- pointillism (n.)
- 1901, from French pointillisme, from pointiller "to cover with pointilles," small dots, plural diminutive of point (see point (n.)). Pointillist is attested from 1891, from French pointilliste.
- pointing (n.)
- "the filling up of exterior faces of joints in brickwork," late 15c., verbal noun from point (v.). Meaning "action of indicating with the finger, etc." is from 1550s.
- pointless (adj.)
- early 14c., "blunt," from point (n.) + -less. Meaning "of no effect, to no purpose" is from 1726. Related: Pointlessly; pointlessness.
- pointy (adj.)
- 1640s, from point (n.) + -y (2). Insult pointy-head for one deemed overly intellectual, attested by 1971, was popularized, if not coined, by U.S. politician George Wallace in his 1972 presidential run.
- poise (n.)
- early 15c., "weight, quality of being heavy," later "significance, importance" (mid-15c.), from Old French pois "weight, balance, consideration" (12c., Modern French poids), from Medieval Latin pesum "weight," from Latin pensum "something weighted or weighed," (source of Provençal and Catalan pes, Spanish, Portuguese, Italian peso), noun use of neuter past participle of pendere "to weigh" (see pendant).
The sense of "steadiness, composure" first recorded 1640s, from notion of being equally weighted on either side (1550s). Meaning "balance" is from 1711; meaning "way in which the body is carried" is from 1770.
- poise (v.)
- late 14c., "to have a certain weight," from stressed form of Old French peser "to weigh, be heavy; weigh down, be a burden; worry, be a concern," from Vulgar Latin *pesare, from Latin pensare "to weigh carefully, weigh out, counter-balance," frequentative of pendere (past participle pensus) "to weigh" (see pendant). For form evolution from Latin to French, see OED. Meaning "to place in equilibrium" is from 1630s (compare equipoise). Passive sense of "to be ready" (to do something) is from 1932. Related: Poised; poising. In 15c. a poiser was an official who weighed goods.
- poison (n.)
- c. 1200, "a deadly potion or substance," also figuratively, from Old French poison, puison (12c., Modern French poison) "a drink," especially a medical drink, later "a (magic) potion, poisonous drink" (14c.), from Latin potionem (nominative potio) "a drinking, a drink," also "poisonous drink" (Cicero), from potare "to drink" (see potion).
For form evolution from Latin to French, compare raison from rationem. The Latin word also is the source of Old Spanish pozon, Italian pozione, Spanish pocion. The more usual Indo-European word for this is represented in English by virus. The Old English word was ator (see attercop) or lybb. Slang sense of "alcoholic drink" first attested 1805, American English.
For sense evolution, compare Old French enerber, enherber "to kill with poisonous plants." In many Germanic languages "poison" is named by a word equivalent to English gift (such as Old High German gift, German Gift, Danish and Swedish gift; Dutch gift, vergift). This shift might have been partly euphemistic, partly by influence of Greek dosis "a portion prescribed," literally "a giving," used by Galen and other Greek physicians to mean an amount of medicine (see dose (n.)).
Figuratively from late 15c.; of persons by 1910. As an adjective from 1520s; with plant names from 18c. Poison ivy first recorded 1784; poison oak is from 1743. Poison gas first recorded 1915. Poison-pen (letter) popularized 1913 by a notorious criminal case in Pennsylvania, U.S.; the phrase dates to 1898.
- poison (v.)
- "to give poison to; kill with poison," c. 1300, from Old French poisonner "to give to drink," and directly from poison (n.). Figuratively from late 14c. Related: Poisoned; poisoning.
- poisoner (n.)
- late 14c., agent noun from poison (v.). OED notes that in Australia and New Zealand it was used for "A cook, esp. for large numbers."
- poisonous (adj.)
- 1570s, from poison (n.) + -ous. Failed 16c. rivals were poisonsome, poisonful, poisony. Earlier poisoned was used (late 15c.). Related: Poisonously; poisonousness.
- Poitevin (adj.)
- 1640s, "of Poitou," the region in France.
- poke (v.)
- "to push, prod, thrust," especially with something pointed, c. 1300, puken "to poke, nudge," of uncertain origin, perhaps from or related to Middle Dutch poken "to poke" (Dutch beuken), or Middle Low German poken "to stick with a knife" (compare German pochen "to knock, rap"), both from Proto-Germanic root *puk-, perhaps imitative. Related: Poked; poking. To poke fun "tease" first attested 1840; to poke around "search" is from 1809. To poke along "advance lazily; walk at a leisurely pace" is from 1833.
- poke (n.1)
- "small sack," early 13c., probably from Old North French poque (12c., Old French poche) "purse, poke, purse-net," probably from a Germanic source, from Proto-Germanic *puk- (source also of Old English pohha, pocca "bag, pocket," Middle Dutch poke, Old Norse poki "bag, pouch, pocket," dialectal German Pfoch), from PIE root *beu-, an imitative root associated with words for "to swell" (see bull (n.2)).
