bludger (n.) Look up bludger at
"prostitute's pimp," 1856, short for bludgeoner, agent noun from bludgeon (v.). Hence, also, in Australia and New Zealand slang, "loafer" (by 1939).
blue (n.) Look up blue at
"the color of the clear sky," c. 1300, from blue (adj.1). From late 15c. as "blue clothing." The blue is from 1640s as "the sky" (hence bolt from the blue "lightning," 1837); from 1821 as "the sea." In reference to a particular party which has chosen blue for its color, by 1835. "In most parts of England the Conservative party" [OED], but in 17c. it often was the Whig color (opposed to royal red).
blue (adj.2) Look up blue at
"lewd, indecent" recorded from 1840 (in form blueness, in an essay of Carlyle's); the sense connection with the color name (see blue (adj.1)) is unclear, and is opposite to that in blue laws (q.v.). John Mactaggart's "Scottish Gallovidian Encyclopedia" (1824), containing odd words he had learned while growing up in Galloway and elsewhere in Scotland, has an entry for Thread o'Blue, "any little smutty touch in song-singing, chatting, or piece of writing." Farmer ["Slang and Its Analogues Past and Present," 1890] offers the theory that this meaning derives from the blue dress uniforms issued to harlots in houses of correction (from c. 1600), but he writes that the earlier slang authority John Camden Hotten "suggests it as coming from the French Bibliothèque Bleu, a series of books of very questionable character," and adds, from Hotten, that, "Books or conversation of an entirely opposite nature are said to be Brown or Quakerish, i.e., serious, grave, decent."
blue (v.) Look up blue at
"to make blue," c. 1600, from blue (adj.1).
blue (adj.1) Look up blue at
"of the color of the clear sky," c. 1300, bleu, blwe, etc., "sky-colored," also "livid, lead-colored," from Old French blo, bleu "pale, pallid, wan, light-colored; blond; discolored; blue, blue-gray," from Frankish *blao or some other Germanic source, from Proto-Germanic *blæwaz (source also of Old English blaw, Old Saxon and Old High German blao, Danish blaa, Swedish blå, Old Frisian blau, Middle Dutch bla, Dutch blauw, German blau "blue").

This is from PIE *bhle-was "light-colored, blue, blond, yellow," from root *bhel- (1) "to shine, flash, burn," also "shining white" and forming words for bright colors. The same PIE root yielded Latin flavus "yellow," Old Spanish blavo "yellowish-gray," Greek phalos "white," Welsh blawr "gray," showing the slipperiness of definition in Indo-European color-words.
The exact color to which the Gmc. term applies varies in the older dialects; M.H.G. bla is also 'yellow,' whereas the Scandinavian words may refer esp. to a deep, swarthy black, e.g. O.N. blamaðr, N.Icel. blamaður 'Negro' [Buck]
Many Indo-European languages seem to have had a word to describe the color of the sea, encompasing blue and green and gray; such as Irish glass (from PIE root *ghel- (2) "to shine,"); Old English hæwen "blue, gray," related to har (see hoar); Serbo-Croatian sinji "gray-blue, sea-green;" Lithuanian šyvas, Russian sivyj "gray."

The present spelling in English is since 16c., common from c. 1700. The sense "lead-colored, blackish-blue, darkened as if by bruising" is perhaps by way of the Old Norse cognate bla "livid, lead-colored." It is the meaning in black and blue, and blue in the face "livid with effort" (1864, earlier black and blue in the face, 1829).

The color of constancy since Chaucer at least, but apparently for no deeper reason than the rhyme in true blue (c. 1500). Figurative meaning "sad, sorrowful, afflicted with low spirits" is from c. 1400, perhaps from the "livid" sense and implying a bruised heart or feelings. Of women, "learned, pedantic," by 1788 (see bluestocking). In some phrases, such as blue murder, it appears to be merely intensive. Blue was by c. 1600 the distinctive color of the dress of servants, which may be the reason police uniforms are blue, a tradition Farmer dates to Elizabethan times.
