c. 1200 (late 12c. as a surname), sergeaunt, also sergiaunte, serjainte, sergunt, cerjaunt, etc., "a servant, servingman," especially "an officer in a lord's retinue," from Old French sergent, serjant "(domestic) servant, valet; court official; soldier," from Medieval Latin servientum (nominative serviens) "servant, vassal, soldier" (in Late Latin "public official"), from Latin servire "to serve" (see serve (v.)).
The Latin word also is the source of Spanish sirviente, Italian servente. Sergeant is thus essentially a doublet of servant, and 16c. writers in English sometimes use the two words interchangeably.
By c. 1300 in a feudal sense of "tenant by military service under the rank of knight;" the modern military meaning "non-commissioned military officer" is recorded by 1540s. Originally a much more important position than after. As a police rank, in Great Britain from 1839.
The sense of "officer whose duty is to enforce judgments of a tribunal or legislative body" is from c. 1300 (hence sergeant at arms, attested from late 14c.).
The Middle English alternative spelling serjeant (from Old French) was retained in Britain in special use as the title of a superior order of barristers from which Common Law judges were chosen (mid-14c.); in this use it is from the legal Latin phrase serviens ad legem, "one who serves (the king) in matters of law"). It was also used of certain other officers of the royal household.
Fem. form sergeantess is attested from mid-15c. Sergeant-major is attested from 1570s. The sergeant-fish (1871) so-called for lateral markings resembling a sergeant's stripes. Related: Sergeancy.
late 15c., "band attached to a letter with seals dangling on the free end," from French queue "a tail," from Old French cue, coe, queue, "tail" (12c., also "penis"), from Latin coda (dialectal variant or alternative form of cauda) "tail" (see coda, and compare cue (n.2)).
Also in literal use in 16c. English, "tail of a beast," especially in heraldry. A metaphoric extension to "line of dancers" (c. 1500) perhaps led to the extended sense of "line of people, etc." (1837), but this use in English is perhaps directly from French (queue à queue, "one after another" appears in early 19c. English and American military dictionaries).
If we look now at Paris one thing is too evident: that the Baker's shops have got their Queues, or Tails ; their long strings of purchasers arranged in tail, so that the first come be the first served,—were the shop once open! This waiting in tail, not seen since the early days of July, again makes its appearance in August. In time, we shall see it perfected, by practice to the rank almost of an art ; and the art, or quasi-art, of standing in tail become one of the characteristics of the Parisian People, distinguishing them from all other Peoples whatsoever. [Carlyle, "The French Revolution," 1837]
Also used 18c. in sense of "braid of hair hanging down behind" (attested by 1748), originally part of the wig, in later 18c. of the hair of the head.
QUEUE. From the French, which signifies tail; an appendage that every British soldier is directed to wear in lieu of a club. Regimental tails were ordered be nine inches long. [William Duane, "A Military Dictionary," Philadelphia, 1810]
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.
also gild, early 13c., yilde (spelling later influenced by Old Norse gildi "guild, brotherhood"), a semantic fusion of Old English gegield "guild, brotherhood," and gield "service, offering; payment, tribute; compensation," from Proto-Germanic *geldja- "payment, contribution" (source also of Old Frisian geld "money," Old Saxon geld "payment, sacrifice, reward," Old High German gelt "payment, tribute;" see yield (v.)).
The connecting sense is of a contribution or payment to join a protective or trade society. But some look to the alternative prehistoric sense of "sacrifice," as if in worship, and see the word as meaning a combination for religious purposes, either Christian or pagan. The Anglo-Saxon guilds had a strong religious component; they were burial societies that paid for Masses for the souls of deceased members as well as paying fines in cases of justified crime.
