mid-15c., from un- (1) "not" + substantial (adj.).
c. 1500, "too unsubstantial to be perceived by touch," from French impalpable or directly from Medieval Latin impalpabilis, from assimilated form of in- "not, opposite of" (see in- (1)) + palpabilis (see palpable). Figurative (mental) sense of "that cannot be grasped by the intellect" is from 1774. Related: Impalpably; impalpability.
1590s, "thin, unsubstantial," irregularly formed from Latin tenuis "thin, drawn out, meager, slim, slender," figuratively "trifling, insignificant, poor, low in rank," from PIE root *ten- "to stretch," + -ous. The correct form with respect to the Latin is tenuious. The figurative sense of "having slight importance, not substantial" is found from 1817 in English. Related: Tenuously; tenuousness.
1784, lolly-pops "soft candy, coarse sweetmeat made of treacle and sugar, usually with butter and flour added," a word "of obscure formation" [OED]. The elements are perhaps related to loll (v.) "to dangle" (the tongue) + pop "a strike, slap." Or the first element may be northern dialectal lolly "the tongue." Figurative sense of something sweet but unsubstantial is by 1849. Meaning "hard candy on a stick" is from 1920s.
1590s, "made of paper, consisting of paper," from paper (n.). Figurative of something flimsy or unsubstantial from 1716, probably on the notion of "appearing merely in written or printed statements, not tangible or existing in reality." Paper tiger (1952) translates Chinese tsuh lao fu, popularized by Mao Zedong. Paper doll is attested by 1817; paper plate "disposable plate made of paper or cardboard" is from 1723. Paper money is from 1690s.
1650s, "thin, slight, slender," usually with suggestion of gracefulness, from Dutch slim "bad, sly, clever," from Middle Dutch slim "slanting, crooked; bad, wrong," from Proto-Germanic *slembaz "oblique, crooked" (source also of Middle High German slimp "slanting, awry," German schlimm "bad, cunning, unwell"), which is of unknown origin. Italian sghembo "crooked, slanting, lopsided" is from Germanic.
Not found in Middle English. The Germanic sense evolution seems to be "slanting" to "slight, insignificant" then "gracefully slender." Down another path, "slanting" to "crooked" to "bad, sick, wrong."
Of chances, etc., "meager, small" from 1670s. The sense of "slight, flimsy, unsubstantial" is by 1813, of fabric. In English 17c. also sometimes in reference to persons with a sense "sly, cunning, crafty." Related: Slimly; slimness.
With obsolete extended adjectival forms slimsy "flimsy, unsubstantial" (1845, American English, of fabric, etc.); slimikin "small and slender" (1745). Slim Jim attested from 1887 in sense of "very thin person;" from 1902 as a type of slender cigar; from 1975 as a brand of meat snack. Slim volume "book of verse by a little-known or aspiring poet" is by 1920.
type of confection, 1895, American English, apparently a word first used among students at women's colleges; perhaps a special use from fudge (v.) or its noun derivative, via the notion of "insubstantial" or of something "faked-up" on the spot. The verb was used in school slang, and compare fudge (n.) "a made-up story" (1797).
'He lies,' answered Lord Etherington, 'so far as he pretends I know of such papers. I consider the whole story as froth — foam, fudge, or whatever is most unsubstantial. ...' [Scott, "St. Ronan's Well," 1823]
1640s, of textile fabric, "downy, fuzzy," later "flimsy, unsubstantial" (1660s), a word of unknown origin. One theory is that it is a corruption of Silesia, the German region, where thin linen or cotton fabric was made for export. Silesia, in reference to cloth, is attested in English from 1670s; and sleasie, sleazy as an abbreviated form is attested from late 17c., but OED finds the evidence to be against "any original connexion." The sense of "sordid, squalid" is from 1941. Related: Sleazily; sleaziness.
"Slesie linnen, so calld becaus brought from the province of Silesia, or as the Germans call it Schlesia, wher the capital city Breslaw is maintaind by this manufacture, which is the chief if not the only merchandize of that place." [from notes on Lansdowne manuscripts by antiquarian Bishop White Kennett (1660-1728), quoted in Halliwell]
A day is a more magnificent cloth than any muslin, the mechanism that makes it is infinitely cunninger, and you shall not conceal the sleazy, fraudulent, rotten hours you have slipped into the piece, nor fear that any honest thread, or straighter steel, or more inflexible shaft, will not testify in the web. [Emerson, "The Conduct of Life," 1860]