Old English half, halb (Mercian), healf (W. Saxon) "side, part," not necessarily of equal division (original sense preserved in behalf), from Proto-Germanic *halba- "something divided" (source also of Old Saxon halba, Old Norse halfr, Old Frisian, Middle Dutch half, German halb, Gothic halbs "half"), a word of no certain etymology. Perhaps from PIE root *skel- (1) "to cut," or perhaps a substratum word. Noun, adjective, and adverb all were in Old English.
Used also in Old English phrases, as in modern German, to mean "one half unit less than," for example þridda healf "two and a half," literally "half third." The construction in two and a half, etc., is first recorded c. 1200. Of time, in half past ten, etc., first attested 1750; in Scottish, the half often is prefixed to the following hour (as in German, halb elf = "ten thirty").
To go off half-cocked in the figurative sense "speak or act too hastily" (1833) is in allusion to firearms going off prematurely; half-cocked in a literal sense "with the cock lifted to the first catch, at which position the trigger does not act" is recorded by 1750. In 1770 it was noted as a synonym for "drunk." Bartlett ("Dictionary of Americanisms," 1848) writes that it was "a metaphorical expression borrowed from the language of sportsmen, and is applied to a person who attempts a thing in a hurry without due preparation, and consequently fails."
masc. proper name, Gaelic, literally "son of life." The first reference to bad luck associated with Shakespeare's "Macbeth," and to avoidance of naming it, is from 1896, alludes to an incident of 1885, and says the tradition goes back "so far as modern memory can recall." The original superstition seems to have pertained particularly to the witches' scenes, which were played up dramatically in 19c. productions, and especially to Matthew Locke's 17c. music to accompany the witches' song, which was regularly played through the 19th century.
It is strange how the effect of this music has exerted such a long surviving influence on members of the dramatic profession. It is still considered most unlucky to sing, hum, or whistle the witch airs in the theatre except in the ways of business. [Young-Stewart, "The Three Witches," in The Shakespearean, Sept. 15, 1896]
If you number an actor or actress among your friends, and desire to retain his or her friendship, there are three things you positively must not do, especially if the actor is of the old school. Do not whistle in the theatre, do not look over his shoulder into the glass while he is making up, and do not hum the witch's song from "Macbeth." ... [O]lder actors would almost prefer to lose their salary than go on in "Macbeth" on account of this song. They believe that it casts spells upon the members of the company. ["Some Odd Superstitions of the Stage," Theatre magazine, July 1909]
Old English weall, Anglian wall "rampart, dike, earthwork" (natural as well as man-made), "dam, cliff, rocky shore," also "defensive fortification around a city, side of a building," an Anglo-Frisian and Saxon borrowing (Old Saxon, Old Frisian, Middle Low German, Middle Dutch wal) from Latin vallum "wall, rampart, row or line of stakes," apparently a collective form of vallus "stake," from PIE *walso- "a post." Swedish vall, Danish val are from Low German.
Meaning "interior partition of a structure" is mid-13c. In this case, English uses one word where many languages have two, such as German Mauer "outer wall of a town, fortress, etc.," used also in reference to the former Berlin Wall, and wand "partition wall within a building" (compare the distinction, not always rigorously kept, in Italian muro/parete, Irish mur/fraig, Lithuanian mūras/siena, etc.). The Latin word for "defensive wall" was murus (see mural).
Anatomical use from late 14c. To give (someone) the wall "allow him or her to walk on the (cleaner) wall side of the pavement" is from 1530s. To turn (one's) face to the wall "prepare to die" is from 1570s. Phrase up the wall "angry, crazy" is from 1951; off the wall "unorthodox, unconventional" is recorded from 1966, American English student slang. To go over the wall "escape" (originally from prison) is from 1933. Wall-to-wall (adj.) recorded 1939, of shelving, etc.; metaphoric use (usually disparaging) is from 1967.
late 14c., "free choice, freedom to do as one chooses," also "freedom from the bondage of sin," from Old French liberte "freedom, liberty, free will" (14c., Modern French liberté), from Latin libertatem (nominative libertas) "civil or political freedom, condition of a free man; absence of restraint; permission," from liber "free" (see liberal (adj.)). At first of persons; of communities, "state of being free from arbitrary, despotic, or autocratic rule or control" is by late 15c.
The French notion of liberty is political equality; the English notion is personal independence. [William R. Greg, "France in January 1852" in "Miscellaneous Essays"]
Nautical sense of "leave of absence" is from 1758. The meaning "unrestrained action, conduct, or expression" (1550s) led to take liberties "go beyond the bounds of propriety" (1620s). The sense of "privileges by grant" (14c.) led to the sense of "a person's private land" (mid-15c.), within which certain special privileges may be exercised, which yielded in 18c. in both England and America a sense of "a district within a county but having its own justice of the peace," and also "a district adjacent to a city and in some degree under its municipal jurisdiction" (as in Northern Liberties of Philadelphia). Also compare Old French libertés "local rights, laws, taxes."
