- Hobbit (n.)
- 1937, coined in the fantasy tales of J.R.R. Tolkien (1892-1973).
On a blank leaf I scrawled: 'In a hole in the ground there lived a hobbit.' I did not and do not know why. [Tolkien, letter to W.H. Auden, dated 1955]
The word also turns up in a very long list of folkloric supernatural creatures in the writings of Michael Aislabie Denham (d.1859), printed in volume 2 of "The Denham Tracts" [ed. James Hardy, London: Folklore Society, 1895], a compilation of Denham's scattered publications. Denham was an early folklorist who concentrated on Northumberland, Durham, Westmoreland, Cumberland, the Isle of Man, and Scotland.
What a happiness this must have been seventy or eighty years ago and upwards, to those chosen few who had the good luck to be born on the eve of this festival of all festivals; when the whole earth was so overrun with ghosts, boggles, bloody-bones, spirits, demons, ignis fatui, brownies, bugbears, black dogs, specters, shellycoats, scarecrows, witches, wizards, barguests, Robin-Goodfellows, hags, night-bats, scrags, breaknecks, fantasms, hobgoblins, hobhoulards, boggy-boes, dobbies, hob-thrusts, fetches, kelpies, warlocks, mock-beggars, mum-pokers, Jemmy-burties, urchins, satyrs, pans, fauns, sirens, tritons, centaurs, calcars, nymphs, imps, incubuses, spoorns, men-in-the-oak, hell-wains, fire-drakes, kit-a-can-sticks, Tom-tumblers, melch-dicks, larrs, kitty-witches, hobby-lanthorns, Dick-a-Tuesdays, Elf-fires, Gyl-burnt-tales, knockers, elves, rawheads, Meg-with-the-wads, old-shocks, ouphs, pad-foots, pixies, pictrees, giants, dwarfs, Tom-pokers, tutgots, snapdragons, sprets, spunks, conjurers, thurses, spurns, tantarrabobs, swaithes, tints, tod-lowries, Jack-in-the-Wads, mormos, changelings, redcaps, yeth-hounds, colt-pixies, Tom-thumbs, black-bugs, boggarts, scar-bugs, shag-foals, hodge-pochers, hob-thrushes, bugs, bull-beggars, bygorns, bolls, caddies, bomen, brags, wraiths, waffs, flay-boggarts, fiends, gallytrots, imps, gytrashes, patches, hob-and-lanthorns, gringes, boguests, bonelesses, Peg-powlers, pucks, fays, kidnappers, gallybeggars, hudskins, nickers, madcaps, trolls, robinets, friars' lanthorns, silkies, cauld-lads, death-hearses, goblins, hob-headlesses, bugaboos, kows, or cowes, nickies, nacks necks, waiths, miffies, buckies, ghouls, sylphs, guests, swarths, freiths, freits, gy-carlins Gyre-carling, pigmies, chittifaces, nixies, Jinny-burnt-tails, dudmen, hell-hounds, dopple-gangers, boggleboes, bogies, redmen, portunes, grants, hobbits, hobgoblins, brown-men, cowies, dunnies, wirrikows, alholdes, mannikins, follets, korreds, lubberkins, cluricauns, kobolds, leprechauns, kors, mares, korreds, puckles korigans, sylvans, succubuses, blackmen, shadows, banshees, lian-hanshees, clabbernappers, Gabriel-hounds, mawkins, doubles, corpse lights or candles, scrats, mahounds, trows, gnomes, sprites, fates, fiends, sibyls, nicknevins, whitewomen, fairies, thrummy-caps, cutties, and nisses, and apparitions of every shape, make, form, fashion, kind and description, that there was not a village in England that had not its own peculiar ghost. Nay, every lone tenement, castle, or mansion-house, which could boast of any antiquity had its bogle, its specter, or its knocker. The churches, churchyards, and crossroads were all haunted. Every green lane had its boulder-stone on which an apparition kept watch at night. Every common had its circle of fairies belonging to it. And there was scarcely a shepherd to be met with who had not seen a spirit!
[Emphasis added] It is curious that the name occurs nowhere else in folklore, and there is no evidence that Tolkien ever saw this. The word also was recorded from 1835 as "a term generally used in Wales to express a quantity made up of four Welsh pecks." Hobbitry attested from 1947.
