late 14c.; see capital (adj.). So called because it is at the "head" of a sentence or word.
"vanish, abscond," 1920s, American English, probably from mid-19c. notion of disappearing south to Mexico or Texas to escape pursuit or responsibility, reinforced by Native American belief (attested in colonial writing mid-18c.) that the soul journeys south after death.
Cambodian capital, literally "mountain of plenty," from Cambodian phnom "mountain, hill" + penh "full."
South Dakota landform, translating Lakhota pahá-sapa; supposedly so called because their densely forested flanks look dark from a distance.
rodent native to South America, 1660s. It does not come from Guinea and has nothing to do with the pig. Perhaps so called either because it was brought back to Britain aboard Guinea-men, ships that plied the triangle trade between England, Guinea, and South America [Barnhart, Klein], or from its resemblance to the young of the Guinea-hog "river pig" [OED], or from confusion of Guinea with the South American region of Guyana (but OED is against this). Pig probably for its grunting noises. In the extended sense of "one subjected to an experiment" it is first recorded 1920, because they were commonly used in medical experiments (by 1865).
by 1823 in representations of Persian or Oriental phrases, or sometimes in reference to seven seas forming part of the Hindu cosmology or to the Talmudists' supposed seven seas of Israel (some of which are obscure lakes); see seven. It is in Burton's "Arabian Nights" (1886) and probably was popularized by one of the versions of Fitzgerald's Omar Khayyam (from which Kipling got it as a book title). To the extent that the phrase has been applied, awkwardly, to global geography, they would be the Arctic, Antarctic, North Atlantic, South Atlantic, North Pacific, South Pacific, and Indian oceans.
19c. British idiom for "die, be killed" (popularized during World War I), "probably from thieves' slang, wherein to go west meant to go to Tyburn, hence to be hanged, though the phrase has indubitably been influenced by the setting of the sun in the west" [Partridge]. Compare go south.
type of venomous spider (Latrodectus mactans) in U.S. South, 1904, so called from its color and from the female's supposed habit of eating the male after mating (the males seem to get eaten more often before they mate, when they first enter the webs of the females, which have very poor eyesight). Sometimes also known as shoe-button spider. The name black widow is attested earlier (1830s) as a translation of a name of the "scorpion spider" of Central Asia.
the surname (also Munroe, etc.) is said to be ultimately from the River Roe in Derry, Ireland. James Monroe (1758-1831), the fifth U.S. president, was in office from 1817 to 1825. The Monroe Doctrine (so called from 1848) is a reference to the principles of policy contained in his message to Congress on Dec. 2, 1823. Monrovia, the capital of Liberia, also was named for him at its founding in 1822 by the American Colonization Society.
In terms of national psychology, the Monroe Doctrine marked the moment when Americans no longer faced eastward across the Atlantic and turned to face westward across the continent. [Daniel Walker Howe, "What Hath God Wrought"]