Old English yfel (Kentish evel) "bad, vicious, ill, wicked," from Proto-Germanic *ubilaz (source also of Old Saxon ubil, Old Frisian and Middle Dutch evel, Dutch euvel, Old High German ubil, German übel, Gothic ubils), from PIE *upelo-, from root *wap- "bad, evil" (source also of Hittite huwapp- "evil").
In Old English and other older Germanic languages other than Scandinavian, "this word is the most comprehensive adjectival expression of disapproval, dislike or disparagement" [OED]. Evil was the word the Anglo-Saxons used where we would use bad, cruel, unskillful, defective (adj.), or harm (n.), crime, misfortune, disease (n.). In Middle English, bad took the wider range of senses and evil began to focus on moral badness. Both words have good as their opposite. Evil-favored (1520s) meant "ugly." Evilchild is attested as an English surname from 13c.
The adverb is Old English yfele, originally of words or speech. Also as a noun in Old English, "what is bad; sin, wickedness; anything that causes injury, morally or physically." Especially of a malady or disease from c. 1200. The meaning "extreme moral wickedness" was one of the senses of the Old English noun, but it did not become established as the main sense of the modern word until 18c.
As a noun, Middle English also had evilty. Related: Evilly. Evil eye (Latin oculus malus) was Old English eage yfel. The jocular notion of an evil twin as an excuse for regrettable deeds is by 1986, American English, from an old motif in mythology.
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-14c., "opposite, opposed, at the opposite point or in the opposite direction; extremely unlike, most unlike," from Anglo-French contrarie, Old French contrarie, and directly from Latin contrarius "opposite, opposed; contrary, reverse," from contra "against" (see contra). Meaning "given to contradiction, perverse, intractable" is from late 14c.; sense of "adverse, unfavorable" is from late 14c. Related: Contrarily.
As a noun from late 13c., "one of a pair of characters, propositions, terms, etc., the most different possible within the same class." The phrase on the contrary "in precise or extreme opposition to what has been said" is attested from c. 1400 as in the contrary.
If we take the statement All men are mortal, its contrary is Not all men are mortal, its converse is All mortal beings are men, & its opposite is No men are mortal. The contrary, however, does not exclude the opposite, but includes it as its most extreme form. Thus This is white has only one opposite, This is black, but many contraries, as This is not white, This is coloured, This is dirty, This is black; & whether the last form is called the contrary, or more emphatically the opposite, is usually indifferent. But to apply the opposite to a mere contrary (e.g. to I did not hit him in relation to I hit him, which has no opposite), or to the converse (e.g. to He hit me in relation to I hit him, to which it is neither contrary nor opposite), is a looseness that may easily result in misunderstanding; the temptation to go wrong is intelligible when it is remembered that with certain types of sentence (A exceeds B) the converse & the opposite are identical (B exceeds A). [Fowler]
late 13c., meven, in various senses (see below), from Anglo-French mover, Old French movoir "to move, get moving, set out; set in motion; introduce" (Modern French mouvoir), from Latin movere "move, set in motion; remove; disturb" (past participle motus, frequentative motare), from PIE root *meue- "to push away."
Of the physical meanings, the earliest in English (late 13c.) is the intransitive one of "change one's place or posture, stir, shift; move the body; move from one's place, change position. That of "to go (from one place to another), journey, travel; set out, proceed" is from c. 1300. The transitive sense of "cause to change place or position; shift; dislodge; set in motion" is from late 14c., as is that of "impart motion to, impel; set or sustain in motion." The intransitive sense of "pass from place to place; journey; travel; change position continuously or occasionally" is from c. 1300.
The emotional, figurative, and non-material senses also are mostly from Middle English: The earliest is "excite to action; influence; induce; incite; arouse; awaken" the senses or mental faculties or emotions (late 13c.); specifically "affect (someone) emotionally, rouse to pity or tenderness" by early 14c. Hence also "influence (someone, to do something), guide, prompt or impel toward some action" (late 14c.).
The sense of "propose; bring forward; offer formally; submit," as a motion for consideration by a deliberative assembly" is by early 15c. Sense of "to change one's place of residence" is from 1707. In chess, checkers, and similar games, "to change the position of a piece in the course of play," late 15c. Commercial sense of "sell, cause to be sold" is by 1900.
The policeman's order to move on is attested by 1831. To move heaven and earth "make extraordinary efforts" is by 1798. Related: Moved;moving.
c. 1300, "belonging to all, owned or used jointly, general, of a public nature or character," from Old French comun "common, general, free, open, public" (9c., Modern French commun), from Latin communis "in common, public, shared by all or many; general, not specific; familiar, not pretentious." This is from a reconstructed PIE compound *ko-moin-i- "held in common," compound adjective formed from *ko- "together" + *moi-n-, suffixed form of root *mei- (1) "to change, go, move," hence literally "shared by all."
The second element of the compound also is the source of Latin munia "duties, public duties, functions," those related to munia "office." Perhaps reinforced in Old French by the Germanic form of PIE *ko-moin-i- (compare German gemein, Old English gemne "common, public, general, universal;" see mean (adj.)), which came to French via Frankish.
