"herbaceous plant of the genus Urtica, armed with stinging hairs" (also used of other plants of the genus and of nettle-like plants, generally with a qualifying word), Middle English netle, from Old English netele, from Proto-Germanic *natilon (source also of Old Saxon netila, Middle Dutch netele, Dutch netel, German Nessel, Danish nædlæ "nettle"), diminutive of *nato-, of unknown origin, perhaps from PIE root *ned- "to bind, tie." "[N]ettles or plants of closely related genera such as hemp were used as a source of fiber" [Watkins].
"testicles," early 14c., from plural of ball (n.1). See also ballocks. Meaning "courage, nerve" is from 1928. Balls to the wall, however, probably is from World War II Air Forces slang, from the ball that topped the aircraft throttle, thrust to the bulkhead of the cockpit to attain full speed.
Ball-busting "difficult" is recorded by 1944; ball-breaker "difficult job or problem" is by 1954. Ball-buster, disparaging for "dominant female, woman who destroys men's self-confidence" is from 1954; ball-breaker in this sense is by 1970 (of Bella Abzug).
c. 1400, attraccioun, originally medical, "action or property of drawing (diseased matter) to the surface," from Old French atraccion (13c.) and directly from Latin attractionem (nominative attractio) "a drawing together," noun of action from past-participle stem of attrahere "to draw, pull" (see attract).
Extended by c. 1600 to magnetic forces; figurative sense "quality in a person which draws interest or imagination" is from c. 1600. Meaning "a thing which draws a crowd, interesting or amusing exhibition" is from 1829, a sense that developed in English and soon transferred to the French equivalent of the word.
1550s, "line of battle in close ranks," from Latin phalanx "compact body of heavily armed men in battle array," or directly from Greek phalanx (genitive phalangos) "line of battle, battle array," also "finger or toe bone," originally "round piece of wood, trunk, log," a word of unknown origin. Perhaps from PIE root *bhelg- "plank, beam" (source of Old English balca "balk;" see balk (n.)).
In anatomy, originally the whole row of finger joints, which fit together like infantry in close order. Figurative sense of "number of persons banded together in a common cause" is attested from 1600 (compare Spanish Falangist, member of a fascist organization founded in 1933).
The celebrated Macedonian phalanx was normally drawn up sixteen ranks deep, the men being clad in armor, bearing shields, and armed with swords and with spears from 21 to 24 feet long. In array the shields formed a continuous bulwark, and the ranks were placed at such intervals that five spears which were borne pointed forward and upward protected every man in the front rank. The phalanx on smooth ground, and with its flanks and rear adequately protected, was practically invincible; but it was cumbrous and slow in movement, and if once broken could only with great difficulty be reformed. [Century Dictionary]
literally (one who or that which) "fears nothing," from the verbal phrase (drede ich nawiht is attested from c. 1200); see dread (v.) + nought (n.). As a synonym for "battleship" (1916) it is from a specific ship's name. Dreadnought is mentioned as the name of a ship in the Royal Navy as early as c. 1596, but the modern generic sense is from the name of the first of a new class of British battleships, based on the "all big-gun" principle (armed with 10 big guns rather than 4 large guns and a battery of smaller ones), launched Feb. 18, 1906.
1846, introduced by William Hamilton for "doctrine of the necessitarian philosophers" (who hold that human action is not free but necessarily determined by motives, regarded as external forces acting on the will or character of the person). See determine + -ism.
Determinism does not imply materialism, atheism, or a denial of moral responsibility; while it is in direct opposition to fatalism and to the doctrine of the freedom of the will. [Century Dictionary]
From 1876 in general sense of "doctrine that everything happens is determined by a necessary chain of causation," from French déterminisme, from German Determinismus, perhaps a back-formation from Praedeterminismus.
Stockholm Syndrome is from 1978, a psychologists' term; the name derives from the Aug. 23, 1973, violent armed robbery of Sveriges Kreditbank in Stockholm, after which four bank employees were held hostage in a vault for more than five days. The hostages developed a dramatic attachment to their abuser, and a fear of would-be rescuers, that they could not explain.