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3-Mir ror i m-age – Ra-flec-t-io-n – Mer oar-3

Laurence

masc. proper name, from Old French Lorenz (French Laurent), from Latin Laurentius, literally “of Laurentum,” a maritime town in Latium, the name of which means literally “town of bay trees,” from laurus (see laurel). The Italian form is Lorenzo.

A popular given name in the Middle Ages, as a surname it is attested in England from mid-12c. Larkin is a pet-form, along with Larry. For some reason, the name at least since 18c. has been the personification of indolence (compare German der faule Lenz “Lazy Lawrence”). But in Scotland, the pet form Lowrie has been used for “a fox” (c. 1500), also for “a crafty person” (1560s). Lawrence is the Law- in the surname Lawson, and a diminutive pet form is preserved in the surname Lowery/Laurie, etc.

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laurel (n.)

mid-14c. variant of lorrer (c. 1300), from Old French laurierlorier “bay tree, laurel tree” (12c.), from Latin laurus “laurel tree,” which is probably related to Greek daphne “laurel” (for change of d- to l- see lachrymose), which is probably from a pre-IE Mediterranean language.

The second -r- changed to -l- in late Middle English by dissimilation. An emblem of victory or of distinction, hence the phrase to rest (originally reposeon one’s laurels, first attested 1831. Related: Laurine (adj.).

Laura

fem. proper name, from Italian, probably originally a pet form of Laurentia, fem. of Laurentius (see Laurence). Among the top 20 names for girls born in U.S. between 1963 and 1979.

law (n.)

Old English lagu (plural laga, combining form lah-) “ordinance, rule prescribed by authority, regulation; district governed by the same laws;” also sometimes “right, legal privilege,” from Old Norse *lagu “law,” collective plural of lag “layer, measure, stroke,” literally “something laid down, that which is fixed or set” from Proto-Germanic *lagam “put, lay,” from PIE root *legh- “to lie, lay” (from PIE root *legh- “to lie down, lay”). Identical with lay (n.2) as “that which is set or established.”

Rare in Old English, it ousted the more usual ae and also gesetnes, which also were etymologically “something placed or set.” Compare also statute, from Latin statuere; German Gesetz “law,” from Old High German gisatzida; Lithuanian įstatymas, from įstatyti “set up, establish.”

In physics, “a proposition which expresses the regular order of things,” from 1660s. Law and order have been coupled since 1796. To lay down the law (1752) is pleonastic (the “law” in the figure is biblical law, laid down from the pulpit). Poor laws provided for the support of paupers at public expense; sumptuary laws restrained excesses in apparel, food, or luxuries.

It is more common for Indo-European languages to use different words for “a specific law” and for “law” in the general sense of “institution or body of laws,” for example Latin lex “a law,” ius “a right,” especially “legal right, law.” Words for “a law” are most commonly from verbs for “to put, place, set, lay,” such as Greek thesmos (from tithemi “to put, place”), Old English dom (from PIE *dhe- “to put, place, set”), Lithuanian įstatymas (from statyti “cause to stand, set”), Polish ustawa (from stać “stand”).

Words for “law” in the general sense mostly mean etymologically “what is right” and often are connected with adjectives for “right” (themselves often figurative uses of words for “straight,” “upright,” “true,” “fitting,” or “usage, custom.” Such are Greek nomos (numismatic); French droit, Spanish derecho, from Latin directus; Polish prawo, Russian pravo (from Old Church Slavonic pravŭ “straight,” in the daughter languages “right”); also Old Norse rettr, Old English riht, Dutch recht, German Recht (see right (adj.1)).

Ra

“hawk-headed sovereign sun god of Egyptian mythology,” from Egyptian R’ “sun, day.”

ray (n.1)

“beam of light,” c. 1300, from Old French rai (nominative rais) “ray (of the sun), spoke (of a wheel); gush, spurt,” from Latin radius “ray, spoke, staff, rod” (see radius). Not common before 17c. [OED]; of the sun, usually in reference to heat (beam being preferred for light). Science fiction ray-gun is first recorded 1931 (but the Martians had a heat ray weapon in H.G. Wells’ “War of the Worlds,” 1898).

Torah (n.)

“the Pentateuch,” 1570s, from Hebrew torah, literally “instruction, law,” verbal noun from horah “he taught, showed.”

torus (n.)

1560s, in architecture, “large, rounded molding at the base of a column,” from Latin torus “a swelling, bulge, knot; cushion, couch.”

Taurus (n.)

zodiac constellation, late Old English, from Latin taurus “bull, bullock, steer,” also the name of the constellation, from PIE *tau-ro- “bull” (source also of Greek tauros, Old Church Slavonic turu “bull, steer;” Lithuanian tauras “aurochs;” Old Prussian tauris “bison”); from PIE *tauro- “bull,” from root *(s)taeu- “stout, standing, strong” (source also of Sanskrit sthura- “thick, compact,” Avestan staora- “big cattle,” Middle Persian stor “horse, draft animal,” Gothic stiur “young bull,” Old English steor); extended form of root *sta- “to stand, make or be firm.”

Klein proposes a Semitic origin (compare Aramaic tora “ox, bull, steer,” Hebrew shor, Arabic thor, Ethiopian sor). De Vaan writes: “The earlier history of the word is uncertain: there is no cognate in [Indo-Iranian] or Tocharian, whereas there are Semitic words for ‘bull’ which are conspicuously similar. Hence, it may have been an early loanword of the form *tauro- into the western IE languages.” Meaning “person born under the sign of the bull” is recorded from 1901. The Taurid meteors (peaking Nov. 20) so called from 1878.

At midnight revels when the gossips met,

He was the theme of their eternal chat:

This ask’d what form great Jove would next devise,

And when his godship would again Taurise?

[William Somerville, “The Wife,” 1727]

tarot (n.)

1590s, from French tarot (16c.), from Old Italian tarocchi (singular tarocco), a word of unknown origin, perhaps from Arabic taraha “he rejected, put aside.” Originally an everyday game deck in much of Europe (though not in Britain), their occult and fortune-telling use seems to date from late 18c. and became popular in England 20c. Tarot games seem to have originated among aristocrats in northern Italy in early 15c. By early 16c. tarocchi had emerged in Italian as the name of the special cards, and by extension the whole pack; whence the French word, German Tarock, etc. The tarots are thus, strictly speaking, the 22 figured cards added to the 56-card suits pack.

rotary (adj.)

1731, from Medieval Latin rotarius “pertaining to wheels,” from Latin rota “a wheel, a potter’s wheel; wheel for torture,” from PIE root *ret- “to run, to turn, to roll” (source also of Sanskrit rathah “car, chariot;” Avestan ratho; Lithuanian ratas “wheel,” ritu “I roll;” Old Irish roth, Welsh rhod “carriage wheel”). The root also forms the common West Germanic word for “wheel” (originally “spoked wheel”): Old High German rad, German Rad, Dutch rad, Old Frisian reth, Old Saxon rath.

The international service club (founded by Paul P. Harris in Chicago in 1905) so called from the practice of clubs entertaining in rotation. Hence Rotarian (1911).

Anti-Mason (n.)

by 1928 in reference to a U.S. third political party formed in opposition to elites and for a time powerful in the mid-Atlantic states, from anti- + Mason, in reference to the secret society. Related: Anti-Masonic.

mason (n.)

c. 1200 (early 12c. as a surname), masoun, “stoneworker, builder in stone, one who dresses, lays, or carves stone,” from Old French massonmaçon “stone mason” (Old North French machun), probaby from Frankish *makjo or some other Germanic source (compare Old High German steinmezzo “stone mason,” Modern German Steinmetz, with second element related to mahhon “to make”); from PIE root *mag- “to knead, fashion, fit.”

But it also might be from, or influenced by, Medieval Latin machiomatio (7c.) which is said by Isidore to be derived from machina (see machine (n.)). The medieval word also might be from the root of Latin maceria “wall.” Meaning “a member of the fraternity of freemasons” is attested from early 15c. in Anglo-French. The Mason jar (by 1868), a type of molded glass jar with an airtight screw lid, used for home preserves, is named for John L. Mason of New York, who patented it in 1858. 

may (v.1)

Old English mæg “am able” (infinitive magan, past tense meahtemihte), from Proto-Germanic root *mag-, infinitive *maganan (Old Frisian mei/muga/machte “have power, may;” Old Saxon mag/mugan/mahte; Middle Dutch mach/moghen/mohte; Dutch mag/mogen/mocht; Old High German mag/magan/mahta; German mag/mögen/mochte; Old Norse ma/mega/matte; Gothic mag/magan/mahte “to be able”), from PIE root *magh- “to be able, have power.” A present-preterit verb (with canshall, etc.). Also used in Old English as a “auxiliary of prediction.”

son (n.)

Old English sunu “son, descendant,” from Proto-Germanic *sunus (source also of Old Saxon and Old Frisian sunu, Old Norse sonr, Danish søn, Swedish son, Middle Dutch sone, Dutch zoon, Old High German sunu, German Sohn, Gothic sunus “son”). The Germanic words are from PIE *su(e)-nu- “son” (source also of Sanskrit sunus, Greek huios, Avestan hunush, Armenian ustr, Lithuanian sūnus, Old Church Slavonic synu, Russian and Polish syn “son”), a derived noun from root *seue- (1) “to give birth” (source also of Sanskrit sauti “gives birth,” Old Irish suth “birth, offspring”).

Son of _____ as the title of a sequel to a book or movie is recorded from 1917 (“Son of Tarzan”). Most explanations for son of a gun (1708) are more than a century after its appearance. Henley (1903) describes it as meaning originally “a soldier’s bastard;” Smyth’s “Sailor’s Word-Book” (1867) describes it as “An epithet conveying contempt in a slight degree, and originally applied to boys born afloat, when women were permitted to accompany their husbands to sea ….”

May

fifth month of the modern calendar, early 12c., Mai, from Old French mai and directly from Latin MajusMaius mensis “month of May,” possibly from MajaMaia, a Roman earth goddess (wife of Vulcan) whose name is of unknown origin; possibly from PIE *mag-ya “she who is great,” fem. suffixed form of root *meg- “great” (cognate with Latin magnus).

“[R]eckoned on the continent of Europe and in America as the last month of spring, but in Great Britain as the first of summer” [Century Dictionary, 1897]. Replaced Old English þrimilce, month in which cows can be milked three times a day. May marriages have been considered unlucky at least since Ovid’s day. May-apple, perennial herb native to North America, so called for its time of blooming and its yellowish fruit, is attested from 1733, American English.

sun (n.)

Old English sunne “the sun,” from Proto-Germanic *sunno (source also of Old Norse, Old Saxon, Old High German sunna, Middle Dutch sonne, Dutch zon, German Sonne, Gothic sunno “the sun”), from PIE *s(u)wen-, alternative form of root *sawel- “the sun.”

Old English sunne was feminine (as generally in Germanic), and the fem. pronoun was used in English until 16c.; since then masc. has prevailed. The empire on which the sun never sets (1630) originally was the Spanish, later the British. To have one’s place in the sun (1680s) is from Pascal’s “Pensées”; the German imperial foreign policy sense (1897) is from a speech by von Bülow.

(Ra-Search Ra-Source: (www.)Etymonline.com, Online Etymology)

Ma(R)y = Mamma-Rhea

mamma (n.)

“mother,” a word used especially by children and infants, 1570s, representing the native form of the reduplication of *ma- that is nearly universal among the Indo-European languages (Greek mamme “mother, grandmother,” Latin mamma, Persian mama, Russian and Lithuanian mama “mother,” German Muhme “mother’s sister,” French maman, Welsh mam “mother”).

Probably a natural sound in baby-talk, perhaps imitative of sound made while sucking. Its late appearance in English is curious, but Middle English had mome (mid-13c.) “an aunt; an old woman,” also an affectionate term of address for an older woman.

In educated usage, the stress is always on the last syllable. In terms of the recorded appearance of the variant or related words in English, mama is from 1707, mum is from 1823, mummy in this sense from 1839, mommy 1844, momma 1852, and mom 1867. Mamma’s boy “soft, effeminate male” is by 1901. 

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rhea (n.)

South American ostrich, 1801, Modern Latin genus name, for unknown reasons from Greek Rhea, name of a titaness, mother of Zeus, a name of unknown origin. As a moon of Saturn, discovered 1672.

Rhea is Anagrammatic with:

Hera

sister and wife of Zeus, the type of virtuous womanhood, from Greek Hēra, literally “protectress,” related to hērōs “hero,” originally “defender, protector” (see hero (n.1)).

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Her-A

her (objective case)

Old English hire “her,” third person singular feminine dative pronoun, which replaced accusative hie beginning in 10c. See he. Cognate with Old Frisian hiri, Middle Dutch hore, Dutch haar, Old High German iru, German ihr.

A

first letter of the Roman alphabet, based on Greek alpha (see alpha). In music from c. 1600 as the name of the sixth note of the natural scale; it is the note given by a fixed-tone instrument (usually oboe or organ) to which all the instruments of an orchestra are tuned. As a blood type, 1926, denoting A agglutinogens. The A side of a two-sided record (by 1962, see side (n.)) held the material chosen for promotion. A-bomb, short for atom bomb, was in newspaper headlines by Aug. 8, 1945.

alpha (n.)

c. 1300, from Latin alpha, from Greek alpha, from Hebrew or Phoenician aleph (see aleph). The Greeks added -a because Greek words cannot end in most consonants. Sense of “beginning of anything” is from late 14c., often paired with omega (the last letter in the Greek alphabet, representing “the end”); sense of “first in a sequence” is from 1620s. In astronomy, the designation of the brightest star of each constellation (the use of Greek letters in star names began with Bayer’s atlas in 1603). Alpha male was in use by c. 1960 among scientists studying animals; applied to humans in society from c. 1992.

aleph (n.)

name for the Hebrew and Phoenician first letter, ancestor of A, c. 1300, from Semitic languages, pausal form of eleph “ox” (the character might have developed from a hieroglyph of an ox’s head); also see alphabet.

Gautama

surname of the Buddha, from Sanskrit Gotamah, properly a patronymic, literally “descendant of the greatest ox,” from superlative of gauh “ox, bull, cow.”

Bible (n.)

“the Scriptures of the Old and New Testaments,” early 14c., from Anglo-Latin biblia, Old French bible (13c.) “the Bible,” also any large book generally, from Medieval and Late Latin biblia “the Bible” (neuter plural interpreted as feminine singular), from phrase biblia sacra “holy books,” a translation of Greek ta biblia to hagia “the holy books.” The Latin word is from the Greek one, biblion “paper, scroll,” also the ordinary word for “a book as a division of a larger work;” see biblio-.

The Christian scripture was referred to in Greek as Ta Biblia as early as c. 223. Bible replaced Old English biblioðece (see bibliothec) as the ordinary word for “the Scriptures.” Figurative sense of “any authoritative book” is from 1804. Bible-thumper “strict Christian” is from 1870. Bible belt in reference to the swath of the U.S. South then dominated by fundamentalist Christians is from 1926; likely coined by H.L. Mencken.

Her first husband was a missionary to China, and died miserably out there, leaving her with a small baby and no funds. Her second seems to have left her nearly as quickly, though under his own steam: her souvenir was another infant. For years she toured the Bible Belt in a Ford, haranguing the morons nightly under canvas. [H.L. Mencken, review of Aimee Semple McPherson’s “In the Service of the King: The Story of My Life,” The American Mercury, April 1928]

Walter Scott and Pope’s Homer were reading of my own election, but my mother forced me, by steady daily toil, to learn long chapters of the Bible by heart; as well as to read it every syllable through, aloud, hard names and all, from Genesis to the Apocalypse, about once a year; and to that discipline — patient, accurate, and resolute — I owe, not only a knowledge of the book, which I find occasionally serviceable, but much of my general power of taking pains, and the best part of my taste in literature. … [O]nce knowing the 32nd of Deuteronomy, the 119th Psalm, the 15th of 1st Corinthians, the Sermon on the Mount, and most of the Apocalypse, every syllable by heart, and having always a way of thinking with myself what words meant, it was not possible for me, even in the foolishest times of youth, to write entirely superficial or formal English …. [John Ruskin, “Fors Clavigera,” 1871]

bi-

word-forming element meaning “two, having two, twice, double, doubly, twofold, once every two,” etc., from Latin bi- “twice, double,” from Old Latin dvi- (cognate with Sanskrit dvi-, Greek di-dis-, Old English twi-, German zwei- “twice, double”), from PIE root *dwo- “two.”

Nativized from 16c. Occasionally bin- before vowels; this form originated in French, not Latin, and might be partly based on or influenced by Latin bini “twofold” (see binary). In chemical terms, it denotes two parts or equivalents of the substance referred to. Cognate with twi- and di- (1).

bull (n.1)

“male of a bovine animal,” c. 1200, bule, from Old Norse boli “bull, male of the domestic bovine,” perhaps also from an Old English *bula, both from Proto-Germanic *bullon- (source also of Middle Dutch bulle, Dutch bul, German Bulle), perhaps from a Germanic verbal stem meaning “to roar,” which survives in some German dialects and perhaps in the first element of boulder (q.v.). The other possibility [Watkins] is that the Germanic word is from PIE root *bhel- (2) “to blow, swell.”

An uncastrated male, reared for breeding, as opposed to a bullock or steer. Extended after 1610s to males of other large animals (elephant, alligator, whale, etc.). Stock market sense “one who seeks to cause a rise in the price of a stock” is from 1714 (compare bear (n.)). Meaning “policeman” attested by 1859. Bull-necked is from 1640s. Figurative phrase totake the bull by the horns “boldly face or grapple with some danger or difficulty” first recorded 1711 (Swift). To be a bull in a china shop, figurative of careless and inappropriately destructive use of force, attested from 1812 and was the title of a popular humorous song in 1820s England.

symbol (n.)

early 15c., “creed, summary, religious belief,” from Late Latin symbolum “creed, token, mark,” from Greek symbolon “token, watchword, sign by which one infers; ticket, a permit, licence” (the word was applied c.250 by Cyprian of Carthage to the Apostles’ Creed, on the notion of the “mark” that distinguishes Christians from pagans), literally “that which is thrown or cast together,” from assimilated form of syn- “together” (see syn-) + bole “a throwing, a casting, the stroke of a missile, bolt, beam,” from bol-, nominative stem of ballein “to throw” (from PIE root *gwele- “to throw, reach”).

The sense evolution in Greek is from “throwing things together” to “contrasting” to “comparing” to “token used in comparisons to determine if something is genuine.” Hence, “outward sign” of something. The meaning “something which stands for something else” first recorded 1590 (in “Faerie Queene”). As a written character, 1610s.

phonetic (adj.)

1803, “representing vocal sounds,” from Modern Latin phoneticus (Zoega, 1797), from Greek phōnētikos “vocal,” from phōnētos “to be spoken, utterable,” verbal adjective of phōnein “to speak clearly, utter,” from phōnē “sound, voice,” from PIE root *bha- (2) “to speak, tell, say” (see fame (n.)). Meaning “relating or pertaining to the human voice as used in speech” is by 1861. Related: Phonetical.

phoenix (n.)

mythical bird of great beauty worshiped in Egypt, Old English and Old French fenix, from Medieval Latin phenix, from Latin phoenix, from Greek phoinix. The bird was the only one of its kind, ans after living 500 or 600 years in the Arabian wilderness, “built for itself a funeral pile of spices and aromatic gums, lighted the pile with the fanning of its wings, and was burned upon it, but from its ashes revived in the freshness of youth” [Century Dictionary]. 

Ðone wudu weardaþ wundrum fæger

fugel feþrum se is fenix hatan

[“Phoenix,” c.900]

Compare Phoenician, which seems to be unrelated. Forms in ph- begin to appear in English late 15c. and the spelling was assimilated to Greek in 16c. (see ph). Figurative sense of “that which rises from the ashes of what was destroyed” is attested from 1590s.

The constellation was one of the 11 added to Ptolemy’s list in the 1610s by Flemish cartographer Petrus Plancius (1552-1622) after Europeans began to explore the Southern Hemisphere. The city in Arizona, U.S., was so called because it was founded in 1867 on the site of an ancient Native American settlement.

Phoenician (n.)

late 14c., phenicienes (plural), “native or inhabitant of the ancient country of Phoenicia” on the coast of Syria, from Old French phenicien or formed from Latin Phoenice, Phoenices, on the model of Persian, etc. The Latin word is from Greek Phoinike “Phoenicia” (including its colony Carthage), which is perhaps of Pre-Greek origin [Beekes].

Compare phoenix, which seems to be unrelated. Greek phoinix also meant “(the color) purple,” perhaps “the Phoenician color,” because the Greeks obtained purple dyes from the Phoenicians, but scholars disagree about this (Greek also had phoinos “red, blood red,” which is of uncertain etymology). Greek phoinix was also “palm-tree,” especially “the date,” fruit and tree, probably literally “the Phoenician (tree),” because the palm originated in the East and the Greeks traded with the Phoenicians for dates. It also was the name of a stringed instrument, probably also a reference to a Phoenician origin.

In reference to the Semitic language spoken by the people, from 1836; as an adjective, from c. 1600.

phone (n.1)

1884, colloquial shortening of telephone (n.), “generally applied to the receiver, but sometimes to the whole apparatus” [Century Dictionary, 1895]. Phone book “publication listing telephone numbers and their associated names” is by 1920; phone booth “small enclosure or stall provided with a public pay-telephone” is by 1906; phone bill “statement of charges for telephone service” is by 1901; phone number (short for telephone number) is by 1906.

-i-

a “connective” element in many words formed with Latin or Greek suffixes, now often felt as part of them (as in -iac-iacal-ial-ian-ify-ity, etc.). Properly it forms no proper part of the suffix but is often the stem-vowel of the initial word in the Latin compounds (genial from genius), or a modified form of it. As such forms were very common, -i- was used merely connectively or euphonically in some Latin compounds (uniformis) and in later words made from Latin components in English or French (centennialeditorial).

The Greek equivalent is -o-, which also became an active connective in English, but they now are used indifferently with elements from either language.

X

The entire entry for X in Johnson’s dictionary (1756) is: “X is a letter, which, though found in Saxon words, begins no word in the English language.” Most English words beginning in -x- are of Greek origin (see chi) or modern commercial coinages. East Anglian in 14c. showed a tendency to use -x- for initial sh-sch- (such as xal for shall), which didn’t catch on but seems an improvement over the current system. As a symbol of a kiss on a letter, etc., it is recorded from 1765. In malt liquor, XX denoted “double quality” and XXX “strongest quality” (1827).

Algebraic meaning “unknown quantity” (1660 in English, from French), sometimes is said to be from medieval use, originally a crossed -r-, in that case probably from Latin radix (see root (n.)). Other theories trace it to Arabic (Klein), but a more prosaic explanation says Descartes (1637) took x, y, z, the last three letters of the alphabet, for unknowns to correspond to a, b, c, used for known quantities.

Used allusively for “unknown person” from 1797, “something unknown” since 1859. As a type of chromosome, attested from 1902 (first so called in German; Henking, 1891). To designate “films deemed suitable for adults only,” first used 1950 in Britain; adopted in U.S. Nov. 1, 1968. The XYZ Affair in American history (1797) involved French agents designated by those letters.

ex-

word-forming element, in English meaning usually “out of, from,” but also “upwards, completely, deprive of, without,” and “former;” from Latin ex “out of, from within; from which time, since; according to; in regard to,” from PIE *eghs “out” (source also of Gaulish ex-, Old Irish ess-, Old Church Slavonic izu, Russian iz). In some cases also from Greek cognate exek. PIE *eghs had comparative form *eks-tero and superlative *eks-t(e)r-emo-. Often reduced to e- before -b--d--g-, consonantal -i--l--m--n--v- (as in eludeemergeevaporate, etc.).

eye (n.)

c. 1200, from Old English ege (Mercian), eage (West Saxon) “eye; region around the eye; apperture, hole,” from Proto-Germanic *augon (source also of Old Saxon aga, Old Frisian age, Old Norse auga, Swedish öga, Danish øie, Middle Dutch oghe, Dutch oog, Old High German ouga, German Auge, Gothic augo “eye”). Apparently the Germanic form evolved irregularly from PIE root *okw- “to see.”

HAMLET: My father — methinks I see my father.

HORATIO: Where, my lord?

HAMLET: In my mind’s eye, Horatio.

Until late 14c. the English plural was in -an, hence modern dialectal plural eenene. Of potatoes from 1670s. Of peacock feathers from late 14c. As a loop used with a hook in fastening (clothes, etc.) from 1590s. The eye of a needle was in Old English. As “the center of revolution” of anything from 1760. Nautical in the wind’s eye “in the direction of the wind” is from 1560s.

To see eye to eye is from Isaiah lii.8. Eye contact attested from 1953. To have (or keep) an eye on “keep under supervision” is attested from early 15c. To have eyes for “be interested in or attracted to” is from 1736; make eyes at in the romance sense is from 1837; gleam in (someone’s) eye (n.) “barely formed idea” is from 1959. Eye-biter was an old name for “a sort of witch who bewitches with the eyes.”

Phoenician (n.)

late 14c., phenicienes (plural), “native or inhabitant of the ancient country of Phoenicia” on the coast of Syria, from Old French phenicien or formed from Latin Phoenice, Phoenices, on the model of Persian, etc. The Latin word is from Greek Phoinike “Phoenicia” (including its colony Carthage), which is perhaps of Pre-Greek origin [Beekes].

Compare phoenix, which seems to be unrelated. Greek phoinix also meant “(the color) purple,” perhaps “the Phoenician color,” because the Greeks obtained purple dyes from the Phoenicians, but scholars disagree about this (Greek also had phoinos “red, blood red,” which is of uncertain etymology). Greek phoinix was also “palm-tree,” especially “the date,” fruit and tree, probably literally “the Phoenician (tree),” because the palm originated in the East and the Greeks traded with the Phoenicians for dates. It also was the name of a stringed instrument, probably also a reference to a Phoenician origin.

In reference to the Semitic language spoken by the people, from 1836; as an adjective, from c. 1600.

Byblos

ancient Phoenician port (modern Jebeil, Lebanon) from which Egyptian papyrus was exported to Greece. The name probably is a Greek corruption of Phoenician Gebhal, said to mean literally “frontier town” or “mountain town” (compare Hebrew gebhul “frontier, boundary,” Arabic jabal, Canaanite gubla “mountain”), which is perhaps a folk-etymology of the older Phoenician name, which might contain El “god.” The Greek name also might have been influenced by, or come from, an Egyptian word for “papyrus.”

biblio-

word-forming element meaning “book” or sometimes “Bible,” from Greek biblion “paper, scroll,” also the ordinary word for “a book as a division of a larger work;” originally a diminutive of byblos “Egyptian papyrus.” This is perhaps from Byblos, the Phoenician port from which Egyptian papyrus was exported to Greece (modern Jebeil, in Lebanon; for sense evolution compare parchment). Or the place name might be from the Greek word, which then would be probably of Egyptian origin. Compare Bible. Latin liber (see library) and English book also are ultimately from plant-words.

babble (n.)

c. 1500, “idle talk,” from babble (v.). In 16c., commonly in reduplicated form bibble-babble (1530s). Meaning “inarticulate speech” is from 1660s. Other nouns meaning “idle talk” included babblery (1530s), babblement (1640s).

babble (v.)

mid-13c., babeln “to prattle, utter words indistinctly, talk like a baby,” akin to other Western European words for stammering and prattling (Swedish babbla, Old French babillier, etc.) attested from the same era (some of which probably were borrowed from others), all probably ultimately imitative of baby-talk (compare Latin babulus “babbler,” Greek barbaros “non-Greek-speaking”). “No direct connexion with Babel can be traced; though association with that may have affected the senses” [OED]. Meaning “to talk excessively” is attested from c. 1500. Related: Babbledbabblerbabbling.

Babel

capital of Babylon, now a ruin near Hillah in Iraq, late 14c., from Late Latin, from Hebrew Babhel (Genesis xi), from Akkadian bab-ilu “Gate of God” (from bab “gate” + ilu “god”). The name is a translation of Sumerian Ka-dingir. Meaning “confused medley of sounds” (1520s) is from the biblical story of the Tower of Babel and the confusion of tongues (Genesis xi). The element bab figures in place-names in the Middle East, such as Bab-el-Mandeb, the strait at the mouth of the Red Sea.

Babylon

mid-14c., representing the Greek rendition of Akkadian Bab-ilani “the gate of the gods,” from bab “gate” + ilani, plural of ilu “god” (compare Babel). The Old Persian form, Babiru-, shows characteristic transformation of -l- to -r- in words assimilated from Semitic. Formerly also applied by Protestants to the Church in Rome, from the woman “arrayed in purple and scarlet” in Revelations xvii.5 (“And upon her forehead was a name written, Mystery, Babylon the Great, the mother of harlots and abominations of the earth”).

baby (n.)

late 14c., babi, “infant of either sex,” diminutive of babe (see babe) with -y (3). Meaning “childish adult person” is from c. 1600. Meaning “youngest of a group” is by 1897. As a term of endearment for one’s lover it is attested perhaps as early as 1839, certainly by 1901 (OED writes, “the degree of slanginess in the nineteenth-century examples is not easily determinable”); its popularity perhaps boosted by baby vamp “a popular girl” (see vamp (n.2)), student slang from c. 1922.

Meaning “minute reflection of oneself seen in another’s eyes” is from 1590s (compare pupil (n.2)). As an adjective by 1750. Baby food is from 1833. Baby blues for “blue eyes” recorded by 1892 (the phrase also was used for “postpartum depression” 1950s-60s). To empty the baby out with the bath (water) is attested by 1909 (in G.B. Shaw; compare German das Kind mit dem Bade ausschütten, attested from 17c.). A baby’s breath was noted for sweet smell, which also was supposed to attract cats, hence baby’s breath as the name of a type of flower, attested from 1897. French bébé (19c.) is from English.

London

chief city and capital of England, Latin Londinium (Tacitus, c. 115), according to the “Cambridge Dictionary of English Place-Names,” “unexplained.” It is often said to be “place belonging to a man named *Londinos,” a supposed Celtic personal name meaning “the wild one,” “but this etymology is rejected in an emphatic footnote in Jackson 1953 (p. 308), and we have as yet nothing to put in its place” [Margaret Gelling, “Signposts to the Past: Place-Names and the History of England,” Chichester, 1978]. Its mythical history is told in Layamon’s “Brut” (c. 1200).

In late Old English often with -burg-wic, or -ceaster. As an adjective, Old English had Lundenisc, but this seems to have fallen from use, and modern Londonish (1838) probably is a re-coinage. Also Londony (1884); Londonesque (1852); Londinensian (George Meredith); Londonian (1824, marked “rare” in OED).

London Bridge the children’s singing game is attested from 1827. London broil “large flank steak broiled then cut in thin slices” attested 1930s, American English; London fog first attested 1785.

zodiac (n.)

late 14c., from Old French zodiaque, from Latin zodiacus “zodiac,” from Greek zodiakos (kyklos) “zodiac (circle),” literally “circle of little animals,” from zodiaion, diminutive of zoion “animal” (from PIE root *gwei- “to live”).

Libra is not an animal, but it was not a zodiac constellation to the Greeks, who reckoned 11 but counted Scorpio and its claws (including what is now Libra) as a “double constellation.” Libra was figured back in by the Romans. In Old English the zodiac was twelf tacna “the twelve signs,” and in Middle English also Our Ladye’s Waye and the Girdle of the Sky.

biology (n.)

“the science of life and living things,” 1819, from Greek bios “life, one’s life, lifetime” (from PIE root *gwei- “to live;” see bio-) + -logy “study of.” Suggested 1802 by German naturalist Gottfried Reinhold Treviranus, and introduced as a scientific term that year in French by Lamarck; they seem to have hit upon the word independently.

zoo-

word-forming element meaning “animal, living being,” from Greek zoion “an animal,” literally “a living being,” from PIE root *gwei- “to live” (source also of Greek bios “life”).

dia-

before vowels, di-, word-forming element meaning “through, in different directions, between,” also often merely intensive, “thoroughly, entirely,” from Greek dia “through; throughout,” probably cognate with bi- and related to duo “two” (from PIE root *dwo- “two”) with a base sense of “twice.”

C

third letter of the alphabet. Alphabetic writing came to Rome via the southern Etruscan “Caeretan” script, in which gamma was written as a crescent. Early Romans made little use of Greek kappa and used gamma for both the “g” and “k” sounds, the latter more frequently, so that the “k” sound came to be seen as the proper one for gamma. Classical Latin -c-, with only the value “k,” passed to Celtic and, via missionary Irish monks, to the Anglo-Saxons. Also see cee.

In some Old English words, before some vowels and in certain positions, -c- had a “ts” sound that was respelled ch- in Middle English by French scribes (chestcheesechurch; see ch). In Old English -k- was known but little used.

Meanwhile, in Old French, many “k” sounds drifted to “ts” and by 13c., “s,” but still were written -c-. Thus the 1066 invasion brought to the English language a flood of French and Latin words in which -c- represented “s” (as in ceaseceilingcircle) and a more vigorous use of -k- to distinguish that sound. By 15c. even native English words with -s- were being respelled with -c- for “s” (icemicelice).

In some English words from Italian, the -c- has a “ch” sound (via a sound evolution somewhat like the Old French one). In German, -c- in loanwords was regularized to -k- or -z- (depending on pronunciation) in the international spelling reform of 1901, which was based on the Duden guide of 1880.

As a symbol in the Roman numeral system, “one hundred;” the symbol originally was a Greek theta, but was later reduced in form and understood to stand for centum. In music, it is the name of the keynote of the natural scale, though the exact pitch varied in time and place 18c. and 19c. from 240 vibrations per second to 275; it wasn’t entirely regularized (at 261.63) until the adoption of the A440 standard in the 1930s. C-spring as a type of carriage spring is from 1794, so called for its shape.

esoteric (adj.)

1650s, from Greek esoterikos “belonging to an inner circle” (Lucian), from esotero “more within,” comparative adverb of eso “within,” from PIE *ens-o-, suffixed form of *ens, extended form of root *en “in.” Classically applied to certain popular and non-technical writings of Aristotle, later to doctrines of Pythagoras. In English, first of Pythagorean doctrines.

sea (n.)

Old English  “sheet of water, sea, lake, pool,” from Proto-Germanic *saiwa- (source also of Old Saxon seo, Old Frisian se, Middle Dutch see, Swedish sjö), of unknown origin, outside connections “wholly doubtful” [Buck]. Meaning “large quantity” (of anything) is from c. 1200.

Germanic languages also use the general Indo-European word (represented by English mere (n.1)), but have no firm distinction between “sea” and “lake,” either by size, by inland or open, or by salt vs. fresh. This may reflect the Baltic geography where the languages are thought to have originated. The two words are used more or less interchangeably in Germanic, and exist in opposite senses (such as Gothic saiws “lake, marshland,” marei “sea;” but Dutch zee “sea,” meer “lake”). Compare also Old Norse sær “sea,” but Danish , usually “lake” but “sea” in phrases. German See is “sea” (fem.) or “lake” (masc.).

Boutkan writes that the sea words in Germanic likely were originally “lake,” and the older word for “sea” is represented by haff. The single Old English word  glosses Latin mareaequorpontuspelagus, and marmor.

 Meaning “dark area of the moon’s surface” is attested from 1660s (see mare (n.2)). Phrase sea change “transformation,” literally “a change wrought by the sea,” is attested from 1610, first in Shakespeare (“The Tempest,” I.ii). Sea anemone is from 1742; sea legs, humorous colloquial term implying ability to walk on a ship’s deck when she is pitching or rolling is from 1712; sea level from 1806; sea urchin from 1590s. At sea in the figurative sense of “perplexed” is attested from 1768, from literal sense of “out of sight of land” (c. 1300).

exoteric (adj.)