- hobble (v.)
- c. 1300, hoblen "to rock back and forth, toss up and down," probably related to its Dutch cognate hobbelen (which, however, is not recorded before late 15c.).
Meaning "to walk lamely" is from c. 1400. Transitive sense of "tie the legs (of an animal)" first recorded 1831, probably an alteration of 16c. hopple, cognate with Flemish hoppelen "to rock, jump," which also is related to Dutch hobbelen. Sense of "hamper, hinder" is c. 1870. Related: Hobbled; hobbling. The noun is 1727, from the verb.
- hobbledehoy (n.)
- "clumsy or awkward youth," 1530s, of uncertain origin and the subject of much discussion. First element is probably hob in its sense of "clown, prankster" (see hobgoblin), the second element perhaps is Middle French de haye "worthless, untamed, wild," literally "of the hedge."
- hobby (n.)
- late 13c., hobyn, "small horse, pony," later "mock horse used in the morris dance," and c. 1550 "child's toy riding horse," which led to hobby-horse in a transferred sense of "favorite pastime or avocation," first recorded 1670s, shortened to hobby by 1816. The connecting notion being "activity that doesn't go anywhere." Probably originally a proper name for a horse (see dobbin), a diminutive of Robert or Robin. The original hobbyhorse was a "Tourney Horse," a wooden or basketwork frame worn around the waist and held on with shoulder straps, with a fake tail and horse head attached, so the wearer appears to be riding a horse. These were part of church and civic celebrations at Midsummer and New Year's throughout England.
- hobbyist (n.)
- 1830, from hobby + -ist. Hobbyism is recorded from 1846.
- hobgoblin (n.)
- 1520s, from hob "elf," from Hobbe, a variant of Rob (compare Hick for Richard, Hodge for Rodger, etc.), short for Robin Goodfellow, elf character in German folklore, + goblin.
- hobnail (n.)
- 1590s, the first element probably identical with hob "rounded peg or pin used as a mark or target in games" (1580s), of unknown origin. See hob. Because they were used to make rough shoes, the word was used figuratively for "rustic person" 17c. and after. Related: Hobnailed.
- hobnob (v.)
- 1763, "to drink to each other," from hob and nob (1756) "to toast each other by turns, to buy alternate rounds of drinks," from c. 1550 hab nab "to have or have not, hit or miss," probably ultimately from Old English habban, nabban "have, not have," with the negative particle ne- attached, as was customary. Modern sense of "socialize" is 1866. Related: Hobnobbed; hobnobbing.
- hobo (n.)
- 1889, Western U.S., of unknown origin. Barnhart compares early 19c. English dialectal hawbuck "lout, clumsy fellow, country bumpkin." Or possibly from ho, boy, a workers' call on late 19c. western U.S. railroads. Facetious formation hobohemia, "community or life of hobos," is from 1923 (see bohemian).
- city in New Jersey, U.S., birthplace of Frank Sinatra, named by 17c. Dutch settlers for a village in modern Belgium that is now a suburb of Antwerp.
- Hobson's choice (n.)
- English university slang term, supposedly a reference to Thomas Hobson (c. 1544-1631), Cambridge stable manager who let horses and gave customers a choice of the horse next in line or none at all. Phrase popularized c. 1660 by Milton, who was at Cambridge from 1625-29.
- 1690s, hossen gossen, said to have been British soldiers' mangled Englishing of the Arabic cry they heard at Muharram processions in India, Ya Hasan! Ya Husayn! ("O Hassan! O Husain!"), mourning two grandsons of the Prophet who died fighting for the faith. Title of Yule & Burnell's 1886 glossary of Anglo-Indian words, and taken by linguists in naming the law of Hobson-Jobson, describing the effort to bring a new and strange word into harmony with the language.
- Latin, literally "this."
- hock (n.1)
- "joint in the hind leg of a horse," mid-15c., earlier hockshin (late 14c.), from Old English hohsinu "sinew of the heel, Achilles' tendon," literally "heel sinew," from hoh "heel," from Proto-Germanic *hanhaz (cognates: German Hachse "hock," Old English hæla "heel"), from PIE *kenk- (3) "heel, bend of the knee."
