Old English cropp "head or top of a sprout or herb, any part of a medicinal plant except the root," also "bird's craw" (the common notion is "protuberance"), cognate with Old High German kropf, Old Norse kroppr.
"The word has a remarkable variety of special senses ..." [Century Dictionary]. OED writes that "OE. had only sense 1. 'craw of a bird' and 3. 'rounded head or top of a herb'; the latter is found also in High German dialects (Grimm, Kropf, 4c); the further developments of 'head or top' generally, and of 'produce of the field, etc.' appear to be exclusively English."
Meaning "grain and other cultivated plants grown and harvested" (especially "the grain yield of one year") is from early 14c. (in Anglo-Latin from early 13c.). Probably this sense development is via the verbal meaning "cut off the top of a plant" (c. 1200).
From the notion of "top" comes the sense "upper part of a whip," hence "handle of a whip" (1560s), hence "a kind of whip used by horsemen in the hunting field" (1857). "It is useful in opening gates, and differs from the common whip in the absence of a lash" [Century Dictionary].
General sense of "anything gathered when ready or in season" is from 1570s. Meaning "a thick, short head of hair" is from 1795. Meaning "top or highest part of anything" is from late 14c. In Middle English crop and rote "the whole plant, crop and root," was figurative of totality or perfection. Crop-circle is attested by 1974.
Old English sceotan "to hurl missiles, cast; strike, hit, push; run, rush; send forth swiftly; wound with missiles" (class II strong verb; past tense sceat, past participle scoten), from Proto-Germanic *skeutanan (source also of Old Saxon skiotan, Old Norse skjota "to shoot with (a weapon); shoot, launch, push, shove quickly," Old Frisian skiata, Middle Dutch skieten, Dutch schieten, Old High German skiozan, German schießen), from PIE root *skeud- "to shoot, chase, throw."
In reference to pool playing, from 1926. Meaning "to strive (for)" is from 1967, American English. Sense of "descend (a river) quickly" is from 1610s. Meaning "to inject by means of a hypodermic needle" is attested from 1914. Meaning "photograph" (especially a movie) is from 1890. As an interjection, an arbitrary euphemistic alteration of shit, it is recorded from 1934.
Shoot the breeze "chat" is attested by 1938 (as shooting the breeze), perhaps originally U.S. military slang. Shoot-'em-up (adj.) in reference to violent entertainment (Western movies, etc.) is from 1942. Shoot to kill is attested from 1867. Shoot the cat "to vomit" is from 1785. To shoot the moon originally meant "depart by night with ones goods to escape back rent" (c. 1823).
O, 'tis cash makes such crowds to the gin shops roam,
And 'tis cash often causes a rumpus at home ;
'Tis when short of cash people oft shoot the moon ;
And 'tis cash always keeps our pipes in tune.
Cash! cash! &c.
["The Melodist and Mirthful Olio, An Elegant Collection of the Most Popular Songs," vol. IV, London, 1829]
Middle English aboute, from Old English abutan (adv., prep.), earlier onbutan "on the outside of; around the circumference of, enveloping; in the vicinity of, near; hither and thither, from place to place," also "with a rotating or spinning motion," in late Old English "near in time, number, degree, etc., approximately;" a compound or contraction of on (see on; also see a- (1)) + be "by" (see by) + utan "outside," from ut (see out (adv.)).
By c. 1300 it had developed senses of "around, in a circular course, round and round; on every side, so as to surround; in every direction;" also "engaged in" (Wist ye not that I must be about my Father's business?), and gradually it forced out Old English ymbe, ymbutan (from PIE root *ambhi- "around") in the sense "round about, in the neighborhood of."
From mid-13c. as "in the matter, in connection with." From early 14c. as "in partial rotation, so as to face in a different direction." From late 14c. as "near at hand, about one's person." "In a circuitous course," hence "on the move" (late 13c.), and in Middle English "be about to do, be busy in preparation for," hence its use as a future participle in (to be) about to "in readiness, intending." Abouts (late 14c.), with adverbial genitive, still found in hereabouts, etc., probably is a northern dialectal form.
To bring about "cause or affect" and to come about "happen" are from late 14c. About face as a military command (short for right about face) is first attested 1861, American English.
Old English fyrst "foremost, going before all others; chief, principal," also (though rarely) as an adverb, "at first, originally," superlative of fore; from Proto-Germanic *furista- "foremost" (source also of Old Saxon fuirst "first," Old High German furist, Old Norse fyrstr, Danish første, Old Frisian ferist, Middle Dutch vorste "prince," Dutch vorst "first," German Fürst "prince"), from PIE *pre-isto-, superlative of *pre-, from root *per- (1) "forward," hence "in front of, before, first, chief."
