Bahamas Look up Bahamas at
islands discovered by Columbus in 1492, settled by English in 1648, long after the native population had been wiped out by disease or carried off into slavery; the name is said to be from Spanish baja mar "low sea," in reference to the shallow water here, but more likely represents a local name, Guanahani, whose origin had been lost and whose meaning has been forgotten.
Bahrain Look up Bahrain at
island kingdom in the Persian Gulf, from Arabic al-bahrayn "the two seas," from dual form of bahr "sea;" so called in reference to the bodies of water on either side of it. Related: Bahraini.
bail (n.2) Look up bail at
"horizontal piece of wood in a cricket wicket," c. 1742, originally "a cross bar" of any sort (1570s), probably identical with Middle French bail "horizontal piece of wood affixed on two stakes," and with English bail "palisade wall, outer wall of a castle" (see bailey). From 1904 as the hinged bar which holds the paper against the platen of a typewriter.
bail (v.1) Look up bail at
"to dip water out of," 1610s, from baile (n.) "small wooden bucket" (mid-14c.), from nautical Old French baille "bucket, pail," from Medieval Latin *baiula (aquae), literally "porter of water," from Latin baiulare "to bear a burden" (see bail (n.1)).

To bail out "leave suddenly" (intransitive) is recorded from 1930, originally of airplane pilots. Perhaps there is some influence from bail (v.2) "procure (someone's) release from prison." Related: Bailed; bailing.
bail (v.2) Look up bail at
"to procure someone's release from arrest or imprisonment" (by posting bail), 1580s, from bail (n.1); usually with out. Related: Bailed; bailing.
bail (n.1) Look up bail at
"bond money, security given to obtain the release of a prisoner," late 15c., a sense that apparently developed from that of "temporary release from jail" (into the custody of another, who gives security), recorded from early 15c. That evolved from earlier meaning "captivity, custody" (early 14c.). From Old French baillier "to control, to guard, deliver" (12c.), from Latin baiulare "to bear a burden," from baiulus "porter, carrier," which is of uncertain origin; perhaps a borrowing from Germanic and cognate with the root of English pack, or perhaps from Celtic. De Vaan writes that, in either case, "PIE origin seems unlikely." In late 18c. criminal slang, to give leg bail meant "to run away."
bailey (n.) Look up bailey at
early 14c., baylle, "wall enclosing an outer court" of a castle, etc. (c. 1200 in Anglo-Latin), a variant of bail, from Old French bail "stake, palisade, brace," which is of unknown origin, perhaps ultimately connected to Latin bacula "sticks," on notion of "stakes, palisade fence."

The word was later extended to mean the outer court itself. Hence Old Bailey, seat of Central Criminal Court in London, so called because it stood within the ancient bailey of the city wall. The surname Bailey usually is from Old French bailli, a later form of baillif (see bailiff).
bailiff (n.) Look up bailiff at
c. 1300 (early 13c. in surnames), "subordinate administrative or judicial officer of the English crown, king's officer in a county, hundred, or other local district;" also "keeper of a royal castle;" also "minor judiciary officer under a sheriff," who serves writs, etc.; from Old French baillif (12c., nominative baillis) "administrative official, deputy," from Vulgar Latin *baiulivus "official in charge of a castle," from Latin baiulus "porter" (see bail (n.1)). From early 14c. as "agent of a lord, overseer of an estate" who directs operations, collects rents, etc.; also used in Middle English of an elected official in a town.
bailiwick (n.) Look up bailiwick at
"district of a bailiff, jurisdiction of a royal officer or under-sheriff," mid-15c., contraction of baillifwik, from bailiff (q.v.) + Middle English wik, from Old English wic "village" (see wick (n.2)). Figurative sense of "one's natural or proper sphere" recorded by 1843.
bailout (n.) Look up bailout at
also bail-out 1945, in aviation, from the verbal phrase in reference to pilots (see bail (v.1) + out (adv.)). As "federal help for private business in trouble," from 1968; it is unclear which sense of bail is meant.
bain-marie (n.) Look up bain-marie at
"shallow, flat vessel containing hot water in which another vessel is placed to heat its contents gently," 1822, from French bain-marie, from Medieval Latin balneum Mariae, literally "bath of Mary." According to French sources, perhaps so called for the gentleness of its heating. Middle English had balne of mary (late 15c.). French bain was used by itself in English in various sense 15c.-17c.; it is from baigner "to bathe" (12c.), from Latin balneare, from balneum "bath" (see balneal).
bairn (n.) Look up bairn at
"child" (of either gender or any age), "son or daughter," Old English bearn "child, son, descendant," from Proto-Germanic *barnam- (source also of Old Saxon barn, Old Frisian barn, Old High German barn; lost in modern German and Dutch), from PIE root *bher- (1) "to carry," also "to bear children."

