plural of man (n.). In common with German Männer, etc., it shows effects of i-mutation. Used as an indefinite pronoun ("one, people, they") from late Old English. Men's liberation first attested 1970. Men's room "a lavatory for men" is by 1908, American English. Earlier it had a more general sense:
men's room, n. "One end of this [cook and dining] room is partitioned off for a men's room, where the crew sit evenings, smoking, reading, singing, grinding their axes, telling stories, etc., before climbing the ladder to their night's rest in the bunk room ... For many years women have been employed in [logging] camps as cooks, hence the name men's room, for the crew are not allowed in the cook room except at meal time." [quoted in "Some Lumber and Other Words," in Dialect Notes, vol. II, part VI, 1904]
Menswear (also men's wear) "clothes for men" is by 1906. To separate the men from the boys in a figurative sense "distinguish the manly, mature, capable, etc. in a group from the rest" is from 1943; earliest uses tend to credit it to U.S. aviators in World War II.
One of the most expressive G.I. terms to come out of the late strife was "that's where they separate the men from the boys" — so stated by American aviators leaning from their cockpits to observe a beach-landing under fire on some Pacific island far below. ["Arts Magazine," 1947]
"pointed stick or post; stick of wood sharpened at one end for driving into the ground, used as part of a fence, as a boundary-mark, as a post to tether an animal to, or as a support for something (a vine, a tent, etc.)," Old English staca "pin, stake," from Proto-Germanic *stakon (source also of Old Norse stiaki "a stake, pole, candlestick,"Old Frisian stake, Middle Dutch stake, Dutch staak "a stake, post," Middle Low German stake "a stake, post, pillory, prison"), from PIE root *steg- (1) "pole, stick." The Germanic word was borrowed in Romanic (Spanish and Portuguese estaca "a stake," Old French estaque, estache, Italian stacca "a hook"), and was borrowed back as attach.
Meaning "post to which a person condemned to death by burning is bound" is from c. 1200, also "post to which a bear to be baited is tied" (late 14c.). Meaning "vertical bar fixed in a socket or in staples on the edge of the bed of a platform railway-car or of a vehicle to secure the load from rolling off, or, when a loose substance, as gravel, etc., is carried, to hold in place boards which retain the load," is by 1875; hence stake-body as a type of truck (1903).
Pull up stakes was used c. 1400 as "abandon a position" (the allusion is to pulling up the stakes of a tent); the modern American English figurative expression in the sense of "move one's habitation" is by 1703.
Old English weall, Anglian wall "rampart, dike, earthwork" (natural as well as man-made), "dam, cliff, rocky shore," also "defensive fortification around a city, side of a building," an Anglo-Frisian and Saxon borrowing (Old Saxon, Old Frisian, Middle Low German, Middle Dutch wal) from Latin vallum "wall, rampart, row or line of stakes," apparently a collective form of vallus "stake," from PIE *walso- "a post." Swedish vall, Danish val are from Low German.
Meaning "interior partition of a structure" is mid-13c. In this case, English uses one word where many languages have two, such as German Mauer "outer wall of a town, fortress, etc.," used also in reference to the former Berlin Wall, and wand "partition wall within a building" (compare the distinction, not always rigorously kept, in Italian muro/parete, Irish mur/fraig, Lithuanian mūras/siena, etc.). The Latin word for "defensive wall" was murus (see mural).
Anatomical use from late 14c. To give (someone) the wall "allow him or her to walk on the (cleaner) wall side of the pavement" is from 1530s. To turn (one's) face to the wall "prepare to die" is from 1570s. Phrase up the wall "angry, crazy" is from 1951; off the wall "unorthodox, unconventional" is recorded from 1966, American English student slang. To go over the wall "escape" (originally from prison) is from 1933. Wall-to-wall (adj.) recorded 1939, of shelving, etc.; metaphoric use (usually disparaging) is from 1967.
Old English cropp "head or top of a sprout or herb, any part of a medicinal plant except the root," also "bird's craw" (the common notion is "protuberance"), cognate with Old High German kropf, Old Norse kroppr.
"The word has a remarkable variety of special senses ..." [Century Dictionary]. OED writes that "OE. had only sense 1. 'craw of a bird' and 3. 'rounded head or top of a herb'; the latter is found also in High German dialects (Grimm, Kropf, 4c); the further developments of 'head or top' generally, and of 'produce of the field, etc.' appear to be exclusively English."
Meaning "grain and other cultivated plants grown and harvested" (especially "the grain yield of one year") is from early 14c. (in Anglo-Latin from early 13c.). Probably this sense development is via the verbal meaning "cut off the top of a plant" (c. 1200).
