Etymology
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hit (v.)

late Old English hyttan, hittan "come upon, meet with, fall in with, 'hit' upon," from a Scandinavian source such as Old Norse hitta "to light upon, meet with," also "to hit, strike;" Swedish hitta "to find," Danish and Norwegian hitte "to hit, find," from Proto-Germanic *hitjan, which is of uncertain origin. Meaning shifted in late Old English period to "strike, come into forcible contact" via the notion of "to reach with a blow or missile," and the word displaced Old English slean (modern slay) in this sense. Original sense survives in phrases such as hit it off (1780, earlier in same sense hit it, 1630s) and is revived in slang hit on (1970s).

To hit the bottle "drink alcohol" is from 1933 (hit the booze in the same sense is from 1889, and hit the pipe "smoke opium" is also late 19c.). To figuratively hit the nail on the head (1570s) is from archery. To hit the hay "go to bed" is from 1912. Hit the road "leave" is from 1873; hit the bricks is from 1909, originally trade union jargon meaning "go out on strike." To hit (someone) up "request something" is from 1917. To not know what hit (one) is from 1923. Related: Hitting.

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coelacanth (n.)

order of lobe-finned fishes, 1850, from Modern Latin Coelacanthus (genus name, 1839, Agassiz), from Greek koilos "hollow" (from PIE root *keue- "to swell," also "vault, hole") + akantha "spine" (from PIE root *ak- "be sharp, rise (out) to a point, pierce"). So called from the hollow fin rays supporting the tail in fossil remains.

Thought to have gone extinct 66 million years ago until a living one was fished up off the east coast of South Africa Dec. 22, 1938. The specimen was noticed by museum curator Marjorie Courtney-Latimer, who wrote a description of it to South African ichthyologist J.L.B. Smith.

I stared and stared, at first in puzzlement. I did not know any fish of our own, or indeed of any seas like that; it looked more like a lizard. And then a bomb seemed to burst in my brain, and beyond that sketch and the paper of the letter, I was looking at a series of fishy creatures that flashed up as on a screen, fishes no longer here, fishes that had lived in dim past ages gone, and of which only fragmentary remains in rock are known. [J.L.B. Smith, "Old Fourlegs: The Story of the Coelacanth," 1956]
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ski (n.)

in early use often skee, "one of a pair of long, slender boards or slats fastened to the feet and used to glide over snow," 1883 (there is an isolated instance from 1755), from Norwegian ski, related to Old Norse skið "long snowshoe," literally "stick of wood, firewood," cognate with Old English scid "stick of wood," obsolete English shide "piece of wood split off from timber;" Old High German skit, German Scheit "log," from Proto-Germanic *skid- "to divide, split," from PIE root *skei- "to cut, split."

THE new sport which has lately been introduced at Beloit is skeeing. They are long ash planks, carefully planed and turned up at the end, and are warranted to take you down hill quicker than a wink. After some practice performers become very expert, and the speed with which they go is something surprising. [Beloit College, Wisconsin, Round Table, Dec. 18, 1885]

Ski-jumper is attested from 1894; ski bum, a skiing enthusiast who works casual jobs at resorts for the opportunity to ski, is attested by 1960; ski-mask, originally to protect the face while skiing, is from 1963; noted as part of criminal disguises by 1968.

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position (n.)

late 14c., posicioun, as a term in logic and philosophy, "statement of belief, the laying down of a proposition or thesis," from Old French posicion "position, supposition" (Modern French position) and directly from Latin positionem (nominative positio) "act or fact of placing, situation, position, affirmation," noun of state from past-participle stem of ponere "put, place." Watkins tentatively identifies this as from PIE *po-s(i)nere, from *apo- "off, away" (see apo-) + *sinere "to leave, let" (see site). But de Vaan identifies it as from Proto-Italic *posine-, from PIE *tkine- "to build, live," from root *tkei- "to settle, dwell, be home" (see home (n.)).

The meaning "place occupied by a person or thing" especially a proper or appropriate place, is from 1540s; hence "status, standing, social rank" (1832); "official station, employment" (1890). The meaning "manner in which some physical thing is arranged or posed, aggregate of the spatial relations of a body or figure to other such bodies or figures" is recorded by 1703; specifically in reference to dance steps, 1778, to sexual intercourse, 1883. Military sense of "place occupied or to be occupied" is by 1781.

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shove (v.)

"push along by direct, continuous strength; attempt to move by pushing," Middle English shouven, from Old English scufan, sceofan "push away, thrust, push with violence" (class II strong verb; past tense sceaf, past participle scoven), from Proto-Germanic *skūbanan (source also of Old Norse skufa, Old Frisian skuva, Dutch schuiven, Old High German scioban, German schieben "to push, thrust," Gothic af-skiuban), from PIE root *skeubh- "to shove" (source also of scuffle, shuffle, shovel; likely cognates outside Germanic include Lithuanian skubti "to make haste," skubinti "to hasten").

It has been replaced by push in all but colloquial and nautical usage. The intransitive sense of "press or push forward" was in Old English. Related: Shoved; shoving.

Shove off "leave" (1844) is from the boating sense of "cause to move away from shore by pushing with poles or oars (c. 1600). Shove the queer (1859) was an old expression for "to counterfeit money." Shove it had an earlier sense of "depart" before it became a rude synonym for stick it (by 1941) with implied destination.

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ass-kissing (adj.)

