- tween (prep.)
- also 'tween, c.1300 as an abbreviation of between. As a noun meaning "child nearing puberty" (approximately ages 9 to 12), attested by 1988, in this case by influence of teen. Earlier in this sense was subteen (1952). Related: Tweens. Tweeny was a c.1900 term for "a servant who assists two others."
- tweet (n.)
- 1845, imitative of the sound made by a small bird. As a verb by 1872. Related: Tweeted; tweeting. As the word for what one does on the Twitter microblogging service, by 2007.
- tweeter (n.)
- "loudspeaker for high frequencies," 1934, agent noun from tweet (v.).
- tweeze (v.)
- "to pluck with tweezers," 1921, back-formation from tweezers. Related: Tweezed; tweezing. Earlier verb was tweezer (1806).
- tweezers (n.)
- "small pincers, diminutive tongs," 1650s, extended from tweezes, plural of tweeze "case for tweezers" (1620s), a shortening of etweese, considered as plural of etwee (1610s) "a small case," from French étui "small case" (see etui). Sense transferred from the case to the implement inside it. For form, compare trousers from trouzes.
- twelfth (adj.)
- late 14c., with -th (1), altering Middle English twelfte, from Old English twelfta, from twelf ((see twelve). The earlier form is cognate with Old Norse tolfti, Danish tolvte, Old Frisian twelefta, Dutch twaalfde, Old High German zwelifto, German zwölfte .
As a noun meaning "a twelfth part," from 1550s. Twelfth Night is Old English twelftan niht "Twelfth Night," the eve of Epiphany, which comes twelve days after Christmas, formerly an occasion of social rites and a time of merrymaking.
- twelve (adj.)
- Old English twelf "twelve," literally "two left" (over ten), from Proto-Germanic *twa-lif-, a compound of the root of two + *lif-, root of the verb leave (see eleven). Compare Old Saxon twelif, Old Norse tolf, Old Frisian twelef, Middle Dutch twalef, Dutch twaalf, Old High German zwelif, German zwölf, Gothic twalif. Outside Germanic, an analogous formation is Lithuanian dvylika, with second element -lika "left over."
- twelve-month (n.)
- "a year," Old English twelf-monð; see twelve + month.
- twenties (n.)
- 1829 as the years of someone's life between 20 and 29; 1830 as the third decade of years in a given century. See twenty.
- twentieth (adj.)
- 16c., from twenty + -th (1), replacing Middle English twentithe, from Old English twentigoða. The Twentieth Century Limited was an express train from New York to Chicago 1902-1967.
- twenty (n.)
- Old English twentig "group of twenty," from twegen "two" (see two) + -tig "group of ten" (see -ty (1)). Cognate with Old Saxon twentig , Old Frisian twintich, Dutch twintig, Old High German zweinzug, German zwanzig. Gothic twai tigjus is even more transparent: literally "two tens."
The card game twenty-one (1790) is from French vingt-et-un (1781). Twenty-twenty hindsight is first recorded 1962, a figurative use of the Snellen fraction for normal visual acuity, expressed in feet. The guessing game of twenty questions is recorded from 1786.
- twerk (v.)
- "to dance in a way that simulates the body's action in copulation," by 2005, alteration of twurk, which seems to have originated in the Atlanta, Georgia, strip club and hip-hop scene and first came to wide attention in the Ying Yang Twins' 2000 song "Whistle While You Twurk," described as "an ode to strippers" ["Country Fried Soul, Adventures in Dirty South Hip-Hop"]. Probably ultimately imitative of something. Related: Twerked; twerking. There is a verb twirk from 1599, "to pull, tug, twirl," what a man does with his mustache, but OED regards this as possibly a misprint of twirl.
- twerp (n.)
- of unknown origin; OED and Barnhart give earliest date as 1925, but the "Dictionary of American Slang" gives a first reference of 1874 (but without citation and I can't find it), which, if correct, would rule out the usual theory that it is from the proper name of T.W. Earp, a student at Oxford c.1911, who kindled wrath "in the hearts of the rugger-playing stalwarts at Oxford, when he was president of the Union, by being the last, most charming, and wittiest of the 'decadents.' " [Rawson]
"Mean to say you never heard of Sinzy? Why, he's one of the greatest characters in this town. He's a terrible twerp to look at -- got a face like bad news from home, but I guess he's the best jazz piano player in the world." [Julian Street, "Cross-Sections," 1923]
- Twi (n.)
- chief language of Ghana in West Africa; also known as Akan, it is in the Niger-Congo language family.
