- shattering (adj.)
- 1560s, present participle adjective from shatter (v.). Related: Shatteringly.
- shave (v.)
- Old English sceafan (strong verb, past tense scof, past participle scafen), "to scrape, shave, polish," from Proto-Germanic *skaban (source also of Old Norse skafa, Middle Dutch scaven, German schaben, Gothic skaban "scratch, shave, scrape"), from PIE *skabh-, collateral form of root *(s)kep- "to cut, to scrape, to hack" (see scabies). Related: Shaved; shaving. Original strong verb status is preserved in past tense form shaven. Specifically in reference to cutting the hair close from mid-13c. Figurative sense of "to strip (someone) of money or possessions" is attested from late 14c.
- shave (n.)
- c. 1600, "something shaved off;" from shave (v.); Old English sceafa meant "tool for shaving." Meaning "operation of shaving" is from 1838. Meaning "a grazing touch" is recorded from 1834. Phrase a close shave is from 1856, on notion of "a slight, grazing touch."
- shaveling (n.)
- contemptuous term for a friar, literally "shaven person," 1520s, from shave + -ling. "Very common in 16th and 17th c." [OED]. Also as an adjective (1570s).
- shaver (n.)
- "one who shaves," early 15c., agent noun from shave (v.); sense of "fellow, chap" is slang from 1590s. Meaning "shaving tool" is from 1550s. Mad shaver (1610s) was 17c. slang for "a swashbuckler, roisterer."
- Shavian (adj.)
- 1903, "in the style or manner of George Bernard Shaw" (1856-1950), from Latinized form of his name. An earlier form was Shawian (1894).
- shaving (n.)
- "act of removing hair with a razor," also "thin slice taken off," late 14c., verbal noun from shave (v.).
- shavuot (n.)
- 1892, from Hebrew šabuot, plural of šabua "week."
- shaw (n.)
- "strip of wood forming the border of a field," 1570s, from Old English sceaga "copse," cognate with North Frisian skage "farthest edge of cultivated land," Old Norse skage "promontory," and perhaps with Old English sceaga "rough matted hair" (see shag (n.)). The Old English word also is the source of the surname Shaw (attested from late 12c.) and its related forms.
- shawl (n.)
- 1660s, originally of a type of scarf worn in Asia, from Urdu and other Indian languages, from Persian shal, sometimes said to be named for Shaliat, town in India where it was first manufactured [Klein]. French châle, Spanish chal, Italian scialle, German Shawl (from English), Russian shal all are ultimately from the same source. As the name of an article of clothing worn by Western women, it is recorded from 1767.
- shawm (n.)
- "medieval oboe-like instrument," mid-14c., schalmeis (plural), also schallemele (late 14c.), from Old French chalemie, chalemel, from Late Latin calamellus, literally "a small reed," diminutive of Latin calamus "reed," from Greek kalamos, from PIE *kole-mo- "grass, reed" (source also of Old English healm "straw," Latin culmus "stalk"). Mistaken as a plural and trimmed of its "-s" ending from mid-15c. Related: Shawmist.
- Algonquian people, probably originally from what is now southern Ohio, 1670s, from Munsee sawanow, from Shawnee /ša:wanwa/, the people's self-designation, literally "person of the south."
- shay (n.)
- 1717, back-formation from chaise (q.v.), wrangled into English and mistaken for a plural.
- invented word from "Captain Marvel" comics, 1940.
- she (pron.)
- mid-12c., probably evolving from Old English seo, sio (accusative sie), fem. of demonstrative pronoun (masc. se) "the," from PIE root *so- "this, that" (see the). The Old English word for "she" was heo, hio, however by 13c. the pronunciation of this had converged by phonetic evolution with he "he," which apparently led to the fem. demonstrative pronoun being used in place of the pronoun (compare similar development in Dutch zij, German sie, Greek he, etc.). The original h- survives in her. A relic of the Old English pronoun is in Manchester-area dialectal oo "she." As a noun meaning "a female," she is attested from 1530s.
- she-devil (n.)
- "difficult woman," 1840, from she + devil (n.).
- she-male (n.)
- early 19c. U.S. colloquial, "a female, a woman," from she + male.
