redditors know this all too well and are eager to share their weird traits.

It all started when Redditor Isitjustmedownhere asked:

"Give an example; how weird are you really?"

Monsters Under My Bed

"My bed doesn't touch any wall."

"Edit: I guess i should clarify im not rich."

– Practical_Eye_3600

"Gosh the monsters can get you from any angle then."

– bikergirlr7

"At first I thought this was a flex on how big your bedroom is, but then I realized you're just a psycho 😁"

– zenOFiniquity8

Can You See Why?

"I bought one of those super-powerful fans to dry a basement carpet. Afterwards, I realized that it can point straight up and that it would be amazing to use on myself post-shower. Now I squeegee my body with my hands, step out of the shower and get blasted by a wide jet of room-temp air. I barely use my towel at all. Wife thinks I'm weird."

– KingBooRadley


"In 1990 when I was 8 years old and bored on a field trip, I saw a black Oldsmobile Cutlass driving down the street on a hot day to where you could see that mirage like distortion from the heat on the road. I took a “snapshot” by blinking my eyes and told myself “I wonder how long I can remember this image” ….well."

– AquamarineCheetah

"Even before smartphones, I always take "snapshots" by blinking my eyes hoping I'll remember every detail so I can draw it when I get home. Unfortunately, I may have taken so much snapshots that I can no longer remember every detail I want to draw."

"Makes me think my "memory is full.""

– Reasonable-Pirate902

Same, Same

"I have eaten the same lunch every day for the past 4 years and I'm not bored yet."

– OhhGoood

"How f**king big was this lunch when you started?"

– notmyrealnam3

Not Sure Who Was Weirder

"Had a line cook that worked for us for 6 months never said much. My sous chef once told him with no context, "Baw wit da baw daw bang daw bang diggy diggy." The guy smiled, left, and never came back."

– Frostygrunt


"I pace around my house for hours listening to music imagining that I have done all the things I simply lack the brain capacity to do, or in some really bizarre scenarios, I can really get immersed in these imaginations sometimes I don't know if this is some form of schizophrenia or what."

– RandomSharinganUser

"I do the same exact thing, sometimes for hours. When I was young it would be a ridiculous amount of time and many years later it’s sort of trickled off into almost nothing (almost). It’s weird but I just thought it’s how my brain processes sh*t."

– Kolkeia

If Only

"Even as an adult I still think that if you are in a car that goes over a cliff; and right as you are about to hit the ground if you jump up you can avoid the damage and will land safely. I know I'm wrong. You shut up. I'm not crying."

– ShotCompetition2593

Pet Food

"As a kid I would snack on my dog's Milkbones."

– drummerskillit

"Haha, I have a clear memory of myself doing this as well. I was around 3 y/o. Needless to say no one was supervising me."

– Isitjustmedownhere

"When I was younger, one of my responsibilities was to feed the pet fish every day. Instead, I would hide under the futon in the spare bedroom and eat the fish food."

– -GateKeep-

My Favorite Subject

"I'm autistic and have always had a thing for insects. My neurotypical best friend and I used to hang out at this local bar to talk to girls, back in the late 90s. One time he claimed that my tendency to circle conversations back to insects was hurting my game. The next time we went to that bar (with a few other friends), he turned and said sternly "No talking about bugs. Or space, or statistics or other bullsh*t but mainly no bugs." I felt like he was losing his mind over nothing."

"It was summer, the bar had its windows open. Our group hit it off with a group of young ladies, We were all chatting and having a good time. I was talking to one of these girls, my buddy was behind her facing away from me talking to a few other people."

"A cloudless sulphur flies in and lands on little thing that holds coasters."

"Cue Jordan Peele sweating gif."

"The girl notices my tension, and asks if I am looking at the leaf. "Actually, that's a lepidoptera called..." I looked at the back of my friend's head, he wasn't looking, "I mean a butterfly..." I poked it and it spread its wings the girl says "oh that's a BUG?!" and I still remember my friend turning around slowly to look at me with chastisement. The ONE thing he told me not to do."

"I was 21, and was completely not aware that I already had a rep for being an oddball. It got worse from there."

– Phormicidae

*Teeth Chatter*

"I bite ice cream sometimes."


"That's how I am with popsicles. My wife shudders every single time."


Never Speak Of This

"I put ice in my milk."


"You should keep that kind of thing to yourself. Even when asked."

– We-R-Doomed

"There's some disturbing sh*t in this thread, but this one takes the cake."

– RatonaMuffin

More Than Super Hearing

"I can hear the television while it's on mute."

– Tira13e

"What does it say to you, child?"

– Mama_Skip


"I put mustard on my omelettes."

– Deleted User


– NotCrustOr-filling

Evened Up

"Whenever I say a word and feel like I used a half of my mouth more than the other half, I have to even it out by saying the word again using the other half of my mouth more. If I don't do it correctly, that can go on forever until I feel it's ok."