“pertaining to the outside, external,” also “open, suitable for communication to the general public, popular,” 1650s, from Late Latin exotericus, from Greek exoterikos “external, belonging to the outside,” from exotero, comparative of exo (see exo-). Compare esoteric.

see (n.)

c. 1300, “throne of a bishop, archbishop, or pope,” also “throne of a monarch, a goddess, Antichrist, etc.,” from Old French sie “seat, throne; town, capital; episcopal see,” from Latin sedem (nominative sedes) “seat, throne, abode, temple,” related to sedere “to sit,” from PIE root *sed- (1) “to sit.” Early 14c. as “administrative center of a bishopric;” c. 1400 as “province under the jurisdiction of a bishop.”

see (v.)

Old English seon “to see, look, behold; observe, perceive, understand; experience, visit, inspect” (contracted class V strong verb; past tense seah, past participle sewen), from Proto-Germanic *sehwanan (source also of Old Saxon, Old High German sehan, Middle High German, German sehen, Old Frisian sia, Middle Dutch sien, Old Norse sja, Gothic saihwan), from PIE root *sekw- (2) “to see,” which is probably identical with *sekw- (1) “to follow” (see sequel), a root which produced words for “say” in Greek and Latin, and also words for “follow” (such as Latin sequor), but “opinions differ in regard to the semantic starting-point and sequences” [Buck]. Thus see might originally mean “follow with the eyes.”

Used in Middle English to mean “behold in the imagination or in a dream” (c. 1200), “to recognize the force of (a demonstration),” also c. 1200. Sense of “escort” (as in to see (someone) home) first recorded 1607 in Shakespeare. Meaning “to receive as a visitor” is attested from c. 1500. Gambling sense of “equal a bet” is from 1590s. See you as a casual farewell first attested 1891. Let me see as a pausing statement is recorded from 1510s.

occult (adj.)

1530s, “secret, not divulged,” from Middle French occulte and directly from Latin occultus “hidden, concealed, secret,” past participle of occulere “cover over, conceal,” from assimilated form of ob “over” (see ob-) + a verb related to celare “to hide,” from PIE root *kel- (1) “to cover, conceal, save.” Meaning “not apprehended by the mind, beyond the range of understanding” is from 1540s. The association with the supernatural sciences (magic, alchemy, astrology, etc.) dates from 1630s. A verb occult “to keep secret, conceal” (c.1500, from Latin occultare) is obsolete.

tree (n.)

Old English treotreow “tree” (also “timber, wood, beam, log, stake”), from Proto-Germanic *trewam (source also of Old Frisian tre, Old Saxon trio, Old Norse tre, Gothic triu “tree”), from PIE *drew-o-, suffixed variant form of root *deru- “be firm, solid, steadfast,” with specialized senses “wood, tree” and derivatives referring to objects made of wood.

The line which divides trees from shrubs is largely arbitrary, and dependent upon habit rather than size, the tree having a single trunk usually unbranched for some distance above the ground, while a shrub has usually several stems from the same root and each without a proper trunk. [Century Dictionary]

The widespread use of words originally meaning “oak” in the sense “tree” probably reflects the importance of the oak to ancient Indo-Europeans. In Old English and Middle English also “thing made of wood,” especially the cross of the Crucifixion and a gallows (such as Tyburn tree, famous gallows outside London). Middle English also had plural treen, adjective treen (Old English treowen “of a tree, wooden”). For Dutch boom, German Baum, the usual words for “tree,” see beam (n.). Meaning “framework of a saddle” is from 1530s. Meaning “representation of familial relationships in the form of a tree” is from c. 1300. Tree-hugger, contemptuous for “environmentalist” is attested by 1989.

Minc’d Pyes do not grow upon every tree,

But search the Ovens for them, and there they be.

[“Poor Robin,” Almanack, 1669]

ocular (adj.)

c. 1500, “of or pertaining to the eye,” from Late Latin ocularis “of the eyes,” from Latin oculus “an eye,” from PIE root *okw- “to see.” As a noun, “eyepiece of an optical instrument,” 1835, from the adjective.

three (adj., n.)

“1 more than two; the number which is one more than two; a symbol representing this number;” Old English þreo, fem. and neuter (masc. þriþrie), from Proto-Germanic *thrijiz (source also of Old Saxon thria, Old Frisian thre, Middle Dutch and Dutch drie, Old High German dri, German drei, Old Norse þrir, Danish tre), from nominative plural of PIE root *trei- “three” (source also of Sanskrit trayas, Avestan thri, Greek treis, Latin tres, Lithuanian trys, Old Church Slavonic trye, Irish and Welsh tri “three”).

3-D first attested 1952, abbreviation of three-dimensional (1878). Three-piece suit is recorded from 1909. Three cheers for ______ is recorded from 1751. Three-martini lunch is attested from 1972. Three-ring circus is recorded by 1898. Three-sixty “complete turnaround” is from 1927, originally among aviators, in reference to the number of degrees in a full circle. Three musketeers translates French les trois mousquetaires, title of the 1844 novel by Alexandre Dumas père.

oracle (n.)

late 14c., “a message from a god expressed by divine inspiration through a priest or priestess,” in answer to a human inquiry, usually respecting some future event, from Old French oracle “temple, house of prayer; oracle” (12c.) and directly from Latin oraculum, oraclum “divine announcement, oracle; place where oracles are given,” from ōrare “to pray to, plead to, beseech” (see orator), with material instrumental suffix -culo-.

In antiquity, “the agency or medium of a god,” also “the place where such divine utterances were given.” This last sense is attested in English from early 15c. Extended sense of “uncommonly wise person” is from 1590s.

corpse (n.)

late 13c., cors “body,” from Old French cors “body; person; corpse; life” (9c.), from Latin corpus “body” (from PIE root *kwrep- “body, form, appearance”). The order of appearance of senses in English is “dead body” (13c.), “live body” (14c.); it also meant “body of citizens” (15c.), “band of knights” (mid-15c.), paralleling the sense evolution in French that yielded the doublet corps.

French restored the Latin -p- in 14c., and English followed 15c., but the pronunciation remained “corse” at first (and perhaps remains so with some speakers) and corse persisted as a parallel spelling. After the -p- began to be sounded (16c. in English), corse became archaic or poetic only. The terminal -e was rare before 19c.

Corpse-candle “candle used at ceremonial watchings of a corpse before burial,” is attested from 1690s.

oration (n.)

late 14c., oracioun, “a prayer,” from Late Latin orationem (nominative oratio) “a speaking, speech, discourse; language, faculty of speech, mode of expressing; prayer,” noun of action from past-participle stem of Latin ōrare “to pray to, plead, speak before an assembly” (see orator). The usual Old French form was oraison. Meaning “formal speech, discourse, eloquent or weighty address” is recorded from c. 1500.

corporation (n.)

mid-15c., corporacioun, “persons united in a body for some purpose,” from such use in Anglo-Latin, from Late Latin corporationem (nominative corporatio) “assumption of a body” (used of the incarnation of Christ), noun of action from past-participle stem of Latin corporare “embody, make or fashion into a body,” from corpus (genitive corporis) “body, dead body, animal body,” also “a whole composed of united parts, a structure, system,community, corporation, political body, a guild” (from PIE root *kwrep- “body, form, appearance”).

Meaning “legally authorized entity, artificial person created by law from a group or succession of persons” (such as municipal governments and modern business companies) is from 1610s.

corona (n.)

1650s, “a crown,” from Latin corona “a crown, a garland,” in ancient Rome especially “a crown or garland bestowed for distinguished military service,” from suffixed form of PIE root *sker- (2) “to turn, bend.”

With many extended senses in botany, anatomy, etc. A coronavirus (by 1969) is so called for the spikes that protrude from its membranes and resemble the tines of a crown or the corona of the sun. The two “crown” constellations, Corona Borealis (according to fable, the crown of Ariadne) and Corona Australis, are both Ptolemaic. Astronomical sense of “luminous circle observed around the sun during total eclipses” is from 1809. As a brand of Cuban cigar, 1876. The brand of Mexican pale lager beer dates from 1925.

L

twelfth letter, Roman form of Greek lambda, which is from the Semitic lamed. The shape of the Roman letter is an early one in Greek, adopted in Italic before it was superseded in Greek by the inverted form which became the Greek lambda. In some words (ladderladylaughterleaplistenlid) it represents Old English hl-. As “building or extension in the shape of an L” from 1843. As an “alphabetic abbreviation” [OED] of elevated railway, from 1881 (compare el). The Three Ls in nautical navigation were “lead” (for sounding), “latitude” and “lookout.”

core (n.)

early 14c., “heart or inmost part of anything” (especially an apple, pear, etc.), of uncertain origin, probably from Old French corcoeur “core of fruit, heart of lettuce,” literally “heart,” from Latin cor “heart,” from PIE root *kerd- “heart.”

Meaning “a central portion cut and removed” (as from a tree, soil, etc.) is from 1640s. Meaning “internal mold of a casting, which fills the space intended to be left hollow” is from 1730. Nuclear physics sense “portion of a reactor containing the nuclear fuel and where the reactions take place” is from 1949.

Elohim

a name of God in the Bible, c. 1600, from Hebrew, plural (of majesty?) of Eloh “God” (cognate with Allah), a word of unknown etymology, perhaps an augmentation of El “God,” also of unknown origin. Generally taken as singular, the use of this word instead of Yahveh is taken by biblical scholars as an important clue to authorship in the Old Testament, hence Elohist (1862; Elohistic is from 1841), title of the supposed writer of passages of the Pentateuch where the word is used.

coronation (n.)

“act or ceremony of investing (a sovereign) with a crown,” c. 1400, coronacioun, from Late Latin coronationem (nominative coronatio) “a crowning,” noun of action from past-participle stem of Latin coronare “to furnish with a crown,” from corona “crown, wreath” (see crown (n.)).

Allah

Arabic name for the Supreme Being, 1702, Alha, from Arabic Allah, contraction of al-Ilah, literally “the God,” from al “the” + Ilah “God,” which is cognate with Aramaic elah, Hebrew eloah (see Elohim).

incarnation (n.)

c. 1300, “embodiment of God in the person of Christ,” from Old French incarnacion “the Incarnation” (12c.), from Late Latin incarnationem (nominative incarnatio), “act of being made flesh” (used by Church writers especially in reference to God in Christ; source also of Spanish encarnacion, Italian incarnazione), noun of action from past participle stem of Late Latin incarnari “be made flesh,” from in- “in” (from PIE root *en “in”) + caro (genitive carnis) “flesh” (originally “a piece of flesh,” from PIE root *sker- (1) “to cut”). Glossed in Old English as inflæscnesinlichomung. As “person or thing that is the embodiment” (of some quality, deity, etc.) from 1742.

abraxas

Cabalistic word associated with the followers of Basilides the Gnostic, by 1680s, of uncertain origin and with many elaborate explanations. Also used in reference to a type of Gnostic amulet featuring a carved gem depicting a monstrous figure and obscure words or words connected to Hebrew or Egyptian religion (1725).

avatar (n.)

1784, “descent of a Hindu deity to earth in an incarnate or tangible form,” from Sanskrit avatarana “descent” (of a deity to the earth in incarnate form), from ava- “off, down” (from PIE root *au- (2) “off, away”) + base of tarati “(he) crosses over,” from PIE root *tere- (2) “cross over, pass through, overcome.”

Meaning “concrete embodiment of something abstract” is from 1815. In computer use, it seems to trace to the novel “Snowcrash” (1992) by Neal Stephenson.

abracadabra

magical formula, 1690s, from Latin (Q. Serenus Sammonicus, 2c.), from Late Greek Abraxas, cabalistic or gnostic name for the supreme god, and thus a word of power. It was written out in a triangle shape and worn around the neck to ward off sickness, etc. Another magical word, from a mid-15c. writing, was ananizapta.

cadaver (n.)

“a dead body, a corpse,” late 14c., from Latin cadaver “dead body (of men or animals),” probably from a perfective participle of cadere “to fall, sink, settle down, decline, perish,” from PIE root *kad- “to fall.” Compare Greek ptoma “dead body,” literally “a fall” (see ptomaine); poetic English the fallen “those who have died in battle.”

bethel (n.)

1610s, “a place where God is worshipped,” from Hebrew beth El “house of God,” from beth, construct state of bayit “house” + El “God.” Popular as a name for religious meeting houses among some Protestant denominations and also of chapels for sailors. Beth also was the name of the second letter of the Hebrew alphabet, so called for its shape, and was borrowed into Greek as beta.

character (n.)

mid-14c., carecter, “symbol marked or branded on the body;” mid-15c., “symbol or drawing used in sorcery;” late 15c., “alphabetic letter, graphic symbol standing for a sound or syllable;” from Old French caratere “feature, character” (13c., Modern French caractère), from Latin character, from Greek kharaktēr “engraved mark,” also “symbol or imprint on the soul,” properly “instrument for marking,” from kharassein “to engrave,” from kharax “pointed stake,” a word of uncertain etymology which Beekes considers “most probably Pre-Greek.”  The Latin ch- spelling was restored from 1500s.

The meaning of Greek kharaktēr was extended in Hellenistic times by metaphor to “a defining quality, individual feature.” In English, the meaning “sum of qualities that define a person or thing and distinguish it from another” is from 1640s. That of “moral qualities assigned to a person by repute” is from 1712.

You remember Eponina, who kept her husband alive in an underground cavern so devotedly and heroically? The force of character she showed in keeping up his spirits would have been used to hide a lover from her husband if they had been living quietly in Rome. Strong characters need strong nourishment. [Stendhal “de l’Amour,” 1822] 

Sense of “person in a play or novel” is first attested 1660s, in reference to the “defining qualities” he or she is given by the author. Meaning “a person” in the abstract is from 1749; especially “eccentric person” (1773). Colloquial sense of “chap, fellow” is from 1931. Character-actor, one who specializes in characters with marked peculiarities, is attested from 1861; character-assassination is from 1888; character-building (n.) from 1886.

being (n.)

c. 1300, “existence,” in its most comprehensive sense, “condition, state, circumstances; presence, fact of existing,” early 14c., existence,” from be + -ing. Sense of “that which physically exists, a person or thing” (as in human being) is from late 14c.

actor (n.)

late 14c., “an overseer, guardian, steward,” from Latin actor “an agent or doer; a driver (of sheep, etc.),” in law, “accuser, plaintiff,” also “theatrical player, orator,” from past participle stem of agere “to set in motion, drive, drive forward,” hence “to do, perform,” also “act on stage, play the part of; plead a cause at law” (from PIE root *ag- “to drive, draw out or forth, move”). In English from mid-15c. as “a doer, maker,” also “a plaintiff at law.” Sense of “one who performs in plays” is 1580s, originally applied to both men and women. Related: Actorishactorlyactory.

six (adj., n.)

“1 more than five, twice three; the number which is one more than five; a symbol representing this number;” Old English siexsixsex, from Proto-Germanic *seks (source also of Old Saxon and Danish seks, Old Norse, Swedish, and Old Frisian sex, Middle Dutch sesse, Dutch zes, Old High German sehs, German sechs, Gothic saihs), from PIE *s(w)eks (source also of Sanskrit sas, Avestan kshvash, Persian shash, Greek hex, Latin sex, Old Church Slavonic sesti, Polish sześć, Russian shesti, Lithuanian šeši, Old Irish se, Welsh chwech).

Six-shooter, usually a revolver with six chambers, is first attested 1844; six-pack of beverage containers is from 1952, of abdominal muscles by 1995. Six of one and half-a-dozen of the other “little difference” is recorded from 1833. Six-figure in reference to hundreds of thousands (of dollars, etc.) is from 1840. Six feet under “dead” is from 1942.

Phrase at sixes and sevens originally was “hazarding all one’s chances,” first in Chaucer, perhaps from dicing (the original form was on six and seven); it could be a corruption of at cinque and sice “exposed to great risk” (1530s), literally “at five and six,” using the French names (which were common in Middle English) for the highest numbers on the dice. Meaning “at odds, in disagreement or confusion” is from 1785, perhaps via a notion of “left unsettled.”

axis (n.)

1540s, “imaginary motionless straight line around which a body (such as the Earth) rotates,” from Latin axis “axle, pivot, axis of the earth or sky,” from PIE *aks- “axis” (source also of Old English eax, Old High German ahsa “axle;” Greek axon “axis, axle, wagon;” Sanskrit aksah “an axle, axis, beam of a balance;” Lithuanian ašis “axle”).

General sense of “straight line about which parts are arranged” is from 1660s. Figurative sense in world history of “alliance between Germany and Italy” (later extended unetymologically to include Japan) is from 1936. Original reference was to a “Rome-Berlin axis” in central Europe. The word later was used in reference to a London-Washington axis (World War II) and a Moscow-Peking axis (early Cold War).

sex (n.)

late 14c., “males or females collectively,” from Latin sexus “a sex, state of being either male or female, gender,” of uncertain origin. “Commonly taken with seco as division or ‘half’ of the race” [Tucker], which would connect it to secare “to divide or cut” (see section (n.)).

Secus seems the more original formation, but it is strange that the older texts only know sexus. The modern meaning of sectiō ‘division’ suggests that sec/xus might derive from secāre ‘to sever’, but the morphology remains unclear: does sexus go back to an s-present *sek-s- ‘to cut up’, or was it derived from a form *sek-s- of the putative s-stem underlying secus?  [Michiel de Vaan, “Etymological Dictionary of Latin and the other Italic Languages,” Leiden, 2008]

Meaning “quality of being male or female” first recorded 1520s. Meaning “sexual intercourse” first attested 1929 (in writings of D.H. Lawrence); meaning “genitalia” is attested from 1938. Sex appeal attested by 1904.

For the raw sex appeal of the burlesque “shows” there is no defense, either. These “shows” should be under official supervision, at the least, and boys beneath the age of eighteen forbidden, perhaps, to attend their performance, just as we forbid the sale of liquors to minors. [Walter Prichard Eaton, “At the New Theatre and Others: The American Stage, Its Problems and Performances,” Boston, 1910]

Sex drive is from 1918; sex object is 1901; sex symbol is 1871 in anthropology; the first person to whom the term was applied seems to have been Marilyn Monroe (1959). Sex therapist is from 1974.

access (n.)

early 14c., “an attack of fever,” from Old French acces “onslaught, attack; onset (of an illness)” (14c.), from Latin accessus “a coming to, an approach; way of approach, entrance,” noun use of past participle of accedere “to approach,” from assimilated form of ad “to” (see ad-) + cedere “go, move, withdraw” (from PIE root *ked- “to go, yield”). English sense of “an entrance” (c. 1600) is directly from Latin. Meaning “habit or power of getting into the presence of (someone or something)” is from late 14c.

second (n.1)

“one-sixtieth of a minute of degree,” also “sixtieth part of a minute of time,” late 14c. in geometry, from Old French seconde, from Medieval Latin secunda, short for secunda pars minuta “second diminished part,” the result of the second division of the hour by sixty (the first being the “prime minute,” now called the minute), from Latin secunda, fem. of secundus “following, next in time or order” (see second (adj.)). The second hand of a clock is attested from 1759.

second (adj., n.)

“next in order after the first; an ordinal numeral; being one of two equal parts into which a whole is regarded as divided;” c. 1300, from Old French secondsecont, and directly from Latin secundus “following, next in time or order,” also “secondary, subordinate, inferior,” from PIE *sekw-ondo-, pariticipal form of root *sekw- “to follow.”

Replaced native other in this sense because of the ambiguity of the earlier word. Second sight is from 1610s; an etymologically perverse term, because it means in reality the sight of events before, not after, they occur. Second fiddle is attested by 1809:

A metaphor borrowed from a musical performer who plays the second or counter to one who plays the first or the “air.” [Bartlett, “Dictionary of Americanisms,” 1848]

success (n.)

1530s, “result, outcome,” from Latin successus “an advance, a coming up; a good result, happy outcome,” noun use of past participle of succedere “come after, follow after; go near to; come under; take the place of,” also “go from under, mount up, ascend,” hence “get on well, prosper, be victorious,” from sub “next to, after” (see sub-) + cedere “go, move” (from PIE root *ked- “to go, yield”). Meaning “accomplishment of desired end” (good success) first recorded 1580s. Meaning “a thing or person which succeeds,” especially in public, is from 1882.

The moral flabbiness born of the bitch-goddess SUCCESS. That — with the squalid interpretation put on the word success — is our national disease. [William James to H.G. Wells, Sept. 11, 1906]

Success story is attested from 1902. Among the French phrases reported by OED as in use in English late 19c. were succès d’estime “cordial reception given to a literary work out of respect rather than admiration” and succès de scandale “success (especially of a work of art) dependent upon its scandalous character.”

suck (v.)

Old English sucan “to suck,” from a Proto-Germanic word of imitative origin (cognates: Old Saxon, Old High German sugan, Old Norse suga, Danish suge, Swedish suga, Middle Dutch sughen, Dutch zuigen, German saugen “to suck”), possibly from the same source as Latin sugere “to suck,” succus “juice, sap;” Old Irish sugim, Welsh sugno “to suck;” see sup (v.2). As a noun from c. 1300.

Meaning “do fellatio” is first recorded 1928. Slang sense of “be contemptible” first attested 1971 (the underlying notion is of fellatio). Related: SuckedsuckingSuck eggs is from 1906. Suck hind tit “be inferior” is American English slang first recorded 1940.

The old, old saying that the runt pig always sucks the hind teat is not so far wrong, as it quite approximates the condition that exists. [“The Chester White Journal,” April 1921]

honeysuckle (n.)

c. 1300, hunisuccle “clover, red clover;” c. 1400 in reference to the common climbing vine with abundant fragrant flowers; diminutive of Middle English honeysoukehunisuge (c. 1300), from Old English hunigsuge, meaning perhaps honeysuckle, clover, wild thyme, or privet, literally “honey-suck” (see honey (n.) + suck) + diminutive suffix -el (2). So called because “honey” can be sucked from it (by bees or persons). In Middle English sometimes a confused rendering of Latin locusta, taken as the name of a plant eaten by St. John the Baptist in the wilderness, thence “a locust.”

So eet Baptist eerbis and hony. Sum men seien þat locusta is a litil beest good to ete; Sum seien it is an herbe þat gederiþ hony upon him; but it is licli þat it is an herbe þat mai nurishe men, þat þei clepen hony soukil, but þis þing varieþ in many contrees. [“Wycliffite Sermons,” c. 1425]

divine (adj.)

late 14c., “pertaining to, of the nature of, or proceeding from God or a god; addressed to God,” from Old French divindevin (12c.), from Latin divinus “of a god,” from divus “of or belonging to a god, inspired, prophetic,” related to deus “god, deity” (from PIE root *dyeu- “to shine,” in derivatives “sky, heaven, god”).

Weakened sense of “excellent in the highest degree, heavenly” had evolved by late 15c. The phrase divine right, indicating one conferred by or based on ordinance of God, is from c. 1600.

money (n.)

mid-13c., monie, “funds, means, anything convertible into money;” c. 1300, “coinage, coin, metal currency,” from Old French monoie “money, coin, currency; change” (Modern French monnaie), from Latin moneta “place for coining money, mint; coined money, money, coinage,” from Moneta, a title or surname of the Roman goddess Juno, near whose temple on the Capitoline Hill money was coined (and in which perhaps the precious metal was stored); from monere “advise, warn, admonish” (on the model of stative verbs in -ere; see monitor (n.)), by tradition with the sense of “admonishing goddess,” which is sensible, but the etymology is difficult. A doublet of mint (n.2)).

It had been justly stated by a British writer that the power to make a small piece of paper, not worth one cent, by the inscribing of a few names, to be worth a thousand dollars, was a power too high to be entrusted to the hands of mortal man. [John C. Calhoun, speech, U.S. Senate, Dec. 29, 1841] 

Extended by early 19c. to include paper recognized and accepted as a substitute for coin. The highwayman’s threat your money or your life is attested by 1774. Phrase in the money (1902) originally referred to “one who finishes among the prize-winners” (in a horse race, etc.). The challenge to put (one’s) money where (one’s) mouth is is recorded by 1942 in African-American vernacular. Money-grub for “avaricious person, one who is sordidly intent on amassing money” is from 1768; money-grubber is by 1835. The image of money burning a hole in someone’s pocket is attested from 1520s (brennyd out the botom of hys purs).

I am not interested in money but in the things of which money is the symbol. [Henry Ford]

divide (v.)

early 14c., “separate into parts or pieces,” from Latin dividere “to force apart, cleave, distribute,” from assimilated form of dis- “apart” (see dis-) + -videre “to separate,” which, according to de Vaan, is from PIE *(d)uid- “to separate, distinguish” (source also of Sanskrit avidhat “allotted,” Old Avestan vida- “to devote oneself to”). He writes: “The original PIE verb … (which became thematic in Latin) meant ‘to divide in two, separate’. It lost initial *d- through dissimilation in front of the next dental stop, and was reinforced by dis- in Latin ….” Also compare devise.

It is attested from late 14c. as “sever the union or connection with,” also “disunite, cause to disagree in opinion.” Intransitive sense of “become separated into parts” is from 1520s. Mathematical sense “perform the operation of division” is from early 15c. Divide and rule (c. 1600) translates Latin divide et impera, a maxim of Machiavelli. Related: Divideddividing.

mono-

word-forming element of Greek origin meaning “one, single, alone; containing one (atom, etc.),” from Greek monos “single, alone,” from PIE root *men- (4) “small, isolated.”

David

masc. proper name, in Old Testament name of the second king of Israel and Judah and author of psalms, from Hebrew Dawidh, literally “darling, beloved friend.” The name was common in England and Scotland by 12c. but was popular much earlier in Wales. A nickname form was Dawe, hence surnames DawsonDawkins. A top 10 name for boys born in the U.S. from 1934 to 1992. Related: Davidic; Davidian.

moon (n.)

“heavenly body which revolves about the earth monthly,” Middle English mone, from Old English mona, from Proto-Germanic *menon- (source also of Old Saxon and Old High German mano, Old Frisian mona, Old Norse mani, Danish maane, Dutch maan, German Mond, Gothic mena “moon”), from PIE *me(n)ses- “moon, month” (source also of Sanskrit masah “moon, month;” Avestan ma, Persian mah, Armenian mis “month;” Greek mene “moon,” men “month;” Latin mensis “month;” Old Church Slavonic meseci, Lithuanian mėnesis “moon, month;” Old Irish mi, Welsh mis, Breton miz “month”), from root *me- (2) “to measure” in reference to the moon’s phases as an ancient and universal measure of time.

A masculine noun in Old English. In Greek, Italic, Celtic, and Armenian the cognate words now mean only “month.” Greek selene (Lesbian selanna) is from selas “light, brightness (of heavenly bodies).” Old Norse also had tungl “moon,” (“replacing mani in prose” – Buck), evidently an older Germanic word for “heavenly body,” cognate with Gothic tuggl, Old English tungol “heavenly body, constellation,” of unknown origin or connection. Hence Old Norse tunglfylling “lunation,” tunglœrr “lunatic” (adj.).

Extended 1665 to satellites of other planets. Typical of a place impossible to reach or a thing impossible to obtain, by 1590s. Meaning “a month, the period of the revolution of the moon about the earth” is from late 14c.

To shoot the moon “leave without paying rent” is British slang from c. 1823 (see shoot (v.)); the card-playing sense perhaps was influenced by gambler’s shoot the works (1922) “go for broke” in shooting dice. The moon race and the U.S. space program of the 1960s inspired a number of coinages, including, from those skeptical of the benefits to be gained, moondoggle (based on boondoggle). The man in the moon “fancied semblance of a man seen in the disk of the full moon” is mentioned since early 14c.; he carries a bundle of thorn-twigs and is accompanied by a dog. Some Japanese, however, see a rice-cake-making rabbit in the moon. The old moon in the new moon’s arms (1727) is the appearance of the moon in the first quarter, in which the whole orb is faintly visible by earthshine.

day (n.)

Old English dæg “period during which the sun is above the horizon,” also “lifetime, definite time of existence,” from Proto-Germanic *dages- “day” (source also of Old Saxon, Middle Dutch, Dutch dag, Old Frisian di, dei, Old High German tag, German Tag, Old Norse dagr, Gothic dags), according to Watkins, from PIE root *agh- “a day.”  He adds that the Germanic initial d- is “of obscure origin.” But Boutkan says it is from PIE root *dhegh- “to burn” (see fever). Not considered to be related to Latin dies (which is from PIE root *dyeu- “to shine”).

Meaning originally, in English, “the daylight hours;” it expanded to mean “the 24-hour period” in late Anglo-Saxon times. The day formerly began at sunset, hence Old English Wodnesniht was what we would call “Tuesday night.” Names of the weekdays were not regularly capitalized in English until 17c.

From late 12c. as “a time period as distinguished from other time periods.” Day-by-day “daily” is from late 14c.; all day “all the time” is from late 14c.  Day off “day away from work” is attested from 1883; day-tripper first recorded 1897. The days in nowadays, etc. is a relic of the Old English and Middle English use of the adverbial genitive.

All in a day’s work “something unusual taken as routine” is by 1820. The nostalgic those were the days is attested by 1907. That’ll be the day, expressing mild doubt following some boast or claim, is by 1941. To call it a day “stop working” is by 1919; earlier call it a half-day (1838). One of these days “at some day in the near future” is from late 15c. One of those days “a day of misfortune” is by 1936.

Monday (n.)

second day of the week, Middle English monedai, from Old English mōndæg, contraction of mōnandæg “Monday,” literally “day of the moon,” from mona (genitive monan; see moon (n.)) + dæg (see day). A common Germanic name (compare Old Norse manandagr, Old Frisian monendei, Dutch maandag, German Montag). All are loan-translations of Late Latin Lunæ dies, which also is the source of the day name in Romance languages (French lundi, Italian lunedi, Spanish lunes), itself a loan-translation of Greek Selēnēs hēmera. The name for this day in Slavic tongues generally means “day after Sunday.”

Yf cristemas day on A munday be,

Grete wynter þat yere ye shull see.

[proverb, c. 1500]

Phrase Monday morning quarterback is attested from 1932, Monday being the first day back at work after the weekend, where school and college football games played over the weekend were discussed. Black Monday (late 14c.) is the Monday after Easter day, though how it got its reputation for bad luck is a mystery (none of the usual explanation stories holds water). Saint Monday (1753) was “used with reference to the practice among workmen of being idle Monday, as a consequence of drunkenness on the Sunday” before [OED]. Clergymen, meanwhile, when indisposed complained of feeling Mondayish (1804) in reference to effects of Sunday’s labors.

deity (n.)

c. 1300, deite, “divine nature, godhood, attributes of a god;” late 14c., “a god, God, the Supreme Being or self-existing spirit,” from Old French deité, from Late Latin deitatem (nominative deitas) “divine nature,” coined by Augustine from Latin deus “god,” from PIE *deiwos “god,” from root *dyeu- “to shine,” in derivatives “sky, heaven, god.” From 1580s as “a being to whom a divine or godlike nature is attributed.”

monolith (n.)

“monument consisting of a single large block of stone,” 1829, from French monolithe (16c.), from Latin monolithus (adj.) “consisting of a single stone,” from Greek monolithos “made of one stone,” from monos “single, alone” (from PIE root *men- (4) “small, isolated”) + lithos “stone” (see litho-). Transferred and figurative use in reference to a thing or person noted for indivisible unity is from 1934.

deus (n.)

“God, a god,” mid-13c. in French and Latin salutations and exclamations in English works, see Zeus. Never nativized, but it continued to appear in adopted Latin expressions such as deus absconditus “hidden god,” and deus ex machina “a power, event, person, or thing that arrives conveniently to solve a difficulty (especially in a play or novel). This (1690s) is from a Modern Latin translation of Greek apo mekhanes theos, literally “the god from the machina,” the name of the device by which “gods” were suspended over the stage in Greek theater, from Greek (Attic) mēkhanē “device, tool, contrivance” (see machine (n.)). The fem. is dea ex machina

Lilith

female evil spirit, in medieval Hebrew folklore the first wife of Adam, from Hebrew Lilith, from Akkadian Lilitu, which is connected by folk etymology with Hebrew laylah “night.”

deva (n.)

“god, divinity, good spirit” in Hindu religion, 1819, from Sanskrit deva “a god” (as opposed to asuras “wicked spirits”), etymologically “a shining one,” from *div- “to shine,” thus cognate with Greek dios “divine” and Zeus, and Latin deus “god” (Old Latin deivos), from PIE root *dyeu- “to shine,” in derivatives “sky, heaven, god.”

Fem. form devi is used for “goddess,” also (with capital D-) for the mother goddess in Hinduism. Hence, also, devadasi “temple dancing girl,” literally “female servant of a god,” from dasi “slave girl.” Also Devanagari, the formal alphabet of Sanskrit writings (1781), which is literally “divine city (script),” from nagara “city,” but which is perhaps short for nagari lipi “town writing.”

lithium (n.)

silver-white metallic element, 1818, with element ending -ium + lithia, Modern Latin name given by Swedish chemist Jöns Jacob Berzelius (1779-1848) to the earth from which it was extracted, from Greek lithos “stone” (see litho-). The name indicates its mineral origin and distinguishes it from two previously known alkalis of vegetable origin.

*dyeu-

Proto-Indo-European root meaning “to shine,” in derivatives “sky, heaven, god.”

It forms all or part of: adieuadiosadjournAsmodeuscircadiandeificdeifydeismdeitydeodanddeus ex machinadevadialdiaryDianaDianthusdiet (n.2) “assembly;” DioscuriDisdismaldiurnaldivaDivesdivinejossjournaljournalistjourneyJovejovialJuliaJuliusJulyJupitermeridianMidiper diempsychedelicquotidiansojournTuesdayZeus.

It is the hypothetical source of/evidence for its existence is provided by: Sanskrit deva “god” (literally “shining one”); diva “by day;” Avestan dava- “spirit, demon;” Greek delos “clear;” Latin dies “day,” deus “god;” Welsh diw, Breton deiz “day;” Armenian tiw “day;” Lithuanian dievas “god,” diena “day;” Old Church Slavonic dini, Polish dzień, Russian den “day;” Old Norse tivar “gods;” Old English Tig, genitive Tiwes, name of a god.

lite (adj.)

alternative spelling of light (adj.1), by 1962, but used from at least 1917 as a word-forming element in product names, often as a variation of light (n.).

The word Adjusto-Lite for portable electric lamps was opposed by the user of a trade mark Auto-lite registered before the date of use claimed by the applicant. [“The Trade-Mark Reporter,” 1922]

Coincidentally lite in Old English and early Middle English meant “few; little; not much;” see little (adj.), which is an extended form of it.

genetics (n.)

1872, “laws of origination;” see genetic + -ics. A coinage of English biologist William Bateson (1861-1926). Meaning “study of heredity” is from 1891.

life (n.)

Old English life (dative lif) “animated corporeal existence; lifetime, period between birth and death; the history of an individual from birth to death, written account of a person’s life; way of life (good or bad); condition of being a living thing, opposite of death; spiritual existence imparted by God, through Christ, to the believer,” from Proto-Germanic *leiban (source also of Old Norse lif “life, body,” Old Frisian, Old Saxon lif “life, person, body,” Dutch lijf “body,” Old High German lib “life,” German Leib “body”), properly “continuance, perseverance,” from PIE root *leip- “to stick, adhere.”

The noun associated with live (v.) “to live,” which is literally “to continue, remain.” Extended 1703 to inanimate objects, “term of duration or existence.” Sense of “vitality, energy in action, expression, etc.” is from 1580s. Meaning “conspicuously active part of human existence, pleasures or pursuits of the world or society” is by 1770s. Meaning “cause or source of living” led to the sense “vivifying or animating principle,” and thus “one who keeps things lively” in life of the party (1787). Meaning “imprisonment for life, a life sentence” is from 1903. Paired alliteratively with limb from 1640s. Not on your life “by no means” is attested from 1896.

In gaming, an additional turn at play for a character; this transferred use was prefigured by uses in card-playing (1806), billiards (1856), etc., in reference to a certain number of chances or required objects without which one’s turn at the game fails. The life “the living form or model, semblance” is from 1590s. Life-and-death “of dire importance” is from 1822; life-or-death (adj.) is from 1897. Life-jacket is from 1840; life-preserver from 1630s of anything that is meant to save a life, 1803 of devices worn to prevent drowning. Life-saver is from 1883, figurative use from 1909, as a brand of hard sugar candy from 1912, so called for shape.

