- batter (n.1)
- in cookery, "a mixture of ingredients (flour, eggs, milk) beaten together," late 14c., from Old French batteure "a beating," from Latin battuere "to beat, knock" (see batter (v.)).
- batter (n.2)
- "one who strikes or beats with a bat," 1773, agent noun from bat (v.2). Earlier noun was batsman (1756).
- battery (n.)
- 1530s, "action of battering," in law, "the unlawful beating of another," from Middle French batterie, from Old French baterie "beating, thrashing, assault" (12c.), from batre "to beat," from Latin battuere (see batter (v.)).
Meaning shifted in Middle French from "bombardment" ("heavy blows" upon city walls or fortresses) to "unit of artillery" (a sense recorded in English from 1550s). Extension to "electrical cell" (1748, first used by Ben Franklin) is perhaps from the artillery sense via notion of "discharges" of electricity. In Middle English, bateri meant only "forged metal ware." In obsolete baseball jargon battery was the word for "pitcher and catcher" considered as a unit (1867, originally only the pitcher).
- batting (n.2)
- "action of striking with a bat," 1610s, verbal noun from bat (v.2). In cricket, from 1773. Baseball batting average is from 1867.
- batting (n.1)
- "sheets of cotton fiber," 1875, variant of obsolete bat "felted mass of fur, wool, etc." (see bat (n.1)), on notion of "beaten" fabric.
- battle (v.)
- early 14c., "to fight," from French batailler (12c.), from bataille (see battle (n.)). Related: Battled; battling.
- battle (n.)
- "fight or hostile engagement between opposing forces," c. 1300, from Old French bataille "battle, single combat," also "inner turmoil, harsh circumstances; army, body of soldiers," from Late Latin battualia "exercise of soldiers and gladiators in fighting and fencing," from Latin battuere "to beat, to strike" (see batter (v.)).
Battle-cry is from 1814; battle-scarred is from 1865. Phrase battle royal "fight involving several combatants" is from 1670s.
- battle-axe (n.)
- also battle-ax, late 14c., weapon of war, from battle (n.) + axe (n.); meaning "formidable woman" is U.S. slang, first recorded 1896.
- battledore (n.)
- mid-15c., "bat-like implement used in washing clothes," of unknown origin, perhaps from Old Provençal batedor, Spanish batidor "beater, bat," from batir "to beat;" perhaps blended with Middle English betel "hammer, mallet." As a type of racket used in a game, from 1590s, from similarity of shape.
- battlefield (n.)
- also battle-field, "scene of a battle," 1812, from battle (n.) + field (n.). The usual word for it in Old English was wælstow, literally "slaughter-place."
- battlement (n.)
- "an indented parapet in fortifications," early 14c., from Old French bataillement, earlier bastillement "fortification," from bastillier "to fortify, to equip with battlements," from bastille "fortress, tower" (see bastion). The raised parts are cops or merlons; the indentations are embrasures or crenelles.
- battleship (n.)
- also battle-ship, "powerful warship designed to fight in a line of battle," 1794, shortened from line-of-battle ship (1705), one large enough to take part in a main attack (formerly one of 74-plus guns); from battle (n.) + ship (n.). Later in U.S. Navy it was used of a class of ships that carried guns of the largest size. Rendered obsolete by seaborne air power and guided missiles, the last was decommissioned in 2006. Battleship-gray as a color is attested from 1916. Fighter and bomber airplanes in World War I newspaper articles sometimes were called battleplanes, but it did not catch on.
- battology (n.)
- "needless repetition in speaking or writing," c. 1600, from Greek battologia "a speaking stammeringly," from battos "stammerer," of imitative origin, + -logia (see -logy). Related: Battological; battologist.
- batty (adj.)
- 1580s, "pertaining to or resembling a bat or bats," from bat (n.2) + -y (2). Slang sense "nuts, crazy" is attested from 1903, from the colloquial expression (to have) bats in (one's) belfry "not be right in the head" (1899).
- bauble (n.)
- early 14c., "showy trinket or ornament," from Old French baubel "child's toy, trinket," probably a reduplication of bel, from Latin bellus "pretty" (see bene-). Or else related to babe, baby. Meaning "a trifle, thing of little or no value" is from 1630s.
