bidet (n.) Look up bidet at
1620s, "small horse," from French bidet (16c.), of unknown etymology. Originally in French "a small horse, a pony," thus "a vessel on a low narrow stand, which can be bestridden for bathing purposes," a sense attested in English from 1766.
bidirectional (adj.) Look up bidirectional at
also bi-directional, 1941, from bi- + direction + -al (1). Originally of microphones. Related: Bidirectionally.
Biedermeier Look up Biedermeier at
1854, from German, from Gottlieb Biedermeier, name of a fictitious writer of stodgy poems (invented by Ludwig Eichrodt as a satire on bourgeois taste); the name applied to styles prevalent in Germany 1815-48; also "conventional, bourgeois."
biennial (adj.) Look up biennial at
"lasting for two years" (1620s); "occurring every two years" (1750), from Latin biennium "two-year period," from bi- (see bi-) + annus "year" (see annual (adj.)). The vowel change is "due to the Latin phonetic law according to which the unaccented and closed radical syllable of the second element of compounds, original -ă- becomes -ĕ-" [Klein]. The noun meaning "a biennial plant" is attested by 1770.
biennium (n.) Look up biennium at
"space of two years," by 1851, from Latin biennium "two years, a period of two years," from bi- + annus "year" (see annual (adj.)). For vowel change, see biennial.
bier (n.) Look up bier at
Old English bær (West Saxon), ber (Anglian) "handbarrow, litter, bed," from West Germanic *bero (source also of Old Saxon, Old High German bara, Old Frisian bere, Middle Dutch bare, Dutch baar, German Bahre "bier"), from PIE root *bher- (1) "to carry," and thus related to the Old English verb beran "to bear" (see bear (v.)), making a bier etymologically anything used for carrying, only later limited to funerary sense. Since c. 1600, spelling influenced by French bière, from Old French biere, from Frankish *bera, from the same Germanic root.
bifarious (adj.) Look up bifarious at
1650s, from Latin bifarius "twofold, double," probably originally "that which can be expressed in two ways" [Klein], from bi- (see bi-) + fari "to speak, say," from PIE root *bha- (2) "to speak, tell, say." Related: Bifariously.
biff (v.) Look up biff at
"to hit," 1877, imitative (as a sound effect, from 1847). Related: Biffed; biffing. As a noun, attested from 1881.
bifid (adj.) Look up bifid at
"split in two equal parts," 1660s, from Latin bifidus "split into two parts," from bi- (see bi-) + stem of findere "to split" (see fissure).
bifocal (adj.) Look up bifocal at
"having two foci," 1844, from bi- + focal.
bifocals (n.) Look up bifocals at
"bifocal spectacles," 1899, see bifocal. Conceived by Benjamin Franklin, but called by him double spectacles.
bifoliate (adj.) Look up bifoliate at
"having two leaves," 1817, from bi- + foliate.
bifurcate (v.) Look up bifurcate at
1610s, from Medieval Latin bifurcatus, from Latin bi- (see bi-) + furca, the root of fork. Related: Bifurcated; bifurcating.
bifurcate (adj.) Look up bifurcate at
1835, from Medieval Latin bifurcatus, from Latin bi- (see bi-) + furca, the root of fork (n.).
bifurcation (n.) Look up bifurcation at
1610s, "the point at which something splits in two," noun of action from bifurcate (v.). Meaning "division into two forks" is from 1640s.
big (adj.) Look up big at
c. 1300, northern England dialect, "powerful, strong," of obscure origin, possibly from a Scandinavian source (compare Norwegian dialectal bugge "great man"). Old English used micel in many of the same senses. Meaning "of great size" is late 14c.; that of "grown up" is attested from 1550s. Sense of "important" is from 1570s. Meaning "generous" is U.S. colloquial by 1913.

Big band as a musical style is from 1926. Slang big head "conceit" is first recorded 1850. Big business "large commercial firms collectively" is 1905; big house "penitentiary" is U.S. underworld slang first attested 1915 (in London, "a workhouse," 1851). In financial journalism, big ticket items so called from 1956. Big lie is from Hitler's grosse Lüge.
