c. 1500, "a ceasing, an ending; a going away, act of leaving" (obsolete in this sense), from Old French departement "division, sharing out; divorce, parting" (12c.), from Late Latin departire "to divide" (transitive), from de- "from" (see de-) + partire "to part, divide," from pars (genitive partis) "a part, piece, a share, a division" (from PIE root *pere- (2) "to grant, allot").
French department came also to mean "group of people" (as well as "departure"), and from this by 1735 English had borrowed the sense of "separate division of a complex whole, separate business assigned to someone in a larger organization, distinct branch or group of activities" (science, business, manufacture, the military). The specific meaning "separate division of a government" is from 1769. As an administrative district in France, from 1792.
Department store "store that sells a variety of items, organized by department" is from 1878.
The "Department Store" is the outgrowth of the cheap counter business originated by Butler Brothers in Boston about ten years ago. The little "Five Cent Counter" then became a cornerstone from which the largest of all the world's branches of merchandising was to be reared. It was the "Cheap Counter" which proved to the progressive merchant his ability to sell all lines of wares under one roof. It was the Five Cent Counter "epidemic" of '77 and '78 which rushed like a mighty whirlwind from the Atlantic to the Pacific and all along its path transformed old time one line storekeepers into the wide-awake merchant princes of the present day. It was this same epidemic which made possible the world famed Department Stores of Houghton, of Boston; Macy, of New York; Wanamaker, of Philadelphia; and Lehman, of Chicago. [American Storekeeper, 1885]
1932 (as an adjective from 1938), from race (n.2) + -ist. Racism (q.v.) is in use by 1928, originally in the context of fascist theories, and common from 1936. These words replaced earlier racialism (1882) and racialist (1910), both often used early 20c. in a British or South African context. There are isolated uses of racism from c. 1900.
Returning recently from a six months' visit to Europe, the Rev. John LaFarge, noted Catholic writer, warned at a dinner given in his honor that the destructive forces of "racism" are increasing in the United States, and that they could cause irreparable harm among the American people if immediate steps are not taken to combat them.
Father LaFarge said that American racism is directed principally against Negroes, Jews, and foreigners. He described it as "the pale but venomous cousin" of Nazi racism. Like its Nazi counterpart, he added, it has erected impassable barriers between extensive regions and large groups of people, has formed its own myths and moulded its own social institutions, and above all has come consistently into conflict with Christian teachings. [Opportunity, Journal of Negro Life, vol. XVII, No. 2, Feb. 1939]
Earlier, race hatred (1852 of the Balkans, 1858 of British India, 1861 of white and black in America), race prejudice (1867 of English in India, 1869 of white and black in America, 1870 of the English toward Irish) were used, and, especially in 19c. U.S. political contexts, negrophobia. Anglo-Saxonism as "belief in the superiority of the English race" had been used (disparagingly) from 1860. Anti-Negro (adj.) is attested in British and American English from 1819.
1520s, "oblique or diagonal line," from French biais "a slant, a slope, an oblique," also figuratively, "an expedient, means" (13c., originally in Old French a past-participle adjective, "sideways, askance, against the grain"), a word of unknown origin. Probably it came to French from Old Provençal biais, which has cognates in Old Catalan and Sardinian, and is possibly via Vulgar Latin *(e)bigassius from Greek epikarsios "athwart, crosswise, at an angle," from epi "upon" (see epi-) + karsios "oblique" (from PIE *krs-yo-, suffixed form of root *sker- (1) "to cut").
In the old game of bowls, it was a technical term used in reference to balls made with a greater weight on one side (1560s), causing them to curve toward one side; hence the figurative use "a one-sided tendency of the mind" (1570s), and, at first especially in law, "undue propensity or prejudice."
The bias of education, the bias of class-relationships, the bias of nationality, the political bias, the theological bias—these, added to the constitutional sympathies and antipathies, have much more influence in determining beliefs on social questions than has the small amount of evidence collected. [Herbert Spencer, "The Study of Sociology," 1873]
For what a man had rather were true he more readily believes. Therefore he rejects difficult things from impatience of research; sober things, because they narrow hope; the deeper things of nature, from superstition; the light of experience, from arrogance and pride, lest his mind should seem to be occupied with things mean and transitory; things not commonly believed, out of deference to the opinion of the vulgar. Numberless in short are the ways, and sometimes imperceptible, in which the affections colour and infect the understanding. [Francis Bacon, "Novum Organum," 1620]
mid-14c., accioun, "cause or grounds for a lawsuit," from Anglo-French accioun, Old French accion, action (12c.) "action; lawsuit, case," from Latin actionem (nominative actio) "a putting in motion; a performing, a doing; public acts, official conduct; lawsuit, legal action" (source also of Spanish accion, Italian azione), noun of action from past-participle stem of agere "to do" (from PIE root *ag- "to drive, draw out or forth, move").
Spelling with the restored Latin -t- begins in 15c. Meaning "active exertion, activity" is from late 14c. Sense of "something done, an act, deed" is late 14c. Meaning "military fighting" is from 1590s. Meaning "way in which (a firearm, etc.) acts" is from 1845. As a film director's command, it is attested from 1923.
