early 15c., "of a bluish-leaden color," from Old French livide (13c.) and directly from Latin lividus "of a bluish color, black-and-blue," figuratively "envious, spiteful, malicious," from livere "be bluish," earlier *slivere, from PIE *sliwo-, suffixed form of root *sleiə- "bluish" (source also of Old Church Slavonic and Russian sliva "plum;" Lithuanian slyvas "plum;" Old Irish li, Welsh lliw "color, splendor," Old English sla "sloe").
Somehow it has come to be associated with "pale, colorless." The sense of "furiously angry" (1912) is from the notion of being livid with rage. Perhaps this is the key to the meaning shift. Rage makes some dark-red-faced; purple with rage is not uncommon in old novels (" 'My money! ye pirate! or I'll strangle you.' And he advanced upon him purple with rage, and shot out his long threatening arm, and brown fingers working in the air.") while it makes others go pale, also a figure in old novels ("At this juncture, the door opened, and, pale with rage, her eyes flashing fire, Lady Audley stood before them.")
1550s, "to turn up one's nose, sneer at;" later "to rap or flick, as with the fingers" (1560s); "throw with a sudden movement," also "move in short, quick flights" (1580s). Perhaps imitative (compare flip (v.), also East Frisian flirt "a flick or light blow," flirtje "a giddy girl," which also might have fed into the English word), but perhaps rather from or influenced by flit (v.). Related: Flirted; flirting.
The main modern verbal sense of "play at courtship" (1777) probably developed from the noun (see flirt (n.)) but also could have grown naturally from the 16c. meaning "to flit inconstantly from object to object." To flirt a fan (1660s) was to snap it open or closed with a brisk jerk and was long considered part of the coquette's arsenal, which might have contributed to the sense shift. Or the word could have been influenced from French, where Old French fleureter meant "talk sweet nonsense," also "to touch a thing in passing," diminutive of fleur "flower" (n.) and metaphoric of bees skimming from flower to flower. French flirter "to flirt" is a 19c. borrowing from English.
flying mouse-like mammal (order Chiroptera), 1570s, a dialectal alteration of Middle English bakke (early 14c.), which is probably related to Old Swedish natbakka, Old Danish nathbakkæ "night bat," and Old Norse leðrblaka "bat," literally "leather flapper," from Proto-Germanic *blak-, from PIE root *bhlag- "to strike" (see flagellum).
If so, the original sense of the animal name likely was "flapper." The shift from -k- to -t- may have come through confusion of bakke with Latin blatta "moth, nocturnal insect."
The Old English word for the animal was hreremus, from hreran "to shake" (see rare (adj.2)), and rattle-mouse, an old dialectal word for "bat," is attested from late 16c. Flitter-mouse (1540s) occasionally is used in English (with variants flinder-mouse, flicker-mouse) in imitation of German fledermaus "bat," from Old High German fledaron "to flutter."
As a contemptuous term for an old woman, it is perhaps a suggestion of witchcraft (compare fly-by-night), or from bat as "prostitute who plies her trade by night" [Farmer, who calls it "old slang" and finds French equivalent "night swallow" (hirondelle de nuit) "more poetic"].
probably an early Middle English mutual influence or confusion of two older words: The sense in bid farewell is from Old English biddan "to ask, entreat, beg, pray, beseech; order" (class V strong verb, past tense bæd, past participle beden), from Proto-Germanic *bedjanan "to pray, entreat" (source also of German bitten "to ask," attested in Old High German from 8c., also Old Saxon biddian, Old Frisian bidda"ask, request command," Old Norse biðja, Gothic bidjan "request"). This, according to Kluge and Watkins, is from a PIE root *gwhedh- "to ask, pray" (see bead (n.)).
To bid at an auction, meanwhile, is from Old English beodan "offer, proclaim" (class II strong verb; past tense bead, past participle boden), from Proto-Germanic *beudanan "to stretch out, reach out, offer, present," (source also of German bieten "to offer," Old High German biatan, also Old Saxon biodan, Old Frisian biada, Old Norse bjoða, Gothic anabiudan "to command"). This is (with a shift of meaning) from PIE root *bheudh- "be aware, make aware" (source also of bode (v.)).
c. 1300, curtine, "hanging screen of textile fabric used to close an opening or shut out light, enclose a bed, or decorate an altar," from Old French cortine "curtain, tapestry, drape, blanket," from Late Latin cortina "curtain," but in classical Latin "round vessel, cauldron," from Latin cortem (older cohortem) "enclosure, courtyard" (see cohort).
The meaning shift apparently begins with cortina being used as a loan-translation of Greek aulaia ("curtain") in the Vulgate (to render Hebrew yeriah in Exodus xxvi:1, etc.). The Greek word was connected to aule "court," perhaps because the "door" that led out to the courtyard of a Greek house was a hung cloth.