The earliest reference was to sacred banquets (Tacit: Germania 21-2) for which a contribution had to be paid, and which furthermore accounts for the meaning 'fraternity' of the formation *geldja-. In medieval times the economically oriented fraternities, the guilds, adopted this word, but it could still be used in reference to religious fraternities .... The contribution to the banquets, *gelda-, acquired a legal meaning 'recompense', but also the meaning 'money, currency' in general. [Dirk Boutkan, "Old Frisian Etymological Dictionary"]
Continental guilds of merchants, incorporated in each town or city and holding exclusive rights of doing business there, arrived after the Conquest. In many cases they became the governing body of a town (compare Guildhall, which came to be the London city hall). Trade guilds arose 14c., as craftsmen united to protect their common interest.
"agreement in terminal sounds of words or metrical lines," a 16c. attempt to restore a classical spelling to Middle English ryme, rime (c. 1200) "measure, meter, rhythm," later "rhymed verse" (mid-13c.), from Old French rime (fem.), which is related to Old Provençal rim (masc.), earlier *ritme, from Latin rithmus, from Greek rhythmos "measured flow or movement, rhythm; proportion, symmetry; arrangement, order; form, shape, wise, manner; soul, disposition," related to rhein "to flow" (from PIE root *sreu- "to flow").
The persistence of rime, the older form of the word, perhaps is due to popular association with Old English rim "number" (from PIE root *re- "to reason, count"). The intermediate form rhime was frequent until late 18c.
In Medieval Latin, rithmus was used for accentual, as opposed to quantitative, verse, and accentual verse usually was rhymed, hence the sense shift. In prosody, specifically the quality of agreement in end-sounds such that the last stressed vowel, and any sounds after it, are the same, and preceding sounds differ.
Verse was invented as an aid to memory. Later it was preserved to increase pleasure by the spectacle of difficulty overcome. That it should still survive in dramatic art is a vestige of barbarism. [Stendhal "de l'Amour," 1822]
The sense of "a piece of poetry in which consonance of end-sounds is observed" is from 1610s. From 1650s as "word that rhymes with another." The phrase rhyme or reason "good sense" (chiefly used in the negative) is from late 15c. (see reason (n.)). Rhyme scheme "ordered pattern of end-rhymes in metrical composition" is attested from 1931. Rhyme royal (1841) is a stanza of seven 10-syllable lines rhymed a-b-a-b-b-c-c.
late 14c., in reference to the fruit of the orange tree (late 13c. as a surname), from Old French orange, orenge (12c., Modern French orange), from Medieval Latin pomum de orenge, from Italian arancia, originally narancia (Venetian naranza), an alteration of Arabic naranj, from Persian narang, from Sanskrit naranga-s "orange tree," a word of uncertain origin.
Not used as a color word in English until 1510s (orange color), "a reddish-yellow color like that of a ripe orange." Colors similar to modern orange in Middle English might be called citrine or saffron. Loss of initial n- probably is due to confusion with the definite article (as in une narange, una narancia), but also perhaps was by influence of French or "gold." The name of the town of Orange in France (see Orangemen) perhaps was deformed by the name of the fruit. Orange juice is attested from 1723.
The tree's original range probably was northern India. The Persian orange, grown widely in southern Europe after its introduction in Italy 11c., was bitter; sweet oranges were brought to Europe 15c. from India by Portuguese traders and quickly displaced the bitter variety, but only Modern Greek still seems to distinguish the bitter (nerantzi) from the sweet (portokali "Portuguese") orange.
Portuguese, Spanish, Arab, and Dutch sailors planted citrus trees along trade routes to prevent scurvy. On his second voyage in 1493, Christopher Columbus brought the seeds of oranges, lemons and citrons to Haiti and the Caribbean. Introduced in Florida (along with lemons) in 1513 by Spanish explorer Juan Ponce de Leon. It was introduced to Hawaii in 1792.
Old English sealt "salt, sodium chloride, abundant substance essential to life, used as a condiment and meat preservative," from Proto-Germanic *saltom (source also of Old Saxon, Old Norse, Old Frisian, Gothic salt, Dutch zout, German Salz), from PIE root *sal- "salt."
Applied from early 14c. to various substances resembling common salt. Modern chemistry sense "compound of an acid radical with a base radical" is from 1790; as an ultimate element in alchemy from 1580s. Meaning "experienced sailor" is attested by 1840 (Dana), probably a reference to the salinity of the sea. By 1570s as "that which gives piquancy to discourse or writing or liveliness to a person's character."
