25 Interesting And Somewhat Strange Word Origins

Posted by , Updated on May 15, 2014

Did you know that the word “mortgage” comes from a French expression meaning “death pledge”? These are 25 interesting and somewhat strange word origins.

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25

Jumbo was most likely originally the word for "elephant" in a west African language. It took on the meaning of "large" when an elephant in London zoo was named Jumbo in 1860

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24

Quarantine comes from the French "qarante" for 40. Whenever a ship arriving in port was suspected of being infected it had to forego contact with the shore for a period of about 40 days.

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23

Hazard comes from the Arabic "al zahr" which means "the dice". The term came to be associated with dice during the Crusades and eventually took on a negative connotation because games of dice were associated with gambling

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22

Disaster comes from the Greek "dis" meaning bad, and "aster", meaning star. The ancient Greeks used to blame calamities on unfavorable planetary positions.

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21

Lemur comes from a Latin word that means "spirit of the dead". The person that named them cited their nocturnal nature as a source of influence.

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20

Loophole (or murder hole) originally referred to the slits in castle walls that archers would shoot their arrows through.

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19

Nice comes from a Latin word meaning "ignorant"

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18

Muscle comes from a Latin root meaning "little mouse". Apparently people used to think muscles looked like little mice under their skin.

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17

War comes from a Germanic root that meant "to confuse"

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16

Heresy comes from a Greek word meaning choice

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15

Pamphlet comes from the title of a Latin love poem called Pamphilus that was supposedly passed from person to person

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14

Lunatic is derived from the Latin word "luna" meaning "moon". It originated from the belief that insanity is caused by changes in the moon.

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13

Berserk comes form ancient Norse fighters that were known as Berserkers

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12

Jeans were named after their place of origin, Genoa, Italy.

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11

Curfew comes from a combination of two French words - "couvrir" and "feu". Literally this means to "cover fire".

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10

Lukewarm is actually a reduntant. Luke meant "warm" in Middle English so lukewarm technically would mean "warm warm".

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9

The word Soccer actually originated in the United Kingdom. Association Football was shortened to "socca" (derived from the middle of the word association). This turned into the word "soccer" that is still used in the US, Canada, and Australia.

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8

Mortgage comes from the French expression meaning "death pledge"

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7

Nightmare comes from an old English word "mare" that refers to a demon who suffocates you in your sleep

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6

Denim comes from Nimes, France. It was therefore originally called serge de Nimes or "fabric from Nimes". The "serge" soon disappeared and left us with "de Nimes".

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5

Buck, the slang term for an American dollar comes from the fact that on the American frontier deerskins were used as units of commerce.

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4

Addict comes from ancient Rome when soldiers were awarded slaves known as "addicts", which is the Latin word for slave. It eventually came to refer to a person who was a slave to anyone or anything.

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3

Noon comes from the Latin phrase "nona hora" or "ninth hour". In ancient Rome noon was actually around 3pm

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2

Malaria comes from the Latin phrase "mal aria" meaning "bad air" and was used to describe the atmosphere around the swamps of Rome.

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1

Tragedy comes from the Greek word "tragodia" which means "song of the male goat".

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