Davy Crockett's hand would be sure to shake if his iron was pointed within a hundred miles of a shemale. ["Treasury of American Folklore"]
This became obsolete, and by 1972 it had been recoined (disparagingly) for "masculine lesbian." The sense of "transsexual male" seems to date from c. 1984.
- sheaf (n.)
- Old English sceaf (plural sceafas) "large bundle of corn," from Proto-Germanic *skauf- (source also of Old Saxon scof, Middle Dutch scoof, Dutch schoof, Old High German scoub "sheaf, bundle," German Schaub "sheaf;" Old Norse skauf "fox's tail;" Gothic skuft "hair on the head," German Schopf "tuft"), from PIE root *(s)keup- "cluster, tuft, hair of the head." Extended to bundles of things other than grain by c. 1300. Also used in Middle English for "two dozen arrows." General sense of "a collection" is from 1728.
- shear (v.)
- Old English sceran, scieran (class IV strong verb; past tense scear, past participle scoren) "to cleave, hew, cut with a sharp instrument; cut (hair); shear (sheep)," from Proto-Germanic *sker- "to cut" (source also of Old Norse and Old Frisian skera, Dutch scheren, German scheren "to shear"), from PIE *(s)ker- (1) "to cut, to scrape, to hack" (source also of Sanskrit krnati "hurts, wounds, kills," krntati "cuts;" Hittite karsh- "to cut off;" Greek keirein "to cut, shear;" Latin curtus "short;" Lithuanian skiriu "to separate;" Old Irish scaraim "I separate;" Welsh ysgar "to separate," ysgyr "fragment").
- shear (n.)
- "act of clipping," 1610s, also as a unit of measure of the age of a sheep, from shear (v.). Scientific and mechanical sense "type of strain" is from 1850.
- shears (n.)
- "large scissors," Old English scearra (plural) "shears, scissors," from Proto-Germanic *sker- "to cut" (source also of Middle Dutch schaer, Old High German scara, German Schere; see shear (v.)). In 17c., also "a device for raising the masts of ships" (1620s). As "scissors," OED labels it Scottish and dialectal. Chalk is no shears (1640s) was noted as a Scottish proverb expressing the gap between planning and doing.
- sheath (n.)
- Old English sceað, scæð, from Proto-Germanic *skaithiz (source also of Old Saxon scethia, Old Norse skeiðir (plural), Old Frisian skethe, Middle Dutch schede, Dutch schede, Old High German skaida, German scheide "a sheath, scabbard"), according to OED, possibly from root *skei- "divide, split" (see shed (v.)) on notion of a split stick with the sword blade inserted. Meaning "condom" is recorded from 1861; sense of "close-fitting dress or skirt" is attested from 1904.
- sheathe (v.)
- c. 1400, "to furnish (a sword, etc.) with a sheath," from sheath; meaning "to put (a sword, etc.) in a sheath" is attested from early 15c. Related: Sheathed; sheathing.
- sheave (v.)
- "to gather up in sheaves," 1570s; see sheaf. Related: Sheaved; sheaving. Earlier verb in this sense was simply sheaf (c. 1500).
- shebang (n.)
- 1862, "hut, shed, shelter," popularized among soldiers in the U.S. Civil War, but like other Civil War slang (such as skedaddle) of uncertain origin. Perhaps an alteration of shebeen (q.v.), but shebang in the sense "tavern," a seemingly necessary transitional sense, is not attested before 1878 and shebeen seems to have been not much used in the U.S. Bartlett's 1877 edition describes it as "A strange word that had its origin during the late civil war. It is applied alike to a room, a shop, or a hut, a tent, a cabin; an engine house." Phrase the whole shebang first recorded 1869, but relation to the earlier use of the word is obscure. Either or both senses also might be mangled pronunciations of French char-à-banc, a bus-like wagon with many seats. For an older guess:
[Shebang] used even yet by students of Yale College and elsewhere to designate their rooms, or a theatrical or other performance in a public hall, has its origin probably in a corruption of the French cabane, a hut, familiar to the troops that came from Louisiana, and constantly used in the Confederate camp for the simple huts, which they built with such alacrity and skill for their winter quarters. The constant intercourse between the outposts soon made the term familiar to the Federal army also. ["Americanisms: The English of the New World," Maximillian Schele De Vere, New York, Charles Scribner & Co., 1872.]
