What’s in a word?

Those words stuck with me because I enjoy idioms and finding out the etymology of words.

Spur of the moment — in great haste, referring to the use of spurs to urge a horse to move.

Above Board — a gambling term from the 17th century derived from card playing when cards had to be above the table in view. 

Underhand — the opposite of above board.

Aftermath — from the 17th century it means the result or consequence of something. In the 1500s it was called aftermowth and meant the second mowing of summer grass.

Ahead of the curve — became popular in the 1980s in business circles  referring to a graph and being ahead of trends or in the forefront.

Baloney — means rubbish or nonsense. Two theories are that it came from the Irish immigrants word blarney. Second, it’s Italian based on cheap bologna that is made of bits and pieces

Haywire — when things go wrong or out of control. In the early 1900s haywire was used to describe something poorly constructed. It was based on cheap wire that tangled easily and was used to bale hay.

Pass Muster — a military term from the 15 or 16th century where a soldier passes inspection. Now it means you undergo a review or examination successfully.

Make a clean sweep — now means to win everything but it originated with cleaning or sweeping in the 19th century.


What are some of your favorite sayings and where did the words originate from?

Here’s a video of the hawk enjoying a meal in our tree.

38 thoughts on “What’s in a word?

  1. I like “in the hoosegow” because it’s fun to say. It comes from a Spanish word that was misheard by English-speaking settlers here in the US. The Spanish word meant something about judging, but that morphed into meaning that you were in jail. Just had a conversation about this saying this weekend.

  2. Oh….the hawk! We just spied one sweeping around enjoying some early morning flight time in our backyard. I love your idiom deep dive. Yesterday I had to check myself when I wrote the word “slapdash” because I wasn’t sure if I made it up or if it was, truly a word. Dontcha love it when these little morsels bounce around in our heads? 🥰

  3. One of the favorites of my Dad and mine It is better to have it and not need it than to need it and not have it.

  4. I’ve had stressful dreams where I wake up relieved that it was just a dream and I didn’t actually have to deal with the reality of the dream. What I love is diving deeper into dreams. I’ve heard it has to do with your mind dealing with an emotion but in dreams it can play out in strange ways. What does it mean to be invited to someones house you hardly know for dinner and then asked to bring the dinner. I think you’re giving too much to someone who doesn’t appreciate you. Close? What do you think the dream really means? Hugs, C

    • Interesting analysis of the dream. I think it was related to “Ladies Coffee Group” that I had attended the day before.
      It’s an organized neighborhood group and sitting with women I didn’t know well. Maybe my mind was reliving the moment in a more stressful way?

      • Thank you! I dropped out of book club because it turned out to be A Real Housewives episode with people taking sides in cliques and f bombs thrown around. Maybe that why the ladies coffee group stressed me out! 😅

  5. I love your definitions/origins. Especially haywire and aftermath. I think you just did my writing/your reading a service but giving such thorough and good examples. Thanks, Elizabeth!

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