Etymology
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pencil (n.)
Origin and meaning of pencil

mid-14c., pencel, "an artist's small, fine brush of camel hair," used for painting, manuscript illustration, etc., from Old French pincel "artist's paintbrush" (13c., Modern French pinceau) and directly from Medieval Latin pincellus, from Latin penicillus "painter's brush, hair-pencil," literally "little tail," diminutive of peniculus "brush," itself a diminutive of penis "tail" (see penis).

Small brushes formerly were used for writing before modern lead or chalk pencils. Sticks of pure graphite (commonly known as black lead) were used for marking things in England from the mid-16c., and the wooden enclosure for them was developed in the same century on the Continent. This seems to have been the time the word pencil was transferred from a type of brush to "graphite writing implement." The modern clay-graphite mix was developed early 19c., and pencils of this sort were mass-produced from mid-19c. Hymen L. Lipman of Philadelphia obtained a patent for the pencil with an attached eraser in 1858.

Derogatory slang pencil-pusher "office worker" is from 1881 (pen-driver, jocular for "clerk, writer," is from 1820); pencil neck "weak person" first recorded 1973. Pencil-sharpener as a mechanical device for putting the point on a lead pencil is by 1854.

And here is a new and serviceable invention—a pencil sharpener. It is just the thing to carry in the pocket, being no larger than a lady's thimble. It sharpens a lead pencil neatly and splendidly, by means of a small blade fitted in a cap, which is turned upon the end of a pencil. A patent has been applied for. Made by Mr. W. K. Foster, of Bangor. ["The Portland Transcript," Portland, Maine, Sept. 30, 1854]
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cut (v.)

c. 1300, "to make, with an edged tool or instrument, an incision in; make incisions for the purpose of dividing into two or more parts; remove by means of a cutting instrument;" of an implement, "have a cutting edge," according to Middle English Compendium from a presumed Old English *cyttan, "since ME has the normal regional variants of the vowel." Others suggest a possible Scandinavian etymology from North Germanic *kut- (source also of Swedish dialectal kuta "to cut," kuta "knife," Old Norse kuti "knife"), or that it is from Old French couteau "knife."

It has largely displaced Old English ceorfan (see carve (v.)), snian, and scieran (see shear). The past participle is also cut, though cutted sometimes has been used since Middle English.

From early 14c. as "to make or fashion by cutting or carving." From c. 1400 as "to intersect or cross." From early 15c. as "abridge or shorten by omitting a part."

Meaning "to wound the sensibilities of" is from 1580s (to cut the heart in the same sense is attested from early 14c.). Sense of "sever connection or relations with" is from 1630s.

Meaning "to be absent without excuse" is British university slang from 1794. Colloquial or slang sense of "move off with directness and rapidity" is from 1580s. Meaning "divide (a deck of cards) at random into parts before the deal" to prevent cheating is from 1530s.

Meaning "to dilute, adulterate" (liquor, etc.) is by 1930. Colloquial sense of "to divide or share" is by 1928, perhaps an image from meat-carving at table. As a director's call to halt recording or performing, by 1931 (in an article about Pete, the bulldog with the black-ringed eye in the Hal Roach studios shorts, who was said to know the word). The sense of "perform, execute" (c. 1600) is in cut capers "frisk about;" cut a dash "make a display."

To cut down is from late 14c. as "to fell;" by 1821 as "to slay" (as with a sword); 1857 as "to curtail." To cut (someone or something) down to size is from 1821 as "reduce to suitable dimensions;" the figurative sense, "reduce to the proper level of importance," is by 1927.

To cut in "enter suddenly and unceremoniously" is from 1610s; sense of "suddenly join in conversation, interrupt" is by 1830. To cut up "cut in pieces" is from 1570s. To cut back is from 1871 as "prune by cutting off shoots," 1913 in cinematography, "return to a previous scene by repeating a part of it," 1943 as "reduce, decrease" (of expenditures, etc.). To cut (something) short "abridge, curtail, interrupt" is from 1540s.

In nautical use to cut a feather (1620s) is to move so fast as to make water foam under the bow. To cut and run (1704) also is originally nautical, "cut cable and set sail immediately," as in an emergency, hence, generally, "to make off suddenly."

To cut the teeth "have the teeth grow through the gums" as an infant is from 1670s. To cut both ways in the figurative sense of "have a good and bad effect" is from c. 1600. To cut loose "set (something) free" is by 1828; intransitive sense "begin to act freely" is by 1909.

Cut it out "remove (something) by or as if by cutting" yielded a figurative use in the command cut it out! "Stop! That's enough!" by 1933. The evolution seems to have begun earlier. A piece attributed to the Chicago Live Stock World that made the rounds in trade publications 1901-02 begins:

When you get 'hot' about something and vow you are going to rip something or somebody up the back—cut it out.
If you feel disposed to try the plan of building yourself up by tearing some one else down—cut it out.

