mid-14c., celynge, "act of paneling a room," noun formed (with -ing) from Middle English verb ceil "put a cover or ceiling over," later "cover (walls) with wainscoting, panels, etc." (early 15c.); from Old French celer "to conceal," also "cover with paneling" (12c.), from Latin celare "to hide" (from PIE root *kel- (1) "to cover, conceal, save"). Probably influenced by Latin caelum "heaven, sky" (see celestial).
Extended to the paneling itself from late 14c., then to lath-and-plaster work. The meaning "interior overhead surface of a room" is attested by 1530s; by late 19c. the meaning "wainscoting" was only in provincial English. Figurative sense "upper limit" is from 1934. Colloquial figurative phrase hit the ceiling "lose one's temper, get explosively angry" attested by 1908; earlier it meant "to fail" (by 1900, originally U.S. college slang). Glass ceiling in the figurative sense of "invisible barrier that prevents women from advancing" in management, etc., is attested from 1988.
Proto-Indo-European root meaning "to cover, conceal, save."
It forms all or part of: Anselm; apocalypse; Brussels; caliology; Calypso; calyx; ceiling; cell; cellar; cellular; cellulite; cellulitis; cilia; clandestine; cojones; coleoptera; color; conceal; eucalyptus; hall; hell; helm (n.2) "a helmet;" helmet; hold (n.2) "space in a ship below the lower deck;" hole; hollow; holster; housing (n.2) "ornamental covering;" hull (n.1) "seed covering;" kil-; kleptomania; occult; rathskeller; supercilious; Valhalla; William.
It is the hypothetical source of/evidence for its existence is provided by: Sanskrit cala "hut, house, hall;" Greek kalia "hut, nest," kalyptein "to cover," koleon, koleos "sheath," kelyphos "shell, husk;" Latin cella "small room, store room, hut," celare "to hide, conceal," clam "secret," clepere "to steal, listen secretly to;" Old Irish cuile "cellar," celim "hide," Middle Irish cul "defense, shelter;" Gothic hulistr "covering," Old English heolstor "lurking-hole, cave, covering," Gothic huljan "to cover over," hulundi "hole," hilms "helmet," halja "hell," Old English hol "cave," holu "husk, pod;" Old Prussian au-klipts "hidden;" Old Church Slavonic poklopu "cover, wrapping."
third letter of the alphabet. Alphabetic writing came to Rome via the southern Etruscan "Caeretan" script, in which gamma was written as a crescent. Early Romans made little use of Greek kappa and used gamma for both the "g" and "k" sounds, the latter more frequently, so that the "k" sound came to be seen as the proper one for gamma. Classical Latin -c-, with only the value "k," passed to Celtic and, via missionary Irish monks, to the Anglo-Saxons. Also see cee.
In some Old English words, before some vowels and in certain positions, -c- had a "ts" sound that was respelled ch- in Middle English by French scribes (chest, cheese, church; see ch). In Old English -k- was known but little used.
Meanwhile, in Old French, many "k" sounds drifted to "ts" and by 13c., "s," but still were written -c-. Thus the 1066 invasion brought to the English language a flood of French and Latin words in which -c- represented "s" (as in cease, ceiling, circle) and a more vigorous use of -k- to distinguish that sound. By 15c. even native English words with -s- were being respelled with -c- for "s" (ice, mice, lice).
In some English words from Italian, the -c- has a "ch" sound (via a sound evolution somewhat like the Old French one). In German, -c- in loanwords was regularized to -k- or -z- (depending on pronunciation) in the international spelling reform of 1901, which was based on the Duden guide of 1880.
As a symbol in the Roman numeral system, "one hundred;" the symbol originally was a Greek theta, but was later reduced in form and understood to stand for centum. In music, it is the name of the keynote of the natural scale, though the exact pitch varied in time and place 18c. and 19c. from 240 vibrations per second to 275; it wasn't entirely regularized (at 261.63) until the adoption of the A440 standard in the 1930s. C-spring as a type of carriage spring is from 1794, so called for its shape.
c. 1400, "the cutting out of figures;" early 15c. as "the action of delivering blows with the fist," verbal noun from punch (v.). Related: Punching-bag "bag, generally large and heavy, suspended from the ceiling to be punched by an athlete, especially a boxer, for training or exercise" is by 1889 (also punch-bag); the figurative sense is attested by 1903.
"decorated container (originally a pot) filled with sweets and small gifts, suspended from a ceiling and broken by a blindfolded person on festive occasions," 1887, from Mexican Spanish piñata, in Spanish "jug, pot," ultimately from Latin pinea "pine cone," from pinus (see pine (n.)).
1560s, "a molded projection which crowns the part to which it is affixed," from French corniche (16c.) or directly from Italian cornice "ornamental molding along a wall," perhaps from Latin coronis "curved line, flourish in writing," from Greek koronis "curved object" (see crown). Perhaps influenced by (or even from) Latin cornicem, accusative of cornix "crow" (compare corbel). Sense of "ornamental molding running round the walls of a room just below the ceiling" is from 1660s.
swing with a cross-bar, used for feats of strength and agility, 1861, from French trapèze, from Late Latin trapezium (see trapezium), probably because the crossbar, the ropes and the ceiling formed a trapezium.
The French, to whose powers of invention (so long as you do not insist upon utility) there is no limit, have invented for the world the Trapeze .... [Chambers's Journal, July 6, 1861]
If this is correct, the sense development would be from "loft, ceiling" to "sky, air." Buck suggests a further connection with Old High German louft "bark," louba "roof, attic," etc., with development from "bark" to "roof made of bark" to "ceiling," though this did not directly inform the meaning "air, sky" (compare lodge (n.)). But Watkins says this is "probably a separate Germanic root." Meaning "gallery in a church" first attested c. 1500. From 1520s as "apartment over a stable" used for hay storage, etc.