Few words enter more largely into the composition of slang, and colloquialisms bordering on slang, than does the word BLUE. Expressive alike of the utmost contempt, as of all that men hold dearest and love best, its manifold combinations, in ever varying shades of meaning, greet the philologist at every turn. [John S. Farmer, "Slang and Its Analogues Past and Present," 1890, p.252]
Blue pencil as an editor's characteristic tool to mark corrections in copy is from 1885; also as a verb from 1885. The fabulous story of Blue-beard, who kept his murdered wives in a locked room, is from 1798. For blue ribbon see cordon bleu under cordon. Blue whale attested from 1851, so called for its color. Blue cheese is from 1862. Blue water "the open ocean" is from 1822. Blue streak, of something resembling a bolt of lightning (for quickness, intensity, etc.) is from 1830, Kentucky slang. Delaware has been the Blue Hen State at least since 1830, supposedly from a nickname of its regiments in the Revolutionary War.
blue laws Look up blue laws at
severe Puritanical code said to have been enacted mid-17c. at the founding of New Haven and Connecticut colonies, 1781; of uncertain signification, perhaps from the notion of coldness, or from one of the figurative senses in blue (adj.1). Blue was the color adopted by 17c. Scottish Covenanters (in contradistinction to the royal red) and hence the color for a time acquired an association with strictness in morals or religion. Or perhaps connected to bluestocking in the sense of "puritanically plain or mean" (see bluestocking, which is a different application of the same term); the parliament of 1653 was derisively called the bluestocking parliament.
The assertion by some writers of the existence of the blue laws has no other basis than the adoption by the first authorities of the New Haven colony of the Scriptures as their code of law and government, and their strict application of Mosaic principles. [Century Dictionary]
Long, detailed lists of them often are given, but the original reference (in an anonymous history of Connecticut printed in London during the Revolution) says they were so-called by the neighboring colonies, "were never suffered to be printed," and then gives its own long list of them in quotations. The common explanation (dating to 1788) that they were written on blue paper is not now considered valid.
blue moon (n.) Look up blue moon at
"a long time," 1821, often in phrases indicating something rarely occurring. Compare at the Greek calends, and the native in the reign of Queen Dick and Saint Geoffrey's Day "Never, there being no saint of that name," reported in Grose (1788). It is suggested earliest in this couplet from 1528:
Yf they say the mone is blewe,
We must beleve that it is true.
Though this might refer to calendrical calculations by the Church. Thus the general "rareness" sense of the term is difficult to disentangle from the specific calendrical one (commonly misinterpreted as "second full moon in a calendar month," but actually a quarterly calculation). In either case, the sense of blue here is obscure. Literal blue moons do sometimes occur under extreme atmospheric conditions.
blue-blood (adj.) Look up blue-blood at
1809 in reference to the blood that flows in the veins of the old and aristocratic families of Spain, translating Spanish sangre azul, claimed by certain families of Castile that held themselves uncontaminated by Moorish or Jewish admixture; the term probably is from the notion of the visible veins of people of fair complexion. In reference to English families by 1827. As a noun, "member of an old and aristocratic family," by 1877. See blue (adj.1) + blood (n.).
blue-chip (adj.) Look up blue-chip at
1904 in reference to the high-value poker counter, also in the figurative sense of "valuable;" stock exchange sense, in reference to "shares considered a reliable investment," is first recorded 1929; especially of stocks that saw spectacular rises in value in the four years or so before the Wall Street crash of that year wiped out most of it. See blue (adj.1) + chip (n.1).
blue-collar (adj.) Look up blue-collar at
1949, from blue (adj.1) + collar (n.). From the common color of men's work shirts.
blue-eyed (adj.) Look up blue-eyed at
"having blue eyes," c. 1600, from blue (adj.1) + -eyed. Meaning "favored; innocent" is by 1924.
blue-jacket (n.) Look up blue-jacket at
also bluejacket, "a sailor" (as distinguished from a marine), 1830, from blue (adj.1) + jacket (n.).
blue-jeans (n.) Look up blue-jeans at
from 1843 as a type of fabric; see blue (adj.1) + jean. As short for blue-jeans trousers, from 1878.
blue-nose (n.) Look up blue-nose at
"native or inhabitant of Nova Scotia," 1838, from blue (adj.1) + nose (n.). Perhaps from cold, but it is recorded in 1824 as a type of potato grown there.
blue-peter (n.) Look up blue-peter at
a nautical term for a blue flag having a white square in the center, hoisted at the fore royal masthead as a signal that the ship is ready to sail, 1825, from blue (adj.1) + peter (n.) in some sense.
blue-plate (adj.) Look up blue-plate at
in reference to restaurant meals, 1918, from blue (adj.1) + plate (n.). The term arose in the trade, to refer to a complete dinner offered at a reasonable price and served on a single, large plate of a good grade of china.
bluebell (n.) Look up bluebell at
also blue-bell, popular name of various plants with flowers blue and more or less bell-shaped, 1570s, from blue (adj.1) + bell (n.).
blueberry (n.) Look up blueberry at
also blue-berry, fruit of several species of Vaccinium, c. 1775, from blue (adj.1) + berry.
bluebird (n.) Look up bluebird at
also blue-bird, North American warbler-like bird, 1680s, from blue (adj.1) in reference to the chief color of its plumage + bird (n.1). Figurative use in bluebird of happiness is from 1909 play romance "l'Oiseau bleu," literally "The Blue Bird," by Belgian dramatist and poet Maurice Maeterlinck (1862-1949).
