Search us!

Search The Word Detective and our family of websites:

This is the easiest way to find a column on a particular word or phrase.

To search for a specific phrase, put it between quotation marks.






Comments are OPEN.

We deeply appreciate the erudition and energy of our commenters. Your comments frequently make an invaluable contribution to the story of words and phrases in everyday usage over many years.

Please note that comments are moderated, and will sometimes take a few days to appear.



shameless pleading





Please help support The Word Detective!

Note: The Word Detective suspended regular monthly publication on the web and via email in 2015 due to Evan’s illness. Evan passed away in 2017 (read his obituary here), but as he wished, The Word Detective site will continue on. So while we’re not accepting subscriptions, please read on for why we need your support more than ever.


For more than 20 years (!), The Word Detective has been a free online resource for writers, etymology buffs, language fans and literally millions of curious visitors. Now we’re facing a serious crisis and we need your help, to both keep TWD online and to keep the feline horde in mass quantities of basic food–and a staggering 240 lb. of kitty litter a month–not to mention (especially to the cats) visits to the vet.

Unfortunately, The Word Detective’s small ad revenue doesn’t even cover the site’s monthly hosting fees, let alone cat food and utility bills.

So if you enjoy browsing the more than 1,500 columns on this site, or you have word and phrase questions you’d like answered, please contribute to The Word Detective if you can. Even just $5 makes a real difference.

(Note:  Any old PayPal buttons or links you click on elsewhere on the site will result in a refund of your contribution, since they link to the old Paypal account. Please follow the instructions below instead. And thank you!)


What-the-Heck One-time Contribution (of any amount)

To make a (much appreciated) one-time contribution of any amount, just click on this handy Paypal link:


To make a recurring monthly donation of $5.00 (or any amount) to support both the site and the TWD menagerie (which you can cancel at any time), please use the PayPal Donate link below:


You can also contribute by check made out to Kathy Wollard (not to “The Word Detective”), sent to

P.O. Box 1, Millersport, Ohio 43046.

(Please put your email address on the check.)


Thank you for your patience and support.


Please support
The Word Detective

by Subscribing.


Follow us on Twitter!




Makes a great gift! Click cover for more.

400+ pages of science questions answered and explained for kids -- and adults!