- baud (n.)
- 1932, originally a unit of speed in telegraphy, coined in French in 1929 in honor of French inventor and engineer Jean-Maurice-Émile Baudot (1845-1903), who designed a telegraph printing system.
- Bauhaus (n.)
- 1923, from German Bauhaus, literally "architecture-house;" name of a school of design founded in Weimar, Germany, 1919 by Walter Gropius (1883-1969), later extended to the principles it embodied. First element is bau "building, construction, structure," from Old High German buan "to dwell" (see bound (adj.2)). For second element, see house (n.).
- alternative spelling of balk, especially in billiards, in reference to a bad shot.
- bauxite (n.)
- "clayey mineral containing aluminum," 1861, from French bauxite (1821), from Les Baux, near Arles, in France, where it first was found. The place name is from Provençal Li Baus, literally "the precipices."
- German Bayern, Medieval Latin Boiaria, named for the Boii, the ancient Celtic people who once lived there (also see Bohemia). Related: Bavarian.
- bawd (n.)
- a complicated word of uncertain history. First attested late 15c. in the sense "lewd person" (of either sex; since c. 1700 applied exclusively to women); probably [Middle English Dictionary] from Old French baud "gay, licentious" (from Frankish *bald "bold" or some such Germanic source), despite the doubts of OED. The 15c. English word perhaps is a shortening of baude-strote "procurer or procuress of prostitutes" (c. 1300).
For the French sense evolution from "bold" to "lewd," compare Old French baudise "ardor, joy, elation, act of boldness, presumption;" baudie "elation, high spirits," fole baudie "bawdry, shamelessness." The Old French word also is the source of French baudet "donkey," in Picardy dialect "loose woman."
The second element in baude-strote would be trot "one who runs errands," or Germanic *strutt (see strut (v.)). There was an Old French baudestrote, baudetrot of the same meaning (13c.), and this may be the direct source of Middle English baude-strote. The obsolete bronstrops "procuress," frequently found in Middleton's comedies, probably is an alteration of baude-strote.
- bawdry (n.)
- late 14c., "pandering, business of a procuress," probably from Old French bauderie "boldness, ardor, elation, pride," from baud (see bawd). From 1580s as "obscenity, smuttiness, lewd language."
- bawdy (adj.)
- late 14c., "soiled, dirty, filthy," from bawd + -y (2). Perhaps influenced by Middle English bauded, bowdet "soiled, dirty," from Welsh bawaidd "dirty," from baw "dirt, filth." Meaning "lewd, obscene, chaste" is from 1510s, from notion of "pertaining to or befitting a bawd;" usually of language (originally to talk bawdy).
Bawdy Basket, the twenty-third rank of canters, who carry pins, tape, ballads and obscene books to sell. [Grose, "Dictionary of the Vulgar Tongue," 1785]
Related: Bawdily; bawdiness. Bawdy-house "house of prostitution" is from 1550s.
- bawl (v.)
- mid-15c., "to howl like a dog," from Old Norse baula "to low like a cow," and/or Medieval Latin baulare "to bark like a dog," both echoic. Meaning "to shout loudly" attested from 1590s. To bawl (someone) out "reprimand loudly" is 1908, American English. Related: Bawled; bawling.
- surname, Middle English Bacestere (11c.), literally "baker;" see bake (v.) + -ster. Compare Old English bæcestre, fem. of bæcere "baker," which seems to suggest the surname meant "female baker," but Reaney ("Dictionary of English Surnames") notes Baxter is found mainly in the Anglian counties and is used chiefly of men. Only two examples have been noted with a woman's christian name."
- bay (v.)
- "to bark or howl (at)," late 14c., from bay (n.3). Related: Bayed; baying.
- bay (n.2)
- "opening in a wall," especially a space between two columns, late 14c. from Old French baee "opening, hole, gulf," noun use of fem. past participle of bayer "to gape, yawn," from Medieval Latin batare "gape," perhaps of imitative origin. Meaning "compartment for storage: is from 1550s. Somewhat confused with bay (n.1) "inlet of the sea," it is the bay in sick-bay and bay window (early 15c.).
