"guide the course of a vehicle," originally by a rudder or something like it, Old English steran (Mercian), stieran (West Saxon) "steer, guide, direct; govern, rule; restrain, correct, punish," from Proto-Germanic *steurjanan (source also of Old Norse styra, Old Frisian stiora, Dutch sturen, Old High German stiuren, German steuern "to steer," Gothic stiurjan "to establish, assert"), related to *steuro "a rudder, a steering," from PIE *steu-ro- (source also of Greek stauros "stake, pole"), extended form of root *sta- "to stand, make or be firm."
The notion is of a stiff, upright pillar or post used in steering, or else perhaps "establish," hence "direct, steer." Intransitive sense also was in Old English. To steer clear of in the figurative sense of "to avoid completely" is recorded from 1723. Related: Steered; steering.
early 13c., pik, pyk, "pointed tip or spike on a staff, pole, weapon, etc.," collateral (long-vowel) form of pic (source of pick (n.1)), from Old English piic "pointed object, pickaxe," which is perhaps from a Celtic source (compare Gaelic pic "pickaxe," Irish pice "pike, pitchfork"). The word probably has been influenced by, or is partly from, Old French pic "sharp point or spike," itself perhaps from Germanic (see pike (n.1)), Old Norse pic, and Middle Dutch picke, pecke. Pike, pick (n.1), and pitch (n.1) formerly were used indifferently in English.
From c. 1400 as "a sharp, pointed mountain or summit." The pike position in diving, gymnastics, etc., is attested by 1928, perhaps on the notion of "tapering to a point."
Old English bolt "short, stout arrow with a heavy head;" also "crossbow for throwing bolts," from Proto-Germanic *bultas (source also of Old Norse bolti, Danish bolt, Dutch bout, German Bolzen), perhaps originally "arrow, missile," and from PIE *bheld- "to knock, strike" (source also of Lithuanian beldžiu "I knock," baldas "pole for striking").
Applied since Middle English to other short metal rods (especially those with knobbed ends): the meanings "stout pin for fastening objects together" and "part of a lock which springs out" are both from c. 1400. A bolt of canvas (c. 1400) was so called for its shape.
The meaning "sliding metal rod that thrusts the cartridge into the chamber of a firearm" is from 1859. From the notion of an arrow's flight comes the bolt of lightning (1530s) and the sense of "a sudden spring or start" (1540s). Adverbial phrase bolt upright (like a bolt or arrow) is from late 14c.
1550s in astronomy, in reference to a celestial circle, a line around the sky which, in any location, bounds the stars which are ever-visible from that latitude (in the Northern Hemisphere its center point is the celestial north pole); the concept goes back to the ancient Greeks, for whom this set of constellations included most prominently the two bears (arktoi), hence the name for the circle (see arctic). In Middle English it was the north cercle (late 14c.).
In geography, from 1620s as "the circle roughly 66 degrees 32 minutes north of the equator" (based on obliquity of the ecliptic of 23 degrees 28 minutes), marking the southern extremity of the polar day, when the sun at least theoretically passes the north point without setting on at least one summer day and does not rise on at least one winter one.
also quarter-staff, 1540s (quarter-stroke "stroke with a quarterstaff" is attested from early 15c.), an old weapon formed from a stout pole, six to eight feet long (six-and-a-half sometimes is given as the standard length), tipped with iron, formerly a weapon characteristic of the English peasantry. From staff (n.); the quarter in it is of uncertain signification. According to one theory, favored by fencing manuals, etc., it likely is in reference to operation of the weapon:
It was grasped by one hand in the middle, and by the other between the middle and the end. In the attack the latter hand shifted from one quarter of the staff to the other, giving the weapon a rapid circular motion, which brought the ends on the adversary at unexpected points. [Century Dictionary]
Linguists tend to prefer an explanation from woodcutting, perhaps a reference to a cut of lumber known as a quarter, but contemporary evidence is wanting for either conjecture.
early 14c., papejaye (late 13c. as a surname), "a parrot," from Old French papegai (12c.), from Spanish papagayo, from Arabic babagha', Persian babgha "parrot," a word possibly formed in an African or other non-Indo-European language and imitative of its cry. The ending probably was assimilated in Western European languages to "jay" words (Old French jai, etc.).
