mosquito (n.) Look up mosquito at
1580s, from Spanish mosquito "little gnat," diminutive of mosca "fly," from Latin musca "fly," from PIE root *mu- "gnat, fly," imitative of insect buzzing (compare Sanskrit maksa-, Greek myia, Old English mycg, Modern English midge, Old Church Slavonic mucha), perhaps imitative of the sound of humming insects.
moss (n.) Look up moss at
Old English meos "moss," related to mos "bog," from Proto-Germanic *musan (cognates: Old High German mios, Danish mos, German Moos), also in part from Old Norse mosi "moss, bog," and Medieval Latin mossa "moss," from the same Germanic source, from PIE *meus- "damp," with derivatives referring to swamps and swamp vegetation (cognates: Latin muscus "moss," Lithuanian musai "mold, mildew," Old Church Slavonic muchu "moss").
Selden Moseþ þe Marbelston þat men ofte treden. ["Piers Plowman," 1362]
All the Germanic languages have the word in both senses, which is natural because moss is the characteristic plant of boggy places. It is impossible to say which sense is original. Scott (1805) revived 17c. moss-trooper "freebooter infesting Scottish border marshes."
mossback (n.) Look up mossback at
"conservative," 1874, especially of poor whites from Carolina, originally (1872) in reference to those who hid out to avoid service in the Confederate army (and would have stayed out till the moss grew on their backs); from moss + back (n.).
mossy (adj.) Look up mossy at
1560s, from moss + -y (2).
most (adj.) Look up most at
Old English mast "greatest number, amount, extent," earlier mæst, from Proto-Germanic *maistaz (cognates: Old Saxon mest, Old Frisian mast, Old Norse mestr, Dutch meest, German meist, Gothic maists "most"), superlative form of Proto-Germanic *maiz, root of Old English ma, mara (see more). Used in Old English as superlative of micel "great, large" (see mickle). Vowel influenced by more. Original sense of "greatest" survives in phrase for the most part (c. 1400). Slang meaning "the best, extremely good" is attested from 1953. Also used as an adverb in Old English. Phrase make the most of (something) is by 1520s. Related: Mostly. Double superlative mostest is 1885, from U.S. Southern and Black English.
Mosul Look up Mosul at
city in northern Iraq, from Arabic al-Mawsul, literally "the joined," a reference to the bridge and ford over the Tigris here.
mot (n.) Look up mot at
"a witty saying," 1580s, from French mot (12c.) "remark, short speech," literally "word," cognate of Italian motto, from Latin mutum "grunt, murmur" (see mutter). Mot juste (1912) is French, literally "exact word," the precisely appropriate expression in some situation.
The mot juste is an expression which readers would like to buy of writers who use it, as one buys one's neighbour's bantam cock for the sake of hearing its voice no more. [Fowler]
mote (n.) Look up mote at
"particle of dust," Old English mot, of unknown origin; perhaps related to Dutch mot "dust from turf, sawdust, grit," Norwegian mutt "speck, mote, splinter, chip." Many references are to Matt. vii:3.
motel (n.) Look up motel at
1925, coined from motor- + hotel. Originally a hotel for automobile travelers.
The Milestone Interstate Corporation ... proposes to build and operate a chain of motor hotels between San Diego and Seattle, the hotels to have the name 'Motel.' ["Hotel Monthly," March 1925]
motet (n.) Look up motet at
"choral composition on a sacred text," late 14c., from Old French motet (13c.), diminutive of mot "word" (see mot).
moth (n.) Look up moth at
Old English moððe (Northumbrian mohðe), common Germanic (Old Norse motti, Middle Dutch motte, Dutch mot, German Motte "moth"), perhaps related to Old English maða "maggot," or from the root of midge (q.v.). Until 16c. used mostly of the larva and usually in reference to devouring clothes (see Matt. vi:20).
mothball (n.) Look up mothball at
also moth-ball, moth ball, "naphthalene ball stored among fabrics to keep off moths," 1891, from moth + ball (n.1).
