- wing (n.)
- late 12c., wenge, from Old Norse vængr "wing of a bird, aisle, etc." (cognates: Danish and Swedish vinge "wing"), of unknown origin, perhaps from a Proto-Germanic *we-ingjaz, suffixed form of PIE root *we- "blow" (source of Old English wawan "to blow;" see wind (n.)). Replaced Old English feðra (plural) "wings" (see feather). The meaning "either of two divisions of a political party, army, etc." is first recorded c.1400; theatrical sense is from 1790.
The slang sense of earn (one's) wings is 1940s, from the wing-shaped badges awarded to air cadets on graduation. To be under (someone's) wing "protected by (someone)" is recorded from early 13c. Phrase on a wing and a prayer is title of a 1943 song about landing a damaged aircraft.
- wing (v.)
- c.1600, "take flight;" 1610s, "fit with wings," from wing (n.). Meaning "shoot a bird in the wing" is from 1802, with figurative extenstions to wounds suffered in non-essential parts. Verbal phrase wing it (1885) is from theatrical slang sense of an actor learning his lines in the wings before going onstage, or else not learning them at all and being fed by a prompter in the wings. Related: Winged; winging.