Life-form is from 1861; life-cycle is from 1855; life-expectancy from 1847; life-history in biology from 1870; life-science from 1935. Life-work “the labor to which one’s life has been devoted” is from 1848. Expression this is the life is from 1919; verbal shrug that’s life is from 1924 (earlier such is life, 1778).

genesis (n.)

Old English Genesis, first book of the Pentateuch, which tells among other things of the creation of the world, from Latin genesis “generation, nativity,” in Late Latin taken as the title of first book of the Old Testament, from Greek genesis “origin, creation, generation,” from gignesthai “to be born,” related to genos “race, birth, descent” (from PIE root *gene- “give birth, beget,” with derivatives referring to procreation and familial and tribal groups).

Greek translators used the word as the title of the biblical book, rendering Hebrew bereshith, literally “in the beginning,” which was the first word of the text, taken as its title. Extended sense of “origin, creation” first recorded in English c. 1600.

lion (n.)

late 12c., from Old French lion “lion,” also figuratively “hero” (12c.), from Latin leonem (nominative leo) “lion; the constellation Leo,” from Greek leon (genitive leontos), a word from a non-Indo-European language, perhaps Semitic (compare Hebrew labhi “lion,” plural lebaim; Egyptian labai, lawai “lioness”). Old English had the word straight from Latin as leo (Anglian lea).

The Latin word was borrowed throughout Germanic (compare Old Frisian lawa; Middle Dutch leuwe, Dutch leeuw; Old High German lewo, German Löwe); it is also found in most other European languages, often via Germanic (Old Church Slavonic livu, Polish lew, Czech lev, Old Irish leon, Welsh llew).

Extended 17c. to American big cats. Sometimes used ironically of other animals (for example Cotswold lion “sheep” (16c.; lyons of Cotteswold is from mid-15c.). In early 19c., to avoid advertising breaches of the game laws, hare, when served as food was listed as lion.

Paired alliteratively with lamb since late 14c. Used figuratively from c. 1200 in English of lion-like persons, in an approving sense, “one who is fiercely brave,” and a disapproving one, “tyrannical leader, greedy devourer.” Lion-hearted is from 1708. Lion’s share “the greatest portion” is attested from 1701. The image of the lion’s mouth as a place of great danger is from c. 1200. 

Lowse me, lauerd, ut of þe liunes muð. [“St. Margaret of Antioch,” c. 1200]

gene (n.)

1911, from German Gen, coined 1905 by Danish scientist Wilhelm Ludvig Johannsen (1857-1927), from Greek genea “generation, race,” from PIE root *gene- “give birth, beget.” De Vries had earlier called them pangenesGene pool is attested from 1946.

July

seventh month, c. 1050, Iulius, from Anglo-French julie, Old French JuilJule (Modern French uses a diminutive, Juillet) and directly from Latin Iulius “fifth month of the Roman calendar” (which began its year in March), renamed after his death and deification in honor of Gaius Julius Caesar, who was born in this month. In republican Rome it had been Quintilis, literally “fifth.” Compare August. Accented on the first syllable in English until 18c.; “the modern Eng. pronunciation is abnormal and unexplained” [OED]. Replaced Old English liða se æfterra “later mildness,” from liðe “mild.”

Isis

Egyptian goddess, from Greek Isis, from Egyptian Hes, female deity identified by the Greeks with Io. She is distinguished in visual representations by the solar disc and cow horns on her head.

aphelion (n.)

“point farthest from the sun” (of a celestial body’s orbit), 1670s, a Grecianized form of Modern Latin aphelium (itself attested in English from 1650s), coined by Johannes Kepler based on Greek apo hēliou “away from the sun,” from assimilated form of apo “away from” (see apo-) + hēliou, genitive of hēlios “sun” (from PIE root *sawel- “the sun”). Formed on the model of Ptolemaic apogaeum (see apogee) to reflect the new heliocentric model of the universe.

eugenics (n.)

“doctrine of progress in evolution of the human race, race-culture,” 1883, coined (along with adjective eugenic) by English scientist Francis Galton (1822-1911) on analogy of ethicsphysics, etc. from Greek eugenes “well-born, of good stock, of noble race,” from eu- “good” (see eu-) + genos “birth” (from PIE root *gene- “give birth, beget”).

The investigation of human eugenics, that is, of the conditions under which men of a high type are produced. [Galton, “Human Faculty,” 1883]

Leo

zodiac constellation, late Old English, from Latin leo “lion” (see lion). Meaning “person born under the sign of Leo” is from 1894. Leonid “meteor which appears to radiate from Leo” is from 1868; the annual shower peaks Nov. 14 and the stars fall in extreme profusion about every 33 years. The meteors are believed now to be associated with comet Tempel–Tuttle. The dim constellation Leo Minor was introduced 1690 by Hevelius.

revelation (n.)

c. 1300, “disclosure of information to man by a divine or supernatural agency,” from Old French revelacion and directly from Latin revelationem (nominative revelatio), noun of action from past participle stem of revelare “unveil, uncover, lay bare” (see reveal). General meaning “disclosure of facts” is attested from late 14c.; meaning “striking disclosure” is from 1862. As the name of the last book of the New Testament (Revelation of St. John), it is first attested late 14c. (see apocalypse); as simply Revelations, it is first recorded 1690s.

apo-

before vowels ap-, word-forming element meaning “of, from, away from; separate, apart from, free from,” from Greek apo “from, away from; after; in descent from,” in compounds, “asunder, off; finishing, completing; back again,” of time, “after,” of origin, “sprung from, descended from; because of,” from PIE root *apo- “off, away” (source also of Sanskrit apa “away from,” Avestan apa “away from,” Latin ab “away from, from,” Gothic af, Old English of “away from,” Modern English ofoff).

apocalypse (n.)

late 14c., “revelation, disclosure,” from Church Latin apocalypsis “revelation,” from Greek apokalyptein “uncover, disclose, reveal,” from apo “off, away from” (see apo-) + kalyptein “to cover, conceal,” from PIE root *kel- (1) “to cover, conceal, save.” The Christian end-of-the-world story is part of the revelation in John of Patmos’ book “Apokalypsis” (a title rendered into English as pocalipsis c. 1050, “Apocalypse” c. 1230, and “Revelations” by Wyclif c. 1380).

Its general sense in Middle English was “insight, vision; hallucination.” The meaning “a cataclysmic event” is modern (not in OED 2nd ed., 1989); apocalypticism “belief in an imminent end of the present world” is from 1858. As agent nouns, “author or interpreter of the ‘Apocalypse,'” apocalypst (1829), apocalypt (1834), and apocalyptist (1824) have been tried.

Calypso

sea nymph in the “Odyssey,” literally “hidden, hider” (perhaps originally a death goddess) from Greek kalyptein “to cover, conceal,” from PIE root *kel- (1) “to cover, conceal, save,” which also is the source of English Hell. The type of West Indian song is so called from 1934, but the origin of the name is obscure.

apple (n.)

Old English æppel “apple; any kind of fruit; fruit in general,” from Proto-Germanic *ap(a)laz (source also of Old Saxon, Old Frisian, Dutch appel, Old Norse eple, Old High German apful, German Apfel), from PIE *ab(e)l- “apple” (source also of Gaulish avallo “fruit;” Old Irish ubull, Lithuanian obuolys, Old Church Slavonic jabloko “apple”), but the exact relation and original sense of these is uncertain (compare melon).

A roted eppel amang þe holen, makeþ rotie þe yzounde. [“Ayenbite of Inwit,” 1340]

In Middle English and as late as 17c., it was a generic term for all fruit other than berries but including nuts (such as Old English fingeræppla “dates,” literally “finger-apples;” Middle English appel of paradis “banana,” c. 1400). Hence its grafting onto the unnamed “fruit of the forbidden tree” in Genesis. Cucumbers, in one Old English work, are eorþæppla, literally “earth-apples” (compare French pomme de terre “potato,” literally “earth-apple;” see also melon). French pomme is from Latin pomum “apple; fruit” (see Pomona).

As far as the forbidden fruit is concerned, again, the Quran does not mention it explicitly, but according to traditional commentaries it was not an apple, as believed by Christians and Jews, but wheat. [“The Heart of Islam: Enduring Values for Humanity,” Seyyed Hossein Nasr, 2002]

Apple of Discord (c. 1400) was thrown into the wedding of Thetis and Peleus by Eris (goddess of chaos and discord), who had not been invited, and inscribed kallisti “To the Prettiest One.” Paris, elected to choose which goddess should have it, gave it to Aphrodite, offending Hera and Athene, with consequences of the Trojan War, etc.

Apple of one’s eye (Old English), symbol of what is most cherished, was the pupil, supposed to be a globular solid body. Apple-polisher “one who curries favor” first attested 1928 in student slang. The image in the phrase upset the apple cart “spoil the undertaking” is attested from 1788. Road-apple “horse dropping” is from 1942.

Libra (n.)

zodiac constellation represented by a pair of scales, late Old English, from Latin libra “a balance, pair of scales,” also “pound (unit of weight),” from Proto-Italic *leithra- “pound.” De Vaan compares Greek litra “name of a Sicilian coin,” which “was probably borrowed from an Italic language at the stage containing [-thr-].”

Not a separate constellation in ancient Greece, where it was khelae, “the claws” of adjacent Skorpios. Nativized in Old Norse as skala-merki. Meaning “person born under the sign of Libra” is from 1894. Related: LibralLibran.

Aries

zodiacal constellation usually identified as “the Ram,” late Old English, from Latin aires “ram” (related to arietare “to butt”), from a PIE root meaning “spring, jump” (source also of Lithuanian ėrytis, Old Church Slavonic jarici, Armenian oroj “lamb;” Greek eriphos, Old Irish heirp “kid”). Meaning “person born under the sign of Aries” is from 1894; they also have been called Arian (1917).

library (n.)

place for books, late 14c., from Anglo-French librarie, Old French librairielibrarie “collection of books; bookseller’s shop” (14c.), from Latin librarium “book-case, chest for books,” and libraria “a bookseller’s shop,” in Medieval Latin “a library,” noun uses of the neuter and fem., respectively, of librarius “concerning books,” from Latin librarium “chest for books,” from liber (genitive libri) “book, paper, parchment.”

Latin liber (from Proto-Italic *lufro-) was originally “the inner bark of trees,” and perhaps is from PIE *lubh-ro- “leaf, rind,” a derivative of the PIE root *leub(h)- “to strip, to peel” (see leaf (n.)). Comparing Albanian labë “rind, cork;” Lithuanian luobas “bast,” Latvian luobas “peel,” Russian lub “bast,” de Vaan writes that, “for want of a better alternative, we may surmise that liber is cognate with *lubh- and goes back to a PIE word or a European word ‘leaf, rind.'”

The equivalent word in most Romance languages survives only in the sense “bookseller’s shop” (French libraire, Italian libraria). Old English had bochord, literally “book hoard.” As an adjective, Blount (1656) has librarious.

arise (v.)

Old English arisan “to get up from sitting, kneeling, or lying; have a beginning, come into being or action, spring from, originate; spring up, ascend” (cognate with Old Saxon arisan, Gothic urreisan), from a- (1) “of” + rise (v.). Mostly replaced by rise except in reference to circumstances; formerly the choice between the two often was made merely for the sake of rhythm.

erection (n.)

mid-15c., “establishment; advancement,” from Late Latin erectionem (nominative erectio), noun of action from past participle stem of erigere “to set up, erect” (see erect (adj.)). Meanings “the putting up” (of a building, etc.), “stiffening of the penis” (also sometimes of the turgidity and rigidity of the clitoris) are both from 1590s.

area (n.)

1530s, “vacant piece of ground,” from Latin area “level ground, open space,” used of building sites, playgrounds, threshing floors, etc.; which is of uncertain origin. Perhaps an irregular derivation from arere “to become dry” (see arid), on notion of “bare space cleared by burning.” The generic sense of “any particular amount of surface (whether open or not) contained within any set of limits” is from 1560s. Area code in the North American telephone systems is attested from 1959.

penis (n.)

“the male organ of copulation,” 1670s, from French pénis or directly from Latin pēnis “penis,” earlier “tail,” from PIE *pes-, usually said to be originally “penis” (source also of Sanskrit pasas-, Greek peos, posthe “penis,” probably also Old English fæsl “progeny, offspring,” Old Norse fösull, German Fasel “young of animals, brood”). But de Vaan writes that “the meaning of pēnītus [‘furnished with a tail’] as well as general semantic considerations suggest that the meaning ‘tail’ is original, and ‘penis’ metaphorically derived from it.” The proper plural is penes. The adjective is penial. In psychological writing, penis envy is attested by 1924.

cock (n.1)

“male of the domestic fowl,” from Old English cocc “male bird,” Old French coc (12c., Modern French coq), Old Norse kokkr, all of echoic origin. Compare Albanian kokosh “cock,” Greek kikkos, Sanskrit kukkuta, Malay kukuk. “Though at home in English and French, not the general name either in Teutonic or Romanic; the latter has derivatives of L. gallus, the former of OTeut. *hanon-” [OED]; compare hen.

Old English cocc was a nickname for “one who strutted like a cock,” thus a common term in the Middle Ages for a pert boy, used of scullions, apprentices, servants, etc. It became a general term for “fellow, man, chap,” especially in old cock (1630s). A common personal name till c. 1500, it was affixed to Christian names as a pet diminutive, as in WilcoxHitchcock, etc.

cocker spaniel (1823) was trained to start woodcocks. Cock of the walk “overbearing fellow, head of a group by overcoming opponents” is from 1855 (cock in this sense is from 1540s). Cock-and-bull in reference to a fictitious narrative sold as true is first recorded 1620s, perhaps an allusion to Aesop’s fables, with their incredible talking animals, or to a particular story, now forgotten. French has parallel expression coq-à-l’âne.

Cock-lobster “male lobster” is attested by 1757.

The cock-lobster is known by the narrow back-part of his tail; the two uppermost fins within his tail are stiff and hard, but those of the hen are soft, and the tail broader. The male, though generally smaller than the female, has the highest flavour in the body; his flesh is firmer, and the colour, when boiled, is redder. [Mrs. Charlotte Mason, “The Ladies’ Assistant for Regulating and Supplying the Table,” London, 1787]

spine (n.)

c. 1400, “backbone,” later “thornlike part” (early 15c.), from Old French espine “thorn, prickle; backbone, spine” (12c., Modern French épine), from Latin spina “backbone,” originally “thorn, prickle” (figuratively, in plural, “difficulties, perplexities”), from PIE *spe-ina-, from root *spei- “sharp point” (see spike (n.1)). Meaning “the back of a book” is first attested 1922.

resurrection (n.)

c. 1300, originally the name of a Church festival commemorating Christ’s rising from death, from Anglo-French resurrectiun, Old French resurrection “the Resurrection of Christ” (12c.) and directly from Church Latin resurrectionem (nominative resurrectio) “a rising again from the dead,” noun of action from past participle stem of Latin resurgere “rise again, appear again” (see resurgent). Replaced Old English æriste; in Middle English sometimes translated as againrising.

Generalized sense of “revival” is from 1640s. Also used in Middle English of the rising again of the dead on the Last Day (c. 1300). Resurrectionist, euphemism for “grave-robber” is attested from 1776. Resurrection pie was mid-19c. English schoolboy slang for a pie made from leftovers of previous meals; first attested 1831 as a Sheffield dialect term.

There was a dreadful pie for dinner every Monday; a meat-pie with a stony crust that did not break; but split into scaly layers, with horrible lumps of gristle inside, and such strings of sinew (alternated by lumps of flabby fat) as a ghoule might use as a rosary. We called it kitten pie–resurrection pie–rag pie–dead man’s pie. We cursed it by night we cursed it by day; we wouldn’t stand it, we said; we would write to our friends; we would go to sea. [“How I Went to Sea,” “Harper’s Magazine,” December 1852]

pine (n.)

“coniferous tree, tree of the genus Pinus,” Old English pin (in compounds), from Old French pin and directly from Latin pinus “pine, pine-tree, fir-tree,” which is perhaps from a PIE *pi-nu-, from root *peie- “to be fat, swell” (see fat (adj.)).

If so, the tree’s name would be a reference to its sap or pitch. Compare Sanskrit pituh “juice, sap, resin,” pitudaruh “pine tree,” Greek pitys “pine tree.” Also see pitch (n.1). The native Old English word was furh (see fir). Pine-top “cheap illicit whiskey,” is attested by 1858, Southern U.S. slang.

Most of us have wished vaguely & vainly at times that they knew a fir from a pine. As the Scotch fir is not a fir strictly speaking, but a pine, & as we shall continue to ignore this fact, it is plain that the matter concerns the botanist more than the man in the street. [Fowler]

eel (n.)

Old English æl “eel,” from Proto-Germanic *ælaz (source also of Old Frisian -el, Middle Dutch ael, Dutch aal, Old Saxon and Old High German al, German Aal, Old Norse all), which is of unknown origin, with no certain cognates outside Germanic. Used figuratively for slipperiness from at least 1520s.

pineal (adj.)

1680s, in reference to the gland in the brain, from French pinéal, literally “like a pine cone,” from Latin pinea “pine cone,” from pinus “pine tree” (see pine (n.)).

lee (n.)

Middle English leleoh, from Old English hleo “shelter, cover, defense, protection,” from Proto-Germanic *khlewaz (source also of Old Norse hle, Danish , Old Saxon hleo, Dutch lij “lee, shelter”). The original sense is uncertain; it might have been “warm” (compare German lau “tepid,” Old Norse hly “shelter, warmth”), and Watkins traces it to a PIE *kle-wo-, a suffixed variant form of the root *kele- (1) “warm.”

Nautical sense “that part of the hemisphere to which the wind is directed” (c. 1400) is of Scandinavian origin, from the notion of the side of the ship opposite that which receives the wind as the sheltered side. As an adjective, 1510s, from the noun. The lee shore is that toward which the wind blows. Middle English also had lewth “warmth, shelter,” Old English hleowþ, with Proto-Germanic abstract noun suffix *-itho (see -th (2)). Also compare lukewarm.

temple (n.1)

“building for worship, edifice dedicated to the service of a deity or deities,” Old English tempel, from Latin templum “piece of ground consecrated for the taking of auspices, building for worship of a god,” of uncertain signification.

Commonly referred to PIE root *tem- “to cut,” on notion of “place reserved or cut out” [Watkins], or to root *temp- “to stretch” [Klein, de Vaan], on notion of “cleared (measured) space in front of an altar” (from PIE root *ten- “to stretch;” compare temple (n.2)), the notion being perhaps the “stretched” string that marks off the ground. Compare Greek temenos “sacred area around a temple,” literally “place cut off,” from stem of temnein “to cut.” Figurative sense of “any place regarded as occupied by divine presence” was in Old English. Applied to Jewish synagogues from 1590s.

electric (adj.)

1640s, first used in English by physician Sir Thomas Browne (1605-1682), apparently coined as Modern Latin electricus (literally “resembling amber”) by English physicist William Gilbert (1540-1603) in treatise “De Magnete” (1600), from Latin electrum “amber,” from Greek ēlektron “amber” (Homer, Hesiod, Herodotus), also “pale gold” (a compound of 1 part silver to 4 of gold); which is of unknown origin.

Vim illam electricam nobis placet appellare [Gilbert]

Originally the word described substances which, like amber, attract other substances when rubbed. Meaning “charged with electricity” is from 1670s; the physical force so called because it first was generated by rubbing amber. In many modern instances, the word is short for electrical. Figurative sense is attested by 1793. Electric light is from 1767. Electric toothbrush first recorded 1936; electric blanket in 1930. Electric typewriter is from 1958. Electric guitar is from 1938; electric organ coined as the name of a hypothetical future instrument in 1885.

temple (n.2)

“flattened area on either side of the forehead,” mid-14c., from Old French temple “side of the forehead” (11c.), from Vulgar Latin *tempula (plural taken as fem. singular), from Latin tempora, plural of tempus (genitive temporis) “side of the forehead,” generally accepted as having originally meant “the thin stretch of skin at the side of the forehead” and being from PIE *temp- “to stretch,” an extension of root *ten- “to stretch.” The sense development would be from “stretchings” to “stretched skin.”

A similar notion seems to be at work in Old English ðunwange, Old Norse þunn-vangi, Old High German dunwangi “temple,” literally “thin cheek.” The less-likely guess is that it is associated with tempus span “timely space” (for a mortal blow with a sword).

cock (n.3)

“penis,” 1610s, but certainly older and suggested in word-play from at least 15c.; also compare pillicock “penis,” attested from early 14c. (as pilkoc, found in an Anglo-Irish manuscript known as “The Kildare Lyrics,” in a poem beginning “Elde makiþ me,” complaining of the effects of old age: Y ne mai no more of loue done; Mi pilkoc pisseþ on mi schone), also attested from 12c. as a surname (Johanne Pilecoc, 1199:  Hugonem Pillok, 1256; there is also an Agnes Pillock). Also compare Middle English fide-cok “penis” (late 15c.), from fid “a peg or plug.”  

The male of the domestic fowl (along with the bull) has been associated in many lands since ancient times with male vigor and especially the membrum virile, but the exact connection is not clear (the cock actually has no penis) unless it be his role as fertilizer of the domestic hens, and there may be some influence from cock (n.2) in the “tap” sense.

The slang word has led to an avoidance of cock in the literal sense via the euphemistic rooster. Murray, in the original OED entry (1893) called it “The current name among the people, but, pudoris causa, not admissible in polite speech or literature; in scientific language the Latin is used” (the Latin word is penis). Avoidance of it also may have helped haystack replace haycock and vane displace weather-cock. Louisa May Alcott’s father, the reformer and educator Amos Bronson Alcott, was born Alcox, but changed his name.

Cock-teaser, cock-sucker emerge into print in 1891 in Farmer & Henley.

ley (n.)

“line of a prehistoric track; alignment of natural and artificial features,” 1922 [Alfred Watkins], apparently a variant of lea. Popular topic in Britain in 1920s-30s and again 1960s-70s.

Dallas

city in Texas, U.S., settled 1841, named 1846 for George M. Dallas (1792-1864), U.S. vice president under Polk (1845-49). The family name (13c.) is from the barony of Dallas (Moray) or means “dweller at the house in the dale.”

lay (v.)

“to cause to lie or rest,” Old English lecgan “to place on the ground (or other surface); place in an orderly fashion,” also “put down” (often by striking), from Proto-Germanic *lagojanan (source also of Old Saxon leggian, Old Norse leggja, Old Frisian ledza, Middle Dutch legghan, Dutch leggen, Old High German lecken, German legen, Gothic lagjan “to lay, put, place”), from PIE root *legh- “to lie down, lay.” This is the causative form of the ancient Germanic verb that became modern English lie (v.2).

Meaning “have sex with” first recorded 1934, in U.S. slang, probably from sense of “bring forth and deposit” (which was in Old English, as in lay an egg, lay a bet, etc.), perhaps reinforced by to lie with, a phrase frequently met in the Bible. To lay for (someone) “await a chance at revenge” is from late 15c.; lay low “stay inconspicuous” is from 1839; to lay (someone) low “defeat” (late 14c.) preserves the secondary Old English sense.

parallel (adj.)

1540s, in geometry, of lines, “lying in the same plane but never meeting in either direction;” of planes, “never meeting, however far extended;” from Middle French parallèle (16c.) and directly from Latin parallelus, from Greek parallēlos “parallel,” from para allēlois “beside one another,” from para- “beside” (see para- (1)) + allēlois “each other,” from allos “other” (from PIE root *al- “beyond”). Figurative sense of “having the same direction, tendency, or course” is from c. 1600.

As a noun from 1550s, “a line parallel to another line.” Meanings “a comparison made by placing things side by side” and “thing equal to or resembling another in all particulars” are from 1590s.  Parallel bars as gymnastics apparatus is recorded from 1868.

papa (n.)

“father,” 1680s, from French papa, from Latin papa, originally a reduplicated child’s word, similar to Greek pappa (vocative) “o father,” pappas “father,” pappos “grandfather.” The native word is daddy; according to OED the first use of papa was in courtly speech, as a continental affectation, and it was not used by common folk until late 18c.

P

sixteenth letter of the English alphabet, descended from the Greek pi; the form of it is a pi with the second limb curved around to meet the first. A rare letter in the initial position in Germanic, in part because by Grimm’s Law PIE p- became Germanic f-; even including the early Latin borrowings in Old English, “P” has only a little over 4 pages in J.R. Clark Hall’s “Concise Anglo-Saxon Dictionary,” compared to 31 pages for B and more than 36 for F. But it now is the third-most-common initial letter in the English vocabulary, and with C and S comprises nearly a third of the dictionary, a testimony to the flood of words that have entered the language since 1066 from Latin, Greek, and French, especially those in pre- andpro-.

Between -m- and another consonant, an unetymological -p- sometimes is inserted (HampsteadThompson) to indicate that the -m- is sounded as in words such as Simpson. To mind one’s Ps and Qs (1779), possibly is from confusion of these letters among children learning to write. Another theory traces it to old-time tavern-keepers tracking their patrons’ bar tabs in pints and quarts. But see also to be P and Q (1610s), “to be excellent,” a slang or provincial phrase said to derive from prime quality.

P-wave is from 1908 in geology, the p representing primary (adj.). The U.S. Navy World War II PT boat (1942) stands for patrol torpedo.

pattern (n.)

a Modern English variant of patron, retaining its other old sense of “outline, plan, model, an original proposed for imitation,” from Old French patron “patron, protector; model, pattern.” The difference in form and sense between English patron and pattern wasn’t firm before 1700s. The meaning “a design or figure corresponding in outline to an object that is to be fabricated and serving as a guide for its shape and dimensions” is by late 14c. Extended sense of “repeated decorative design” is from 1580s. From 1640s as “a part showing the figure or quality of the whole.” Meaning “model or design in dressmaking” (especially one of paper) is recorded by 1792 (Jane Austen). Pattern-book is from 1774; pattern-maker is by 1851; pattern baldness is by 1916.

air (n.1)

c. 1300, “invisible gases that surround the earth,” from Old French air “atmosphere, breeze, weather” (12c.), from Latin aer “air, lower atmosphere, sky,” from Greek aēr (genitive aeros) “mist, haze, clouds,” later “atmosphere” (perhaps related to aenai “to blow, breathe”), which is of unknown origin. It is possibly from a PIE *awer- and thus related to aeirein “to raise” and arteria “windpipe, artery” (see aorta) on notion of “lifting, suspended, that which rises,” but this has phonetic difficulties.

In Homer mostly “thick air, mist;” later “air” as one of the four elements. Words for “air” in Indo-European languages tend to be associated with wind, brightness, sky. In English, air replaced native lyftluft (see loft (n.)). In old chemistry, air (with a qualifying adjective) was used of any gas.

To be in the air “in general awareness” is from 1875; up in the air “uncertain, doubtful” is from 1752. To build castles in the air “entertain visionary schemes that have no practical foundation” is from 1590s (in 17c. English had airmonger “one preoccupied with visionary projects”). Broadcasting sense (as in on the airairplay) first recorded 1927. To give (someone) the air “dismiss” is from 1900. Air pollution is attested by 1870. Air guitar is by 1983. Air traffic controller is from 1956.

Saturn

Old English Sætern, a Roman god, also “most remote planet” (then known), from Latin Saturnus, originally a name of an Italic god of agriculture, possibly from Etruscan. Derivation from Latin serere (past participle satus) “to sow” is said to be folk-etymology.

An ancient Italic deity, popularly believed to have appeared in Italy in the reign of Janus, and to have instructed the people in agriculture, gardening, etc., thus elevating them from barbarism to social order and civilization. His reign was sung by the poets as “the golden age.” [Century Dictionary]

Identified with Greek Kronos, father of Zeus. Also the alchemical name for lead (late 14c.). In Akkadian, the planet was kaiamanu, literally “constant, enduring,” hence Hebrew kiyyun, Arabic and Persian kaiwan “Saturn.” Related: Saturnian.

pair (n.)

mid-13c., paire, “a set of two, two of a kind coupled in use,” from Old French paire “pair, couple,” and directly from Medieval Latin paria “equals,” neuter plural of Latin par (genitive paris) “a pair, counterpart, equal,” noun use of par (adj.) “equal, equal-sized, well-matched” (see par (n.)).

Originally of things. Of persons from late 14c., “a couple, a sexual pair.” Used from late 14c. with a plural noun to denote a single tool or device composed essentially of two pieces or parts (shears, tongs, spectacles, etc.). Meaning “a woman’s breasts” is attested from 1922. Pair bond (v.) is first attested 1940, in reference to birds mating.

saturnalia (n.)

time of merrymaking, 1590s, from Latin Saturnalia, ancient Roman festivals of Saturn (held in December), a time of merrymaking for all, from neuter plural of adjective Saturnalis “pertaining to Saturn,” from Saturnus (see Saturn). They correspond to the Greek Kronia. The extended sense of “period of unrestrained revelry” is first attested 1782. Related: Saturnalian.

Peter

masc. proper name, 12c., from Old English Petrus (genitive Pet(e)res, dative Pet(e)re), from Latin Petrus, from Greek Petros, literally “stone, rock” (see petrous), a translation of Syriac kefa “stone” (Latinized as Cephas), the nickname Jesus gave to apostle Simon Bar-Jona (Matthew xvi.17), historically known as St. Peter, and consequently a popular name among Christians (Italian Pietro, Spanish and Portuguese Pedro, Old French Pierres, French Pierre, etc.). As slang for “penis,” attested from 1902, probably from identity of first syllable.

The common form of this very common name in medieval England was Peres (Anglo-French Piers), hence surnames PiercePearson, etc. Among the diminutive forms were Parkin and Perkin.

To rob Peter to pay Paul (1510s, attested in slightly different wordings from late 14c.) might be a reference to the many churches dedicated to those two saints, and have sprung from the fairly common practice of building or enriching one church with the ruins or revenues of another. But the alliterative pairing of the two names is attested from c. 1400 with no obvious connection to the saints:

Sum medicyne is for peter þat is not good for poul, for þe diuersite of complexioun. [Lanfranc’s “Chirurgia Magna,” English translation, c. 1400]

Jupiter (n.)

also Juppiter, c. 1200, “supreme deity of the ancient Romans,” from Latin IupeterIupiterIuppiter, “Jove, god of the sky and chief of the gods,” from PIE *dyeu-peter- “god-father” (originally vocative, “the name naturally occurring most frequently in invocations” [Tucker]), from *deiw-os “god” (from root *dyeu- “to shine,” in derivatives “sky, heaven, god”) + peter “father” in the sense of “male head of a household” (see father (n.)).

The Latin forms DiespiterDispiter … together with the word dies ‘day’ point to the generalization of a stem *dije-, whereas IupiterIovis reflect [Proto-Italic] *djow~. These can be derived from a single PIE paradigm for ‘(god of the) sky, day-light’, which phonetically split in two in [Proto-Italic] and yielded two new stems with semantic specialization. [de Vaan]

Compare Greek Zeu pater, vocative of Zeus pater “Father Zeus;” Sanskrit Dyaus pitar “heavenly father.” As the name of the brightest of the superior planets from late 13c. in English, from Latin (Iovis stella). The Latin word also meant “heaven, sky, air,” hence sub Iove “in the open air.” As god of the sky he was considered to be the originator of weather, hence Jupiter Pluvius “Jupiter as dispenser of rain” 1704), used jocularly from mid-19c.

part (n.)

mid-13c., “division, portion of a whole, element or constituent (of something),” from Old French part “share, portion; character; power, dominion; side, way, path,” from Latin partem (nominative pars) “a part, piece, a share, a division; a party or faction; a part of the body; a fraction; a function, office,” related to portio “share, portion,” from PIE root *pere- (2) “to grant, allot.”

It has replaced native deal (n.) in most senses. Meaning “an allotted portion, a share” is from c. 1300; that of “a share of action or influence in activity or affairs, role, duty” is by late 14c. The theatrical sense (late 15c.) is from an actor’s “share” in a performance (The Latin plural partis was used in the same sense). In music, “one of the voices or instruments in a concerted piece” (1520s). Sense of “separate piece of a machine” is by 1813. Meaning “the division of the hair on the head when dressing it” is by 1890, American English; the earlier word for this was parting (1690s).

As an adjective from 1590s. Late Old English part “part of speech” did not survive and the modern word is considered a separate borrowing. Phrase for the most part “most, the greatest part” is from late 14c. To take part “participate” is from late 14c.

Y

a late-developing letter in English. Called ipsilon in German, upsilon in Greek, the English name is of obscure origin. The sound at the beginning of yardyesyield, etc. is from Old English words with initial g- as in got and y- as in yet, which were considered the same sound and often transcribed as Ȝ, known as yogh. The system was altered by French scribes, who brought over the continental use of -g- and from the early 1200s used -y- and sometimes -gh- to replace Ȝ. As short for YMCA, etc., by 1915.

why (adv.)

Old English hwi, instrumental case (indicating for what purpose or by what means) of hwæt (see what), from Proto-Germanic adverb *hwi (source also of Old Saxon hwi, Old Norse hvi), from PIE *kwi- (source of Greek pei “where”), locative of root *kwo-, stem of relative and interrogative pronouns. As an interjection of surprise or emphasis, recorded from 1510s. As a noun, “cause, reason” from c. 1300.

J

10th letter of the English alphabet, pronounced “jay,” as in “kay” for -k-, but formerly written out as jy, rhyming with -i- and corresponding to French ji.

One of the most stable English letters (it has almost always the same sound), it is a latecomer to the alphabet and originally had no sound value. The letter itself began as a scribal modification of Roman -i- in continental Medieval Latin. The scribes added a “hook” to small -i-, especially in the final position in a word or roman numeral, to distinguish it from the strokes of other letters. The dot on the -i- (and thus the -j-) and the capitalization of the pronoun I are other solutions to the same problems.

In English, -j- was used as a roman numeral throughout Middle English, but the letter -y- was used to spell words ending an “i” sound, so -j- was not needed to represent a sound. Instead, it was introduced into English c. 1600-1640 to take up the consonantal sound that had evolved from the Roman i- since Late Latin times. In Italian, g- was used to represent this, but in other languages j- took the job. This usage is attested earliest in Spanish, where it was in place before 1600.

No word beginning with J is of Old English derivation. [OED]

English dictionaries did not distinguish words beginning in -i- and -j- until 19c., and -j- formerly was skipped when letters were used to express serial order.

In Latin texts printed in modern times, -j- often is used to represent Latin -i- before -a--e--o--u- in the same syllable, which in Latin was sounded as the consonant in Modern English youyam, etc., but the custom has been controversial among Latinists:

The character Jj, which represents the letter sound in some school-books, is an invention of the seventeenth century, and is not found in MSS., nor in the best texts of the Latin authors. [Lewis]

In English words from Hebrew, -j- represents yodh, which was equivalent to English consonantal y (hence hallelujah) but many of the Hebrew names later were conformed in sound to the modern -j- (compare Jesus).

George

masc. personal name, from French Georges, Late Latin Georgius, from Greek Georgos “husbandman, farmer,” properly an adjective, “tilling the ground,” from  “earth” (see Gaia) + ergon “work” (from PIE root *werg- “to do”). The name introduced in England by the Crusaders (a vision of St. George played a key role in the First Crusade), but not common until after the Hanoverian succession (18c.). St. George began to be recognized as patron of England in time of Edward III, perhaps because of his association with the Order of the Garter (see garter). His feast day is April 23. The legend of his combat with the dragon is first found in “Legenda Aurea” (13c.). The exclamation by (St.) George! is recorded from 1590s.

Philip

masc. proper name, most famously in classical history king of Macedon, father of Alexander the Great (compare philippic); the from Latin Philippus, from Greek Philippos “fond of horses,” from philos “beloved, loving” (see philo-) + hippos “horse” (from PIE root *ekwo- “horse”). Skelton made it the name applied to a common sparrow (perhaps from resemblance to the bird’s call). In 16c., Philip and Cheyney was a way to say “any two common men.”