- shebeen (n.)
- "cabin where unlicensed liquor is sold and drunk," 1781, chiefly in Ireland and Scotland, from Irish seibin "small mug," also "bad ale," diminutive of seibe "mug, bottle, liquid measure." The word immigrated and persisted in South African and West Indian English.
- shed (n.)
- "building for storage," 1855, earlier "light, temporary shelter" (late 15c., shadde), possibly a dialectal variant of a specialized use of shade (n.). Originally of the barest sort of shelter. Or from or influenced in sense development by Middle English schudde (shud) "a shed, hut."
- shed (v.)
- "cast off," Old English sceadan, scadan "to divide, separate, part company; discriminate, decide; scatter abroad, cast about," strong verb (past tense scead, past participle sceadan), from Proto-Germanic *skaithan (source also of Old Saxon skethan, Old Frisian sketha, Middle Dutch sceiden, Dutch scheiden, Old High German sceidan, German scheiden "part, separate, distinguish," Gothic skaidan "separate"), from *skaith "divide, split."
According to Klein's sources, this probably is related to PIE root *skei- "to cut, separate, divide, part, split" (source also of Sanskrit chid-, Greek skhizein, Latin scindere "to split;" Lithuanian skedzu "I make thin, separate, divide;" Old Irish scian "knife;" Welsh chwydu "to break open"). Related: Shedding. A shedding-tooth (1799) was a milk-tooth or baby-tooth.
In reference to animals, "to lose hair, feathers, etc." recorded from c. 1500; of trees losing leaves from 1590s; of clothes, 1858. This verb was used in Old English to gloss Late Latin words in the sense "to discriminate, to decide" that literally mean "to divide, separate" (compare discern). Hence also scead (n.) "separation, distinction; discretion, understanding, reason;" sceadwisnes "discrimination, discretion."
- sheela-na-gig (n.)
- 1846, from Irish Sile na gcioch, literally "Sheila of the breasts" [OED]. According to modern folklorists, not a Celtic survival, but originating rather in the Romanesque churches of France and northern Spain. Their theories that it is meant to degrade the female body and discourage sexuality, or that it is meant as an apotropaic gesture to ward off the devil, are not entirely convincing.
- sheen (n.)
- "shining, brightness," 1602 (first attested in "Hamlet" iii.2), noun use of adjective sheene "beautiful, bright," from Old English scene, sciene "beautiful; bright, brilliant," from Proto-Germanic *skauniz "conspicuous" (source also of Old Frisian skene, Middle Dutch scone, Dutch schoon, Old High German skoni, German schön "fair, beautiful;" Gothic skaunjai "beautiful"), from PIE root *skeue- "to pay attention, perceive" (see caveat), and thus related to show (v.).
Meaning "film of oil on water" is from 1970. As an adjective now only in poetic or archaic use, but in Middle English used after a woman's name, or as a noun, "fair one, beautiful woman."
- sheeney (n.)
- "a Jew," 1816, of unknown origin; perhaps related to Russian zhid, Polish żyd, Czech zid "a Jew." Now a vulgar term of abuse, but used before c. 1870 by Jews and Gentiles without intent of insult.
- sheep (n.)
- ruminant mammal, Old English sceap, scep, from West Germanic *skæpan (source also of Old Saxon scap, Old Frisian skep, Middle Low German schap, Middle Dutch scaep, Dutch schaap, Old High German scaf, German Schaf), of unknown origin. Not found in Scandinavian (Danish has faar for "sheep") or Gothic (which uses lamb), and with no known cognates outside Germanic. The more usual Indo-European word for the animal is represented in English by ewe.
The plural form was leveled with the singular in Old English, but Old Northumbrian had a plural scipo. Used since Old English as a type of timidity and figuratively of those under the guidance of God. The meaning "stupid, timid person" is attested from 1540s. The image of the wolf in sheep's clothing was in Old English (from Matt. vii:15); that of separating the sheep from the goats is from Matt. xxv:33. To count sheep in a bid to induce sleep is recorded from 1854 but seems not to have been commonly written about until 1870s. It might simply be a type of a tedious activity, but an account of shepherd life from Australia from 1849 ["Sidney's Emigrant's Journal"] describes the night-shepherd ("hut-keeper") taking a count of the sheep regularly at the end of his shift to protect against being answerable for any animals later lost or killed.
