c. 1200, "at ease, having ease, free from bodily discomfort and anxiety," from Old French aisie "comfortable, at ease, rich, well-off" (Modern French aisé), past participle of aisier "to put at ease," from aise (see ease (n.)). Sense of "not difficult, requiring no great labor or effort" is from late 13c.; of conditions, "offering comfort, pleasant," early 14c. Of persons, "lenient, kind, calm, gentle," late 14c. Meaning "readily yielding, not difficult of persuasion" is from 1610s. The concept of "not difficult" was expressed in Old English and early Middle English by eaþe (adv.), ieþe (adj.), apparently common West Germanic (compare German öde "empty, desolate," but of disputed origin.
Easy Street is from 1890. Easy money attested by 1889; to take it easy "relax" is from 1804 (be easy in same sense recorded from 1746); easy does it recorded by 1835. Easy rider (1912) was African-American vernacular for "sexually satisfying lover." The easy listening radio format is from 1961, defined by William Safire (in 1986) as, "the music of the 60's played in the 80's with the style of the 40's." Related: Easier; easiest.
"travel on foot," c. 1200, a merger of two verbs, 1. Old English wealcan "to toss, roll, move round" (past tense weolc, past participle wealcen), and 2. wealcian "to roll up, curl," from Proto-Germanic *welk- (source also of Old Norse valka "to drag about," Danish valke "to full" (cloth), Middle Dutch walken "to knead, press, full" (cloth), Old High German walchan "to knead," German walken "to full"), perhaps ultimately from PIE root *wel- (3) "to turn, revolve."
The shift in sense is perhaps from a colloquial use of the Old English word or via the sense of "to full cloth" (by treading on it), though this sense does not appear until after the change in meaning. In 13c. it is used of snakes and the passage of time, and in 15c. of wheeled carts. "Rarely is there so specific a word as NE walk, clearly distinguished from both go and run" [Buck]. Meaning "to go away" is recorded from mid-15c. Transitive meaning "to exercise a dog (or horse)" is from late 15c.; meaning "to escort (someone) in a walk" is from 1620s. Meaning "move (a heavy object) by turning and shoving it in a manner suggesting walking" is by 1890. To walk it off, of an injury, etc., is from 1741. Related: Walked; walking.
1540s, laysy, of persons, "averse to labor, action, or effort," a word of unknown origin. In 19c. thought to be from lay (v.) as tipsy from tip. Skeat is responsible for the prevailing modern view that it probably comes from Low German, from a source such as Middle Low German laisch "weak, feeble, tired," modern Low German läösig, early modern Dutch leuzig, all of which may go back to the PIE root *(s)leg- "slack." According to Weekley, the -z- sound disqualifies a connection with French lassé "tired" or German lassig "lazy, weary, tired." A supposed dialectal meaning "naught, bad," if it is the original sense, may tie the word to Old Norse lasenn "dilapidated," lasmøyrr "decrepit, fragile," root of Icelandic las-furða "ailing," las-leiki "ailment."
Replaced native slack, slothful, and idle as the usual word expressing the notion of averse to work. Lazy Susan is from 1917. Lazy-tongs is from 1785, "An instrument like a pair of tongs for old or very fat people, to take anything off the ground without stooping" [Grose, "Dictionary of the Vulgar Tongue"]. In his 1788 edition, Grose has lazy man's load: "Lazy people frequently take up more than they can safely carry, to save the trouble of coming a second time."
Old English bitan "to pierce or cut with the teeth" (class I strong verb; past tense bat, past participle biten), from Proto-Germanic *beitanan (source also of Old Saxon bitan, Old Norse and Old Frisian bita "cut, pierce, penetrate," Middle Dutch biten, Dutch bijten, German beissen, Gothic beitan "to bite"), from PIE root *bheid- "to split," with derivatives in Germanic referring to biting.
To bite the bullet is said to be 1700s military slang, from old medical custom of having the patient bite a lead bullet during an operation to divert attention from pain and reduce screaming. Figurative use of this is from 1891; the custom itself attested from 1840s.
Figurative bite (one's) tongue "refrain from speaking" is by 1590s; to bite (one's) lip to repress signs of some emotion or reaction is from early 14c. To bite off more than one can chew (c. 1880) is U.S. slang, from plug tobacco.
To bite the dust "be thrown or struck down," hence "be vanquished, die, be slain, perish in battle" is from 1750, earlier bite the ground (1670s), lick the dust (late 14c.), which OED identifies as "a Hebraism," but Latin had the same image; compare Virgil's procubuit moriens et humum semel ore momordit.
