c. 1300, fairie, "the country or home of supernatural or legendary creatures; fairyland," also "something incredible or fictitious," from Old French faerie "land of fairies, meeting of fairies; enchantment, magic, witchcraft, sorcery" (12c.), from fae "fay," from Latin fata "the Fates," plural of fatum "that which is ordained; destiny, fate," from PIE root *bha- (2) "to speak, tell, say." Also compare fate (n.), also fay.
In ordinary use an elf differs from a fairy only in generally seeming young, and being more often mischievous. [Century Dictionary]
But that was before Tolkien. As a type of supernatural being from late 14c. [contra Tolkien; for example "This maketh that ther been no fairyes" in "Wife of Bath's Tale"], perhaps via intermediate forms such as fairie knight "supernatural or legendary knight" (c. 1300), as in Spenser, where faeries are heroic and human-sized. As a name for the diminutive winged beings in children's stories from early 17c.
Yet I suspect that this flower-and-butterfly minuteness was also a product of "rationalization," which transformed the glamour of Elfland into mere finesse, and invisibility into a fragility that could hide in a cowslip or shrink behind a blade of grass. It seems to become fashionable soon after the great voyages had begun to make the world seem too narrow to hold both men and elves; when the magic land of Hy Breasail in the West had become the mere Brazils, the land of red-dye-wood. [J.R.R. Tolkien, "On Fairy-Stories," 1947]
Hence, figurative adjective use in reference to lightness, fineness, delicacy. Slang meaning "effeminate male homosexual" is recorded by 1895. Fairy ring, of certain fungi in grass fields (as we would explain it now), is from 1590s. Fairy godmother attested from 1820. Fossil Cretaceous sea urchins found on the English downlands were called fairy loaves, and a book from 1787 reports that "country people" in England called the stones of the old Roman roads fairy pavements.
1550s, "a coarse, heavy, woolen fabric," a word of Scandinavian origin; compare Norwegian dialectal rugga "coarse coverlet," from Old Norse rogg "shaggy tuft," from Proto-Germanic *rawwa-. Perhaps it is related to rag (n.1) and rough (adj.), and compare rugged.
The original meaning is obsolete. The sense evolved or expanded to "thick coverlet or lap-robe, heavy woolen wrap" used for various purposes (1590s), then "mat for the floor" (by 1808). The meaning "toupee" is theater slang attested by 1940.
To cut a rug "dance" is slang attested by 1942 (rug-cutter "expert dancer" is recorded by 1938). To sweep or brush something under the rug in the figurative sense of "conceal in hopes it won't be noticed or remembered" is by 1954. Figurative expression pull the rug out from under (someone) "suddenly deprive of important support" is from 1936, American English. Earlier in same sense was cut the grass under (one's) feet (1580s).
1550s, perhaps late 15c., "a quick, sudden bite or cut; an eager seizing," from snap (v.), or, if the earlier date, a noun from Dutch or Low German snappen "to snap," which are probably related to Middle Low German or Middle Dutch snavel "bill, beak," which Watkins traced to a hypothetical Germanic root *snu- forming words having to do with the nose, imitative of a sudden drawing of breath (see snout).
The sense of "quick movement" is recorded by 1630s; that of "something easily done" is 1877. The meaning "crispness, pithiness" is from 1865, American English (Scottish English had it by 1790 in an adjectival sense of "sharp, smart"). The meaning "brief or sudden spell" of weather (usually cold) is from 1740. The meaning "catch or fastener (of a purse, etc.) that closes with a snapping sound" is from 1815.
The card game name is attested from 1881, from a call used in the game. Meaning "a photographic snap-shot" is from 1894. U.S. football sense is from 1912, earlier it was snap-back (1880), which also was the name for the offensive center position. Slang snaps "handcuffs" is by 1895. Snap, Crackle and Pop, cartoon characters associated with Kellogg breakfast cereal Rice Krispies, are from 1940.