Sheep's eyes "loving looks" is attested from 1520s (compare West Frisian skiepseach, Dutch schaapsoog, German Schafsauge). A sheep-biter was "a dog that worries sheep" (1540s); "a mutton-monger" (1590s); and "a whore-monger" (1610s, i.e. one who "chases mutton"); hence Shakespeare's sheep-biting "thieving, sneaky."
- sheep-dog (n.)
- 1774, from sheep (n.) + dog (n.).
- sheep-shank (n.)
- also sheepshank, 1670s, "leg of a sheep," from sheep + shank (n.). A type of something lank, slender, or weak. Attested earlier in transferred sense of "type of sailor's knot used to shorten a rope without cutting it" (1620s).
- sheepish (adj.)
- c. 1200, "resembling a sheep" in some perceived characteristic, from sheep + -ish. The sense of "bashful, over-modest, awkward among strangers" first is recorded 1690s. Related: Sheepishly; sheepishness. Old English had sceaplic "of a sheep, 'sheep-ly.'"
- sheepskin (n.)
- c. 1200, "the skin of a sheep," from sheep + skin (n.). Meaning "diploma" dates from 1804; so called because formerly made of sheepskin parchment.
- sheer (adj.)
- c. 1200, "exempt, free from guilt" (as in Sheer Thursday, the Thursday of Holy Week); later schiere "thin, sparse" (c. 1400), from Old English scir "bright, clear, gleaming; translucent; pure, unmixed," and influenced by Old Norse cognate scær "bright, clean, pure," both from Proto-Germanic *skeran- (source also of Old Saxon skiri, Old Frisian skire, German schier, Gothic skeirs "clean, pure"), from PIE root *(s)ker- (1) "to cut" (see shear (v.)).
Sense of "absolute, utter" (sheer nonsense) developed 1580s, probably from the notion of "unmixed;" that of "very steep" (a sheer cliff) is first recorded 1800, probably from notion of "continued without halting." Meaning "diaphanous" is from 1560s. As an adverb from c. 1600.
- sheer (v.)
- 1620s, "deviate from course" (of a ship), of obscure origin, perhaps from Dutch scheren "to move aside, withdraw, depart," originally "to separate" (see shear (v.)). Related: Sheered; shearing. As a noun from 1660s.
- sheet (n.1)
- Old English sciete (West Saxon), scete (Mercian) "cloth, covering, towel, shroud," from Proto-Germanic *skautjon-, from *skauta- "project" (source also of Old Norse skaut, Gothic skauts "seam, hem of a garment;" Dutch schoot; German Schoß "bosom, lap"), from PIE root *skeud- "to shoot, chase, throw" (see shoot (v.)).
Sense of "piece of paper" first recorded c. 1500; that of "any broad, flat surface" (of metal, open water, etc.) is from 1590s. Of falling rain from 1690s. Meaning "a newspaper" is first recorded 1749. Sheet lightning is attested from 1794; sheet music is from 1857. Between the sheets "in bed" (usually with sexual overtones) is attested from 1590s; to be white as a sheet is from 1751. The first element in sheet-anchor (late 15c.) appears to be a different word, of unknown origin.
- sheet (n.2)
- "rope that controls a sail," late 13c., shortened from Old English sceatline "sheet-line," from sceata "lower part of sail," originally "piece of cloth," from same root as sheet (n.1). Compare Old Norse skaut, Dutch schoot, German Schote "rope fastened to a sail."
This probably is the notion in phrase three sheets to the wind "drunk and disorganized," first recorded 1812 (in form three sheets in the wind), an image of a sloop-rigged sailboat whose three sheets have slipped through the blocks are lost to the wind, thus "out of control." Apparently there was an early 19c. informal drunkenness scale in use among sailors and involving one, two, and three sheets, three signifying the highest degree of inebriation; there is a two sheets in the wind from 1813.
