twentieth letter of the English alphabet; in the Phoenician alphabet the corresponding sign was the 22nd and last; everything after T in the modern alphabet represents European alterations or additions. The sound has been consistent throughout its history.
In Late Latin and Old French, -t- before -e- and -i- acquired the "s" value of -c- and words appeared in both spellings (nationem/nacionem) and often passed into Middle English with a -c- (nacioun). In most of these the spelling was restored to a -t- by or in the period of early Modern English, but sorting them out took time (Edmund Coote's "English Schoole-maister" (1596) noted malicious/malitious) and a few (space, place, coercion, suspicion) resisted the restoration.
To cross one's t's(and dot one's i's) "to be exact" is attested from 1849. Phrase to a T "exactly, with utmost exactness" is recorded from 1690s, though the exact signification remains uncertain despite much speculation. The measuring tool called a T-square (sometimes suggested as the source of this) is recorded by that name only from 1785. The T-cell (1970) so called because they are derived from the thymus. As a medieval numeral, T represented 160. A T was formerly branded on the hand of a convicted thief.
1972, short for tits and ass (a phrase attributed to Lenny Bruce), in reference to salacious U.S. mass media; earlier it was medical shorthand for "tonsils and adenoids" (1942).
"account, bill, check," 1888, American English colloquial, probably a shortened form of tabulation or of tablet in the sense "a sheet for writing on." Figurative phrase keep a tab on is recorded from 1890.
"small flap or strip of material," c. 1600, possibly from a dialectal word, of uncertain origin. Often interchangeable with tag (n.1). Compare also Middle English tab "strap or string" (mid-15c.), Norwegian dialectal tave "piece of cloth, rag."
1819, from French tabagie (17c.), from tabac "tobacco" (see tobacco) + -age. A group of smokers who meet in club fashion; a "tobacco-parliament." In German, a Rauchkneipe.
c. 1300 (late 13c. as a surname), from Old French tabart "simple sleeveless overtunic," also "heavy overmantel" (12c.), of unknown origin; Diez suggests Latin tapete "figured cloth." Compare Medieval Latin tabardum, early Spanish tabardo, Italian tabarro. Originally a coarse, sleeveless upper garment worn by peasants and others who worked out-of-doors; later a knight's surcoat (hence the name of the tavern in "Canterbury Tales").