As an adjective (1790) commonly used to indicate instantaneous action, as in snap judgment (1841).
Old English blæd "a leaf," also "a leaf-like part" (of a spade, oar, etc.), from Proto-Germanic *bladaz (source also of Old Frisian bled "leaf," German Blatt, Old Saxon, Danish, Dutch blad, Old Norse blað), from PIE *bhle-to-, suffixed form (past participle) of root *bhel- (3) "to thrive, bloom."
The meaning was extended in Middle English to the broad, flattened bone of the shoulder (c. 1300) and the cutting part of knives and swords (early 14c.). The modern use in reference to grass may be a Middle English revival, by influence of Old French bled "corn, wheat" (11c.), which is perhaps from Germanic. The cognate in German, Blatt, is the general word for "leaf;" Laub is used collectively as "foliage." Old Norse blað was used of herbs and plants, lauf in reference to trees. This also might have been the original distinction in Old English. Compare leaf (n.).
Used of men from 1590s; in later use often a reference to 18c. gallants and dashing rakes, but the original exact sense, and thus signification, is uncertain.
Old English giefan (West Saxon) "to give, bestow, deliver to another; allot, grant; commit, devote, entrust," class V strong verb (past tense geaf, past participle giefen), from Proto-Germanic *geban (source also of Old Frisian jeva, Middle Dutch gheven, Dutch geven, Old High German geban, German geben, Gothic giban), from PIE root *ghabh- "to give or receive." It became yiven in Middle English, but changed to guttural "g" by influence of Old Norse gefa "to give," Old Danish givæ.
Meaning "to yield to pressure" is from 1570s. Give in "yield" is from 1610s; give out is mid-14c. as "publish, announce;" meaning "run out, break down" is from 1520s. Give up "surrender, resign, quit" is mid-12c. To give (someone) a cold seems to reflect the old belief that one could be cured of disease by deliberately infecting others. What gives? "what is happening?" is attested from 1940. To not give a (some thing regarded as trivial and valueless) is from c. 1300 (early examples were a straw, a grass, a mite).
Old English widewe, wuduwe, from Proto-Germanic *widuwō (source also of Old Saxon widowa, Old Frisian widwe, Middle Dutch, Dutch weduwe, Dutch weeuw, Old High German wituwa, German Witwe, Gothic widuwo), from PIE adjective *widhewo (source also of Sanskrit vidhuh "lonely, solitary," vidhava "widow;" Avestan vithava, Latin vidua, Old Church Slavonic vidova, Russian vdova, Old Irish fedb, Welsh guedeu "widow;" Persian beva, Greek eitheos "unmarried man;" Latin viduus "bereft, void"), from root *uidh- "to separate, divide" (see with).
Extended to "woman separated from or deserted by her husband" from mid-15c. (usually in a combination, such as grass widow). As a prefix to a name, attested from 1570s. Meaning "short line of type" (especially at the top of a column) is 1904 print shop slang. Widow's mite is from Mark xii.43. Widow's peak is from the belief that hair growing to a point on the forehead is an omen of early widowhood, suggestive of the "peak" of a widow's hood. The widow bird (1747) so-called in reference to the long black tail feathers of the males, suggestive of widows' veils.
"water vapor deposited from the atmosphere by condensation, especially during the night," Middle English deaw, deu, from Old English deaw, from Proto-Germanic *dawwaz (source also of Old Saxon dau, Old Frisian daw, Middle Dutch dau, Old High German tau, German Tau, Old Norse dögg "dew"), perhaps from PIE root *dheu- "to flow" (source also of Sanskrit dhavate "flows, runs").
Used figuratively of something refreshing (late Old English), or suggestive of morning and youthful freshness (1530s). As a verb, "to wet with or as with dew," Old English deawian.