"deep, circular vessel," from late Old English pott and Old French pot "pot, container, mortar" (also in erotic senses), both from a general Low Germanic (Old Frisian pott, Middle Dutch pot) and Romanic word from Vulgar Latin *pottus, which is of uncertain origin, said by Barnhart and OED to be unconnected to Late Latin potus "drinking cup." Similar Celtic words are said to be borrowed from English and French.
Specifically as a drinking vessel from Middle English. Slang meaning "large sum of money staked on a bet" is attested from 1823; that of "aggregate stakes in a card game" is from 1847, American English.
Pot roast "meat (generally beef) cooked in a pot with little water and allowed to become brown, as if roasted," is from 1881. Pot-plant is by 1816 as "plant grown in a pot." The phrase go to pot "be ruined or wasted" (16c.) suggests cooking, perhaps meat cut up for the pot. In phrases, the pot calls the kettle black-arse (said of one who blames another for what he himself is also guilty of) is from c. 1700; shit or get off the pot is traced by Partridge to Canadian armed forces in World War II. To keep the pot boiling "provide the necessities of life" is from 1650s.
c. 1300, "action of guarding or shielding from attack or injury; act of defending by fighting; a fortified place of refuge," from Old French defense, from Latin defensus, past participle of defendere "ward off, protect" (see defend). It also arrived (without the final -e) from Old French defens, from Latin defensum "thing protected or forbidden," neuter past participle of defendere.
Middle English defens was assimilated into defense, but not before it inspired the alternative spelling defence, via the same tendency that produced hence (hennis), pence (penies), dunce (Duns). Webster made the -se form standard in U.S., but British has preferred defence, and compare fence (n.).
Meaning "a speech or writing intended to repel or disprove a charge or accusation" is from late 14c., as is the sense of "method adopted by one against whom a lawsuit has been brought." Meaning "science of defense against attack" (in fencing, boxing, etc.) is from c. 1600. Used by 1935 as a euphemism for "national military resources," but the notion (non-euphemistic) was in Middle English: man of defense "warrior," ship of defense "warship." Defenses "natural weapons of an animal" is by 1889. Defense mechanism in psychology is from 1913.
c. 1200, lode, lade "that which is laid upon a person or beast, burden," a sense extension from Old English lad "a way, a course, a carrying; a street, watercourse; maintenance, support," from Proto-Germanic *laitho (source also of Old High German leita, German leite, Old Norse leið "way, road, course"), from PIE root *leit- (2) "to go forth" (see lead (v.1)).
It seems to have expanded its range of senses in early Middle English, supplanting words based on lade (v.), to which it is not etymologically connected. The older senses went with the spelling lode (q.v.). The spelling is modern. Meaning "amount customarily loaded at one time" is from c. 1300; meaning "a quantity of strong drink taken" is from 1590s. Meaning "the charge of a firearm" is from 1690s.
Meaning "a great amount or number" (often loads) is from c.1600. Figurative sense of "burden weighing on the mind, heart, or soul" is first attested 1590s. Meaning "amount (of work, etc.) to be done by one person" is attested in compounds from 1939 (first was workload). Colloquial loads "lots, heaps" is attested from c. 1600. Phrase take a load off (one's) feet "sit down, relax" is from 1914, American English. Get a load of "take a look at" is American English colloquial, attested from 1929.
"cast off," Middle English sheden, from Old English sceadan, scadan "to divide, separate, part company; discriminate, decide; scatter abroad, cast about," strong verb (past tense scead, past participle sceadan), from Proto-Germanic *skaithan (source also of Old Saxon skethan, Old Frisian sketha, Middle Dutch sceiden, Dutch scheiden, Old High German sceidan, German scheiden "part, separate, distinguish," Gothic skaidan "separate"), from an extended form of PIE root *skei- "to cut, split."
Of tears, from late 12c.; of light, from c. 1200. In reference to animals, "to lose hair, feathers, etc., by natural process," it is recorded from c. 1500; of trees losing leaves from 1590s; of persons and their clothes, by 1858, American English colloquial.
This verb in Old English was used to gloss Late Latin words in the sense "to discriminate, to decide" that literally mean "to divide, separate" (compare discern). Hence also Old English scead (n.) "separation, distinction; discretion, understanding, reason;" sceadwisnes "discrimination, discretion" (see shed (n.2)). Related: Shedding. To shed blood "kill by shedding blood" is from c. 1300 A shedding-tooth (1799) was a milk-tooth or baby-tooth.
late 14c., "thin slab or plank fixed horizontally to a wall or frame and used for supporting small objects; a transverse board in a case or cabinet," perhaps from Middle Low German schelf "shelf, set of shelves," or perhaps from Old English cognate scylfe, which could have meant "shelf, ledge, floor, deck of a ship" (the sense is uncertain), and scylf "peak, pinnacle."
