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.

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

khaki

kibosh

kick the bucket / bucket list

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

laneway

lanthanum

larboard

lawrencium

lead

lead pipe cinch

leap year

leatherneck

leech

left wing

Lent

let the cat out of the bag

libel

life of Riley

literally

lithium

livelong

livermorium

lobby / lobbyist

lock and load

lock, stock, and barrel

lollapalooza / lallapaloosa

lollygag

long in the tooth

loo

loose cannon

lord

lorem ipsum…

Louisiana

louse, lousy

love bug

Luddite

lukewarm

lunatic fringe / fringe

lunch, luncheon

lutetium

luxury

lynch

magnesium

Main Street / High Street / highway

Maine

man / woman

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