- bay (n.1)
- "inlet, recess in the shore of a sea or lake," c. 1400, from Old French baie, Late Latin baia (source of Spanish and Portuguese bahia, Italian baja), which is perhaps ultimately from Iberian (Celtic) bahia.
- bay (n.3)
- "deep-toned howl of a dog," early 14c., earlier "howling chorus raised (by hounds) when in contact with the hunted animal," c. 1300, from Old French bayer, from PIE root *bai- echoic of howling (compare Greek bauzein, Latin baubari "to bark," English bow-wow; also see bawl).
From the condition of a hunted animal comes the transferred sense of "final encounter," and thence, on the notion of turning to face the danger when further flight or escape is impossible, at bay.
- bay (adj.)
- "reddish-brown," usually of horses, mid-14c., from Anglo-French bai (13c.), Old French bai, from Latin badius "chestnut-brown" (used only of horses), from PIE root *badyo- "yellow, brown" (source also of Old Irish buide "yellow"). As a noun, elliptical for a horse of this color.
- bay (n.4)
- laurel shrub (Laurus nobilis, source of the bay-leaf), late 14c., but meaning originally only the berry, from Old French baie (12c.) "berry, seed," from Latin baca, bacca "berry, fruit of a tree or shrub, nut" (source also of Spanish baya, Old Spanish bacca, Italian bacca "a berry"), a word of uncertain origin. Connection with Greek Bakhos "Bacchus" is difficult, as the Greek word probably was borrowed from an Asian language. Some linguists compare Berber *bqa "blackberry, mulberry," and suggest a common borrowing from a lost Mediterranean language.
Extension of the word to the shrub itself is from 1520s. The leaves or sprigs were woven as wreaths for conquerors or poets, hence "honorary crown or garland bestowed as a prize for victory or excellence" (1560s). Bay-leaf is from 1630s. Bay-berry (1570s) was coined after the sense of the original word had shifted to the tree.
- Bayard (n.)
- generic or mock-heroic name for a horse, mid-14c., from Old French Baiard, name of the bay-colored magic steed given by Charlemagne to Renaud in the legends, from Old French baiart "bay-colored" (see bay (adj.)). Also by early 14c. proverbial as a blind person or thing, for now-unknown reasons.
The name later was used attributively of gentlemen of exceptional courage and integrity, in this sense from Pierre du Terrail, seigneur de Bayard (1473-1524), French knight celebrated as Chevalier sans peur et sans reproche. The surname is perhaps in reference to hair color.
- bayberry (n.)
- "fruit of the bay tree," 1570s, from bay (n.4) + berry. In Jamaica, the name given to a type of myrtle (Pimenta acris), 1680s, from which bay-rum (1883) is made.
- bayonet (n.)
- 1610s, originally a type of flat dagger; as a soldiers' steel stabbing weapon fitted to the muzzle of a firearm, from 1670s, from French baionnette (16c.), said to be from Bayonne, city in Gascony where supposedly they first were made; or perhaps it is a diminutive of Old French bayon "crossbow bolt." The city name is from Late Latin baia "bay" (which was borrowed into Basque from Spanish) + Basque on "good." As a verb from c. 1700.
- bayou (n.)
- "sluggish watercourse, outlet of a lake or river," 1766, American English, via Louisiana French, from Choctaw (Muskogean) bayuk "small stream."
- bazaar (n.)
- 1580s, from Italian bazarra, ultimately from Persian bazar (Pahlavi vacar) "a market," from Old Iranian *vaha-carana "sale, traffic," from suffixed form of PIE root *wes- (1) "to buy, sell" (see venal).
- bazar (n.)
- alternative spelling of bazaar.
- bazooka (n.)
- "metal tube rocket launcher," 1942, from name of a junkyard musical instrument used (c. 1935) as a prop by U.S. comedian Bob Burns (1896-1956); extension of bazoo, slang for "mouth" or "boastful talk" (1877), probably from Dutch bazuin "trumpet."
- bazooms (n.)
