The origins tag features blog posts that mention the origins of words, languages and their subsequent histories through the ages.


Friday the 13th

Friday the 13th — a little knowledge to quell the fear

Friday the 13th
Black cats are synonymous with superstitions on Friday the 13th / Pixabay

Friday the 13th, the unluckiest day

Today is Friday the 13th, one of the unluckiest days of the year in the Western world. The fear of the number 13 —triskaidekaphobia — goes back to Mediaeval times when the story of the Last Supper and crucifixion of Jesus Christ became commonplace among religious scholars.

Although Friday and the number 13 were both considered unlucky, the two together were never seen as extraordinarily unlucky by the superstitious.

It’s not quite known how the unlucky number 13 and Friday converged to become synonymous with fear and dread, but it wasn’t heard of before the nineteenth century. Paraskevidekatriaphobia, the fear of Friday the 13th may attribute its origin to Thomas W. Lawson’s popular novel Friday, The Thirteenth, published in 1907. In it, an unscrupulous broker takes advantage of the superstition to create a Wall Street panic on the day. Thanks Thomas!

Others have suggested that the unholy day has its origin in a list of disasters and catastrophes that have occurred. Below are some of the more memorable ones.

  • five Nazi bombs fell on Buckingham Palace during the Blitz that destroyed the palace chapel and killed one member of staff
  • on Friday the 13th, October 1972, twelve people died instantly during an aeroplane crash in the Andes mountain range and more were killed in an avalanche thereafter. The survivors resorted to cannibalism of the dead passengers in order to live. The crash was later turned into a movie, Alive!
  • on Friday the 13th, November 1970, in Bangladesh, a cyclone made landfall that killed at least 300,000 people
  • legendary rapper, Tupac Shakur died from gunshot wounds in Los Angeles

Many other horror stories have made headlines around the world that affirm our worst fears surrounding this day.

Albeit, in Italy, the number 13 is known to bring good fortune; it’s Friday the 17th when Italians are most superstitious. This phobia has its origins in the Roman numeral for 17: XVII; however, when shuffled they read VIXI, meaning ‘I have lived’; this implies that death is present.

Despite this old myth, young Italians have been Americanized by popular culture that they now regard Friday the 13th as equally dreadful.

Share your horror stories with us in the comments.

The STAR Team

The Meaning of Easter

Meaning of Easter


Meaning of Easter and Its Origin

For all of us nowadays, Easter is about chocolate eggs, feasting with family and friends and relaxing over a long weekend. But the meaning of Easter and its word origins are over a millenium old.

It all started back in the 7th century AD with an English monk named Bede. He was quoted in his scriptures noting Ēosturmōnaþ, Old English for Month of Ēostre. That, translated in Bede’s time as Paschal month and was also an English month.

Easter, Ēostre and Ēastrun

In modern English, the term Easter, a cognate with modern German Ostern, developed from an Old English word that appears in the form Ēastrun, -on, or -an; but also as Ēastru, -o; and Ēastre or Ēostre. This month corresponds with April for which Bede was referred to it as “was once called after a goddess of theirs named Ēostre, in whose honour feasts were celebrated in that month”.

“The Sunday following the full Moon which falls on or after the equinox will give the lawful Easter.” — Bede


Originally, the word denoted the Jewish festival of Passover, commemorating the story of the Exodus. In the 50s of the 1st century (150 – 160 AD), Paul, writing from Ephesus to the Christians in Corinth, applied the term to Christ, and it is unlikely that the Ephesian and Corinthian Christians were the first to hear Exodus 12 interpreted as speaking about the death of Jesus, not just about the Jewish Passover ritual! That’s when modern Christianity talks about the resurrection of Christ. And hence the fasting leading up until Easter time.

In most of the non-English speaking world, this feast is known by names derived from the Greek and Latin word, Πάσχα and Pashca, respectively. Pascha is derived from Aramaic: פסחא, a cognate to the Hebrew word, פֶּסַח (Pesach).

Now, where’s that chocolate egg of mine? It’s time to feast!

The STAR Team

Mo-tache-tic: Origins of the Mo and Movember

Mo-STAR, Movember


It’s All About the Bros This Movember

November, known for the no-shave event Movember, when men across the world stop shaving their moustaches, even beards, to raise awareness of men’s health issues. The charity refers to all men involved in the event as Mo Bros!

Movember is a *portmanteau of mo, the diminutive word for moustache, and November. The charity organisation was originally set up in 2004 in New Zealand and Australia. Hence the word mo being an Australian-English word of origin. Since 2007, events were launched in Canada, Czech Republic, Denmark, El Salvador, Ireland, Israel, South Africa, Spain, Taiwan, the UK and the United States.

Etymology of the Tache

It can be spelt mostache or Moustache in both British and American English. “Moustache” first appeared in French in the early 1580s and possibly derived from the Italian word mostaccio or the Medieval Greek, moustakion.

