late 15c., earlier upsadoun (late 14c.), up so down (c. 1300); the so perhaps meaning "as if." As an adjective from 1866.
to win something hands down (1855) is from horse racing, from a jockey's gesture of letting the reins go loose in an easy victory.
The Two Thousand Guinea Stakes was not the best contested one that it has been our fortune to assist at. ... [T]hey were won by Meteor, with Scott for his rider; who went by the post with his hands down, the easiest of all easy half-lengths. Wiseacre certainly did the best in his power to spoil his position, and Misdeal was at one time a little vexatious. [The Sportsman, report from April 26, 1840]
Ancient Greek had akoniti "without a struggle, easily," from akonitos (adj.), literally "without dust," specifically "without the dust of the arena."
"first of May," on which the opening of the season of flowers and fruit formerly was celebrated throughout Europe, mid-13c.; see May + day (n.). May Queen "girl or young woman crowned with flowers and honored as queen at the games held on May Day," seems to be a Victorian re-invented tradition; the phrase Queen of Maij is attested from c. 1500.
May Day's association with communism (and socialism and anarchism) dates to 1890. A U.S. general strike for an eight-hour workday began May 1, 1886, and culminated in the Haymarket bombing affair in Chicago on May 4. By 1890 strikes, protests, and rallies were being held in Europe by socialist and labor organizations on May 1, at first in support of the eight-hour day, more or less in commemoration of the 1886 strike.
"railroad maintenance worker," 1918, American English slang, of unknown origin; dancer perhaps from movements required in the work of tamping down ties or pumping a hand-cart, gandy perhaps from the name of a machinery belt company in Baltimore, Maryland.
1620s, from Italian, literally "Frankish tongue." A stripped-down Italian peppered with Spanish, French, Greek, Arabic, and Turkish words, it began as a form of communication in the Levant. The name probably is from the Arabic custom, dating back to the Crusades, of calling all Europeans Franks (see Frank). In 17c. English sources also known as Bastard Spanish.
1931, journalism slang, the sequence of characters you get if you sweep your finger down the two left-hand columns of Linotype keys, which is what typesetters did when they bungled a line and had to start it over. It was a signal to cut out the sentence, but sometimes it slipped past harried compositors and ended up in print.
"payment of money, cash down," 1570s, old slang, from the title in the Anglican prayer-book of the psalm appointed for Matins on the 25th of the month; it was consequently associated especially with March 25, the new year of the old calendar and a quarter day, when payments and debts came due and money changed hands generally. The title is from the first two words of the fifth division of Psalm cxix: Legem pone mihi, Domine, viam justificationum tuarum "Teach me, O Lord, the way of thy statutes."