c. 1300 (mid-12c. in surnames), "small axe with a short handle," designed to be used by one hand, from Old French hachete "small combat-axe, hatchet," diminutive of hache "axe, battle-axe, pickaxe," possibly from Frankish *happja or some other Germanic source, from Proto-Germanic *hapjo- (source also of Old High German happa "sickle, scythe").
This is perhaps from PIE root *kop- "to beat, strike" (source also of Greek kopis "knife," koptein "to strike, smite," komma "piece cut off;" Lithuanian kaplys "hatchet," kapti, kapiu "to hew, fell;" Old Church Slavonic skopiti "castrate," Russian kopat' "to hack, hew, dig;" Albanian kep "to hew").
Hatchet-face in reference to one with sharp and prominent features is from 1650s. In Middle English, hatch itself was used in a sense "battle-axe." In 14c., hang up (one's) hatchet meant "stop what one is doing." Phrase bury the hatchet "lay aside instruments of war, forget injuries and make peace" (1754) is from a Native American peacemaking custom described from 1680. Hatchet-man was originally California slang for "hired Chinese assassin" (1880), later extended figuratively to journalists who attacked the reputation of a public figure (1944).
[sound a bell; emit a resonant sound] Old English hringan "cause (a bell) to sound;" also "announce or celebrate by the ringing of bells," from Proto-Germanic *khrengan (source also of Old Norse hringja, Swedish ringa, Middle Dutch ringen), probably of imitative origin. Related: Rang; rung.
Originally a weak verb, the strong inflection began in early Middle English by influence of sing, etc. The intransitive sense of "give a certain resonant sound when struck" is by c. 1200. Of places, "resound, re-echo," c. 1300. Of the ears or head, "have a continued buzz or hum in reaction to exposure to noise," by late 14c. In reference to a telephone, intransitive, by 1924; as "to call (someone) on a telephone by 1880, with up (adv.). The verb was much used in phrases of 20c. telephoning, such as ring off "hang up," ring back "return a call," ring in "report by telephone."
To ring down (or up) a theatrical curtain, "direct it to be let down" (or up) is by 1772, from the custom of signaling for it by ringing a bell; hence, in a general sense "bring to a conclusion." To ring up a purchase on a cash register is by 1937, from the bell that sounds in the machine. The specialized sense, especially in reference to coins, "give a resonant sound when struck as an indication of genuineness or purity," is by c. 1600, with transferred use (as in ring hollow) by 1610s. For ring a bell "awaken a memory," see bell (n.).
Middle English rop, from Old English rap "strong, heavy cord of considerable thickness," from Proto-Germanic *raipaz (source also of Old Norse reip, West Frisian reap, Middle Dutch, Dutch reep "rope," Old Frisian silrap "shoe-thong," Gothic skauda-raip "shoe-lace," Old High German, German reif "ring, hoop"). Technically, only cordage above one inch in circumference and below 10 (bigger-around than that is a cable). Nautical use varies. Finnish raippa "hoop, rope, twig" is a Germanic loan-word.
It is attested by early 14c. as "a noose, a snare." Rope of sand (1620s) was an old figure for anything lacking coherence or binding power.
To know the ropes "understand the way to do something" (1840, Dana) originally was a seaman's term. The phrase on the ropes "about to be defeated" is attested from 1924, a figurative extension from the fight ring, where being in or on the ropes was a figure by 1829.
To be at the end of (one's) rope "out of resources and options" is attested by 1680s. An earlier expression was have too long rope "have too much freedom" (late 15c.).
Rope formerly also figured in slang and extended-sense expressions related to punishment by hanging, such as John Roper's window "a noose," rope-ripe "deserving to be hanged," both 16c. The figurative phrase give someone (enough) rope (to hang himself) is by 1680s.
masc. proper name, attested by 1218, probably via Anglo-French Jake, Jaikes, from Old French Jacques (which was a diminutive of Latin Jacobus; see Jacob), but in English the name always has been regarded as a familiar form of John, and some have argued that it is a native formation. In Middle English spelled Jakke, Jacke, etc., and pronounced as two syllables ("Jackie").
