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.

gung ho

gyp

hack / hackney

hacker

hafnium

hag

hahnium

Halloween

Hampshire / New Hampshire

handicap

happy as a clam

hard-nosed, soft-nosed, dum-dum

harlot

hassium

hat trick

Hawaii

hawk a loogie

head over heels

heathen

heaven

helium

hell

hell in a handbasket

hell-bent for leather

hello

hermetic seal

hero

high misdemeanor

High Street

highway

hijack

Hobson’s choice

hocus-pocus

hogan’s goat

holmium

holt

homecoming

honeymoon

honky / hunky / hunyak / honyock

honyock

hooch / hootchy-kootchy

hoodwink

hooker

hooky

hooligan

Hoosier

hootchy-kootchy

hot

hot dog

hotshot

huckleberry

humble pie

hunky

hunky-dory

hunyak

husband

hustings

hydro

hydrogen

hysteria

Idaho

Illinois

imp

in like Flynn

Indian giver

Indian summer

Indiana

indium

iodine

Iowa

iridium

iron

ivory tower

Ivy League

Jack Robinson

jackleg / jackknife

java / joe

jaywalk

jazz

jeans

Jeep

jejune

jerk / jerkwater / jerk-off / jerky

jerry-built / jury rig

Jersey / New Jersey

jinx

jody

John Bull

jones

joneses, keeping up with the

jump the shark

jury rig

kangaroo

kangaroo court

Kansas

Katy, bar the door

keener

keep one’s nose clean

keister

Kentucky

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