It must not be wondered at that the poor, untutored, savage Kentuckyan got "more than two thirds drunk," that is, as the sailors term it, three sheets in the wind and the fourth shivering, before the dinner was ended. [Niles' Weekly Register, May 2, 1812]
- Sheetrock (n.)
- 1921, proprietary name (claiming use from 1917) of a type of plaster wall-board, U.S. Gypsum Co., Chicago, Ill.;
from sheet (n.1) + rock (n.).
- manufacturing city in Yorkshire, noted for cutlery and metalwork since at least 14c. The name is from late Old English Scafeld "Open Land by the River Sheaf," an Old English river name, perhaps from sceað "boundary."
- sheik (n.)
- "head of an Arab family," also "head of a Muslim religious order," 1570s, from Arabic shaykh "chief," literally "old man," from base of shakha "to grow old." Popularized by "The Sheik," novel in Arabian setting by E.M. Hull (1919), and the movie version, "The Sheikh," 1921, starring Rudolph Valentino, which gave it a 1920s sense of "strong, romantic lover."
- fem. proper name, Irish equivalent of Celia, shortened form of Cecilia, the fem. form of Cecil. A standard type of an Irish women's name since 1828; slang for "girlfriend, young woman" dates from 1839.
- shekel (n.)
- early 13c., sicle, via Old French and Latin, from Hebrew sheqel, from shaqal "he weighed." Chief silver coin of ancient Hebrews, also a unit of weight. Modern form in English dates from mid-16c. As slang for "money," it dates from 1871.
- sheldrake (n.)
- early 14c., from sheld- "variegated" + drake "male duck." First element cognate with Middle Dutch schillede "separated, variegated," West Flemish schilde, from schillen (Dutch verschillen "to make different"), from Proto-Germanic *skeli-, from PIE root *(s)kel- (1) "to cut" (see scale (n.1)). This is the origin considered most likely, though English sheld by itself is a dialect word attested only from c. 1500. OED finds derivation from shield (n.), on resemblance to the patterns on shields, "improbable."
- shelf (n.)
- late 14c., from Middle Low German schelf "shelf, set of shelves," or from Old English cognate scylfe, which perhaps meant "shelf, ledge, floor," and scylf "peak, pinnacle," from Proto-Germanic *skelf- "split," possibly from the notion of a split piece of wood (compare Old Norse skjölf "bench"), from PIE root *(s)kel- (1) "to cut, cleave" (see scale (n.1)).
Shelf life first recorded 1927. Phrase on the shelf "out of the way, inactive" is attested from 1570s; of unmarried women with no prospects from 1839. Off the shelf "ready-made" is from 1936. Meaning "ledge of rock" is from 1809, perhaps from or influenced by shelf (n.2). Related: Shelves.
- shelf (n.2)
- "sandbank," 1540s, of unknown origin. Related: Shelfy "abounding in sandbanks."
- shell (n.)
- Old English sciell, scill, Anglian scell "seashell, eggshell," related to Old English scealu "shell, husk," from Proto-Germanic *skaljo "piece cut off; shell; scale" (source also of West Frisian skyl "peel, rind," Middle Low German schelle "pod, rind, egg shell," Gothic skalja "tile"), with the shared notion of "covering that splits off," from PIE root *(s)kel- (1) "to cut, cleave" (source also of Old Church Slavonic skolika "shell," Russian skala "bark, rind;" see scale (n.1)). Italian scaglia "chip" is from Germanic.
Sense of "mere exterior" is from 1650s; that of "hollow framework" is from 1791. Meaning "structure for a band or orchestra" is attested from 1938. Military use (1640s) was first of hand grenades, in reference to the metal case in which the gunpowder and shot were mixed; the notion is of a "hollow object" filled with explosives. Hence shell shock, first recorded 1915. Shell game "a swindle" is from 1890, from a version of three-card monte played with a pea and walnut shells.
- shell (v.)
- 1560s, "to remove (a nut, etc.) from a shell," from shell (n.). The meaning "to bombard with shells" is first attested 1856. To shell out "disburse" (1801) is a figurative use from the image of extracting nuts. Related: Shelled; shelling.