Etymology
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rebus (n.)

a puzzle or riddle consisting of words or phrases represented by pictures of objects whose names resemble in sound the words or phrases intended, c. 1600, apparently from Latin rebus (and meaning literally "by means of objects"), ablative plural of res "thing, object" (see re). According to French sources (Gilles Ménage, "Les origines de la langue françoise," 1650), principally from the phrase de rebus quæ geruntur "of things which are going on," in reference to the satirical pieces composed by Picardy clerks at carnivals, subtle satires of current events using pictures to suggest words, phrases or things. Or this use of the Latin word might be from the representations being non verbis sed rebus "not by words, but by things."

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billion (n.)

1680s, from French billion (originally byllion in Chuquet's unpublished "Le Triparty en la Science des Nombres," 1484; copied by De la Roche, 1520); see bi- "two" + million. A million million in Britain and Germany (numeration by groups of sixes), which was the original sense; subsequently altered in French to "a thousand million" (numeration by groups of threes) and picked up in that form in U.S., "due in part to French influence after the Revolutionary War" [David E. Smith, "History of Mathematics," 1925]. France reverted to the original meaning in 1948. British usage is truer to the etymology, but U.S. sense is said to be increasingly common there in technical writing.

In Italian arithmetics from the last quarter of the fifteenth century the words bilione or duilione, trilione, quadrilione or quattrilione, quintilione, cinquilione, or quinquilione, sestione or sestilione, settilione, ottilione, noeilione and decilione occur as common abbreviations of due volte millioni, tre volte millione, etc. In other countries these words came into use much later, although one French writer, Nicolas Chuquet, mentions them as early as 1484, in a book not printed until 1881. The Italians had, besides, another system of numeration, proceeding by powers of a thousand. The French, who like other northern peoples, took most if not all their knowledge of modern or Arabic arithmetic from the Italians, early confounded the two systems of Italian numeration, counting in powers of a thousand, but adopting the names which properly belong to powers of a million. [Century Dictionary]

For a time in Britain gillion (1961), based on giga-, was tried as "a thousand million" to avoid ambiguity. Compare milliard.

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dolmen (n.)

"structure consisting of one large, unhewn stone slab resting on two or more stones placed erect in the earth," such that a person may walk under it, 1859, from French dolmin applied 1796 by French general and antiquarian Théophile Malo Corret de La Tour d'Auvergne (1743-1800), perhaps from Cornish tolmen, literally "hole of stone," from Celtic men "stone."

Some suggest the first element may be Breton taol "table," a loan-word from Latin tabula "board, plank," but OED says the Breton form of this compound would be taolvean. "There is reason to think that this [tolmen] is the word inexactly reproduced by Latour d'Auvergne as dolmin, and misapplied by him and succeeding French archaeologists to the cromlech" [OED]. See cromlech, which is the same idea but arranged as one of a circle. Related: Dolmenic.

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fate (n.)

late 14c., "one's lot or destiny; predetermined course of life;" also "one's guiding spirit," from Old French fate and directly from Latin fata (source also of Spanish hado, Portuguese fado, Italian fato), neuter plural of fatum "prophetic declaration of what must be, oracle, prediction," thus the Latin word's usual sense, "that which is ordained, destiny, fate," literally "thing spoken (by the gods)," from neuter past participle of fari "to speak," from PIE root *bha- (2) "to speak, tell, say." Often in a bad sense in Latin: "bad luck, ill fortune; mishap, ruin; a pest or plague."

From early 15c. as "power that rules destinies, agency which predetermines events; supernatural predetermination;" also "destiny personified." Meaning "that which must be" is from 1660s; sense of "final event" is from 1768. The Latin sense evolution is from "sentence of the Gods" (Greek theosphaton) to "lot, portion" (Greek moira, personified as a goddess in Homer).

The sense of "one of the three goddesses (Clotho, Lachesis, and Atropos) who determined the course of a human life" (or, as Blount has it, "the three Ladies of destiny") is in English by 1580s. Their Greek name was Moirai (see above), from a verb meaning "to receive one's share." Latin Parca "one of the three Fates or goddesses of fate" (source of French parque "a Fate;" Spanish parca "Death personified; the Grim Reaper") might be from parcere "act sparingly, refrain from; have mercy upon, forbear to injure or punish" (if so, probably here a euphemism) or plectere "to weave, plait." The native word in English was wyrd (see weird).

J'y suivais un serpent qui venait de me mordre
Quel repli de désirs, sa traîne!...Quel désordre
De trésors s'arrachant à mon avidité,
Et quelle sombre soif de la limpidité!
[Paul Valéry, from La Jeune Parque]
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aisle (n.)
late 14c., ele, "lateral division of a church" (usually separated from the nave or transept by a row of pillars), from Old French ele "wing (of a bird or an army), side of a ship" (12c., Modern French aile), from Latin ala, related to or contracted from axilla "wing, upper arm, armpit; wing of an army," from PIE *aks-la-, suffixed form of root *aks- "axis" (see axis). The notion is of "turning," which also connects it with axle.

