41 Words That Don’t Come From Where You Thought They Did

Don’t believe everything you read in the dictionary.

• “Marmelade” does not come the story in which Mary, Queen of Scots, got a headache after eating jam, and her maid were heard saying “Marie est malade.” (Translating to “Mary is ill”.)
• “Marmelade” comes from Portuguese marmelada, meaning “quince jelly”.
• “Sirloin” does not come from King James I knighting a beef roast and exclaiming “Arise, Sir Loin!”.
• “Sirloin” means the top part of the loin. The French sur translates to “over, above”.
• “Sword” is not a corruption of the oath “god’s word,” stemming from the Bible verse that declares god’s word as “sharper than any two-edged sword”.
• “Sword” comes from the Old High German sweran, meaning “to hurt”.
• “Woman” does not originate from the phrase “woven from man.”
• “Woman” comes from the Old English wifman meaning “female person”.

• The idiom “rule of thumb” is not from an old English law that permitted men to beat their wives with a stick no larger in diameter than their thumb. Evidence that such a law even existed has never been found.
• “Rule of thumb” likely stems from the tendency people had for using their thumb to estimate distances in various ways.
• Etymologically speaking, the words “isle” and “island” are unrelated. “Isle” comes from the Latin īnsula, and “island” comes from the Old English īegland.
• “Handicap” does not come from a corruption of the term “hand-in-cap,” referring to disabled beggars holding their caps in their hands asking for money.
• “Handicap” comes from an old English gambling game called handy-capp. Over time, the name of the game became corrupted to mean the disadvantage one participant has in a race or gamble.
• “420” is not the Los Angeles Police Department code for marijuana possession. LAPD code 420 is “juvenile disturbance”.
• “420” is not the penal code for marijuana possession. Penal code 420 defines the obstruction of legal entry, settlement, or residence on any tract of public land as a misdemeanor.

• “Okay” probably doesn’t come from the Scottish exclamation och aye.
• “Okay” probably doesn’t come from the Greek ola kala, meaning “all is good”.
• “Okay” probably doesn’t come from the Choctaw Indian oke or okeh, meaning “it is so”.
• “Okay” probably doesn’t come from the railway freight agent named Obediah Kelly, who was said to write his initials on documents he had inspected and approved.
• “Okay” probably does come from an abbreviation of orl korrekt, which is a humorous misspelling of “all correct”.

• “Golf” is not an acronym for “Gentleman Only, Ladies Forbidden.
• “Coma” is not an acronym for “Cessation Of Motor Activity”.
• “Coma” comes from the Latinized form of the Greek koma, meaning “deep sleep”.
• “News” is not an acronym of the four cardinal directions: North, East, West, and South.
• “News” is simply the plural of “new”.
• “Tips” is not an acronym of “To Insure Prompt Service”.
• “Tip” in the sense of a small gratuity may come from a corruption of “tap”.

• Most think that “duck tape” is a corruption of “duct tape,” but it’s actually the other way around. Duck tape got its name from the cotton duck it was made from.
• The company Adidas did not get its name from the acronym for “All Day I Dream About Soccer”.
• Adidas gets its name from its founder, Adolf “Adi” Dassler.
• Arby’s also doesn’t stand for “America’s Roast Beef, Yes Sir!”.
• The company Arby’s did not get its name from the enunciation of “R.B.”, the initials for roast beef.
• Arby’s did, however, get its name from enunciation of “R.B.”, the initials of its founders, the Raffel brothers.

• “Fuck” isn’t an acronym for “Fornication Under Consent of King”.
• “Fuck” isn’t an acronym for “For Unlawful Carnal Knowledge”.
• “Fuck” is not a corruption of “pluck yew,” referring to drawing a longbow.
• “Fuck” is of Proto-Germanic origin, related to the Dutch fokken and the Norwegian fukka, both of which mean “to copulate”.

• “Crap” didn’t come from the British plumber, John Crapper.
• “Crap” comes from Medieval Latin crappa, meaning “chaff”.
• “Shit” is not an acronym for “store high in transit,” a technique for shipping manure at the top of a boat to avoid methane buildup, which could lead to explosion.
• “Shit” comes from the Old English scitte, which means “purging” or “diarrhea”.

update

This post has been updated to meet our attribution standards.

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