"excellent, fine, good, valuable," canting slang, 1560s, also rome, "fine," said to be from Romany rom "male, husband" (see Romany). A very common 16c. cant word (opposed to queer), as in rum kicks "Breeches of gold or silver brocade, or richly laced with gold or silver" [Grose, "Dictionary of the Vulgar Tongue," 1785].
By 1774 it also had come to mean rather the opposite: "odd, strange, bad, queer, spurious," perhaps because it had been so often used approvingly by rogues in reference to one another. Or perhaps this is a different word. This was the main sense after c. 1800.
Rom (or rum) and quier (or queer) enter largely into combination, thus--rom = gallant, fine, clever, excellent, strong; rom-bouse = wine or strong drink; rum-bite = a clever trick or fraud; rum-blowen = a handsome mistress; rum-bung = a full purse; rum-diver = a clever pickpocket; rum-padder = a well-mounted highwayman, etc.: also queere = base, roguish; queer-bung = an empty purse; queer-cole = bad money; queer-diver = a bungling pickpocket; queer-ken = a prison; queer-mort = a foundered whore, and so forth. [John S. Farmer, "Musa Pedestris," 1896]
1570s, "cotton padding," corrupted from earlier bombace "raw cotton" (1550s), from Old French bombace "cotton, cotton wadding," from Late Latin bombacem, accusative of bombax "cotton, 'linteorum aut aliae quaevis quisquiliae,' " a corruption and transferred use of Latin bombyx "silk," from Greek bombyx "silk, silkworm" (which also came to mean "cotton" in Medieval Greek), from some oriental word, perhaps related to Iranian pambak (modern panba) or Armenian bambok, perhaps ultimately from a PIE root meaning "to twist, wind."
Also from the same source are Swedish bomull, Danish bomuld "cotton," and, via Turkish forms, Modern Greek mpampaki, Rumanian bumbac, Serbo-Croatian pamuk. German baumwolle "cotton" probably is from the Latin word but altered by folk-etymology to look like "tree wool." Polish bawełna, Lithuanian bovelna are partial translations from German.
From stuffing and padding for clothes or upholstery, meaning extended to "pompous, empty speech" (1580s).
Bombast was originally applied to a stuff of soft, loose texture, once used to swell the garment. Fustian was also a kind of cloth of stiff expansive character. These terms are applied to a high, swelling style of writing, full of extravagant sentiments and expressions. Bathos is a word which has the same application, meaning generally the mock heroic—that "depth" into which one falls who overleaps the sublime; the step which one makes in order to pass from the sublime to the ridiculous. [James de Mille, "Elements of Rhetoric," 1878]
1821, in a German context, "a hangover," American English colloquial, from German Katzenjammer "hangover" (18c.), also figuratively, in colloquial use, "remorse of conscience, vow to mend one's ways," literally "wailing of cats, misery of cats," from katzen, combining form of katze "cat" (see cat (n.)) + jammer "distress, wailing" (see yammer (v.)).
Pleasure can intoxicate, passion can inebriate, success can make you quite as drunk as champagne. The waking from these several stages of delights will bring the same result--Katzenjammer. In English you would call it reaction; but whole pages of English cannot express the sick, empty, weary, vacant feeling which is so concisely contained within these four German syllables. ["Blackwood's Edinburgh Magazine," August 1884]
Katzenjammer Kids "spectacularly naughty children" is from the title of the popular newspaper comic strip (based on the German Max und Moritz stories) first drawn by German-born U.S. comic strip artist Rudolph Dirks (1877-1968) in 1897 for the "New York Journal." Hence, katzenjammer in the sense "any unpleasant reaction" (1897). The strip was temporarily de-Germanized during World War I:
"THE SHENANIGAN KIDS" is the new American name for the original "Katzenjammer Kids." Although the original name and idea were pure Holland Dutch, some people may have had the mistaken impression that they were of Germanic origin, and hence the change. It is the same splendid comic as in the past. [International Feature Service advertisement in "Editor & Publisher," July 6, 1918]
early 13c., "silly, stupid, or ignorant person," from Old French fol "madman, insane person; idiot; rogue; jester," also "blacksmith's bellows," also an adjective meaning "mad, insane" (12c., Modern French fou), from Medieval Latin follus (adj.) "foolish," from Latin follis "bellows, leather bag," from PIE root *bhel- (2) "to blow, swell."
The sense evolution probably is from Vulgar Latin use of follis in a sense of "windbag, empty-headed person." Compare also Sanskrit vatula- "insane," literally "windy, inflated with wind." But some sources suggest evolution from Latin folles "puffed cheeks" (of a buffoon), a secondary sense from plural of follis. One makes the "idiot" sense original, the other the "jester" sense.
The word has in mod.Eng. a much stronger sense than it had at an earlier period; it has now an implication of insulting contempt which does not in the same degree belong to any of its synonyms, or to the derivative foolish. [OED]
Also used in Middle English for "sinner, rascal, impious person" (late 13c.). Meaning "jester, court clown" in English is attested c. 1300, though it is not always possible to tell whether the reference is to a professional entertainer counterfeiting mental weakness or an amusing lunatic, and the notion of the fool sage whose sayings are ironically wise is also in English from c. 1300. The French word probably also got into English via its borrowing in the Scandinavian languages of the vikings (Old Norse fol, Old Danish fool, fol).
There is no foole to the olde foole ["Proverbs of John Heywood," 1546]
To make a fool of (someone) "cause to appear ridiculous" is from 1620s (make fool "to deceive, make (someone) appear a fool" is from early 15c.). Feast of Fools (early 14c., from Medieval Latin festum stultorum) was the burlesque festival celebrated in some churches on New Year's Day in medieval times. Fool's gold "iron pyrite" is from 1829. Fool's paradise "illusory state of happiness based on ignorance or erroneous judgment" is from mid-15c. (foles paradyce). Fool-trap is from 1690s. Foolosopher, a useful insult, is in a 1549 translation of Erasmus. Fool's ballocks is described in OED as "an old name" for the green-winged orchid. Fool-killer "imaginary personage invested with authority to put to death anybody notoriously guilty of great folly" is from 1851, American English.
Fool killer, a great American myth imagined by editors, who feign that his or its services are greatly needed, and frequently alluded to as being "around" or "in town" when some special act of folly calls for castigation. Whether the fool-killer be an individual or an instrument cannot always be gathered from the dark phraseology in which he or it is alluded to; but the weight of authority would sanction the impersonal interpretation. [Walsh, "Handy-Book of Literary Curiosities," 1892]