- word-forming element meaning "two, twice, double, in two ways," from Old English twi- "two, in two ways, twice, double," from Proto-Germanic *twi- (cognates: Old Frisian twi-, Old Norse tvi-, Dutch twee-, Old High German zwi-, German zwei-), from PIE *dwis (cognates: Sanskrit dvi-, Greek di-, Old Latin dvi-, Latin bi-, Lithuanian dvi-), from *dwo "two" (see two). Cognate with bi-. Older instances of it include Middle English twinter "two years old" (c.1400, of cattle, sheep, etc.), reduced from Old English twi-wintre, and Old English twispræc "double or deceitful speech."
- twi-night (adj.)
- 1939, in reference to evening double-header baseball games, from twilight + night.
- twice (adv.)
- late Old English twies, from Old English twiga, twigea "two times," from Proto-Germanic *twiyes (cognates: Old Frisian twia, Old Saxon tuuio), from PIE *dwis-, adverbial form of *dwo- "two" (see two). Spelling with -ce reflects the voiceless pronunciation.
Life is as tedious as a twice-told tale
Think twice, then speak was an "old Prouerbe" by 1623. At twice, though less common than at once, means "at two distinct times; by two distinct operations."
Vexing the dull ear of a drowsy man.
["King John," III.iv.]
- twiddle (v.)
- 1540s, "to trifle," of unknown origin, said to be probably imitative; of the fingers, "to twirl idly," first recorded 1670s. Figurative phrase twiddle one's thumbs "have nothing to do" is recorded from 1846; to twirl one's thumbs in the same sense is recorded from 1816. Related: Twiddled; twiddling.
- twig (n.)
- Old English twig "twig, branch, shoot, small tree," from Proto-Germanic *twigga "a fork" (cognates: Middle Dutch twijch, Dutch twijg, Old High German zwig, German Zweig "branch, twig"), from PIE *dwi-ko-, from *dwo- "two" (see two). Compare Old English twisel "fork, point of division."
- twiggy (adj.)
- "slender," 1560s, from twig + -y (2). The famous 1960s English model was born Lesley Hornby (1949). The older adjectival form was twiggen "made of twigs" (1540s).
- twilight (n.)
- "light from the sky when the sun is below the horizon at morning and evening," late 14c. (twilighting), a compound of twi- + light (n.) Cognate with Middle Flemish twilicht, Dutch tweelicht (16c.), Middle High German twelicht, German zwielicht. Exact connotation of twi- in this word is unclear, but it appears to refer to "half" light, rather than the fact that twilight occurs twice a day. Compare also Sanskrit samdhya "twilight," literally "a holding together, junction," Middle High German zwischerliecht, literally "tweenlight." Originally and most commonly in English with reference to evening twilight but occasionally used of morning twilight (a sense first attested mid-15c.). Figurative extension recorded from c.1600.
Twilight zone is from 1901 in a literal sense, a part of the sky lit by twilight; from 1909 in extended senses in references to topics or cases where authority or behavior is unclear. In the 1909 novel "In the Twilight Zone," the reference is to mulatto heritage. "She was in the twilight zone between the races where each might claim her ...." The U.S. TV series of that name is from 1959.
- twill (n.)
- "cloth woven in parallel diagonal lines," early 14c., Scottish and northern English variant of Middle English twile, from Old English twili "woven with double thread, twilled," partial loan-translation of Latin bilix "with a double thread" (with Old English twi- substituted for cognate Latin bi-); the second element from Latin licium "thread," which is of uncertain origin.
- twin (adj.)
- Old English twinn "consisting of two, twofold, double, two-by-two," from Proto-Germanic *twisnjaz "double" (cognates: Old Norse tvinnr "double, twin," Old Danish tvinling, Dutch tweeling, German zwillung), from PIE *dwisno- (cognates: Latin bini "two each," Lithuanian dvynu "twins"), from *dwi- "double," from root *dwo- "two" (see two). Minneapolis and St. Paul in Minnesota have been the Twin Cities since 1883, but the phrase was used earlier of Rock Island and Davenport (1856).
- twin (v.)
- "to combine two things closely, join, couple," late 14c., from twin (adj.). Related: Twinned; twinning. In Middle English, the verb earlier and typically meant "to part, part with, separate from, estrange," etc. (c.1200), on the notion of making two what was one.
- twin (n.)
- c.1300, from Old English getwinn "double;" getwinnas "twins, two born at one birth," from twinn (see twin (adj.)).
- twine (n.)
- "strong thread made from twisted strands," Old English twin "double thread," from Proto-Germanic *twiznaz "double thread, twisted thread" (cognates: Dutch twijn, Low German twern, German zwirn "twine, thread"), from the same root as twin (adj.).