- hock (n.2)
- "Rhenish wine," 1620s, shortening of Hockamore, from German Hochheimer, "(wine) of Hochheim," town on the Main where wine was made; sense extended to German white wines in general.
- hock (n.3)
- "pawn, debt," 1859, American English, in hock, which meant both "in debt" and "in prison," from Dutch hok "jail, pen, doghouse, hutch, hovel." The verb is 1878, from the noun.
When one gambler is caught by another, smarter than himself, and is beat, then he is in hock. Men are only caught, or put in hock, on the race-tracks, or on the steamboats down South. ... Among thieves a man is in hock when he is in prison. [G.W. Matsell, "Vocabulum," 1859]
- hockey (n.)
- after an isolated reference from Ireland dated 1527 ("The horlinge of the litill balle with hockie stickes or staves ..."), the word is next recorded 1838 from W. Sussex; of unknown origin, perhaps related to Middle French hoquet "shepherd's staff, crook," diminutive of Old French hoc "hook." The hooked clubs with which the game is played resemble shepherds' staves. In North America, ice hockey is distinguished from field hockey.
- 1620s, Hocas Pocas, common name of a magician or juggler, a sham-Latin invocation used in tricks, probably based on a perversion of the sacramental blessing from the Mass, Hoc est corpus meum "This is my body." The first to make this speculation on its origin apparently was English prelate John Tillotson (1630-1694).
I will speak of one man ... that went about in King James his time ... who called himself, the Kings Majesties most excellent Hocus Pocus, and so was called, because that at the playing of every Trick, he used to say, Hocus pocus, tontus tabantus, vade celeriter jubeo, a dark composure of words, to blinde the eyes of the beholders, to make his Trick pass the more currantly without discovery. [Thomas Ady, "A Candle in the Dark," 1655]
- hod (n.)
- 1570s, alteration of Middle English hott "pannier" (c. 1300), from Old French hotte "basket to carry on the back," apparently from Frankish *hotta or some other Germanic source (compare Middle High German hotze "cradle"). Altered by influence of cognate Middle Dutch hodde "basket."
- see hodgepodge.
- hodgepodge (n.)
- also hodge podge, hodge-podge, early 15c., hogpoch, alteration of hotchpotch (late 14c.) "a kind of stew," especially "one made with goose, herbs, spices, wine, and other ingredients," earlier an Anglo-French legal term (late 13c.) meaning "collection of property in a common 'pot' before dividing it equally," from Old French hochepot "stew, soup," first element from hocher "to shake," from a Germanic source (such as Middle High German hotzen "shake").
- Hodgkin's disease
- 1877, named for Dr. Thomas Hodgkin (1798-1866) who first described it.
- hoe (n.)
- mid-14c., from Old French houe (12c.), from Frankish *hauwa, from Proto-Germanic *hawwan (cognates: Old High German houwa "hoe, mattock, pick-axe," German Haue), from PIE *kau- "to hew, strike" (see hew). The verb is first recorded early 15c. Related: Hoed; hoeing.
- hoe-cake (n.)
- 1745, American English, said to be so called because it originally was baked on the broad thin blade of a cotton-field hoe (n.).
- hoedown (n.)
- "noisy dance," 1841, apparently originally the name of a specific dance, perhaps from perceived parallel of dance motions to those of farm chores, hence from hoe (n.).
The step of every negro dance that was ever known, was called into requisition and admirably executed. They performed the "double shuffle," the "Virginny break-down," the "Kentucky heeltap," the "pigeon wing," the "back balance lick," the "Arkansas hoe down," with unbounded applause and irresistible effect. ["Scouting Expeditions of McCulloch's Texas Rangers," 1848]
"Hoe corn, hill tobacco" is noted as a line in the chorus of a slave song in 1838, and Washington Irving writes of a dance called "hoe corn and dig potatoes" in 1807.
The same precedence is repeated until all the merchandise is disposed of, the table is then banished the room, and the whole party hoe it down in straight fours and set dances, till the hour when "ghosts wandering here and there, troop home to church-yards." This is what we kintra folk call a strauss. ["Der Teufelskerl. A Tale of German Pennsylvania," in "Burton's Gentleman's Magazine," January 1840]
- hoer (n.)