mothball (v.) Look up mothball at
1902 in a literal sense (to store away with mothballs), from mothball (n.); figurative sense from 1901.
mother (n.1) Look up mother at
Old English modor "female parent," from Proto-Germanic *mothær (cognates: Old Saxon modar, Old Frisian moder, Old Norse moðir, Danish moder, Dutch moeder, Old High German muoter, German Mutter), from PIE *mater- "mother" (cognates: Latin mater, Old Irish mathir, Lithuanian mote, Sanskrit matar-, Greek meter, Old Church Slavonic mati), "[b]ased ultimately on the baby-talk form *mā- (2); with the kinship term suffix *-ter-" [Watkins]. Spelling with -th- dates from early 16c., though that pronunciation is probably older (see father (n.)).

Mother nature first attested c. 1600; mother earth is from 1580s. Mother tongue "one's native language" first attested late 14c. Mother of all ________ 1991, is Gulf War slang, from Saddam Hussein's use in reference to the coming battle; it is an Arabic idiom (as well as an English one), for instance Ayesha, second wife of Muhammad, is known as Mother of Believers. Mother Carey's chickens is late 18c. sailors' nickname for storm petrels, or for snowflakes. Mother lode attested by c. 1882, from mining [1849].
mother (v.) Look up mother at
1540s, "to be the mother of," from mother (n.1). Meaning "to take care of" is from 1863. Related: Mothered; mothering.
mother (n.2) Look up mother at
"a thick substance concreting in liquors; the lees or scum concreted" [Johnson], probably from Middle Dutch modder "filth, dregs," from PIE *meu- (see mud).
Mother Goose Look up Mother Goose at
probably a translation of mid-17c. French contes de ma mère l'oye, which meant "fairy tales." The phrase appeared on the frontispiece of Charles Perrault's 1697 collection of eight fairy tales ("Contes du Temps Passé"), which was translated in English 1729 as "Mother Goose's Tales", and a very popular collection of traditional nursery rhymes published by John Newbery c. 1765 was called "Mother Goose's Melody." Her own biographical story is no earlier than 1806.
Mother Hubbard Look up Mother Hubbard at
Old Mother Hubbard, nursery rhyme, was printed 1805, written by Sarah Catherine Martin (1768-1826) but based on earlier material of unknown origin (the name is attested from 1591).
mother of pearl (n.) Look up mother of pearl at
c. 1500, translating Medieval Latin mater perlarum, with the first element perhaps connected in popular imagination with obsolete mother (n.2) "dregs." Compare Italian madreperla, French mère-perle, Dutch parelmoer, German Perlmutter, Danish perlemor.
mother-in-law (n.) Look up mother-in-law at
mid-15c., "mother of one's spouse," from mother (n.1) + in-law. Also in early use, "stepmother." In British slang c. 1884, mother-in-law was "a mixture of ales old and bitter."
motherfucker (n.) Look up motherfucker at
also mother-fucker, mother fucker, usually simply an intensive of fucker (see fuck), attested from 1956; implied in clipped form mother (with the context made clear) by 1928; motherfucking is from 1933. Abbreviation m.f. (for motherfucking) is in a rendition of soldier talk in Pound's Pisan Cantos (1948).
motherhood (n.) Look up motherhood at
1590s, from mother (n.1) + -hood.
motherland (n.) Look up motherland at
1711, from mother (n.1) + land (n.).
motherless (adj.) Look up motherless at
Old English moderleas; see mother (n.) + -less.
motherly (adj.) Look up motherly at
Old English modorlic "pertaining to a mother;" see mother (n.1) + -ly (1). Meaning "befitting a mother" is from mid-13c. Related: Motherliness.