You remember the story of the poor woman who importuned King Philip of Macedon to grant her justice, which Philip refused : the woman exclaimed, “I appeal” : the king, astonished, asked to whom she appealed : the woman replied, “From Philip drunk to Philip sober.” [Emerson, “New England Reformers,” 1844]

Jehovah

1530, Tyndale’s transliteration of Hebrew Tetragrammaton YHWH using vowel points of Adhonai “my lord” (see Yahweh). Used for YHWH (the full name being too sacred for utterance) in four places in the Old Testament in the KJV where the usual translation the lord would have been inconvenient; taken as the principal and personal name of God.

The vowel substitution was originally made by the Masoretes as a direction to substitute Adhonai for “the ineffable name.” European students of Hebrew took this literally, which yielded Latin JeHoVa (first attested in writings of Galatinus, confessor to Leo X, 1516). Jehovah’s Witnesses “member of Watchtower Bible and Tract Society” first attested 1933; the organization founded c. 1879 by Charles Taze Russell (1852-1916); the name from Isaiah xliii.10.

lord (n.)

mid-13c., laverdloverd, from Old English hlaford “master of a household, ruler, feudal lord, superior; husband,” also “God,” translating Latin dominus, Greek kyrios in the New Testament, Hebrew yahweh in the Old (though Old English dryhten was more frequent). Old English hlaford is a contraction of earlier hlafweard, literally “one who guards the loaves,” from hlaf “bread, loaf” (see loaf (n.)) + weard “keeper, guardian” (from PIE root *wer- (3) “perceive, watch out for”).

Compare lady (literally “bread-kneader”), and Old English hlafæta “household servant,” literally “loaf-eater.” For the contraction, compare Harold. The modern monosyllabic form emerged 14c. Meaning “an owner of land, houses, etc.,” is from c. 1300; the sense in landlord. As the “usual polite or respectful form of address to a nobleman under the rank of a duke, and to a bishop” [OED] from 1540s. As an interjection from late 14c. Lords “peers of England,” especially as represented in parliaments, is from mid-15c.

Lord’s Prayer is from 1540s. Year of our Lord is from late 14c. (translating Latin anno domini) in reference to the incarnation of God in Christ. Lord knows (who, what, why, etc.), expressing a state of ignorance, is from 1711. Lord of the Flies (1907) translates Beelzebub (q.v.); William Golding’s book was published in 1954. To drink like a lord is from 1620s.

lard (n.)

late 14c. (possibly early 13c.), “rendered fat of a swine,” from Old French larde “joint, meat,” especially “bacon fat” (12c.), and directly from Latin lardum “lard, bacon, cured swine’s flesh” (source also of Spanish, Italian lardo), probably cognate with Greek larinos “fat,” laros “pleasing to the taste.”

Yahweh

1869, hypothetical reconstruction of the tetragrammaton YHWH (see Jehovah), based on the assumption that the tetragrammaton is the imperfective of Hebrew verb hawah, earlier form of hayah “was,” in the sense of “the one who is, the existing.”

chrism (n.)

“oil mingled with balm, a sacred ointment consecrated and used in Church rites,” late Old English chrisma, from Church Latin chrisma, from Greek khrisma “an unguent, anointing, unction,” from khriein “to anoint,” from PIE root *ghrei- “to rub.” Chrisom “baptismal robe,” is a c. 1200 variant of this. Related: Chrismalchrismatory.

Bel

also in Latin form Belus, heaven-and-earth god of Babylonian religion, from Akkadian Belu, literally “lord, owner, master,” cognate with Hebrew ba’al (see Baal).

cream (n.)

early 14c., creyme, “the rich and buttery part of milk,” from Old French cresme, craime, creme “chrism, holy oil” (13c., Modern French crème). This word is a blend of Late Latin chrisma “ointment” (from Greek khrisma “unguent;” from PIE root *ghrei- “to rub”) and Late Latin cramum “cream,” which is of uncertain origin, perhaps from Gaulish. The French word replaced Old English ream; it was re-borrowed 19c. as creme.

From early 15c. as “dish or confection made from or resembling cream.” The figurative sense of “most excellent element or part” is from 1580s. It is attested from 1660s as “any part that separates from the rest and rises to the surface” and also in its application to substances resembling cream. Cream-cheese is from 1580s. Cream-soda is attested by from 1854. Cream-colored (also cream-coloured) “having the pale, yellowish-white color of cream,” is from 1707.

AI

also a.i., by 1971, abbreviation of artificial intelligence. In early 20c. it stood for artificial insemination.

R

In a circle, meaning “registered (trademark),” first incorporated in U.S. statues 1946. R&R “rest and relaxation,” first recorded 1953, American English; R&B “rhythm and blues” (type of popular music) first attested 1949, American English.

If all our r’s that are written are pronounced, the sound is more common than any other in English utterance (over seven per cent.); the instances of occurrence before a vowel, and so of universal pronunciation, are only half as frequent. There are localities where the normal vibration of the tip of the tongue is replaced by one of the uvula, making a guttural trill, which is still more entitled to the name of “dog’s letter” than is the ordinary r; such are considerable parts of France and Germany; the sound appears to occur only sporadically in English pronunciation. [Century Dictionary] 

Louise Pound (“The Humorous ‘R'”) notes that in British humorous writing, -ar “popularly indicates the sound of the vowel in father” and formations like larf (for laugh) “are to be read with the broad vowel but no uttered r.”

The moment we encounter the added r’s of purp or dorg in our reading we know that we have to do with humor, and so with school-marm. The added consonants are supposed to be spoken, if the words are uttered, but, as a matter of fact, they are less often uttered than seen. The words are, indeed, largely visual forms; the humor is chiefly for the eye. [Louise Pound, “The Humorous ‘R,'” “American Mercury,” October 1924]

She also quotes Henry James on the characteristic prominence of the medial -r- sound (which tends to be dropped in England and New England) in the speech of the U.S. Midwest, “under some strange impulse received toward consonantal recovery of balance, making it present even in words from which it is absent, bringing it in everywhere as with the small vulgar effect of a sort of morose grinding of the back teeth.” 

Christ (n.)

“the Anointed,” synonymous with and translating to Greek  Hebrew mashiah (see messiah), a title given to Jesus of Nazareth; Old English crist (by 830, perhaps 675), from Latin Christus, from Greek khristos “the anointed,” noun use of verbal adjective of khriein “to rub, anoint” (from PIE root *ghrei- “to rub”).

In the primitive Church it was a title, and used with the definite article, but from an early period it was used without it and regarded as part of the proper name of Jesus. It was treated as a proper name in Old English, but not regularly capitalized until 17c. Pronunciation with long -i- is result of Irish missionary work in England, 7c.-8c. The ch- form, regular since c. 1500 in English, was rare before. Capitalization of the word begins 14c. but is not fixed until 17c.  The Latin term drove out Old English Hæland “healer, savior,” as the preferred descriptive term for Jesus.

As an oath or strong exclamation (of surprise, dismay, etc.), attested by 1748. The 17c. mystical sect of the Familists edged it toward a verb with Christed “made one with Christ.” Christ-child “Jesus as a baby” (1842) translates German Christkind.

U

for historical evolution, see V. Used punningly for you by 1588 [“Love’s Labour’s Lost,” V.i.60], not long after the pronunciation shift that made the vowel a homonym of the pronoun. As a simple shorthand (without intentional word-play), it is recorded from 1862. Common in business abbreviations since 1923 (such as U-Haul, attested from 1951).

Krishna

eighth avatar of Vishnu, 1793, from Sanskrit krshnah, literally “the Black One,” from PIE *kers-no-, suffixed form of root *kers- “dark, dirty” (source also of Old Church Slavonic crunu, Russian coron, Serbo-Croatian crn, Czech cerny, Old Prussian kirsnan “black,” Lithuanian keršas “black and white, variegated”).

Sirius (n.)

brightest star by magnitude, late 14c., from Latin Sirius “the Dog Star,” from Greek Seirios, said to mean literally “scorching” or “the scorcher.” But other related Greek words seem to derive from this use, and the name might be a folk-etymologized borrowing from some other language. An Egyptian name for it was Sothis. Beekes suggests it is from PIE root *twei- “to agitate, shake, toss; excite; sparkle” if the original meaning of the star-name is “sparkling, flickering.”

The connection of the star with scorching heat is from its ancient heliacal rising at the summer solstice (see dog days). Related: Sirian. The constellation Canis Major seems to have grown from the star, not the other way.

Homer made much of it as [Kyōn], but his Dog doubtless was limited to the star Sirius, as among the ancients generally till, at some unknown date, the constellation was formed as we have it, — indeed till long afterwards, for we find many allusions to the Dog in which we are uncertain whether the constellation or its lucida is referred to. [Richard Hinckley Allen, Canis Major in “Star Names and Their Meanings,” London: 1899]

Christmas (n.)

“Church festival observed annually in memory of the birth of Christ,” late Old English Cristes mæsse, from Christ (and retaining the original vowel sound) + mass (n.2).

Written as one word from mid-14c. As a verb, “to celebrate Christmas,” from 1590s. Father Christmas first attested in a carol attributed to Richard Smart, Rector of Plymtree (Devon) from 1435-77. Christmas-tree in modern sense first attested 1835 in American English, from German Weihnachtsbaum. Christmas cards were first designed 1843, popular by 1860s; the phrase Christmas-card was in use by 1850. Christmas-present is from 1769. Christmas Eve is Middle English Cristenmesse Even (c. 1300).

Beltane (n.)

early 15c., from Lowland Scottish, from Gaelic bealltainn “May 1,” important Celtic religious rite marking the start of summer, probably literally “blazing fire,” from PIE root *bhel- (1) “to shine, flash, burn” + Old Irish ten “fire,” from PIE *tepnos, related to Latin tepidus “warm,” from PIE root *tep- “to be hot.” But this derivation of the second element is hotly disputed by some on philological grounds, and fires were equally important in the other Celtic holidays. Also known as “Old May Day,” because after the 1752 calendar reform it continued to be reckoned according to Old Style; it was one of the quarter-days of ancient Scotland.

The rubbish about BaalBelBelus imported into the word from the Old Testament and classical antiquity, is outside the scope of scientific etymology. [OED]

Osiris

name of a principal god of Egypt, judge of the dead, from Latin Osiris, from Greek, from Egyptian Asar. At the beginning of the Christian era his worship extended over Asia Minor, Greece, and Rome. Related: Osirian.

flower (n.)

c. 1200, flour, also flurflorfloerfloyerflowre, “the blossom of a plant; a flowering plant,” from Old French flor “flower, blossom; heyday, prime; fine flour; elite; innocence, virginity” (12c., Modern French fleur), from Latin florem (nominative flos) “flower” (source of Italian fiore, Spanish flor), from PIE root *bhel- (3) “to thrive, bloom.”

From late 14c. in English as “blossoming time,” also, figuratively, “prime of life, height of one’s glory or prosperity, state of anything that may be likened to the flowering state of a plant.” As “the best, the most excellent; the best of its class or kind; embodiment of an ideal,” early 13c. (of persons, mid-13c. of things); for example flour of milk “cream” (early 14c.); especially “wheat meal after bran and other coarse elements have been removed, the best part of wheat” (mid-13c.). Modern spelling and full differentiation from flour (n.) is from late 14c.

In the “blossom of a plant” sense it ousted its Old English cognate blostm (see blossom (n.)). Also used from Middle English as a symbol of transitoriness (early 14c.); “a beautiful woman” (c. 1300); “virginity” (early 14c.). Flower-box is from 1818. Flower-arrangement is from 1873. Flower child “gentle hippie” is from 1967.

Orion

conspicuous constellation containing seven bright starts in a distinctive pattern, late 14c., orioun, ultimately from Greek OriōnOariōn, name of a giant hunter in Greek mythology, loved by Aurora, slain by Artemis, a name of unknown origin, though some speculate on Akkadian Uru-anna “the Light of Heaven.” Another Greek name for the constellation was Kandaon, a title of Ares, god of war, and the star pattern is represented in many cultures as a giant (such as Old Irish Caomai “the Armed King,” Old Norse Orwandil, Old Saxon Ebuðrung). A Mesopotamian text from 1700 B.C.E. calls it The True Shepherd of Anu. The Orionid meteors, which appear to radiate from the constellation, are so called by 1876.

phallus (n.)

1610s, “an image of the penis,” from Latin phallus, from Greek phallos “penis,” also “carving or image of an erect penis (symbolizing the generative power in nature) used in the cult of Dionysus,” from PIE *bhel-no-, from root *bhel- (2) “to blow, swell” (source also of Old Norse boli “bull,” Old English bulluc “little bull,” and possibly Greek phalle “whale”). Used of the penis itself (especially if erect, but often in symbolic context) by 1891.

origin (n.)

c. 1400, “ancestry, race,” from Latin originem (nominative origo) “a rise, commencement, beginning, source; descent, lineage, birth,” from stem of oriri “arise, rise, get up; appear above the horizon, become visible; be born, be descended, receive life;” figuratively “come forth, take origin, proceed, start” (of rivers, rumors, etc.), from PIE *heri- “to rise” (source also of Hittite arai- “to arise, lift, raise,” Sanskrit iyarti “to set in motion, move,” Armenian y-arnem “to rise”). Meaning “beginning of existence” is from 1560s; sense of “that from which something derives its being or nature” is from c. 1600.

Horus

Egyptian hawk-headed god of dual relations, 1650s, from Latin Horus, from Greek Horos, from Egyptian Hor, said to mean literally “the high-flying one.”

serious (adj.)

mid-15c., “expressing earnest purpose or thought” (of persons), from Middle French sérieux “grave, earnest” (14c.), from Late Latin seriosus, from Latin serius “weighty, important, grave,” probably from a PIE root *sehro- “slow, heavy” (source also of Lithuanian sveriu, sverti “to weigh, lift,” svarus “heavy, weighty;” Old English swær “heavy,” German schwer “heavy,” Gothic swers “honored, esteemed,” literally “weighty”). As opposite of jesting, from 1712; as opposite of light (of music, theater, etc.), from 1762. Meaning “attended with danger” is from 1800.

hour (n.)

c. 1200, “divine office prescribed for each of the seven canonical hours; the daily service at the canonical hours;” c. 1300, “time of day appointed for prayer, one of the seven canonical hours,” from Old French orehore “canonical hour; one-twelfth of a day” (sunrise to sunset), from Latin hora “an hour;” poetically “time of year, season,” from Greek hōra a word used to indicate any limited time within a year, month, or day, from PIE *yor-a-, from root *yer- “year, season” (see year).

Church sense is oldest in English. Meaning “one of the 24 equal parts of a natural solar day (time from one sunrise to the next), equal hour; definite time of day or night reckoned in equal hours,” and that of “one of the 12 equal parts of an artificial day (sunrise to sunset) or night, varying in duration according to the season; definite time of day or night reckoned in unequal hours” are from late 14c. In the Middle Ages the planets were held to rule over the unequal hours. As late as 16c. distinction sometimes was made in English between temporary (unequal) hours and sidereal (equal) ones. Meaning “time of a particular happening; the time for a given activity” (as in hour of death) is mid-14c.

The h- has persisted in this word despite not being pronounced since Roman times. Replaced Old English tid, literally “time” (see tide (n.)) and stund “period of time, point of time, hour,” from Proto-Germanic *stundo (compare German Stunde “hour”), which is of uncertain origin. German Uhr likewise is from French.

Greek hora could mean “a season; ‘the season’ (spring or summer).” In classical times it sometimes meant “a part of the day,” such as morning, evening, noon, night. The Greek astronomers apparently borrowed the notion of dividing the day into twelve parts (mentioned in Herodotus) from the Babylonians. Night continued to be divided into four watches (see watch (n.)); but because the amount of daylight changed throughout the year, the hours were not fixed or of equal length.

As a measure of distance (“the distance that can be covered in an hour”) it is recorded from 1785. At all hours “at all times” is from early 15c. For small hours (those with low numbers) see wee (adj.).

Serapis

god of the lower world, from Latin, from Greek Serapis, earlier Sarapis, from Egyptian User-hapi, literally “Osiris-Apis.”

holy (adj.)

Old English halig “holy, consecrated, sacred; godly; ecclesiastical,” from Proto-Germanic *hailaga- (source also of Old Norse heilagr, Danish hellig, Old Frisian helich “holy,” Old Saxon helag, Middle Dutch helich, Old High German heilag, German heilig, Gothic hailags “holy”), from PIE *kailo- “whole, uninjured” (see health). Adopted at conversion for Latin sanctus.

Primary (pre-Christian) meaning is not possible to determine, but probably it was “that must be preserved whole or intact, that cannot be transgressed or violated,” and connected with Old English hal (see health) and Old High German heil “health, happiness, good luck” (source of the German salutation Heil). Holy water was in Old English.

Holy has been used as an intensifying word from 1837; in expletives since 1880s (such as holy smoke, 1883, holy mackerel, 1876, holy cow, 1914, holy moly etc.), most of them euphemisms for holy Christ or holy MosesHoly Ghost was in Old English (in Middle English often written as one word). Holy League is used of various European alliances; the Holy Alliance was that formed personally by the sovereigns of Russia, Austria, and Prussia in 1815; it ended in 1830.

serpent (n.)

c. 1300, “limbless reptile,” also the tempter in Genesis iii.1-5, from Old French serpentsarpent “snake, serpent” (12c.), from Latin serpentem (nominative serpens) “snake; creeping thing,” also the name of a constellation, from present participle of serpere “to creep,” from PIE *serp- “to crawl, creep” (source also of Sanskrit sarpati “creeps,” sarpah “serpent;” Greek herpein “to creep,” herpeton “serpent;” Albanian garper “serpent”).

Used figuratively of things spiral or regularly sinuous, such as a type of musical instrument (1730). Serpent’s tongue as figurative of venomous or stinging speech is from mistaken medieval notion that the serpent’s tongue was its “sting.” Serpent’s tongue also was a name given to fossil shark’s teeth (c. 1600).

hole (n.)

Old English hol (adj.) “hollow, concave;” as a noun, “hollow place; cave; orifice; perforation,” from Proto-Germanic *hulan (source also of Old Saxon, Old Frisian, Old High German hol, Middle Dutch hool, Old Norse holr, German hohl “hollow,” Gothic us-hulon “to hollow out”), from PIE root *kel- (1) “to cover, conceal, save.” As an adjective, it has been displaced by hollow, which in Old English was only a noun, meaning “excavated habitation of certain wild animals.”

As a contemptuous word for “small dingy lodging or abode” it is attested from 1610s. Meaning “a fix, scrape, mess” is from 1760. Obscene slang use for “vulva” is implied from mid-14c. Golfing hole-in-one is from 1914; as a verbal phrase from 1913. To need (something) like a hole in the head, applied to something useless or detrimental, first recorded 1944 in entertainment publications, probably a translation of a Yiddish expression such as ich darf es vi a loch in kop.

present (adj.)

c. 1300, “existing at the time,” from Old French present “evident, at hand, within reach;” as a noun, “the present time” (11c., Modern French présent) and directly from Latin praesentem (nominative praesens) “present, at hand, in sight; immediate; prompt, instant; contemporary,” from present participle of præesse “be before (someone or something), be at hand,” from prae- “before” (see pre-) + esse “to be” (from PIE root *es- “to be”). Meaning “being there” is from mid-14c. in English. As a grammatical tense, recorded from late 14c.

whole (adj.)

Old English hal “entire, whole; unhurt, uninjured, safe; healthy, sound; genuine, straightforward,” from Proto-Germanic *haila- “undamaged” (source also of Old Saxon hel, Old Norse heill, Old Frisian hal, Middle Dutch hiel, Dutch heel, Old High German, German heil “salvation, welfare”), from PIE *kailo- “whole, uninjured, of good omen” (source also of Old Church Slavonic celu “whole, complete;” see health).

The spelling with wh- developed early 15c. The sense in whole number is from early 14c. Whole milk is from 1782. On the whole “considering all facts or circumstances” is from 1690s. For phrase whole hog, see hog (n.).

lingam (n.)

in Hindu religion, “phallic emblem under which Siva is worshipped,” 1719, from Sanskrit linga (nominative lingam) “mark, token, sign, emblem,” a word of unknown origin.

whore (n.)

1530s spelling alteration (see wh-) of Middle English hore, from Old English hore “prostitute, harlot,” from Proto-Germanic *hōran-, fem. *hōrā- (source also of Old Frisian hor “fornication,” Old Norse hora “adulteress,” Danish hore, Swedish hora, Dutch hoer, Old High German huora “prostitute;” in Gothic only in the masc. hors “adulterer, fornicator,” also as a verb, horinon “commit adultery”), probably etymologically “one who desires,” from PIE root *ka- “to like, desire,” which in other languages has produced words for “lover; friend.”

Whore itself is perhaps a Germanic euphemism for a word that has not survived. The Old English vowel naturally would have yielded *hoor, which is the pronunciation in some dialects; it might have shifted by influence of Middle English homonym hore “physical filth, slime,” also “moral corruption, sin,” from Old English horh. The wh- form became current 16c. A general term of abuse for an unchaste or lewd woman (without regard to money) from at least c. 1200. Of male prostitutes from 1630s. Whore of Babylon is from Revelations xvii.1, 5, etc. In Middle English with occasional plural forms horenheoranna.

The word, with its derivatives, is now avoided polite speech; its survival in literature, so as it survives, is due to the fact that it is a favorite word with Shakspere (who uses it, with its derivatives, 99 times) and is common in the authorized English version of the Bible … though the American revisers recommended the substitution of harlot as less gross …. [Century Dictionary]

Some equivalent words in other languages also derive from sources not originally pejorative, such as Bohemian nevestka, diminutive of nevesta “bride;” Dutch deern, German dirne originally “girl, lass, wench;” also perhaps Old French pute, perhaps literally “girl,” fem. of Vulgar Latin *puttus (but perhaps rather from Latin putidus “stinking;” see poontang). Welsh putain “whore” is from French, probably via Middle English. Among other languages, Greek porne “prostitute” is related to pernemi “sell,” with an original notion probably of a female slave sold for prostitution; Latin meretrix is literally “one who earns wages” (source of Irish mertrech, Old English miltestre “whore, prostitute”).

The vulgar Roman word was scortum, literally “skin, hide.” Another term was lupa, literally “she-wolf” (preserved in Spanish loba, Italian lupa, French louve; see wolf (n.)). And of course there was prostituta, literally “placed in front,” thus “publicly exposed,” from the fem. past participle of prostituere (see prostitute (n.)). Another Old Norse term was skækja, which yielded Danish skøge, Swedish sköka; probably from Middle Low German schoke, which is perhaps from schode “foreskin of a horse’s penis,” perhaps with the sense of “skin” (compare Latin scortum) or perhaps via an intermediary sense of “vagina.” Spanish ramera, Portuguese rameira are from fem. form of ramero “young bird of prey,” literally “little branch,” from ramo “branch.” Breton gast is cognate with Welsh gast “bitch,” of uncertain origin. Compare also strumpetharlot.

Old Church Slavonic ljubodejica is from ljuby dejati “fornicate,” a compound from ljuby “love” + dejati “put, perform.” Russian bljad “whore” derives from Old Church Slavonic bladinica, from bladu “fornication.” Polish nierządnica is literally “disorderly woman.” Sanskrit vecya is a derivation of veca- “house, dwelling,” especially “house of ill-repute, brothel.” Another term, pumccali, means literally “one who runs after men.” Avestan jahika is literally “woman,” but only of evil creatures; another term is kunairi, from pejorative prefix ku- + nairi “woman.”

yoni (n.)

1799, from Sanskrit, “female sexual principle as an object of veneration,” literally “vulva, womb.”

Isidore

masc. proper name, from French, from Latin Isidorus, from Greek Isidoros, literally “gift of Isis,” from Isis (see Isis) + dōron “gift” (from PIE root *do- “to give”). St. Isidore, archbishop of Seville (600-636) wrote important historical, etymological, and ecclesiastical works and in 2001 was named patron saint of computers, computer users, and the internet. Related: Isidorian.

wang (n.)

“penis,” 1933, slang, probably from whangdoodle, an earlier term for “gadget, thing for which the correct name is not known.” Many such words (thingydingus, etc.) have been used in slang for “penis,” not because the actual name was unknown, but because it was unmentionable. Another possibility is that the slang word is a variant of whang “large, thick slice” (1630s), which earlier was used in the sense of “thong” (1530s) and is itself a variant of thwang, an alternative form of thong (see thong). In Old English, wang meant “cheek, jaw,” hence wangtoð “cheek-tooth, molar.”

Pandora

1630s, in Greek mythology, the name of the first mortal woman, made by Hephaestus and given as a bride to Epimetheus, from Greek Pandōra “all-gifted” (or perhaps “giver of all”), from pan- “all” (see pan-) + dōron “gift” (from PIE root *do- “to give”).

Pandora’s box (1570s) refers to her gift from Zeus, which was foolishly opened by Epimetheus, upon which all the contents escaped. They were said to be the host of human ills (escaping to afflict mankind), or, in a later version, all the blessings of the god (escaping to be lost), except Hope, which alone remained.

yang (n.)

masculine or positive principle in Chinese philosophy, 1670s, from Mandarin yang, said to mean “male, daylight, solar,” or “sun, positive, male genitals.”

Dorothy

fem. proper name, from French Dorothée, from Latin Dorothea, from Greek, literally “gift of God,” from dōron “gift” (from PIE root *do- “to give”) + fem. of theos “god” (from PIE root *dhes-, forming words for religious concepts). With the elements reversed, it becomes Theodora. The accessory called a Dorothy bag is so called from 1907.

yin (n.)

feminine or negative principle in Chinese philosophy, 1670s, from Chinese (Mandarin) yin, said to mean “female, night, lunar,” or “shade, feminine, the moon.” Compare yangYin-yang is from 1850

Theodore

masc. proper name, from Latin Theodorus, from Greek Theodoros, literally “gift of god,” from theos “god” (from PIE root *dhes-, forming words for religious concepts) + dōron “gift” (from PIE root *do- “to give”). The fem. form is Theodora.

odd (adj.)

c. 1300, odde, “constituting a unit in excess of an even number,” from Old Norse oddi “third or additional number,” as in odda-maðr “third man, odd man (who gives the casting vote),” odda-tala “odd number.” The literal meaning of Old Norse oddi is “point of land, angle” (related via notion of “triangle” to oddr “point of a weapon”); from Proto-Germanic *uzdaz “pointed upward” (source also of Old English ord “point of a weapon, spear, source, beginning,” Old Frisian ord “point, place,” Dutch oord “place, region,” Old High German ort “point, angle,” German Ort “place”), from PIE *uzdho- (source also of Lithuanian us-nis “thistle”). None of the other languages, however, shows the Old Norse development from “point” to “third number.” Used from late 14c. to indicate a surplus over any given sum.

Sense of “strange, peculiar” first attested 1580s from notion of “odd one out, unpaired one of three” (attested earlier, c. 1400, as “singular” in a positive sense of “renowned, rare, choice”). An odd job “casual, disconnected piece of work” (1728) is so called from notion of “not regular.” Odd lot “incomplete or random set” is from 1897. The international order of Odd Fellows began as local social clubs in England, late 18c., with Masonic-type trappings; formally organized 1813 in Manchester, England.

tao (n.)

1736, from Chinese tao “way, path, right way (of life), reason.”

even (n.)

“end of the day,” Old English æfen, Mercian efen, Northumbrian efern (see eve (n.)).

even (adj.)

Old English efen “level,” also “equal, like; calm, harmonious; equally; quite, fully; namely,” from Proto-Germanic *ebna- (source also of Old Saxon eban, Old Frisian even “level, plain, smooth,” Dutch even, Old High German eban, German eben, Old Norse jafn, Danish jævn, Gothic ibns). The adverb is Old English efne “exactly, just, likewise.” Modern adverbial sense (introducing an extreme case of something more generally implied) seems to have arisen 16c. from use of the word to emphasize identity (“Who, me?” “Even you”).

Etymologists are uncertain whether the original sense was “level” or “alike.” Used extensively in Old English compounds, with a sense of “fellow, co-” (as in efeneald “of the same age;” Middle English even-sucker “foster-brother”). Of numbers, from 1550s. Sense of “on an equal footing” is from 1630s. Rhyming reduplication phrase even steven is attested from 1866; even break (n.) first recorded 1907. Even-tempered from 1712. To get even with “retaliate upon” is attested by 1833.

two (adj., n.)

“1 more than one, the number which is one more than one; a symbol representing this number;” Old English twa “two,” fem. and neuter form of twegen “two” (see twain), from Proto-Germanic *twa (source also of Old Saxon and Old Frisian twenetwa, Old Norse tveirtvau, Dutch twee, Old High German zwenezwo, German zwei, Gothic twai), from PIE *duwo, variant of root *dwo- “two.”

Two-fisted is from 1774. Two cheers for _____, expressing qualified enthusiasm first recorded 1951 in E.M. Forster’s title “Two Cheers for Democracy.” Two-dimensional is recorded from 1883; figurative sense of “lacking substance or depth” is attested from 1934.

Adam

masc. proper name, Biblical name of the first man, progenitor of the human race, from Hebrew adam “man,” literally “(the one formed from the) ground” (Hebrew adamah “ground”); compare Latin homo “man,” humanus “human,” humus “earth, ground, soil.”

The name was also used to signify the evil inherent in human nature (as a consequence of Adam’s fall), and other qualities (nakedness, gardening) associated with the biblical Adam. Adam’s ale “water” is from 1640s. To not know (someone) from Adam “not know him at all” is first recorded 1784. The pet form of the name in Middle English was Addy, hence Addison; other old pet forms (AdkinAdcock) also survive in surnames.

twin (adj.)

Old English twinn “consisting of two, twofold, double, two-by-two,” from Proto-Germanic *twisnjaz “double” (source also of Old Norse tvinnr “double, twin,” Old Danish tvinling, Dutch tweeling, German zwillung), from PIE *dwisno- (source also of Latin bini “two each,” Lithuanian dvynu “twins”), from *dwi- “double,” from root *dwo- “two.” Minneapolis and St. Paul in Minnesota have been the Twin Cities since 1883, but the phrase was used earlier of Rock Island and Davenport (1856).

Eve

fem. proper name, Biblical first woman, Late Latin, from Hebrew (Semitic) Hawwah, literally “a living being,” from base hawa “he lived” (compare Arabic hayya, Aramaic hayyin).

Like most of the explanations of names in Genesis, this is probably based on folk etymology or an imaginative playing with sound. … In the Hebrew here, the phonetic similarity is between hawah, “Eve,” and the verbal root hayah, “to live.” It has been proposed that Eve’s name conceals very different origins, for it sounds suspiciously like the Aramaic word for “serpent.” [Robert Alter, “The Five Books of Moses,” 2004, commentary on Genesis iii.20]\

eve (n.)

c. 1200, eve “evening,” especially the time between sunset and darkness, from Old English æfen, with loss of terminal -n (which, though forming part of the stem, perhaps was mistaken for an inflection), from Proto-Germanic *æbando- (source also of Old Saxon aband, Old Frisian ewnd, Dutch avond, Old High German aband, German Abend, Old Norse aptann, Danish aften), which is of uncertain origin. Now superseded in its original sense by evening.

Specific meaning “day before a saint’s day or festival” is from late 13c. Transferred sense of “the moment right before any event, etc.” is by 1780. Even (n.), evening keep the original form.

between (prep., adv.)

Old English betweonum, Mercian betwinum, “in the space which separates, midway, in the midst, among; by turns,” from bi- “by” (see by) + tweonum dative plural of *tweon “two each” (compare Gothic tweih-nai “two each;” from PIE root *dwo- “two”).

Between is literally applicable only to two objects; but it may be and commonly is used of more than two where they are spoken of distributively, or so that they can be thought of as divided into two parts or categories, or with reference to the action or being of each individually as compared with that of any other or all the others. When more than two objects are spoken of collectively or in divisibly, among is the proper word. [Century Dictionary]

In all senses, between has been from its earliest appearance, extended to more than two. [OED]

Between a rock and a hard place “caught in a dilemma, in a difficult situation” is from 1940s, originally cowboy slang (earlier was between the beetle (hammer) and the block, late 19c.). Between-whiles “at intervals” is from 1670s. 

M

13th letter of the English alphabet, from Greek mu, from Semitic mem. It represents a very stable and unchanging sound in Indo-European, described by Johnson as “a kind of humming inward.” The Roman symbol for 1,000; sometimes used in this sense in English 15c.-16c.; but in late 20c. newspaper headlines it stands for million. As a thickness of type, from 1680s (commonly spelled out, em).

twilight (n.)

“light from the sky when the sun is below the horizon at morning and evening,” late 14c. (twilighting), a compound of twi- + light (n.) Cognate with Middle Flemish twilicht, Dutch tweelicht (16c.), Middle High German twelicht, German zwielicht. Exact connotation of twi- in this word is unclear, but it appears to refer to “half” light, rather than the fact that twilight occurs twice a day. Compare also Sanskrit samdhya “twilight,” literally “a holding together, junction,” Middle High German zwischerliecht, literally “tweenlight.” Originally and most commonly in English with reference to evening twilight but occasionally used of morning twilight (a sense first attested mid-15c.). Figurative extension recorded from c. 1600.

Twilight zone is from 1901 in a literal sense, a part of the sky lit by twilight; from 1909 in extended senses in references to topics or cases where authority or behavior is unclear. In the 1909 novel “In the Twilight Zone,” the reference is to mulatto heritage. “She was in the twilight zone between the races where each might claim her ….” The U.S. TV series of that name is from 1959.

mid (adj.)

“middle; being the middle part or midst; being between, intermediate,” Old English mid, midd from Proto-Germanic *medja- (source also of Old Norse miðr, Old Saxon middi, Old Frisian midde, Middle Dutch mydde, Old High German mitti, German mitte, Gothic midjis “mid, middle”), from PIE root *medhyo- “middle.”

By late Middle English probably felt as a prefix only, and now surviving in English only as a prefix (mid-airmidstream, etc.). Prefixed to months, seasons, etc. from late Old English. As a preposition, “in the middle of, amid” (c. 1400) it is from in midde or a shortened form of amid (compare midshipman) and sometimes is written ‘mid.

time (n.)

Old English tima “limited space of time,” from Proto-Germanic *timon- “time” (source also of Old Norse timi “time, proper time,” Swedish timme “an hour”), from PIE *di-mon-, suffixed form of root *da- “to divide.”

Abstract sense of “time as an indefinite continuous duration” is recorded from late 14c. Personified at least since 1509 as an aged bald man (but with a forelock) carrying a scythe and an hour-glass. In English, a single word encompasses time as “extent” and “point” (French temps/fois, German zeit/mal) as well as “hour” (as in “what time is it?” compare French heure, German Uhr). Extended senses such as “occasion,” “the right time,” “leisure,” or times (v.) “multiplied by” developed in Old and Middle English, probably as a natural outgrowth of such phrases as “He commends her a hundred times to God” (Old French La comande a Deu cent foiz).

to have a good time ( = a time of enjoyment) was common in Eng. from c 1520 to c 1688; it was app. retained in America, whence readopted in Britain in 19th c. [OED]

Time of day (now mainly preserved in negation, i.e. what someone won’t give you if he doesn’t like you) was a popular 17c. salutation (as in “Good time of day vnto your Royall Grace,” “Richard III,” I.iii.18), hence to give (one) the time of day “greet socially” (1590s); earlier was give good day (mid-14c.). The times “the current age” is from 1590s. Behind the times “old-fashioned” is recorded from 1831. Times as the name of a newspaper dates from 1788.

Time warp first attested 1954; time-traveling in the science fiction sense first recorded 1895 in H.G. Wells’ “The Time Machine.” Time capsule first recorded 1938, in reference to the one “deemed capable of resisting the effects of time for five thousand years preserving an account of universal achievements embedded in the grounds of the New York World’s fair.”