The meaning "noteworthy or important activity" in a modern sense by 1933, as in the figurative phrase a piece of the action (by 1965), perhaps from a sense of action in card-playing jargon by 1914.
No "action" can be had on a bet until the card bet upon appears. If it does not appear after a turn has been made, the player is at liberty to change his bet, or to remove it altogether. Each bet is made for the turn only, unless the player chooses to leave it until he gets some action on it. [from "Faro" in "Hoyle's Games," A.L. Burt Company, New York: 1914]
But there are uses of action as far back as c. 1600 that seem to mean "noteworthy activity." The meaning "excitement" is recorded from 1968. In action "in a condition of effective operation" is from 1650s. Phrase actions speak louder than words is attested from 1731. Action-packed is attested from 1953, originally of movies.
mid-15c., "sweetheart chosen on St. Valentine's Day," from Late Latin Valentinus, the name of two early Italian saints (from Latin valentia "strength, capacity;" see valence). Choosing a sweetheart on this day originated 14c. as a custom in English and French court circles. Meaning "letter or card sent to a sweetheart" first recorded 1824. The romantic association of the day is said to be from it being around the time when birds choose their mates.
For this was on seynt Volantynys day
Whan euery bryd cometh there to chese his make.
[Chaucer, "Parlement of Foules," c. 1381]
Probably the date was the informal first day of spring in whatever French region invented the custom (many surviving medieval calendars reckon the start of spring on the 7th or 22nd of February). No evidence connects it with the Roman Lupercalia (an 18c. theory) or to any romantic or avian quality in either of the saints. The custom of sending special cards or letters on this date flourished in England c. 1840-1870, declined around the turn of the 20th century, and revived 1920s.
To speak of the particular Customs of the English Britons, I shall begin with Valentine's Day, Feb. 14. when young Men and Maidens get their several Names writ down upon Scrolls of Paper rolled up, and lay 'em asunder, the Men drawing the Maidens Names, and these the Mens; upon which, the Men salute their chosen Valentines and present them with Gloves, &c. This Custom (which sometimes introduces a Match) is grounded upon the Instinct of Animals, which about this Time of the Year, feeling a new Heat by the approach of the Sun, begin to couple. ["The Present State of Great Britain and Ireland" London, 1723]
Middle English melten, from Old English meltan (intransitive) "become liquid through heat" (class III strong verb; past tense mealt, past participle molten), from Proto-Germanic *meltanan; fused with Old English gemæltan (Anglian), gemyltan (West Saxon) "make liquid, reduce from a solid to a fluid state by means of heat" (transitive), from Proto-Germanic *gamaltijan (source also of Old Norse melta "to digest").
Both Germanic words are from PIE *meldh- (source also of Sanskrit mrduh "soft, mild," Greek meldein "to melt, make liquid," Latin mollis "soft, mild"), from root *mel- (1) "soft." Also in Middle English "dissolve" (of salt, sugar, etc.), "corrode" (of iron), "putrefy" (of flesh). Meaning "pass imperceptibly from one thing into another" is by 1781. Related: Melted; melting.
Figurative use "to diminish, wane; be touched, grow tender" is by c. 1200; transitive sense of "soften" (to love, pity, tenderness) is by early 14c. Of food, to melt in (one's) mouth is from 1690s. Melting point "degree of temperature at which a solid body melts" is by 1807. Melting pot is from early 15c.; figurative use from 1855; popularized with reference to immigrant assimilation in the United States by the play "The Melting Pot" by Israel Zangwill (1908):
DAVID Yes, East and West, and North and South, the palm and the pine, the pole and the equator, the crescent and the cross—how the great Alchemist melts and fuses them with his purging flame! Here shall they all unite to build the Republic of Man and the Kingdom of God. Ah, Vera, What is the glory of Rome and Jerusalem where all nations and races come to worship and look back, compared with the glory of America where all races and nations come to labour and look forward!
"give motion to by the act of pulling," c. 1200, drauen, spelling alteration of Old English dragan "to drag, to draw, protract" (class VI strong verb; past tense drog, past participle dragen), from Proto-Germanic *draganan "to draw, pull" (source also of Old Norse draga "to draw, drag, pull," Old Saxon dragan "to carry," Old Frisian drega, draga, Middle Dutch draghen "to carry, bring, throw," Old High German tragan "carry, bring, lead," German tragen "to carry, bear"), from PIE root *dhregh- (see drag (v.)).
Sense of "make a line or figure" (by "drawing" a pencil across paper) is from c. 1200. Meaning "remove or extract (a weapon) by pulling" is from late 12c., originally of a sword. Sense of "to pull (a bowstring)" is from c. 1200. To draw a criminal (drag him at the tail of a horse to the place of execution) is from c. 1300.
Meaning "select one (from a number of lots, etc.)" is from c. 1300. Sense of "bring (a crowd, an audience, etc.) by inducement or attraction" is from 1580s. Of a ship or boat, "to displace (a specified amount) of water," 1550s. In card-playing, "to take or receive (a card)," by 1772; draw-poker is by 1850. To draw out "lengthen, protract" is from 1550s; to draw the line in the figurative sense of "make a limit" is by 1793. To draw blood is from c. 1400.