- 1740s, agent noun from hoe (v.).
- hog (n.)
- late 12c. (implied in hogaster), "swine reared for slaughter" (usually about a year old), also used by stockmen for "young sheep" (mid-14c.) and for "horse older than one year," suggesting the original sense had something to do with an age, not a type of animal. Not evidenced in Old English, but it may have existed. Possibility of British Celtic origin [Watkins, etc.] is regarded by OED as "improbable." Figurative sense of "gluttonous person" is first recorded early 15c. Meaning "Harley-Davidson motorcycle" is attested from 1967.
To go hog wild is from 1904. Hog in armor "awkward or clumsy person in ill-fitting attire" is from 1650s. Phrase to go the whole hog (1828) is sometimes said to be from the butcher shop option of buying the whole slaughtered animal (at a discount) rather than just the choice bits. But it is perhaps rather from the story (recorded in English from 1779) of Muslim sophists, forbidden by the Quran from eating a certain unnamed part of the hog, who debated which part was intended and managed to exempt the whole of it from the prohibition. Road hog is attested from 1886.
- hog (v.)
- "to appropriate greedily," U.S. slang, 1884 (first attested in "Huck Finn"), from hog (n.). Related: Hogged; hogging.
- hog-tie (v.)
- also hogtie, "bind hands and feet," 1887, from hog (n.) + tie (v.). Related: Hog-tied.
- hogan (n.)
- "Navaho Indian dwelling," 1871, American English, from Athapaskan (Navaho) hoghan "dwelling, house."
- hogger (n.)
- "swineherd, herdsman," early 14c., from hog (n.).
- hoggish (adj.)
- "gluttonous," late 15c., from hog (n.) + -ish. Related: Hoggishly; hoggishness.
- hogshead (n.)
- "large cask or barrel," late 14c., presumably on some perceived resemblance. The original liquid measure was 63 old wine gallons (by a statute of 1423); later anywhere from 100 to 140 gallons. Borrowed into other Germanic languages, oddly, as ox-head (Dutch okshoofd, German oxhoft, Swedish oxhufvud).
- hogwash (n.)
- mid-15c., "slops fed to pigs," from hog (n.) + wash (n.). Extended to "cheap liquor" (1712) then to "inferior writing" (1773).
- hogweed (n.)
- 1707, from hog (n.) + weed; used in different places of various plants eaten by hogs or deemed fit only for them.
- hoi polloi
- 1837, from Greek hoi polloi (plural) "the people," literally "the many" (plural of polys; see poly-). Used in Greek by Dryden (1668) and Byron (1822), in both cases preceded by the, even though Greek hoi means "the," a mistake repeated often by subsequent writers, who at least have the excuse of ignorance of Greek.
- hoist (v.)
- 1540s, "to raise," earlier hoise (c. 1500), probably originally past tense of Middle English hysse (late 15c.), which is probably from Middle Dutch hyssen (Dutch hijsen) "to hoist," related to Low German hissen and Old Norse hissa upp "raise." A nautical word found in most European languages (French hisser, Italian issare, Spanish izar), but it is uncertain which had it first. Related: Hoisted; hoisting. In phrase hoist with one's own petard, it is the past participle.
For 'tis the sport, to have the engineer
Meaning "to lift and remove" was prevalent c. 1550-1750. As a noun, 1650s, from the verb.
Hoist with his own petar: and it shall go hard
But I will delve one yard below their mines,
And blow them at the moon: O 'tis most sweet,
When in one line two crafts directly meet.
["Hamlet," Act III, Scene iv]
- also hoity toity, 1660s, "riotous behavior," from earlier highty tighty "frolicsome, flighty," perhaps an alteration and reduplication of dialectal hoyting "acting the hoyden, romping" (1590s), see hoyden. Sense of "haughty" first recorded late 1800s, probably on similarity of sound.
- often hoke up, 1935, theatrical slang, probably shortened from hokum.
- hokey (adj.)
- 1927, from hoke + -y (2). Related: Hokiness.