Jones [archaeologist of A.D. 5139] potters about for a while in the region which we have come to regard as New York, finds countless ruins, but little of interest to the historian except a calcified direction sheet to something called a “Time Capsule.” Jones finds the capsule but cannot open it, and decides, after considerable prying at the lid, that it is merely evidence of an archaic tribal ceremony called a “publicity gag” of which he has already found many examples. [“Princeton Alumni Weekly,” April 14, 1939]

To do time “serve a prison sentence” is from 1865. Time frame is attested by 1964; time-limit is from 1880. About time, ironically for “long past due time,” is recorded from 1920. To be on time is by 1854 in railroading.

T

twentieth letter of the English alphabet; in the Phoenician alphabet the corresponding sign was the 22nd and last; everything after T in the modern alphabet represents European alterations or additions. The sound has been consistent throughout its history.

In Late Latin and Old French, -t- before -e- and -i- acquired the “s” value of -c- and words appeared in both spellings (nationem/nacionem) and often passed into Middle English with a -c- (nacioun). In most of these the spelling was restored to a -t- by or in the period of early Modern English, but sorting them out took time (Edmund Coote’s “English Schoole-maister” (1596) noted malicious/malitious) and a few (space, place, coercion, suspicion) resisted the restoration. 

To cross one’s t’s(and dot one’s i’s) “to be exact” is attested from 1849. Phrase to a T “exactly, with utmost exactness” is recorded from 1690s, though the exact signification remains uncertain despite much speculation. The measuring tool called a T-square (sometimes suggested as the source of this) is recorded by that name only from 1785. The T-cell (1970) so called because they are derived from the thymus. As a medieval numeral, T represented 160. A T was formerly branded on the hand of a convicted thief.

Uranus

first planet discovered that was not known in ancient times, named for the god of Heaven, husband of Gaia, the Earth, from Latin Uranus, from Greek Ouranos literally “heaven, the sky;” in Greek cosmology, the god who personifies the heavens, father of the titans.

The planet was discovered and identified as such in 1781 by Sir William Herschel (it had been observed before, but mistaken for a star; in 1690 John Flamsteed cataloged it as 34 Tauri); Herschel proposed calling it Georgium Sidus, literally “George’s Star,” in honour of his patron, King George III of England.

I cannot but wish to take this opportunity of expressing my sense of gratitude, by giving the name of Georgium Sidus … to a star which (with respect to us) first began to shine under His auspicious reign. [Sir William Herschel, 1783]

The planet was known in English in 1780s as the Georgian Planet; French astronomers began calling Herschel, and ultimately German astronomer Johann Bode proposed Uranus as in conformity with other planet names. However, the name didn’t come into common usage until c. 1850.

twenty (adj., n.)

“1 more than nineteen, twice ten; the number which is one more than nineteen; a symbol representing this number;” Old English twentig “group of twenty,” from twegen “two” (from PIE root *dwo- “two”) + -tig “group of ten” (see -ty (1)). Cognate with Old Saxon twentig , Old Frisian twintich, Dutch twintig, Old High German zweinzug, German zwanzig. Gothic twai tigjus is even more transparent: literally “two tens.”

The card game twenty-one (1790) is from French vingt-et-un (1781). Twenty-twenty hindsight is first recorded 1962, a figurative use of the Snellen fraction for normal visual acuity, expressed in feet. The guessing game of twenty questions is recorded from 1786 (a late 19c. parlor variation on it was called clumps).

uranium (n.)

rare metallic element, 1797, named 1789 in Modern Latin by its discoverer, German chemist and mineralogist Martin Heinrich Klaproth, for the recently found planet Uranus (q.v.).

twelve (adj., n.)

“1 more than eleven, twice six; the number which is one more than eleven; a symbol representing this number;” Old English twelf “twelve,” literally “two left” (over ten), from Proto-Germanic *twa-lif-, a compound of *twa- (from PIE root *dwo- “two”) + *lif- (from PIE root *leikw- “to leave”). Compare eleven. Cognate with Old Saxon twelif, Old Norse tolf, Old Frisian twelef, Middle Dutch twalef, Dutch twaalf, Old High German zwelif, German zwölf, Gothic twalif. Outside Germanic, an analogous formation is Lithuanian dvylika, with second element -lika “left over.”

radiation (n.)

mid-15c., “act or process of radiating,” from Middle French radiation and directly from Latin radiationem (nominative radiatio) “a shining, radiation,” noun of action from past participle stem of radiare “to beam, shine, gleam; make beaming,” from radius “beam of light; spoke of a wheel” (see radius). Meaning “rays or beams emitted” is from 1560s. Meaning “divergence from a center” is 1650s.

tide (n.)

Old English tid “point or portion of time, due time, period, season; feast-day, canonical hour,” from Proto-Germanic *tīdi- “division of time” (source also of Old Saxon tid, Dutch tijd, Old High German zit, German Zeit “time”), from PIE *di-ti- “division, division of time,” suffixed form of root *da- “to divide.”

Meaning “rise and fall of the sea” (mid-14c.) probably is via notion of “fixed time,” specifically “time of high water;” either a native evolution or from Middle Low German getide (compare Middle Dutch tijd, Dutch tij, German Gezeiten “flood tide, tide of the sea”). Old English seems to have had no specific word for this, using flod and ebba to refer to the rise and fall. Old English heahtid “high tide” meant “festival, high day.”

radiance (n.)

c. 1600, “brilliant light,” from radiant or else from Medieval Latin radiantia “brightness,” from radiare “to beam, shine” (see radiation). Figurative use from 1761. Related: Radiancy.

god (n.)

also God; Old English god “supreme being, deity; the Christian God; image of a god; godlike person,” from Proto-Germanic *guthan (source also of Old Saxon, Old Frisian, Dutch god, Old High German got, German Gott, Old Norse guð, Gothic guþ), which is of uncertain origin; perhaps from PIE *ghut- “that which is invoked” (source also of Old Church Slavonic zovo “to call,” Sanskrit huta- “invoked,” an epithet of Indra), from root *gheu(e)- “to call, invoke.” The notion could be “divine entity summoned to a sacrifice.”

But some trace it to PIE *ghu-to- “poured,” from root *gheu- “to pour, pour a libation” (source of Greek khein “to pour,” also in the phrase khute gaia “poured earth,” referring to a burial mound; see found (v.2)). “Given the Greek facts, the Germanic form may have referred in the first instance to the spirit immanent in a burial mound” [Watkins]. See also Zeus. In either case, not related to good.

Popular etymology has long derived God from good; but a comparison of the forms … shows this to be an error. Moreover, the notion of goodness is not conspicuous in the heathen conception of deity, and in good itself the ethical sense is comparatively late. [Century Dictionary, 1897]

Originally a neuter noun in Germanic, the gender shifted to masculine after the coming of Christianity. Old English god probably was closer in sense to Latin numen. A better word to translate deus might have been Proto-Germanic *ansuz, but this was used only of the highest deities in the Germanic religion, and not of foreign gods, and it was never used of the Christian God. It survives in English mainly in the personal names beginning in Os-.

I want my lawyer, my tailor, my servants, even my wife to believe in God, because it means that I shall be cheated and robbed and cuckolded less often. … If God did not exist, it would be necessary to invent him. [Voltaire]

God bless you after someone sneezes is credited to St. Gregory the Great, but the pagan Romans (Absit omen) and Greeks had similar customs. God’s gift to _____ is by 1931. God of the gaps means “God considered solely as an explanation for anything not otherwise explained by science;” the exact phrase is from 1949, but the words and the idea have been around since 1894. God-forbids was rhyming slang for kids (“children”). God squad “evangelical organization” is 1969 U.S. student slang. God’s acre “burial ground” imitates or partially translates German Gottesacker, where the second element means “field;” the phrase dates to 1610s in English but was noted as a Germanism as late as Longfellow.

How poore, how narrow, how impious a measure of God, is this, that he must doe, as thou wouldest doe, if thou wert God. [John Donne, sermon preached in St. Paul’s Jan. 30, 1624/5]

B

second letter of the Latin alphabet, corresponding to Greek beta, Phoenician beth, literally “house.” It “has nothing of that variety of pronunciation shown by most English letters” [Century Dictionary]. The Germanic “b” is said to represent a “bh” sound in Proto-Indo-European, which continued as “bh” in Sanskrit, became “ph” in Greek (brother/Greek phraterbear (v.)/Greek pherein) and “f” in Latin (fraterferre).

Often indicating “second in order.” B-movie is by 1939, usually said to be so called from being the second, or supporting, film in a double feature. Some film industry sources say it was so called for being the second of the two films major studios generally made in a year, and the one cast with less headline talent and released with less promotion. And early usage varies with grade-B movie, suggesting a perceived association with quality.

B-side of a gramophone single is by 1962 (flip-side is by 1949). B-girl, abbreviation of bar girl, U.S. slang for a woman paid to encourage customers at a bar to buy her drinks, is by 1936.

good (adj.)

Old English gōd (with a long “o”) “excellent, fine; valuable; desirable, favorable, beneficial; full, entire, complete;” of abstractions, actions, etc., “beneficial, effective; righteous, pious;” of persons or souls, “righteous, pious, virtuous;” probably originally “having the right or desirable quality,” from Proto-Germanic *gōda- “fitting, suitable” (source also of Old Frisian god, Old Saxon gōd, Old Norse goðr, Middle Dutch goed, Dutch goed, Old High German guot, German gut, Gothic goþs). A word of uncertain etymology, perhaps originally “fit, adequate, belonging together,” from PIE root *ghedh- “to unite, be associated, suitable” (source also of Sanskrit gadh- “seize (booty),” Old Church Slavonic godu “favorable time,” Russian godnyi “fit, suitable,” Lithuanian goda “honor,” Old English gædrian “to gather, to take up together”).

Irregular comparative and superlative (betterbest) reflect a widespread pattern in words for “good,” as in Latin bonusmelioroptimus.

Sense of “kind, benevolent” is from late Old English in reference to persons or God, from mid-14c. of actions. That of “friendly, gracious” is from c. 1200. Meaning “fortunate, prosperous, favorable” was in late Old English. As an expression of satisfaction, from early 15c. Of persons, “skilled (at a profession or occupation), expert,” in late Old English, now typically with at; in Middle English with of or to. Of children, “well-behaved,” by 1690s. Of money, “not debased, standard as to value,” from late 14c. From c. 1200 of numbers or quantities, “large, great,” of time or distance, “long;” good while “a considerable time” is from c. 1300; good way “a great distance” is mid-15c.

Why then, can one desire too much of a good thing. [“As You Like It”]

As good as “practically, virtually” is from mid-14c.; to be good for “beneficial to” is from late 14c. To make good “repay (costs, expenses), atone for (a sin or an offense)” is from late 14c. To have a good mind “have an earnest desire” (to do something) is from c. 1500. Good deedgood works were in Old English as “an act of piety;” good deed specifically as “act of service to others” was reinforced early 20c. by Boy Scouting. Good turn is from c. 1400. Good sport, of persons, is from 1906. The good book “the Bible” attested from 1801, originally in missionary literature describing the language of conversion efforts in American Indian tribes. Good to go is attested from 1989.

beast (n.)

c. 1200, beste, “one of the lower animals” (opposed to man), especially “a four-footed animal,” also “a marvelous creature, a monster” (mermaids, werewolves, lamia, satyrs, the beast of the Apocalypse), “a brutish or stupid man,” from Old French beste “animal, wild beast,” figuratively “fool, idiot” (11c., Modern French bête), from Vulgar Latin *besta, from Latin bestia “beast, wild animal,” which is of unknown origin.

Used in Middle English to translate Latin animal. Replaced Old English deor (see deer) as the generic word for “wild creature,” only to be ousted 16c. by animal.

titan (n.)

early 15c., from Latin titan, from Greek titan, member of a mythological race of giants (originally six sons and six daughters of Gaia and Uranus) who were overthrown by Zeus and the other gods. The war was a popular theme for Greek artists and writers. The name is perhaps from tito “sun, day,” which probably is a loan-word from a language of Asia Minor. Sense of “person or thing of enormous size or ability” first recorded 1828. Applied to planet Saturn’s largest satellite in 1831; it was discovered 1655 by Dutch astronomer Christiaan Huygens, who named it Saturni Luna “moon of Saturn.” Related: Titanesstitanian.

priest (n.)

Old English preost, which probably was shortened from the older Germanic form represented by Old Saxon and Old High German prestar, Old Frisian prestere, all from Vulgar Latin *prester “priest,” from Late Latin presbyter “presbyter, elder,” from Greek presbyteros “elder (of two), old, venerable,” comparative of presbys “old” (see presby-).

An alternative theory (to account for the -eo- of the Old English word) makes it cognate with Old High German priastprest, from Vulgar Latin *prevost “one put over others,” from Latin praepositus “person placed in charge,” from past participle of praeponere (see provost). In Old Testament sense, a translation of Hebrew kohen, Greek hiereus, Latin sacerdos.

title (n.)

c. 1300, “inscription, heading,” from Old French title “title or chapter of a book; position; legal permit” (12c., Modern French titre, by dissimilation), and in part from Old English titul, both from Latin titulus “inscription, label, ticket, placard, heading; honorable appellation, title of honor,” of unknown origin. Meaning “name of a book, play, etc.” first recorded mid-14c. The sense of “name showing a person’s rank” in English is first attested 1580s. Sports championship sense attested from 1913 (originally in lawn tennis), hence titlist (1913).

pray (v.)

early 13c., “ask earnestly, beg,” also (c. 1300) “pray to a god or saint,” from Old French preier “to pray” (c.900, Modern French prier), from Vulgar Latin *precare (also source of Italian pregare), from Latin precari “ask earnestly, beg, entreat,” from *prex (plural preces, genitive precis) “prayer, request, entreaty,” from PIE root *prek- “to ask, request, entreat.”

Parenthetical expression I pray you, “please, if you will,” attested from 1510s, contracted to pray 16c. Related: PrayedprayingPraying mantis attested from 1809 (praying locust is from 1752; see mantis). The “Gardener’s Monthly” of July 1861 lists other names for it as camel cricketsoothsayer, and rear horse.

titanic (adj.)

“gigantic, colossal,” 1709, from titan + -ic. The British passenger liner R.M.S. Titanic sank April 15, 1912, and the name became symbolic of the destruction of supposedly indestructible.

prey (n.)

mid-13c., “animal hunted for food,” also “that which is taken in war,” from Old French preie “booty, animal taken in the chase” (mid-12c., Modern French proie), from Latin praeda “booty, plunder, game hunted,” earlier praeheda, literally “something seized before,” from PIE *prai-heda-; for first element see prae-; second element related to the second element in prehendere “to grasp, seize,” from PIE root *ghend- “to seize, to take.”

titanium (n.)

metallic element, 1796, Modern Latin, named in 1795 by German chemist and mineralogist Martin Heinrich Klaproth (1743-1817) from Latin Titan (see titan) as “sons of the earth.” He previously had named uranium. A pure specimen was not isolated until 1887.

east

Old English easteastan (adj., adv.) “east, easterly, eastward;” easte (n.), from Proto-Germanic *aust- “east,” literally “toward the sunrise” (source also of Old Frisian ast “east,” aster “eastward,” Dutch oost Old Saxon ost, Old High German ostan, German Ost, Old Norse austr “from the east”), from PIE root *aus- (1) “to shine,” especially of the dawn. The east is the direction in which dawn breaks. For theory of shift in the geographical sense in Latin, see austral.

As one of the four cardinal points of the compass, from c. 1200. Meaning “the eastern part of the world” (from Europe) is from c. 1300. Cold War use of East for “communist states” first recorded 1951. French est, Spanish este are borrowings from Middle English, originally nautical. The east wind in Biblical Palestine was scorching and destructive (as in Ezekiel xvii.10); in New England it is bleak, wet, unhealthful. East End of London so called by 1846; East Side of Manhattan so called from 1871; East Indies (India and Southeast Asia) so called 1590s to distinguish them from the West Indies.

plutonium (n.)

transuranic element, 1942, from Pluto, the planet, + element ending -ium. Discovered at University of California, Berkeley, in 1941, the element named on suggestion of Seaborg and Wahl because it follows neptunium in the periodic table as Pluto follows Neptune in the Solar System. The name plutonium earlier had been proposed for barium and was sometimes used in this sense early 19c.

dawn (v.)

c. 1200, dauen, “to become day, grow light in the morning,” shortened or back-formed from dauingedauing “period between darkness and sunrise,” (c. 1200), from Old English dagung, from dagian “to become day,” from Proto-Germanic *dagaz “day” (source also of German tagen “to dawn”), from PIE root *agh- “a day.” Probably influenced by Scandinavian cognates (Danish dagning, Old Norse dagan “a dawning”). Related: Dawneddawning.

Figurative sense “begin to develop” is from 1717. Of ideas, etc., “begin to become apparent or evident to the mind,” by 1852.

plutocrat (n.)

“person who rules by his wealth,” 1838, back-formation from plutocracy. Related: Plutocratic (1843); plutocratical (1833).

evening (n.)

from Old English æfnung “the coming of evening, sunset, time around sunset,” verbal noun from æfnian “become evening, grow toward evening,” from æfen “evening” (see eve). As a synonym of even (n.) in the sense “time from sunset to bedtime,” it dates from mid-15c. and now entirely replaces the older word in this sense. Another Old English noun for “evening” was cwildtid.

Hades

“god of the dead in Greek mythology;” also the name of his realm, the abode of the dead spirits, 1590s, from Greek Haidēs, in Homer the name of the god of the underworld, son of Kronos and Rhea, brother of Zeus and Poseidon. His name is of unknown origin. Perhaps literally “the invisible” [Watkins], from privative prefix a- + idein “to see” (from PIE root *weid- “to see”). The name of the god was extended in later Greek writing to his kingdom, also “the grave, death.” Related: Hadal (adj.), 1964; Hadean.

D

fourth letter of the Roman alphabet, from Greek delta, from Phoenician and Hebrew daleth, pausal form of deleth “door,” so called from its shape. The form of the modern letter is the Greek delta (Δ) with one angle rounded. As the sign for “500” in Roman numerals, it is said to be half of CIƆ, which was an early form of M, the sign for “1,000.” 3-D for “three-dimensional” is attested from 1952.

evil (adj.)

Old English yfel (Kentish evel) “bad, vicious, ill, wicked,” from Proto-Germanic *ubilaz (source also of Old Saxon ubil, Old Frisian and Middle Dutch evel, Dutch euvel, Old High German ubil, German übel, Gothic ubils), from PIE *upelo-, from root *wap- “bad, evil” (source also of Hittite huwapp- “evil”).

In Old English and other older Germanic languages other than Scandinavian, “this word is the most comprehensive adjectival expression of disapproval, dislike or disparagement” [OED]. Evil was the word the Anglo-Saxons used where we would use badcruelunskillfuldefective (adj.), or harm (n.), crimemisfortunedisease (n.). In Middle English, bad took the wider range of senses and evil began to focus on moral badness. Both words have good as their opposite. Evil-favored (1520s) meant “ugly.” Evilchild is attested as an English surname from 13c.

The adverb is Old English yfele, originally of words or speech. Also as a noun in Old English, “what is bad; sin, wickedness; anything that causes injury, morally or physically.” Especially of a malady or disease from c. 1200. The meaning “extreme moral wickedness” was one of the senses of the Old English noun, but it did not become established as the main sense of the modern word until 18c. As a noun, Middle English also had evilty. Related: EvillyEvil eye (Latin oculus malus) was Old English eage yfel. The jocular notion of an evil twin as an excuse for regrettable deeds is by 1986, American English, from an old motif in mythology.

Mammon (n.)

personification of riches and worldliness, mid-14c., from Late Latin mammona, from Ecclesiastical Greek mamōnas, from Aramaic mamonamamon “riches, gain;” a word left untranslated in Greek New Testament (Matthew vi.24, Luke xvi.9-13), retained in the Vulgate, and regarded mistakenly by medieval Christians as the name of a demon who leads men to covetousness.

devil (n.)

Old English deofol “a devil, a subordinate evil spirit afflicting humans;” also, in Christian theology, “the Devil, a powerful spirit of evil otherwise known as Satan,” from Late Latin diabolus (also the source of Italian diavolo, French diable, Spanish diablo; German Teufel is Old High German tiufal, from Latin via Gothic diabaulus).

The Late Latin word is from Ecclesiastical Greek diabolos, which in Jewish and Christian use was “the Devil, Satan,” and which in general use meant “accuser, slanderer” (thus it was a scriptural loan-translation of Hebrew satan; see Satan). It is an agent noun from Greek diaballein “to slander, attack,” literally “to throw across,” from dia “across, through” (see dia-) + ballein “to throw” (from PIE root *gwele- “to throw, reach”).

Jerome re-introduced Satan in Latin bibles, and English translators have used both words in different measures. In Vulgate, as in Greek, diabolus and dæmon (see demon) were distinct, but they have merged in English and other Germanic languages.

Meaning “false god, heathen god” is from c. 1200. Sense of “diabolical person, person resembling a devil or demon in character” is from late 12c. Playful use for “clever rogue” is from c. 1600. As an expletive and in expletive phrases from c. 1200.

Meaning “sand spout, dust storm” is from 1835. In U.S. place names, the word often represents a native word such as Algonquian manito, more properly “spirit, god.” Phrase a devil way (c. 1300) was originally “Hell-ward, to Hell,” but by late 14c. it was a mere expression of irritation. Meaning “errand-boy in a printing office” is from 1680s, perhaps because they were often blackened by the ink (devils then being popularly supposed to be black).

Devil’s books “playing cards” is from 1729, but the cited quote says they’ve been called that “time out of mind” (the four of clubs is the devil’s bedposts); devil’s coach-horse is from 1840, the large rove-beetle, which is defiant when disturbed. Devil’s food cake (1895; three different recipes in the cookbook “compiled by the Ladies’ Aid Society of the Friends’ Church, Wilmington, Ohio”), rich and chocolate, probably is in deliberate contrast to angel food cake. “Talk of the Devil, and he’s presently at your elbow” [1660s].

Ammon

name of the Greek and Roman conception of the Egyptian sovereign sun-god Amun (said to mean literally “hidden”), also Amen-Ra. This they confused with the ram-headed divinity, god of life, worshipped at an oracular sanctuary in Libya. See ammonia. Related: Ammonian.

doppelganger (n.)

“apparition of a living person, 1826 (from 1824 as a German word in English), from German Doppelgänger, literally “double-goer,” originally with a ghostly sense. See double + gang (n.). Sometimes half-Englished as doubleganger.

ammonia (n.)

volatile alkali, colorless gas with a strong pungent smell, 1799, coined in scientific Latin 1782 by Swedish chemist Torbern Bergman as a name for the gas obtained from sal ammoniac, salt deposits containing ammonium chloride found near temple of Jupiter Ammon (from Egyptian God Amun) in Libya (see Ammon, and compare ammoniac). The shrine was ancient already in Augustus’ day, and the salts were prepared “from the sands where the camels waited while their masters prayed for good omens” [Shipley], hence the mineral deposits. Also known as spirit of hartshorn and volatile alkali or animal alkali.

madonna (n.)

1580s, Italian title of address or courtesy, equivalent to madam; from c. 1600 as a noun, “an Italian lady,” from Italian madonna, from Old Italian ma donna (Italian mia donna) “my lady,” from ma “my” + donna “lady,” from Latin domina “lady, mistress of the house,” from Latin domus “house” (from PIE root *dem- “house, household”).

Often specifically “the Virgin Mary,” hence the sense of “picture or statue of the Virgin Mary,” attested in English by 1640s. The U.S. singer/dancer (full name Madonna Louise Ciccone, b. 1958) attained to pop stardom in the fall of 1984.

am (v.)

first person singular present indicative of be (q.v.); Old English eom “to be, to remain,” (Mercian eam, Northumbrian am), from Proto-Germanic *izm(i)-, from PIE *esmi- (source also of Old Norse emi, Gothic im, Hittite esmi, Old Church Slavonic jesmi, Lithuanian esmi), first person singular form of root *es- “to be.”

In Old English it formed only present tenses, all other forms being expressed in the W-BASE (see werewas). This cooperative verb is sometimes referred to by linguists as *es-*wes-. Until the distinction broke down 13c., *es-*wes- tended to express “existence,” with beon meaning something closer to “come to be.”

Old English am had two plural forms: 1. sind/sindon, sie and 2. earon/aron. The s- form (also used in the subjunctive) fell from English in the early 13c. (though its cousin continues in German sind, the 3rd person plural of “to be”) and was replaced by forms of be, but aron (see are) continued, and as am and be merged it encroached on some uses that previously had belonged to be. By the early 1500s it had established its place in standard English.

Adonai

Old Testament word for “God,” used as a substitute for the ineffable name, late 14c., from Medieval Latin, from Hebrew, literally “my lord,” from adon (see Adonis) + suffix of the first person.

om

1788, mystical word or combination of letters in Hindu religions and Buddhism; originally an utterance of assent.

Ronald

masc. proper name, from Old Norse Rögnvaldr “Having the Gods’ Power,” from rögn “gods,” literally “decreeing powers” (plural of regin “decree”) + valdr “ruler” (from Proto-Germanic *waldan, from PIE root *wal- “to be strong”).

mega-

before vowels meg-, word-forming element often meaning “large, great,” but in physics a precise measurement to denote the unit taken a million times (megaton, megawatt, etc.), from Greek megas “great, large, vast, big, high, tall; mighty, important” (fem. megale), from PIE root *meg- “great.” Mega began to be used alone as an adjective by 1982.

High-speed computer stores 2.5 megabits [headline in “Electronics” magazine, Oct. 1, 1957]

Donald

surname, from 13c. Scottish DofnaldDufenald, probably from Gaelic Domhnall, Old Irish Domnall (pronounced “Dovnall”), from Proto-Celtic *Dubno-valos “world-mighty, ruler of the world,” from *walos “ruler” (from PIE root *wal- “to be strong”) + Old Irish domun “world,” from PIE root *dheub- “deep, hollow,” via sense development from “bottom” to “foundation” to “earth” to “world” (see deep (adj.)). A top 10 name for boys born in the U.S. between 1923 and 1943. Disney’s Donald Duck cartoon character debuted in 1934.

omega (n.)

final letter of the Greek alphabet, c. 1400, from Medieval Greek omega, from classical Greek o mega “big ‘o’ ” (in contrast to o micron “little ‘o’ “); so called because the vowel was long in ancient Greek. From o + megas “great, large, vast, big, high, tall; mighty, important,” from PIE root *meg- “great.” Used figuratively for “the last, the final” of anything (as in Revelations i.8) from 1520s.

president (n.)

late 14c., “appointed governor of a province; chosen leader of a body of persons,” from Old French president and directly from Latin praesidentum (nominative praesidens) “president, governor,” noun use of present participle of praesidere “to act as head or chief” (see preside).

In Middle English of heads of religious houses, hospitals, colleges and universities. First use for “chief executive officer of a republic” is in U.S. Constitution (1787), from earlier American use for “officer in charge of the Continental Congress” (1774), a sense derived from that of “chosen head of a meeting or group of persons,” which is from Middle English. It had been used of chief officers of banks from 1781, of individual colonies since 1608 (originally Virginia) and heads of colleges since mid-15c. Slang shortening prez is recorded from 1883. Fem. form presidentess is attested from 1763.

johnson (n.)

“penis,” 1863, perhaps related to British slang John Thomas, which has the same meaning (1887).

trump (n.1)

“playing card of a suit ranking above others,” 1520s, alteration of triumph (n.), which also was the name of a card game.

John

masc. proper name, Middle English JonJan (mid-12c.), from Old French JanJeanJehan (Modern French Jean), from Medieval Latin Johannes, an alteration of Late Latin Joannes, from Greek Ioannes, from Hebrew Yohanan (longer form y’hohanan), said to mean literally “Jehovah has favored” or “Jah is gracious,” from hanan “he was gracious.”

Greek conformed the Hebrew ending to its own customs. The -h- in English was inserted in imitation of the Medieval Latin form. Old English had the Biblical name as Iohannes. As the name of John the Baptist and John the Evangelist, it was one of the most frequent Christian given names, and in England by early 14c. it rivaled William in popularity and was used generically (in Middle English especially of priests) and as an appellative (as in John BarleycornJohn BullJohn Q. Public). Somehow it also became the characteristic name of a Chinaman (1818).

The Latin name also is the source of French Jean, Spanish Juan, Italian Giovanni, Portuguese João, also Dutch JanHans, German Johann, Russian Ivan. Welsh form was IeuanEfan (see Evan), but Ioan was adopted for the Welsh Authorized Version of the Bible, hence frequency of Jones as a Welsh surname.

dong (n.)

“penis,” 1891, slang, of unknown origin. Perhaps suggested by dingus and other names for unnameable things; perhaps suggesting of a sound of striking (clapper of a bell?); perhaps there’s an element of donkey in it.

Hilary

masc. proper name, from Late Latin Hilarius, literally “cheerful,” from Latin hilaris “cheerful” (see hilarity). The name was more popular in France than in England. The woman’s name (Middle English Hillaria) seems to be this name merged with Eulalia, name of the patron saint of Barcelona, whose name is a Latinization of Greek eulalos “sweetly speaking.” The Hilary sessions of British High Court and universities (1577) are from St. Hilarius, Bishop of Poitiers, obit. C.E. 368, eminent Church father and opponent of the Arians, whose feast day is Jan. 13, the Octave of the Epiphany.

trumpet (n.)

late 14c., from Old French trompette “trumpet,” diminutive of trompe (see trump (n.2)).

hilarity (n.)

mid-15c., from Latin hilaritatem (nominative hilaritas) “cheerfulness, gaiety, merriment,” from hilaris “cheerful, merry,” from Greek hilaros “cheerful, merry, joyous,” related to hilaos “graceful, kindly,” hilaskomai “to propitiate, appease, reconcile,”and probably from a suffixed form of a PIE root *selh- “reconcile” (source also of Latin solari “to comfort”).

In ancient Rome, Hilaria (neuter plural of hilaris) were a class of holidays, times of pomp and rejoicing; there were public ones in honor of Cybele at the spring equinoxes as well as private ones on the day of a marriage or a son’s birth.

donkey (n.)

familiar term for an ass, 1785, also donky, donkie, originally slang or dialectal, of uncertain origin. Perhaps a diminutive from dun “dull gray-brown” (from Middle English donned, past participle of donnen “to lose color, fade, from Old English dunnian). Compare Dunning, name of a (dun) horse (mid-14c.), and see dun (adj.). The form perhaps was influenced by monkey.

Or perhaps it is from a familiar form of the proper name Duncan applied to an animal (compare dobbin). The older English word was ass (n.1). Applied to stupid, obstinate, or wrong-headed persons by 1840. In mechanics, used of small or supplementary apparatus from mid-19c. (donkey-engine, donkey-pump, etc.). Short form donk is by 1916.

obelisk (n.)

“tapering rectangular stone column with a pyramidal apex,” 1560s, from Middle French obélisque (16c.) and directly from Latin obeliscus “obelisk, small spit,” from Greek obeliskos “small spit, obelisk, leg of a compass,” diminutive of obelos “a spit, pointed pillar, needle, broach; obelisk; bar of metal used as a coin or weight,” a word of uncertain origin; according to Beekes, “clearly Pre-Greek.” In printing, “a sign resembling a small dagger” (1580s). In dictionaries it is used to mark obsolete words. Greek obelos also was “a mark used in writing; horizontal line used as a diacritic.” Related: Obeliscal; obeliskine.

Benjamin

masc. proper name, in Old Testament, Jacob’s youngest son (Genesis xxxv.18), from Hebrew Binyamin, literally “son of the south,” though interpreted in Genesis as “son of the right hand,” from ben “son of” + yamin “right hand,” also “south” (in an East-oriented culture). Compare Arabic cognate yaman “right hand, right side, south;” yamana “he was happy,” literally “he turned to the right.”

The right was regarded as auspicious (see left and dexterity). Also see Yemensouthpaw, and compare deasil “rightwise, turned toward the right,” from Gaelic deiseil “toward the south; toward the right,” from deas “right, right-hand; south.” Also compare Sanskrit dakshina “right; south,” and Welsh go-gledd “north,” literally “left.”

In reference to a favorite younger son it is from the story of Jacob’s family in Genesis. With familiar forms BenjyBenny. Slang meaning “money” (by 1999) is from the portrait of Founding Father Benjamin Franklin on U.S. $100 bill. In some old uses in herb-lore, etc., it is a folk-etymology corruption of benzoin.

horn (n.)

Old English horn “horn of an animal; projection, pinnacle,” also “wind instrument” (originally one made from animal horns), from Proto-Germanic *hurni- (source also of German Horn, Dutch horen, Old Frisian horn, Gothic haurn), from PIE root *ker- (1) “horn; head.”

Late 14c. as “one of the tips of the crescent moon.” The name was retained for a class of musical instruments that developed from the hunting horn; the French horn is the true representative of the class. Of dilemmas from 1540s; of automobile warning signals from 1901. Slang meaning “erect penis” is recorded by 1785. Jazz slang sense of “trumpet” is by 1921. Meaning “telephone” is by 1945. Figurative senses of Latin cornu included “salient point, chief argument; wing, flank; power, courage, strength.” Horn of plenty is from 1580s. To make horns at “hold up the fist with the two exterior fingers extended” as a gesture of insult is from c.1600.

Symbolic of cuckoldry since mid-15c. (the victim was fancied to grow one on his head). The image is widespread in Europe and perhaps as old as ancient Greece. The German linguist Hermann Dunger (‘Hörner Aufsetzen’ und ‘Hahnrei’“Germania” 29, 1884) ascribes it to a custom surviving into 19c., “the old practice of engrafting the spurs of a castrated cock on the root of the excised comb, which caused them to grow like horns” [James Hastings, “Encyclopedia of Religion and Ethics”] but the image could have grown as well from a general gesture of contempt or insult made to wronged husbands, “who have been the subject of popular jest in all ages” [Hastings].

hermaphrodite (n.)

late 14c. (harmofroditus), from Latin hermaphroditus, from Greek hermaphroditos “person partaking of the attributes of both sexes,” as a proper name, the son of Hermes and Aphrodite, who, in Ovid, was loved by the nymph Salmacis so ardently that she prayed for complete union with him and as a result they were united bodily, combining male and female characteristics.

Also used figuratively in Middle English of “one who improperly occupies two offices.” As a name for the condition, Middle English had hermofrodito (late 14c.), hermofrodisia (early 15c.). As an adjective, from c. 1600. Also used of things of two natures, such as hermaphrodite brig, for a vessel square-masted fore and schooner-rigged aft.

jurisdiction (n.)

early 14c., jurisdicciounjurediction, etc., “administration of justice,” from Old French juridicion (13c., Modern French juridiction) and directly from Latin iurisdictionem (nominative iurisdictio) “administration of justice, jurisdiction,” from phrase iuris dictio, genitive of ius “law, right” (see jurist) + dictio “a saying” (from PIE root *deik- “to show,” also “pronounce solemnly”).

Meaning “extent or range of administrative power, domain over which a legal or judicial authority extends” is from late 14c. Meaning “judicial authority, right of making and enforcing laws” is from early 15c. The form in English assimilated to Latin 16c. Related: Jurisdictional.

hermetic (adj.)

1630s “dealing with occult science or alchemy,” from Latin hermeticus, from Greek Hermes, god of science and art (among other things), who was identified by Neoplatonists, mystics, and alchemists with the Egyptian god Thoth as Hermes Trismegistos “Thrice-Great Hermes,” who supposedly invented the process of making a glass tube airtight (a process in alchemy) using a secret seal. Hence, “completely sealed” (c. 1600, implied in hermetically).

Judy

pet form of Judith. Figurative uses often are from the Punch and Judy puppet show.

April

fourth month, c. 1300, aueril, from Old French avril (11c.), from Latin (mensis) Aprilis, second month of the ancient Roman calendar, from a stem of uncertain origin and meaning, with month-name suffix -ilis as in QuintilisSextilis (the old names of July and August).

Perhaps based on Apru, an Etruscan borrowing of Greek Aphrodite. Or perhaps *ap(e)rilis “the following, the next,” from its place as the second month of the old Roman calendar, from Proto-Italic *ap(e)ro-, from PIE *apo- “away, off” (see apo-; compare Sanskrit aparah “second,” Gothic afar “after”). Old folk etymology connected it with Latin aperire “to open.”