Originally a general English word, in modern English restricted to northern England and Scottish from c. 1700. This was the English form of the original Germanic word for "child" (see child). Dutch, Old High German kind, German Kind are from a prehistoric *gen-to-m "born," from the same root as Latin gignere (see genus and compare kind (n.)). Middle English had bairn-team "brood of children."
bait (n.) Look up bait at
"food put on a hook or trap to attract prey," c. 1300, from Old Norse beita "food, bait," especially for fish, from beita "cause to bite," from Proto-Germanic *baitjan, causative of *bitan, from PIE root *bheid- "to split," with derivatives in Germanic referring to biting. The noun is cognate with Old Norse beit "pasture, pasturage," Old English bat "food." Figurative sense "means of enticement" is from c. 1400.
bait (v.2) Look up bait at
"to put food on a fishing line or in a trap," c. 1400, probably from bait (n.). From 1590s as "to lure by bait." Related: Baited; baiting.
bait (v.1) Look up bait at
c. 1200, "to torment or persecute (someone);" c. 1300, "to set a dog to bite and worry (an animal, especially a confined one, for sport)," from Old Norse beita "to cause to bite," from Proto-Germanic *baitjan (source also of Old English bætan "to cause to bite," Old High German beizzen "to bait," Middle High German beiz "hunting," German beizen "to hawk, to cauterize, etch"), causative of *bitan (see bite (v.)).

The earliest attested use is figurative of the literal one, which is from the popular medieval entertainment of setting dogs on some ferocious beast to bite and worry it. The verb also in Middle English could mean "put a horse or other domestic beast out to feed or graze," and, of persons, "to eat food," also figuratively "feast the eye" (late 14c.). Compare bait (n.). Related: Baited; baiting.
baited (adj.) Look up baited at
c. 1600, "furnished with bait," past participle adjective from bait (v.2). Hence, in a figurative sense, "exciting, alluring" (1650s). For bated breath see bate (v.1).
baiting (n.) Look up baiting at
"act of worrying a chained or confined animal with dogs," c. 1300, also figurative, verbal noun from bait (v.1). Related: Baitingly.
baize (n.) Look up baize at
coarse woolen fabric with a nap on one side, dyed in plain colors, 1570s, bayse, from French baies, fem. plural of adjective bai "bay-colored" (12c.), from Latin badius "chestnut-colored" (see bay (n.4)). Thus probably so called for its original color. French plural taken as a singular in English.
Baja Look up Baja at
in place names (such as Baja California), Spanish baja, literally "lower," either in elevation or geography.
bake (v.) Look up bake at
Old English bacan "to bake, to cook by dry heat in a closed place or on a heated surface," from Proto-Germanic *bakan "to bake" (source also of Old Norse baka, Middle Dutch backen, Old High German bahhan, German backen), from PIE *bheg- (source also of Greek phogein "to roast"), extended form of root *bhē- "to warm" (see bath). Related: Baked (Middle English had baken); baking. Baked beans attested by 1803.
bake (n.) Look up bake at
1560s, "process of baking," from bake (v.). As "social gathering at which baked food is served," 1846, American English.
Bakelite (n.) Look up Bakelite at
type of plastic widely used early 20c., 1909, from German Bakelit, named for Belgian-born U.S. physicist Leo Baekeland (1863-1944), who invented it. Originally a proprietary name, it is formed by the condensation of a phenol with an aldehyde.
baker (n.) Look up baker at
Old English bæcere "baker, one who bakes (especially bread)," agent noun from bacan "to bake" (see bake (v.)). Cognate with Dutch bakker, German Bäcker, Becker. In the Middle Ages, the craft had two divisions, braun-bakeres and whit-bakeres.
White bakers shall bake no hors brede..broune bakers shall bake whete brede as it comyth grounde fro the mylle withoute ony bultyng of the same. Also the seid broune bakers shall bake hors brede of clene benys and pesyn, And also brede that is called housholdersbrede. [Letterbook in the City of London Records Office, Guildhall, 1441]
Baker's dozen "thirteen" is from 1590s.
These dealers [hucksters] ... on purchasing their bread from the bakers, were privileged by law to receive thirteen batches for twelve, and this would seem to have been the extent of their profits. Hence the expression, still in use, "A baker's dozen." [H.T. Riley, "Liber Albus," 1859]
But Brewer says the custom originated when there were heavy penalties for short weight, bakers giving the extra bread to secure themselves.
bakery (n.) Look up bakery at
c. 1820, "place for making bread;" see bake (v.) + -ery. Replaced earlier bakehouse (c. 1400). As "shop where baked goods are sold" it was noted as an Americanism by British travelers by 1832.
bakestone (n.) Look up bakestone at
"flat stone used as a griddle," c. 1200, from bake (v.) + stone (n.).
baking (n.) Look up baking at
late 14c., "process of making break," verbal noun from bake (v.). Baking powder "yeast substitute" is from 1850.
baklava (n.) Look up baklava at
flaky pastry dessert made with honey and nuts, usually cut in lozenge shapes, 1650s, from Turkish.
baksheesh (n.) Look up baksheesh at
1620s (variously spelled), in India, Egypt, etc., "a gratuity, present in money," from Persian bakhshish, literally "gift," from verb bakhshidan "to give" (also "to forgive"), from PIE root *bhag- "to share out, apportion; to get a share."
Balaam Look up Balaam at
Biblical prophet (wicked, but not false) whose story is told in Numbers xxii-xxiv; figurative of "one who makes profession of religion for the sake of gain" from 1640s. Balaam's ass speaks in a human voice in Numbers xxii ("And the ass said unto Balaam, Am not I thine ass, upon which thou hast ridden ever since I was thine unto this day? was I ever wont to do so unto thee? and he said, Nay."). In old newspaper jargon Balaam came to be used for paragraphs regarding marvelous or incredible events, used to fill out short columns (1826). The name is of uncertain origin.
Balaclava (n.) Look up Balaclava at
"woolen head covering," especially worn by soldiers, evidently named for village near Sebastopol, Russia, site of a battle Oct. 25, 1854, in the Crimean War. But the term (originally Balaclava helmet) does not appear before 1881 and seems to have come into widespread use in the Boer War. The British troops suffered from the cold in the Crimean War, and the usage might be a remembrance of that conflict. The town name (Balaklava) often is said to be from Turkish, but is perhaps folk-etymologized from a Greek original Palakion.
balalaika (n.) Look up balalaika at
stringed instrument with a triangular body, 1788, from Russian balalaika, said to be related to balabolit' "to chatter, babble," an imitative word.
balance (n.) Look up balance at
early 13c., "scales, apparatus for weighing by comparison of mass," from Old French balance "balance, scales for weighing" (12c.), also in figurative sense; from Medieval Latin bilancia, from Late Latin bilanx, from Latin (libra) bilanx "(scale) having two pans," possibly from Latin bis "twice" (from PIE root *dwo- "two") + lanx "dish, plate, scale of a balance," which is of uncertain origin.

