- Balt (n.)
- 1878, "native or inhabitant of the Baltic states" (ancient or modern), from Late Latin Balthae, from the source of Baltic (q.v.). Before World War II sometimes meaning especially an ethnic German inhabitant of those states.
- masc. proper name, from French, from Latin, from Greek Baltasar, from Hebrew Belteshatztzar, Biblical king of Babylon (who "saw the writing on the wall"), from Babylonian Balat-shar-usur, literally "save the life of the king." As a type of very large wine bottle by 1935, in allusion to Daniel v.1.
- Baltic (adj.)
- 1580s, "pertaining to the brackish sea between the Scandinavian peninsula and Eastern Europe," from Medieval Latin Balticus, perhaps from Lithuanian baltas "white" or Scandinavian balta "straight" (in reference to its narrow entranceway). In German, it is Ostsee, literally "east sea." From 1887 as the name of a language group comprising Lithuanian, Lettish, and Old Prussian.
- city in Maryland, U.S., founded 1729, named for Cecilius Calvert (1605-1675), 2nd baron Baltimore, who held the charter for Maryland colony; the name is from a small port town in southern Ireland where the family had its seat, from Irish Baile na Tighe Mor, literally "townland of the big house." In old baseball slang, a Baltimore chop was a hit right in front of the plate that bounced high.
- comb. form of Baltic (q.v.).
- historical country or region east of Persia between Afghanistan and the Arabian Sea, now forming southwestern Pakistan, from the people-name Baluchi (in English from 1610s) + -stan.
- baluchitherium (n.)
- ancient mammal, 1913, Modern Latin, from Baluchi (see Baluchistan) + Greek therion "beast" (see fierce). So called because its fossils originally were found there.
- baluster (n.)
- "support for a railing" (commonly one that swells outward at some point), c. 1600, from French balustre (16c.), from Italian balaustro "small pillar," from balausta "flower of the wild pomegranate," from Greek balaustion (which is perhaps of Semitic origin; compare Aramaic balatz "flower of the wild pomegranate"). The uprights had lyre-like double curves, which resembled the half-opened pomegranate flower.
- balustrade (n.)
- "row of balusters supporting a railing," 1640s, from French balustrade (17c.), from Italian balaustrata "provided with balusters," from balaustro "small pillar" (see baluster).
- bam (interj.)
- imitative of the sound of a hard hit, first recorded 1922 (from 1917 as the sound of an artillery shell bursting). Middle English had a verb bammen "to hit or strike" (late 14c.). A literary work from c. 1450 represents the sound of repeated impact with Lus, bus! las, das!, and Middle English had lushe "a stroke, blow" (c. 1400); lushen "to strike, knock, beat" (c. 1300). Bam also was an old slang shortening of bamboozle (18c.).
- bambino (n.)
- 1761, "image of the Christ child in swaddling clothes," especially as exhibited in Italian churches at Christmastime, from Italian bambino, "baby, little child," a diminutive of bambo "simple" (compare Latin bambalio "dolt," Greek bambainein "to stammer"), of imitative origin. In U.S. baseball lore, a nickname of George Herman "Babe" Ruth Jr. (1895-1948).
- bamboo (n.)
- type of giant grass common in the tropics, 1590s, from Dutch bamboe and/or Portuguese bambu, earlier mambu (16c.), probably from Malay (Austronesian) samambu, though some suspect this is itself an imported word, perhaps from Kanarese (Dravidian). Bamboo curtain in reference to communist China (based on iron curtain) is from 1949.
- bamboozle (v.)
- "to cheat, trick, swindle," 1703, originally a slang or cant word, of unknown origin. Perhaps Scottish from bombaze "perplex," related to bombast, or French embabouiner "to make a fool (literally 'baboon') of." Related: Bamboozled; bamboozler; bamboozling. As a noun from 1703.
- ban (n.2)
- 1610s, "Croatian military chief," a title given to those who governed and guarded the southern marches of Hungary, later to the Austrian-appointed governors of Croatia and Slovenia, from Serbo-Croatian ban "lord, master, ruler," from Persian ban "prince, lord, chief, governor," which is cognate with Sanskrit pati "guards, protects." Hence banat "district governed by a ban," with Latinate suffix -atus. The Persian word is said to have gotten into Slavic via the Avars.
