Do You Know the Origins of These Words?

Becky Stigall

What word might be used to refer to unwanted email or a potted meat product?

Spam refers to both a potted meat product and unwanted email. The meat product was named after a combination of the words "spiced" and "ham."

What not-so-complimentary term is often used to describe a mental health professional?

The word "shrink" is short for "headshrinker." It is said to have originated from the concept of shrunken heads.

What word that refers to insects may also be used to describe a sort of technology glitch?

The word "bug" is used to refer to a glitch in technology. Word origins trace its use back to the inventor, Thomas Edison.

What word refers to annoying photographers?

The word "paparazzi" may be used to refer to persistent photographers. It comes from the name of a character in the 1960 Fellini film "La Dolce Vita." By the way, "paparazzi" is plural. "Paparazzo" is the singular form.

What word describes someone who is caught committing a crime?

The word "red-handed" describes someone who is caught committing a crime - with blood on his hands. It derives from a Scottish law that refers to clear evidence of guilt.

What word might be used to refer to a witch?

The word "hag" might be used to refer to a witch. It comes from the Dutch "heks" and the German "Hexe."

Which word might be used to refer to a buddy or a spouse?

The word "mate" might be used to refer to a buddy or a spouse. It comes from the Middle Low German word for "fellow."

What word that refers to alcohol was first used nearly 700 years ago?

The word "booze" was originally spelled "bouse." It stems from a word that means to drink a lot.

What word could refer to either a breed of dog or dinner?

The word "chow" appears to have originated as a Chinese-English term for food.

What word, which you probably used at your last picnic, was passed to English via Spanish?

The word "barbecue" was adopted from Spanish explorers in the Caribbean, who learned the word "barbacoa." Since about 1733, the word has been used to refer to the sort of outdoor cooking we know and love.

Which word might refer to a bed or a load of crap?

The word "bunk" is widely used to mean a load of crap. It appears to have political roots and it's short for "bunkum."

What word is slang for policeman?

The word "cop" is commonly used to refer to a law enforcement officer. It appears to have originated from a French word that means "to grab."

What word can either be a skin or a denomination of money?

The word "buck" was actually shortened from the word "buckskin." Buckskins were once used as a form of currency.

What word might be used to describe an adorable or sassy child?

The word "cute" is often used to refer to something adorable or nice. It was once used to describe someone with a quick wit.

What word, also a verb, might be used to refer to one's home?

The word "digs" may be used to refer to the place where one lives. The word is short for the original "diggings."

What word might be used to refer to a feeling or someone who is not so smart?

The word "dizzy" might be used to refer to a feeling or someone who is not so smart. It is an Old English word that has been traced back to the 800s.

What word, originally used to refer to sauce, now refers to drugs?

The word "dope" once referred to a lubricant or coating. It originates from the Dutch word "doop," which meant "sauce."

What word might be used to refer to a person or a type of hat?

The word "dunce" has been relatively consistently used to refer to someone who isn't so bright. It was inspired by philosopher John Duns Scotus, who thought wearing a pointy hat could help funnel knowledge into one's brain.

What exclamatory word hails from the Greek?

The word "eureka" comes from the Greek word "heureka," which means "I have found it." It crept into use in English in the 17th century.

What word is used to describe a dirty hotel?

The word "fleabag" is used to refer to a dirty hotel or other establishment. It is thought to originate from fleas in mattresses or sleeping bags - fleas in a bag.

What word, also a type of tomato, means a well-fed servant?

The word "beefeater" originally referred to a well-fed servant. These servants ate well, compared to their loaf-eating comrades.

What word may be used to refer to both a fool and a genius?

The word "geek" is often used to refer to a smart person. It originally referred to a fool.

Which word may be used to refer to a malfunction?

The word "glitch" is often used to refer to a technical snafu. It originates from the Yiddish word "glitschen."

What word specifically refers to the first month of a marriage?

The word "honeymoon" specifically refers to the first month of a marriage, when love is the sweetest, like honey. But then maybe it wanes, like the moon.

What word might refer to a healer, a bloodsucker or a mooch?

The word "leech" might be used to refer to a healer, a bloodsucker or a mooch. Old-time doctors used leeches to treat patients.

If you were British, what word might you use to refer to the potty?

If you were British, you might use the word "loo" to refer to the potty. It is thought to originate from the French word "lieu."

Commonly used on social media, which word is used to signify apathy?

The slang term "meh" is used to express a lack of interest. The word apparently became mainstream because of the television show, "The Simpsons."

What word would be used to indicate something is all right?

The word "okay" is used to indicate something is all right. The word is an Americanism, originally from a nickname for President Van Buren - "Old Kinderhook."

What word might be used to refer to something fake?

The word "phoney" or "hony" is used to refer to something that is fake. It might come from an older word, "fawney," which meant a gilt ring used to swindle people.

Which of the following words means flair?

The word "pizzazz" means to have flair. This American slang term is thought to date back to early 1900s. It used to mean "expert" - nothing to do with pizza.

What word is the name of a Spice Girl and may be used to mean fancy?

The word "posh" may be used to refer to something fancy or luxurious. It is thought to originate from a Romani word for money.

What word is used to refer to an artificial human?

The word "robot" is clearly not an ancient term. It originates from the Eastern European word "robota," which means "forced labor."

What crusty word might be used to refer to someone who works during a strike?

The word "scab" refers to someone who takes the place of a regular worker during a strike. The word originally referred to a skin disease, then the crusty covering over a wound.

Which of the following words refers to a potato?

The word "spud" refers to a potato. It was originally used to refer to a spade used to dig up potatoes and other rooted plants.

Neat people are often referred to as what?

People who are "neat" are often called "tidy." However, the word originally meant "healthy" or "at the proper time."

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About This Quiz

The study of word origins is called etymology. The word "etymology" stems from the Latin "etymologia" and the Greek "etymología." Do you know the following, less complicated, word origins?

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