The Origin of a Word

by Kathleen Hallgren, editor


Noun. Pear-shaped fruit with dark green, leathery skin, a large stony seed, and greenish-yellow edible pulp.

The Aztecs originally called this fruit “ahucati,” which is the word for testicle in Nahuatl. This could be due to the to the fruit’s resemblance to a testicle, or because it was believed to be an aphrodisiac. The Spanish misunderstood “ahucati” as “advocate” (though the Spanish translation today is “aguacate”) and the fruit came to Europe via Spain by that name. Avocados are sometimes called “alligator pears” because of their tough, knobby, dark green skin.


A greeting.

Originated as a greeting in 1859 between sailors and huntsmen. Became popular during World War II when soldiers would respond to roll call by yelling “Yo!”


Noun. Lightness of mood.

Comes from the Greek word “kara,” the Latin word “cara,” and the Old French word “chiere” which all mean “face.” To “be of good cheer” is essentially to “put on a happy face.”

An exclamation uttered among a group of people before drinking.

Originated as a toast in Great Britain in 1919 as a shout of encouragement. “Cheerio” shares the same origin.


Noun. A vessel.

Stems from the Latin word “potus,” which means “drinking cup.”

Noun. Marijuana.

Popularized as slang in the United States in 1938. Most likely shortened from the Mexican Spanish word “potiguaya,” which means marijuana leaves.

Cool Beans

A nonsense phrase, often an interjection that indicates agreement.

Originated as a phrase in the United States in the 1960s. Hits of acid were dubbed “cool beans” due to their bean-like shape.


Noun. A medium that can be exchanged for goods and services.

From Latin “moneta” which means “mint,” or “coinage.” “Moneta” is a title of the Roman goddess Juno in whose temple money was coined. Could also be derived from Latin word “monere” which means “to advise” or “to warn.”


Noun. Source, something from which anything is derived, the first state of existence.

From early Latin word “originem,” which means “to appear,” or “to become visible.”


Noun. A game played on ice between two teams of six players.

One isolated reference in Ireland in 1527 (“The horlinge of the litill balle with hockie stickes or staves”). Recorded again in 1838, most likely related to a “hoc,” which is the Old French word for “hook,” or the Modern French word “hoquet,” a “hooked shepherd’s staff.”


Adjective. Mentally unbalanced, loopy.

First recorded in 1948 as British Naval slang for “slightly drunk,” which derived from the notion of a “bonk” on the head. In 1957, it became a colloquial phrase for “crazy” in Great Britain.


Noun. A water-dwelling, hairless herbivore with a wide body and short legs.

A word originating in the 1560s that is a combination of two Greek words: “hippos,” meaning “horse,” and “potamos,” meaning “river or rushing water.” River horse!


Noun. The mathematical symbol (0) which portrays the absence of quantity; zero.

From Arabic “sifr” which means “zero” or “empty.” Came to Europe with Arabic numerals.

Noun. A message written in a cryptographic system.

Came to mean, “coded message” in the early 1500s as codes are often made of number combinations in place of letters.

Information from:

Online Etymology Dictionary
Fun With Words Online

The Origin of a Word


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