Old English life (dative lif) "animated corporeal existence; lifetime, period between birth and death; the history of an individual from birth to death, written account of a person's life; way of life (good or bad); condition of being a living thing, opposite of death; spiritual existence imparted by God, through Christ, to the believer," from Proto-Germanic *leiban (source also of Old Norse lif "life, body," Old Frisian, Old Saxon lif "life, person, body," Dutch lijf "body," Old High German lib "life," German Leib "body"), properly "continuance, perseverance," from PIE root *leip- "to stick, adhere."
The noun associated with live (v.) "to live," which is literally "to continue, remain." Extended 1703 to inanimate objects, "term of duration or existence." Sense of "vitality, energy in action, expression, etc." is from 1580s. Meaning "conspicuously active part of human existence, pleasures or pursuits of the world or society" is by 1770s. Meaning "cause or source of living" led to the sense "vivifying or animating principle," and thus "one who keeps things lively" in life of the party (1787). Meaning "imprisonment for life, a life sentence" is from 1903. Paired alliteratively with limb from 1640s. Not on your life "by no means" is attested from 1896.
In gaming, an additional turn at play for a character; this transferred use was prefigured by uses in card-playing (1806), billiards (1856), etc., in reference to a certain number of chances or required objects without which one's turn at the game fails. The life "the living form or model, semblance" is from 1590s. Life-and-death "of dire importance" is from 1822; life-or-death (adj.) is from 1897. Life-jacket is from 1840; life-preserver from 1630s of anything that is meant to save a life, 1803 of devices worn to prevent drowning. Life-saver is from 1883, figurative use from 1909, as a brand of hard sugar candy from 1912, so called for shape.
Life-form is from 1861; life-cycle is from 1855; life-expectancy from 1847; life-history in biology from 1870; life-science from 1935. Life-work "the labor to which one's life has been devoted" is from 1848. Expression this is the life is from 1919; verbal shrug that's life is from 1924 (earlier such is life, 1778).
late Old English scoru "twenty," from Old Norse skor "mark, notch, incision; a rift in rock," also, in Icelandic, "twenty," from Proto-Germanic *skur-, from PIE root *sker- (1) "to cut."
The notion probably is of counting large numbers (of a passing flock of sheep, etc.) by making a notch in a stick for each 20. The prehistoric sense of the Germanic word, then, likely was "straight mark like a scratch, line drawn by a sharp instrument." That way of counting, called vigesimalism, is widespread and also exists in France and left its trace in the language: In Old French, "twenty" (vint) or a multiple of it could be used as a base, as in vint et doze ("32"), dous vinz et diz ("50"). Vigesimalism was or is a feature of Welsh, Irish, Gaelic and Breton (as well as non-IE Basque), and it is speculated that the English and the French learned it from the Celts. Compare tally (n.).
By early 13c. it is attested in the sense of "a financial record" (perhaps one kept by tallies), and it is attested from early 14c. as "reckoning, total amount." The specific sense of "a reckoning or account kept by means of tallies" is clearly attested by c. 1400, especially (1590s) "mark made (by chalk, on a taproom door, etc.) to keep count of a customer's drinks."
This was extended by c. 1600 to "amount due, one's debt," and by 1670s to "mark made for purpose of recording a point in a game or match," and thus "aggregate of points made by contestants in certain games and matches" (1742, in whist).
The sporting score-card is by 1877 (in cricket). The newspaper sports section score line is by 1965. Score-keeping in sports is by 1905. From the tavern-keeping sense comes the meaning "amount on an innkeeper's bill" (c. 1600) and thus the figurative verbal expression settle scores (1775; as cut scores, 1610s).
Meaning "printed piece of music" is recorded by 1701, said to be from the practice of connecting related staves by scores (in the "line drawn" sense). Especially "music composed for a film" (1927). In underworld slang, "money obtained in a crime," 1914. Meaning "an act of obtaining narcotic drugs" is by 1951.
The meaning "a cut, notch, scratch or line made by a sharp instrument," without reference to counting, is attested from c. 1400. By c. 1600 as "a line drawn."
c. 1200, "thick stick wielded in the hand and used as a weapon," from Old Norse klubba "cudgel" or a similar Scandinavian source (compare Swedish klubba, Danish klubbe), assimilated from Proto-Germanic *klumbon and related to clump (n.). Old English words for this were sagol, cycgel. Specific sense of "bat or staff used in games" is from mid-15c.
The club suit in the deck of cards (1560s) bears the correct name (Spanish basto, Italian bastone), but the pattern adopted on English decks is the French trefoil. Compare Danish klr, Dutch klaver "a club at cards," literally "a clover."
The sense "company of persons organized to meet for social intercourse or to promote some common object" (1660s) apparently evolved from this word from the verbal sense "gather in a club-like mass" (1620s), then, as a noun, "association of people" (1640s).
We now use the word clubbe for a sodality in a tavern. [John Aubrey, 1659]
Admission to membership of clubs is commonly by ballot. Clubs are now an important feature of social life in all large cities, many of them occupying large buildings containing reading-rooms, libraries, restaurants, etc. [Century Dictionary, 1902]
I got a good mind to join a club and beat you over the head with it. [Rufus T. Firefly]
Join the club "become one of a number of people having a common experience" is by 1944. Club soda is by 1881, originally a proprietary name (Cantrell & Cochrane, Dublin). Club car is from 1890, American English, originally one well-appointed and reserved for members of a club run by the railway company; later of any railway car fitted with chairs instead of benches and other amenities (1917). Hence club for "class of fares between first-class and transit" (1978).