In English in Latin form from mid-12c.; it replaced Old English Eastermonað, which was named for a fertility goddess (see Easter). Re-spelled in Middle English on Latin model (apprile, first attested late 14c.).

Ishtar

ancient Sumero-Babylonian goddess of love and fertility, counterpart of Phoenician Astarte (q.v.), from Akkadian Ishtar.

December (n.)

“twelfth and last (by modern reckoning) month of the calendar, the month of the winter solstice,” late Old English, from Old French decembre, from Latin December, from decem “ten” (from PIE root *dekm- “ten”); tenth month of the old Roman calendar, which began with March.

The -ber in four Latin month names is probably from -bris, an adjectival suffix. Tucker thinks that the first five months were named for their positions in the agricultural cycle, and “after the gathering in of the crops, the months were merely numbered.”

If the word contains an element related to mensis, we must assume a *decemo-membris (from *-mensris). October must then be by analogy from a false division Sep-tem-ber &c. Perhaps, however, from *de-cem(o)-mr-is, i.e. “forming the tenth part or division,” from *mer- …, while October = *octuo-mr-is. [T.G. Tucker, “Etymological Dictionary of Latin”]

Decembrist, in Russian history in reference to the insurrection against Nicholas I in December 1825, is by 1868 in English, translating Russian dekabrist, from dekabr’ “December.”

Capricorn

zodiac sign represented as a goat, or half-goat half-fish, late Old English, from Latin Capricornus, literally “horned like a goat,” from caper (genitive capri) “goat” (see cab) + cornu “horn,” from PIE root *ker- (1) “horn; head.” A loan-translation of Greek Aigokheros, the name of the constellation. Extended 1894 to persons born under the sign.

death (n.)

Old English deaþ “total cessation of life, act or fact of dying, state of being dead; cause of death,” in plural, “ghosts,” from Proto-Germanic *dauthuz (source also of Old Saxon doth, Old Frisian dath, Dutch dood, Old High German tod, German Tod, Old Norse dauði, Danish død, Swedish död, Gothic dauus “death”), from verbal stem *dau-, which is perhaps from PIE root *dheu- (3) “to die” (see die (v.)). With Proto-Germanic *-thuz suffix indicating “act, process, condition.”

I would not that death should take me asleep. I would not have him meerly seise me, and onely declare me to be dead, but win me, and overcome me. When I must shipwrack, I would do it in a sea, where mine impotencie might have some excuse; not in a sullen weedy lake, where I could not have so much as exercise for my swimming. [John Donne, letter to Sir Henry Goodere, Sept. 1608]

Of inanimate things, “cessation, end,” late 14c. From late 12c. as “death personified, a skeleton as the figure of mortality.” As “a plague, a great mortality,” late 14c. (in reference to the first outbreak of bubonic plague; compare Black Death). Death’s-head, a symbol of mortality, is from 1590s. Death’s door “the near approach of death” is from 1540s.

As a verbal intensifier “to death, mortally” (as in hate (something) to death) 1610s; earlier to dead (early 14c.). Slang be death on “be very good at” is from 1839. To be the death of “be the cause or occasion of death” is in Shakespeare (1596). Expression afate worse than death is from 1810 though the idea is ancient.

Death row “part of a prison exclusively for those condemned to capital execution” is by 1912. Death knell is attested from 1814; death penalty “capital punishment” is from 1844; death rate from 1859. Death-throes “struggle which in some cases accompanies death” is from c. 1300.

cap (n.)

late Old English cæppe “hood, head-covering, cape,” a general Germanic borrowing (compare Old Frisian and Middle Dutch kappe, Old High German chappa) from Late Latin cappa “a cape, hooded cloak” (source of Spanish capa, Old North French cape, French chape), a word of uncertain origin. Possibly a shortened from capitulare “headdress,” from Latin caput “head” (from PIE root *kaput- “head”).

The Late Latin word apparently originally meant “a woman’s head-covering,” but the sense was transferred to “hood of a cloak,” then to “cloak” itself, though the various senses co-existed. Old English took in two forms of the Late Latin word, one meaning “head-covering,” the other “ecclesiastical dress” (see cape (n.1)). In most Romance languages, a diminutive of Late Latin cappa has become the usual word for “head-covering” (such as French chapeau).

Meaning “soft, small, close-fitted head covering” in English is from early 13c., originally for women; extended to men late 14c. Extended to cap-like coverings on the ends of anything (such as hubcap) from mid-15c. Meaning “contraceptive device” is first recorded 1916.

Meaning “cap-shaped piece of copper lined with gunpowder and used to ignite a firearm” is by 1825, hence cap-gun (1855); extended to paper version used in toy pistols, 1872 (cap-pistol is from 1879).

Figurative thinking cap is from 1839 (considering cap is 1650s). Cap and bells (1781) was the insignia of a fool; cap and gown (1732) of a scholar. To set one’s cap at or for (1773) means “use measures to gain the regard or affection of,” usually in reference to a woman seeking a man’s courtship.

ember (n.)

“small, live coal,” Old English æmerge “ember,” merged with or influenced by Old Norse eimyrja, both from Proto-Germanic *aim-uzjon- “ashes” (source also of Middle Low German emere, Old High German eimuria, German Ammern); a compound from *aima- “ashes” (from PIE root *ai- (2) “to burn;” see edifice) + *uzjo- “to burn” (from PIE root *heus- “to burn;” source also of Sanskrit osati “to burn, scorch,” usna- “hot;” Greek euo “to singe;” Latin urere “to burn, singe;” Old Norse usli, Old English ysle “hot ashes,” Old Norse ysja “fire”). The -b- is unetymological.

cape (n.1)

“sleeveless cloak, circular covering for the shoulders,” a Spanish style, late 16c., from French cape, from Spanish capa, from Late Latin cappa “hooded cloak” (see cap (n.), which is a doublet). Late Old English had capacæppe “cloak with a hood,” directly from Late Latin.

member (n.)

c. 1300, “body part or organ, an integral part of an animal body having a distinct function” (in plural, “the body”), from Old French membre “part, portion; topic, subject; limb, member of the body; member” (of a group, etc.),” 11c., from Latin membrum “limb, member of the body, part,” probably from PIE *mems-ro, from root *mems- “flesh, meat” (source also of Sanskrit mamsam “flesh;” Greek meninx “membrane,” mēros “thigh” (the “fleshy part”); Gothic mimz “flesh”).

In common use, “one of the limbs or extremities.” Especially “the sex organ” (c. 1300, compare Latin membrum virile, but in English originally of women as well as men). Figurative sense of “anything likened to a part of the body” is by 14c., hence “a component part of any aggregate or whole, constituent part of a complex structure, one of a number of associated parts or entities.”

The transferred sense of “person belonging to a group” is attested from mid-14c., from notion of “person considered in relation to an aggregate of individuals to which he or she belongs,” especially one who has united with or been formally chosen as a corporate part of an association or public body. This meaning was reinforced by, if not directly from, the use of member in Christian theology and discourse from mid-14c. for “a Christian” (a “member” of the Church as the “Body of Christ”). Meaning “one who has been elected to parliament” is from early 15c.

circumcision (n.)

“the act of cutting off the foreskin,” late 12c., from Latin circumcisionem (nominative circumcisio), noun of action from past participle stem of circumcidere “to cut around; cut, clip, trim, prune off,” from circum “around” (see circum-) + caedere “to cut” (from PIE root *kae-id- “to strike.”).

angel (n.)

“one of a class of spiritual beings, attendants and messengers of God,” a c. 1300 fusion of Old English engel (with hard -g-) and Old French angele. Both are from Late Latin angelus, from Greek angelos, literally “messenger, envoy, one that announces,” in the New Testament “divine messenger,” which is possibly related to angaros “mounted courier,” both from an unknown Oriental word (Watkins compares Sanskrit ajira- “swift;” Klein suggests Semitic sources). Used in Scriptural translations for Hebrew mal’akh (yehowah) “messenger (of Jehovah),” from base l-‘-k “to send.” An Old English word for it was aerendgast, literally “errand-spirit.”

Of persons, “one who is loving, gracious, or lovely,” by 1590s. The medieval English gold coin (a new issue of the noble, first struck 1465 by Edward VI) was so called for the image of archangel Michael slaying the dragon, which was stamped on it. It was the coin given to patients who had been “touched” for the King’s Evil. Angel food cake is from 1881; angel dust “phencyclidine” is from 1968.

come (v.)

elementary intransitive verb of motion, Old English cuman “to move with the purpose of reaching, or so as to reach, some point; to arrive by movement or progression;” also “move into view, appear, become perceptible; come to oneself, recover; arrive; assemble” (class IV strong verb; past tense cuomcom, past participle cumen), from Proto-Germanic *kwem- (source also of Old Saxon cuman, Old Frisian kuma, Middle Dutch comen, Dutch komen, Old High German queman, German kommen, Old Norse koma, Gothic qiman), from PIE root *gwa- “to go, come.”

The substitution of Middle English -o- for Old English -u- before -m--n-, or -r- was a scribal habit before minims to avoid misreading the letters in the old style handwriting, which jammed them together. The practice similarly transformed somemonktongueworm. Modern past tense form came is Middle English, probably from Old Norse kvam, replacing Old English cuom.

Meaning “to happen, occur” is from early 12c. (come to pass “happen, occur” is from 1520s). As an invitation to action, c. 1300; as a call or appeal to a person (often in expanded forms: “come, come,” “come, now”), mid-14c. Come again? as an off-hand way of asking “what did you say?” is attested by 1884. For sexual senses, see cum.

Remarkably productive with prepositions (NTC’s “Dictionary of Phrasal Verbs” lists 198 combinations); consider the varied senses in come to “regain consciousness,” come over “possess” (as an emotion), come at “attack,” come on (interj.) “be serious,” and come off “occur, have some level of success” (1864). Among other common examples:

To come down with “become ill with” (a disease), 1895; come in, of a radio operator, “begin speaking,” 1958; come on “advance in growth or development,” c. 1600; come out, of a young woman, “make a formal entry into society,” 1782;  come round “return to a normal state or better condition,” 1841; come through “act as desired or expected,” 1914; come up “arise as a subject of attention,” 1844; come up with “produce, present,” 1934. To have it coming “deserve what one suffers” is from 1904. To come right down to it “get to fundamental facts” is from 1875.

angle (n.)

“space or difference in direction between intersecting lines,” late 14c., from Old French angle “an angle, a corner” (12c.) and directly from Latin angulus “an angle, a corner,” a diminutive form from PIE root *ang-/*ank- “to bend” (source also of Greek ankylos “bent, crooked,” Latin ang(u)ere “to compress in a bend, fold, strangle;” Old Church Slavonic aglu “corner;” Lithuanian anka “loop;” Sanskrit ankah “hook, bent,” angam “limb;” Old English ancleo “ankle;” Old High German ango “hook”).

Figurative sense “point or direction from which one approaches something” is from 1872. Angle-bracket is 1781 in carpentry; 1956 in typography.

angle (v.1)

“to fish with a hook,” mid-15c., from Old English angel (n.) “angle, hook, fish-hook,” related to anga “hook,” from Proto-Germanic *angul-, from PIE *ankulo-, suffixed form of root *ang-/*ank- “to bend” (see angle (n.)). Compare Old English angul, Old Norse öngull, Old High German angul, German Angel “fishhook.” Figurative sense “catch or elicit by artful wiles” is recorded from 1580s. Related: Angledangling.

ankle (n.)

14c. ancleankle, from Old English ancleow “ankle,” ultimately from PIE root *ang-/*ank- “to bend” (see angle (n.)). The Middle English and modern form of the word seems to be from or influenced by Old Norse ökkla or Old Frisian ankel, which are immediately from the Proto-Germanic form of the root, *ankjōn-(source also of Middle High German anke “joint,” German Enke “ankle”).

The second element in the Old English, Old Norse and Old Frisian forms perhaps is a folk-etymology suggestion of claw (compare Dutch anklaauw), or it may be from influence of cneow “knee,” or it may be the diminutive suffix -el. Middle English writers distinguished inner ankle projection (hel of the ancle) from the outer (utter or utward ancle), and the word sometimes was applied to the wrist (ankle of þe hand).

ankh (n.)

tau cross with an oval loop at the top, Egyptian symbol of life, 1873, from Egyptian ankh, literally “life, soul.” Also known as crux ansata.

Anglo (n.)

“American, English-speaking white person,” 1941, southwestern U.S., from Anglo-AmericanAnglo was used similarly of native, English-speakers in Canada from 1800 and Britain from 1964.

bank (n.1)

“financial institution,” late 15c., originally “money-dealer’s counter or shop,” from either Old Italian banca or Middle French banque (itself from the Italian word), both meaning “table,” from a Germanic source (such as Old High German bank “bench, moneylender’s table”), from Proto-Germanic *bankiz- “shelf,” *bankon- (see bank (n.2)). The etymonlogical notion is of the moneylender’s exchange table.

As “institution for receiving and lending money” from 1620s. In games of chance, “the sum of money held by the proprietor or one who plays against the rest,” by 1720. Bank holiday is from 1871, though the tradition is as old as the Bank of England. To cry all the way to the bank was coined 1956 by U.S. pianist Liberace, after a Madison Square Garden concert that was panned by critics but packed with patrons.

gospel (n.)

Old English godspel “glad tidings announced by Jesus; one of the four gospels,” literally “good spell,” from god “good” (see good (adj.)) + spel “story, message” (see spell (n.1)). A translation of Latin bona adnuntiatio, itself a translation of Greek euangelion “reward for bringing good news” (see evangel). The first element of the Old English word originally had a long “o,” but it shifted under mistaken association with God, as if “God-story” (i.e. the history of Christ).

The mistake was very natural, as the resulting sense was much more obviously appropriate than that of ‘good tidings’ for a word which was chiefly known as the name of a sacred book or of a portion of the liturgy. [OED]

The word passed early from English to continental Germanic languages in forms that clearly indicate the first element had shifted to “God,” such as Old Saxon godspell, Old High German gotspell, Old Norse goðspiall. Used of anything as true as the Gospel from mid-13c.; as “any doctrine maintained as of exclusive importance” from 1650s. As an adjective from 1640s. Gospel music is by 1955. Gospel-gossip was Addison’s word (“Spectator,” 1711) for “one who is always talking of sermons, texts, etc.”

bank (n.2)

“natural earthen incline bordering a body of water,” c. 1200, from a Scandinavian source such as Old Norse *banki, Old Danish banke “sandbank,” from Proto-Germanic *bankon “slope,” cognate with *bankiz “shelf” (see bench (n.)). As “rising ground in a sea or rover, shoal,” from c. 1600. As “bench for rowers in an ancient galley,” 1590s.

There probably was an Old English cognate but it is not attested in surviving documents. The nasalized form likely is a variant of Old Norse bakki “(river) bank, ridge, mound; cloud bank,” cognate with Swedish backe, Danish bakke “hill, rising ground.”

current (adj.)

c. 1300, curraunt, “running, flowing, moving along” (a sense now archaic), from Old French corant “running, lively, eager, swift,” present participle of corre “to run,” from Latin currere “to run, move quickly” (of persons or things), from PIE root *kers- “to run.” Related: Currentness.

Sense of “presently in effect” is from mid-15c. Meaning “prevalent, generally reported or known” is from 1560s; that of “established by common consent” is from 1590s; that of “now passing, present now, in progress” is from c. 1600. Of money, “passing from one person to another,” late 15c. Current events is attested from 1795; current affairs by 1776.

liquid (adj.)

late 14c., “flowing, capable of flowing; neither solid nor gaseous,” from Old French liquide “liquid, running” (13c.), from Latin liquidus “fluid, liquid, moist,” figuratively “flowing, continuing,” also of sounds and voices, from liquere “be fluid,” related to liqui “to melt, flow,” from PIE *wleik- “to flow, run.”

In English, of sounds from 1630s. Financial sense of “capable of being converted to cash” is first recorded 1818, from earlier use in Scots Law (17c.) in reference to debts that had been proved (in court, etc.).

currency (n.)

1650s, “condition of flowing,” a sense now rare or obsolete, from Latin currens, present participle of currere “to run” (from PIE root *kers- “to run”). The notion of “state or fact of flowing from person to person” led to the senses “continuity in public knowledge” (1722) and “that which is current as a medium of exchange, money” (1729).

asset (n.)

a 19c. artificial singular of assets (q.v.).

liquor (n.)

c. 1200, likur “any matter in a liquid state, a liquid or fluid substance,” from Old French licor “fluid, liquid; sap; oil” (12c., Modern French liqueur), from Latin liquorem (nominative liquor) “a liquid, liquor; wine; the sea,” originally “liquidity, fluidity,” from liquere “be fluid, liquid” (see liquid (adj.)).

Narrowed sense of “fermented or distilled drink” (especially wine) first recorded c. 1300; the broader sense seems to have been obsolete from c. 1700. As long as liquor is in him was a Middle English expression, “as long as he is alive,” that is, “as long as he has a drop of blood left.” The form in Modern English has been assimilated to Latin, but the old pronunciation persists.

ass (n.1)

solid ungulate quadruped beast of burden of the horse kind, but smaller and with long ears and a short mane, native to southwest Asia, Old English assa (Old Northumbrian assalassald) “he-ass.” The English word is cognate with Old Saxon esil, Dutch ezel, Old High German esil, German Esel, Gothic asilus, and, beyond Germanic, Lithuanian asilas, Old Church Slavonic osl, Russian oselŭ, etc. All probably are ultimately from Latin asinus. De Vaan says the form of asinus suggests it was a loan-word into Latin, and adds, “Most IE words for ‘ass’ are loanwords.”

Together with Greek onos it is conjectured to be from a language of Asia Minor (compare Sumerian ansu). The initial vowel of the English word might be by influence of Celtic forms (Irish and Gaelic asal), from Old Celtic *as(s)in “donkey.” In Romanic tongues the Latin word has become Italian asino, Spanish asno, Old French asne, French âne.

In familiar use, the name ass is now to a great extent superseded by donkey (in Scotland cuddie); but ass is always used in the language of Scripture, Natural History, proverb, and fable; also, in ordinary use, in Ireland. [OED]

Sure-footed and patient in domestication, since ancient Greek times, in fables and parables, the animal has typified clumsiness and stupidity (hence ass-head, late 15c., etc.). To make an ass of oneself is from “A Midsummer Night’s Dream” (1590). Asses’ Bridge (c. 1780), from Latin Pons Asinorum, is fifth proposition of first book of Euclid’s “Elements.” In Middle English, someone uncomprehending or unappreciative would be lik an asse that listeth on a harpe. In 15c., an ass man was a donkey-driver.

For al schal deie and al schal passe, Als wel a Leoun as an asse. [John Gower, “Confessio Amantis,” 1393]

elixir (n.)

mid-13c., from Medieval Latin elixir “philosopher’s stone,” believed by alchemists to transmute baser metals into gold and/or to cure diseases and prolong life, from Arabic al-iksir “the philosopher’s stone,” probably from late Greek xerion “powder for drying wounds,” from xeros “dry” (see xerasia). Later in medical use for “a tincture with more than one base.” General sense of “strong tonic” is 1590s; used for quack medicines from at least 1630s.

Set

Egyptian god, from Greek Seth, from Egyptian Setesh.

set (n.1)

“collection of things,” mid-15c., from Old French sette “sequence,” variant of secte “religious community,” from Medieval Latin secta “retinue,” from Latin secta “a following” (see sect). “[I]n subsequent developments of meaning influenced by SET v.1 and apprehended as equivalent to ‘number set together'” [OED]. The noun set was in Middle English, but only in the sense of “religious sect” (late 14c.), which likely is the direct source of some modern meanings, such as “group of persons with shared status, habits, etc.” (1680s).

Meaning “complete collection of pieces” is from 1680s. Meaning “group of pieces musicians perform at a club during 45 minutes” (more or less) is from c. 1925, though it is found in a similar sense in 1580s. Set piece is from 1846 as “grouping of people in a work of visual art;” from 1932 in reference to literary works.

set (v.)

Old English settan (transitive) “cause to sit, put in some place, fix firmly; build, found; appoint, assign,” from Proto-Germanic *(bi)satejanan “to cause to sit, set” (source also of Old Norse setja, Swedish sätta, Old Saxon settian, Old Frisian setta, Dutch zetten, German setzen, Gothic satjan), causative form of PIE *sod-, a variant of root *sed- (1) “to sit.” Also see set (n.2).

The intransitive sense from c. 1200, “be seated.” The word was used in many disparate senses by Middle English; sense of “make or cause to do, act, or be; start” and that of “mount a gemstone” attested by mid-13c. Confused with sit since early 14c. Of the sun, moon, etc., “to go down,” recorded from c. 1300, perhaps from similar use of the cognates in Scandinavian languages. To set (something) on “incite to attack” (c. 1300) originally was in reference to hounds and game.

cunning (adj.)

early 14c., conning, “learned, skillful, possessing knowledge,” present participle of connencunnen “to know,” from Old English cunnan (see can (v.1)), from PIE root *gno- “to know.” Also compare cun (v.). Sense of “skillfully deceitful, characterized by crafty ingenuity” is probably by late 14c. Related: Cunningly.

Satan (n.)

proper name of the supreme evil spirit in Christianity, Old English Satan, from Late Latin Satan (in Vulgate in Old Testament only), from Greek Satanas, from Hebrew satan “adversary, one who plots against another,” from satan “to show enmity to, oppose, plot against,” from root s-t-n “one who opposes, obstructs, or acts as an adversary.”

In Septuagint (Greek) usually translated as diabolos “slanderer,” literally “one who throws (something) across” the path of another (see devil (n.)), though epiboulos “plotter” is used once.

In biblical sources the Hebrew term the satan describes an adversarial role. It is not the name of a particular character. Although Hebrew storytellers as early as the sixth century B.C.E. occasionally introduced a supernatural character whom they called the satan, what they meant was any one of the angels sent by God for the specific purpose of blocking or obstructing human activity. [Elaine Pagels, “The Origin of Satan,” 1995]

linguist (n.)

1580s, “a master of languages;” also “one who uses his tongue freely,” a hybrid from Latin lingua “language, tongue” (from PIE root *dnghu- “tongue”) + -ist. Meaning “a student of language” first attested 1640s. Compare French linguiste, Spanish linguista. English in 17c. had an adjective linguacious “talkative” (1650s). Linguister (1640s) was the old name in early colonial New England for an interpreter between Europeans and Indians (Lowell used it in a sense “dabbler in philology, linguist”). Linguistician is attested from 1895.

say (v.)

Old English secgan “to utter, inform, speak, tell, relate,” from Proto-Germanic *sagjanan (source also of Old Saxon seggian, Old Norse segja, Danish sige, Old Frisian sedsa, Middle Dutch segghen, Dutch zeggen, Old High German sagen, German sagen “to say”), from PIE *sokwyo-, from root *sekw- (3) “to say, utter” (source also of Hittite shakiya- “to declare,” Lithuanian sakyti “to say,” Old Church Slavonic sociti “to vindicate, show,” Old Irish insce “speech,” Old Latin inseque “to tell say”).

Past tense said developed from Old English segde. Not attested in use with inanimate objects (clocks, signs, etc.) as subjects before 1930. You said it “you’re right” first recorded 1919; you can say that again as a phrase expressing agreement is recorded from 1942, American English. You don’t say (so) as an expression of astonishment (often ironic) is first recorded 1779, American English.

cunnilingus (n.)

1884 (by 1845 in German, 1824 in medical Latin), from Latin cunnus “vulva, female pudenda” (also, vulgarly, “a woman”) + lingere “to lick” (from PIE root *leigh- “to lick”). Latin cunnus is of disputed origin, perhaps literally “gash, slit,” from PIE *sker- (1) “to cut,” or [Watkins] literally “sheath,” from PIE *kut-no-, from root *(s)keu- “to cover, conceal.”

The Latin properly would mean “one who licks a vulva,” but it is used in English in reference to the action. The verb ought to be *cunnilingue. As an agent-noun, Fletcher has lick-twat (1656). Gordon Williams [“A Dictionary of Sexual Language and Imagery in Shakespearean and Stuart Literature,” 1994] writes that Nicolas Chorier’s 17c. “Satyra Sotadica” “relates how Gonsalvo of Cordova, as an old man, would lick his mistress’s middle parts, which he called, with a geographical pun, going to Liguria” (from Latin ligurio “to lick”).

Cunnilingus was a very familiar manifestation in classical times; … it tends to be especially prevalent at all periods of high civilization. [Havelock Ellis, “Studies in the Psychology of Sex,” 1905]

Dutch slang has a useful noun, de befborstel, to refer to the mustache specifically as a tool for stimulating the clitoris; probably from beffen “to stimulate the clitoris with the tongue.”

ten (adj., n.)

“1 more than nine, twice five; the number which is one more than nine; a symbol representing this number;” Old English ten (Mercian), tien (West Saxon), adjective and noun, from Proto-Germanic *tehun (source also of Old Saxon tehan, Old Norse tiu, Danish ti, Old Frisian tian, Old Dutch ten, Dutch tien, Old High German zehan, German zehn, Gothic taihun “ten”), from PIE root *dekm- “ten.”

Meaning “ten o’clock” is from 1712. Tenner “ten-pound note” is slang first recorded 1861; as “ten-dollar bill,” 1887 (ten-spot in this sense dates from 1848). The Texan’s exaggerated ten-gallon hat is from 1919. The ten-foot pole that you wouldn’t touch something with (1909) was originally a 40-foot pole; the notion is of keeping one’s distance, as in the advice to use a long spoon when you dine with the devil. Ten-four “I understand, message received,” is attested in popular jargon from 1962, from citizens band and emergency dispatch radio 10-code (in use in U.S. by 1950).

cunt (n.)

“female intercrural foramen,” or, as some 18c. writers refer to it, “the monosyllable,” Middle English cunte “female genitalia,” by early 14c. (in Hendyng’s “Proverbs” — ʒeve þi cunte to cunni[n]g, And crave affetir wedding), akin to Old Norse kunta, Old Frisian, Middle Dutch, and Middle Low German kunte, from Proto-Germanic *kunton, which is of uncertain origin. Some suggest a link with Latin cuneus “wedge” (which is of unknown origin), others to PIE root *geu- “hollow place,” still others to PIE root *gwen- “woman.”

The form is similar to Latin cunnus “female pudenda” (also, vulgarly, “a woman”), which is likewise of disputed origin, perhaps literally “gash, slit” (from PIE *sker- “to cut”) or “sheath” (Watkins, from PIE *(s)keu- “to conceal, hide”). De Vaan rejects this, however, and traces it to “a root *kut-meaning ‘bag’, ‘scrotum’, and metaphorically also ‘female pudenda,’ ” source also of Greek kysthos “vagina; buttocks; pouch, small bag” (but Beekes suspects this is a Pre-Greek word), Lithuanian kutys “(money) bag,” Old High German hodo “testicles.”

Hec vulva: a cunt. Hic cunnus: idem est. [from Londesborough Illustrated Nominale, c. 1500, in “Anglo-Saxon and Old English Vocabularies,” eds. Wright and Wülcker, vol. 1, 1884]

First known reference in English apparently is in a compound, Oxford street name Gropecuntlane cited from c. 1230 (and attested through late 14c.) in “Place-Names of Oxfordshire” (Gelling & Stenton, 1953), presumably a haunt of prostitutes. Used in medical writing c. 1400, but avoided in public speech since 15c.; considered obscene since 17c.

in Middle English also contecounte, and sometimes queintequeynte (for this, see Q). Chaucer used quaint and queynte in “Canterbury Tales” (late 14c.), and Andrew Marvell might be punning on quaint in “To His Coy Mistress” (1650).

“What eyleth yow to grucche thus and grone? Is it for ye wolde haue my queynte allone?” [Wife of Bath’s Tale]

Under “MONOSYLLABLE” Farmer lists 552 synonyms from English slang and literature before launching into another 5 pages of them in French, German, Italian, Spanish, and Portuguese. [A sampling: Botany Bay, chum, coffee-shop, cookie, End of the Sentimental Journey, fancy bit, Fumbler’s Hall, funniment, goatmilker, heaven, hell, Itching Jenny, jelly-bag, Low Countries, nature’s tufted treasure, penwiper, prick-skinner, seminary, tickle-toby, undeniable, wonderful lamp, and aphrodisaical tennis court, and, in a separate listing, Naggie. Dutch cognate de kont means “a bottom, an arse,” but Dutch also has attractive poetic slang ways of expressing this part, such as liefdesgrot, literally “cave of love,” and vleesroos “rose of flesh.”

Alternative form cunny is attested from c. 1720 but is certainly much earlier and forced a change in the pronunciation of coney (q.v.), but it was good for a pun while coney was still the common word for “rabbit”: “A pox upon your Christian cockatrices! They cry, like poulterers’ wives, ‘No money, no coney.’ ” [Philip Massinger: “The Virgin-Martyr,” Act I, Scene 1, 1622]

count (v.)

late 14c., “to enumerate, assign numerals to successively and in order; repeat the numerals in order,” also “to reckon among, include,” from Old French conter “to count, add up,” also “tell a story,” from Latin computare “to count, sum up, reckon together,” from com “with, together” (see com-) + putare “to reckon,” originally “to prune,” from PIE root *pau- (2) “to cut, strike, stamp.”

Intransitive sense “be of value or worth” is from 1857. Related: Countedcounting. Modern French differentiates compter “to count” and conter “to tell,” but they are cognates. To count on “rely or depend upon” is from 1640s. To count against (transitive) “to be to the disadvantage of” is by 1888. To count (someone) in “consider (someone) a participant or supporter” is from 1857; count (someone) out in the opposite sense “leave out of consideration” is from 1854.

lick (v.1)

Old English liccian “to pass the tongue over the surface, lap, lick up,” from Proto-Germanic *likkon (source also of Old Saxon likkon, Dutch likken, Old High German lecchon, German lecken, Gothic bi-laigon), from PIE root *leigh- “to lick.”

French lécher, Italian leccare are said to be Germanic loan words. The figurative lick (one’s) lips in eager anticipation is from c. 1500. Lick-ladle (1849) was an old phrase for a (human) parasite. To lick (someone or something) into shape (1610s) is in reference to the supposed ways of bears:

Beres ben brought forthe al fowle and transformyd and after that by lyckyng of the fader and the moder they ben brought in to theyr kyndely shap. [“The Pylgremage of the Sowle,” 1413]

Essex

Old English East-Seaxe “East Saxons,” who had a 7c. kingdom there. See eastSaxon.

lingo (n.)

“foreign speech,” 1650s, probably a corruption of Latin lingua “speech, language; tongue” (from PIE root *dnghu- “tongue”), perhaps immediately as a shortening of lingua franca (q.v.), or from Provençal lingo “language, tongue,” from Old Provençal lenga, from Latin lingua.

Jerusalem

holy city in ancient Judea, from Greek Hierousalem, from Hebrew Yerushalayim, literally “foundation of peace,” from base of yarah “he threw, cast” + shalom “peace.” Jerusalem “artichoke” is folk etymology of Italian girasole “sunflower” (see girasole).

link (n.)

early 15c., “one of a series of rings or loops which form a chain; section of a cord,” probably from Old Norse *hlenkr or a similar Scandinavian source (compare Old Norse hlekkr “link,” in plural, “chain;” Old Swedish lænker “chain, link,” Norwegian lenke “a link,” Danish lænke “a chain,” German Gelenk “articulation, a joint of the body; a link, ring”), from Proto-Germanic *khlink- (source also of German lenken “to bend, turn, lead”), from PIE root *kleng- “to bend, turn.” Related to lankflankflinch.

The noun is not found in Old English, where it is represented by lank “the hip” (“turn of the body”), hlencan (plural) “armor.” Meaning “a division of a sausage made in a continuous chain” is from mid-15c. Meaning “anything serving to connect one thing or part with another” is from 1540s. Sense of “means of telecommunication between two points” is from 1911. Missing link between man and apes dates to 1880.

Salem

place mentioned in Genesis xiv.18, from Hebrew Shalem, usually said to be another word for Jerusalem and to mean “peace” (compare Hebrew shalom, Arabic salaam). Common as a Baptist and Methodist meetinghouse name, so much so that by mid-19c. it (along with Bethel and Ebenezer) had come to be used in Britain generically to mean “non-conformist chapel.”

Lucifer

Old English Lucifer “Satan,” also “morning star, Venus in the morning sky before sunrise,” also an epithet or name of Diana, from Latin Lucifer “morning star,” noun use of adjective, literally “light-bringing,” from lux (genitive lucis) “light” (from PIE root *leuk- “light, brightness”) + ferre “to carry, bear,” from PIE root *bher- (1) “to carry,” also “to bear children.” Venus in the evening sky was Hesperus.

Belief that it was the proper name of Satan began with its use in Bible to translate Greek Phosphoros, which translates Hebrew Helel ben Shahar in Isaiah xiv.12 — “How art thou fallen from heaven, O Lucifer, son of the morning!” [KJV] Because of the mention of a fall from Heaven, the verse was interpreted spiritually by Christians as a reference to Satan, even though it is literally a reference to the King of Babylon (see Isaiah xiv.4). Sometimes rendered daystar in later translations.

As “friction match,” 1831, short for Lucifer match (1831). Among the 16c. adjectival forms were LuciferianLuciferineLuciferous. There was a noted Bishop Lucifer of Cagliari in Sardinia in the 4th century, a strict anti-Arian regarded locally as a saint.

Santa (n.)

1893 as a shortened form of Santa Claus.

Christopher

masc. proper name, Church Latin Christophoros, from Ecclesiastical Greek khristophoros, literally “Christ-bearing;” from phoros “bearer,” from pherein “to carry,” from PIE root *bher- (1) “to carry,” also “to bear children.” In medieval legend he was a giant (one of the rare virtuous ones) who aided travellers by carrying them across a river. Medallions with his image (called Christophers) worn by travelers are known from the Middle Ages (Chaucer’s Yeoman had one). Not a common name in medieval England.

saliva (n.)

early 15c., from Middle French salive, from Latin saliva “spittle,” of unknown origin (perhaps, as Tucker suggests, somehow derived from the base of sallow (adj.)).

phosphorus (n.)

1640s, “substance or organism that shines of itself,” from Latin phosphorus “light-bringing,” also “the morning star” (a sense attested in English from 1620), from Greek Phosphoros “morning star,” literally “torchbearer,” from phos “light,” contraction of phaos “light, daylight” (related to phainein “to show, to bring to light,” from PIE root *bha- (1) “to shine”) + phoros “bearer,” from pherein “to carry” (from PIE root *bher- (1) “to carry,” also “to bear children”).

As the name of a solid, non-metallic, combustible chemical element, it is recorded from 1680, originally one among several substances so called; the word used exclusively of the element from c. 1750. It was discovered in 1669 by Henning Brand, merchant and alchemist of Hamburg, who derived it from urine. Lavoisier demonstrated it was an element in 1777. According to Flood, “It is the first element whose discoverer is known.”

salvation (n.)

c. 1200, originally in the Christian sense, “the saving of the soul,” from Old French salvaciun and directly from Late Latin salvationem (nominative salvatio, a Church Latin translation of Greek soteria), noun of action from past-participle stem of salvare “to save” (see save (v.)). In general (non-religious) sense, attested from late 14c. Meaning “source of salvation” is from late 14c. Salvation Army is from 1878, founded by the Rev. William Booth.

photon (n.)

“unit of electromagnetic radiation,” 1926, from photo- “light” + -on “unit.” Related: Photonic.

salve (n.)

Old English sealf “healing ointment,” from West Germanic *salbo- “oily substance” (source also of Old Saxon salba, Middle Dutch salve, Dutch zalf, Old High German salba, German salbe “ointment”), from PIE *solpa-, from root *selp- “fat, butter” (source also of Greek elpos “fat, oil,” Sanskrit sarpis “melted butter”). The figurative sense of “something to soothe wounded pride, etc.” is from 1736.

phaeton (n.)

type of light, high, open four-wheeled carriage, with seats for four or two, made in many varieties, 1742, from French (1735), from Greek Phaethō+n name of the son of Helios and Clymene, who obtained leave to drive his father’s sun-chariot but being unable to control the horses was struck by Zeus with a thunderbolt and slain after nearly setting fire to the whole earth. His name is literally “shining,” from phaein “to shine, gleam,” from phaos “light” (from PIE root *bha- (1) “to shine”). Earlier as a name for a reckless driver (1590s).

psalm (n.)

