widow-maker (n.)
"something lethally dangerous" (war, the sea, dangerous machinery, etc.), 1590s, from widow (n.) + maker.
widower (n.)
"man who has lost his wife by death," late 14c., extended from widow (n.). The Old English masc. form was widewa. Similar formation in Middle Dutch weduwer, German Wittwer. Related: Widowerhood.
widowhood (n.)
c. 1200, from widow (n.) + -hood. Modifying or replacing Old English wuduwanhad "state of a woman who has no husband."
width (n.)
1620s, formed from wide on model of breadth, and replacing wideness (Old English widnes). Johnson (1755) calls it "a low word." Related: Widthwise.
wield (v.)
Old English weldan (Mercian), wieldan, wealdan (West Saxon) "have power over, compel, tame, subdue" (class VII strong verb; past tense weold, past participle gewealden), merged with weak verb wyldan, both from Proto-Germanic *waldan "to rule" (source also of Old Saxon and Gothic waldan, Old Frisian walda "to govern, rule," Old Norse valda "to rule, wield, to cause," Old High German waltan, German walten "to rule, govern").

The Germanic words and cognates in Balto-Slavic (Old Church Slavonic vlado "to rule," vlasti "power," Russian vladeti "to reign, rule, possess, make use of," Lithuanian veldu "to rule, possess") probably are from PIE *woldh-, extended form of root *wal- "to be strong, to rule." Related: Wielded; wielding.
wieldy (adj.)
late 14c., "capable of wielding," from wield + -y (2). Meaning "capable of being weilded" is from 1580s. Old English had wielde "powerful, victorious."
wiener (n.)
1900, shortening of wienerwurst (1874, American English), from German Wiener "of Vienna" (from Wien "Vienna," from Latin Vindo-bona; see Vienna) + Wurst "sausage" (see wurst). Colloquial wienie is attested by 1911. Extensive pejorative senses developed from its penis-like shape. Wiener roast is from 1910.
wife (n.)
Middle English wif, wyf, from Old English wif (neuter) "woman, female, lady," also, but not especially, "wife," from Proto-Germanic *wiban (source also of Old Saxon, Old Frisian wif, Old Norse vif, Danish and Swedish viv, Middle Dutch, Dutch wijf, Old High German wib, German Weib), of uncertain origin, not found in Gothic.

Apparently felt as inadequate in its basic sense, leading to the more distinctive formation wifman (source of woman). Dutch wijf now means, in slang, "girl, babe," having softened somewhat from earlier sense of "bitch." The Modern German cognate (Weib) also tends to be slighting or derogatory; Middle High German wip in early medieval times was "woman, female person," vrouwe (Frau) being retained for "woman of gentle birth, lady;" but from c. 1200 wip "took on a common, almost vulgar tone that restricted its usage in certain circles" and largely has been displaced by Frau.

The more usual Indo-European word is represented in English by queen/quean. Words for "woman" also double for "wife" in some languages. Some proposed PIE roots for wife include *weip- "to twist, turn, wrap," perhaps with sense of "veiled person" (see vibrate); and more recently *ghwibh-, a proposed root meaning "shame," also "pudenda," but the only examples of it would be the Germanic words and Tocharian (a lost IE language of central Asia) kwipe, kip "female pudenda."