Big Apple Look up Big Apple at
"New York," 1909 (but popularized by 1970s tourism promotion campaign), apparently from jazz musicians' use of apple for any city, especially a Northern one.
big bang Look up big bang at
hypothetical explosive beginning of the universe, developed from the work of Monsignor Georges Henri Joseph Édouard Lemaître and George Gamow, the name first attested 1950 (said to have been used orally in 1949) by British astronomer Fred Hoyle (1915-2001) in an attempt to explain the idea in laymen's terms.
Big Ben Look up Big Ben at
clock in the Parliament tower in London, generally said to have been named for Sir Benjamin Hall (1802-1867), first Chief Commissioner of Works, under whose supervision the bell was cast.
Big Brother Look up Big Brother at
"ubiquitous and repressive but apparently benevolent authority" first recorded 1949, from George Orwell's novel "Nineteen Eighty-Four."
big deal (n.) Look up big deal at
from mid-19c. in poker or business; as an ironic expression, popular in American English from c. 1965, perhaps a translated Yiddishism (such as a groyser kunst).
Big Dipper (n.) Look up Big Dipper at
American English name for the seven-star asterism (known in England as the plough; see Charles's Wain) in the constellation Ursa Major, first attested 1833 as simply the Dipper (sometimes Great Dipper, its companion constellation always being the Little Dipper). See dipper.
Big Mac Look up Big Mac at
trademark name (McDonald's Corp.) of a type of hamburger sandwich, patented 1974 but alleged to have been in use from 1957.
big mouth (n.) Look up big mouth at
also bigmouth "person who talks too much," 1889, American English, from big + mouth (n.).
big shot (n.) Look up big shot at
"important person," 1929, American English, from Prohibition-era gangster slang; earlier in the same sense was great shot (1861). Ultimately a reference to large type of gunshot.
big time (n.) Look up big time at
"upper reaches of a profession or pursuit," c. 1910 from vaudeville slang; the phrase was common in colloquial use late 19c.-early 20c. in a broad range of senses: "party, shindig, fun, frolic."
big-tent (adj.) Look up big-tent at
in reference to welcoming all sorts and not being ideologically narrow, American English, 1982 with reference to religion, by 1987 with reference to politics.
bigamist (n.) Look up bigamist at
1630s; see bigamy + -ist. Earlier in the same sense was bigame (mid-15c.), from Old French bigame, from Medival Latin bigamus.
bigamous (adj.) Look up bigamous at
1690s; see bigamy + -ous.
bigamy (n.) Look up bigamy at
"state of having two wives or husbands at the same time," mid-13c., from Old French bigamie (13c.), from Church Latin bigamia, from Late Latin bigamus "twice married," a hybrid from bi- "double" (see bi-) + Greek gamos "marrying" (see gamete). The Greek word was digamos "twice married."
Bigamie is unkinde ðing, On engleis tale, twie-wifing. [c. 1250]
In Middle English, also of two successive marriages or marrying a widow.
bigass (adj.) Look up bigass at
also big-ass, big-assed, by 1945, U.S. military slang, from big + ass (2).
bigfoot (n.) Look up bigfoot at
supposed elusive man-like creature of the Pacific Northwest, 1963, from big (adj.) + foot (n.).
bigger (adj.) Look up bigger at
comparative of big.
biggest (adj.) Look up biggest at
superlative of big.
biggie (n.) Look up biggie at
1931, from big + -ie.
bight (n.) Look up bight at
Old English byht "bend, angle, corner" (related to bow), from Proto-Germanic *buhtiz (source also of Middle Low German bucht, German Bucht, Dutch bocht, Danish bught "bight, bay"), from PIE root *bheug- (3) "to bend," with derivatives referring to bent, pliable, or curved objects (source also of Old English beag, Old High German boug "ring;" see bow (v.)). Sense of "indentation on a coastline" is from late 15c.
