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.

Kentucky

khaki

kibosh

kick the bucket

Kilroy was here

kit and caboodle

kitty-corner

Knickerbocker / knickers

knight

krypton

Ku Klux Klan

kurchatovium

l’esprit de l’escalier / staircase wit

Labrador

lallapaloosa

lam, on the

lanthanum

larboard

lawrencium

lead

lead pipe cinch

leap year

leatherneck

left wing

Lent

let the cat out of the bag

libel

life of Riley

literally

lithium

lobby / lobbyist

lock and load

lock, stock, and barrel

lollapalooza / lallapaloosa

lollygag

long in the tooth

loose cannon

lord

lorem ipsum…

Louisiana

louse, lousy

lukewarm

lunatic fringe / fringe

lunch, luncheon

lutetium

luxury

lynch

magnesium

Main Street / High Street / highway

Maine

man / woman

manganese

Manitoba

march

Maritimer

martini

Maryland

Massachusetts

mate

mayday

meat

meh

meitnerium

melt / meltdown

mendelevium

mercury / quicksilver

Mexico / New Mexico

Michigan

microgravity

milquetoast

mind your Ps and Qs

mind-meld

mine

Minnesota

misdemeanor / high misdemeanor

Mississippi

Missouri

mojo

moll

Molotov cocktail

molybdenum

mondegreen

money laundering

monkey wrench

Montana

moonstruck

morphology

mortgage

muckety-muck

mug, mugger

mulligan

Murphy’s Law

Myanmar

narc / nark

Nebraska

neck of the woods

neodymium

neon

neptunium

nerd

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