The modern sense of "female spouse" began as a specialized sense in Old English; the general sense of "woman" is preserved in midwife, old wives' tale, etc. Middle English sense of "mistress of a household" survives in housewife; and the later restricted sense of "tradeswoman of humble rank" in fishwife. By 1883 as "passive partner in a homosexual couple." Wife-swapping is attested from 1954.
wife-beater (n.)
1855, from wife (n.) + beater. Related: Wife-beating. As "sleeveless undershirt" from 2000.
wifely (adj.)
Old English wiflic "womanly, pertaining to a woman," from wife + -ly (1). From late 14c. as "befitting a wife."
Wiffle
hollow, perforated plastic ball, registered trademark name (The Wiffle Ball Inc., Shelton, Connecticut, U.S.), claiming use from 1954. According to the company, designed in 1953 by David N. Mullany "in response to a lack of field space and numerous broken windows by his baseball-playing son," the name based on whiff (q.v.), baseball slang for a missed swing.
wig (n.)
1670s, shortened form of periwig. Meaning "person who wears a wig (professionally)" is from 1828.
wig (v.)
1826, "supply with a wig," from wig (n.). The earlier verb was bewig. The meaning "to behave hysterically" (usually with out) is attested from 1955, perhaps from notion in flip one's wig. Compare dash my wig!, a former mild imprecation (1797), also wigs on the green (1856), Irish colloquial for "a fight or rumble" (because wigs are likely to get detached from owners in such an event). The verb also had a colloquial sense of "scold severely," attested by 1829, perhaps related to these. Related: Wigged; wigging.
wiggle (v.)
early 13c., perhaps from Middle Dutch, Middle Low German, or Middle Flemish wigelen, frequentative of wiegen "to rock, wag, move back and forth," from wiege "cradle," from Proto-Germanic *wig- (source also of Old High German wiga, German Wiege "cradle," Old Frisian widze), from PIE root *wegh- "to go, move, transport in a vehicle." Related: Wiggled; wiggling. The noun is attested from 1816.
wiggly (adj.)
1878, from wiggle (n.) + -y (2).
wight (n.)
Old English wiht "living being, creature, person; something, anything," from Proto-Germanic *wihti- (source also of Old Saxon wiht "thing, demon," Dutch wicht "a little child," Old High German wiht "thing, creature, demon," German Wicht "creature, little child," Old Norse vettr "thing, creature," Swedish vätte "spirit of the earth, gnome," Gothic waihts "something"), from PIE *wekti- "thing, creature" (source also of Old Church Slavonic vešti "a thing"). Not related to the Isle of Wight, which is from Latin Vectis (c. 150), originally Celtic, possibly meaning "place of the division."
wigwam (n.)
1620s, from Algonquian (probably Eastern Abenaki) wikewam "a dwelling," said to mean literally "their house;" also said to be found in such formations as wikiwam and Ojibwa wiigiwaam and Delaware wiquoam.
wiki (n.)
web page that can be edited by browsers, by 2002, abstracted from names of such sites (such as Wikipedia, launched January 2001), the original being WikiWikiWeb, introduced and named by Ward Cunningham in 1995, from Hawaiian wikiwiki "fast, swift."
wilco
1945, in two-way radio slang, abbreviation and conflation of will comply.
wild (adj.)
Old English wilde "in the natural state, uncultivated, untamed, undomesticated, uncontrolled," from Proto-Germanic *wilthja- (source also of Old Saxon wildi, Old Norse villr, Old Frisian wilde, Dutch wild, Old High German wildi, German wild, Gothic wilþeis "wild," German Wild (n.) "game"), from PIE root *welt- "woodlands; wild" (see wold).
Ursula ... hath bin at all the Salsbury rasis, dancing like wild with Mr Clarks. [letter, 1674]
Meaning "sexually dissolute, loose" is attested from mid-13c. Meaning "distracted with excitement or emotion, crazy" is from 1590s. U.S. slang sense of "exciting, excellent" is recorded from 1955. As an adverb from 1540s. Baseball wild pitch is recorded from 1867. Wildest dreams attested from 1717. Wild West in a U.S. context recorded by 1826. Wild Turkey brand of whiskey (Austin Nichols Co.) in use from 1942.
wild (v.)
"to run wild, refuse to be tamed," Old English awildian (see wild (adj.)). Wilding (n.) in the teen gang sense first recorded 1989. Earlier it meant "plant that grows without cultivation" (1520s).
wild (n.)
"uncultivated or desolate region," 1590s, in the wilds. From wild (adj.). Earlier it meant "wild animal" (c. 1200).
wild card (n.)
1950 in figurative sense, from literal use in certain forms of poker (1941), from wild (adj.) + card (n.). The phrase was used occasionally c. 1900 in British and Irish writing to mean "drinking, free-spirited man."
wild goose chase (n.)
1592, first attested in "Romeo and Juliet," where it evidently is a figurative use of an earlier (but unrecorded) literal sense in reference to a kind of follow-the-leader steeplechase. Wild goose (as opposed to a domesticated one) is attested in late Old English (wilde gos).
wild man (n.)
c. 1200, "man lacking in self-restraint," from wild (adj.) + man (n.). From mid-13c. as "primitive, savage." Late 14c. as a surname.
wildcat (n.)
undomesticated cat, early 14c. (late 12c. as a surname), from wild (adj.) + cat (n.). Meaning "savage woman" is recorded from 1570s; sense of "one who forms rash projects" is attested from 1812. The adjective in the financial speculative sense is first recorded 1838, American English.
wildebeest (n.)
1838, from South African Dutch (in modern Afrikaans wildebees, plural wildebeeste), literally "wild beast," from Dutch wild "wild" (see wild (adj.)) + beest "beast, ox" (in South African Dutch "steer, cattle"), from Middle Dutch beeste, from Old French beste "beast" (see beast).
wilderness (n.)
c. 1200, "wild, uninhabited, or uncultivated place," with -ness + Old English wild-deor "wild animal, wild deer;" see wild (adj.) + deer (n.). Similar formation in Dutch wildernis, German Wildernis, though the usual form there is Wildnis.
wildfire (n.)
late Old English wilde fyr "destructive fire" (perhaps caused by lightning); also "erysipelas, spreading skin disease;" see wild (adj.) + fire (n.). From c. 1300 as "Greek fire," also fire rained down from the sky as divine retribution. Figurative sense from late 14c. By 1795 as "sheet lightning."
wildlife (n.)
also wild life, "fauna of a region," 1879, from wild (adj.) + life.
wildly (adv.)
early 15c., from wild (adj.) + -ly (2).
wildness (n.)
early 14c., "unrestrained behavior," from wild (adj.) + -ness. Late 14c. as "frenzy;" mid-15c. as "undomesticated state."
wile (n.)
late Old English, wil "stratagem, trick, sly artifice," perhaps from Old North French *wile (Old French guile), or directly from a Scandinavian source (compare Old Norse vel "trick, craft, fraud," vela "defraud"). Perhaps ultimately related to Old English wicca "wizard" (see Wicca). Lighter sense of "amorous or playful trick" is from c. 1600.
wile (v.)
late 14c., "to deceive," from wile (n.). Related: Wiled; wiling. Sense of "cause (time, etc.) to pass pleasantly, divert attention pleasantly" is by 1796, from confusion with while (v.).
wilful (adj.)
British English spelling of willful. Related: Wilfully; wilfulness.
Wilhelm
German form of William (q.v.). Fem. form is Wilhelmina. Wilhelmine (adj.) is "pertaining to the reign of Wilhelm II," emperor of Germany 1888-1918. Berlin's Wilhelmstrasse was the pre-1945 headquarters of the German foreign office, hence used metonymically for "German foreign policy" (compare Quai d'Orsay).
will (v.1)
Old English *willan, wyllan "to wish, desire; be willing; be used to; be about to" (past tense wolde), from Proto-Germanic *willjan (source also of Old Saxon willian, Old Norse vilja, Old Frisian willa, Dutch willen, Old High German wellan, German wollen, Gothic wiljan "to will, wish, desire," Gothic waljan "to choose").