From the notion of "top" comes the sense "upper part of a whip," hence "handle of a whip" (1560s), hence "a kind of whip used by horsemen in the hunting field" (1857). "It is useful in opening gates, and differs from the common whip in the absence of a lash" [Century Dictionary].
General sense of "anything gathered when ready or in season" is from 1570s. Meaning "a thick, short head of hair" is from 1795. Meaning "top or highest part of anything" is from late 14c. In Middle English crop and rote "the whole plant, crop and root," was figurative of totality or perfection. Crop-circle is attested by 1974.
Old English be- (unstressed) or bi (stressed) "near, in, by, during, about," from Proto-Germanic *bi "around, about," in compounds often merely intensive (source also of Old Saxon and Old Frisian bi "by, near," Middle Dutch bie, Dutch bij, German bei "by, at, near," Gothic bi "about"), from PIE *bhi, reduced form of root *ambhi- "around."
As an adverb by c. 1300, "near, close at hand." OED (2nd ed. print) has 38 distinct definitions of it as a preposition. Originally an adverbial particle of place, which sense survives in place names (Whitby, Grimsby, etc., also compare rudesby). Elliptical use for "secondary course" was in Old English (opposed to main, as in byway, also compare by-blow "illegitimate child," 1590s, Middle English loteby "a concubine," from obsolete lote "to lurk, lie hidden"). This also is the sense of the second by in the phrase by the by (1610s). By the way literally means "along the way" (c. 1200), hence "in passing by," used figuratively to introduce a tangential observation ("incidentally") by 1540s.
To swear by something or someone is in Old English, perhaps originally "in the presence of." Phrase by and by (early 14c.) originally meant "one by one," with by apparently denoting succession; modern sense of "before long" is from 1520s. By and large "in all its length and breadth" (1660s) originally was nautical, "sailing to the wind and off it," hence "in one direction then another;" from nautical expression large wind, one that crosses the ship's line in a favorable direction.
"the language of the (ancient) Romans," Old English latin "Latin, the language of the Romans; any foreign language," from Latin latinium "the Latin language," noun use of the adjective latinius (see Latin (adj.)). The more common form in Old English was læden, from Vulgar Latin *ladinum, which probably was deformed by influence of Old English leoden "language." For "the Latin language" Old English also had lædenspræc.
In Old French the word was used very broadly, "speech, language:" "What Latin was to the learned, that their tongue was to laymen; hence latino was used for any dialect, even Arabic and the language of birds ...." [Donkin, "Etymological Dictionary of the Romance Languages," 1864].
Roughly speaking, Old Latin is the Latin before the classical period including early authors and inscriptions. Classical Latin flourished from about 75 B.C.E. to about 200 C.E., the Latin of Lucretius, Catullus, Caesar, Cicero, Virgil, Horace, Ovid, Livy, Seneca, etc.; it is the standard Latin of the grammars and dictionaries. Late Latin followed the classical period to about 600 and includes the early church fathers. Medieval Latin was the Latin of the Middle Ages, from about 600 to 1500. Modern Latin is Latin as written from about 1500 on, largely by scientific writers in description and classification. Vulgar Latin was the speech of the Roman home and marketplace, going on concurrently under Classical and Late Latin.
This bit of student doggerel said to have been often scrawled on inside covers of school books, seems to date to 1913 in this or similar wording.
Latin's a dead language —
As dead as it can be;
It killed off all the Romans,
And now it's killing me.
Old English standan "occupy a place; stand firm; congeal; stay, continue, abide; be valid, be, exist, take place; oppose, resist attack; stand up, be on one's feet; consist, amount to" (class VI strong verb; past tense stod, past participle standen), from Proto-Germanic *standanan (source also of Old Norse standa, Old Saxon and Gothic standan, Old High German stantan, parallel with simpler forms, such as Swedish stå, Dutch staan, German stehen [see discussion in OED]), from *stathula, from PIE root *sta- "to stand, make or be firm."
Sense of "to exist, be present" is attested from c. 1300. Meaning "encounter without flinching" is from 1590s; weaker sense of "put up with" is from 1620s. Meaning "to submit" (to chances, etc.) is from c. 1700. Meaning "to pay for as a treat" is from 1821. Meaning "become a candidate for office" is from 1550s. Nautical sense of "hold a course at sea" is from 1620s. Meaning "to be so high when standing" is from 1831.
