Old English woruld, worold "human existence, the affairs of life," also "a long period of time," also "the human race, mankind, humanity," a word peculiar to Germanic languages (cognates: Old Saxon werold, Old Frisian warld, Dutch wereld, Old Norse verold, Old High German weralt, German Welt), with a literal sense of "age of man," from Proto-Germanic *weraldi-, a compound of *wer "man" (Old English wer, still in werewolf; see virile) + *ald "age" (from PIE root *al- (2) "to grow, nourish").
Originally "life on earth, this world (as opposed to the afterlife)," sense extended to "the known world," then to "the physical world in the broadest sense, the universe" (c. 1200). In Old English gospels, the commonest word for "the physical world," was Middangeard (Old Norse Midgard), literally "the middle enclosure" (see yard (n.1)), which is rooted in Germanic cosmology. Greek kosmos in its ecclesiastical sense of "world of people" sometimes was rendered in Gothic as manaseþs, literally "seed of man." The usual Old Norse word was heimr, literally "abode" (see home). Words for "world" in some other Indo-European languages derive from the root for "bottom, foundation" (such as Irish domun, Old Church Slavonic duno, related to English deep); the Lithuanian word is pasaulis, from pa- "under" + saulė "sun."
Original sense in world without end, translating Latin saecula saeculorum, and in worldly. Latin saeculum can mean both "age" and "world," as can Greek aiōn. Meaning "a great quantity or number" is from 1580s. Out of this world "surpassing, marvelous" is from 1928; earlier it meant "dead." World Cup is by 1951; U.S. baseball World Series is by 1893 (originally often World's Series). World power in the geopolitical sense first recorded 1900. World-class is attested from 1950, originally of Olympic athletes.
Otherworldliness is recorded from 1819. Phrase other world is from c. 1200 (oþre weorlde) as "afterlife, spirit-land, world to come;" c. 1300 as "world of idealism or fantasy, a state of existence different from normal," but otherworldliness seems to have been formed from worldliness. Leigh Hunt used it first in print, in "The Examiner" [Dec. 19, 1819], but a reported use of it by Coleridge, printed in Thomas Allsop's selections from Coleridge's letters and conversations (1836), which apparently cover the years 1818-22, was better-known thereafter, and the word is sometimes attributed to Coleridge:
As there is a worldliness or the too much of this life, so there is another-worldliness, or rather other worldliness, equally hateful and selfish with this worldliness.
Hunt, in his "Autobiography" (1850), writes:
I hope I am not giving fresh instance of a weakness which I suppose myself to have outgrown; much less appropriating an invention which does not belong to me; but an accomplished authoress one day (Mrs. Jameson), at the table of my friend Barry Cornwall, quoted the term "otherworldliness" from Coleridge. I said Coleridge was rich enough not to need the transference to him of other men's property; and that I felt so much honoured by the supposition in this instance, that I could not help claiming the word as my own. If Coleridge, indeed, used it before me, I can only say that I was not aware of it, and that my own reflections, very much accustomed to that side of speculation, would have suggested an identical thought.
Old English great "big, tall, thick, stout, massive; coarse," from West Germanic *grauta- "coarse, thick" (source also of Old Saxon grot, Old Frisian grat, Dutch groot, German groß "great"). If the original sense was "coarse," it is perhaps from PIE root *ghreu- "to rub, grind," via the notion of "coarse grain," then "coarse," then "great;" but "the connextion is not free from difficulty" [OED].
It took over much of the sense of Middle English mickle, and itself now is largely superseded by big and large except in reference to non-material things. In the sense of "excellent, wonderful" great is attested from 1848.
Great White Way "Broadway in New York City" is from 1901, in reference to brilliant street illumination. The Great Lakes of North America so called by 1726, perhaps 1690s. Great Spirit "high deity of the North American Indians," 1703, originally translates Ojibwa kitchi manitou. The Great War originally (1887) referred to the Napoleonic Wars, later (1914) to what we now call World War I (see world).
"The Great War" — as, until the fall of France, the British continued to call the First World War in order to avoid admitting to themselves that they were now again engaged in a war of the same magnitude. [Arnold Toynbee, "Experiences," 1969]
Also formerly with a verb form, Old English greatian "to become enlarged," Middle English greaten "to become larger, increase, grow; become visibly pregnant," which became archaic after 17c.