Figuratively from early 15c. as "something that conceals or screens." From 1590s as "large sheet used to conceal the stage in a theater." Many of the figurative senses are from stage plays: Behind the curtain "concealed" is from 1670s; curtains "the end" is by 1912. The theatrical curtain call "appearance of individual performers on stage at the end of a performance to be recognized by the audience" is from 1884. To draw the curtain is from c. 1500 in opposite senses: "to conceal," and "to reveal." Curtain-rod is from c. 1500. An Old English word for "curtain" was fleonet "fly-net."
late 14c., oblivioun, "state or fact of forgetting, forgetfulness, loss of memory," from Old French oblivion (13c.) and directly from Latin oblivionem (nominative oblivio) "forgetfulness; a being forgotten," from oblivisci (past participle oblitus) "forget," which is of uncertain origin.
Perhaps originally "even out, smooth over, efface," from ob "over" (see ob-) + root of lēvis "smooth," but de Vaan and others find that "a semantic shift from 'to be smooth' to 'to forget' is not very convincing." However no better explanation has emerged. Latin lēvis also meant "rubbed smooth, ground down," from PIE *lehiu-, from root *(s)lei- "slime, slimy, sticky" (see slime (n.)); for sense evolution, compare obliterate.
Meaning "state or condition of being forgotten or lost to memory" is from early 15c. In English history, the Acts of Oblivion use the word in the sense of "intentional overlooking" (1610s), especially of political offenses. Related: Obliviously; obliviousness.
Oblivion is the state into which a thing passes when it is thoroughly and finally forgotten. ... Forgetfulness is a quality of a person: as a man remarkable for his forgetfulness. ... Obliviousness stands for a sort of negative act, a complete failure to remember: as a person's obliviousness of the proprieties of an occasion. [Century Dictionary]
formerly also empeach, late 14c., empechen, "to impede, hinder, prevent;" early 15c., "cause to be stuck, run (a ship) aground," also "prevent (from doing something)," from Anglo-French empecher, Old French empeechier "to hinder, stop, impede; capture, trap, ensnare" (12c., Modern French empêcher), from Late Latin impedicare "to fetter, catch, entangle," from assimilated form of in- "into, in" (from PIE root *en "in") + Latin pedica "a shackle, fetter," from pes (genitive pedis) "foot" (from PIE root *ped- "foot").
In law, at first in a broad sense, "to accuse, bring charges against" from late 14c.; more specifically, of the king or the House of Commons, "to bring formal accusation of treason or other high crime against (someone)" from mid-15c. The sense of "accuse a public officer of misconduct" had emerged from this by 1560s. The sense shift is perhaps via Medieval Latin confusion of impedicare with Latin impetere "attack, accuse" (see impetus), which is from the Latin verb petere "aim for, rush at" (from PIE root *pet- "to rush, to fly").
The Middle English verb apechen, probably from an Anglo-French variant of the source of impeach, was used from early 14c. in the sense "to accuse (someone), to charge (someone with an offense)." Related: Impeached; impeaching.
"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.
"effeminate man, male homosexual who takes the passive role," 1924, from female name Nancy (q.v.), which was in use as an adjective meaning "effeminate" (applied to men) by 1904 in prison slang, a shortening of earlier Miss Nancy, a derogatory term for a finicky, effeminate man which is attested by 1824; Nancy boy "effeminate male homosexual" is attested by 1939.
Nancy, Miss, an opprobrious epithet for an exceedingly effeminate, over-nice young man. The original Miss Nancy, however, was a Mrs. Anna Oldfield, a celebrated actress, who died in 1730 and was buried in Westminster Abbey. She was extremely vain and nice about her dress, and as she lay in state, attended by two noblemen, she was attired, as she had directed shortly before her death, in "a very fine Brussels lace head-dress, a Holland shift with a tucker and double ruffles of the same lace, a pair of new kid gloves," etc., a circumstance alluded to by Pope .... [William S. Walsh, "Handy-Book of Literary Curiosities," 1892]
Walsh's proposed origin might not be exact. Related: Nancified.
"anything that guides or directs in an intricate case," 1590s, a special use of a revised spelling of clew "a ball of thread or yarn" (q.v.). The word, which is native Germanic, in Middle English was clewe, also cleue; some words borrowed from Old French in -ue, -eu also were spelled -ew in Middle English, such as blew, imbew, but these later were reformed to -ue, and this process was extended to native words (hue, true, clue) which had ended in a vowel and -w. The spelling clue is first attested mid-15c.
The sense shift is originally in reference to the clew of thread given by Ariadne to Theseus to use as a guide out of the Labyrinth in Greek mythology. The purely figurative sense of "that which points the way," without regard to labyrinths, is from 1620s. As something which a bewildered person does not have, by 1948.
Thus hardy Theseus, with intrepid Feet,
Travers'd the dang'rous Labyrinth of Crete;
But still the wandring Passes forc'd his Stay,
Till Ariadne's Clue unwinds the Way
The board game (originally Cluedo) was launched in 1949 in Britain.