- twine (v.)
- "to twist strands together to form twine," c.1300, from twine (n.) and probably also from Old Norse tvinna "to double." Sense of "to twist around something" (as twine does) is recorded from late 14c. Related: Twined; twining.
- twinge (n.)
- 1540s, "a pinch, a nipping," from obsolete verb twinge "to pinch, tweak," from Old English twengan "to pinch," from Proto-Germanic *twangjan (cognates: Old Frisian thwinga, Old Norse þvinga, Danish tvinge, Dutch dwingen, Old High German thwingan, German zwingen "to compel, force"), from PIE *twengh- "to press in on" (see thong). Meaning "sharp, sudden minor pain" is recorded from c.1600. Figurative sense (with reference to shame, remorse, etc.) is recorded from 1620s.
- twink (n.)
- c.1400, in phrase in a twynk of oon eye "suddenly, almost instantaneously," from twink (v.) "to wink," probably from Old English twincan (see twinkle (v.)). Meaning "a twinkle" is from 1830. Meaning "young sexually attractive person" is recorded from 1963, probably from Twinkie; but compare 1920s-30s British homosexual slang twank in a similar sense.
- Twinkie (n.)
- snack food, supposedly invented and named 1930 by Jimmy Dewar, baker for the Chicago branch of Continental Baking Co. (later Hostess); said to have been inspired by twinkle.
- twinkle (v.)
- Old English twinclian "to twinkle, wink," frequentative of twincan "to wink, blink;" related to Middle High German zwinken, German zwinkern, and probably somehow imitative.Related: Twinkled; twinkling. The noun is recorded from 1540s. Phrase in the twinkling of an eye "in a very brief time" is attested from c.1300.
- twirl (v.)
- 1590s, "move round rapidly" (intransitive), of uncertain origin, possibly connected with Old English þwirl "a stirrer, handle of a churn," and Old Norse þvara "pot-sticker, stirrer." Or on another guess a blend of twist and whirl. Transitive sense, "cause to revolve rapidly," is from 1620s. Related: Twirled; twirling.
- twirl (n.)
- 1590s, "rapid circular motion," from twirl (v.).
- twirler (n.)
- 1808, agent noun from twirl (v.). As baseball slang for "pitcher," by 1891.
- twist (n.)
- mid-14c., "flat part of a hinge" (now obsolete), probably from Old English -twist "divided object; fork; rope" (as in mæsttwist "mast rope, stay;" candeltwist "wick"), from Proto-Germanic *twis-, from PIE root *dwo- (see two). Original senses suggest "dividing in two" (cognates: cognate Old Norse tvistra "to divide, separate," Gothic twis- "in two, asunder," Dutch twist, German zwist "quarrel, discord," though these senes have no equivalent in English), but later ones are of "combining two into one," hence the original sense of the word may be "rope made of two strands."
Meaning "thread or cord composed of two or more fibers" is recorded from 1550s. Meaning "act or action of turning on an axis" is attested from 1570s. Sense of "beverage consisting of two or more liquors" is first attested c.1700. Meaning "thick cord of tobacco" is from 1791. Meaning "curled piece of lemon, etc., used to flavor a drink" is recorded from 1958. Sense of "unexpected plot development" is from 1941.
The popular rock 'n' roll dance craze is from 1961, so called from the motion involved, but twist was used to describe popular dances in 1894 and again in the 1920s. To get one's knickers in a twist "be unduly agitated" is British slang first attested 1971.
- twist (v.)
- c.1200 (implied in past tense form twaste), "to wring," from twist (n.). Sense of "to spin two or more strands of yarn into thread" is attested from late 15c. Meaning "to move in a winding fashion" is recorded from 1630s. To twist the lion's tail was U.S. slang (1895) for "to provoke British feeling" (the lion being the symbol of Britain). To twist (someone's) arm in the figurative sense of "pressure (to do something)" is from 1945. Related: Twisted; twisting.
- twist-off (adj.)
- of bottle or jar caps, 1959, from the verbal phrase; see from twist (v.) + off (adv.).
- twisted (adj.)
- late 15c., "intertwined, past participle adjective from twist (v.). Meaning "perverted, mentally strange" (1900) probably is from twist (n.) in a sense of "mental peculiarity, perversion" attested by 1811.
- twister (n.)
- late 15c., "one who spins thread," agent noun from twist (v.). Meaning "tornado" is attested from 1881, American English.
- twisty (adj.)