- ban (n.1)
- c. 1300, "proclamation or edict of an overlord," from Old English (ge)bann "proclamation, summons, command" and cognate Old French ban "decree, announcement," which is from a Germanic language, from Proto-Germanic *bannan "to speak publicly" (used in reference to various sorts of proclamations), "command; summon; outlaw, forbid" (see ban (v.)). Meaning "an authoritative prohibition" is from 1660s. There are noun forms in most of the Germanic languages, from the verbs. Compare banns.
- ban (v.)
- Old English bannan "to summon, command, proclaim," from Proto-Germanic *bannan "to speak publicly" (used in reference to various sorts of proclamations), "command; summon; outlaw, forbid" (source also of Old Frisian banna "command, proclaim," Old High German bannan "to command or forbid under threat of punishment," German bannen "banish, expel, curse"), from suffixed form of PIE root *bha- (2) "to speak, tell, say" (source also of Old Irish bann "law," Armenian ban "word").
From mid-12c. as "to curse, condemn, pronounce a curse upon;" from late 14c. as "to prohibit;" these senses likely are via the Old Norse cognate banna "to curse, prohibit," and probably in part from Old French banir "to summon, banish" (see banish) and was a borrowing from Germanic. The sense evolution in Germanic was from "speak" to "proclaim a threat" to (in Norse, German, etc.) "to curse, anathematize."
The Germanic root, borrowed in Latin and French, has been productive: banal, bandit, contraband, etc. Related: Banned; banning. Banned in Boston dates from 1920s, in allusion to the excessive zeal and power of that city's Watch and Ward Society. Ban the bomb as a slogan of the nuclear disarmament movement is from 1955.
- banal (adj.)
- "trite, commonplace," 1840, from French banal, "belonging to a manor; common, hackneyed, commonplace," from Old French banel "communal" (13c.), from ban "decree; legal control; announcement; authorization; payment for use of a communal oven, mill, etc.," from a Germanic source, from Proto-Germanic *bannan "to speak publicly, used of different kinds of proclamations (see ban (v.)).
The sense evolved from the word's use in designating things like ovens or mills that were used in common by serfs, or else in reference to compulsory feudal military service; in either case it was generalized in French through "open to everyone" to "commonplace, ordinary," to "trite, petty." The word was earlier used in English with a sense "pertaining to compulsory feudal service" (1753). Related: Banalize; banalization.
- banality (n.)
- 1857, "anything common or trite;" 1878, "triteness, triviality," from French banalité (17c.), from banal "hackneyed, commonplace" (see banal). Earlier in reference to restrictions on grain-milling, etc., in feudal tenure in France and French Canada.
- banana (n.)
- edible fruit of an endogenous plant of the tropics, 1590s; in reference to the plant itself, 1690s; borrowed by Spanish or Portuguese from a West African word, possibly Wolof banana. The plant seems to be native to Southeast Asia and the East Indies; it was introduced in Africa in prehistoric times and brought to the New World from Africa in 1516.
Banana-skin is from 1851, banana-peel from 1874, both originally with reference to them being left carelessly on the ground and liable to cause a pratfall when trodden upon. The nuisance was a frequent complaint in cities, and there seems to have been a regular insurance scam targeting streetcar lines in the 1890s.
The companies that have paid damages for fraudulent claims are the Manhattan Elevated Company, New York; West End Street Railway, Boston; Chicago City Railway Company, Chicago; Illinois Central Railroad Company, Chicago. The alleged injury was the same in each case, paralysis of the lower limbs, caused by slipping on a banana peel. ["Street Railway Review," Jan. 15, 1895]
Banana split is attested from 1905. Banana oil "nonsense" is slang from c. 1910; probably from earlier use as the name of a chemical substance (also called banana liquid and essence of banana) used by 1873, one of the earliest artificial flavorings. Top banana, second banana, etc. are 1950s, from show business slang use of banana for "comedian," especially in a burlesque show.
- banana republic (n.)
- "small Central American state with an economy dependent on banana production," 1901, American English.
- bananas (adj.)
- "crazy," 1968; earlier it was noted as an underworld slang term for "sexually perverted" (1935).
- banausic (adj.)