The accounting sense "arithmetical difference between the two sides of an account" is from 1580s; meaning "sum necessary to balance the two sides of an account" is from 1620s. Meaning "what remains or is left over" is by 1788, originally in commercial slang. Sense of "physical equipoise" is from 1660s; the meaning "general harmony between parts" is from 1732.

Many figurative uses are from Middle English image of the scales in the hands of personified Justice, Fortune, Fate, etc.; thus in (the) balance "at risk, in jeopardy or danger" (c. 1300). Balance of power in the geopolitical sense "distribution of forces among nations so that one may not dominate another" is from 1701. Balance of trade "difference between the value of exports from a country and the value of imports into it" is from 1660s.
balance (v.) Look up balance at
1570s, "be equal with," from balance (n.). Meaning "serve as a counterpoise to" is from 1590s; that of "bring or keep in equilibrium" is from 1630s; that of "keep oneself in equilibrium" is from 1833. Of accounts, "settle by paying what remains due," from 1580s. Related: Balanced; balancing.
balance-beam (n.) Look up balance-beam at
1798 as the cross-piece of a scales, 1813 as a type of device on a drawbridge, canal-lock, etc., from balance (n.) + beam (n.). From 1893 as a type of gymnastics apparatus.
balance-sheet (n.) Look up balance-sheet at
"statement showing the state of credits and debits in a particular business," 1812, from balance (n.) in the accounting sense + sheet (n.1).
balanced (adj.) Look up balanced at
1590s, "in equilibrium," past-participle adjective from balance (v.). In reference to meal, diet, etc., by 1908.
balcony (n.) Look up balcony at
1610s, "platform projecting from a wall of a building surrounded by a wall or railing," from Italian balcone, from balco "scaffold," which is from a Germanic source (perhaps Langobardic *balko- "beam"), from Proto-Germanic *balkon- (see balk (n.)). With Italian augmentative suffix -one. From 1718 as "gallery in a theater." Until c. 1825, regularly accented on the second syllable. Related: Balconied.
bald (adj.) Look up bald at
c. 1300, ballede, "wanting hair in some part where it naturally grows," of uncertain origin. Perhaps with Middle English -ede adjectival suffix, from Celtic bal "white patch, blaze" especially on the head of a horse or other animal (from PIE root *bhel- (1) "to shine, flash, gleam"). But Middle English Dictionary says probably formed on the root of ball (n.1) and compares Old Danish bældet.