The club car is one of the most elaborate developments of the entire Commuter idea. It is a comfortable coach, which is rented to a group of responsible men coming either from a single point or a chain of contiguous points. The railroad charges from $250 to $300 a month for the use of this car in addition to the commutation fares, and the "club" arranges dues to cover this cost and the cost of such attendants and supplies as it may elect to place on its roving house. [Edward Hungerford, "The Modern Railroad," 1911]
Club sandwich recorded by 1899 (said to have been invented at Saratoga Country Club in New York), apparently as a type of sandwich served in clubs, or else because its multiple "decks" reminded people of two-decker club cars on railroads.
"to have sexual intercourse with" (transitive), until recently a difficult word to trace in usage, in part because it was omitted as taboo by the editors of the original OED when the "F" entries were compiled (1893-97). Johnson also had excluded the word, and fuck wasn't in a single English language dictionary from 1795 to 1965. "The Penguin Dictionary" broke the taboo in the latter year. Houghton Mifflin followed, in 1969, with "The American Heritage Dictionary," but it also published a "Clean Green" edition without the word, to assure itself access to the public high school market.
Written form attested from at least early 16c.; OED 2nd edition cites 1503, in the form fukkit, and the earliest attested appearance of current spelling is 1535 ("Bischops ... may fuck thair fill and be vnmaryit" [Sir David Lyndesay, "Ane Satyre of the Thrie Estaits"]). Presumably it is a more ancient word, but one not written in the kind of texts that have survived from Old English and Middle English [September 2015: the verb appears to have been found recently in an English court manuscript from 1310]. Buck cites proper name John le Fucker from 1278, but that surname could have other explanations. The word apparently is hinted at in a scurrilous 15c. poem, titled "Flen flyys" ["Fleas, Flies (and Friars)"], written in bastard Latin and Middle English. The relevant line reads:
Non sunt in celi
quia fuccant uuiuys of heli
"They [the monks] are not in heaven because they fuck the wives of [the town of] Ely." Fuccant is pseudo-Latin, and in the original it is written in cipher. The earliest examples of the word otherwise are from Scottish, which suggests a Scandinavian origin, perhaps from a word akin to Norwegian dialectal fukka "copulate," or Swedish dialectal focka "copulate, strike, push," and fock "penis."
Another theory traces the Modern English verb to Middle English fyke, fike "move restlessly, fidget" (see fike) which also meant "dally, flirt," and probably is from a general North Sea Germanic word (compare Middle Dutch fokken, German ficken "fuck," earlier "make quick movements to and fro, flick," still earlier "itch, scratch;" the vulgar sense attested from 16c.). This would parallel in sense the vulgar Middle English term for "have sexual intercourse," swive, from Old English swifan "to move lightly over, sweep" (see swivel). But OED remarks that these "cannot be shown to be related" to the English word. Liberman has this to say:
Germanic words of similar form (f + vowel + consonant) and meaning 'copulate' are numerous. One of them is G. ficken. They often have additional senses, especially 'cheat,' but their basic meaning is 'move back and forth.' ... Most probably, fuck is a borrowing from Low German and has no cognates outside Germanic.
Chronology and phonology rule out Shipley's attempt to derive it from Middle English firk "to press hard, beat." The unkillable urban legend that this word is an acronym of some sort (a fiction traceable on the internet to 1995 but probably predating that), and the "pluck yew" fable, are results of ingenious trifling (also see here). The Old English verb for "have sexual intercourse with" was hæman, from ham "dwelling, home," with a sense of "take home, co-habit." French foutre and Italian fottere seem to resemble the English word but are unrelated, descending rather from Latin futuere, which perhaps is from PIE root *bhau- "to strike," extended via a figurative use "from the sexual application of violent action" [Shipley; compare the sexual slang use of bang, etc.].
Fuck was outlawed in print in England (by the Obscene Publications Act, 1857) and the U.S. (by the Comstock Act, 1873). The word continued in common speech, however. During World War I:
It became so common that an effective way for the soldier to express this emotion was to omit this word. Thus if a sergeant said, 'Get your ----ing rifles!' it was understood as a matter of routine. But if he said 'Get your rifles!' there was an immediate implication of urgency and danger. [John Brophy, "Songs and Slang of the British Soldier: 1914-1918," pub. 1930]
The legal barriers against use in print broke down in mid-20c. with the "Ulysses" decision (U.S., 1933) and "Lady Chatterley's Lover" (U.S., 1959; U.K., 1960). The major breakthrough in publication was James Jones' "From Here to Eternity" (1950), with 50 fucks (down from 258 in the original manuscript).
The abbreviation F (or eff) probably began as euphemistic, but by 1943 it was regarded as a cuss word in its own right. In 1948, the publishers of "The Naked and the Dead" persuaded Norman Mailer to use the euphemism fug. When Mailer later was introduced to Dorothy Parker, she greeted him with, "So you're the man who can't spell 'fuck' " [The quip sometimes is attributed to Tallulah Bankhead]. As a written euphemism, muck is attested by 1929 (Hemingway used it in "For Whom the Bell Tolls," 1940). Related: Fucked; fucking.
Fuck-all "nothing" first recorded 1960. Verbal phrase fuck up "to ruin, spoil, destroy" is attested from c. 1916. A widespread group of Slavic words (such as Polish pierdolić) can mean both "fornicate" and "make a mistake." Fuck off is attested from 1929; as a command to depart, by 1944. Egyptian legal agreements from the 23rd Dynasty (749-21 B.C.E.) frequently include the phrase, "If you do not obey this decree, may a donkey copulate with you!" [Reinhold Aman, "Maledicta," Summer 1977].