“Run” is the word with the most different meanings. The verb-form alone has no fewer than 645 meanings and Peter Gilliver worked for more than nine months to work out all of them.
Cliché comes from the sound made when plates with commonly used words or phrases were fitted into a printing press. These plates were called stereotypes.
The word “legend” originally meant “things to be read”. In the pre-Medieval period, reading and writing were very rare, and so anything worthy of being written down was something very noteworthy, and thus “legendary”; worthy of being written down and read.
Strawberry generation is a Taiwanese term for anyone who is born after 1981. Named after strawberries because strawberries “bruise easily”, they can not withstand social pressure or work hard like their parents’ generation.
The word “barbecue” has been around since 1650, and has meant “outdoor meal of roasted meat or fish as a social entertainment” since 1733.
During the Black Death, incoming ships were forced to wait for 40 days to prevent possible infection. The Italian word for 40, “quaranta”, is where we get the word “quarantine”.
The at-sign, @, is not a modern invention. It has been found on documents as old as 1345. Today, it is referred differently around the world. In Italy, it is called chiocciola (snail) while the Germans call it Klammeraffe (spidermonkey). In Spanish it’s Arroba (the word has its origin in Arabic, the term defined the load that a donkey or mule could carry). Some call it Miukumauku in Finnish (basically cat noises, meow-meow). In Russian, it is generally referred to as Sobaka – dog. In Slovakia and Czech republic it’s Zavinac (Herring). In Poland, people call it Malpa (Monkey).
The Japanese have a word (tsundoku [積ん読]) for the habit of buying a lot of books and never reading them.
English words for livestock (cow, sheep, chicken) are Germanic-based and the words for meats (beef, mutton, poultry) are French-based. This is because the people who raised the animals were Anglo-Saxon peasants and the people who ate them were Norman aristocrats.
The reason we say “redhead” instead of “orangehead”” for hair color is because English didn’t differentiate between the colors until the 1540s, long after the term was coined.