The Germanic words are from PIE root *wel- (2) "to wish, will" (source also of Sanskrit vrnoti "chooses, prefers," varyah "to be chosen, eligible, excellent," varanam "choosing;" Avestan verenav- "to wish, will, choose;" Greek elpis "hope;" Latin volo, velle "to wish, will, desire;" Old Church Slavonic voljo, voliti "to will," veljo, veleti "to command;" Lithuanian velyti "to wish, favor," pa-velmi "I will," viliuos "I hope;" Welsh gwell "better").

Compare also Old English wel "well," literally "according to one's wish;" wela "well-being, riches." The use as a future auxiliary was already developing in Old English. The implication of intention or volition distinguishes it from shall, which expresses or implies obligation or necessity. Contracted forms, especially after pronouns, began to appear 16c., as in sheele for "she will." In early use often -ile to preserve pronunciation. The form with an apostrophe ('ll) is from 17c.
will (n.)
Old English will, willa "mind, determination, purpose; desire, wish, request; joy, delight," from Proto-Germanic *wiljon- (source also of Old Saxon willio, Old Norse vili, Old Frisian willa, Dutch wil, Old High German willio, German Wille, Gothic wilja "will"), related to *willan "to wish" (see will (v.1)). The meaning "written document expressing a person's wishes about disposition of property after death" is first recorded late 14c.
will (v.2)
Old English willian "to determine by act of choice," from will (n.). From mid-15c. as "dispose of by will or testament." Often difficult to distinguish from will (v.1).
will-o'-the-wisp (n.)
1660s, earlier Will with the wisp (c. 1600), from the masc. proper name Will + wisp "bundle of hay or straw used as a torch." Compare Jack o'lantern.
willful (adj.)
also wilful, c. 1200, "strong-willed," usually in a bad sense, "obstinate, unreasonable," from will (n.) + -ful. From late 14c. as "eager" (to do something). Mid-14c., of actions, "done on purpose, intentional, due to one's own will." Related: Willfullness.
willfully (adv.)
also wilfully, late Old English wilfullice "of one's own free will, voluntarily;" see willful + -ly (2). Mid-14c. as "deliberately, knowingly." Bad sense of "on purpose" is attested from late 14c.
William
masc. proper name, from Old North French Willaume, Norman form of French Guillaume, of Germanic origin (cognates: Old High German Willahelm, German Wilhelm), from willio "will" (see will (n.)) + helma "helmet," from Proto-Germanic *helmaz "protective covering" (from PIE root *kel- (1) "to cover, conceal, save;" compare helm (n.2)). After the Conquest, the most popular given name in England until supplanted by John.
willies (n.)
"spell of nervousness," 1896, perhaps from the woollies, a dialectal term for "nervous uneasiness," probably in reference to the itchiness of wool garments.
willing (adj.)
early 14c., present participle adjective from will (v.1). Old English had -willendliche in compounds. Related: Willingly; willingness.
willow (n.)
Old English welig "willow," from Proto-Germanic *wel- (source also of Old Saxon wilgia, Middle Dutch wilghe, Dutch wilg), probably from PIE root *wel- (3) "to turn, revolve," with derivatives referring to curved, enclosing objects. The change in form to -ow (14c.) paralleled that of bellow and fellow. The more typical Germanic word for the tree is represented by withy.
willowy (adj.)
"flexible and graceful," 1791, from willow + -y (2). Earlier "bordered or shaded by willows" (1751). Willowish is older (1650s) but only in reference to the color of willow leaves. Related: Willowiness.
willpower (n.)
also will power, 1847, from will (n.) + power (n.).
willy-nilly
c. 1600, contraction of will I, nill I, or will he, nill he, or will ye, nill ye, literally "with or without the will of the person concerned." See nill + will (v.1).
Wilsonian (adj.)
1921, "characteristic of the U.S. presidency of Woodrow Wilson" (1856-1924), especially in reference to idealism in foreign policy.