Old English psealmsalm, partly from Old French psaumesaume, partly from Church Latin psalmus, from Greek psalmos “song sung to a harp,” originally “performance on stringed instrument; a plucking of the harp” (compare psaltes “harper”), from psallein “play on a stringed instrument, pull, twitch” (see feel (v.)).

Used in Septuagint for Hebrew mizmor “song,” especially the sort sung by David to the harp. Related: Psalmodizepsalmody. After some hesitation, the pedantic ps- spelling prevailed in English, as it was in many neighboring languages (German, French, etc.), but English is almost alone in not pronouncing the p-.

tetragrammaton (n.)

c. 1400, from Greek (to) tetragrammaton “(the word) of four letters,” from tetra- “four” (from PIE root *kwetwer- “four”) + gramma (genitive grammatos) “letter, something written” (see -gram). The Hebrew divine name, transliterated as YHWH, usually vocalized in English as “Jehovah” or “Yahweh.”

plasm (n.)

1610s, “mold or matrix in which anything is cast or formed to a particular shape” (a sense now obsolete); see plasma. In biology, the meaning “living matter of a cell, protoplasm” is attested by 1864.

Aton

variant of Aten.

matrix (n.)

late 14c., matrismatrice, “uterus, womb,” from Old French matrice “womb, uterus” and directly from Latin mātrix (genitive mātricis) “pregnant animal,” in Late Latin “womb,” also “source, origin,” from māter (genitive mātris) “mother” (see mother (n.1)).

The many figurative and technical senses are from the notion of “that which encloses or gives origin to” something. The general sense of “place or medium where something is developed” is recorded by 1550s; meaning “mould in which something is cast or shaped” is by 1620s; sense of “embedding or enclosing mass” is by 1640s.

The mathematical sense of “a rectangular array of quantities (usually square)” is because it is considered as a set of components into which quantities can be set. The logical sense of “array of possible combinations of truth-values” is attested by 1914. As a verb, in television broadcasting, from 1951.

chalice (n.)

“drinking-cup or bowl,” early 14c., from Anglo-French chalice, from Old French chalice, collateral form of calice (Modern French calice), from Latin calicem (nominative calix) “cup,” similar to, and perhaps cognate with, Greek kylix “cup, drinking cup, cup of a flower,” but they might both be loan-words from the same non-IE language. Ousted Old English cognate cælic, an ecclesiastical borrowing of the Latin word, and earlier Middle English caliz, from Old North French.

matter (n.)

c. 1200, materie, “the subject of a mental act or a course of thought, speech, or expression,” from Anglo-French matere, Old French matere “subject, theme, topic; substance, content; character, education” (12c., Modern French matière) and directly from Latin materia “substance from which something is made,” also “hard inner wood of a tree.” According to de Vaan and Watkins, this is from mater “origin, source, mother” (see mother (n.1)). The sense developed and expanded in Latin in philosophy by influence of Greek hylē (see hylo-) “wood, firewood,” in a general sense “material,” used by Aristotle for “matter” in the philosophical sense. 

The Latin word also is the source of Spanish, Portuguese, and Italian materia, Dutch, German, and Danish materie, vernacular Spanish madera, Portuguese madeira “wood” (compare Madeira). The Middle English word also sometimes was used specifically as “piece of wood.”

From c. 1200 as “a subject of a literary work, content of what is written, main theme;” sense of “narrative, tale, story” is from c. 1300. Meaning “physical substance generally” is from mid-14c.; that of “substance of which some specific object is or may be composed” is attested from late 14c. Meaning “piece of business, affair, activity, situation; subject of debate or controversy, question under discussion” is from late 14c. In law, “something which is to be tried or proved,” 1530s.

Matter of course “something expected” attested from 1739 (adjectival phrase matter-of-course “proceeding as a natural consequence” is by 1840). For that matter “as far as that goes, as far as that is concerned” is attested from 1670s. What is the matter “what concerns (someone), what is the cause of the difficulty” is attested from mid-15c., from matter in the sense of “circumstance or condition as affecting persons and things.” To make no matter to “be no difference to” also is mid-15c., with matter in the meaning “importance, consequence.”

Alice

fem. proper name, from Old French Aliz, from Old High German Adalhaid, literally “nobility, of noble kind” (see Adelaide). Among the top 20 most popular names for girls born in the U.S. c. 1880-1920. “Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland,” published in 1865, was written for Alice Pleasance Liddell (1852-1934).

Morpheus

late 14c., name for the god of dreams in Ovid, son of Sleep, literally “the maker of shapes,” from Greek morphē “form, shape, figure,” especially “a fine figure, a beautiful form; beauty, fashion, outward appearance,” a word of uncertain etymology. Related: MorpheanMorphō was an epithet of Aphrodite at Sparta, literally “shapely.”

palace (n.)

early 13c., palais, “official residence of an emperor, king, queen, archbishop, etc.,” from Old French palais “palace, court” and directly from Medieval Latin palacium “a palace” (source of Spanish palacio, Italian palazzo), from Latin palatium “the Palatine hill,” in plural, “a palace,” from Mons Palatinus “the Palatine Hill,” one of the seven hills of ancient Rome, where Augustus Caesar’s house stood (the original “palace”), later the site of the splendid residence built by Nero. In English, the general sense of “magnificent, stately, or splendid dwelling place” is by c. 1300.

The hill name perhaps is ultimately from palus “stake” (see pale (n.)) on the notion of “enclosure.” Another guess is that it is from Etruscan and connected with Pales, the supposed name of an Italic goddess of shepherds and cattle. De Vaan connects it with palatum “roof of the mouth; dome, vault,” and writes, “Since the ‘palate’ can be referred to as a ‘flattened’ or ‘vaulted’ part, and since hills are also often referred to as ‘flat’ or ‘vaulted’ (if their form so suggests), a derivation of Palatium from palatum is quite conceivable.”

French palais is the source of German Palast, Swedish palats and some other Germanic forms. Others, such as Old English palant, Middle High German phalanze (modern German Pfalz) are from the Medieval Latin word. 

endorphin (n.)

“chemical which occurs naturally in the brain and works like morphine,” 1975, from French endorphine. First element from endogène “endogenous, growing within” (see endo- + genus); second element from morphine.

Delphi

oracle town on the slopes of Mount Parnassus, in Phocis, from Greek delphis “dolphin” (see dolphin). Supposedly Apollo assumed this form to found his famous sanctuary at that place.

trinity (n.)

early 13c., “the Father, Son and Holy Spirit,” constituting one God in prevailing Christian doctrine, from Old French trinite “Holy Trinity” (11c.), from Late Latin trinitatem (nominative trinitas) “Trinity, triad” (Tertullian), from Latin trinus “threefold, triple,” from plural of trini “three at a time, threefold,” related to tres (neuter tria) “three” (see three).

The Latin word was widely borrowed in European languages with the spread of Christianity (Irish trionnoid, Welsh trindod, German trinität). Old English used þrines as a loan-translation of Latin trinitas. Related: Trinitarian.

oracle (n.)

late 14c., “a message from a god expressed by divine inspiration through a priest or priestess,” in answer to a human inquiry, usually respecting some future event, from Old French oracle “temple, house of prayer; oracle” (12c.) and directly from Latin oraculum, oraclum “divine announcement, oracle; place where oracles are given,” from ōrare “to pray to, plead to, beseech” (see orator), with material instrumental suffix -culo-.

In antiquity, “the agency or medium of a god,” also “the place where such divine utterances were given.” This last sense is attested in English from early 15c. Extended sense of “uncommonly wise person” is from 1590s.

trilogy (n.)

series of three related works, 1660s, from Greek trilogia “series of three related tragedies performed at Athens at the festival of Dionysus,” from tri- “three” (see three) + logos “story” (see Logos).

miracle (n.)

mid-12c., “a wondrous work of God,” from Old French miracle (11c.) “miracle, story of a miracle, miracle play,” from Latin miraculum “object of wonder” (in Church Latin, “marvelous event caused by God”), from mirari “to wonder at, marvel, be astonished,” figuratively “to regard, esteem,” from mirus “wonderful, astonishing, amazing,” earlier *smeiros, from PIE *smei- “to smile, laugh” (source also of Sanskrit smerah “smiling,” Greek meidan “to smile,” Old Church Slavonic smejo “to laugh;” see smile (v.)). The Latin word is the source of Spanish milagro, Italian miracolo

From mid-13c. as “something that excites wonder or astonishment, extraordinary or remarkable feat,” without regard to divinity or supernatural power. It replaced Old English wundortacenwundorweorc. The Greek words rendered as miracle in the English bibles were semeion “sign,” teras “wonder,” and dynamis “power,” which in the Vulgate were translated respectively as signumprodigium, and virtus.

Miracle-drug is by 1939 (in reference to sulfanilamide). Miracle-worker “a thaumaturge” is from 1560s (Middle English had mircleour, early 15c.). Miracle-play “medieval dramatic representation of the life of Christ or a saint or other sacred subjects” is by 1744 (miraclis pleynge is from c. 1400). The condiment Miracle Whip was introduced 1933 by Kraft Foods; apparently the name was first given to the patented machine that made it.

true (adj.)

Old English triewe (West Saxon), treowe (Mercian) “faithful, trustworthy, honest, steady in adhering to promises, friends, etc.,” from Proto-Germanic *treuwaz “having or characterized by good faith” (source also of Old Frisian triuwi, Dutch getrouw, Old High German gatriuwu, German treu, Old Norse tryggr, Danish tryg, Gothic triggws “faithful, trusty”), from PIE *drew-o-, a suffixed form of the root *deru- “be firm, solid, steadfast.”

Sense of “consistent with fact” first recorded c. 1200; that of “real, genuine, not counterfeit” is from late 14c.; that of “conformable to a certain standard” (as true north) is from c. 1550. Of artifacts, “accurately fitted or shaped” it is recorded from late 15c. Of aim, etc. “straight to the target, accurate,,” by 1801, probably from the notion of “sure, unerring.”

True-love (n.) is Old English treowlufuTrue-born (adj.) first attested 1590s. True-false (adj.) as a type of test question is recorded from 1923. To come true (of dreams, etc.) is from 1819.

dendrite (n.)

“natural marking found on some stones in the form of branching shrubs, trees, or mosses,” 1745, from Greek dendrites “of or pertaining to a tree,” from dendron “tree,” from PIE *der-drew-, from root *deru- “to be firm, solid, steadfast,” also forming words for “wood, tree.”

wood (n.)

Old English wudu, earlier widu “tree, trees collectively, forest, grove; the substance of which trees are made,” from Proto-Germanic *widu- (source also of Old Norse viðr, Danish and Swedish ved “tree, wood,” Old High German witu “wood”), from PIE *widhu- “tree, wood” (source also of Welsh gwydd “trees,” Gaelic fiodh- “wood, timber,” Old Irish fid “tree, wood”). Out of the woods “safe” is from 1792.

Eden (n.)

early 13c., “delightful place,” figurative use of the place described in Genesis, usually referred to Hebrew edhen “pleasure, delight,” but perhaps from Ugaritic base ‘dn and meaning “a place that is well-watered throughout” (see also Aden). Related: Edenic.

Druid (n.)

“one of the order of priests among the ancient Celts of Gaul, Britain, and Ireland,” 1560s, from French druide (16c.), from Latin druis, fem. druias (plural druidae), from Gaulish Druides, from Celtic compound *dru-wid- “strong seer,” from Old Celtic *derwos “true” (from PIE root *deru- “tree,” especially oak) + *wid- “to know” (from PIE root *weid- “to see”). Hence, literally, perhaps, “they who know the oak” (perhaps in allusion to divination from mistletoe). Anglo-Saxon, too, used identical words to mean “tree” and “truth” (treow).

The English form comes via Latin, not immediately from Celtic. Old English had dry “magician,” presumably from Old Irish drui. The Old Irish form was drui (dative and accusative druid; plural druad), yielding Modern Irish and Gaelic draoi, genitive druadh “magician, sorcerer.” Not to be confused with the United Ancient Order of Druids, a secret benefit society founded in London 1781.

Sweden

c. 1600, originally in Scottish (SwethinSwadne, etc.), from Middle Dutch Sweden, probably a dative plural of Swede (earlier in English Sweden was used of the people and until 17c. Swedeland was the English name of the country). In Old English, the country was Sweoland or Sweorice (compare Old Norse sviariki, source of Swedish Sverige). Ultimately named for the original inhabitants (see Swede).

Hollywood (n.)

region near Los Angeles, named for the ranch that once stood there, which was named by Deida Wilcox, wife of Horace H. Wilcox, Kansas City real estate man, when they moved there in 1886. They began selling off building lots in 1891 and the village was incorporated in 1903. Once a quiet farming community, by 1910 barns were being converted into movie studios. The name was used generically for “American movies” from 1926, three years after the giant sign was set up, originally reading Hollywoodland, another real estate developer’s promotion.

seven (adj., n.)

“1 more than six; the number which is one more than six; a symbol representing this number;” Old English seofon, from Proto-Germanic *sebun (source also of Old Saxon sibun, Old Norse sjau, Swedish sju, Danish syv, Old Frisian sowensiugun, Middle Dutch seven, Dutch zeven, Old High German sibun, German sieben, Gothic sibun), from PIE *septm “seven” (source also of Sanskrit sapta, Avestan hapta, Hittite shipta, Greek hepta, Latin septem, Old Church Slavonic sedmi, Lithuanian septyni, Old Irish secht, Welsh saith).

Long regarded as a number of perfection (seven wondersseven sleepers, the latter translating Latin septem dormientesseven against Thebes, etc.), but that notion is late in Old English and in German a nasty, troublesome woman could be eine böse Sieben “an evil seven” (1662). Magical power or healing skill associated since 16c. with the seventh son [“The seuenth Male Chyld by iust order (neuer a Gyrle or Wench being borne betweene),” Thomas Lupton, “A Thousand Notable Things,” 1579]. The typical number for “very great, strong,” as in seven-league boots in the fairy story of Hop o’my Thumb.

The Seven Years’ War (1756-63) is also the Third Silesian War.

The Seven Stars (Old English sibunsterri), usually refers to the Pleiades, though in 15c. and after this name occasionally was given to the Big Dipper (which also has seven stars), or the seven planets of classical astronomy. Popular as a tavern sign, it might also (with six in a circle, one in the center) be a Masonic symbol.

FOOL: … The reason why the seven stars are no more than seven is a pretty reason.

LEAR: Because they are not eight?

FOOL: Yes, indeed: thou wouldst make a good fool.

[“King Lear,” I.v.]

Halloween (n.)

also Hallow-e’enHallow e’en, 1781, in a Scottish context, the word and the magical lore about the date were popularized by Burns’ poem (1785, and he attached a footnote explaining it), but it probably dates to 17c. in Scotland and is attested as the name of a tune in 1724. The tune is mentioned again in an English-Scots songbook (“The Chearful Companion”) in 1783, and Burns was not the first to describe the customs in print.

Hallow-E’en, or Holy Eve, is the evening previous to the celebration of All Saints. That it is propitious to the rites of divination, is an opinion still common in many parts of Scotland. [John Main, footnote to his poem “Hallow-E’en,” Glasgow, 1783]

It is a Scottish shortening of Allhallow-even “Eve of All Saints, last night of October” (1550s), the last night of the year in the old Celtic calendar, where it was Old Year’s Night, a night for witches. A pagan holiday given a cursory baptism. Otherwise obsolete hallow (n.) “holy person, saint,” is from the source of hallow (v.). Also see even (n.), and compare hallowsHallow-day for “All-Saints Day” is from 1590s; earlier was halwemesse day (late 13c.).

chakra (n.)

1888 in yoga sense “a spiritual center of power in the human body,” from Sanskrit cakra “circle, wheel,” from PIE root *kwel- (1) “revolve, move round.”

hallelujah

also halleluiah, 1530s, from Late Latin hallelujahalleluia, from Greek allelouia, from Hebrew hallalu-yah “praise ye Jehovah,” from hallalu, plural imperative of hallel “to praise” also “song of praise,” from hillel “he praised,” of imitative origin, with primary sense being “to trill.” Second element is yah, shortened form of Yahweh, name of God. Earlier English form alleluia (12c.) is from Old French alleluie.

mantra (n.)

1808, “that part of the Vedas which contains hymns,” from Sanskrit mantra-s “sacred message or text, charm, spell, counsel,” literally “instrument of thought,” related to manyate “thinks,” from PIE root *men- (1) “to think.” Meaning “sacred text used as a charm or incantation” is by 1900; sense of “special word used for yoga meditation” is recorded in English by 1956.

neo-

word-forming element meaning “new, young, recent,” used in a seemingly endless number of adjectives and nouns, mostly coined since c. 1880, from Greek neos “new, young, youthful; fresh, strange; lately, just now,” from PIE root *newo- (see new). In the physical sciences, caeno-, ceno- is used in the same sense. Paleo- is opposed to both.

tantra (n.)

type of Hindu religious book, 1799, from Sanskrit tantram, literally “loom, warp,” hence, figuratively, “groundwork, system, doctrine,” from tan “to stretch, extend,” from PIE root *ten- “to stretch.”

Virgo

zodiacal constellation, c. 1000, from Latin constellation name Virgo “the virgin” (see virgin). Meaning “person born under the sign of Virgo” is attested from 1917.

manual (adj.)

“of or pertaining to the hand; done, made, or used by hand;” c. 1400, from Latin manualis “of or belonging to the hand; that can be thrown by hand,” from manus “hand, strength, power over; armed force; handwriting,” from PIE root *man- (2) “hand.” The military manual exercise (1760) is “the art of handling the rifle and other arms with precision and according to the prescribed method.”

September

late Old English, from Latin September (also source of Old French Septembre, Spanish Setiembre, Italian Settembre, German September), from septem “seven” (see seven). So called because it was the seventh month of the old Roman calendar, which began the year in March; Julian calendar reform (46 B.C.E.) shifted the new year back two months. For -ber suffix, see December. Replaced Old English hærfestmonað, haligmonað. Related: Septembral.

Emmanuel

masc. personal name, from Greek form of Hebrew ‘Immanu’el, literally “God is with us,” from ‘immanu “with us,” from ‘im “with,” + first person plural pronominal suffix, + El “God.”

October

late Old English, from Latin October (mensis), from octo “eight,” from PIE root *octo(u)- “eight” (see eight). The eighth month of the old Roman calendar (pre-46 B.C.E.), which began the year in March. For -ber see December. Replaced Old English winterfylleð. In Russian history, the October Revolution (in which the Bolsheviks overthrew the Provisional Government) happened Nov. 7, 1917, but because Russia had not at that time adopted the Gregorian calendar reform, this date was reckoned there (Old Style) as Oct. 25.

womb (n.)

Old English wamb, womb “belly, bowels, heart, uterus,” from Proto-Germanic *wambo (source also of Old Norse vomb, Old Frisian wambe, Middle Dutch wamme, Dutch wam, Old High German wamba, German Wamme “belly, paunch,” Gothic wamba “belly, womb,” Old English umbor “child”), of unknown origin.

Scorpio (n.)

zodiacal constellation, late 14c., from Latin scorpio (poetic scorpius) “scorpion,” also the zodiac constellation (see scorpion). The meaning “person born under or ruled by the sign of Scorpio” is recorded from 1968. Since 1922 the official (International Astronomical Union) scientific designation of the constellation has been Scorpius, leaving Scorpio to astrology.

man (n.)

“a featherless plantigrade biped mammal of the genus Homo” [Century Dictionary], Old English manmann “human being, person (male or female); brave man, hero;” also “servant, vassal, adult male considered as under the control of another person,” from Proto-Germanic *mann- (source also of Old Saxon, Swedish, Dutch, Old High German man, Old Frisian mon, German Mann, Old Norse maðr, Danish mand, Gothic manna “man”), from PIE root *man- (1) “man.” For the plural, see men.

Sometimes connected to root *men- (1) “to think,” which would make the ground sense of man “one who has intelligence,” but not all linguists accept this. Liberman, for instance, writes, “Most probably man ‘human being’ is a secularized divine name” from Mannus [Tacitus, “Germania,” chap. 2], “believed to be the progenitor of the human race.”

Specific sense of “adult male of the human race” (distinguished from a woman or boy) is by late Old English (c. 1000); Old English used wer and wif to distinguish the sexes, but wer began to disappear late 13c. and was replaced by man. Universal sense of the word remains in mankind and manslaughter. Similarly, Latin had homo “human being” and vir “adult male human being,” but they merged in Vulgar Latin, with homo extended to both senses. A like evolution took place in Slavic languages, and in some of them the word has narrowed to mean “husband.” PIE had two other “man” roots: *uiHro “freeman” (source of Sanskrit vira-, Lithuanian vyras, Latin vir, Old Irish fer, Gothic wair; see *wi-ro-) and *hner “man,” a title more of honor than *uiHro (source of Sanskrit nar-, Armenian ayr, Welsh ner, Greek anēr; see *ner- (2)).

Man also was in Old English as an indefinite pronoun, “one, people, they.” It was used generically for “the human race, mankind” by c. 1200. As a word of familiar address, originally often implying impatience, c.1400; hence probably its use as an interjection of surprise or emphasis, since Middle English but especially popular from early 20c.

As “a woman’s lover,” by mid-14c. As “adult male possessing manly qualities in an eminent degree,” from 14c. Man’s man, one whose qualities are appreciated by other men, is by 1873. Colloquial use of the Man for “the boss” is by 1918. To be man or mouse “be brave or be timid” is from 1540s. Meaning “piece with which a game (especially chess) is played” is from c. 1400.

Man-about-town “man of the leisure class who frequents clubs, theaters, and other social resorts” is from 1734. Man of the world is from mid-14c. as “secular man, layman;” by early 15c. as “man experienced in the ways of the world, one able to take things in stride.” To do something as one man “unanimously” is from late 14c.

So I am as he that seythe, ‘Come hyddr John, my man.’ [1473]

MANTRAP, a woman’s commodity. [Grose, “Dictionary of the Vulgar Tongue,” London, 1785]

At the kinges court, my brother, Ech man for himself. [Chaucer, “Knight’s Tale,” c. 1386]

sag (v.)

late 14c., possibly from a Scandinavian source related to Old Norse sokkva “to sink,” or from Middle Low German sacken “to settle, sink” (as dregs in wine), from denasalized derivative of Proto-Germanic base *senkwanan “to sink” (see sink (v.)). A general North Sea Germanic word (compare Dutch zakken, Swedish sacka, Danish sakke). Of body parts from 1560s; of clothes from 1590s. Related: Saggedsagging.

mandala (n.)

symbolic magic circle used by Buddhists in meditation, 1859, from Sanskrit mandala “disc, circle.” Adopted 20c. in Jungian psychology as a symbol of unity of the self and completeness.

Sagittarius (n.)

zodiac constellation, late Old English, from Latin, literally “archer,” properly “pertaining to arrows,” from sagitta “arrow,” which probably is from a pre-Latin Mediterranean language. Meaning “person born under Sagittarius” (properly Sagittarian) is attested from 1940. It represents a centaur drawing a bow, but to modern observers unfamiliar with either it looks vaguely like a teapot.

Venus

late Old English, from Latin Venus (plural veneres), in ancient Roman mythology, the goddess of beauty and love, especially sensual love, from venus “love, sexual desire; loveliness, beauty, charm; a beloved object,” from PIE root *wen- (1) “to desire, strive for.”

Applied by the Romans to Greek Aphrodite, Egyptian Hathor, etc. Applied in English to any beautiful, attractive woman by 1570s. As the name of the most brilliant planet from late 13c., from this sense in Latin (Old English called it morgensteorra and æfensteorra). The venus fly-trap (Dionæa muscipula) was discovered 1760 by Gov. Arthur Dobbs in North Carolina and description sent to Collinson in England. The Central Atlantic Coast Algonquian name for the plant, /titipiwitshik/, yielded regional American English tippity wichity.

November

c. 1200, from Old French novembre and directly from Latin November (also Novembris (mensis)), from novem “nine” (see nine). The ninth month of the Roman calendar, which began in March. For -ber see December. In Old English, it was Blotmonað “month of sacrifice,” literally “blood-month,” the time when the early Saxons prepared for winter by sacrificing animals, which they then butchered and stored for food.

venous (adj.)

1620s, from Latin venosus “full of veins,” from vena (see vein).

logarithm (n.)

a mathematical function used to shorten calculation, 1610s, logarithmus, coined in Modern Latin by Scottish mathematician John Napier (1550-1617), literally “ratio-number,” from Greek logos “proportion, ratio, word” (see Logos) + arithmos “number” (from PIE *erei-dhmo-, suffixed variant form of root *re- “to reason, count”). Napier invented them and published a table in 1614; the kind now chiefly in use were invented by his contemporary Henry Briggs (1561-1630), a professor of geometry at Gresham College, London.

venom (n.)

mid-13c., venimvenym, “poison secreted by some animals and transferred by biting,” from Anglo-French and Old French venimvenin “poison; malice,” from Vulgar Latin *venimen (source also of Italian veleno, Spanish veneno), from Latin venenum “poison,” earlier (pre-classical) “drug, medical potion,” also “charm, seduction,” probably originally “love potion,” from PIE *wenes-no-, from root *wen- (1) “to desire, strive for.” Variously deformed in post-Latin languages, apparently by dissimilation. Modern spelling in English from late 14c. The meaning “bitter, virulent feeling or language” is first recorded c. 1300.

rhythm (n.)

1550s, “rhymed verse, metrical movement,” from Latin rhythmus “movement in time,” from Greek rhythmos “measured flow or movement, rhythm; proportion, symmetry; arrangement, order; form, shape, wise, manner; soul, disposition,” related to rhein “to flow,”from PIE root *sreu- “to flow.” Rhythm method of birth control attested from 1936. Rhythm and blues, U.S. music style, is from 1949 (first in “Billboard”).

virus (n.)

late 14c., “poisonous substance,” from Latin virus “poison, sap of plants, slimy liquid, a potent juice,” from Proto-Italic *weis-o-(s-) “poison,” which is probably from a PIE root *ueis-, perhaps originally meaning “to melt away, to flow,” used of foul or malodorous fluids, but with specialization in some languages to “poisonous fluid” (source also of Sanskrit visam “venom, poison,” visah “poisonous;” Avestan vish- “poison;” Latin viscum “sticky substance, birdlime;” Greek ios “poison,” ixos “mistletoe, birdlime;” Old Church Slavonic višnja “cherry;” Old Irish fi “poison;” Welsh gwy “poison”). The meaning “agent that causes infectious disease” is recorded by 1728 (in reference to venereal disease); the modern scientific use dates to the 1880s. The computer sense is from 1972.

rhyme (n.)

“agreement in terminal sounds,” 1560s, partially restored spelling, from Middle English ryme, rime (c. 1200) “measure, meter, rhythm,” later “rhymed verse” (mid-13c.), from Old French rime (fem.), related to Old Provençal rim (masc.), earlier *ritme, from Latin rithmus, from Greek rhythmos “measured flow or movement, rhythm; proportion, symmetry; arrangement, order; form, shape, wise, manner; soul, disposition,” related to rhein “to flow,”from PIE root *sreu- “to flow.”

In Medieval Latin, rithmus was used for accentual, as opposed to quantitative, verse, and accentual verse usually was rhymed, hence the sense shift. Persistence of older form is due to popular association with Old English rim “number,” from PIE root *re- “to reason, count.” Phrase rhyme or reason “good sense” (chiefly used in the negative) is from late 15c. (see reason (n.)). Rhyme scheme is attested from 1931. Rhyme royal (1841) is a stanza of seven 10-syllable lines rhymed a-b-a-b-b-c-c.

live (v.)

Middle English, from Old English lifian (Anglian), libban (West Saxon) “to be, be alive, have life; continue in life; to experience,” also “to supply oneself with food, procure a means of subsistence; pass life in a specified fashion,” from Proto-Germanic *libejanan (source also of Old Norse lifa “to be left; to live; to live on,” of fire, “to burn;” Old Frisian libba, German leben, Gothic liban “to live”), from PIE root *leip- “to stick, adhere,” forming words meaning “to remain, continue.”

Meaning “to make a residence, dwell” is from c. 1200. Meaning “express in one’s life” (live a lie) is from 1540s. Intensified sense “have life abundantly, make full use of life’s opportunities” is from c. 1600. Related: Livedliving.

To live it up “live gaily and extravagantly” is from 1903. To live up to “act in accordance with, not live below the standard of” is 1690s, from earlier live up “live on a high (moral or mental) level” (1680s). To live (something) down “cause (something disreputable) to be forgotten by subsequent blameless course, live so as to disprove” is from 1842. To live with “cohabit as husband and wife” is attested from 1749; sense of “to put up with” is attested from 1937. Expression live and learn is attested from c. 1620.

According to the Dutch Prouerbe … Leuen ende laetan leuen, To liue and to let others liue. [Gerard de Malynes, 1622]

Virginia

British colony in North America, name appears on a map in 1587, named for Elizabeth I, the Virgin Queen. The fem. proper name is from Latin Virginia, fem. of Virginius, earlier Verginius, probably related to Vergilius (see Virgilian). Related: Virginian.

Io

in Greek mythology, daughter of the river god Inachus, she was pursued by Zeus, who changed her to a heifer in a bid to escape the notice of Juno, but she was tormented by a gadfly sent by Juno. The Jovian moon was discovered in 1610 and named for her by Galileo.

N

fourteenth letter of the English alphabet; in chemistry, the symbol for nitrogen.

In late Middle English a and an commonly were joined to the following noun, if that word began with a vowel, which caused confusion over how such words ought to be divided when written separately. In nicknamenewt, and British dialectal naunt, the -n- belongs to a preceding indefinite article an or possessive pronoun mine.

Other examples of this from Middle English manuscripts include a neilond (“an island,” early 13c.), a narawe (“an arrow,” c. 1400), a nox (“an ox,” c. 1400), a noke (“an oak,” early 15c.), a nappyle (“an apple,” early 15c.), a negge (“an egg,” 15c.), a nynche (“an inch,” c. 1400), a nostryche (“an ostrich,” c. 1500). A manuscript from c. 1500 has a nylle for “an isle.” My naunt for mine aunt is recorded from 13c.-17c. None other could be no noder (mid-15c.). My nown (for mine own) was frequent 15c.-18c. In 16c., an idiot sometimes became a nidiot (1530s), which, with still-common casual pronunciation, became nidget (1570s), which, alas, has not survived. Also compare noncepigsney. Even in 19c. provincial English and U.S., noration (from an oration) was “a speech; a rumor.”

The process also worked in surnames, from oblique cases of Old English at “by, near,” as in Nock/Nokes/Noaks from atten Oke “by the oak;” Nye from atten ye “near the lowland;” and see Nashville. (Elision of the vowel of the definite article also took place and was standard in Chancery English of the 15c.: þarchebisshop for “the archbishop,” thorient for “the orient.”)

But it is more common for an English word to lose an -n- to a preceding aapronaugeradderumpirehumble pie, etc. By a related error natomy or atomy was common in Elizabethan English for anatomynoyance (annoyance) and noying (adj.) turn up 14c.-17c., and Marlowe (1590) has Natolian for Anatolian.  The tendency is not limited to English: compare Luxorjade (n.1), luteomelet, and Modern Greek mera for hēmera, the first syllable being confused with the article.

The mathematical use of n for “an indefinite number” is attested by 1717 in phrases such as to the nth power (see nth). In Middle English n. was written in form documents to indicate an unspecified name of a person to be supplied by the speaker or reader.

atom (n.)

late 15c., as a hypothetical indivisible extremely minute body, the building block of the universe, from Latin atomus (especially in Lucretius) “indivisible particle,” from Greek atomos “uncut, unhewn; indivisible,” from a- “not” (see a- (3)) + tomos “a cutting,” from temnein “to cut” (from PIE root *tem- “to cut”). An ancient term of philosophical speculation (in Leucippus, Democritus); revived scientifically 1805 by British chemist John Dalton. In late classical and medieval use also a unit of time, 22,560 to the hour. Atom bomb is from 1945 as both a noun and a verb; compare atomic.

Maryland

U.S. state, named for Henrietta Maria (1609-1669), wife of English King Charles I. Related: Marylander.

madam

c. 1300, formal term of address to a lady (a woman of rank or authority, or the mistress of a household), from Old French ma dame, literally “my lady,” from Latin mea domina (see Donna, and compare madonna). It became a conventional term of address to women of any degree (but chiefly to the married and matronly); also “a woman of fashion or pretension” (often with a suggestion of disparagement) by 1590s. From 1719 as “a courtesan, a prostitute;” the meaning “female owner or manager of a brothel” is attested by 1871.

The title of Madam is sometimes given here, and generally in Charleston (S. Carolina), and in the South, to a mother whose son has married, and the daughter-in-law is then called Mrs. By this means they avoid the inelegant phraseology of old Mrs. A., or the Scotch, Mrs. A senior. [Sir Charles Lyell, “A Second Visit to the United States of North America,” 1849]

Electra

also called Laodice, a daughter of Agamemnon and Clytaemnestra, the accomplice of her brother Orestes in the murder of their mother, from Greek Ēlektra, literally “shining, bright,” related to ēlektōr “the beaming sun” and perhaps to ēlektron “amber.” Especially in psychological Electra complex (1913, Jung) in reference to a daughter who feels attraction toward her father and hostility to her mother. Also the name of a daughter of Atlas, and as such a name of one of the Pleiades.

log (n.1)

unshaped large piece of tree, early 14c., of unknown origin. Old Norse had lag “felled tree” (from stem of liggja “to lie,” hence “a tree that lies prostrate”), but many etymologists deny on phonological grounds that this can be the root of English log. Instead, they suggest an independent formation meant to “express the notion of something massive by a word of appropriate sound” [OED, which compares clog (n.) in its original Middle English sense “lump of wood”].

Log cabin (1770) was the typical dwelling of the poor in antebellum U.S. history in the well-timbered region that was then the West. It has been a figure of the honest pioneer since the 1840 presidential campaign of William Henry Harrison (the original application was derisive and either way it was inaccurate). Falling off a log as a type of something easy to do is from 1839.

elect (v.)

early 15c., “to choose for an office, position, or duty,” from Latin electus, past participle of eligere “to pick out, choose,” from ex “out” (see ex-) + -ligere, combining form of legere “to choose,” from PIE root *leg- (1) “to collect, gather.” Related: Electedelecting.

lady (n.)

c. 1200, lafdilavede, from Old English hlæfdige (Northumbrian hlafdia, Mercian hlafdie), “mistress of a household, wife of a lord,” apparently literally “one who kneads bread,” from hlaf “bread” (see loaf (n.)) + -dige “maid,” which is related to dæge “maker of dough” (which is the first element in dairy; see dey (n.1)). Also compare lord (n.)). Century Dictionary finds this etymology “improbable,” and OED rates it “not very plausible with regard to sense,” but no one seems to have a better explanation.

The medial -f- disappeared 14c. The word is not found outside English except where borrowed from it. Sense of “woman of superior position in society” is c. 1200; that of “woman whose manners and sensibilities befit her for high rank in society” is from 1861 (ladylike suggesting this sense is attested from 1580s, and ladily from c. 1400). Meaning “woman chosen as an object of chivalrous love” is from early 14c. Used commonly as an address to any woman since 1890s.

Applied since Old English to the Holy Virgin, hence many extended usages in plant names, place names, etc., from genitive singular hlæfdigan, which in Middle English merged with the nominative, so that lady- often represents (Our) Lady’s, as in ladybugLady Day (late 13c.) was the festival of the Annunciation of the Virgin Mary (March 25). Ladies’ man first recorded 1784; lady-killer “man supposed to be dangerously fascinating to women” is from 1811. Lady of pleasure recorded from 1640s. Lady’s slipper as a type of orchid is from 1590s.