These all are from Proto-Germanic *skelf- "split," possibly from the notion of a split piece of wood (compare Old Norse skjölf "bench"), from an extended form of the PIE root *skel- (1) "to cut," and thus distantly related to shell, etc.
From mid-15c. as "grassy bank." The meaning "ledge of rock" (as in later continental shelf) is from 1809, perhaps from or influenced by shelf (n.2).
By 1920s in reference to the display of goods in a shop, hence shelf life "time goods may be kept or stored unsold before they begin to spoil" (1927). The figurative phrase on the shelf "out of the way, inactive" is attested from 1570s (also used 19c. of unmarried women with no prospects). Off the shelf "ready-made, from a supply of ready-made goods" is from 1936. Related: Shelves.
c. 1300, "to make, with an edged tool or instrument, an incision in; make incisions for the purpose of dividing into two or more parts; remove by means of a cutting instrument;" of an implement, "have a cutting edge," according to Middle English Compendium from a presumed Old English *cyttan, "since ME has the normal regional variants of the vowel." Others suggest a possible Scandinavian etymology from North Germanic *kut- (source also of Swedish dialectal kuta "to cut," kuta "knife," Old Norse kuti "knife"), or that it is from Old French couteau "knife."
It has largely displaced Old English ceorfan (see carve (v.)), snian, and scieran (see shear). The past participle is also cut, though cutted sometimes has been used since Middle English.
From early 14c. as "to make or fashion by cutting or carving." From c. 1400 as "to intersect or cross." From early 15c. as "abridge or shorten by omitting a part."
Meaning "to wound the sensibilities of" is from 1580s (to cut the heart in the same sense is attested from early 14c.). Sense of "sever connection or relations with" is from 1630s.
Meaning "to be absent without excuse" is British university slang from 1794. Colloquial or slang sense of "move off with directness and rapidity" is from 1580s. Meaning "divide (a deck of cards) at random into parts before the deal" to prevent cheating is from 1530s.
Meaning "to dilute, adulterate" (liquor, etc.) is by 1930. Colloquial sense of "to divide or share" is by 1928, perhaps an image from meat-carving at table. As a director's call to halt recording or performing, by 1931 (in an article about Pete, the bulldog with the black-ringed eye in the Hal Roach studios shorts, who was said to know the word). The sense of "perform, execute" (c. 1600) is in cut capers "frisk about;" cut a dash "make a display."
To cut down is from late 14c. as "to fell;" by 1821 as "to slay" (as with a sword); 1857 as "to curtail." To cut (someone or something) down to size is from 1821 as "reduce to suitable dimensions;" the figurative sense, "reduce to the proper level of importance," is by 1927.
To cut in "enter suddenly and unceremoniously" is from 1610s; sense of "suddenly join in conversation, interrupt" is by 1830. To cut up "cut in pieces" is from 1570s. To cut back is from 1871 as "prune by cutting off shoots," 1913 in cinematography, "return to a previous scene by repeating a part of it," 1943 as "reduce, decrease" (of expenditures, etc.). To cut (something) short "abridge, curtail, interrupt" is from 1540s.
In nautical use to cut a feather (1620s) is to move so fast as to make water foam under the bow. To cut and run (1704) also is originally nautical, "cut cable and set sail immediately," as in an emergency, hence, generally, "to make off suddenly."
To cut the teeth "have the teeth grow through the gums" as an infant is from 1670s. To cut both ways in the figurative sense of "have a good and bad effect" is from c. 1600. To cut loose "set (something) free" is by 1828; intransitive sense "begin to act freely" is by 1909.
Cut it out "remove (something) by or as if by cutting" yielded a figurative use in the command cut it out! "Stop! That's enough!" by 1933. The evolution seems to have begun earlier. A piece attributed to the Chicago Live Stock World that made the rounds in trade publications 1901-02 begins:
When you get 'hot' about something and vow you are going to rip something or somebody up the back—cut it out.
If you feel disposed to try the plan of building yourself up by tearing some one else down—cut it out.
Playing on both senses, it ends with "Should you, after reading this preachy stuff, fear you might forget some of the good advice—cut it out."