- "woman's breasts," especially when deemed prominent, 1955, American English slang alteration of bosoms.
- see B.B.C.
- abbreviation of barbecue, by 1956, American English.
- see B.C.E.
- be (v.)
- Old English beon, beom, bion "be, exist, come to be, become, happen," from Proto-Germanic *biju- "I am, I will be." This "b-root" is from PIE root *bheue- "to be, exist, grow, come into being," and in addition to the words in English it yielded German present first and second person singular (bin, bist, from Old High German bim "I am," bist "thou art"), Latin perfective tenses of esse (fui "I was," etc.), Old Church Slavonic byti "be," Greek phu- "become," Old Irish bi'u "I am," Lithuanian bu'ti "to be," Russian byt' "to be," etc. It also is behind Sanskrit bhavah "becoming," bhavati "becomes, happens," bhumih "earth, world."
The modern verb to be in its entirety represents the merger of two once-distinct verbs, the "b-root" represented by be and the am/was verb, which was itself a conglomerate. Roger Lass ("Old English") describes the verb as "a collection of semantically related paradigm fragments," while Weekley calls it "an accidental conglomeration from the different Old English dial[ect]s." It is the most irregular verb in Modern English and the most common. Collective in all Germanic languages, it has eight different forms in Modern English:
BE (infinitive, subjunctive, imperative)
AM (present 1st person singular)
ARE (present 2nd person singular and all plural)
IS (present 3rd person singular)
WAS (past 1st and 3rd persons singular)
WERE (past 2nd person singular, all plural; subjunctive)
BEING (progressive & present participle; gerund)
BEEN (perfect participle).
The paradigm in Old English was:
|1st pres.||ic eom|
|2nd pres.||þu eart|
|3rd pres.||he is|
|1st pret.||ic wæs||we wæron|
|2nd pret.||þu wære||ge waeron|
|3rd pret.||heo wæs||hie wæron|
|1st pret. subj.||ic wære||we wæren|
|2nd pret. subj.||þu wære||ge wæren|
|3rd pret. subj.||Egcferð wære||hie wæren|
The "b-root" had no past tense in Old English, but often served as future tense of am/was. In 13c. it took the place of the infinitive, participle and imperative forms of am/was. Later its plural forms (we beth, ye ben, they be) became standard in Middle English and it made inroads into the singular (I be, thou beest, he beth), but forms of are claimed this turf in the 1500s and replaced be in the plural. For the origin and evolution of the am/was branches of this tangle, see am and was.
That but this blow Might be the be all, and the end all. ["Macbeth" I.vii.5]
- word-forming element with a wide range of meaning: "thoroughly, completely; to make, cause seem; to provide with; at, on, to, for," from Old English be- "on all sides" (also used to make transitive verbs and as a privative or intensive prefix), from weak form of Old English bi "by," probably cognate with second syllable of Greek amphi, Latin ambi and originally meaning "about" (see ambi-).
This sense naturally drifted into intensive (as in bespatter "spatter about," therefore "spatter very much"). Be- can also be privative (as in behead), causative, or have just about any sense required. The prefix was productive 16c.-17c. in forming useful words, many of which have not survived, such as bethwack "to thrash soundly" (1550s), betongue "to assail in speech, to scold" (1630s).
- be-all (n.)
- see be.
- be-in (n.)
- "a public gathering of hippies" [OED], 1967, from be + in.
- beach (n.)
- 1530s, "loose, water-worn pebbles of the seashore," probably from Old English bæce, bece "stream," from Proto-Germanic *bakiz. Extended to loose, pebbly shores (1590s), and in dialect around Sussex and Kent beach still has the meaning "pebbles worn by the waves." French grève shows the same evolution. Beach ball first recorded 1940; beach bum first recorded 1950.
- beach (v.)
- "to haul or run up on a beach," 1840, from beach (n.). Related: Beached; beaching.
- beach-comber (n.)
- 1840, from beach (n.) + agent noun from comb (v.).
- beachfront (adj.)
- also beach-front, 1903, American English, from beach (n.) + front (n.). The beach front was a standard way in late 19c. to express "the seashore of a town" such as Atlantic City.