In England, Jack became a generic name applied familiarly or contemptuously to anybody (especially a young man of the lower classes) from late 14c. Later used especially of sailors (1650s; Jack-tar is from 1781); Jack-ashore (adj.) "drinking and in high spirits, recklessly spending" (1875) also is an image from sailors (1840 as a book title). In U.S., as a generic name addressed to an unknown stranger, attested from 1889. Every man Jack "everyone" is from 1812. Also see jack (n.).
Used in male personifications from 15c.; first record of jack-of-all-trades "person handy at any kind of work or business" is from 1610s; Jack Frost is from 1826; Jack-nasty "a sneak or sloven" is from 1833 (Jack-nasty-face, a sea-term for a common sailor, is from 1788). Jack Sprat for a small, light man is from 1560s (his opposite was Jack Weight). Jack-pudding "comical clown, buffoon" is from 1640s. Jack-Spaniard is from 1703 as a Spaniard, 1833 as "a hornet" in the West Indies. Other personifications listed in Farmer & Henley include jack-snip "a botching tailor," Jack-in-office "overbearing petty official" (1680s), Jack-on-both-sides "a neutral," Jack-out-of-doors "a vagrant" (1630s), jack-sauce "impudent fellow" (1590s).
The U.S. plant jack-in-the-pulpit (Indian turnip) is attested by 1833. Jack the Ripper was active in London 1888. The Scottish form is Jock (compare jockey (n.)). Alliterative coupling of Jack and Jill is from 15c. (Iakke and Gylle, Ienken and Iulyan). Jack Ketch for "hangman, executioner" (1670s) is said to be from the name of a public executioner in the time of James II (compare Derrick); it also was used as a verb meaning "to hang."
general common name of birds of the genus Corvus (the larger sort being sometimes called ravens), Old English crawe, which is held to be imitative of the bird's cry. Compare Old Saxon kraia, Dutch kraai, Old High German chraja, German Kräke.
Noted for sagacity and sociability. The British and North American species are very similar. Phrase as the crow flies "in a straight line" is from 1810; the image is attested in different form from 1800.
American English figurative phrase eat crow "do or accept what one vehemently dislikes and has opposed defiantly, accept things which, though not unbearable, are yet scarcely to be wished for," is attested by 1870 (originally often eat boiled crow), and seems to be based on the notion that the bird is edible when boiled but hardly agreeable.
There was an oft-reprinted mid-19c. joke about a man who, to settle a bet that he could eat anything, agrees to eat a boiled crow. As he with great difficulty swallows the first to mouthfuls, he says to the onlookers, "I can eat crow, but I don't hanker arter it." The joke is attested by 1854 (Walter Etecroue turns up 1361 in the Calendar of Letter Books of the City of London).
I tried my best to eat crow, but it was too tough for me. "How do you like it?" said the old man, as, with a desperate effort, he wrenched off a mouthful from a leg. "I am like the man," said I, "who was once placed in the same position: 'I ken eat crow, but hang me if I hanker arter it.'" "Well," says the captain, "it is somewhat hard; but try some of the soup and dumplings and don t condemn crow-meat from this trial, for you shot the grandfather and grandmother of the flock: no wonder they are tough; shoot a young one next time." "No more crow-meat for me, thank you," said I. [James G. Swan, "The Northwest Coast, or Three Years' Residence in Washington Territory," New York, 1857]
The image of a crow's foot for the wrinkles appearing with age at the corner of the eye is from late 14c. ("So longe mote ye lyve Til crowes feet be growen under youre ye." [Chaucer, Troilus and Criseyde, c. 1385]).
