20 Interesting Words With Origins That Most People Don’t Know

Published November 9, 2017
Updated May 4, 2018

From "jumbo" to "namby-pamby" to "nimrod," these interesting words have surprisingly fascinating backstories.

Jumbo Elephant Interesting Words
Jeans Pants Blue Jeans
Ketchup Catsup
20 Interesting Words With Origins That Most People Don’t Know
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Whether taking on loanwords from foreign languages or developing new words out of strange origins, the English language is filled with interesting words that have truly fascinating backstories.

"Ketchup," for example, is just one word that's used throughout English-speaking countries, but few realize that the word originated with the Chinese word "ke-tsiap" (鮭汁) which referred most commonly to a fermented fish sauce.

Over time, that term made its way to Europe through trading vessels, where people began to refer to foreign sauces as "ketchup," a distorted version of the Chinese word. Eventually, "ketchup" came to refer to tomato ketchup in most of the world.

And "ketchup" is far from alone. Check out the unexpected origins of some of the English language's most interesting words in the gallery above.

After this look at some of English's most interesting words, discover the famous last words of 41 historical greats. Then, check out interesting quotes that will change how you see the world. Finally, have a look at the funniest insults from history.

Gabe Paoletti
Gabe is a New York City-based writer and an Editorial Intern at All That Is Interesting.