fink (n.) Look up fink at
1902, of uncertain origin, possibly from German Fink "a frivolous or dissolute person," originally "finch;" the German word also had a sense of "informer" (compare stool pigeon). The other theory traces it to Pinks, short for Pinkerton agents, the private police force hired to break up the 1892 Homestead strike. As a verb, 1925 in American English slang. Related: Finked; finking.
Finn (n.) Look up Finn at
Old English finnas, from Old Norse finnr, the Norsemen's name for the Suomi. Some suggest a connection with fen. Attested in Tacitus as Fenni.
finned (adj.) Look up finned at
mid-14c., adjective in past participle form from fin.
Finnish (adj.) Look up Finnish at
c.1790, from Finn + -ish. Earlier was Finnic (1660s).
finny (adj.) Look up finny at
1580s, from fin + -y (2).
fiord (n.) Look up fiord at
alternative form of fjord (q.v.).
fippeny Look up fippeny at
1802, short for five penny; further contracted form fip attested by 1822.
fir (n.) Look up fir at
14c.; Old English had furhwudu "pine wood," but the modern word is more likely from Old Norse fyri- "fir" or Old Danish fyr, all from Proto-Germanic *furkhon (cognates: Old High German foraha, German Föhre "fir"), from PIE root *perkos, originally "oak" (cognates: Sanskrit paraktah "the holy fig tree," Hindi pargai "the evergreen oak," Latin quercus "oak," Lombardic fereha "a kind of oak").
Firbolgs (n.) Look up Firbolgs at
1797, ancient supernatural people of Ireland (enemies of the Dannans), perhaps from Old Irish fir, plural of fear "man" + bolg, genitive plural of bolg "bag, belly;" or second element may be cognate with Gaulish Belgae.
fire (n.) Look up fire at
Old English fyr, from Proto-Germanic *fuir (cognates: Old Saxon and Old Frisian fiur, Old Norse fürr, Middle Dutch and Dutch vuur, Old High German fiur, German Feuer), from PIE *perjos, from root *paewr- (cognates: Armenian hur "fire, torch," Czech pyr "hot ashes," Greek pyr, Umbrian pir, Sanskrit pu, Hittite pahhur "fire").

Current spelling is attested as early as 1200, but did not fully displace Middle English fier (preserved in fiery) until c.1600.

PIE apparently had two roots for fire: *paewr- and *egni- (source of Latin ignis). The former was "inanimate," referring to fire as a substance, and the latter was "animate," referring to it as a living force (see water (n.1)).

Fire applied in English to passions, feelings, from mid-14c. Meaning "action of guns, etc." is from 1580s. Firecracker is American English coinage for what is in England just cracker, but the U.S. word distinguishes it from the word meaning "biscuit." Fire-engine attested from 1680s. The figurative expression play with fire "risk disaster" is from 1887; phrase where's the fire? "what's the hurry?" first recorded 1924.
fire (v.) Look up fire at
c.1200, furen, figurative, "arouse, excite;" literal sense of "set fire to" is from late 14c., from fire (n.). The Old English verb fyrian "to supply with fire" apparently did not survive into Middle English.