- poke (n.2)
- "pokeweed; a weed used in medicine and dyeing," colonial American, from native words, possibly a confusion of similar-sounding Native American plant names; from 1630s in English as "tobacco plant," short for uppowoc (1580s), from Algonquian (Virginia) *uppowoc. Later (1708) the word is used in the sense "pokeweed," as a shortened form of puccoon, from Algonquian (Virginia) *puccoon, name of a plant used for dyeing." Native roots for "smoke" and "stain" have been proposed as the origin or origins.
- poke (n.3)
- "an act of poking," 1796, originally pugilistic slang, from poke (v.). Also (1809) the name of a device, like a yoke with a pole, attached to domestic animals such as pigs and sheep to keep them from escaping enclosures. Hence slowpoke, and compare pokey. Slang sense "act of sexual intercourse" is attested from 1902.
- Pokemon (n.)
- video and trading card franchise, released in Japan in 1996, said to be from a contracted Romanization of Japanese Poketto Monsuta "pocket monsters," both elements ultimately from European languages. Apparently it is a collective word with no distinctive plural form.
- poker (n.1)
- "the iron bar with which men stir the fire" [Johnson], 1530s, agent noun from poke (v.).
- poker (n.2)
- card game, 1834, American English, of unknown origin, perhaps from the first element of German Pochspiel, name of a card game similar to poker, from pochen "to brag as a bluff," literally "to knock, rap" (see poke (v.)). A popular alternative theory traces the word to French poque, also said to have been a card game resembling poker. "[B]ut without documentation these explanations are mere speculation" [Barnhart]. The earlier version of the game in English was called brag. Slang poker face (n.) "deadpan" is from 1874.
A good player is cautious or bold by turns, according to his estimate of the capacities of his adversaries, and to the impression he wants to make on them. 7. It follows that the possession of a good poker face is an advantage. No one who has any pretensions to good play will betray the value of his hand by gesture, change of countenance, or any other symptom. ["Cavendish," "Round Games at Cards," dated 1875]
To any one not very well up in these games, some parts of the book are at first sight rather puzzling. "It follows," we read in one passage, "that the possession of a good poker face" (the italics are the author's) "is an advantage." If this had been said by a Liverpool rough of his wife, the meaning would have been clear to every one. Cavendish, however, does not seem to be writing especially for Lancashire. [review of above, "Saturday Review," Dec. 26, 1874]
- pokey (n.)
- "jail," 1919, of uncertain origin; Barnhart says perhaps altered from pogie "poorhouse" (1891), which itself is of unknown origin.
- poky (adj.)
- also pokey, 1828, "confined, pinched, shabby," later (1856) "slow, dull;" from varied senses of poke (v.) + -y (2). Also see poke (n.3). Related: Pokily; pokiness.
- pol (n.)
- 1942, American English colloquial shortening of politician.
- Polack (n.)
- "Polish person," 1570s, from Polish Polak "(male) Polish person," related to Polanie "Poles," Polska "Poland," polski "Polish" (see Pole). In North American usage, "Polish immigrant, person of Polish descent" (1879) and in that context considered offensive in English. As an adjective from c. 1600.
- Poland (n.)
- 1560s, from Pole + land (n.). Related: Polander.
- polar (adj.)
- 1550s, from Middle French polaire (16c.) or directly from Medieval Latin polaris "of or pertaining to the poles," from Latin polus "an end of an axis" (see pole (n.2)). Meaning "directly opposite in character or tendency" is attested from 1832. Polar bear first recorded 1781.
- Polaris (n.)
- 1769, short for stella polaris, Modern Latin, literally "the pole star" (see polar). The ancient Greeks called it Phoenice, "the Phoenician (star)," because the Phoenicians used it for navigation, though due to precession of the equinoxes it was not then the pole star. Also see pole (n.2). The Old English word for it was Scip-steorra "ship-star," reflecting its importance in navigation. As the name of a U.S. Navy long-range submarine-launched guided nuclear missile, it dates from 1957.
- polarisation (n.)
- chiefly British English spelling of polarization. For spelling, see -ize.
- polarity (n.)
- 1640s, originally of magnets, from polar + -ity.
- polarization (n.)
- 1812, from polarize + -ation, and in part from French polarisation, noun of action from polariser. Figuratively from 1871; of social and political groups, "accentuation of differences," from 1945.
- polarize (v.)
- 1811, in optics, from French polariser, coined by French physicist Étienne-Louis Malus (1775-1812) as a term in optics, from Modern Latin polaris "polar" (see polar). Transferred sense of "to accentuate a division in a group or system" is first recorded 1949 in Arthur Koestler. Related: Polarized; polarizing.
- Polaroid (n.)
- material which in thin sheets produces a high degree of plane polarization of light passing through it, 1936, proprietary name (Sheet Polarizer Co., Union City, N.J.). As a type of camera producing prints rapidly, it is attested from 1961.
- polder (n.)
- c. 1600, from Dutch polder, from Middle Dutch polre, related to East Frisian poller, polder, of unknown origin.
