- 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 (cognates: 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" (cognates: 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" (cognates: Old Frisian skene, Middle Dutch scone, Dutch schoon, Old High German skoni, German schön "fair, beautiful;" Gothic skaunja "beautiful"), from PIE root *skeue- "to pay attention, perceive" (see caveat). 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 (cognates: 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- (cognates: 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" (cognates: 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" (cognates: 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" (cognates: 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.
- shellac (n.)
- 1713, from shell (n.) + lac (see lacquer). Translates French laque en écailles "lac in thin plates."
- shellac (v.)
- 1876, from shellack (n.). The slang sense of "beat soundly" is 1920s, perhaps from the notion of shellac as a "finish." Shellacked "drunk" is from 1922 (compare plastered). Related: Shellacking.
- shellfish (n.)
- also shell-fish, Old English scylfiscas (plural); see shell (n.) + fish (n.).
- shelta (n.)
- secret language of Irish tinkers, 1876, of unknown origin. According to OED it mostly consists of Irish or Gaelic words with inversion or arbitrary substitution of initial consonants.
- shelter (n.)
- 1580s, "structure affording protection," possibly an alteration of Middle English sheltron, sheldtrume "roof or wall formed by locked shields," from Old English scyldtruma, from scield "shield" (see shield (n.)) + truma "troop," related to Old English trum "firm, strong" (see trim).
If so, the original notion is of a compact body of men protected by interlocking shields. OED finds this "untenable" and proposed derivation from shield + -ture. Figurative sense is recorded from 1580s; meaning "temporary lodging for homeless poor" is first recorded 1890 in Salvation Army jargon; sense of "temporary home for animals" is from 1971. Related: Shelterless.
- shelter (v.)
- 1580s, "to screen, protect," from shelter (n.); in the income investment sense, from 1955. Meaning "to take shelter" is from c.1600. Related: Sheltered; sheltering.
- sheltered (adj.)
- "screened, protected," 1590s, past participle adjective from shelter (v.). Meaning "protected from the usual hardships of life" is from 1888. Related: Shelteredness.
- Sheltie (n.)
- "small pony," 1640s, "Shetland pony," from Shelty, abbreviation of Sheltand, metathesis of Shetland. Or the word may represent the Orkney pronunciation of Old Norse Hjalti "Shetlander."
- shelve (v.1)
- 1590s, "to overhang," also "to provide with shelves," probably a back-formation from shelves, plural of shelf (n.1). Meaning "put on a shelf" first recorded 1650s; metaphoric sense of "lay aside, dismiss" is from 1812. Related: Shelved; shelving.
- shelve (v.2)
- "to slope gradually," 1610s, from Middle English shelven "to slope," from shelfe "grassy slope," a word related to shelf (n.1). Related: Shelved; shelving.
- from Hebrew shema "hear!," imperative of shama "to hear." First word of Deut. vi:4.
- shemozzle (n.)
- see schlemazel.
- originally a place name in Dutchess County, N.Y., from Oneida (Iroquoian) family name Skenondoah, derived from oskenon:to "deer." Later transferred to river and valley in Virginia.
- shenanigan (n.)
- 1855, of uncertain origin. Earliest records of it are in San Francisco and Sacramento, California, U.S. Suggestions include Spanish chanada, a shortened form of charranada "trick, deceit;" or, less likely, German Schenigelei, peddler's argot for "work, craft," or the related German slang verb schinäglen. Another guess centers on Irish sionnach "fox."
- shenanigans (n.)
- see shenanigan.
- shend (n.)
- "shame, disgrace" (obsolete or dialectal), Old English scand "ignominy, shame, confusion, disgrace; scandal, disgraceful thing; wretch, impostor, infamous man; bad woman," from the source of Old English scamu "shame" (see shame (n.)) + -þa, with change of -m- to -n- before a dental (compare Old Frisian skande, Dutch schande, Old High German scanda, German Schande "disgrace"). Also in early Modern English as a verb, shend (Old English scendan) "put to shame; blame, reproach; bring to ruin."
It was active in forming compounds, such as shendful (Old English scandful) "shameful," shendship "disgrace;" Old English scandhus "house of ill-fame," scandlic "shameful," scandlufiende "loving shamefully," scandword "obscene language").
- Sheol (n.)
- 1590s, from Hebrew, literally "the underworld, Hades," of unknown origin. Used in R.V. in place of Hell in many passages.
- shepherd (n.)
- Old English sceaphierde, from sceap "sheep" (see sheep) + hierde "herder," from heord "a herd" (see herd (n.)). Similar formation in Middle Low German, Middle Dutch schaphirde, Middle High German schafhirte, German dialectal Schafhirt. Shepherds customarily were buried with a tuft of wool in hand, to prove on Doomsday their occupation and be excused for often missing Sunday church. Shepherd's pie is recorded from 1877.
- shepherd (v.)
- 1790, "to herd sheep," from shepherd (n.). The metaphoric sense of "watch over or guide" is first recorded 1820. Related: Shepherded; shepherding.
- shepherdess (n.)
- late 14c., from shepherd + -ess.
- severe style of late 18c. English furniture, 1883, from name of cabinetmaker Thomas Sheraton (1751-1806). The family name is from a place in Durham, late Old English Scurufatun (c.1040), probably "farmstead of a man called Skurfa" (an old Scandinavian personal name). The hotel chain dates from 1937 and has no obvious direct connection.
- sherbet (n.)
- c.1600, zerbet, "drink made from diluted fruit juice and sugar," and cooled with fresh snow when possible, from Turkish serbet, from Persian sharbat, from Arabic sharba(t) "a drink," from shariba "he drank." Formerly also sherbert. Related to syrup, and compare sorbet.
- sheriff (n.)
- late Old English scirgerefa "representative of royal authority in a shire," from scir (see shire) + gerefa "chief, official, reeve" (see reeve). As an American county official, attested from 1660s; sheriff's sale first recorded 1798. Sheriff's tooth (late 14c.) was a common name for the annual tax levied to pay for the sheriff's victuals during court sessions.
- masc. proper name, literally "fair-haired," from Old English scir "bright" + locc "lock of hair." Slang for "private detective, perceptive person" (the latter often ironic) is attested from 1903, from A.C. Doyle's fictional character Sherlock Holmes (full name in this sense used from 1896; Holmes debuted in 1887 and was popular by 1892).