The formation of dew is explained by the loss of heat by bodies on the earth's surface through radiation at night, by which means they and the air immediately about them are cooled below the dew-point ....Dew is thus deposited chiefly on bodies which are good radiators and poor conductors of heat, like grass; hence also it appears chiefly on calm and clear nights--that is, when the conditions are most favorable for radiation. It never appears on nights both cloudy and windy. In winter dew becomes hoar frost. [Century Dictionary]
"a gathering of witches," 1660s, earlier "a meeting, gathering, assembly" (c. 1500); a variant form of covent, cuvent, from Old French covent, convent, from Latin conventus (see convent).
Covent (13c.) also meant "group of men or women in a monastery or convent." The variant form, and the association of this spelling of the word with witches, arose in Scotland but was not popularized until Sir Walter Scott used it in this sense in "Letters on Demonology and Witchcraft" (1830).
Efter that tym ther vold meit bot somtymes a Coven, somtymes mor, somtymes les; bot a Grand Meitting vold be about the end of ilk Quarter. Ther is threttein persones in ilk Coeven; and ilk on of vs has an Sprit to wait wpon ws, quhan ve pleas to call wpon him. I remember not all the Spritis names; bot thair is on called "Swein," quhilk waitis wpon the said Margret Wilson in Aulderne; he is still clothed in grass-grein .... ["Criminal Trials in Scotland," III, appendix, p.606, confession of Issobell Gowdie in Lochloy in 1662]
also *gweie-, Proto-Indo-European root meaning "to live."
It forms all or part of: abiogenesis; aerobic; amphibian; anaerobic; azo-; azoic; azotemia; bio-; biography; biology; biome; bionics; biopsy; biota; biotic; cenobite; Cenozoic; convivial; couch-grass; epizoic; epizoon; epizootic; macrobiotic; Mesozoic; microbe; Protozoa; protozoic; quick; quicken; quicksand; quicksilver; quiver (v.) "to tremble;" revive; survive; symbiosis; viable; viand; viper; vita; vital; vitamin; victuals; viva; vivace; vivacious; vivarium; vivid; vivify; viviparous; vivisection; whiskey; wyvern; zodiac; Zoe; zoetrope; zoic; zoo-; zoolatry; zoology; zoon; zoophilia; zoophobia; zooplankton.
It is the hypothetical source of/evidence for its existence is provided by: Sanskrit jivah "alive, living;" Old Persian *jivaka- "alive," Middle Persian zhiwak "alive;" Greek bios "one's life, course or way of living, lifetime," zoe "animal life, organic life;" Old English cwic, cwicu "living, alive;" Latin vivus "living, alive," vita "life;" Old Church Slavonic zivo "to live;" Lithuanian gyvas "living, alive," gyvata "(eternal) life;" Old Irish bethu "life," bith "age;" Welsh byd "world."
also shmuck, "contemptible person," 1892, from East Yiddish shmok, literally "penis," probably from Old Polish smok "grass snake, dragon," and likely not the same word as German Schmuck "jewelry, adornments," which is related to Low German smuck "supple, tidy, trim, elegant," and to Old Norse smjuga "slip, step through" (see smock).
In Jewish homes, the word was "regarded as so vulgar as to be taboo" [Leo Rosten, "The Joys of Yiddish," 1968] and Lenny Bruce wrote that saying it on stage got him arrested on the West Coast "by a Yiddish undercover agent who had been placed in the club several nights running to determine if my use of Yiddish terms was a cover for profanity." Euphemized as schmoe, which was the source of Al Capp's cartoon strip creature the shmoo.
"[A]dditional associative effects from German schmuck 'jewels, decoration' cannot be excluded (cross-linguistically commonplace slang: cf. Eng. 'family jewels')" [Mark R.V. Southern, "Contagious Couplings: Transmission of Expressives in Yiddish Echo Phrases," 2005]. But the English phrase refers to the testicles and is a play on words, the "family" element being the essential ones. Words for "decoration" seem not to be among the productive sources of European "penis" slang terms.