1835, "inflict severe (but not deliberately fatal) bodily punishment (on someone) without legal sanction," from earlier Lynch law (1811), in reference to such activity, which was likely named after William Lynch (1742-1820) of Pittsylvania, Virginia, who c. 1780 led a vigilance committee to keep order there during the Revolution. Other sources trace the name to Charles Lynch (1736-1796) a Virginia magistrate who fined and imprisoned Tories in his district c. 1782, but the connection to him is less likely. The surname is perhaps from Irish Loingseach "sailor."
It implies lawless concert or action among a number of members of the community, to supply the want of criminal justice or to anticipate its delays, or to inflict a penalty demanded by public opinion, though in defiance of the laws. [Century Dictionary, 1895]
Originally any sort of summary justice, done without authority of law, for a crime or public offense; it especially referred to flogging or tarring-and-feathering. At first the act was associated with frontier regions (as in the above citation), though from c. 1835 to the U.S. Civil War it also often was directed against abolitionists. The narrowing of the meaning to "extra-legal execution by hanging" is evident by the 1880s, and after c. 1893 lynching mostly meant killings of blacks by white mobs (especially in retaliation for alleged sexual assaults of white women). This shift in use seems due in part to the work of African-American journalist and activist Ida B. Wells. Lynch mob is attested from 1838. Compare earlier Lydford law, from a place in Dartmoor, England, "where was held a Stannaries Court of summary jurisdiction" [Weekley], hence:
Lydford law: is to hang men first, and indite them afterwards. [Thomas Blount, "Glossographia," 1656]
Also in a similar sense was Jedburgh justice (1706) and, as a verb, to Dewitt (1680s), a reference to two Dutch statesmen of that name, opponents of William of Orange, murdered by a mob in 1672. Related: Lynched; lynching. The city of Lynchburg, Virginia, dates to the 1750s when John Lynch, brother to Charles but a peaceable Quaker, had a ferry landing on the James River there.
1756, "special vocabulary of tramps or thieves" or any set of persons of low character, later "jargon of a particular profession" (1801). The sense of "very informal language characterized by vividness and novelty" is by 1818.
Anatoly Liberman writes here an extensive account of the established origin of the word from the Northern England noun slang "a narrow piece of land running up between other and larger divisions of ground" and the verb slanger "linger, go slowly," which is of Scandinavian origin (compare Norwegian slenge "hang loose, sling, sway, dangle," Danish slænge "to throw, sling"). "Their common denominator seems to be 'to move freely in any direction' " [Liberman]. Noun derivatives of these (Danish slænget, Norwegian slenget) mean "a gang, a band," and Liberman compares Old Norse slangi "tramp" and slangr "going astray" (used of sheep). He writes:
It is not uncommon to associate the place designated for a certain group and those who live there with that group’s language. John Fielding and the early writers who knew the noun slang used the phrase slang patter, as though that patter were a kind of talk belonging to some territory.
So the sense evolution would be from slang "a piece of delimited territory" to "the territory used by tramps for their wandering," to "their camping ground," and finally to "the language used there." The sense shift then passes through itinerant merchants:
Hawkers use a special vocabulary and a special intonation when advertising their wares (think of modern auctioneers), and many disparaging, derisive names characterize their speech; charlatan and quack are among them.
[Slang] is a dialectal word that reached London from the north and for a long time retained the traces of its low origin. The route was from "territory; turf" to "those who advertise and sell their wares on such a territory," to "the patter used in advertising the wares," and to "vulgar language" (later to “any colorful, informal way of expression”).
The association of the word with thieves and low life faded in the 19c.
[S]lang is a conscious offence against some conventional standard of propriety. A mere vulgarism is not slang, except when it is purposely adopted, and acquires an artificial currency, among some class of persons to whom it is not native. The other distinctive feature of slang is that it is neither part of the ordinary language, nor an attempt to supply its deficiencies. The slang word is a deliberate substitute for a word of the vernacular, just as the characters of a cipher are substitutes for the letters of the alphabet, or as a nickname is a substitute for a personal name. [Henry Bradley, from "Slang," in Encyclopedia Britannica, 11th ed.]