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.

upsydaisy

uranium, Uranus, pitchblende

Uranus

Utah

valentine

Valkyrie

vampire

vanadium

vaudeville

Vermont

Viking

Virginia / West Virginia

virus, viral

voluntary, volunteer

wake

Washington

wassail

weapon of mass destruction / conventional weapon

weird

welch, welsh

West Virginia

whistleblower

whole nine yards, the

whole shebang, the

widow

widow’s peak

wild goose chase

Windy City, the

Wisconsin

with a grain of salt

wog

woggle

wolfram

woman

wop

world war

Wyoming

xenon

Xmas, Christmas

Yankee

yard

York / New York

ytterbium

yttrium

Yukon

yule

zero gravity, zero g, microgravity

zinc

zircon

zirconium / zircon

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