- 1847, "false cheap material," perhaps an alteration of hocus-pocus, or from the nonsense chorus and title of a comic song (Hokey Pokey Whankey Fong) that was popular c. 1830. Applied especially to cheap ice cream sold by street vendors (1884), in Philadelphia, and perhaps other places, it meant shaved ice with artificial flavoring. The words also were the title of a Weber-Fields musical revue from 1912. The modern dance song of that name hit the U.S. in 1950 ("Life" described it Nov. 27, 1950, as "a tuneless stomp that is now sweeping the U.C.L.A. campus"), but it is said to have originated in Britain in World War II, perhaps from a Canadian source.
- hokum (n.)
- 1917, theater slang, "melodramatic, exaggerated acting," probably formed on model of bunkum (see bunk (n.2)), and perhaps influenced by or based on hocus-pocus.
- hold (v.)
- Old English haldan (Anglian), healdan (West Saxon), "to contain, grasp; retain; foster, cherish," class VII strong verb (past tense heold, past participle healden), from Proto-Germanic *haldan (cognates: Old Saxon haldan, Old Frisian halda, Old Norse halda, Dutch houden, German halten "to hold," Gothic haldan "to tend"), originally "to keep, tend, watch over" (as cattle), later "to have." Ancestral sense is preserved in behold. The original past participle holden was replaced by held beginning 16c., but survives in some legal jargon and in beholden.
Hold back is 1530s, transitive; 1570s, intransitive; hold off is early 15c., transitive; c. 1600, intransitive; hold out is 1520s as "to stretch forth," 1580s as "to resist pressure." Hold on is early 13c. as "to maintain one's course," 1830 as "to keep one's grip on something," 1846 as an order to wait or stop. To hold (one's) tongue "be silent" is from c. 1300. To hold (one's) own is from early 14c. To hold (someone's) hand "give moral support" is from 1935. Phrase hold your horses "be patient" is from 1844. To have and to hold have been paired alliteratively since at least c. 1200, originally of marriage but also of real estate.
- hold (n.2)
- "space in a ship below the lower deck, in which cargo is stowed," 15c. corruption in the direction of hold (v.) of Old English hol "hole" (see hole), influenced by Middle Dutch hol "hold of a ship," and Middle English hul, which originally meant both "the hold" and "the hull" of a ship (see hull). Or possibly from Old English holu "husk, pod." All from PIE *kel- "to cover, conceal."
- hold (n.1)
- "act of holding," c. 1100; "grasp, grip," c. 1200, from Old English geheald (Anglian gehald) "keeping, custody, guard; watch, protector, guardian," from hold (v.). Meaning "place of refuge" is from c. 1200; "fortified place" is from c. 1300; "place of imprisonment" is from late 14c. Wrestling sense is from 1713. No holds barred "with all restrictions removed" is first recorded 1942 in theater jargon but is ultimately from wrestling. Telephoning sense is from c. 1964, from expression hold the line, warning that one is away from the receiver, 1912.
- hold up (v.)
- also holdup, hold-up, late 13c., "to keep erect;" 1837 as "to delay." The verb meaning "to stop by force and rob" is from 1887, from the robber's command to raise hands. The noun in this sense is from 1851.
- hold-out (n.)
- one who abstains or refrains when others do not, by 1911, from verbal expression hold out; see hold (v.) + out. Earlier as the name of a card-sharper's device (1893).
- holder (n.)
- c. 1400, "tenant, occupier," agent noun from hold (v.). Meaning "device for holding something" is attested from 1833.
- holding (n.)
- early 13c., verbal noun of hold. As a football (soccer) penalty, from 1866. Meaning "property held," especially stock shares, is from 1570s.
- hole (n.)
- Old English hol "orifice, hollow place, cave, perforation," from Proto-Germanic *hul (cognates: Old Saxon, Old Frisian, Old High German hol, Middle Dutch hool, Old Norse holr, German hohl "hollow," Gothic us-hulon "to hollow out"), from PIE root *kel- (2) "to cover, conceal" (see cell).
As a contemptuous word for "small dingy lodging or abode" it is attested from 1610s. Meaning "a fix, scrape, mess" is from 1760. Obscene slang use for "vulva" is implied from mid-14c. Hole in the wall "small and unpretentious place" is from 1822; to hole up first recorded 1875. To need (something) like a hole in the head, applied to something useless or detrimental, first recorded 1944 in entertainment publications, probably a translation of a Yiddish expression such as ich darf es vi a loch in kop.