The sense of "sack, dismiss" is first recorded 1885 in American English (earlier "throw (someone) out" of some place, 1871), probably from a play on the two meanings of discharge: "to dismiss from a position," and "to fire a gun," fire in the second sense being from "set fire to gunpowder," attested from 1520s. Of bricks, pottery, etc., from 1660s. Related: Fired; firing. Fired up "angry" is from 1824. Firing squad is attested from 1904.
firearm (n.) Look up firearm at
1640s, from fire (n.) + arm (n.2). Related: Firearms.
fireball (n.) Look up fireball at
1550s, from fire (n.) + ball (n.1).
firebomb (n.) Look up firebomb at
1895, from fire (n.) + bomb (n.). As a verb, from 1950 as an act of vandalism or terrorism, from 1941 as a military aviation tactic. Related: Firebombed; firebombing.
firebrand (n.) Look up firebrand at
c.1200, "piece of wood kindled at a fire," from fire (n.) + brand (n.). Figurative sense of "one who kindles mischief or passions" is from late 14c.
firebug (n.) Look up firebug at
"arsonist," 1872, from fire (n.) + bug (n.).
firefighter (n.) Look up firefighter at
1903, from fire (n.) + fighter.
firefly (n.) Look up firefly at
1650s, from fire (n.) + fly (n.).
firelight (n.) Look up firelight at
Old English fyrleoht; see fire (n.) + light (n.).
fireman (n.) Look up fireman at
late 14c., "tender of a fire," from fire (n.) + man (n.). As "person hired to put out (rather than tend) fires" it is attested from 1714.
fireplace (n.) Look up fireplace at
c.1700, from fire (n.) + place (n.).
fireplug (n.) Look up fireplug at
1713, from fire (n.) + plug (n.).
fireproof (adj.) Look up fireproof at
1630s, from fire (n.) + proof. As a verb, from 1867. Related: Fireproofed; fireproofing.
fireside (n.) Look up fireside at
1560s, from fire (n.) + side (n.). Symbolic of home life by 1848.
firewall (n.) Look up firewall at
1851 as a physical wall meant to prevent the spread of fire in a structure, from fire (n.) + wall (n.). Computer sense is by 1990.
firewater (n.) Look up firewater at
"alcoholic liquor," 1826, American English, supposedly from American Indians, from fire (n.) + water (n.1).
firewood (n.) Look up firewood at
late 14c., from fire (n.) + wood (n.).
fireworks (n.) Look up fireworks at
1570s, from fire (n.) + works (see work (n.)).
firkin (n.) Look up firkin at
"small cask, fourth part of a barrel," late 14c., apparently from Middle Dutch *vierdekijn, diminutive of vierde, literally "fourth, fourth part" (see fourth).
firm (adj.) Look up firm at
late 14c., from Old French ferm (12c.) "firm, strong, vigorous, steadfast; loyal, faithful," from Latin firmus "firm, strong, steadfast, enduring, stable," from PIE root *dher- (1) "to hold, support" (cognates: Sanskrit dharmah "custom, law," Greek thronos "seat," Lithuanian dirzmas "strong," Welsh dir "hard," Breton dir "steel"). The return in late 1500s to -i- from Middle English ferme was modeled on Latin. Related: Firmly; firmness.
firm (n.) Look up firm at
"business house," 1744, from German Firma "a business, name of a business," originally "signature," from Italian firma "signature," from firmare "to sign," from Latin firmare "make firm, affirm," in Late Latin, "confirm (by signature)," from firmus "firm, stable" (see firm (adj.)).
firm (v.) Look up firm at
c.1300, fermen "make firm, establish," from Old French fermer (12c.) or directly from Latin firmare, from firmus (see firm (adj.)). Related: Firmed; firming.
firmament (n.) Look up firmament at
mid-13c., from Latin firmamentum "firmament," literally "a support or strengthening," from firmus "firm" (see firm (adj.)), used in Vulgate to translate Greek stereoma "firm or solid structure," which translated Hebrew raqia, a word used of both the vault of the sky and the floor of the earth in the Old Testament, probably literally "expanse," from raqa "to spread out," but in Syriac meaning "to make firm or solid," hence the erroneous translation.
firmware (n.) Look up firmware at
1968, from firm (adj.) + ending from software.
firn (n.) Look up firn at
"consolidated snow, the raw material of glaciers," 1853, literally "last year's snow, névé," from German Firn, from Swiss dialectal firn "of last year," from Middle High German virne "old," from Old High German firni, related to Old English fyrn "old," Gothic fairns "of last year," from Proto-Germanic *fur-/*for- (see first).