"I do it silently so I don't creep people out."

– LesPaltaX

"That sounds like a symptom of OCD (I have it myself). Some people with OCD feel like certain actions have to be balanced (like counting or making sure physical movements are even). You should find a therapist who specializes in OCD, because they can help you."

– MoonlightKayla

I totally have the same need for things to be balanced! Guess I'm weird and a little OCD!

Close up face of a woman in bed, staring into the camera
Photo by Jen Theodore

Experiencing death is a fascinating and frightening idea.

Who doesn't want to know what is waiting for us on the other side?

But so many of us want to know and then come back and live a little longer.

It would be so great to be sure there is something else.

But the whole dying part is not that great, so we'll have to rely on other people's accounts.

Redditor AlaskaStiletto wanted to hear from everyone who has returned to life, so they asked:

"Redditors who have 'died' and come back to life, what did you see?"


Happy Good Vibes GIF by Major League SoccerGiphy

"My dad's heart stopped when he had a heart attack and he had to be brought back to life. He kept the paper copy of the heart monitor which shows he flatlined. He said he felt an overwhelming sensation of peace, like nothing he had felt before."



"I had surgical complications in 2010 that caused a great deal of blood loss. As a result, I had extremely low blood pressure and could barely stay awake. I remember feeling like I was surrounded by loved ones who had passed. They were in a circle around me and I knew they were there to guide me onwards. I told them I was not ready to go because my kids needed me and I came back."

"My nurse later said she was afraid she’d find me dead every time she came into the room."

"It took months, and blood transfusions, but I recovered."


Take Me Back

"Overwhelming peace and happiness. A bright airy and floating feeling. I live a very stressful life. Imagine finding out the person you have had a crush on reveals they have the same feelings for you and then you win the lotto later that day - that was the feeling I had."

"I never feared death afterward and am relieved when I hear of people dying after suffering from an illness."



The Light Minnie GIF by (G)I-DLEGiphy

"I had a heart surgery with near-death experience, for me at least (well the possibility that those effects are caused by morphine is also there) I just saw black and nothing else but it was warm and I had such inner peace, its weird as I sometimes still think about it and wish this feeling of being so light and free again."


This is why I hate surgery.

You just never know.



"More of a near-death experience. I was electrocuted. I felt like I was in a deep hole looking straight up in the sky. My life flashed before me. Felt sad for my family, but I had a deep sense of peace."



"Nursing in the ICU, we’ve had people try to die on us many times during the years, some successfully. One guy stood out to me. His heart stopped. We called a code, are working on him, and suddenly he comes to. We hadn’t vented him yet, so he was able to talk, and he started screaming, 'Don’t let them take me, don’t let them take me, they are coming,' he was scared and yelling."

"Then he yelled a little more, as we tried to calm him down, he screamed, 'No, No,' and gestured towards the end of the bed, and died again. We didn’t get him back. It was seriously creepy. We called his son to tell him the news, and the son said basically, 'Good, he was an SOB.'”



"My sister died and said it was extremely peaceful. She said it was very loud like a train station and lots of talking and she was stuck in this area that was like a curtain with lots of beautiful colors (colors that you don’t see in real life according to her) a man told her 'He was sorry, but she had to go back as it wasn’t her time.'"


"I had a really similar experience except I was in an endless garden with flowers that were colors I had never seen before. It was quiet and peaceful and a woman in a dress looked at me, shook her head, and just said 'Not yet.' As I was coming back, it was extremely loud, like everyone in the world was trying to talk all at once. It was all very disorienting but it changed my perspective on life!"


The Fog

"I was in a gray fog with a girl who looked a lot like a young version of my grandmother (who was still alive) but dressed like a pioneer in the 1800s she didn't say anything but kept pulling me towards an opening in the wall. I kept refusing to go because I was so tired."

"I finally got tired of her nagging and went and that's when I came to. I had bled out during a c-section and my heart could not beat without blood. They had to deliver the baby and sew up the bleeders. refill me with blood before they could restart my heart so, like, at least 12 minutes gone."


Through the Walls

"My spouse was dead for a couple of minutes one miserable night. She maintains that she saw nothing, but only heard people talking about her like through a wall. The only thing she remembers for absolute certain was begging an ER nurse that she didn't want to die."

"She's quite alive and well today."


Well let's all be happy to be alive.

It seems to be all we have.

Man's waist line
Santhosh Vaithiyanathan/Unsplash

Trying to lose weight is a struggle understood by many people regardless of size.

The goal of reaching a healthy weight may seem unattainable, but with diet and exercise, it can pay off through persistence and discipline.

Seeing the pounds gradually drop off can also be a great motivator and incentivize people to stay the course.

Those who've achieved their respective weight goals shared their experiences when Redditor apprenti8455 asked:

"People who lost a lot of weight, what surprises you the most now?"

Redditors didn't see these coming.

