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.

short shrift

shrewd, shrew

shrink

sideburns

silicon

silver

sin

sixes and sevens, at

skedaddle

skid row

skin of one’s teeth

slang

sleep tight

slim

smart aleck

smoking gun

snowclone

soap opera

soccer

sodium

soft-nosed

Soho

son of a gun

sophisticated

SOS

southpaw

spam

speed

spic

spick and span

spitting image

spud

square meal

squaw

staircase wit

star

starboard

state of the art

station wagon

stool pigeon

strontium

sulfur

swan song

swashbuckler

sweeps

synergy

tabloid

tacit

tail wagging the dog

take me to your leader

Taliban

tantalum

Taps

tawdry

technetium

teetotal

tellurium

Tennessee

tennessine

tenterhooks

terbium

terrific

terrorism

testify

Texas

thallium

that’s white of you

The coldest winter…San Francisco

think outside the box

third degree, the

Third World

thorium

three sheets to the wind

threshold

throw the baby out with the bathwater

throw the book at

Thule

thulium, Thule

tidal wave / tsunami

tidy

tin

tinker’s damn

tip

tit for tat

titanium

toe the line

Tommy, Tommy Atkins

tongue in cheek

Toronto

tow-headed

trailer

trench foot / trench mouth

trespass / sin / debt

triage

trick or treat

trigger warning, trigger

trip the light fantastic

triskaidekaphobia

triumph

trivia / trivial

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