Playing on both senses, it ends with "Should you, after reading this preachy stuff, fear you might forget some of the good advice—cut it out."

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gable (n.)

"end of a ridged roof cut off in a vertical plane, together with the wall from the level of the eaves to the apex," mid-14c., "a gable of a building; a facade," from Old French gable "facade, front, gable," from Old Norse gafl "gable, gable-end" (in north of England, the word probably is directly from Norse), according to Watkins, probably from Proto-Germanic *gablaz "top of a pitched roof" (source also of Middle Dutch ghevel, Dutch gevel, Old High German gibil, German Giebel, Gothic gibla "gable"). This is traced to a PIE *ghebh-el- "head," which seems to have yielded words meaning both "fork" (such as Old English gafol, geafel, Old Saxon gafala, Dutch gaffel, Old High German gabala "pitchfork," German Gabel "fork;" Old Irish gabul "forked twig") and "head" (such as Old High German gibilla, Old Saxon gibillia "skull"). See cephalo-.

Possibly the primitive meaning of the words may have been 'top', 'vertex'; this may have given rise to the sense of 'gable', and this latter to the sense of 'fork', a gable being originally formed by two pieces of timber crossed at the top supporting the end of the roof-tree. [OED]

Related: Gabled; gables; gable-end.

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he (pron.)

Old English he, pronoun of the third person (see paradigm of Old English third person pronoun below), from Proto-Germanic *hi- (source also of Old Saxon, Old Frisian, Middle Dutch he, hi, Dutch hy, Old High German he), from PIE *ki-, variant of root *ko-, the "this, here" (as opposed to "that, there") root, and thus the source of the third person pronouns in Old English. The feminine, hio, was replaced in early Middle English by forms from other stems (see she), while the h- wore off Old English neuter hit to make modern it. The Proto-Germanic root also is the source of the first element in German heute "today," literally "the day" (compare Old English heodæg).

The paradigm in Old English was: MASCULINE SINGULAR: he (nominative), hine (accusative), his (genitive), him (dative); FEMININE SINGULAR: heo, hio (nom.), hie, hi (acc.), hire (gen. and dat.); NEUTER SINGULAR: hit (nom. and acc.), his (gen.), him (dat.); PLURAL: (all genders) hie, hi (nom. and acc.), hira, heora (gen.), him, heom (dat.).

Pleonastic use with the noun ("Mistah Kurtz, he dead") is attested from late Old English. With animal words, meaning "male" (he-goat, etc.) from c. 1300.

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pass (v.)

late 13c., passen (transitive), "to go by (something)," also "to cross over," from Old French passer "to pass" (11c.), from Vulgar Latin *passare "to step, walk, pass" (source also of Spanish pasar, Italian passare), from Latin passus "step, pace" (from PIE root *pete- "to spread").

Intransitive sense of "to go on, to move forward, make one's way" is attested from c. 1300. The figurative sense of "to experience, undergo" (as in pass the time) is recorded from late 14c. Sense of "to go through an examination successfully" is from early 15c. Meaning "decline to do something" is attested from 1869, originally in cards (euchre). In football, hockey, soccer, etc., the meaning "to transfer the ball or puck to another player" is from c. 1865. Related: Passed; passing.

The meaning "to be thought to be something one is not" (especially in a racial sense) is from 1935, from pass oneself off(as), which is attested by 1809. The general verb sense of "to be accepted as equivalent" is from 1590s. Pass up "decline, refuse" is attested from 1896. Pass the buck is from 1865, said to be poker slang reference to the buck horn-handled knife that was passed around to signify whose turn it was to deal. Pass the hat "seek contributions" is from 1762. Pass-fail as a grading method is attested from 1955, American English.

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throw (v.)

"to project, propel," c. 1300, from Old English þrawan "to twist, turn, writhe, curl," (past tense þreow, past participle þrawen), from Proto-Germanic *threw- (source also of Old Saxon thraian, Middle Dutch dræyen, Dutch draaien, Old High German draen, German drehen "to turn, twist;" not found in Scandinavian or Gothic), from PIE root *tere- (1) "to rub, turn," with derivatives referring to twisting.

Not the usual Old English word for "to throw" (weorpan, related to warp (v.) was common in this sense). The sense evolution may be via the notion of whirling a missile before throwing it. The sense of "put by force" (as in throw in jail) is first recorded 1550s; that of "confuse, flabbergast" is from 1844; that of "lose deliberately" is from 1868. To throw a party was in U.S. college slang by 1916.

To throw the book at(someone) is 1932, from notion of judge sentencing a criminal from a law book full of possible punishments. To throw (one's) hat in the ring "issue a challenge," especially to announce one's candidacy, first recorded 1917. To throw up "vomit" is first recorded 1732. To throw (someone) off "confuse by a false scent" is from 1891.