Compare, from the same root, Sanskrit bhalam "brightness, forehead," Greek phalos "white," Latin fulcia "coot" (so called for the white patch on its head), Albanian bale "forehead." But connection with ball (n.1), on notion of "smooth, round" also has been suggested, and if not formed from it it was early associated with it. Sometimes figurative: "meager" (14c.), "without ornament" (16c.), "open, undisguised" (19c.). Of automobile tires with worn treads, by 1930. Bald eagle first attested 1680s; so called for its white head.
balderdash (n.) Look up balderdash at
1590s, of obscure origin despite much 19c. conjecture; in early use "a jumbled mix of liquors" (milk and beer, beer and wine, etc.); by 1670s as "senseless jumble of words." Perhaps from dash and the first element perhaps cognate with Danish balder "noise, clatter" (see boulder). "But the word may be merely one of the numerous popular formations of no definite elements, so freely made in the Elizabethan period" [Century Dictionary].
baldhead (n.) Look up baldhead at
"bald-headed man," 1530s, from bald + head (n.). Also baldpate (c. 1600).
balding (adj.) Look up balding at
"going bald, losing one's hair," by 1938, from bald (n.).
baldness (n.) Look up baldness at
"state or quality of being bald," late 14c., from bald + -ness.
baldric (n.) Look up baldric at
"belt worn over the shoulder," c. 1300, from Old French baldre "sword-belt, crossbelt," (12c., Modern French baudrier "shoulder-belt"), which probably is from Latin balteus "belt, sword-belt," a word said by Varro to be of Etruscan origin. The English word perhaps was influenced by Middle High German balderich (which itself is from French).
Baldwin Look up Baldwin at
masc. proper name, from Old French Baldoin (Modern French Baudouin), from a Germanic source similar to Old High German Baldawin, literally "bold friend," from bald "bold" (see bold) + wini "friend" (see win (v.)). A popular Flemish name, common in England before and after the Conquest.
baldy (n.) Look up baldy at
"bald-headed person," 1850, from bald + -y (3).
bale (v.) Look up bale at
"to pack up in bales," 1750, from bale (n.). Related: Baled; baling.
bale (n.) Look up bale at
"large bundle or package of merchandise prepared for transportation," early 14c., from Old French bale "rolled-up bundle" (13c., Modern French balle), from Frankish or some other Germanic source (such as Old High German balla "ball"), from Proto-Germanic *ball-, from PIE root *bhel- (2) "to blow, swell." The English word perhaps is via Flemish or Dutch, which got it from French.
Balearic (adj.) Look up Balearic at
"of or pertaining to the islands in the Mediterranean just east of Spain," 1660s, from Latin Balearicus, from Greek Baliarikos, from the ancient name of the islands and their inhabitants; traditionally "the slingers" (from ballein "to throw, sling") in reference to their weapons.
baleen (n.) Look up baleen at
early 14c., "whalebone," from Old French balaine "whale, whalebone" (12c.), from Latin ballaena, from Greek phallaina "whale," which is apparently phallos "swollen penis" (perhaps because of a whale's body shape) with a fem. suffix. If so, it is from PIE root *bhel- (2) "to blow, swell." The b- (instead of -p-) for ph- substitution shows it entered Latin through a third language (Klein suggests Illyrian).
baleful (adj.) Look up baleful at
Old English bealufull "dire, wicked, cruel," with -ful + bealu "harm, injury, ruin, evil, mischief, wickedness, a noxious thing," from Proto-Germanic *balwom (source also of Old Saxon balu, Old Frisian balu "evil," Old High German balo "destruction," Old Norse bol, Gothic balwjan "to torment"), from PIE root *bhelu- "to harm."

During Anglo-Saxon times, the noun was in poetic use only (in compounds such as bealubenn "mortal wound," bealuðonc "evil thought"). The equivalent noun is missing in modern German, Danish, and Swedish, and in English bale long has been archaic or poetic only (OED says "Marked obsolete in dictionaries soon after 1600"), while baleful in modern English long has been poetic or literary only. Related: Balefully.