a fusion of Old English wyrcan (past tense worhte, past participle geworht) "prepare, perform, do, make, construct, produce; strive after" (from Proto-Germanic *wurkjanan); and Old English wircan (Mercian) "to operate, function, set in motion," a secondary verb formed relatively late from Proto-Germanic noun *werkan (see work (n.)).
Sense of "perform physical labor" was in Old English, as was sense "ply one's trade" and "exert creative power, be a creator." Transitive sense "manipulate (physical substances) into a desired state or form" was in Old English. Meaning "have the expected or desired effect" is from late 14c. In Middle English also "perform sexually" (mid-13c.). Related: Worked (15c.); wrought; working.
To work in "insert, introduce or intermix," as one material with another, is by 1670s; hence the figurative sense "cause to enter or penetrate by repeated efforts." To work up (transitive) "bring into some state or condition" is by 1590s of material things, 1690s of immaterial things; hence "bring by labor or special effort to a higher state or condition" (1660s). The meaning "excite, stir up, raise, rouse" is from c. 1600. To work over "beat up, thrash" is from 1927. To work against "attempt to subvert" is from late 14c.
To work out "bring about or procure (a result) by continued labor or effort" is by 1530s. As "bring to a fuller or finished state, elaborate, develop," by 1821. Meaning "to solve, calculate the solution to" a problem or question is by 1848. Intransitive sense "make its way out" is from c. 1600; the sense of "succeed" is attested by 1909. Sense of "exhaust (a mine, etc.) by working it" is from 1540s. The pugilistic sense of "box for practice (rather than in a contest) is by 1927, hence the general sense of "practice, rehearse" (1929) and that of "take exercise" (by 1948).
Related to have (Old English habban "to hold, possess"). Meaning "to throw" is from 1590s. Nautical meaning "haul or pull" in any direction is from 1620s. Intransitive use from early 14c. as "be raised or forced up;" 1610s as "rise and fall with alternate motion." Sense of "retch, make an effort to vomit" is first attested c. 1600. Related: Heaved; heaving. Nautical heave-ho was a chant in lifting (c. 1300, hevelow).
early 14c., "to perform, execute, accomplish;" late 14c., "gain as a result of effort," from Old French achever (12c.) "to finish, accomplish, complete," from phrase à chef (venir) "at an end, finished," or Vulgar Latin *accapare, from Late Latin ad caput (venire); both the French and Late Latin phrases meaning literally "to come to a head," from ad "to" (see ad-) + stem of Latin caput "head" (from PIE root *kaput- "head").
The Lat. caput, towards the end of the Empire, and in Merov[ingian] times, took the sense of an end, whence the phrase ad caput venire, in the sense of to come to an end .... Venire ad caput naturally produced the Fr. phrase venir à chef = venir à bout. ... From this chief, O.Fr. form of chef (q.v.) in sense of term, end, comes the Fr. compd. achever = venir à chef, to end, finish. [Auguste Brachet, "An Etymological Dictionary of the French Language," transl. G.W. Kitchin, Oxford, 1878]
Related: Achieved; achieving.
"regard to or pursuit of private interest, advantage to oneself," 1640s, from self- + interest (n.). Especially "selfishness, pursuit of egotistical interests to the exclusion of regard for others." Related: Self-interested, "characterized by self-interest" (1650s); self-interestedness.
[Self-interest] is a doctrine not very lofty, but clear and sure. It does not seek to attain great objects; but it attains those it aims for without too much effort. ... [It] does not produce great devotion; but it suggests little sacrifices each day; by itself it cannot make a man virtuous; but it forms a multitude of citizens who are regulated, temperate, moderate, farsighted, masters of themselves; and if it does not lead directly to virtue through the will, it brings them near to it insensibly through habits. [Alexis de Tocqueville, "Democracy in America"]
early 15c., rakken, "to stretch, stretch out (cloth) for drying," also, of persons, "to torture by violently stretching on the rack," from rack (n.1) or from Middle Dutch or Middle Low German recken. Of other pains from 1580s.
Figurative sense of "subject to strenuous effort" (of the brain, memory, etc.) is by 1580s; that of "to torment, afflict with great pain or distress" is from c. 1600. Meaning "fit with racks" is from 1580s.
Sense of "to place (pool balls, etc.) in a rack" as before starting a game is by 1909 (the noun in this sense is by 1907). Teenager slang meaning "to sleep" is from 1960s (rack (n.) was Navy slang for "bed" in 1940s). Related: Racked; racking. Rack up "register, accumulate, achieve" is attested by 1943 (in Billboard magazine), probably from pool halls, perhaps from a method of keeping score. To rack up formerly was "fill a stable rack with hay or straw for horses kept overnight" (1743).