Used disparagingly of women and criminals since c. 1300. Meaning "pertaining equally to or proceeding equally from two or more" is from c. 1400. Meaning "usual, not exceptional, of frequent occurrence" is from late 14c. Sense of "not distinguished, belonging to the general mass" is from c. 1400; of things, "ordinary, not excellent," late 14c.
Common pleas is 13c., from Anglo-French communs plets, hearing civil actions by one subject against another as opposed to pleas of the crown. Common prayer is that done in public in unity with other worshipers; contrasted with private prayer. Common stock is attested from 1888. Common speech (late 14c.) is the vernacular, as opposed to Latin. Common good (late 14c.) translates Latin bonum publicum "the common weal." The college common room (1660s) is one to which all members have common access.
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]
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.
"penis," 1610s, but certainly older and suggested in word-play from at least 15c.; also compare pillicock "penis," attested from early 14c. (as pilkoc, found in an Anglo-Irish manuscript known as "The Kildare Lyrics," in a poem beginning "Elde makiþ me," complaining of the effects of old age: Y ne mai no more of loue done; Mi pilkoc pisseþ on mi schone), also attested from 12c. as a surname (Johanne Pilecoc, 1199: Hugonem Pillok, 1256; there is also an Agnes Pillock). Also compare Middle English fide-cok "penis" (late 15c.), from fid "a peg or plug."
The male of the domestic fowl (along with the bull) has been associated in many lands since ancient times with male vigor and especially the membrum virile, but the exact connection is not clear (the cock actually has no penis) unless it be his role as fertilizer of the domestic hens, and there may be some influence from cock (n.2) in the "tap" sense.
The slang word has led to an avoidance of cock in the literal sense via the euphemistic rooster. Murray, in the original OED entry (1893) called it "The current name among the people, but, pudoris causa, not admissible in polite speech or literature; in scientific language the Latin is used" (the Latin word is penis). Avoidance of it also may have helped haystack replace haycock and vane displace weather-cock. Louisa May Alcott's father, the reformer and educator Amos Bronson Alcott, was born Alcox, but changed his name.
Cock-teaser, cock-sucker emerge into print in 1891 in Farmer and Henley ("Slang and Its Analogues").
Old English boc "book, writing, written document," generally referred (despite phonetic difficulties) to Proto-Germanic *bōk(ō)-, from *bokiz "beech" (source also of German Buch "book" Buche "beech;" see beech), the notion being of beechwood tablets on which runes were inscribed; but it may be from the tree itself (people still carve initials in them).
Latin and Sanskrit also have words for "writing" that are based on tree names ("birch" and "ash," respectively). And compare French livre "book," from Latin librum, originally "the inner bark of trees" (see library). The Old English word originally meant any written document. The sense gradually narrowed by early Middle English to "a written work covering many pages fastened together and bound," also "a literary composition" in any form, of however many volumes. Later also "bound pages," whether written on or not. In 19c. it also could mean "a magazine;" in 20c. a telephone directory.
From c. 1200 as "a main subdivision of a larger work." Meaning "libretto of an opera" is from 1768. A betting book "record of bets made" is from 1812. Meaning "sum of criminal charges" is from 1926, hence slang phrase throw the book at (1932). Book of Life "the roll of those chosen for eternal life" is from mid-14c. Book of the month is from 1926. To do something by the book "according to the rules" is from 1590s.
The use of books or written charters was introduced in Anglo-Saxon times by the ecclesiastics, as affording more permanent and satisfactory evidence of a grant or conveyance of land than the symbolical or actual delivery of possession before witnesses, which was the method then in vogue. [Century Dictionary]
early 12c., ungeon, oinyon, unione, "the underground bulb of the common onion plant," from Anglo-French union, Old French oignon "onion" (formerly also oingnon), and directly from Latin unionem (nominative unio), a colloquial rustic Roman word for a kind of onion, also "pearl" (via the notion of a string of onions), literally "one, unity." The sense connection is the unity of the successive layers of an onion, in contrast with garlic or cloves.
Old English had ynne (in ynne-leac), from the same Latin source, which also produced Irish inniun, Welsh wynwyn and similar words in Germanic. In Dutch, the ending in -n was mistaken for a plural inflection and new singular ui formed. The usual Indo-European name is represented by Greek kromion, Irish crem, Welsh craf, Old English hramsa, Lithuanian kermušė.
The usual Latin word was cepa, a loan from an unknown language; it is the source of Old French cive, Old English cipe, and, via Late Latin diminutive cepulla, Italian cipolla, Spanish cebolla, Polish cebula. German Zwiebel also is from this source, but altered by folk etymology in Old High German (zwibolla) from words for "two" and "ball."
Onion-ring "circular segment of an onion" (especially battered and deep-fried) is attested by 1904. Onion-dome on a church-tower, etc., is attested by 1950, so called for the resemblance of shape; onion-grass, which forms tuberous nodes in its roots (also onion-couch) is from 1823; onion-skin as a type of paper (so called for its thinness, transparency, and finish, which resemble the skin of an onion) is from 1879.
Onions, the surname, is attested from mid-12c. (Ennian), from Old Welsh Enniaun, ultimately from Latin Annianus, which was associated with Welsh einion "anvil."