- pole (n.1)
- "stake," late Old English pal "stake, pole, post," a general Germanic borrowing (Old Frisian and Old Saxon pal "stake," Middle Dutch pael, Dutch paal, Old High German pfal, Old Norse pall) from Latin palus "stake" (see pale (n.)).
Racing sense of "inside fence surrounding a course" is from 1851; pole position in auto racing attested from 1904.
A ten-foot pole as a metaphoric measure of something one would not touch something (or someone) else with is by 1839, American English. The ten-foot pole was a common tool used to set stakes for fences, etc., and the phrase "Can't touch de bottom with a ten foot pole" is in the popular old minstrel show song "Camptown Races."
"I saw her eat."
"No very unnatural occurrence I should think."
"But she ate an onion!"
"Right my boy, right, never marry a woman who would touch an onion with a ten foot pole."
["The Collegian," University of Virginia, 1839]
- pole (n.2)
- "ends of Earth's axis," late 14c., from Old French pole or directly from Latin polus "end of an axis;" also "the sky, the heavens" (a sense sometimes used in English from 16c.), from Greek polos "pivot, axis of a sphere, the sky," from PIE *kwol- "turn round," from root *kwel- (1) "wheel; turn, roll around" (see cycle (n.)).
- Pole (n.)
- "inhabitant or native of Poland," 1650s, from German Pole, singular of Polen, from Polish Polanie "Poles," literally "field-dwellers," from pole "field," related to Old Church Slavonic polje "field," from PIE root *pele- (2) "flat, to spread" (see plane (n.1)).
- pole (v.)
- "to furnish with poles," 1570s, from pole (n.1). Meaning "to push with a pole" is from 1753. Related: Poled; poling.
- pole-star (n.)
- the North Star (see Polaris), 1550s, from pole (n.2) + star (n.).
- pole-vault (n.)
- 1877, from pole (n.1) + vault (n.2). As a verb from 1892 (implied in pole-vaulting). Related: Pole-vaulted.
- poleax (n.)
- kind of axe used as a weapon or by butchers, c. 1300, pollax, from pol "head" (see poll (n.)) + ax (n.). From notion of beheading or head-splitting, or perhaps from the shape of the ax. Spelling altered 17c. by confusion with pole (n.1)).
- polecat (n.)
- early 14c., from cat (n.); the first element is perhaps Anglo-French pol, from Old French poule "fowl, hen" (see pullet (n.)); so called because it preys on poultry [Klein]. The other alternative is that the first element is from Old French pulent "stinking," for obvious reasons. Originally the European Putorius foetidus; also applied to related U.S. skunks since 1680s.
- polemarch (n.)
- "commander of the army" in Greek history, 1570s, from Greek polemarkhos "one who begins or leads a war," from polemos "war" + arkhos "leader, chief, ruler" (see archon).
- polemic (n.)
- 1630s, "controversial argument or discussion," from French polémique (16c./17c.), noun use of adjective meaning "disputatious, controversial" (see polemic (adj.)).
- polemic (adj.)
- 1640s, from French polémique (from Middle French polemique) "disputatious, controversial," or directly from Greek polemikos "of war, warlike, belligerent; skilled in war, fit for service; like an enemy, stirring up hostility," from polemos "war," of unknown origin. Related: Polemical (1630s).
- polemicist (n.)
- 1859, American English formation parallel to polemist (1825), from Greek polemistes "a warrior," from polemizein "to wage war, to make war."
- polemicize (v.)
- 1953, from polemic + -ize. Related: Polemicized; polemicizing. Earlier was polemize (1828), from Greek polemizein "to make war, to wage war."
- polemology (n.)
- the study of war, 1870, from Greek polemos "war," of unknown origin, + connective -o- + -logy.
- polenta (n.)
- Old English polente, from Latin pollenta, polenta, literally "peeled barley," related to pollen "fine flour," from Proto-Indo-European *pel- (1) "flour; dust" (see pollen). Later reborrowed from Italian polenta, from the Latin word.
- police (n.)
- c. 1530, at first essentially the same word as policy (n.1); from Middle French police (late 15c.), from Latin politia "civil administration," from Greek polis "city" (see polis).
Until mid-19c. used in England for "civil administration;" application to "administration of public order" (1716) is from French (late 17c.), and originally in English referred to France or other foreign nations. The first force so-named in England was the Marine Police, set up 1798 to protect merchandise at the Port of London. Police state "state regulated by means of national police" first recorded 1865, with reference to Austria. Police action in the international sense of "military intervention short of war, ostensibly to correct lawlessness" is from 1933. Police officer is attested from 1800. Police station is from 1817.
- police (v.)
- "to keep order in," 1580s, from Middle French policer, from police (see police (n.)). Meaning "to keep order by means of police" is from 1837. Related: Policed; policing.
- policeman (n.)
- 1790, from police (n.) + man (n.).
- Polichinelle (n.)
- "Punch," French (17c.), from Neapolitan Polecenella (see Punch).