"a favorite German dish consisting of cabbage cut fine, pressed, salted, and fermented until sour," 1630s, from German Sauerkraut, literally "sour cabbage," from sauer "sour" (from Proto-Germanic *sura-; see sour (adj.)) + Kraut "vegetable, cabbage," from Old High German krut, from Proto-Germanic *kruthan.
They pickle it [cabbage] up in all high Germany, with salt and barberies, and so keepe it all the yeere, being commonly the first dish you have served in at table, which they call their sawerkrant. [James Hart, "Klinike, or the diet of the diseased," 1633]
In U.S. slang, figurative use for "a German" dates from 1858 (compare kraut). "The effort to substitute liberty-cabbage for sauerkraut, made by professional patriots in 1918, was a complete failure." [Mencken]. French choucroute (19c.) is the German word, but via Alsatian German surkrut but with folk etymology alteration in French based on chou "cabbage" + croûte "crust" (n.).
1640s, of a volatile liquid, "to evaporate through the pores" (intransitive), a back-formation from perspiration and in part from Latin perspirare "blow or breathe constantly," from per "through" (from PIE root *per- (1) "forward," hence "through") + spirare "to breathe, blow" (see spirit (n.)). The meaning "to sweat, to give out watery substance through the pores of the skin" (intransitive) is a polite usage attested from 1725. Medical men tried to maintain a distinction between "sensible" (sweat) and "insensible" perspiration:
[I]t is sufficient for common use to observe, that perspiration is that insensible discharge of vapour from the whole surface of the body and the lungs which is constantly going on in a healthy state; that it is always natural and always salutary; that sweat, on the contrary, is an evacuation, which never appears without some uncommon effort, or some disease to the system, that it weakens and relaxes, and is so far from coinciding with perspiration, that it obstructs and checks it. [Charles White, "A Treatise on the Management of Pregnant and Lying-in Women," London, 1791]
Related: Perspired; perspiring.
In Old French (and Italian), re- often appeared as ra- by confusion with the true ra- (from Latin re- + ad-), and the following consonant often was doubled; compare rabbet (a doublet of rebate), rappel (a doublet of repeal). But as ra- was not recognized in English as a prefix, words with ra- in Old French usually returned to re- in English; Rally and rabbet never were because the accent had receded. In later borrowings (rappel, rapprochement, etc.) the words tend to keep their French forms.
Intransitive meaning "pull together hastily, recover order, revive, rouse" is from 1660s. Related: Rallied; rallying. Rallying-point "place at or about which persons come together for action" is by 1798. Rally round the flag (1862) is a line from popular American Civil War song "Battle Cry of Freedom."
1590s, from star (n.) + spangle (v.); Star-Spangled Banner "United States flag" is 1814, from Francis Scott Key's poem (printed in the "Baltimore Patriot" Sept. 20), in reference to the bombardment of Fort McHenry in Baltimore overnight Sept. 13-14.
The Stars and Stripes developed from the striped flag of Boston's Sons of Liberty, and the blue and white star-spangled standards of George Washington's army. It involved the advice of a Quaker seamstress, the prompting of an American Indian, the timely intervention by Pennsylvania politicians, the inspiration of Francis Hopkinson, and a resolution of the Continental Congress.
These Americans were part of a process of mixed enterprise that combined public effort and private initiative in a way that was typical of the new republic. An American Indian was not reluctant to instruct the rulers of the Colonies on what should be done, and they were quick to respond to his suggestion. A Philadelphia seamstress did not hesitate to criticize the commander-in-chief of the Continental Army, and he was open to her advice. The Continental Congress accepted these contributions in the spirit of the open society that America was becoming. [David Hackett Fischer, "Liberty and Freedom"]
Old English mægen (Mercian megen) "power, bodily strength; force, violent effort; strength of mind or will; efficacy; supernatural power," from Proto-Germanic *maginam "power" (source also of Old High German megin "strength, power, ability"), suffixed form of PIE root *magh- "to be able, have power."
Original sense of "power" is preserved in phrase might and main. Also used in Middle English for "royal power or authority" (c. 1400), "military strength" (c. 1300), "application of force" (c. 1300). Meaning "chief or main part" (c. 1600) now is archaic or obsolete. Meaning "principal duct, pipe, or channel in a utility system" is first recorded 1727 in main drain.
Used since 1540s for "continuous stretch of land or water;" in nautical jargon used loosely for "the ocean," but in Spanish Main the word is short for mainland and refers to the coast between Panama and Orinoco (as contrasted to the islands of the West Indies).