Mothers' Day Look up Mothers' Day at
the spelling used in the U.S. congressional resolution first recognizing it, May 9, 1908.
mothership (n.) Look up mothership at
also mother-ship, 1890, from mother (n.1) + ship (n.).
motif (n.) Look up motif at
"theme, predominant feature," 1848, from French motif "dominant idea, theme" (see motive).
motile (adj.) Look up motile at
"capable of movement," 1831, back-formation from motility.
motility (n.) Look up motility at
"capacity of movement," 1827, from French motilité (1827), from Latin mot-, stem of movere "to move" (see move (v.)).
motion (n.) Look up motion at
late 14c., "suggestion; process of moving," from Old French mocion "movement, motion; change, alteration" (13c.), from Latin motionem (nominative motio) "a moving, a motion; an emotion," from past participle stem of movere "to move" (see move (v.)). Motion picture attested from 1896.
motion (v.) Look up motion at
late 15c., "to request, petition" (obsolete), from motion (n.). The sense in parliamentary procedure first recorded 1747; with meaning "to guide or direct by a sign, gesture, movement" it is attested from 1787. Related: Motioned; motioning.
motionless (adj.) Look up motionless at
1590s, from motion (n.) + -less. Related: Motionlessly; motionlessness.
motivate (v.) Look up motivate at
1863, "to stimulate toward action," from motive + -ate (2); perhaps modeled on French motiver or German motivieren. Related: Motivated; motivating.
motivation (n.) Look up motivation at
1873, from motivate + -ion. Psychological use, "inner or social stimulus for an action," is from 1904.
motivational (adj.) Look up motivational at
1931, from motivation + -al (1).
motivator (n.) Look up motivator at
1917, agent noun in Latin form from motivate (v.).
motive (n.) Look up motive at
mid-14c., "something brought forward," from Old French motif "will, drive, motivation," noun use of adjective, literally "moving," from Medieval Latin motivus "moving, impelling," from Latin motus "a moving, motion," past participle of movere "to move" (see move (v.)). Meaning "that which inwardly moves a person to behave a certain way" is from early 15c.
motive (adj.) Look up motive at
late 14c., from Old French motif "moving" or directly from Medieval Latin motivus "moving, impelling," from past participle stem of movere "to move" (see move (v.)).
motiveless (adj.) Look up motiveless at
1817, from motive (n.) + -less.
motley (adj.) Look up motley at
late 14c., "parti-colored" (originally of fabric), from Anglo-French motteley, probably from Old English mot "speck" (see mote). But Klein's sources say probably from Gaulish. "Diversified in color," especially of a fool's dress. Hence, allusively, "a fool" (1600). As a noun meaning "cloth of mixed color" from late 14c.
moto- Look up moto- at
word-forming element meaning "motion, motor," from Latin motus, past participle of movere (see move (v.)).
motocross Look up motocross at
also moto-cross, by 1956, from motorcycle + cross-country.
motor (n.) Look up motor at
mid-15c., "controller, prime mover," from Latin motor, literally "mover," agent noun from past participle stem of movere "to move" (see move (v.)). From 15c. as "controller, prime mover" (in reference to God); sense of "agent or force that produces mechanical motion" is first recorded 1660s; that of "machine that supplies motive power" is from 1856. First record of slang motor-mouth "fast-talking person" is from 1970.
motor (v.) Look up motor at
1896, from motor (n.). Related: Motored; motoring.
motor- Look up motor- at
element used extensively in 20c. word formation to indicate motorcar.
motor-boat (n.) Look up motor-boat at
also motorboat, 1902, from motor (n.) + boat (n.).
motorcade (n.) Look up motorcade at
1909, from motor- + suffix from cavalcade.
motorcar (n.) Look up motorcar at
also motor-car, 1895 from motor (n.) + car.
motorcycle (n.) Look up motorcycle at
1895, a hybrid from motor + -cycle, from bicycle. Motocycle also was used late 19c.
The horse follows the crooks of a country road, but then the training of the "motorcycle" (horrid name) will inevitably straighten out the crooks in the country road, and afford long ranges of straight tracks. [Payson Burleigh, "The Age of Steel," Oct. 12, 1895]
Related: Motorcyclist.