Shiver Me Timbers

"I’m always cold now!"

– Telrom_1

"I had a coworker lose over 130 pounds five or six years ago. I’ve never seen him without a jacket on since."

– r7ndom

"140 lbs lost here starting just before COVID, I feel like that little old lady that's always cold, damn this top comment was on point lmao."

– mr_remy

Drawing Concern

"I lost 100 pounds over a year and a half but since I’m old(70’s) it seems few people comment on it because (I think) they think I’m wasting away from some terminal illness."

– dee-fondy

"Congrats on the weight loss! It’s honestly a real accomplishment 🙂"

"Working in oncology, I can never comment on someone’s weight loss unless I specifically know it was on purpose, regardless of their age. I think it kind of ruffles feathers at times, but like I don’t want to congratulate someone for having cancer or something. It’s a weird place to be in."

– LizardofDeath

Unleashing Insults

"I remember when I lost the first big chunk of weight (around 50 lbs) it was like it gave some people license to talk sh*t about the 'old' me. Old coworkers, friends, made a lot of not just negative, but harsh comments about what I used to look like. One person I met after the big loss saw a picture of me prior and said, 'Wow, we wouldn’t even be friends!'”

"It wasn’t extremely common, but I was a little alarmed by some of the attention. My weight has been up and down since then, but every time I gain a little it gets me a little down thinking about those things people said."

– alanamablamaspama

Not Everything Goes After Losing Weight

"The loose skin is a bit unexpected."

– KeltarCentauri

"I haven’t experienced it myself, but surgery to remove skin takes a long time to recover. Longer than bariatric surgery and usually isn’t covered by insurance unless you have both."

– KatMagic1977

"It definitely does take a long time to recover. My Dad dropped a little over 200 pounds a few years back and decided to go through with skin removal surgery to deal with the excess. His procedure was extensive, as in he had skin taken from just about every part of his body excluding his head, and he went through hell for weeks in recovery, and he was bedridden for a lot of it."

– Jaew96

These Redditors shared their pleasantly surprising experiences.


"I can buy clothes in any store I want."

– WaySavvyD

"When I lost weight I was dying to go find cute, smaller clothes and I really struggled. As someone who had always been restricted to one or two stores that catered to plus-sized clothing, a full mall of shops with items in my size was daunting. Too many options and not enough knowledge of brands that were good vs cheap. I usually went home pretty frustrated."

– ganache98012

No More Symptoms

"Lost about 80 pounds in the past year and a half, biggest thing that I’ve noticed that I haven’t seen mentioned on here yet is my acid reflux and heartburn are basically gone. I used to be popping tums every couple hours and now they just sit in the medicine cabinet collecting dust."

– colleennicole93

Expanding Capabilities

"I'm all for not judging people by their appearance and I recognise that there are unhealthy, unachievable beauty standards, but one thing that is undeniable is that I can just do stuff now. Just stamina and flexibility alone are worth it, appearance is tertiary at best."

– Ramblonius

People Change Their Tune

"How much nicer people are to you."

"My feet weren't 'wide' they were 'fat.'"

– LiZZygsu

"Have to agree. Lost 220 lbs, people make eye contact and hold open doors and stuff"

"And on the foot thing, I also lost a full shoe size numerically and also wear regular width now 😅"

– awholedamngarden

It's gonna take some getting used to.

Bones Everywhere

"Having bones. Collarbones, wrist bones, knee bones, hip bones, ribs. I have so many bones sticking out everywhere and it’s weird as hell."

– Princess-Pancake-97

"I noticed the shadow of my ribs the other day and it threw me, there’s a whole skeleton in here."

– bekastrange

Knee Pillow

"Right?! And they’re so … pointy! Now I get why people sleep with pillows between their legs - the knee bones laying on top of each other (side sleeper here) is weird and jarring."

– snic2030

"I lost only 40 pounds within the last year or so. I’m struggling to relate to most of these comments as I feel like I just 'slimmed down' rather than dropped a ton. But wow, the pillow between the knees at night. YES! I can relate to this. I think a lot of my weight was in my thighs. I never needed to do this up until recently."

– Strongbad23

More Mobility

"I’ve lost 100 lbs since 2020. It’s a collection of little things that surprise me. For at least 10 years I couldn’t put on socks, or tie my shoes. I couldn’t bend over and pick something up. I couldn’t climb a ladder to fix something. Simple things like that I can do now that fascinate me."

"Edit: Some additional little things are sitting in a chair with arms, sitting in a booth in a restaurant, being able to shop in a normal store AND not needing to buy the biggest size there, being able to easily wipe my butt, and looking down and being able to see my penis."

– dma1965

People making significant changes, whether for mental or physical health, can surely find a newfound perspective on life.

But they can also discover different issues they never saw coming.

That being said, overcoming any challenge in life is laudable, especially if it leads to gaining confidence and ditching insecurities.