Etymology – E

E – derived from the Egyptian hieroglyph, Phoenician, and Hebrew sign called “he”

Earl Grey – recipe of superior China tea given to Charles Grey in 1830s by a grateful Chinese mandarin whose life had been saved by one of the earl’s men

Earn the wages of sin – to be hanged or condemned to death

Earthly Paradise – believed to be located somewhere on earth, probably in China according to 9th century maps

Earthquakes – according to Indian mythology the world would shake when the great elephant (Muha-pudma) would move its head on which Earth rested; Greeks believe it was the unsettling giants who Jupiter buried beneath the earth 

East – Christian churches usually built east to west with the altar placed at the east end to remind the congregation of the resurrection

Easter – from Old English “eastre”, a heathen festival held at vernal equinox so named after the German goddess of the dawn (relating to the East); Easter day is the first Sunday after the Paschal full moon (the first full moon that occurs after the vernal equinox)

Eat – to eat together was a sure pledge of protection; a story of a persian grandee gave the pit of a peach to a man who he found out had slain his son but would not harm him as he had eaten with him

Eat humble pie – humble is a pun of “umble”, the heart, liver, and entrails of the deer; the lord and his family would eat venison at the high table while the huntsmen took lower seats and ate pie made of the umbles

Eavesdrop – the space of ground around the house that received water dripping from the eaves; an eavesdropper would take up position in the eavesdrop  to overhear what was said in the house

Ebonics – combination of ebony and phonics

Eclectics – from Greek “eklegein” to select; name given to those who do not attach to any special school of thought

Economy – from Greek “oikos”; house and “nemein”, to manage; literally domestic management

Ecstasy – from Greek “ekstasis”, displacement or literally causing to stand outside

Eden – Hebrew “place of pleasure”

Edict of Milan – proclamation by Constantine after conquest of Italy in 313 AD giving Christians civil and religious rights

E.g. – Latin “exempli gratia”, for sake of an example

Eire – former name of Southern Ireland (the Gaelic name of Ireland) from 1937 to 1949

Eirene – the Greek goddess of peace; Greek “peace”

Elbow-lifting – drinking

El Dorado – Spanish “the gilded”; a supposed king was oiled and powdered with gold

Electuary – from Greek “ekleikhein”, to lick out; medicines sweetened with honey or syrup and meant to be licked off the spoon by the patient

Elijah – Old Testament prophet who hears the still small voice of God

Elohin – a Hebrew word for God or gods

Emblem – see Dictionary 

Emmanuel – Hebrew ‘God with us’; name of the child whose birth was foretold by Isaiah

Emmy – first awarded in 1949; name from “immy”, nickname for image orthicon tube in TV sets

Emperor – from Latin “imperator”, commander; see Dictionary

Empyrean – the fifth heaven according to Ptolemy; from Greek “empuros”, fiery; abode of God and angels

Enceladus  – most powerful of the hundred-armed giants; lies beneath Mount Etna whose rising flames are birthed from his breath

Encyclical – pastoral letter issued by the pope for circulation to Roman Catholic church

Encyclopedia – erroneously derived from Greek “enkuklios paideia”, encyclical education; the Greeks believed in a well-rounded, all-around knowledge of arts and sciences

Endymion – shepherd lover of Selene, the moon goddess; Zeus gave him eternal life via perpetual sleep on Mount Latmus where Selene would come at night to kiss him

England – “land of the Angles”, the Germanic people who invaded in the 5th century

English – three stages: Old English 500-1100 AD, Middle English 1100-1450, Modern 1450-

Enigma – German device for encoding strategy around WWII that scrambled the alphabet through a set of revolving drums that could only be reconstructed by another Enigma

Enola Gay – dropped the bomb on Hiroshima; named after the pilot’s mother

Enthusiasm – from Greek “enthusiasmos”, possessed by a god; inspiration is related, from Latin “inspirare”, to breathe in (the god-like essence)

Eolithic – from Greek “eos lithos”, dawn stone

Epact – difference in time between solar (365 days) and lunar (354 days) years; epact = number of days from the last new moon of the old year to the first of the following January; used to determine date of Easter

Epiphany – from Greek “epiphaneia”, appearance; the manifestation of Christ to the Gentiles

Episode – from Greek “episodion”, something added; a tale added to the main story

Epistle – from Greek “epistellein”, to send to; the New Testament letters

E Pluribus Unum – Latin for “many out of one”; from Virgil’s poem “Moretum (The Salad)”

Epsom Salt – hydrated magnesium sulphate; originally derived from evaporation of water of a mineral spring in Epsom in Surrey

Equality – the equal sign invented by Robert Recorde (d. 1558); nothing more equal than two parallel lines

Equinox – from Latin “aequus nox”, equal night; when day and night are of equal length around the world

Erato – from Greek “eratos”, lovely; one of the nine Muses; Muse of love poetry

Erebus – Greek for “place of nether darkness’; son of Chaos and brother Night

Erin – poetic name for Ireland; from Irish Eirinn derived from Eire (the country’s Irish name)

Erse – native language of the Highlands

Esau – twin (and older) brother of Jacob; prophet said that the elder would serve the younger, conflict between the wto ensued (including disguise and deceit); it’s supposed to represent the feud between the Edomites and the Israelites

Espirit de L’escalier – French for “staircase wit”; a joke that lands only when you are leaving the room down the stairs from the salon to the street below

The Eternal Tables – in Muslim legend, a white pearl extending west to east and from heaven to Earth on which God has recorded every event

Euchre  – the name probably comes from German dialect “Juckerspiel”

Eunuch – from Greek “eunoukhos”, attender of the bedchamber; must be castrated as he is to serve as a guard in a harem (separate abode for women)

Euphemism – from Greek “euphemismos”, speaking well

Eureka  – from Greek “heureka”, I have found it; originally credited to Archimedes when he discovered how to assess the purity of the king’s crown

Europa  – according to Greek legend, she was the sister of Cadmes, born on the Asian coast of the Meditterranean; Zeus changed himself into a bull, seduced her, and carried her back to the shores of Europe

Eustace  – Roman general who converted to Christianity when he saw a cross between a stag’s antlers and was later roasted to death; patron saint of hunters

Eve  – from Hebrew “hawwah”, living

Every bullet has its billet  – every bullet fired will have its lodging place

Ex cathedra  – “from the chair”; with authority (from the pope)

Ex silentio  – “from silence”; said of a theory that is based on a lack of evidence to the contrary

Exaltation – in astrology, a planet is in exaltation when it was in the sign of the Zodiac in which it was supposed to exert its strongest influence

Excelsior  – Latin “higher”; New York’s state motto

Extispicy – ancient Roman practice of inspecting sacrificed animal entrails to discern future events

Eye of the Day  – the sun