bluecoat (n.) Look up bluecoat at
1580s, "serving man in the house of an English country gentleman," from blue (adj.1) + coat (n.). By 1965 as "Union soldier in the U.S. Civil War."
bluegrass (n.) Look up bluegrass at
also blue-grass, music style, 1958, in reference to the Blue Grass Boys, country music band 1940s-'50s, from the "blue" grass (Poa pratensis) characteristic of Kentucky. The grass so called from 1751; Kentucky has been the Bluegrass State at least since 1872; see blue (adj.1) + grass.
blueing (n.) Look up blueing at
"substance which makes (something) blue," 1660s, verbal noun from blue (v.).
blueness (n.) Look up blueness at
late 15c., from blue (adj.1) + -ness.
blueprint (n.) Look up blueprint at
also blue-print, 1882, from blue (adj.1) + print (n.). The process uses blue on white, or white on blue. Figurative sense of "detailed plan" is attested from 1926. As a verb by 1939.
blues (n.1) Look up blues at
"music form featuring flatted thirds and sevenths," possibly c. 1895 (though officially 1912, in W.C. Handy's "Memphis Blues"). Blue note "minor interval where a major would be expected" is attested from 1919, and at first was suspected as a source of the term.
I am under the impression that these terms [blue note, blue chord] were contemporary with, if they did not precede and foreshadow, the period of our innumerable musical 'Blues.' What the uninitiated tried to define by that homely appellation was, perhaps, an indistinct association of the minor mode and dyspeptic intonation with poor digestion; in reality, it is the advent in popular music of something which the textbooks call ambiguous chords, altered notes, extraneous modulation, and deceptive cadence. [Carl Engel, "Jazz: A Musical Discussion," The Atlantic Monthly, August 1922]
blues (n.2) Look up blues at
"depression, low spirits," 1741, from blue (adj.1) in the sense "low-spirited" (c. 1400).
bluestocking (n.) Look up bluestocking at
also blue-stocking, 1790, derisive word for a woman considered too learned, traces to a London literary salon founded c. 1750 by Elizabeth Montagu on the Parisian model, featuring intellectual discussion instead of card games and in place of ostentatious evening attire simple dress, including notably Benjamin Stillingfleet's blue-gray tradesman's hose which he wore in place of gentleman's black silk. Hence the term, first applied in derision to the whole set by Admiral Boscawen. None of the ladies wore blue stockings. Borrowed by the neighbors in loan-translations such as French bas-bleu, Dutch blauwkous, German Blaustrumpf.
bluesy (adj.) Look up bluesy at
1946 in the musical sense, from blues (n.1) + -y (2).
bluff (v.) Look up bluff at
1839, "to deceive (opponents), especially by betting heavily and with a confident air on a worthless hand to make them 'fold,'" an American English poker term, perhaps from Dutch bluffen "to brag, boast," or verbluffen "to baffle, mislead." The general sense "use a show of confident assurance to deceive an opponent as to one's real resources or strength" is by 1854. Related: Bluffed; bluffing.

An identical word meant "blindfold, hoodwink" in 1670s, but the sense evolution and connection are unclear; OED calls it "one of the numerous cant terms ... which arose between the Restoration and the reign of Queen Anne."
bluff (n.1) Look up bluff at
"broad, vertical cliff," 1680s, from bluff (adj.) "with a broad, flat front" (1620s), a sailors' word, probably from Dutch blaf "flat, broad." Apparently a North Sea nautical term for ships with broad bows and flat vertical stems. It was later extended to landscape features in North America, such as high broad banks along a shore or range of hills. Of persons, in reference to a full face, indicative of frankness and rough good humor, 1808.
bluff (n.2) Look up bluff at
an alternative name for the game of poker, 1824; see bluff (v.). As "an act of bluffing" by 1864. To call (one's) bluff is from 1876.
bluffing (n.) Look up bluffing at
1845, in the poker sense, verbal noun from bluff (v.).
bluffs (n.) Look up bluffs at
see bluff (n.1).
bluish (adj.) Look up bluish at
"somewhat blue," late 14c., blewysh; see blue (adj.1) + -ish.
blunder (v.) Look up blunder at
mid-14c., "to stumble about blindly," from a Scandinavian source akin to Old Norse blundra "shut one's eyes," perhaps from Proto-Germanic *blinda- "blind" (see blind (adj.)). Meaning "make a stupid mistake" is first recorded 1711. Related: Blundered; blundering.