Liberty-cap is from 1803; the American Revolutionary liberty-pole, "tall flagstaff set up in honor of liberty and often surmounted by a liberty-cap" is from 1775. Liberty-cabbage was a World War I U.S. jingoistic euphemism for sauerkraut.
Of the earth in earthquakes, c. 1300. Meaning "seize and shake (someone or something else)" is from early 14c. In reference to mixing ingredients, etc., by shaking a container from late 14c. Meaning "to rid oneself of by abrupt twists" is from c. 1200, also in Middle English in reference to evading responsibility, etc. Meaning "weaken, impair" is from late 14c., on notion of "make unstable."
To shake hands dates from 1530s. Shake a (loose) leg "hurry up" first recorded 1904; shake a heel (sometimes foot) was an old way to say "to dance" (1660s); to shake (one's) elbow (1620s) meant "to gamble at dice." Phrase more _____ than you can shake a stick at is attested from 1818, American English. To shake (one's) head as a sign of disapproval is recorded from c. 1300.
Proto-Indo-European root meaning "to go, move, transport in a vehicle."
The root wegh-, "to convey, especially by wheeled vehicle," is found in virtually every branch of Indo-European, including now Anatolian. The root, as well as other widely represented roots such as aks- and nobh-, attests to the presence of the wheel — and vehicles using it — at the time Proto-Indo-European was spoken. [Watkins, p. 96]
It forms all or part of: always; away; convection; convey; convex; convoy; deviate; devious; envoy; evection; earwig; foy; graywacke; impervious; invective; inveigh; invoice; Norway; obviate; obvious; ochlocracy; ogee; pervious; previous; provection; quadrivium; thalweg; trivia; trivial; trivium; vector; vehemence; vehement; vehicle; vex; via; viaduct; viatic; viaticum; vogue; voyage; wacke; wag; waggish; wagon; wain; wall-eyed; wave (n.); way; wee; weigh; weight; wey; wiggle.
It is the hypothetical source of/evidence for its existence is provided by: Sanskrit vahati "carries, conveys," vahitram, vahanam "vessel, ship;" Avestan vazaiti "he leads, draws;" Greek okhos "carriage, chariot;" Latin vehere "to carry, convey," vehiculum "carriage, chariot;" Old Church Slavonic vesti "to carry, convey," vozŭ "carriage, chariot;" Russian povozka "small sled;" Lithuanian vežu, vežti "to carry, convey," važis "a small sled;" Old Irish fecht "campaign, journey," fen "carriage, cart;" Welsh gwain "carriage, cart;" Old English wegan "to carry;" Old Norse vegr, Old High German weg "way;" Middle Dutch wagen "wagon."
Old English catt (c. 700) "domestic cat," from West Germanic (c. 400-450), from Proto-Germanic *kattuz (source also of Old Frisian katte, Old Norse köttr, Dutch kat, Old High German kazza, German Katze), from Late Latin cattus.
The near-universal European word now, it appeared in Europe as Latin catta (Martial, c. 75 C.E.), Byzantine Greek katta (c. 350) and was in general use on the continent by c. 700, replacing Latin feles. Probably ultimately Afro-Asiatic (compare Nubian kadis, Berber kadiska, both meaning "cat"). Arabic qitt "tomcat" may be from the same source. Cats were domestic in Egypt from c. 2000 B.C.E., but not a familiar household animal to classical Greeks and Romans. The nine lives have been proverbial at least since 1560s.
The Late Latin word also is the source of Old Irish and Gaelic cat, Welsh kath, Breton kaz, Italian gatto, Spanish gato, French chat (12c.). Independent, but ultimately from the same source are words in the Slavic group: Old Church Slavonic kotuka, kotel'a, Bulgarian kotka, Russian koška, Polish kot, along with Lithuanian katė and non-Indo-European Finnish katti, which is from Lithuanian.
Extended to lions, tigers, etc. c. 1600. As a term of contempt for a woman, from early 13c. Slang sense of "prostitute" is from at least c. 1400. Slang sense of "fellow, guy," is from 1920, originally in African-American vernacular; narrower sense of "jazz enthusiast" is recorded from 1931.
Cat's paw (1769, but cat's foot in the same sense, 1590s) refers to the old folk tale in which the monkey tricks the cat into pawing chestnuts from a fire; the monkey gets the roasted nuts, the cat gets a burnt paw. Cat burglar is from 1907, so called for stealth. Cat-witted "small-minded, obstinate, and spiteful" (1670s) deserved to survive. For Cat's meow, cat's pajamas, see bee's knees. For let the cat out of the bag, see bag (n.).