In ancient Greek, mastax or mystax meant jaws; mouth while the genitive, mystakos meant upper lip. As a verb, mastax literal meaning was, “that which one chews.” Some linguists have traced these words back to the PIE root mendh-, to chew.

*Portmanteau [as a modifier]: Consisting of or combining two or more aspects or qualities.

For more information on Movember and the charities involved, visit:

The STAR Team
Sources: Online Etymology Dictionary; Wikipedia

Halloween: Trick or Treat!

Halloween, trick or treat!

Trick or Treat

Halloween — its Origins, History and Language

All Hallows’ Eve, a time when the dead are remembered and the veil between the mortal and spiritual realms is at its thinnest. Spirits, ghouls and fairies and other creatures from the netherworld are said to visit mortals in a night of trickery and devilry. Explore the darker depths of Halloween as we uncover the truth of its origins.

What Lies Beneath!

Halloween, sometimes spelt Hallowe’en, is a contraction and comes from a Scottish term for All Hallows’ Eve: the evening before All Hallows’ Day. Een or E’en was a shortening of even (for evening) — quite typical in Scotland! Known by many other names like Hallow’s Eve or All Saint’s Eve, the words date back to 1745 and its roots are predominantly Christian. Although some scholars have stated that it has more Celtic pagan origins than Christian.

Albeit, etymologists found a similar phrase for All Hallows’ Day in Old English (‘ealra hālgena mæssedæg’ or ‘all saints’ mass-day’), it wasn’t first seen again until 1556.

While some people attend vigils at graveyards and light candles over loved ones’ graves, children and adults alike dress up in costume as creatures from the underworld (i.e. goblins, witches, werewolves, vampires, ghouls, spectres, fairies and so forth). Knocking on neighbours’ doors in a spectacle of ‘trick or treat’ shenanigans. Most western cultures that observe Halloween are Ireland, Scotland, Britain, France, the USA, Canada, parts of Italy, Romania while China, Japan and Singapore are newcomers to the celebrations.

Trick or Treat! Give us something nice to eat

The idea of dressing up and playing trick or treat has its origins in the medieval practice of mumming. Mummer plays were seasonal folk plays performed by troupes of actors. The mummers, as they called themselves, would dress up and act out in festival-style mockery. ‘Trick’ was a euphemism for a ‘threat’. If no homeowner treated the trick-or-treaters to goodies, they would play prank or mischief…

In medieval times, local names for mummers consisted of guysers (guisers), rhymers, peg-eggers, galoshins and tipteerers. Disguised and ready for action, many mummers performed on the streets but were keen on going house-to-house or in public houses to make audiences giggle. Some guisers charged for a show!

The old revelers of Halloween would also recite verses and plays in exchange for money or food whilst carrying lanterns made from turnips, mangold or mangelwurzel to light their way in the dark evenings. The faces of ghosts were carved into them and acted as a form of protection from malevolent spirits.

It wasn’t until this custom spread to England in the 19th century that they were called jack-o’- lanterns.

Halloween became a modern tradition adopted by Americans in the early 19th century. Although the Puritan colonists of the 16th and 17th centuries knew of All Hallows’ Eve, they did not recognise it as a holiday.

With many candy companies using it as a marketing stunt to sell more, the holiday grew in popularity in the 20th century.

Pumpkins became the new turnips — they were easier to carve and their ranges of colour made them more decorative pieces. The American tradition of pumpkin carving was first recorded in 1837 and was only originally associated with harvest time. Not until the mid-to-late 19th century was pumpkin carving more specifically associated with Halloween.

What will you be mumming this Hallowe’en?

The STAR Team
Sources: Wikipedia

The Origins of Football

FIFA World Cup 2014, Brasil
Ready for the World Cup 2014 in Brazil / Official logo of FIFA World Cup Brazil

The Origins of Football through the Ages

One game grabs the attention of hundreds of millions of people around the world. Its objectives are simple yet engaging! We tackle the origins of association football and others alike, to get you into the spirit of the World Cup 2014 in Brazil.

Episkyros in Ancient Greece

Football has its origins in the unlikeliest of places around the world. The ancient Greeks played a ball game called ‘Episkyros’ (circa 388 to 311 BC) which is recognised as an early form of football by FIFA. While the Romans played a similar game adapted from the Greek ‘Episkyros’ called ‘Harpastum’. Both of these games allowed players to use both their hands and feet. The Romans played it with a small, hard air-filled ball; it was a violent sport. Game rules have not survived to this day. Some accounts have recorded that it was played with two teams, each consisted of about 12 to 14 players.

Ancient China

The ancient Chinese ball game, Cuju, is the earliest form of football for which there is scientific evidence, as recognised by FIFA. The game has records dating back from the 3rd century to the 1st century BC. Eventually rules were established allowing the games to become standardized. Cuju, literally meaning “kicking ball” quickly spread throughout China and into Japan and Korea at later periods. During the Asuka period in Japan (538 to 710 AD), a game called ‘Kemari’, a variation of the Chinese Cuju, was played.