blunder (n.) Look up blunder at
late 14c., blonder, blunder, "disturbance, strife; trouble, distress;" apparently from blunder (v.). Original sense obsolete. Meaning "a mistake made through hurry or confusion" is from 1706.
blunderbuss (n.) Look up blunderbuss at
"short, large-bore gun or firearm with a funnel-shaped muzzle," 1650s, from Dutch donderbus, from donder "thunder" (Middle Dutch doner, donder, from Proto-Germanic *thunaraz; see thunder (n.)) + bus "gun" (originally "box, tube"); altered by resemblance to blunder. Related: Blunderbussier.
blunderful (adj.) Look up blunderful at
1797, jocular blend of blunder and wonderful.
blundering (adj.) Look up blundering at
mid-14c., present-participle adjective from blunder (v.). Related: Blunderingly. As a verbal noun, mid-15c.
blunt (n.) Look up blunt at
1610s, "a blunt sword;" 1833 as a size or type of needle; late 19c. as a size or type of cigars, from blunt (adj.). As street slang for "marijuana and tobacco cigar" (easier to pass around, easier to disguise, and the stimulant in the tobacco enhances the high from the pot), by c. 1993, said to have originated among Jamaicans in New York City in the early 1980s; from Phillies Blunt brand cigars.
Users say that the Phillies Blunt brand produces less harsh-tasting or sweeter smoke. The leaf wrapper of a Phillies Blunt is strong enough to hold together through the manipulations of making a blunt. Other brands fall apart. []
blunt (adj.) Look up blunt at
c. 1200, blunt, blont, "dull, obtuse" (of persons), of uncertain origin. Perhaps from or related to Old Norse blundra "to shut one's eyes" (see blunder (v.)). Or from Old English blinnan (past participle blon) "to stop, cease, come to an end." Of tools or weapons, "not sharp, without edge or point," late 14c. Meaning "abrupt of speech or manner" is from 1580s. Late 18c. Scottish writers used blunty (n.) for "stupid fellow."
blunt (v.) Look up blunt at
"to make blunt, dull the edge or point of," late 14c., from blunt (adj.). Related: Blunted; blunting.
bluntly (adv.) Look up bluntly at
early 15c., "gradually;" mid-15c., "unskillfully;" 1550s, "stupidly," from blunt (adj.) + -ly (2). Meaning "directly, abruptly" is from 1570s.
bluntness (n.) Look up bluntness at
late 15c., "stupidity," also "dullness of an edge, state or quality of being blunt," from blunt (adj.) + -ness. Meaning "rudeness" is from c. 1600.
blur (v.) Look up blur at
1580s, "blot out by smearing ink over," probably from blur (n.), but the dates are close and either might be the original. From 1610s as "obscure without defacing," also "dim the perception of." From 1856 in intransitive sense "become blurred." Related: Blurred; blurring.
blur (n.) Look up blur at
1540s, "a moral stain;" c. 1600, "a smear on the surface of writing;" perhaps akin to blear. Extended sense of "a confused dimness" is from 1860 [Emerson, in reference to the Orion nebula].
blurb (n.) Look up blurb at
used by U.S. scholar Brander Matthews (1852-1929) in 1906 in "American Character;" popularized 1907 by U.S. humorist Frank Gelett Burgess (1866-1951). Originally mocking excessive praise printed on book jackets, and probably derisively imitative.
Gelett Burgess ... then entertained the guests with some characteristic flashes of Burgessian humor. Referring to the word "blurb" on the wrapper of his book he said: "To 'blurb' is to make a sound like a publisher. The blurb was invented by Frank A. Munsey when he wrote on the front of his magazine in red ink 'I consider this number of Munsey's the hottest pie that ever came out of my bakery.' ... A blurb is a check drawn on Fame, and it is seldom honored.["] ["Publishers' Weekly," May 18, 1907]
blurry (adj.) Look up blurry at
"confused and indistinct," 1855, from blur (n.) + -y (2). Related: Blurrily; blurriness.
blurt (v.) Look up blurt at
"utter suddenly or inadvertently" (usually with out (adv.)), 1570s, probably echoic. Related: blurted; blurting. As a noun, 1570s, probably from the verb.
blush (v.) Look up blush at
late 14c., bluschen, blischen, "to shine brightly; to look, gaze, stare," probably from Old English blyscan "blush, become red, glow" (glossing Latin rutilare), akin to blyse "torch," from Proto-Germanic *blisk- "to shine, burn," which also yielded words in Low German (Dutch blozen "to blush") and Scandinavian (Danish blusse "to blaze; to blush"); ultimately from PIE *bhel- (1) "to shine, flash, burn."

For vowel evolution, see bury. Sense of "turn red in the face" (from shame, modesty, confusion, etc.) is from c. 1400. Related: Blushed; blushing.