- square (n.)
- mid-13c., "tool for measuring right angles, carpenter's square," from Old French esquire "a square, squareness," from Vulgar Latin *exquadra, back-formation from *exquadrare "to square," from Latin ex- "out" (see ex-) + quadrare "make square, set in order, complete," from quadrus "a square" (see quadrant).
Meaning "square shape or area" is recorded by late 14c. (Old English used feower-scyte). Geometric sense "four-sided rectilinear figure" is from 1550s; mathematical sense of "a number multiplied by itself" is first recorded 1550s. Sense of "open space in a town or park" is from 1680s; that of "area bounded by four streets in a city" is from c. 1700. As short for square meal, from 1882. Square one "the very beginning" (often what one must go back to) is from 1960, probably a figure from board games.
- square (adj.)
- early 14c., "containing four equal sides and right angles," from square (n.), or from Old French esquarre, past participle of esquarrer. Meaning "honest, fair," is first attested 1560s; that of "straight, direct" is from 1804. Of meals, from 1868.
Sense of "old-fashioned" is 1944, U.S. jazz slang, said to be from shape of a conductor's hand gestures in a regular four-beat rhythm. Square-toes meant nearly the same thing late 18c.: "precise, formal, old-fashioned person," from the style of men's shoes worn early 18c. and then fallen from fashion. Squaresville is attested from 1956. Square dance attested by 1831; originally one in which the couples faced inward from four sides; later of country dances generally.
[T]he old square dance is an abortive attempt at conversation while engaged in walking certain mathematical figures over a limited area. ["The Mask," March 1868]
- square (v.)
- late 14c. of stones, from Old French esquarrer, escarrer "to cut square," from Vulgar Latin *exquadrare (see square (adj.)). Meaning "regulate according to standard" is from 1530s; sense of "to accord with" is from 1590s. With reference to accounts from 1815. In 15c.-17c. the verb also could mean "to deviate, vary, digress, fall out of order." Related: Squared; squaring.
- square (adv.)
- 1570s, "fairly, honestly," from square (adj.). From 1630s as "directly, in line." Sense of "completely" is American-English, colloquial, by 1862.