The usual Old English superlative word was not fyrst, but forma, which shows more clearly the connection to fore. Forma became Middle English firme "first, earliest," but this has not survived.
First aid is that given at the scene, pending the arrival of a doctor. First lady as an informal title for the wife of a U.S. president was in use by 1908, short for First lady of the land (by 1863 with reference to the president's wife); the earlier title was simply Lady (1841). First name is attested from mid-13c. First base "a start" in any sense (1938) is a figurative use from baseball.
First fruits is from late 14c. as "earliest productions of the soil;" 1590s as "first results" of any activity or endeavor. First love is from 1741 as "one's first experience of romantic love;" 1971 as "one's favorite occupation or pastime." First floor is from 1660s as "story built on or just above the ground" (now U.S.); 1865 as "story built next above the ground."
late 13c., from a Scandinavian source, probably Old Norse leggr "a leg, bone of the arm or leg," from Proto-Germanic *lagjaz (cognates Danish læg, Swedish läg "the calf of the leg"), a word with no certain ulterior connections. Perhaps from a PIE root meaning "to bend" [Buck]. For Old Norse senses, compare Bein, the German word for "leg," in Old High German "bone, leg" (see bone (n.)). Replaced Old English shank (n.), itself also perhaps from a root meaning "crooked."
Distinguished from an arm, leg, or fin in being used for support. Of triangle sides from 1650s (translating Greek skelos, literally "leg"). Extended to furniture supports from 1670s. Meaning "part of pants which cover the leg" is from 1570s. By 1870s as an adjective it had a salacious suggestion of artistic displays focused on the female form, such as leg-piece in theater jargon, leg-business as slang for "ballet."
The meaning "a part or stage of a journey or race" (1920) is from earlier sailing sense of "a run made by a ship on a single tack when beating to windward" (1867), which was usually qualified as long leg, short leg, etc. Slang phrase shake a leg is attested from 1869 as "dance," 1880 as "hurry up." To be on (one's) last legs "at the end of one's life" is from 1590s, the notion is of something that serves one for support and keeps one moving. To take leg bail was old slang for "run away" (1774). Legs "ability to be an enduring success, staying power" is from 1970s show business slang.
"in a state of decline or decay (from a former condition of excellence)," 1837 (Carlyle), from French décadent, back-formation from décadence (see decadence). In reference to literary (later, other artistic) schools that believed, or affected to believe, they lived in an age of artistic decadence, 1885 in French, 1888 in English. Usually in a bad sense:
Bread, supposedly the staff of life, has become one of our most decadent foods — doughy, gummy, and without the aroma, flavor, texture, taste and appearance that is typical of good bread. ["College and University Business" 1960]
Beckoning sense of "desirable and satisfying to self-indulgence" begins c. 1970 in commercial publications in reference to desserts.
As a noun, "one whose artistic or literary work is supposed to show marks of decadence," 1889 (from 1887 as a French word in English), originally in a French context.
On the subject of poetry I am bound to signalize one of those grotesque, unexpected apparitions which would appear to be constitutional to our country [i.e. France] .... I refer to the recent appearance of a literary clique of madmen or idlers, the self-named décadents. I own I am almost ashamed to occupy your time with this unworthy subject, which I should not have thought fit to introduce had not our newspapers and even our reviews taken the décadents to task, and were it not that they have furnished chroniqueurs short of copy with matter for articles, and that the serious Temps itself has taken up their trashy nonsense. [The Athenaeum, Jan. 1, 1887]
late 14c., "creeping or crawling animal; one that goes on its belly on the ground on small, short legs," from Old French reptile (early 14c.) and directly from Late Latin reptile, noun use of neuter of reptilis (adj.) "creping, crawling," from rept-, past-participle stem of repere "to crawl, creep." This is reconstructed to be from PIE root *rep- "to creep, crawl" (source also of Lithuanian rėplioti "to creep").
Used of persons of abject, groveling, or mean character from 1749. As an adjective, c. 1600, "creeping or crawling," hence, of persons, "low, mean" (1650s). Also sometimes used 18c. of creeping plants.
The precise scientific sense of the noun began to develop mid-18c., but the word also was used at first of animals now known as amphibians, including toads, frogs, salamanders. The separation of Reptilia (1835 as a distinct class) and Amphibia took place early 19c.; popular use lagged, and reptile still was used late 18c. with sense "An animal that creeps upon many feet" [Johnson, who calls the scorpion a reptile], sometimes excluding serpents. The Old English word for "reptile" was slincend, related to slink.