Elsa

fem. proper name, from German diminutive of Elisabet (see Elizabeth).

Elisha

masc. proper name, from Hebrew, literally “God is salvation,” from El “God” + yesha “salvation.”

log (n.2)

“record of observations, readings, etc.,” originally “record of a ship’s progress,” 1842, sailor’s shortening of log-book (1670s), the daily record of a ship’s speed, progress, etc., which is from log (n.1) “piece of wood.” The book so called because it recorded the speed measurements made by means of a weighted chip of a tree log on the end of a reeled log line (typically 150 to 200 fathoms). The log lay dead in the water, and sailors counted the time it took the line to play out. The line was marked by different numbers of knots, or colored rags, tied at regular intervals; hence the nautical measurement sense of knot (n.). Similar uses of the cognate word are continental Germanic and Scandinavian (such as German Log). General sense “any record of facts entered in order” is by 1913.

It [the log-book] is a journal of all important items happening on shipboard, contains the data from which the navigator determines his position by dead-reckoning … and is, when properly kept, a complete meteorological journal. On board merchant ships the log is kept by the first officer: on board men-of-war, by the navigator. [Century Dictionary, 1897]

atman (n.)

in Hindu philosophy, the self or soul, 1785, from Sanskrit atma “essence, breath, soul,” from PIE *etmen “breath” (a root found in Sanskrit and Germanic; source also of Old English æðm, Dutch adem, Old High German atum “breath,” Old English eþian, Dutch ademen “to breathe”).

eleven (adj., n.)

“1 more than ten; the number which is one more than ten; a symbol representing this number;” c. 1200, elleovene, from Old English enleofanendleofan, literally “one left” (over ten), from Proto-Germanic *ainlif- (compare Old Saxon elleban, Old Frisian andlova, Dutch elf, Old High German einlif, German elf, Old Norse ellifu, Gothic ainlif), a compound of *ain “one” (see one) + from PIE root *leikw- “to leave.”

FIREFLY: Give me a number from 1 to 10.

CHICOLINI: eleven!

FIREFLY: Right!

[“Duck Soup”]

Viking survivors who escaped an Anglo-Saxon victory were daroþa laf “the leavings of spears,” while hamora laf “the leavings of hammers” was an Old English kenning for “swords” (both from “The Battle of Brunanburh”). Twelve reflects the same formation. Outside Germanic the only instance of this formation is in Lithuanian, which uses -lika “left over” and continues the series to 19 (vienuo-lika “eleven,” dvy-lika “twelve,” try-lika “thirteen,” keturio-lika “fourteen,” etc.). Meaning “a team or side” in cricket or football is from 1743.

spirit (n.)

mid-13c., “animating or vital principle in man and animals,” from Anglo-French spirit, Old French espirit “spirit, soul” (12c., Modern French esprit) and directly from Latin spiritus “a breathing (respiration, and of the wind), breath; breath of a god,” hence “inspiration; breath of life,” hence “life;” also “disposition, character; high spirit, vigor, courage; pride, arrogance,” related to spirare “to breathe,” perhaps from PIE *(s)peis- “to blow” (source also of Old Church Slavonic pisto “to play on the flute”). But de Vaan says “Possibly an onomatopoeic formation imitating the sound of breathing. There are no direct cognates.”

Meaning “supernatural immaterial creature; angel, demon; an apparition, invisible corporeal being of an airy nature” is attested from mid-14c.; from late 14c. as “a ghost” (see ghost (n.)). From c. 1500 as “a nature, character”; sense of “essential principle of something” (in a non-theological context, as in Spirit of St. Louis) is attested from 1680s, common after 1800; Spirit of ’76 in reference to the qualities that sparked and sustained the American Revolution is attested by 1797 in William Cobbett’s “Porcupine’s Gazette and Daily Advertiser.”

From late 14c. in alchemy as “volatile substance; distillate;” from c. 1500 as “substance capable of uniting the fixed and the volatile elements of the philosopher’s stone.” Hence spirits “volatile substance;” sense narrowed to “strong alcoholic liquor” by 1670s. This also is the sense in spirit level (1768). Also from mid-14c. as “character, disposition; way of thinking and feeling, state of mind; source of a human desire;” in Middle English freedom of spirit meant “freedom of choice.” From late 14c. as “divine substance, divine mind, God;” also “Christ” or His divine nature; “the Holy Ghost; divine power;” also, “extension of divine power to man; inspiration, a charismatic state; charismatic power, especially of prophecy.” Also “essential nature, essential quality.” From 1580s in metaphoric sense “animation, vitality.”

According to Barnhart and OED, originally in English mainly from passages in Vulgate, where the Latin word translates Greek pneuma and Hebrew ruah. Distinction between “soul” and “spirit” (as “seat of emotions”) became current in Christian terminology (such as Greek psykhe vs. pneuma, Latin anima vs. spiritus) but “is without significance for earlier periods” [Buck]. Latin spiritus, usually in classical Latin “breath,” replaces animus in the sense “spirit” in the imperial period and appears in Christian writings as the usual equivalent of Greek pneumaSpirit-rapping is from 1852.

Eliot

surname, Old French diminutive of Elias (French Elie; see Elijah) + -ot. It absorbed the Anglo-Saxon proper names Æðelgeat and Ælfweald “Elf-ruler.”

sprite (n.)

c. 1300, “Holy Ghost,” from Old French esprit “spirit,” from Latin spiritus (see spirit (n.)). From mid-14c. as “immaterial being; angel, demon, elf, fairy; apparition, ghost.”

anthropomorphism (n.)

1753, “the ascription of human qualities to a deity,” from anthropomorphous + -ism. Of other non-human things, from 1858. Related: Anthropomorphist (1610s).

spiral (adj.)

1550s, from Middle French spiral (16c.), from Medieval Latin spiralis “winding around a fixed center, coiling” (mid-13c.), from Latin spira “a coil, fold, twist, spiral,” from Greek speira “a winding, a coil, twist, wreath, anything wound or coiled,” from PIE *sper-ya-, from base *sper- (2) “to turn, twist.” Related: SpirallySpiral galaxy first attested 1913.

android (n.)

“automaton resembling a human being in form and movement,” 1837, in early use often in reference to automated chess players, from Modern Latin androides (itself attested as a Latin word in English from 1727), from Greek andro- “man” (from PIE root *ner- (2) “man”) + -eides “form, shape” (see -oid). Greek androdes meant “like a man, manly;” compare also Greek andrias “image of a man, statue.” Listed as “rare” in OED 1st edition (1879), popularized from c. 1950 by science fiction writers.

inspire (v.)

mid-14c., enspiren, “to fill (the mind, heart, etc., with grace, etc.);” also “to prompt or induce (someone to do something),” from Old French enspirer (13c.), from Latin inspirare “blow into, breathe upon,” figuratively “inspire, excite, inflame,” from in- “in” (from PIE root *en “in”) + spirare “to breathe” (see spirit (n.)).

The Latin word was used as a loan-translation of Greek pnein in the Bible. General sense of “influence or animate with an idea or purpose” is from late 14c. Also sometimes used in literal sense in Middle English. Related: Inspiresinspiring.

Andrew

masc. proper name, from Old French Andreu (Modern French André), from Late Latin Andreas (source also of Spanish Andrés, Italian Andrea, German Andreas, Swedish and Danish Anders), from Greek Andreas, a personal name equivalent to andreios (adj.) “manly, masculine, of or for a man; strong; stubborn,” from anēr (genitive andros) “man” (from PIE root *ner- (2) “man”).

Nearly equivalent to CharlesAndrew Millar (1590s) for some forgotten reason became English naval slang for “government authority,” and especially “the Royal Navy.” St. Andrew (feast day Nov. 30) has long been regarded as patron saint of Scotland; the Andrew’s cross (c. 1400) supposedly resembles the one on which he was crucified.

conspire (v.)

late 14c., “aspire or plan maliciously, agree together to commit a criminal or reprehensible act,” from Old French conspirer (14c.), from Latin conspirare “to agree, unite, plot,” literally “to breathe together,” from assimilated form of com “with, together” (see con-) + spirare “to breathe” (see spirit (n.)), perhaps on the notion of “to agree (by spoken oath) to commit a bad act.” Or perhaps the notion is “to blow together” musical instruments, i.e., “to sound in unison.”

Neutral or good sense of “to contribute jointly to a certain result” is from 1530s. Related: Conspiredconspiring.

androgyny (n.)

“state of being androgynous, union of sexes in one individual,” 1833; see androgynous.

respire (v.)

late 14c., from Old French respirer (12c.), from Latin respirare “breathe again, breathe in and out,” from re- “again” (see re-) + spirare “to breathe” (see spirit (n.)). Related: Respiredrespiring.

anatomy (n.)

late 14c., “study or knowledge of the structure and function of the human body” (learned by dissection); c. 1400, “anatomical structure,” from Old French anatomie and directly from Late Latin anatomia, from late Greek anatomia for classical anatome “dissection,” literally “a cutting up,” from ana “up” (see ana-) + temnein “to cut” (from PIE root *tem- “to cut”).

“Dissection” (1540s), “mummy” (1580s), and “skeleton” (1590s) were primary senses of this word in Shakespeare’s day; meaning “the science of the structure of organized bodies” predominated from 17c. Of persons, “the body,” from 1590s. Often misdivided as an atomy or a natomy (see N).

The scyence of the Nathomy is nedefull and necessarye to the Cyrurgyen [1541]

perspire (v.)

1640s, of a volatile liquid, “to evaporate through the pores” (intransitive), a back-formation from perspiration and in part from Latin perspirare “blow or breathe constantly,” from per “through” (from PIE root *per- (1) “forward,” hence “through”) + spirare “to breathe, blow” (see spirit (n.)). The meaning “to sweat, to give out watery substance through the pores of the skin” (intransitive) is a polite usage attested from 1725. Medical men tried to maintain a distinction between “sensible” (sweat) and “insensible” perspiration:

[I]t is sufficient for common use to observe, that perspiration is that insensible discharge of vapour from the whole surface of the body and the lungs which is constantly going on in a healthy state; that it is always natural and always salutary; that sweat, on the contrary, is an evacuation, which never appears without some uncommon effort, or some disease to the system, that it weakens and relaxes, and is so far from coinciding with perspiration, that it obstructs and checks it. [Charles White, “A Treatise on the Management of Pregnant and Lying-in Women,” London, 1791]

Related: Perspiredperspiring.

Anna

fem. proper name, from Latin Anna, from Greek Anna, from Hebrew Hannah, literally “grace, graciousness” (see Hannah).

expire (v.)

c. 1400, “to die,” from Old French expirer “expire, elapse” (12c.), from Latin expirare/exspirare “breathe out, blow out, exhale; breathe one’s last, die,” hence, figuratively, “expire, come to an end, cease,” from ex “out” (see ex-) + spirare “to breathe” (see spirit (n.)). “Die” is the older sense in English; that of “breathe out” is attested from 1580s. Of laws, patents, treaties, etc., mid-15c. In 17c. also transitive. Related: Expiredexpiring.

Tommy

“British soldier,” 1884, from Thomas Atkins, since 1815 the typical sample name for filling in army forms. Tommy gun (1929) is short for Thompson gun (see Thompson). Soon extended to other types of sub-machine gun, especially those favored by the mob.

animate (v.)

1530s, “to fill with boldness or courage,” from Latin animatus past participle of animare “give breath to,” also “to endow with a particular spirit, to give courage to, enliven,” from anima “life, breath” (see animus). Sense of “give natural life to” in English attested from 1742. Meaning “render in moving pictures, especially cinematic cartoons” is from early 20c. Related: Animatedanimating.

Thomas

masc. proper name, from Greek Thomas, of Aramaic origin and said to mean “a twin” (John’s gospel refers to Thomas as ho legomenos didymos “called the twin;” compare Syriac toma “twin,” Arabic tau’am “twin”). Before the Conquest, found only as the name of a priest, but after 1066, one of the most common given names in English. Also see TomTommyDoubting Thomas is from John xx.25. A Thomist (1530s, from Medieval Latin Thomista, mid-14c.) is a follower of 13c. scholastic theologian St. Thomas Aquinas.

mate (n.1)

mid-14c., “associate, fellow, comrade;” late 14c.,”habitual companion, friend;” from Middle Low German mate, gemate “one eating at the same table, messmate,” from Proto-Germanic *ga-matjon, meaning “(one) having food (*matiz) together (*ga-).” For *matiz, see meat. It is built on the same notion as companion (which is thought to be a loan-translation from Germanic). Cognate with German Maat “mate,” Dutch maat “partner, colleague, friend.”

Meaning “one of a wedded pair” is attested from 1540s. Used as a form of address by sailors, laborers, etc., at least since mid-15c. Meaning “officer on a merchant vessel” is from late 15c.; his duty is to oversee the execution of the orders of the master or commander.

tomb (n.)

c. 1200, tumbe, early 14c. tomb, from Anglo-French tumbe and directly from Old French tombe “tomb, monument, tombstone” (12c.), from Late Latin tumba (also source of Italian tomba, Spanish tumba), from Greek tymbos “mound, burial mound,” generally “grave, tomb.”

Watkins suggests it is perhaps from PIE root *teue- “to swell,” but Beekes writes that it is probably a Pre-Greek (non-IE) word. He writes that Latin tumulus “earth-hill” and Armenian t’umb “landfill, earthen wall” “may contain the same Pre-Greek/Mediterranean word,” and suggests further connections to Middle Irish tomm “small hill,” Middle Welsh tom “dung, mound.”

The final -b began to be silent about the time of the spelling shift (compare lambdumb). Modern French tombeau is from Vulgar Latin diminutive *tumbellusThe Tombs, slang for “New York City prison” is recorded from 1840.

tame (adj.)

early Middle English tame “in a state of subjection, physically subdued, restrained in behavior” (c. 1200); of animals “domesticated, reclaimed from wildness,” also, of persons, “meek, gentle-natured, compliant, intent on homely or domestic activities” (mid-13c.), from oblique forms of Old English tomtam “domesticated, docile,” from Proto-Germanic *tamaz (source also of Old Norse tamr, Old Saxon, Old Frisian, Middle Low German, Middle Dutch tam, Old High German zam, German zahm “tame,” Gothic tamjan “to tame”), from PIE *deme- “to constrain, to force, to break (horses)” (source also of Sanskrit damayati “tames;” Persian dam “a tame animal;” Greek daman “to tame, subdue,” dmetos “tame;” Latin domare “to tame, subdue;” Old Irish damnaim “I tie up, fasten, I tame, subdue”).

A possible ulterior connection is with PIE *dem- “house, household” (see domestic (adj.)). Meaning “spiritless, weak, dull, uninspiring, insipid” is recorded from c. 1600. Related: Tamelytameness.

team (n.)

Old English team “descendant, family, race, line; child-bearing, brood; company, band; set of draft animals yoked together,” from Proto-Germanic *tau(h)maz (source also of Old Norse taumr, Old Frisian tam “bridle; progeny, line of descent,” Dutch toom, Old High German zoum, German Zaum “bridle”), probably literally “that which draws,” from PIE *douk-mo-, from root *deuk- “to lead.”

Applied in Old English to groups of persons working together for some purpose, especially “group of people acting together to bring suit;” modern sense of “persons associated in some joint action” is from 1520s. Team spirit is recorded from 1928. Team player attested from 1886, originally in baseball.

tame (v.)

mid-14c., from tame (adj.), or altered by the form of the adjective from Old English temian “subdue, make tame,” from Proto-Germanic *tamjan- (source also of Old Norse temja, Old Frisian tema, Middle Dutch temmen, Old High German zemmen, German zähmen, Gothic tamjan). Related: Tamedtaming.

team (v.)

1550s, “to harness beasts in a team,” from team (n.). From 1841 as “drive a team.” The meaning “to come together as a team” (usually with up) is attested from 1932. Transitive sense “to use (something) in conjunction” (with something else) is from 1948. Related: Teamedteaming. The Old English verb, teamantieman, is attested only in the sense “bring forth, beget, engender, propagate.”

yoga (n.)

1820, from Hindi yoga, from Sanskrit yoga-s, literally “union, yoking” (with the Supreme Spirit), from PIE root *yeug- “to join.” Related: Yogic.

parable (n.)

“allegorical or metaphorical narrative, usually having a moral for instruction,” late 13c., parabol, modern form from early 14c., “saying or story in which something is expressed in terms of something else,” from Old French parable “parable, parabolic style in writing” (13c.), from Latin parabola “comparison,” from Greek parabolē “a comparison, parable,” literally “a throwing beside,” hence “a juxtaposition,” from para- “alongside” (see para- (1)) + bolē “a throwing, casting, beam, ray,” related to ballein “to throw” (from PIE root *gwele- “to throw, reach”).

Rendered in Old English as bispell. In Vulgar Latin, parabola took on the meaning “word,” hence Italian parlare, French parler “to speak” (see parley (n.)).

yoke (n.)

Old English geoc “contrivance for fastening a pair of draft animals,” earlier geoht “pair of draft animals” (especially oxen), from Proto-Germanic *yukam (source also of Old Saxon juk, Old Norse ok, Danish aag, Middle Dutch joc, Dutch juk, Old High German joh, German joch, Gothic juk “yoke”), from PIE root *yeug- “to join.” Figurative sense of “heavy burden, oppression, servitude” was in Old English.

*gwele-

*gwelə-, also *gwel-, Proto-Indo-European root meaning “to throw, reach,” with extended sense “to pierce.”

It forms all or part of: anabolicarbalestastroblemeball (n.2) “dancing party;” balladballetballistaballisticballisticsbelemnitecatabolismdevildiabolicaldiscobolusemblemembolismhyperbolahyperbolekill (v.); metabolismpalaverparableparabolaparleyparliamentparlorparolparoleproblemquellquail (v.) “lose heart, shrink, cower;” symbol.

It is the hypothetical source of/evidence for its existence is provided by: Sanskrit apa-gurya “swinging,” balbaliti “whirls, twirls;” Greek ballein “to throw, to throw so as to hit,” also in a looser sense, “to put, place, lay,” bole “a throw, beam, ray,” belemnon “dart, javelin,” belone “needle,” ballizein “to dance;” Armenian kelem “I torture;” Old Church Slavonic zali “pain;” Lithuanian galas “end,” gėla “agony,” gelti “to sting.”

joke (n.)

1660s, joque, “a jest, something done to excite laughter,” from Latin iocus “joke, jest, sport, pastime” (source also of French jeu, Spanish juego, Portuguese jogo, Italian gioco), from Proto-Italic *joko-, from PIE *iok-o- “word, utterance,” from root *yek- (1) “to speak” (cognates: Welsh iaith, Breton iez “language,” Middle Irish icht “people;” Old High German jehan, Old Saxon gehan “to say, express, utter;” Old High German jiht, German Beichte “confession”).

Originally a colloquial or slang word. Meaning “something not real or to no purpose, someone not to be taken seriously” is from 1791. Black joke is old slang for “smutty song” (1733), from use of that phrase in the refrain of a then-popular song as a euphemism for “the monosyllable.” Lithuanian juokas “laugh, laughter,” in plural “joke(s)” probably is borrowed from German.

jest (n.)

early 13c., geste, “narrative of exploits,” from Old French geste “action, exploit,” from Latin gesta “deeds,” neuter plural of gestus, past participle of gerere “to carry, behave, act, perform” (see gest, which preserves the original sense). Sense descended through “idle tale” (late 15c.) to “mocking speech, raillery” (1540s) to “joke” (1550s). Also “a laughing-stock” (1590s). Jest-book is from 1690s.

Joshua

masc. proper name, biblical successor of Moses as leader of the Israelites, from Late Latin JeshuaJoshua, a transliteration of Hebrew Yehoshua, literally “the Lord is salvation.” In the top 10 list of names for boys in the U.S. since 1979. Joshua-tree (1867) is perhaps [OED] so called because its shape compared to pictures of Joshua brandishing a spear (Joshua viii.18).

ingest (v.)

1610s, “to take in as food,” from Latin ingestus, past participle of ingerere “to throw in, pour in, heap upon,” from in- “into” (from PIE root *en “in”) + gerere “to carry” (see gest). Related: Ingestedingesting.

josh (v.)

“to make fun of, to banter,” 1845 (intransitive), 1852 (transitive), American English; according to “Dictionary of American Slang,” the earliest example is capitalized, hence it is probably from the familiar version of the proper name Joshua. Perhaps it was taken as a typical name of an old farmer.

If those dates are correct, the word was in use earlier than the career of U.S. humorist Josh Billings, pseudonym of Henry Wheeler Shaw (1818-1885), who did not begin to write and lecture until 1860; but his popularity after 1869 may have influence that of the word, or even re-coined it, as it does not seem to have been much in print before 1875.

About the most originality that any writer can hope to achieve honestly is to steal with good judgment. [“Josh Billings”]

Related: Joshedjoshing.

Jesse

masc. proper name, biblical father of David and ancestor of Jesus, from Latin, from Greek Iessai, from Hebrew Yishay, of unknown origin. A rod out of the stem of Jesse (Isaiah xi.1) is regarded by Christians as one of the great prophesies of the Old Testament foretelling the coming of Christ; hence Tree of Jesse “decorative image of the genealogy of Jesus, with Jesse as the root;” to give (someone) Jesse “punish severely” (1839) is American English, probably a play on the “rod” in the Biblical verse. Related: Jessean.

yolk (n.)

Old English geolcageoloca “yolk,” literally “the yellow part,” from geolu “yellow” (see yellow (adj.)). Formerly also spelled yelk.

crescent (n.)

late 14c., cressaunt, “crescent-shaped ornament,” from Anglo-French cressaunt, from Old French creissant, croisant “crescent of the moon” (12c., Modern French croissant), from Latin crescentum (nominative crescens), present participle of crescere “come forth, spring up, grow, thrive, swell, increase in numbers or strength,” from PIE root *ker- (2) “to grow.”

Applied in Latin to the waxing moon, luna crescens, but subsequently in Latin mistaken to refer to the shape, not the stage. The original Latin sense is preserved in crescendo.

Meaning “moon’s shape in its first or last quarter” is from mid-15c. in English. Meaning “small roll of bread made in the form of a crescent” is from 1886. Adjectival sense of “shaped like the crescent moon” is from c. 1600 (earlier it meant “increasing, growing,” 1570s).

A badge or emblem of the Turkish sultans (probably chosen for its suggestion of “increase”); figurative sense of “Muslim political power” is from 1580s, but modern writers often falsely associate it with the Saracens of the Crusades or the Moors of Spain. Horns of the waxing moon are on the viewer’s left side; those of the waning moon are on his right.

H

eighth letter of the alphabet; it comes from Phoenician, via Greek and Latin. In Phoenician it originally had a rough guttural sound like German Reich or Scottish loch. In Greek at first it had the value of Modern English -h-, and with this value it passed into the Latin alphabet via Greek colonies in Italy. Subsequently in Greek it came to be used for a long “e” sound; the “h” sound being indicated by a fragment of the letter, which later was reduced to the aspiration mark.

In Germanic it was used for the voiceless breath sound when at the beginning of words, and in the middle or at the end of words for the rough guttural sound, which later came to be written -gh.

The sound became totally silent in Vulgar Latin and in the languages that emerged from it; thus the letter was omitted in Old French and Italian, but it was restored pedantically in French and Middle English spelling, and often later in English pronunciation. Thus Modern English has words ultimately from Latin with missing -h- (able, from Latin habile); with a silent -h- (heirhour); with a formerly silent -h- now often vocalized (humblehumorherb); and even a few with an unetymological -h- fitted in confusion to words that never had one (hostagehermit). Relics of the formerly unvoiced -h- persist in pedantic insistence on an historical (object) and in obsolete mine host.

The pronunciation “aitch” was in Old French (ache “name of the letter H”), and is from a presumed Late Latin *accha (compare Italian effeelleemme), with the central sound approximating the rough, guttural value of the letter in Germanic. In earlier Latin the letter was called ha. The use in digraphs (as in -sh--th-) goes back to the ancient Greek alphabet, which used it in -ph--th--kh- until -H- took on the value of a long “e” and the digraphs acquired their own characters. The letter passed into Roman use before this evolution, and thus retained there more of its original Semitic value.

hatch (v.1)

early 13c., hachen, “to produce young from eggs by incubation,” probably from an unrecorded Old English *hæccan, of unknown origin, related to Middle High German, German hecken “to mate” (used of birds). Meaning “to come forth from an egg,” also “cause to come forth from an egg” are late 14c. Figurative use (of plots, etc.) is from early 14c. Related: Hatchedhatching.

height (n.)

Old English hiehþu, Anglian hehþo “highest part or point, summit; the heavens, heaven,” from root of heah “high” (see high) + -itha, Germanic abstract noun suffix (as in widthdepth; see -th (2)). Compare Old Norse hæð, Middle Dutch hoochte, Old High German hohida, Gothic hauhiþa “height.” Meaning “distance from bottom to top” is from late 13c. Meaning “excellence, high degree of a quality” is late 14c. Century Dictionary says “there is no reason for the distinction of vowel between high and height. The modern pronunciation with -t emerged 13c. but wasn’t established until 19c.; Milton used highth and heighth is still colloquial in English. Compare Dutch hoogte, Danish hjöde.

Jessica

fem. proper name, from Late Latin Jesca, from Greek Ieskha, from Hebrew Yiskah, name of a daughter of Haran (Genesis xi.29). Among the top 5 popular names for girls born in the U.S. every year between 1977 and 1997. The familiar form Jessie was one of many fem. names used 20c. for “cowardly or effeminate male” (1923).

jaw (n.)

late 14c., jowejoue, “the bones of the mouth,” “A word of difficult etymology” [OED]. Probably from Old French joue “cheek,” originally jode, from Gallo-Romance *gauta or directly from Gaulish *gabata, but there are phonetic problems; or perhaps a variant of Germanic words related to chew (v.); compare also the two nouns jowl. Replaced Old English ceaceceaflJaws as “holding and gripping part of an appliance” is from mid-15c.; figuratively, of time, death, defeat, etc., from 1560s.

Jesus

personal name of the Christian Savior, late 12c.; it is the Greek form of Joshua, used variously in translations of the Bible. From Late Latin Iesus (properly pronounced as three syllables), from Greek Iesous, which is an attempt to render into Greek the Aramaic (Semitic) proper name Jeshua (Hebrew YeshuaYoshua) “Jah is salvation.” This was a common Jewish personal name during the Hellenizing period; it is the later form of Hebrew Yehoshua (see Joshua).

Old English used hælend “savior.” The common Middle English form was Jesu/Iesu, from the Old French objective case form, from Latin oblique form Iesu (genitive, dative, ablative, vocative), surviving in some invocations. As an oath, attested from late 14c. For Jesus H. Christ (1924), see I.H.S. First record of Jesus freak is from 1970.

yaw (v.)

“to fall away from the line of a course,” 1580s (as a noun 1540s), perhaps ultimately from Old Norse jaga, Old Danish jæge “to drive, chase,” from Middle Low German jagen (see yacht).

Jack

masc. proper name, attested by 1218, probably via Anglo-French JakeJaikes, from Old French Jacques (which was a diminutive of Latin Jacobus; see Jacob), but in English the name always has been regarded as a familiar form of John, and some have argued that it is a native formation. In Middle English spelled JakkeJacke, etc., and pronounced as two syllables (“Jackie”).

In England, Jack became a generic name applied familiarly or contemptuously to anybody (especially a young man of the lower classes) from late 14c. Later used especially of sailors (1650s; Jack-tar is from 1781); Jack-ashore (adj.) “drinking and in high spirits, recklessly spending” (1875) also is an image from sailors (1840 as a book title). In U.S., as a generic name addressed to an unknown stranger, attested from 1889. Every man Jack “everyone” is from 1812. Also see jack (n.).

Used in male personifications from 15c.; first record of jack-of-all-trades “person handy at any kind of work or business” is from 1610s; Jack Frost is from 1826; Jack-nasty “a sneak or sloven” is from 1833 (Jack-nasty-face, a sea-term for a common sailor, is from 1788). Jack Sprat for a small, light man is from 1560s (his opposite was Jack Weight). Jack-pudding “comical clown, buffoon” is from 1640s. Jack-Spaniard is from 1703 as a Spaniard, 1833 as “a hornet” in the West Indies. Other personifications listed in Farmer & Henley include jack-snip “a botching tailor,” Jack-in-office “overbearing petty official” (1680s), Jack-on-both-sides “a neutral,” Jack-out-of-doors “a vagrant” (1630s), jack-sauce “impudent fellow” (1590s).

The U.S. plant jack-in-the-pulpit (Indian turnip) is attested by 1833. Jack the Ripper was active in London 1888. The Scottish form is Jock (compare jockey (n.)). Alliterative coupling of Jack and Jill is from 15c. (Iakke and GylleIenken and Iulyan). Jack Ketch for “hangman, executioner” (1670s) is said to be from the name of a public executioner in the time of James II (compare Derrick); it also was used as a verb meaning “to hang.”

James

masc. proper name, New Testament name of two of Christ’s disciples, late 12c. Middle English vernacular form of Late Latin Jacomus (source of Old French James, Spanish Jaime, Italian Giacomo), altered from Latin Jacobus (see Jacob).

The Welsh form was Iago, the Cornish Jago. James the Greater (July 25) was son of Zebedee and brother of St. John; James the Less (May 1) is obscure and scarcely mentioned in Scripture; he is said to have been called that for being shorter or younger than the other. Fictional British spy James Bond dates from 1953, created by British author Ian Fleming (1908-1964), who plausibly is said to have taken the name from that of U.S. ornithologist James Bond (1900-1989), an expert on Caribbean birds.

ford (n.)

Old English ford “shallow place where water can be crossed,” from Proto-Germanic *furdu- (source also of Old Frisian forda, Old High German furt, German Furt “ford”), from PIE *prtu- “a going, a passage” (source also of Latin portus “harbor”), from root *per- (2) “to lead, pass over.” The line of automobiles (company founded 1903) is named for U.S. manufacturer Henry Ford (1863-1947).

G

seventh letter of the alphabet, invented by the Romans; a modified gamma introduced c. 250 B.C.E. to restore a dedicated symbol for the “g” sound. For fuller history, see C

Before the vowels -e--i-, and -y-, Old English initial g- changed its sound and is represented in Modern English by consonantal y- (yearyardyellowyoungyes, etc.). In get and give, however, the initial g- seems to have been preserved by Scandinavian influence. As a movie rating in the U.S., 1966, standing for general (adj.). Standing for gravity in physics since 1785.

amble (v.)

“to move easily and gently without hard shocks,” as a horse does when it first lifts the two legs on one side and then the two on the other, early 14c., from Old French ambler, of a horse or other quadruped, “go at a steady, easy pace” (12c.), from Latin ambulare “to walk, to go about, take a walk,” perhaps a compound of ambi- “around” (from PIE root *ambhi- “around”) and -ulare, from PIE root *el- “to go” (source also of Greek ale “wandering,” alaomai “wander about;” Latvian aluot “go around or astray”). Until 1590s used only of horses or persons on horseback. Related: Ambledambling.

sacred (adj.)

late 14c., past-participle adjective from obsolete verb sacren “to make holy” (c. 1200), from Old French sacrer “consecrate, anoint, dedicate” (12c.) or directly from Latin sacrare “to make sacred, consecrate; hold sacred; immortalize; set apart, dedicate,” from sacer (genitive sacri) “sacred, dedicated, holy, accursed,” from Old Latin saceres, from PIE root *sak- “to sanctify.” Buck groups it with Oscan sakrim, Umbrian sacra and calls it “a distinctive Italic group, without any clear outside connections.” De Vaan has it from a PIE root *shnk- “to make sacred, sanctify,” and finds cognates in Hittite šaklai “custom, rites,” zankila “to fine, punish.” Related: Sacredness.

The Latin nasalized form is sancire “make sacred, confirm, ratify, ordain.” An Old English word for “sacred” was godcundSacred cow “object of Hindu veneration,” is from 1891; figurative sense of “one who must not be criticized” is first recorded 1910, reflecting Western views of Hinduism. Sacred Heart “the heart of Jesus as an object of religious veneration” is from 1765.

vocabulary (n.)

1530s, “list of words with explanations,” from Medieval Latin vocabularium “a list of words,” from Latin vocabulum “word, name, noun,” from vocare “to name, call,” related to vox “voice,” from PIE root *wekw- “to speak.” Meaning “range of words in the language of a person or group” is first attested 1753.

secret (n.)

late 14c., from Latin secretus “set apart, withdrawn; hidden, concealed, private,” past participle of secernere “to set apart, part, divide; exclude,” from se- “without, apart,” properly “on one’s own” (see se-) + cernere “separate” (from PIE root *krei- “to sieve,” thus “discriminate, distinguish”).

As an adjective from late 14c., from French secret, adjective use of noun. Open secret is from 1828. Secret agent first recorded 1715; secret service is from 1737; secret weapon is from 1936.

quintessence (n.)

early 15c., in ancient and medieval philosophy, “pure essence, substance of which the heavenly bodies are composed,” literally “fifth essence,” from Middle French quinte essence (14c.), from Medieval Latin quinta essentia, from Latin quinta, fem. of quintus “fifth” (from PIE root *penkwe- “five”) + essentia “being, essence,” abstract noun formed (to translate Greek ousia “being, essence”) from essent-, present participle stem of esse “to be,” from PIE root *es- “to be.”

A loan-translation of Greek pempte ousia, the “ether” added by Aristotle to the four known elements (water, earth, fire, air) and said to permeate all things. Its extraction was one of the chief goals of alchemy. Sense of “purest essence” (of a situation, character, etc.) is first recorded 1580s.

secretion (n.)

1640s, “act of secreting;” 1732, “that which is secreted,” from French sécrétion, from Latin secretionem (nominative secretio) “a dividing, separation,” noun of action from past participle stem of secernere “to separate, set apart” (see secret (n.)).

Essene (n.)

1550s, member of a Jewish sect (first recorded 2c. B.C.E.), from Latin, from Greek Essenoi, of disputed etymology, perhaps from Hebrew tzenum “the modest ones,” or Hebrew hashaim “the silent ones.” Klein suggests Syriac hasen, plural absolute state of hase “pious.” Related: Essenes.

amnesia (n.)

“loss of memory,” 1786 (as a Greek word in English from 1670s), Modern Latin, coined from Greek amnesia “forgetfulness,” from a- “not” (see a- (3)) + mnesi- “remembering” (found only in compounds), from stem of mnasthai “to recall, remember,” related to mnemnon “mindful,” mneme “memory;” from PIE root *men- (1) “to think.” The usual word in Greek was amnestia, but this had a specialized sense of “forgetfulness of wrong” (see amnesty).

gnosis (n.)

“knowledge,” especially “special knowledge of spiritual mysteries,” 1703, from Greek gnōsis “a knowing, knowledge; a judicial inquiry, investigation; a being known,” in Christian writers, “higher knowledge of spiritual things,” from PIE *gnō-ti-, from root *gno- “to know.”

anamnesis (n.)

“recollection, remembrance, reminiscence,” 1650s, from Greek anamnesis “a calling to mind, remembrance,” noun of action from stem of anamimneskein “remember, remind (someone) of (something), make mention of,” from ana “back” (see ana-) + mimneskesthai “to recall, cause to remember,” related to mnemnon “mindful,” mneme “memory;” from PIE root *men- (1) “to think.” In Platonic philosophy, “recollection of a prior life.”

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Bonne Nuit

music (n.)

mid 13 c., musike, ‘a pleasing succession of sounds or combination of sounds; the science of combining sounds in rhythmic, melodic and (later) harmonic order,’ from Old French musique, (12 c.) and directly from Latin musica, ‘the art of music,’ also including poetry (also source of Spanish musica, the Italian musica, Old High German mosica, German Musik, Dutch muziek, Danish musik), from Greek mousike (techne), ‘(art) of the Muses,’ from fem. mousikos ‘pertaining to the Muses; musical; educated,’ from Mousa ‘Muse’ (see muse (n.))”

[from Etymonline(.com); Online Etymological Ra-Search Ra-Source]

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Oracle

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