The word prostitute was used as an adjective for about four decades before it became a noun, and as a verb about three decades before it became an adjective. It was first used in a 1530 translation by English court priest John Palsgrave, and rapidly spread from there as a more euphemistic word than terms like harlot or strumpet. The French word eventually traces to the Latin verb prostituere, which could mean "to prostitute" but had a more literal definition of "expose publicly". That's because the lexemes composing it, pro and statuere, mean "up front" and "stand", respectively. The implication is that sex workers solicit openly, but the word originally didn't even have to do with any of that. Pro did not change once from Proto-Indo-European, and statuere (the etymon of status) derives from PIE steh, "stand".
We're so used to having eleven main color categories - red, orange, yellow, green, blue, purple, pink, brown, black, white, and grey - that we never stop to consider that other languages may not categorize color the same way we do. For example, Russian distinguishes between dark and light blue as two separate colors entirely, much as we do for pink and red. It can also reach the other extreme, as well: there are tribes in Papua New Guinea and South America that only have three words for color: black, white, and red. All other colors we categorize fall into those categories, with, for instance, yellow being a variation of white and brown being a shade of black. Even more fascinating is the particular order these hues show up in our languages: if a vernacular only has two color terms, then those colors are always black and white. If a third color is added, it is always red. After that, green and yellow always appear, followed by blue, brown, and then the others. It has to do with the way we perceive and decide to label our surroundings. Sometimes, there is no need to elaborate further than three general classifications, but for more specialized purposes, more words emerge to describe color. There's a plethora of hotly debated discourse on why this truly is the way it is, and it's definitely something to look into further, if you're interested. Here are some good YouTube videos on the topic:
Napalm was invented on Valentine's Day in 1942 in a classified Harvard weapons research laboratory. It was made out of aluminum salts from naphthenic and palmitic acids, and some scientist around that time combined the first parts of those words to give us the modern term. Naphthenic, meaning "pertaining to cycloalkanes", comes from Latin and Ancient Greek naphta (describing petroleum residue) and possibly Old Persian beyond that; it's thought to derive from the word naft, meaning "moist". Palmitic, describing the acid, contains the Latin root palma, meaning "palm of the hand". Through Proto-Italic, that likely comes from a Proto-Indo-European word with a similar pronunciation and definition. Usage of the word peaked in 1970 and is now appears in literature half as often as when it did then.
The word patent was first used in English in Chaucer's Canterbury Tales, when it denoted a type of open document conferring authority (that's why patently means "openly"). This was taken from Anglo-French phrase lettre patent, meaning "open letter". The relevant part of that comes from Latin patens, a participle for openness, and that in turn is from patere, which could mean "to be open" or "to lie open". Through Proto-Italic, patere is reconstructed as deriving from the Proto-Indo-European root peth, meaning "to fly". The phrase patent law was first used in 1817, and the definition of "sole right to produce something" is from 1558. According to Google NGrams, usage of the word patent in literature over time has remained constant since a spike in the 1750s, but Google Trends has shown it as decreasing over the last 15 years.
There's a body of water in the Massachusetts town of Webster called Lake Chaubunagungamaug, which is often referred to by its longer variant, Chargoggagoggmanchauggagoggchaubuna-gungamaugg. This has an interesting etymology; the shorter of the monikers comes from Nipmuc (one of the Algonquian languages) and means something like "lake divided by islands", although an exact translation is difficult. People often like using the longer name, though, because it's quirkier to do so and Webster actually has gotten a bit of tourism out of marketing the lengthy name. However, it's a sham. The extended version is actually meaningless and was coined in 1921 by local newspaper editor Laurence J. Daly, who made it as a joke, only to have a bunch of people start seriously using it. A bunch of disinterested parties to the issue just call it Webster's Lake at this point, but the whole kerfuffle is still pretty neat.
Apparently you can pronounce turmeric with and without the first r and still be correct. It's only recently that the spelling's been standardized, too: in the past, it took on forms like tarmaluk, tamanick, tamaret, tormarith, turmerocke, and more. When the word was first used in English in a 1538 book about herbs, it was spelled tormeryke, and that is thought to come from the Old French term terre merite, which meant "deserving earth" (although that's somewhat debated; it could also be Arabic). Terre comes from Latin terra, which is a relatively common root and further derives from Proto-Indo-European ters, meaning "dry". Merite is from Latin meritus, which meant "earned" and is the source of our word merit. That in turn traces to PIE mer, "to assign". Usage of the word turmeric has been pretty constant since the eighteenth century.
Hello! I'm Adam Aleksic. This year, I graduated from Harvard University with a degree in Government and Linguistics. There, I co-founded the Harvard Undergraduate Linguistics Society and wrote a thesis on Serbo-Croatian language policy, magna cum laude. In addition to etymology, I also really enjoy philosophy, trivia, vexillology, geography, board games, conlanging, art history, and law.