Stand back "keep (one's) distance" is from c. 1400. Phrase stand pat is from poker (1882), earlier simply stand (1824 in other card games). To stand down is from 1680s, originally of witnesses in court; in the military sense of "come off duty" it is first recorded 1916. To let (something) stand is from c. 1200. To stand for is c. 1300 as "count for;" early 14c. as "be considered in lieu of;" late 14c. as "represent by way of sign;" sense of "tolerate" first recorded 1620s. Phrase stands to reason (1620) is from earlier stands (is constant) with reason.
common name of any lepidopterous insect active in daylight, Old English buttorfleoge, evidently butter (n.) + fly (n.), but the name is of obscure signification. Perhaps based on the old notion that the insects (or, according to Grimm, witches disguised as butterflies) consume butter or milk that is left uncovered. Or, less creatively, simply because the pale yellow color of many species' wings suggests the color of butter. Another theory connects it to the color of the insect's excrement, based on Dutch cognate boterschijte. Also see papillon.
Applied to persons from c. 1600, originally in reference to vain and gaudy attire; by 1806 in reference to transformation from early lowly state; in reference to flitting tendencies by 1873. The swimming stroke so called from 1935. As a type of mechanical nut, 1869. Butterflies "light stomach spasms caused by anxiety" is from 1908. Who breaks a butterfly upon a wheel? is from Pope.
The butterfly effect is a deceptively simple insight extracted from a complex modern field. As a low-profile assistant professor in MIT's department of meteorology in 1961, [Edward] Lorenz created an early computer program to simulate weather. One day he changed one of a dozen numbers representing atmospheric conditions, from .506127 to .506. That tiny alteration utterly transformed his long-term forecast, a point Lorenz amplified in his 1972 paper, "Predictability: Does the Flap of a Butterfly's Wings in Brazil Set Off a Tornado in Texas?" [Peter Dizikes, "The Meaning of the Butterfly," The Boston Globe, June 8, 2008]
A truth known for ages to poets and philosophers (atomists) which modern science ponders as a possible fact.
Old English stæf (plural stafas), "walking stick, strong pole used for carrying, rod used as a weapon, pastoral staff," probably originally *stæb, from Proto-Germanic *stab- (source also of Old Saxon staf, Old Norse stafr, Danish stav, Old Frisian stef, Middle Low German and Middle Dutch staf, Old High German stab, German Stab, Gothic *stafs "element;" Middle Dutch stapel "pillar, foundation"), from PIE root *stebh- "post, stem, to support, place firmly on, fasten" (source also of Old Lithuanian stabas "idol," Lithuanian stiebas "staff, pillar;" Old Church Slavonic stoboru "pillar;" Sanskrit stabhnati "supports;" Greek stephein "to tie around, encircle, wreathe," staphyle "grapevine, bunch of grapes;" Old English stapol "post, pillar").
As "pole from which a flag is flown," 1610s. In musical notation from 1660s. Sense of "group of military officers that assists a commander" is attested from 1702, apparently from German, from the notion of the "baton" that is a badge of office or authority (a sense attested in English from 1530s); hence staff officer (1702), staff-sergeant (1811). Meaning "group of employees (as at an office or hospital)" is first found 1837. Staff of life "bread" is from the Biblical phrase break the staff of bread meaning "cut off the supply of food" (Leviticus xxvi.26), translating Hebrew matteh lekhem.
The Old English word, in plural, was the common one used for "letter of the alphabet, character," hence "writing, literature," and many compounds having to do with writing, such as stæfcræft "grammar," stæfcræftig "lettered," stæflic "literary," stæfleahtor "grammatical error," with leahtor "vice, sin, offense."
open-air game involving kicking a ball, c. 1400; in reference to the inflated ball used in the game, mid-14c. ("Þe heued fro þe body went, Als it were a foteballe," Octavian I manuscript, c. 1350), from foot (n.) + ball (n.1). Forbidden in a Scottish statute of 1424. One of Shakespeare's insults is "you base foot-ball player" [Lear I.iv]. Ball-kicking games date back to the Roman legions, at least, but the sport seems first to have risen to a national obsession in England, c. 1630. Figurative sense of "something idly kicked around, something subject to hard use and many vicissitudes" is by 1530s.
Rules of the game first regularized at Cambridge, 1848; soccer (q.v.) split off in 1863. The U.S. style (known to some in England as "stop-start rugby with padding") evolved gradually 19c.; the first true collegiate game is considered to have been played Nov. 6, 1869, between Princeton and Rutgers, at Rutgers, but the rules there were more like soccer. A rematch at Princeton Nov. 13, with the home team's rules, was true U.S. football. Both were described as foot-ball at Princeton.
Then twenty-five of the best players in college were sent up to Brunswick to combat with the Rutgers boys. Their peculiar way of playing this game proved to Princeton an insurmountable difficulty; .... Two weeks later Rutgers sent down the same twenty-five, and on the Princeton grounds, November 13th, Nassau played her game; the result was joyous, and entirely obliterated the stigma of the previous defeat. ["Typical Forms of '71" by the Princeton University Class of '72, 1869]