Mediaeval England

Games similar to this modern form of football have appeared the world over and yet, each with similar rules and objectives. Some may extend as far back as before the ages of antiquity, but with little or no evidence of such. Just vague accounts of games among military men involving a ball. Their very nature as ancient ball games mean they bear little influence on modern football rules played at the World Cup. During the middle ages, there was a rise in the growth and popularity of football games involving parishes and local communities. Most of which took place in England.

An English festival details an annual sport called Shrovetide football while other games of similar leisure were played at Christmastime and Easter. In Mediaeval Europe, “mob football” was popular among towns and villages. Played by local townsfolk, mob football saw an unlimited players of opposing teams clash as they kicked around an inflated animal’s bladder or a leather ball. One such account of what was possibly an early form of football comes from Ulgham, Northumberland in England in 1280.

Mob football became a menace to early English society from the 13th to the 15th centuries, which resulted in the Fooball Act 1424, prohibiting any football being played in public. Despite its enforcement, the law fell into disuse and wasn’t repealed until 1906. There is much evidence of schoolboys playing football across the British Isles from the 1500s to the 1800s.

A civilized Sport

Many well-known English gentry were advocates of “footeball“. Richard Mulcaster who had been a student at the prestigious and famous Eton College during the early 16th century, was an advocate of the sport. His wide contributions took football from its violent forms of street play to organised teams. Muclaster standardized the beautiful game. The later half of the 16th century through to the early 17th century saw public schoolboys partake in recreational football games. Children were once part of the workforce in Britain during this time; they had spent what free time they had organising football games with formal codes of rules. It was these foundations that gave rise to modern football and association football alike.

Forming Clubs

As rules progressed, organisations and clubs were established in many parts of Britain. One club was the first documented to bear the title of football, “The Foot-ball Club”, located in Edinburgh, Scotland. It ran from 1824 to 1841. The club’s rules forbade the intentional act of tripping, but allowed pushing and the kicking and handling of the ball.

Ireland and the GAA

There were similar football-like games being played in Ireland in the 1800s. Not until 1884 with the establishment of the Gaelic Athletic Association (GAA) that any serious attempts to code and unify the sport were made. Another football sport arose during the early 19th century: Rugby. The sport of Rugby derived from football. Elite clubs sought to unify football thus, creating unique rules of play for well educate young men. In 1871, 21 Rugby clubs came together from around London and set up the Rugby Football Union (RFU) with the intent of unifying the sport’s practice and code.

Up in the Air

The sole origin of football is inconclusive. The word itself references the action of a foot kicking a ball and was widely played in Mediaeval Europe without formal rules. The act of kicking a ball by foot for sport was popular around the world; this can account for football’s popularity as such cultures with a history of a similar game can relate to its modern cousin. Nowadays, depending on the country you are in, it can be an entirely different game. For instance, Americans call what we call American football, football! American football allows players to handle and kick the ball. In Canada and some parts of Europe and Asia, association football is known as “soccer”. Soccer is a shortening of “assoc” (association) plus “-er”.


The FIFA World Cup 2014 will commence on Thursday 12th June, at 21:00 with Brazil Vs. Croatia. You can catch the entire line up on the official website for the FIFA World Cup 2014. Did you know that the official language in Brazil is Portuguese! Vamos!

The STAR Team

Is it Dr. or Dr?

Dr. or Dr?

Dr. or Dr?

Dr or Dr.

What is the correct abbreviation for Doctor?

Doctor comes from the Latin word Doctor. The word originates from the Latin verb docere which means to teach.

This week we are having a big debate about this one and we’re still not decided who won? There are multiple camps in this space.

Camp 1

Either Abbreviations Dr or Dr. can be used to designate a person who has doctorate-level degree.

Camp 2

Only Dr. is correct as it is an abbreviation. You should always use the full stop.

In the UK, the us of the full stop appears to be ok to use either Dr or Dr. However, in America the de facto is to always use the period / full stop — it’s Dr. in America!

Just for fun consider this: The plural of Dr. is Drs. or Dres. in some languages (German).

In British English, you don’t have to indicate an abbreviation with a full stop after the abbreviation, when the last letter is the same as the abbreviated word. You can use Dr Smith, because R is the last letter of Doctor. However, if he had a Phd. you have to use a full stop because the last letter is different from the entire word, doctorate.

The abbreviation of doctor is generally Dr in most of the Commonwealth whereas it is Dr. in North America.

Which abbreviation do you use and why?

The STAR Team

Source : Doctor (title), Wikipedia

Uppercase and Lowercase Letters, Origins

Origin of Uppercase and Lowercase Letters

The terms uppercase and lowercase letters or characters are used commonly today in the language of desktop publishing.

Have you ever stopped to think where the terms originated?

Strangely enough most publishing terms actually come from the old print industry. When documents were originally put together for printing, all the letters had to be manually placed onto the press before the page was pressed.

All the characters were stored in the printer’s case of letters, which had an upper part of the case where capital letters were stored, and a lower part of the case where the other letters were stored. Thus was born the language of upper case letters and lower case letters.

The STAR Team