Etymology
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far (adv.)

Middle English fer, from Old English feor "to a great distance, long ago," from Proto-Germanic *ferro (source also of Old Saxon fer, Old Frisian fir, Old Norse fiarre, Old High German fer, Gothic fairra), from PIE root *per- (1), base of words for "through, forward," with extended senses such as "across, beyond" (source also of Sanskrit parah "farther, remote, ulterior," Hittite para "outside of," Greek pera "across, beyond," Latin per "through," Old Irish ire "farther"). For vowel change, see dark (adj.). Paired with wide to mean "everywhere" since 9c.

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piker (n.)

1872, "miserly person," formerly "poor white migrant to California" (1860), earlier Pike (1854), perhaps originally "vagrant who wanders the pike (n.4)" (which is the notion in Sussex dialectal piker "vagrant, tramp, gypsy," 1838), but Barnhart, OED and others suggest the American English word ultimately is a reference to people from Pike County, Missouri. Its appearance seems too late to connect it with Middle English piker "robber, petty thief" (c. 1300, attested as late as 1549 in OED), from the source of pick (v.) in its sense of "steal, rob, plunder" (early 14c.) with its former long vowel.

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Christmas (n.)

"Church festival observed annually in memory of the birth of Christ," late Old English Cristes mæsse, from Christ (and retaining the original vowel sound) + mass (n.2).

Written as one word from mid-14c. As a verb, "to celebrate Christmas," from 1590s. Father Christmas is attested in a carol attributed to Richard Smart, Rector of Plymtree (Devon) from 1435-77. Christmas-tree in the modern sense is attested by 1835 in American English, rendering German Weihnachtsbaum. Christmas cards were first designed in 1843, popular by 1860s; the phrase Christmas-card was in use by 1850. Christmas present is from 1769. Christmas Eve is Middle English Cristenmesse Even (c. 1300).

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group (n.)

1690s, originally an art criticism term, "assemblage of figures or objects forming a harmonious whole in a painting or design," from French groupe "cluster, group" (17c.), from Italian gruppo "group, knot," which probably is, with Spanish grupo, from a Germanic source, from Proto-Germanic *kruppaz "round mass, lump," part of the general group of Germanic kr- words with the sense "rounded mass" (such as crop (n.).

Extended to "any assemblage, a number of individuals related in some way" by 1736. Meaning "pop music combo" is from 1958. As it was borrowed after the Great Vowel Shift in English, the pronunciation of the -ou- follows French rather than English models.

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comely (adj.)

c. 1200, "decent, suitable, proper to the time, place, circumstances, or persons;" late 14c., "handsome, fair, graceful, pleasing in appearance" (of a man, woman, or thing), probably from Old English cymlic "lovely, splendid, finely made," from cyme "exquisite, glorious, delicate," which is apparently from West Germanic *kumi- "delicate, feeble" (source also of Old High German chumo "with difficulty," chumig "weak, delicate;" German kaum "hardly, scarcely"). OED compares the sense range of nice.

Or perhaps the modern word is from Middle English bicumelic (c. 1200) "suitable, exquisite," literally "becomely" (compare becoming). If this is not the source, it at least influenced the vowel. Related: Comelily; comeliness.

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Catherine 

fem. proper name, from French Catherine, from Medieval Latin Katerina, from Latin Ecaterina, from Greek Aikaterine. The -h- was introduced 16c., probably a folk etymology from Greek katharos "pure" (see catharsis). The initial Greek vowel is preserved in Russian form Ekaterina.

As the name of a type of pear, attested from 1640s. Catherine wheel (early 13c.) originally was the spiked wheel on which St. Catherine of Alexandria (martyred 307), legendary virgin from the time of Maximinus, was tortured and thus became the patron saint of spinners. Her name day is Nov. 25; a popular saint in the Middle Ages, which accounts for the enduring popularity of the given name. It was applied from 1760 to a kind of fireworks shooting from a revolving spiral tube.

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weak (adj.)

c. 1300, from Old Norse veikr "weak," cognate with Old English wac "weak, pliant, soft," from Proto-Germanic *waika- "yield" (source also of Old Saxon wek, Swedish vek, Middle Dutch weec, Dutch week "weak, soft, tender," Old High German weih "yielding, soft," German weich "soft"), from PIE root *weik- (2) "to bend, to wind."

Sense of "lacking authority" is first recorded early 15c.; that of "lacking moral strength" late 14c. In grammar, denoting a verb inflected by regular syllabic addition rather than by change of the radical vowel, from 1833. Related: Weakly. Weak-kneed "wanting in resolve" is by 1856; older in a literal sense.

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Shrewsbury 

one of the most etymologically complex of English place names, it illustrates the changes wrought in Old English words by Anglo-French scribes who could not pronounce them. Recorded 1016 as Scrobbesbyrig, it originally may have meant "the fortified place in (a district called) The Scrub." The initial consonant cluster was impossible for the scribes, who simplified it to sr-, then added a vowel (sar-) to make it easier still.

The name also changed due to Anglo-French loss or metathesis of liquids in words containing -l-, -n-, or -r- (also evident in the derivatives of Old French Berengier "bear-spear" — Old High German Beringar — name of one of the paladins in the Charlemagne romances and a common given name in England 12c. and 13c., which has come down in surnames as Berringer, Bellanger, Benger, etc.). Thus Sarop- became Salop- and in the 12c. and 13c. the overwhelming spelling in government records was Salopesberie, which accounts for the abbreviation Salop for the modern county.

During all this, the Anglo-Saxon inhabitants (as opposed to the French scribes) still pronounced it properly, and regular sound evolutions probably produced a pronunciation something like Shrobesbury (which turns up on a 1327 patent roll). After a predictable -b- to -v- (a vowel in the Middle Ages) to -u- shift, the modern spelling begins to emerge 14c. and is fully established 15c. A Shrewsbury clock (1 Hen. IV) for some reason, became proverbial for exactness, and thus, naturally, proverbial as indicating exaggeration of accuracy.

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plum (n.)

"fruit of the genus Prunus," Middle English ploume, from Old English plume "plum, plum tree," from an early Germanic borrowing (Middle Dutch prume, Dutch pruim, Old High German pfluma, pfruma, German Pflaume) from Vulgar Latin *pruna, from Latin prunum "plum," from Greek prounon, a later form of proumnon, a word of unknown origin, which is probably, like the tree itself, of Anatolian origin. Also see prune (n.). The change of pr- to pl- is peculiar to some Germanic languages. The vowel shortened in early modern English. Meaning "something desirable, the best or choicest part" is first recorded 1780, probably in reference to the sugar-rich bits of a plum pudding, etc.

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U 

for historical evolution, see V. Used punningly for you by 1588 ["Love's Labour's Lost," V.i.60], not long after the pronunciation shift that made the vowel a homonym of the pronoun. As a simple shorthand (without intentional word-play), it is recorded from 1862. Common in business abbreviations since 1923 (such as U-Haul, attested from 1951).

The substitution of Middle English -o- for Old English -u- before -m-, -n-, or -r- was a French scribal habit before minims to avoid misreading the letters in the old style handwriting, which jammed them together. The practice transformed some, come, monk, tongue, worm.

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