Used of people in a complimentary sense (in allusion to beauty and rarity) from early 14c.; meaning "vain, talkative person" is recorded frpm 1520s. Obsolete figurative sense of "a target to shoot at" is explained by Cotgrave's 2nd sense definition: "also a woodden parrot (set up on the top of a steeple, high tree, or pole) whereat there is, in many parts of France, a generall shooting once euerie yeare; and an exemption, for all that yeare, from La Taille, obtained by him that strikes downe" all or part of the bird.
The Cucking-stool was a means adopted for the punishment of scolds and incorrigible women by ducking them in the water, after having secured them in a chair or stool, fixed at the end of a long pole, serving as a lever by which they were immersed in some muddy or stinking pond. [Willis's Current Notes, February 1851]
early 13c., from verbal noun from cuck "to void excrement," from Old Norse kuka "feces," from PIE root *kakka- "to defecate." So called because they sometimes resembled the old close stool of the pre-plumbing days, a portable indoor toilet that looked like a chair with a box under the seat. Old folk etymology made the first element a corruption of cotquean. For second element, see stool. Also known as trebucket and castigatory, it was used on fraudulent tradesmen, in addition to disorderly women, either for public exposure to ridicule or for ducking.
*bheuə-, also *bheu-, Proto-Indo-European root meaning "to be, exist, grow."
It forms all or part of: Bauhaus; be; beam; Boer; bondage; boodle; boom (n.1) "long pole;" boor; booth; bound (adj.2) "ready to go;" bower; bowery; build; bumpkin; busk; bustle (v.) "be active;" byre; bylaw; Eisteddfod; Euphues; fiat; forebear; future; husband; imp; Monophysite; neighbor; neophyte; phyletic; phylo-; phylum; phylogeny; physic; physico-; physics; physio-; physique; -phyte; phyto-; symphysis.
It is the hypothetical source of/evidence for its existence is provided by: Sanskrit bhavah "becoming," bhavati "becomes, happens," bhumih "earth, world;" Greek phyein "to bring forth, make grow," phytos, phyton "a plant," physis "growth, nature," phylon "tribe, class, race," phyle "tribe, clan;" Old English beon "be, exist, come to be, become, happen;" Old Church Slavonic byti "be," Greek phu- "become," Old Irish bi'u "I am," Lithuanian būti "to be," Russian byt' "to be."
"chief, pivotal," early 14c., from Latin cardinalis "principal, chief, essential," a figurative use, literally "pertaining to a hinge," from cardo (genitive cardinis) "that on which something turns or depends; pole of the sky," originally "door hinge," which is of unknown origin. Related: Cardinally.
The cardinal numbers (1590s) are "one, two, three," etc. as opposed to ordinal numbers "first, second, third," etc.; they are so called because they are the principal numbers and the ordinals depend on them.
The cardinal points (1540s) are north, south, east, west. The cardinal sins were so called from c. 1600. The cardinal virtues (early 14c.) were divided into natural (justice, prudence, temperance, fortitude) and theological (faith, hope, charity). The natural ones were the original classical ones, which were amended by Christians. But typically in Middle English only the first four were counted as the cardinal virtues:
Of þe uour uirtues cardinales spekeþ moche þe yealde philosofes. ["Ayenbite of Inwyt," c. 1340]
By analogy of this, and cardinal winds (late 14c.), cardinal signs (four zodiacal signs marking the equinoxes and the solstices, late 14c.), etc., the adjective in Middle English acquired an association with the number four.
"that which is placed at hazard as a wager, the sum of money or other valuable consideration which is deposited as a pledge or wager to be lost or won according to the issue of a contest or contingency," 1530s, perhaps from stake (v.2), which is attested a few years earlier, but both the noun and verb are of uncertain origin. Perhaps literally "that which is fixed or put up," either from a particular use of stake (n.1) "stake, pole," or from the notion of "a post on which a gambling wager was placed" (but OED points out there is "no evidence of the existence of such a custom"). Weekley suggests "there is a tinge of the burning or baiting metaphor" in this usage.
Meaning "the prize in a contest of strength, skill, speed, etc." is by 1620s; plural stakes, "sum of money to be won in a (horse) race," is recorded by 1690s (compare sweepstakes). Meaning "an interest, something to gain or lose" is by 1580s; hence have a stake in "have an interest in the turn of events, have something to gain or lose" (1784). The phrase at stake "state of being laid or pledged as a wager; state of being at hazard or in peril" is from c. 1600.