c. 1300, "a task, a project" (such as the labors of Hercules); later "exertion of the body; trouble, difficulty, hardship" (late 14c.), from Old French labor "toil, work, exertion, task; tribulation, suffering" (12c., Modern French labeur), from Latin labor "toil, exertion; hardship, pain, fatigue; a work, a product of labor," a word of uncertain origin. Some sources venture that it could be related to labere "to totter" on the notion of "tottering under a burden," but de Vaan finds this unconvincing. The native word is work.
Meaning "body of laborers considered as a class" (usually contrasted to capitalists) is from 1839; for the British political sense see labour. Sense of "physical exertions of childbirth" is attested from 1590s, short for labour of birthe (early 15c.); the sense also is found in Old French, and compare French en travail "in (childbirth) suffering" (see travail). Labor Day was first marked 1882 in New York City. The prison labor camp is attested from 1900. Labor-saving (adj.) is from 1776. Labor of love is by 1797.
"to stand in or join a line" (intransitive), by 1924, from queue (n.). Transitive sense of "arrange in or cause to form a line" is by 1928. Earlier "tie or fasten the hair in a braided pigtail" (1777). Related: Queued; queueing. Churchill is said to have coined Queuetopia (1950), to describe Britain under Labour or Socialist rule.
late 14c., poesie, "poetry; poetic language and ideas; literature; a poem, a passage of poetry," from Old French poesie (mid-14c.), from Vulgar Latin *poesia (source of Provençal, Spanish, Portuguese, Italian poesia), from Latin poesis "poetry, a poem," from Greek poēsis "composition, poetry," literally "a making, fabrication," variant of poiēsis, from poein, poiein "to make or compose" (see poet). Meaning "the art of poetic composition, skill in making poems" is from late 15c.
A poem, as I have told you, is the work of the poet; the end and fruit of his labour and study. Poesy is his skill or craft of making; the very fiction itself, the reason or form of the work. [Ben Jonson, "Discoveries"]
1590s, an abusive term for a person, perhaps meaning "a pedant;" c. 1600, "a whim;" 1640s, "pun or word-play," a word of unknown origin, said in 17c. to be Oxford University slang. Perhaps the sort of ponderous mock-Latin word that was once the height of humor in learned circles; Skeat suggests Latin conandrum "a thing to be attempted" as the source. Also spelled quonundrum.
From 1745 as "a riddle in which some odd resemblance is proposed between things quite unlike, the answer often involving a pun." (An example from 1745: "Why is a Sash-Window like a Woman in Labour? because 'tis full of Panes").
"spider," Old English atorcoppe "spider," literally "poison-head," from ator "poison, venom" (Middle English atter), from Proto-Germanic *aitra- "poisonous ulcer" (source also of Old Norse eitr, Old High German eitar "poison;" German eiter "pus," Old High German eiz "abscess, boil;" Old English atorcræft "art of poisoning") + copp "top, summit, round head," probably also "spider" (compare cobweb and Dutch spinne-cop "spider").
Amptes & attircoppes & suche oþer þat ben euere bisy ben maide to schewe man ensaumple of stodye & labour. [Elucidarium of Honorius of Autun (Wycliffite version) c. 1400]
It lingered in Northern England dialect in the sense "peevish, ill-natured person" (c. 1500).
1854, "condition of having capital;" from capital (n.1) + -ism. Meaning "political/economic system which encourages capitalists" is recorded from 1872, originally used disparagingly by socialists. Meaning "concentration of capital in the hands of a few; the power or influence of large capital" is from 1877.
"Capital" may be most briefly described as wealth producing more wealth; and "capitalism" as the system directing that process. This latter term came into general use during the second half of the 19th century as a word chiefly signifying the world-wide modern system of organizing production and trade by private enterprise free to seek profit and fortune by employing for wages the mass of human labour. There is no satisfactory definition of the term, though nothing is more evident than the thing. [J.L. Garvin, "Capitalism" in Encyclopaedia Britannica, 1929]