Salt long was regarded as having power to repel spiritual and magical evil. Many metaphoric uses reflect that this was once a rare and important resource, such as worth one's salt "efficient, capable" (1830), salt of the earth "persons of worthiness" (Old English, after Matthew v.13). Belief that spilling salt brings bad luck is attested from 16c. To be above (or below) the salt (1590s) refers to customs of seating at a long table according to rank or honor, and placing a large salt-cellar in the middle of the dining table.
Salt-shaker is from 1882. Salt-and-pepper (adj.) "of dark and light color" is by 1915 (pepper-and-salt, 1774, was an old name for a kind of cloth made from dark and light colored wools woven together). To take something with a grain of salt "accept with a certain amount of reserve" is from 1640s, from Modern Latin cum grano salis. The notion is perhaps "modification," hence "allowance, abatement, reserve."
c. 1400, perhaps mid-14c., "person of non-Christian or non-Jewish faith," from Late Latin paganus "pagan," in classical Latin "villager, rustic; civilian, non-combatant" noun use of adjective meaning "of the country, of a village," from pagus "country people; province, rural district," originally "district limited by markers," thus related to pangere "to fix, fasten," from PIE root *pag- "to fasten." As an adjective from early 15c.
The religious sense often was said in 19c. [e.g. Trench] to derive from conservative rural adherence to the old gods after the Christianization of Roman towns and cities; but the Latin word in this sense predates that period in Church history, and it is more likely derived from the use of paganus in Roman military jargon for "civilian, incompetent soldier," which Christians (Tertullian, c. 202; Augustine) picked up with the military imagery of the early Church (such as milites "soldier of Christ," etc.).
The English word was used later in a narrower sense of "one not a Christian, Jew, or Muslim." As "person of heathenish character or habits," by 1841. Applied to modern pantheists and nature-worshippers from 1908.
Pagan and heathen are primarily the same in meaning; but pagan is sometimes distinctively applied to those nations that, although worshiping false gods, are more cultivated, as the Greeks and Romans, and heathen to uncivilized idolaters, as the tribes of Africa. A Mohammedan is not counted a pagan much less a heathen. [Century Dictionary, 1897]
The English surname Paine, Payne, etc., appears by old records to be from Latin paganus, but whether in the sense "villager," "rustic," or "heathen" is disputed. It also was a common Christian name in 13c., "and was, no doubt, given without any thought of its meaning" ["Dictionary of English Surnames"].
"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]
Old English bisceop "bishop, high priest (Jewish or pagan)," from Late Latin episcopus, from Greek episkopos "watcher, (spiritual) overseer," a title for various government officials, later taken over in a Church sense, from epi- "over" (see epi-) + skopos "one that watches, one that looks after; a guardian, protector" (from PIE root *spek- "to observe"). Given a specific sense in the Church, but the word also was used in the New Testament as a descriptive title for elders, and continues as such in some non-hierarchical Christian sects.
A curious example of word-change, as effected by the genius of different tongues, is furnished by the English bishop and the French évêque. Both are from the same root, furnishing, perhaps the only example of two words from a common stem so modifying themselves in historical times as not to have a letter in common. (Of course many words from a far off Aryan stem are in the same condition.) The English strikes off the initial and terminal syllables, leaving only piscop, which the Saxon preference for the softer labial and hissing sounds modified into bishop. Évêque (formerly evesque) merely softens the p into v and drops the last syllable. [William S. Walsh, "Handy-Book of Literary Curiosities," Philadelphia, J.B. Lippincott, 1892]
Late Latin episcopus in Spanish became obispo, in Italian vescovo, in Welsh esgob. The Germanic forms include Old Saxon biscop, Old High German biscof. Further afield it became Lithuanian vyskupas, Albanian upeshk, Finnish piispa. A once-popular pun on it was bite-sheep (1550s; it works better in German, biss-schaf). The chess piece (formerly archer, before that alfin) was so called from 1560s.