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plump (v.1)

c. 1300, "to fall (into water) or strike with a full impact," a common Low German word, from or related to Middle Dutch and Dutch plompen, East Frisian plumpen, Middle Low German plumpen, probably more or less imitative of something hard striking something soft. Perhaps influenced by or merged with Middle English plumben "immerse (in liquid)," late 14c., from plumb (n.) in the "weight" sense. Hence plump (n.) "a firm blow," in pugilism usually one to the belly.

To plump; to strike, or shoot. I'll give you a plump in the bread basket, or the victualling office; I'll give you a blow in the stomach. [Grose, "Dictionary of the Vulgar Tongue," London, 1785]
Or, even if any of them should suspect me, I know how to bring myself off. It is but pretending to be affronted, stripping directly, challenging him to fight, and before he can be on his guard, hitting him a plump in the bread-basket, that shall make him throw up his accounts; and I'll engage he will have but very little stomach to accuse me after. ["The Reverie: or A Flight to the Paradise of Fools," London, 1763]

As an adverb, "at once," as in a sudden fall, from 1590s.

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turn (v.)

late Old English turnian "to rotate, revolve," in part also from Old French torner "to turn away or around; draw aside, cause to turn; change, transform; turn on a lathe" (Modern French tourner), both from Latin tornare "to polish, round off, fashion, turn on a lathe," from tornus "lathe," from Greek tornos "lathe, tool for drawing circles," from PIE root *tere- (1) "to rub, turn." Transitive sense in English is from c. 1300. Related: Turned; turning.

Use in expression to turn (something) into (something else) probably retains the classical sense of "to shape on a lathe." To turn up "arrive, make an appearance" is recorded from 1755. Turn about "by turns, alternately" is recorded from 1640s. To turn (something) loose "set free" is recorded from 1590s. Turn down (v.) "reject" first recorded 1891, American English. Turn in "go to bed" is attested from 1690s, originally nautical. To turn the stomach "nauseate" is recorded from 1620s. To turn up one's nose as an expression of contempt is attested from 1779.

Turning point is attested by 1640s in a figurative sense "point at which a decisive change takes place;" literal sense "point on which a thing turns; point at which motion in one direction ceases and that in another or contrary direction begins" is from 1660s.

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*sker- (1)

also *ker-, Proto-Indo-European root meaning "to cut."

It forms all or part of: bias; carnage; carnal; carnation; carnival; carnivorous; carrion; cenacle; charcuterie; charnel; corium; cortex; crone; cuirass; currier; curt; decorticate; excoriate; incarnadine; incarnate; incarnation; kirtle; scabbard; scar (n.2) "bare and broken rocky face of a cliff or mountain;" scaramouche; scarf (n.2) "connecting joint;" scarp; score; scrabble; scrap (n.1) "small piece;" scrape; screen; screw; scrimmage; scrofula; scrub (n.1) "low, stunted tree;" scurf; shard; share (n.1) "portion;" share (n.2) "iron blade of a plow;" sharp; shear; shears; sheer (adj.) "absolute, utter;" shirt; shore (n.) "land bordering a large body of water;" short; shrub; skerry; skirmish; skirt.

It is the hypothetical source of/evidence for its existence is provided by: Sanskrit krnati "hurts, wounds, kills," krntati "cuts;" Hittite karsh- "to cut off;" Greek keirein "to cut, shear;" Latin curtus "short," caro (genitive carnis) "flesh" (originally "piece of flesh"); Lithuanian skiriu, skirti "to separate;" Old English sceran, scieran "to cleave, hew, cut with a sharp instrument;" Old Irish scaraim "I separate;" Welsh ysgar "to separate," ysgyr "fragment."

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brass (adj.)

"made of brass," c. 1400, from brass (n.). Compare brazen (adj.). Slang brass balls "toughness, courage" (emphatically combining two words that serve as metaphors for the same thing) is attested by 1960s. Brass-band is from 1827.

The figurative brass tacks "essentials of a matter" that you get down to (1897, popular from c. 1910) perhaps are the ones said to have been nailed to the counters of a dry goods stores and used to measure cloth, suggesting precision, but the metaphor was unclear from the start, and brass tacks or nails in late 19c. were commonly noted as being used in upholstering. A 1911 advertisement begins " 'Getting down to brass tacks' is a characteristic American slang phrase, full of suggestion but of obscure origin."

The figurative brass monkey that suffers anatomical loss in freezing weather is attested by 1843:

Old Knites was as cool as a cucumber, and would have been so, independent of the weather, which, as he expressed it, was cold enough to freeze the nose off a brass monkey. ["An Incident of the Canadian Rebellion," in The Worcester Magazine, June, 1843]

Melville  ("Omoo," 1847) has a twist on the image in "hot enough to melt the nose h'off a brass monkey."

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