The only English relic of a useful word meaning "of last year" that was widespread in Indo-European languages. Middle English retained fern "long ago, formerly, of old," fern-days "days of old, former year, a year past." It has cognates in Lithuanian pernai "last year" (adv.), Greek perysi "a year ago, last year," Sanskrit parut "of last year." Also German Firnewein "wine of last year."
first (adj., adv.) Look up first at
Old English fyrst "foremost," superlative of fore; from Proto-Germanic *furisto- (cognates: Old Saxon fuirst "first," Old High German furist, Old Norse fyrstr, Danish første, Old Frisian ferist, Middle Dutch vorste "prince," Dutch vorst "first," German Fürst "prince"), superlative of *fur-/*for-, from PIE root *per- (1) "forward, through" (see per).

First-class (adj.) is from 1837; first-rate (1660s) is from classes of warships in the British navy. First aid is that given at the scene, pending the arrival of a doctor.

First Lady as an informal title for the wife of a U.S. president was in use by 1908, short for First lady of the land (by 1863 with reference to the president's wife). First name is attested from mid-13c.; first-born is from mid-14c. First base "a start" (1938) is a figurative use from the game of baseball.
firsthand (adj.) Look up firsthand at
also first-hand, first hand, 1690s, from the image of the "first hand" as the source or origin of something.
firstly (adv.) Look up firstly at
1530s, but never a common word (simple first usually serving its place), from first + -ly (2).
firth (n.) Look up firth at
"arm of the sea, estuary of a river," early 15c., Scottish, from Old Norse fjörðr (see fjord).
fiscal (adj.) Look up fiscal at
1560s, "pertaining to public revenue," from Middle French fiscal, from Late Latin fiscalis "of or belonging to the state treasury," from Latin fiscus "treasury," originally "purse, basket made of twigs (in which money was kept)," of unknown origin. The general sense of "financial" (1865, American English) was abstracted from phrases like fiscal calendar, fiscal year. Related: Fiscally.
fish (n.) Look up fish at
Old English fisc, from Proto-Germanic *fiskaz (cognates: Old Saxon, Old Frisian, Old High German fisc, Old Norse fiskr, Middle Dutch visc, Dutch vis, German Fisch, Gothic fisks), from PIE *peisk- "fish" (cognates: Latin piscis, Irish iasc, and, via Latin, Italian pesce, French poisson, Spanish pez, Welsh pysgodyn, Breton pesk).

Fish story attested from 1819, from the tendency to exaggerate the size of the catch (or the one that got away). Figurative sense of fish out of water first recorded 1610s.
fish (v.) Look up fish at
Old English fiscian (cognates: Old Norse fiska, Old High German fiscon, German fischen, Gothic fiskon), from the root of fish (n.). Related: Fished; fishing.
fish-hook Look up fish-hook at
late 14c., from fish (n.) + hook (n.).
fisher (n.) Look up fisher at
Old English fiscere, agent noun from fish (v.). It began to be used of certain animals, hence perhaps the rise of the formation fisherman (1520s).
fishery (n.) Look up fishery at
"business of fishing," 1670s; "place where fish are caught," 1690s; see fish (v.) + -ery. Related: Fisheries.
fishing (n.) Look up fishing at
verbal noun from fish (v.), c.1300, fysschynge; figurative use from 1540s. Fishing rod (1550s) is older than fishing pole (1791). To "go fishing" is as old as Old English on fiscoð gan.
[O]f all diversions which ingenuity ever devised for the relief of idleness, fishing is the worst qualified to amuse a man who is at once indolent and impatient. [Scott, "Waverly," 1814]
fishmonger (n.) Look up fishmonger at
mid-15c., from fish (n.) + monger (n.).
fishtail (n.) Look up fishtail at
1840, from fish (n.) + tail (n.). As a verb, 1927, originally of aircraft, later automobiles. Related: Fishtailed; fishtailing.
fishwife (n.) Look up fishwife at
1520s, from fish (n.) + wife in the "woman" sense.
fishy (adj.) Look up fishy at
late 15c., from fish (n.) + -y (2). Sense of "shady, questionable" is first recorded 1840, perhaps from the notion of "slipperiness," or of giving off a bad odor.