bigness (n.) Look up bigness at
late 15c., from big + -ness.
bigot (n.) Look up bigot at
1590s, "sanctimonious person, religious hypocrite," from French bigot (12c.), which is of unknown origin. Earliest French use of the word is as the name of a people apparently in southern Gaul, which led to the now-doubtful, on phonetic grounds, theory that the word comes from Visigothus. The typical use in Old French seems to have been as a derogatory nickname for Normans, the old theory (not universally accepted) being that it springs from their frequent use of the Germanic oath bi God. But OED dismisses in a three-exclamation-mark fury one fanciful version of the "by god" theory as "absurdly incongruous with facts." At the end, not much is left standing except Spanish bigote "mustache," which also has been proposed but not explained, and the chief virtue of which as a source seems to be there is no evidence for or against it.

In support of the "by God" theory, as a surname Bigott, Bygott are attested in Normandy and in England from the 11c., and French name etymology sources (such as Dauzat) explain it as a derogatory name applied by the French to the Normans and representing "by god." The English were known as goddamns 200 years later in Joan of Arc's France, and during World War I Americans serving in France were said to be known as les sommobiches (see also son of a bitch). But the sense development in bigot is difficult to explain. According to Donkin, the modern use first appears in French 16c. This and the earliest English sense, "religious hypocrite," especially a female one, might have been influenced by beguine and the words that cluster around it. Sense extended 1680s to other than religious opinions.
bigoted (adj.) Look up bigoted at
1640s, from bigot (q.v.).
bigotry (n.) Look up bigotry at
1670s, from French bigoterie "sanctimoniousness," from bigot (see bigot).
bigwig (n.) Look up bigwig at
1731, from big + wig, in reference to the imposing wigs formerly worn by men of rank or authority.
bijou (n.) Look up bijou at
1660s, from French bijou, from Breton bizou "(jeweled) ring," from bez "finger" (compare Cornish bisou "finger-ring," 13c.).
bike (n.) Look up bike at
1882, American English, shortened and altered form of bicycle.
biker (n.) Look up biker at
"motorcycle rider" (especially with reference to club affiliation), 1968, American English, from bike (n.) in its slang sense of "motorcycle" (1939).
bikini (n.) Look up bikini at
"low-waisted two-piece women's bathing suit," 1948, from French coinage, 1947, named for U.S. A-bomb test of June 1946 on Bikini, Marshall Islands atoll, locally Pikinni and said to derive from pik "surface" and ni "coconut," but this is uncertain. Various explanations for the swimsuit name have been suggested, none convincingly, the best being an analogy of the explosive force of the bomb and the impact of the bathing suit style on men's libidos (compare c. 1900 British slang assassin "an ornamental bow worn on the female breast," so called because it was very "killing").
Bikini, ce mot cinglant comme l'explosion même ... correspondant au niveau du vêtement de plage à on anéantissement de la surface vêtue; à une minimisation extrême de la pudeur. [Le Monde, 1947]
As a style of scanty briefs, from 1960. Variant trikini (1967), with separate bra cups held on by Velcro, falsely presumes a compound in bi-.
bilabial (adj.) Look up bilabial at
1857, from bi- + labial. Alternative bilabiate is attested from 1794.
bilateral (adj.) Look up bilateral at
"having two sides," 1775, from bi- + lateral. Related: Bilaterally.
bilateralism (n.) Look up bilateralism at
1852, from bilateral + -ism.
bilbo (n.) Look up bilbo at
kind of sword noted for temper and elasticity, 1590s, from Bilbao, town in northern Spain where swords were made, in English Bilboa. The town name is Roman Bellum Vadum "beautiful ford" (over the Nervion River).
Bildungsroman (n.) Look up Bildungsroman at
1910, from German Bildungsroman, from Bildung "education, formation, growth" (from Bild "picture, image, figure;" Old High German bilade) + roman "novel" (see romance). A novel set in the formative years, or the time of spiritual education, of the main character.