- 1857, "full of windings," from twist (n.) + -y (2). Meaning "attractively feminine," 1970s slang, is from twist "girl" (1928), apparently from rhyming slang twist and twirl (1924).
- twit (v.)
- "to blame, reproach, taunt, upbraid," 1520s, twite, shortened form of Middle English atwite, from Old English ætwitan "to blame, reproach," from æt "at" + witan "to blame," from Proto-Germanic *witanan (cognates: Old English wite, Old Saxon witi, Old Norse viti "punishment, torture;" Old High German wizzi "punishment," wizan "to punish;" Dutch verwijten, Old High German firwizan, German verweisen "to reproach, reprove," Gothic fraweitan "to avenge"), from PIE root *weid- "to see" (see vision). For sense evolution, compare Latin animadvertere, literally "to give heed to, observe," later "to chastise, censure, punish." Related: Twitted; twitting. As a noun meaning "a taunt" from 1520s.
- twit (n.)
- "foolish, stupid and ineffectual person," 1934, British slang, popular 1950s-60s, crossed over to U.S. with British sitcoms. It probably developed from twit (v.) in the sense of "reproach," but it may be influenced by nitwit.
- twitch (v.)
- late 12c., to-twic-chen "pull apart with a quick jerk," related to Old English twiccian "to pluck, gather, catch hold of," from Proto-Germanic *twikjon- (cognates: Low German twicken, Dutch twikken, Old High German gizwickan, German zwicken "to pinch, tweak"). Related: Twitched; twitching.
- twitch (n.)
- 1520s, from twitch (v.).
- twitter (v.)
- late 14c., twiteren, in reference to birds, of imitative origin (compare Old High German zwizziron, German zwitschern, Danish kvidre, Old Swedish kvitra). The noun meaning "condition of tremulous excitement" is attested from 1670s. The microblogging service with the 140-character limit was introduced in 2006. The following is considered an unrelated word of obscure origin:
TWITTER. 1. "That part of a thread that is spun too small." Yarn is said to be twined to twitters, when twined too small, S. Hence, to twitter yarn, to spin it unequally, A. Bor. Ray.
2. It is transferred to any person or thing that is slender or feeble. It is said of a lank delicate girl: "She is a mere twitter," S. [Jamieson, "Etymological Dictionary of the Scottish Language," Edinburgh, 1808]
- twitterpated (adj.)
- 1942, apparently first attested in the Walt Disney movie "Bambi" (there also was a song by that name but it was not in the studio release of the film), a past participle adjective formed from twitter in the "tremulous excitement" noun sense (1670s) + pate (n.2) "head" (compare flutterpated, 1894).
Thumper: Why are they acting that way?
Friend Owl: Why, don't you know? They're twitterpated.
Flower, Bambi, Thumper: Twitterpated?
Friend Owl: Yes. Nearly everybody gets twitterpated in the springtime. For example: You're walking along, minding your own business. You're looking neither to the left, nor to the right, when all of a sudden you run smack into a pretty face. Woo-woo! You begin to get weak in the knees. Your head's in a whirl. And then you feel light as a feather, and before you know it, you're walking on air. And then you know what? You're knocked for a loop, and you completely lose your head!
Thumper: Gosh, that's awful.
- twizzle (v.)
- "to twist, form by twisting" (transitive), 1788, apparently a made-up word suggested by twist. Related: Twizzled; twizzling.
- two (adj.)
- Old English twa "two," fem. and neuter form of twegen "two" (see twain), from Proto-Germanic *twa (cognates: Old Saxon and Old Frisian twene, twa, Old Norse tveir, tvau, Dutch twee, Old High German zwene, zwo, German zwei, Gothic twai), from PIE *duwo, variant of dwo "two" (cognates: Sanskrit dvau, Avestan dva, Greek duo, Latin duo, Old Welsh dou, Lithuanian dvi, Old Church Slavonic duva "two," first element in Hittite ta-ugash "two years old").
Two-fisted is from 1774. Two cheers for _____, expressing qualified enthusiasm first recorded 1951 in E.M. Forster's title "Two Cheers for Democracy." Two-dimensional is recorded from 1883; figurative sense of "lacking substance or depth" is attested from 1934.
- two bits (n.)
- "quarter dollar," 1730, in reference to the Mexican real, a large coin that was divided into eight bits; see bit (n.1). Compare piece of eight (see piece (n.)). Two bits thus would have equaled a quarter of the coin. Hence two-bit (adj.) "cheap, tawdry," first recorded 1929.
- two-faced (adj.)
- also two faced, "deceitful," 1610s; see two + face (n.).