The Big List

A B C D E F G H I J K L M N O P Q R S T U V W X Y Z

This is the list, some 400 word and phrase origins. The words and phrases are selected because their origins are inherently interesting or because some bit of folklore, sometimes true and sometimes false, is associated with the origin. The etymologies of common words with straightforward explanations can be found in any good dictionary and I do not attempt to reproduce them here. Many, if not most, of the words have been added as a result of questions or suggestions from readers of the site.

acre

actinium

Alabama

Alaska

Alberta

ale / beer

all your base are belong to us

allege

aluminum / aluminium

America

americium

angel

Anglo-Saxon

antimony

April fool

apron strings, tied to

argon

Arizona

Arkansas / Kansas

arsenic

astatine

bachelor

bagel

bailiwick

baker’s dozen

balling the jack

balls to the wall

bandwagon, jump on the

barbecue

barium

baseball

basket case

bated breath

bats in the belfry

be

bedlam

beech

beefeater

been there, done that

beer

beeswax

belfry / bats in the belfry

berkelium

berserk, berserker

beryllium

bible

Big Apple

Big Bang

bigwig

bikini

bimbo

bismuth

bit / byte

bits, two

bizarre

black box

Black Friday & Cyber Monday

blackguard

blackmail

blimp

blind pig / blind tiger

blockbuster

bloody

blue / blues

blue moon

blurb

Bob’s your uncle

bogart

bogey

bohrium

booby

book / beech

boondocks

boondoggle / woggle

booty, bootylicious

booze

boron

boycott

brass monkey, cold enough to freeze the balls off a

brass tacks

break a leg

breaking bad

broad

bromine

brothel

brownie points

Brunswick / New Brunswick

buck (dollar)

Buckley’s chance

bug

bull & bear markets

bullpen

bumper crop

bunk

Burma / Myanmar

busman’s holiday

buy the farm

by and large

byte

cabal

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