The Origin Stories Behind Your 5 Favorite Words

Ever wonder where your “favorite” words came from? Unfortunately, now you will!

Moist (1).png

This beauty has been with us since the Late 14th Century if you can believe it, back when the Old French used moiste it to mean “damp, wet, or soaked.” Mix that in with the Latin word for mucus, mucidus (or from the Vulgar Latin, muscidus, which is just Latin you can’t say in front of your Grandma), and you have our word meaning “wet” or, um, “well-irrigated.”

An alternative theory says that it was influenced by the Latin word musteus, which literally means “like new wine.” You know, just like we use it today!


Back in the day, Hippocrates and the Greeks believed there were four “humors” that controlled a person’s personality. Not limericks, riddles, punchlines, and knock-knock jokes, . These were bodily fluids - blood, various forms of bile, and phlegm - and they believed an imbalance of one of the fluids would create different personality types. The Greek word for phlegm therefore meant “humor caused by heat.”

In Greek medical texts, a phlegmatic person tended to be “relaxed, peaceful, quiet, and easy-going.” So next time you’re hanging with your most chill friend, see how many tissues they reach for! This theory waned over time, but depictions of the idea persisted for centuries, even popping up in artwork and scientific illustrations.

Man, old-timey people were ugly.

Man, old-timey people were ugly.


Currently used to describe the “coagulated or thickened part of milk” (yum!), curd likely comes from another 14th Century word you’ve definitely heard: crud, meaning "any coagulated substance," from crudan in Old English which meant "to press or drive.”

So technically when your Dad used to say “get that crud off your shoes,” or your Mom tried to get the crud out of the corner of your eye, it was really all about clumping milk! Awesome!


Squirt has different origin stories based on it being a verb or a noun. In the late 15th Century, we had squyrten, "to spit." In the 1580’s it was defined as "cause to issue in a sudden jet or stream." Delicious!

As a noun, squirt straight up meant “diarrhea” way back in the late 14th Century, also transforming into a “jet or liquid” by 1620. And if you find yourself in a Charles Dickens novel around 1839, you might refer to your neighborhood whipper-snapper as such.


From Old English geoloca, Yolk, or yelk, literally translates to “the yellow part.”


Great job, Old English people. You nailed it.

Thanks to and Wikipedia for this information!

Love words like this? You’ll probably love our party game. Click on the box below to learn more!