- "merely mechanical," coined 1845 from Greek banausikos "pertaining to mechanics," from banausos "artisan, mere mechanical," hence (to the Greeks) "base, ignoble;" sometimes said to be literally "working by fire," from baunos "furnace, forge" (but Beekes dismisses this as folk etymology and calls it a pre-Greek word of uncertain origin).
- band (v.)
- 1520s, "to bind or fasten;" also "to join in a company," from band (n.1) and (n.2) in various senses, and partly from French bander "to bind," from bande "a strip." The meaning "affix an ID band to (a wild animal, etc.)" is attested from 1914. Related: Banded; banding.
- band (n.1)
- "a flat strip," also "something that binds," Middle English bende, from Old English bend "bond, fetter, shackle, chain, that by which someone or something is bound; ribbon, ornament, chaplet, crown," with later senses and spelling from cognate Old Norse band and technical senses from Old French bande "strip, edge, side" (12c., Old North French bende), all three ultimately from Proto-Germanic *bindan, from PIE root *bhendh- "to bind" (see bend (v.)).
The meaning "a flat strip" (late 14c.) is from French. In Middle English, this was sometimes distinguished by the spelling bande, bonde, but with loss of terminal -e the words have fully merged via the notion of "flat strip of flexible material used to wind around something."
Meaning "broad stripe of color, ray of colored light" is from late 14c.; the electronics sense of "range of frequencies or wavelengths" is from 1922. Most of the figurative senses ("legal or moral commitment; captivity, imprisonment," etc.) have passed into bond (n.), which originally was a phonetic variant of this band. The Middle English form of the word is retained in heraldic bend (n.2) "broad diagonal stripe on a coat-of-arms."
- band (n.2)
- "an organized group," originally especially of armed men, late 15c., from Middle French bande, which is traceable to the Proto-Germanic root of band (n.1), perhaps via a band of cloth worn as a mark of identification by a group of soldiers or others (compare Gothic bandwa "a sign"). But perhaps from Middle English band, bond in the sense "force that unites, bond, tie" (late 14c.). Also compare Old Norse band "cord that binds; act of binding," also "confederacy."
The extension to "group of musicians" is c. 1660, originally musicians attached to a regiment of the army and playing instruments which may be used while marching. To beat the band (1897) is to make enough noise to drown it out, hence to exceed everything.
- Band-Aid (n.)
- trademark name (Johnson & Johnson) for a stick-on gauze pad or strip, by 1922. See band (n.1) + aid (n.). The British equivalent was Elastoplast. Figurative sense of "temporary or makeshift solution to a problem, pallative" (often lower case, sometimes bandaid) is attested by 1968; as an adjective in this sense, by 1970.
- band-saw (n.)
- also bandsaw, "endless band of steel with a serrated edge," 1847, from band (n.1) + saw (n.1). Said to have been invented 1809 by William Newberry of London.
- bandage (n.)
- "strip of soft cloth or other material used in binding wounds, stopping bleeding, etc.," 1590s, from Middle French bandage (16c.), from Old French bander "to bind," from bande "a strip" (see band (n.1)).
- bandage (v.)
- "to dress a wound, etc., with a bandage," 1734 (implied in bandaging), from bandage (n.). Related: Bandaged.
- bandalore (n.)
- "toy yo-yo," 1802, of obscure origin; see yo-yo.
- bandanna (n.)
- also often bandana, 1752, from Hindi bandhnu, a method of dyeing, from Sanskrit badhnati "binds" (because the cloth is tied in different places like modern tie-dye), from PIE root *bhendh- "to bind" (see bend (v.)). Perhaps to English via Portuguese. Etymologically, the colors and spots are what makes it a bandanna.
- bandbox (n.)
- "light box of pasteboard or thin wood, originally made to hold the starched bands worn as collars in 17c. men's and women's dress, 1630s, from band (n.1) + box (n.1). Later used for other light articles of attire, but the name stuck. Typical of something fragile and flimsy, but it also was figurative of smallness and of neat, clean condition.
- bandeau (n.)
- 1706, "headband," from French bandeau, from Old French bandel, bendel "bandage, binding" (12c.), diminutive of bande "band" (see band (n.1)). As a style of women's top or bra by 1968.
- bandersnatch (n.)
- "fabulous, dangerous creature," 1871 ("Jabberwocky"), coined by Lewis Carroll.
- bandicoot (n.)