"currying favor," by 1946 (as arse-kissing), apparently from or popularized by military slang in World War II. Ass-kisser is by 1943. Grose's 1788 "Dictionary of the Vulgar Tongue" has "A kiss mine arse fellow," defined as "a sycophant." As for the verbal phrase, the Towneley Plays, c. 1460, has Cain telling off Abel with "Com kis myne ars." A 1668 book of "Songs Alamode, Composed by the most Refined Wits of this Age" has a song with the line "And thou maist kiss mine Arse," and of course the Miller's Tale.

In early 20c. American-English ass-licker may have been more common than ass-kisser, at least in print sources, perhaps from German influence. "Leck mich im Arsch" is at least 18c., the title of a Mozart party song, the phrase having been branded into the minds of German readers by Goethe in "Götz von Berlichingen" (1773), where it is the hero's dramatic reply to a call to surrender. (E.g. the reply of Tjaden to the bullying NCO in "All Quiet on the Western Front," where Remarque euphemistically describes it as "dem bekanntesten Klassikerzitat.")

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distance (n.)

c. 1300, distaunce, "a dispute or controversy, civil strife, rebellion;" early 14c., "disagreement, discord, strife;" from Old French destance "discord, quarrel" (13c.), with later senses directly from Latin distantia "a standing apart," from distantem (nominative distans) "standing apart, separate, distant," present participle of distare "stand apart," from dis- "apart, off" (see dis-) + stare "to stand," from PIE root *sta- "to stand, make or be firm."

Meaning "remoteness of space, extent of space between two objects or places" is from late 14c. Also "an interval of time" (late 14c., originally distaunce of times). Meaning "remote part of a field of vision" is by 1813. The figurative sense of "aloofness, remoteness in personal intercourse" (1590s) is the same as in stand-offish.

At a distance "far away" is from 1650s. To keep (one's) distance was originally figurative (c. 1600). Phrase go the distance (1930s) seems to be originally from the prize ring, where the word meant "scheduled length of a bout." But it also was a term in 19c. horse-racing heats, where distance meant "the space behind the winning horse in a race that other competing horses must be inside to avoid being disqualified for subsequent heats."

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clipper (n.)

late 14c., "sheep-shearer;" early 15c., "a barber;" c. 1300 as a surname; agent noun from Middle English clippen "shorten" (see clip (v.1)). In late 18c., the word principally meant "one who cuts off the edges of coins" for the precious metal.

The type of sailing ship with sharp lines and a great spread of canvas is so called from 1823 (in Cooper's "The Pilot"), probably from clip (v.1) in sense of "to move or run rapidly." Compare early 19c. clipper "person or animal who looks capable of fast running." Perhaps it was influenced by Middle Dutch klepper "swift horse," which is echoic (Clipper appears as the name of an English race horse in 1831). The nautical sense was perhaps originally simply "fast ship," regardless of type:

Well, you know, the Go-along-Gee was one o' your flash Irish cruisers — the first o' your fir-built frigates — and a clipper she was! Give her a foot o' the sheet, and she'd go like a witch — but somehow o'nother, she'd bag on a bowline to leeward. ["Naval Sketch-Book," by "An officer of rank," London, 1826]

The early association of the ships was with Baltimore, Maryland. Clipper-ship is attested from 1850.

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rod (n.)

Middle English rod, rodde, "a stick of wood," especially a straight cutting from a woody plant, stripped of twigs, and having a particular purpose" (walking stick, wand of office, instrument of punishment), from Old English rodd "a rod, pole," which is probably cognate with Old Norse rudda "club," from Proto-Germanic *rudd- "stick, club," from PIE *reudh- "to clear land." Other sources formerly consider it to correspond to the continental words under rood.

As a long, tapering elastic pole for fishing, from mid-15c. Figurative sense of "offshoot" (mid-15c.) led to Biblical meaning "scion, tribe." As an instrument of punishment, attested from mid-12c.; also used figuratively for "any sort of correction or punishment" (14c.). In mechanics, "any bar slender in proportion to its length" (1728).

As a unit of linear measure (5½ yards or 16½ feet, also called perch or pole) attested from late 14c., from the pole used to mark it off. As a measure of land area, "a square perch," from late 14c., the usual measure in brickwork. Meaning "light-sensitive cell in a retina" is by 1837, so-called for their shape. Slang meaning "penis" is recorded from 1902; that of "handgun, pistol, revolver" is by 1903.

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swear (v.)

Old English swerian "take an oath" (class VI strong verb; past tense swor, past participle sworen), from Proto-Germanic *swērjanan (source also of Old Saxon swerian, Old Frisian swera, Old Norse sverja, Danish sverge, Middle Dutch swaren, Old High German swerien, German schwören, Gothic swaren "to swear"), of uncertain origin, perhaps from a PIE *swer- "to speak, talk, say" (source also of Old Church Slavonic svara "quarrel," Oscan sverrunei "to the speaker").

Also related to the second element in answer. The secondary sense of "use bad language" (early 15c.) probably developed from the notion of "invoke sacred names." Swear off "desist as with a vow" is from 1898. Swear in "install (someone) in office by administration of an oath" is attested from 1700 in modern use, echoing Old English.

[Swearing and cursing] are entirely different things : the first is invoking the witness of a Spirit to an assertion you wish to make ; the second is invoking the assistance of a Spirit, in a mischief you wish to inflict. When ill-educated and ill-tempered people clamorously confuse the two invocations, they are not, in reality, either cursing or swearing ; but merely vomiting empty words indecently. True swearing and cursing must always be distinct and solemn .... [Ruskin, "Fors Clavigera"]
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