The difference between [Draw Poker] and Poker is, that the player can draw from the pack as many cards as he may wish,—not exceeding five,—which must be given him by the dealer; but previous to drawing he must take from his original hand the game number as he may wish to draw, and lay them in the centre of the table. ["Bohn's New Hand-Book of Games," Philadelphia, 1850]
"a Conceit arising from the use of two Words that agree in the Sound, but differ in the Sense" [Addison]; "An expression in which the use of a word in two different applications, or the use of two different words pronounced alike or nearly alike, presents an odd or ludicrous idea" [Century Dictionary]; 1660s (first attested in Dryden), a word of uncertain origin.
Perhaps from pundigron, meaning the same thing (though attested first a few years later), itself a word of uncertain etymology, perhaps a humorous alteration of Italian puntiglio "equivocation, trivial objection," diminutive of Latin punctum "point." This is pure speculation. Punnet was another early form.
Pun was prob. one of the clipped words, such as cit, mob, nob, snob, which came into fashionable slang at or after the Restoration. [OED]
The verb, "to make puns," also is attested from 1660s, first in Dryden. Related: Punned; punning.
At the revival of learning, and the spread of what we may term the refinement of society, punning was one of the few accomplishments at which the fine ladies and gentlemen aimed. From the twelfth to the sixteenth century, it was at its greatest height. The conversation of the witty gallants, and ladies, and even of the clowns and other inferior characters, in the comedies of Shakespeare and his contemporaries, which we may be sure was painted from the life, is full of puns and plays upon words. The unavoidable result of such an excess was a surfeit, and the consequent dégout, which lasted for more than a century. Like other diseases, it broke out again subsequently with redoubled virulence, and made great havoc in the reign of Queen Anne. [Larwood & Hotten, "The History of Signboards from the Earliest Times to the Present Day," London, 1867]
c. 1200, "to watch with hostile intent, lie in wait for, plot against," from Anglo-French and Old North French waitier "to watch" (Old French gaitier "defend, watch out, be on one's guard; lie in wait for;" Modern French guetter), from Frankish *wahton or another Germanic source, from Proto-Germanic *waht- (source also of Dutch wacht "a watching," Old High German wahten, German wachten "to watch, to guard;" Old High German wahhon "to watch, be awake," Old English wacian "to be awake"), from PIE root *weg- "to be strong, be lively." General sense of "remain in some place" is from late 14c.; that of "to see to it that something occurs" is late 14c. Meaning "to stand by in attendance on" is late 14c.; specific sense of "serve as an attendant at a table" is from 1560s. Related: Waited; waiting.
To wait (something) out "endure a period of waiting" is recorded from 1849. Waiting room is attested from 1680s. Waiting list is recorded from 1841; the verb wait-list "to put (someone) on a waiting list" is recorded from 1960. Waiting game is recorded from 1835, originally in horse-racing.
When speed, not stoutness, is the best of a horse, quite a contrary system is practised. With such a horse, the jockey plays a waiting game; that is, he carefully nurses him through the race, so as not to distress him by overpacing him; as the finish approaches, he creeps up to his horses by degrees, but does not quit them to go in front till he sees that the pace has made them "safe," — when he lets loose and wins. [James Christie Whyte, "History of the British Turf," London, 1840]
Old English losian "be lost, perish," from los "destruction, loss," from Proto-Germanic *lausa- (source also of Old Norse los "the breaking up of an army;" Old English forleosan "to lose, destroy," Old Frisian forliasa, Old Saxon farliosan, Middle Dutch verliesen, Old High German firliosan, German verlieren, as well as English -less, loss, loose). The Germanic word is from PIE *leus-, an extended form of root *leu- "to loosen, divide, cut apart."
The verb also is merged with, or has taken the (weaker) sense of, the related Middle English leese "be deprived of, lose" (Old English leosan, a class II strong verb whose past participle loren survives in forlorn and love-lorn), from Proto-Germanic *leusanan (source also of Old High German virliosan, German verlieren, Old Frisian urliasa, Gothic fraliusan "to lose").
Hence lose in the transitive senses "part with accidentally, be deprived of, miss the possession or knowledge of" (money, blood, sleep, hair, etc.), c. 1200; "fail to keep, lose track of" (mid-13c.). Meaning "fail to preserve or maintain" is from mid-15c. Meaning "fail to gain or win" (something) is from c.1300; intransitive meaning "fail to win" (a game, contest, lawsuit, etc.) is from late 14c. Meaning "to cause (someone) to lose his way" is from 1640s; meaning "cease to have, be rid of" (something unwanted) is from 1660s.
To lose heart "become discouraged" is from 1744; to lose (one's) heart "fall in love" is from 1630s. To lose (one's) mind "become insane" is attested from c. 1500. To lose out "fail" is 1858, American English. To lose it "become distraught, break down and lose control of oneself" is by 1990s; the it probably being one's self-control or grip on reality. Related: Lost; losing.