Old English hlot "object used to determine someone's share" (anything from dice to straw, but often a chip of wood with a name inscribed on it), also "what falls to a person by lot," from Proto-Germanic *khlutom (source also of Old Norse hlutr "lot, share," Old Frisian hlot "lot," Old Saxon hlot, Middle Dutch, Dutch lot, Old High German hluz "share of land," German Los), from a strong verb (the source of Old English hleotan "to cast lots, obtain by lot; to foretell"). The whole group is of unknown origin.
The object was placed with others in a receptacle (such as a hat or helmet), which was shaken, the winner being the one whose name or mark was on the lot that fell out first. Hence the expression cast lots; to cast (one's) lot with another (1530s, originally biblical) is to agree to share winnings. In some cases the lots were drawn by hand, hence to draw lots. The word was adopted from Germanic into the Romanic languages (Spanish lote, and compare lottery, lotto).
Meaning "choice resulting from the casting of lots" first attested c. 1200. Meaning "share or portion of life" in any way, "that which is given by fate, God or destiny" is from c. 1300. Meaning "number of persons or things of the same kind" is from 1570s (compare Latin mala merx, of persons, literally "a bad lot"). Sense of "plot of land" is first recorded 1630s, American English (distribution of the most desirable properties in new settlements often was determined by casting lots), then especially "parcel of land set aside for a specified purpose" (the Hollywood sense is from 1928). The common U.S. city lot was a rectangle 25 feet wide (along the street) by 100 deep; it was so universal as to be sometimes a unit of measure.
Meaning "group, collection" is 1725, from the notion of auction lots. Lots in the generalized sense of "great many" is attested by 1812; lotsa, colloquial for "lots of," is from 1927; lotta for "lot of" is by 1906.
Old English Easterdæg, from Eastre (Northumbrian Eostre), from Proto-Germanic *austron-, "dawn," also the name of a goddess of fertility and spring, perhaps originally of sunrise, whose feast was celebrated at the spring equinox, from *aust- "east, toward the sunrise" (compare east), from PIE root *aus- (1) "to shine," especially of the dawn.
Bede says Anglo-Saxon Christians adopted her name and many of the celebratory practices for their Mass of Christ's resurrection. Almost all neighboring languages use a variant of Latin Pascha to name this holiday (see paschal).
Easter egg is attested by 1825, earlier pace egg (1610s). Easter bunny is attested by 1904 in children's lessons; Easter rabbit is by 1888; the paganish customs of Easter seem to have grown popular c. 1900; before that they were limited to German immigrants.
If the children have no garden, they make nests in the wood-shed, barn, or house. They gather colored flowers for the rabbit to eat, that it may lay colored eggs. If there be a garden, the eggs are hidden singly in the green grass, box-wood, or elsewhere. On Easter Sunday morning they whistle for the rabbit, and the children imagine that they see him jump the fence. After church, on Easter Sunday morning, they hunt the eggs, and in the afternoon the boys go out in the meadows and crack eggs or play with them like marbles. Or sometimes children are invited to a neighbor's to hunt eggs. [Phebe Earle Gibbons, "Pennsylvania Dutch," Philadelphia, 1882]
c. 1300, resureccioun, "the rising again of Christ after his death and burial," also a picture or image of this and the name of a Church festival commemorating it, from Anglo-French resurrectiun, Old French resurrection "the Resurrection of Christ" (12c.) and directly from Church Latin resurrectionem (nominative resurrectio) "a rising again from the dead," noun of action from past-participle stem of Latin resurgere "rise again, appear again" (see resurgent). Replaced Old English æriste; in Middle English sometimes translated as againrising.
The general or figurative sense of "a revival, a rising again" is from late 15c. Also used in Middle English of the rising again of the dead on the Last Day (c. 1300) and the future state which follows. Chaucer uses it of the opening of a flower, "whan that yt shulde unclose Agayn the sonne."
Resurrectionist, euphemism for "grave-robber," is attested from 1776. Resurrection pie was mid-19c. English schoolboy slang for a pie made from leftovers of previous meals; first attested 1831 as a Sheffield dialect term.
There was a dreadful pie for dinner every Monday; a meat-pie with a stony crust that did not break; but split into scaly layers, with horrible lumps of gristle inside, and such strings of sinew (alternated by lumps of flabby fat) as a ghoule might use as a rosary. We called it kitten pie—resurrection pie—rag pie—dead man's pie. We cursed it by night we cursed it by day; we wouldn't stand it, we said; we would write to our friends; we would go to sea. ["How I Went to Sea," Harper's Magazine, December 1852]