- 1789, a corruption of Telugu pandi-kokku, literally "pig-rat." Properly the Anglo-Indian name of a large and destructive type of Indian rat; applied from 1827 to a type of insectivorous Australian marsupial somewhat resembling it.
- bandit (n.)
- "lawless robber, brigand" (especially as part of an organized band), 1590s, from Italian bandito (plural banditi) "outlaw," past participle of bandire "proscribe, banish," from Vulgar Latin *bannire "to proclaim, proscribe," from Proto-Germanic *bannan "to speak publicly" (used in reference to various sorts of proclamations), "command; summon; outlaw, forbid" (see ban (v.)).
Vulgar Latin *bannire (or its Frankish cognate *bannjan) in Old French became banir, which, with lengthened stem, became English banish.
- banditry (n.)
- 1861, from bandit + -ry.
- bandolier (n.)
- 1570s, "shoulder belt" (for a wallet, etc.), from French bandouiliere (16c.), from Italian bandoliera or Spanish bandolera, from diminutive of banda "a scarf, sash," a Germanic loan-word related to Gothic bandwa (see banner). In some cases, directly from Spanish to English as bandoleer. Meaning "ammunition belt for a musket" is from 1590s; hence bandolero "highwayman, robber" (1832), from Spanish, literally "man who wears a bandoleer."
- bandstand (n.)
- also band-stand, 1852, from band (n.2) in the musical sense + stand (n.).
- bandwagon (n.)
- also band-wagon, 1849, American English, from band (n.2) + wagon, originally a large wagon used to carry the band in a circus procession; as these also figured in celebrations of successful political campaigns, being on the bandwagon came to represent "attaching oneself to anything that looks likely to succeed," a usage first attested 1899 in writings of Theodore Roosevelt.
- bandwidth (n.)
- 1930, in electronics, from band (n.1) + width.
- bandy (v.)
- 1570s, "to strike back and forth, throw to and fro," from Middle French bander, from root of band (n.2). The sense apparently evolved from "join together to oppose," to opposition itself, to "exchanging blows," then metaphorically, to volleying in tennis. Related: Bandied; bandying.
- bandy (n.)
- Irish ball game, precursor of field hockey, 1690s, played with a curved stick, also called a bandy (1620s), from bandy (v.) "throw to and fro, strike back and forth."
- bandy-legged (adj.)
- "having outward-bent or crooked legs," 1680s, a reference to the bandy, the bent stick used in the Irish field game of bandy (n.).
- bane (n.)
- Old English bana "killer, slayer, murderer, a worker of death" (human, animal, or object), also "the devil," from Proto-Germanic *banon, cognate with *banja- "wound" (source also of Old Frisian bona "murderer," Old Norse bani "death; that which causes death," Old High German bana "murder," Old English benn "wound," Gothic banja "stroke, wound"), from PIE root *gwhen- "to strike, kill, wound" (source also of Avestan banta "ill"). Sense of "that which causes ruin or woe" is from 1570s. Related: Baneful.
- bang (v.)
- 1540s, "to strike hard with a loud blow," an imitative formation, or else from a Scandinavian source akin to Old Norse banga "to pound, hammer" also of echoic origin. Slang meaning "have sexual intercourse with" attested by 1937. As an adverb, "suddenly, abruptly," by 1828, probably from the notion of "with a sudden or violent sound." Related: Banged; banging. Banging (adj.) in the slang sense of "large, great, surpassing in size" is attested by 1864. Bang-up (adj.) "excellent, first-rate, in fine style" (1810) probably is shortened from a phrase such as bang up to the mark.
- bang (n.)
- 1540s, "heavy, resounding blow;" see bang (v.). Meaning "loud, sudden explosive noise" is by 1855.
This is the way the world ends
Not with a bang but a whimper
[T.S. Eliot, "Hollow Men," 1925]
- banger (n.)
- 1650s, "anything which bangs," in any sense, agent noun from bang (v.). British English slang for "a sausage," 1919, perhaps from sense of "a bludgeon," though this is recorded only in U.S. slang. Bangster was a 17c. word for "muscular bully."
- nation formed 1971 from former East Pakistan, from Bengali for "Bengali country," from Bangla "Bengali" (see Bengal) + desh "country." Related: Bangladeshi.
- bangle (n.)
- "ornamental ring worn upon the arm or ankle," 1787, from Hindi bangri "colored glass bracelet or anklet."