Confused from 15c. with unrelated Middle English ile "island" (perhaps from notion of a "detached" part of a church), and so it took an unetymological -s- c. 1700 when isle did; by 1750 it had acquired an a-, on the model of French cognate aile. English aisle perhaps also was confused with alley, which helped give it the sense of "passage between rows of pews or seats" (1731), which subsequently was extended to railway cars, theaters, Congress, etc.
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chauvinism (n.)

1840, "exaggerated, blind nationalism; patriotism degenerated into a vice," from French chauvinisme (1839), from the character Nicholas Chauvin, soldier of Napoleon's Grand Armee, who idolized Napoleon and the Empire long after it was history, in the Cogniards' popular 1831 vaudeville "La Cocarde Tricolore." The meaning was extended to "excessive belief in the superiority of one's race" in late 19c. in communist jargon, and to (male) "sexism" in late 1960s via male chauvinist (q.v.).

The surname is a French form of Latin Calvinus and thus Calvinism and chauvinism are, etymologically, twins. The name was a common one in Napoleon's army, and if there was a real person at the base of the character in the play, he has not been certainly identified by etymologists, though memoirs of Waterloo (one published in Paris in 1822) mention "one of our principal piqueurs, named Chauvin, who had returned with Napoleon from Elba," which action implies the sort of loyalty displayed by the theatrical character.

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left (n.)

c. 1200, "the left-hand side, the side opposite the right," from left (adj.). In military formations with reference to the center; of river banks it implies going in the direction the current flows; in an assembly in reference to the seat of the presiding officer; in baseball in reference to the point of view of the batter.

Political sense "the democratic or liberal party" arose from the custom of assigning those members of a legislative body to the left side of a chamber. This usage is first attested in English in 1837 (by Carlyle, in reference to the French Revolution), and probably is a loan-translation of French la gauche (1791), said to have originated during the seating of the French National Assembly in 1789 in which the nobility took the seats on the President's right and left the Third Estate to sit on the left. The term became general in U.S. and British political speech c. 1900. Century Dictionary and OED 2nd ed. both refer to this as primarily in reference to continental European politics.

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Indian summer (n.)
"spell of warm, dry, hazy weather after the first frost" (happening anywhere from mid-September to nearly December, according to location), 1774, North American English (also used in eastern Canada), perhaps so called because it was first noted in regions then still inhabited by Indians, in the upper Mississippi valley west of the Appalachians, or because the Indians first described it to the Europeans. No evidence connects it with the color of fall leaves, or to a season of renewed Indian attacks on settlements due to renewed warm weather (a widespread explanation dating at least to the 1820s).

It is the American version of British All-Hallows summer, French été de la Saint-Martin (feast day Nov. 11), etc. Also colloquial was St. Luke's summer (or little summer), period of warm weather occurring about St. Luke's day (Oct. 18). An older and simpler name for it was autumn-spring (1630s).
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optimism (n.)

1759 (in translations of Voltaire), from French optimisme (1737), from Modern Latin optimum, used by Gottfried Leibniz (in "Thodice," 1710) to mean "the greatest good," from Latin optimus "the best" (see optimum). The doctrine holds that the actual world is the "best of all possible worlds," in which the creator accomplishes the most good at the cost of the least evil.

En termes de l'art, il l'appelle la raison du meilleur ou plus savamment encore, et Théologiquement autant que Géométriquement, le systême de l'Optimum, ou l'Optimisme. ["Memoires pour l'Histoire Des Sciences & des beaux Arts," (Journal de Trévoux), Feb. 1737]

Launched out of philosophical jargon and into currency by Voltaire's satire on it in "Candide." General sense of "belief that good ultimately will prevail in the world" first attested 1841 in Emerson; meaning "tendency to take a hopeful view of things" first recorded 1819 in Shelley.

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popinjay (n.)

early 14c., papejaye (late 13c. as a surname), "a parrot," from Old French papegai (12c.), from Spanish papagayo, from Arabic babagha', Persian babgha "parrot," a word possibly formed in an African or other non-Indo-European language and imitative of its cry. The ending probably was assimilated in Western European languages to "jay" words (Old French jai, etc.).

Used of people in a complimentary sense (in allusion to beauty and rarity) from early 14c.; meaning "vain, talkative person" is recorded frpm 1520s. Obsolete figurative sense of "a target to shoot at" is explained by Cotgrave's 2nd sense definition: "also a woodden parrot (set up on the top of a steeple, high tree, or pole) whereat there is, in many parts of France, a generall shooting once euerie yeare; and an exemption, for all that yeare, from La Taille, obtained by him that strikes downe" all or part of the bird.

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