And the terrestrial animals may be divided into quadrupeds or beasts, reptiles, which have many feet, and serpents, which have no feet at all. [Locke, "Elements of Natural Philosophy," 1689]
An inadvertent step may crush the snail
That crawls at ev'ning in the public path ;
But he that has humanity, forewarn'd,
Will tread aside, and let the reptile live.
[Cowper, "The Task," 1785]
"1 more than three, twice two; the number which is one more than three; a symbol representing this number;" Old English feower "four; four times," from Proto-Germanic *fedwores (source also of Old Saxon fiuwar, Old Frisian fiower, fiuwer, Frankish *fitter-, Dutch vier, Old High German fior, German vier, Old Norse fjorir, Danish fire, Swedish fyra, Gothic fidwor "four"), from PIE root *kwetwer- "four." The phonetic evolution of the Germanic forms has not been fully explained; Watkins explains the -f- as being from the following number (Modern English five).
To be on all fours is from 1719; earlier on all four (14c.). Four-letter word as a euphemism for one of the short words generally regarded as offensive or objectionable is attested from 1923; four-letter man is recorded from 1920 (apparently as a euphemism for a shit). Compare Latin homo trium litterarum, literally "three-letter man," a euphemism for fur "a thief." A four-in-hand (1793) was a carriage drawn by four horses driven by one person; in the sense of "loosely tied necktie" it is attested from 1892. To study The History of the Four Kings (1760, compare French Livres des Quatre Rois) contains an old euphemistic slang phrase for "a pack of cards," from the time when card-playing was considered a wicked pastime for students. Slang 4-1-1 "essential information" (by 1993) is from the telephone number called to get customer information. The four-color problem so called from 1879. The four-minute mile was attained 1954.
late 14c., "hallowed, consecrated, or made holy by association with divinity or divine things or by religious ceremony or sanction," past-participle adjective from a now-obsolete verb sacren "to make holy" (c. 1200), from Old French sacrer "consecrate, anoint, dedicate" (12c.) or directly from Latin sacrare "to make sacred, consecrate; hold sacred; immortalize; set apart, dedicate," from sacer (genitive sacri) "sacred, dedicated, holy, accursed." OED writes that, in sacred, "the original ppl. notion (as pronunciation indicates) disappeared from the use of the word, which is now nearly synonymous with L. sacer."
This is from Old Latin saceres, from PIE root *sak- "to sanctify." Buck groups it with Oscan sakrim, Umbrian sacra and calls it "a distinctive Italic group, without any clear outside connections." De Vaan has it from a PIE root *shnk- "to make sacred, sanctify," and finds cognates in Hittite šaklai "custom, rites," zankila "to fine, punish." Related: Sacredness. The Latin nasalized form is sancire "make sacred, confirm, ratify, ordain" (as in saint, sanction). An Old English word for "sacred" was godcund.
The meaning "of or pertaining to religion or divine things" (opposed to secular or profane) is by c. 1600. The transferred sense of "entitled to respect or reverence" is from 1550s. Sacred cow as an object of Hindu veneration is by 1793; its figurative sense of "one who or that which must not be criticized" is in use by 1910 in U.S. journalism, reflecting Western views of Hinduism. Sacred Heart "the heart of Jesus as an object of religious veneration" is by 1823, short for Sacred Heart of Jesus or Mary.
Old English weorc, worc "something done, discrete act performed by someone, action (whether voluntary or required), proceeding, business; that which is made or manufactured, products of labor," also "physical labor, toil; skilled trade, craft, or occupation; opportunity of expending labor in some useful or remunerative way;" also "military fortification," from Proto-Germanic *werka- "work" (source also of Old Saxon, Old Frisian, Dutch werk, Old Norse verk, Middle Dutch warc, Old High German werah, German Werk, Gothic gawaurki), from PIE *werg-o-, suffixed form of root *werg- "to do."
Meaning "physical effort, exertion" is from c. 1200; meaning "scholarly labor" or its productions is from c. 1200; meaning "artistic labor" or its productions is from c. 1200. Meaning "labor as a measurable commodity" is from c. 1300. Meaning "embroidery, stitchery, needlepoint" is from late 14c.
Work of art attested by 1774 as "artistic creation," earlier (1728) "artifice, production of humans (as opposed to nature)." Work ethic recorded from 1959. To be out of work "unemployed" is from 1590s. To make clean work of is from c. 1300; to make short work of is from 1640s.
Proverbial expression many hands make light work is from c. 1300. To have (one's) work cut out for one is from 1610s; to have it prepared and prescribed, hence, to have all one can handle. Work in progress is from 1930 in a general sense, earlier as a specific term in accountancy and parliamentary procedure.
Work is less boring than amusing oneself. [Baudelaire, "Mon Coeur mis a nu," 1862]
Work and play are words used to describe the same thing under differing conditions. [attributed to Mark Twain]