type of cereal plant, Middle English ote, from Old English ate (plural atan) "grain of the oat plant, wild oats," a word of uncertain origin, possibly from Old Norse eitill "nodule," denoting a single grain, itself of unknown origin. The English word has cognates in Frisian and some Dutch dialects. Famously defined by Johnson as, "A grain, which in England is generally given to horses, but in Scotland supports the people." Related: Oats.
The usual Germanic name is derived from Proto-Germanic *khabran (source also of Old Norse hafri, Dutch haver, source of haversack). Figurative wild oats "youthful excesses" (the notion is "crop that one will regret sowing") is attested by 1560s, in reference to the folly of sowing these instead of good grain. Hence, feel (one's) oats "be lively," 1831, originally American English.
That wilfull and vnruly age, which lacketh rypenes and discretion, and (as wee saye) hath not sowed all theyr wyeld Oates. [Thomas Newton, "Lemnie's Touchstone of complexions," 1576]
Fred: I still want to sow some wild oats!
Lamont: At your age, you don't have no wild oats, you got shredded wheat.
["Sanford and Son"]
late 14c., "something written, a written document," earlier scrite (c. 1300), from Anglo-French scrit, Old French escrit "piece of writing, written paper; credit note, IOU; deed, bond" (Modern French écrit) and directly from Latin scriptum "a writing, book; law; line, mark," noun use of neuter past participle of scribere "to write" (from PIE root *skribh- "to cut, separate, sift"). The original notion is of carving marks in stone, wood, etc.
The meaning "handwriting, handwritten characters, style of handwriting" (as distinguished from print (n.)) is recorded by 1860; earlier, in typography, script was the name for a face cut to resemble handwriting (1838). Theatrical use, short for manuscript, is attested from 1884. In the study of language, "a writing system," by 1883.
The importance of Rome to the spread of civilization in Europe is attested by the fact that the word for "write" in Celtic and Germanic (as well as Romanic) languages derives from scribere (French écrire, Irish scriobhaim, Welsh ysgrifennu, German schreiben "to write," Dutch schrift "writing"). The cognate Old English scrifan means "to allot, assign, decree, to fine" (see shrive; also compare Old Norse skript "penance"). Modern English instead uses write (v.) to express this action.
"the left side of a ship" (looking forward from the stern), 1540s, probably from the notion of "the side facing the harbor" (when a ship is docked); thus from port (n.1). On old-style vessels the steering oar was on the right side, thus they would tie up at a wharf on the other side. It replaced larboard in common usage to avoid confusion with starboard; officially so by Admiralty order of 1844 and U.S. Navy Department notice of 1846. As an adjective by 1857.
U. S. Navy Department, Washington, Feb. 18, 1846.
It having been repeatedly represented to the Department that confusion arises from the use of the words "larboard" and "starboard"' in consequence of their similarity of sound, the word "port" is hereafter to be substituted for "larboard." George Bancroft, Sec. of the Navy.
The whalemen are the only class of seamen who have not adopted the term port instead of larboard, except in working ship. The larboard boat was this boat to their great-grandfathers, and it is so with the present generation. More especially is this the case in the Atlantic and South Pacific fleets; but recently the term port-boat has come into use in the Arctic fleet. [Fisheries of U.S., V. ii. 243, 1887]
"run away, betake oneself hastily to flight," American Civil War military slang noted and popularized in newspapers from the summer of 1861, originally often skadaddle, a word of unknown origin. There is an earlier use in a piece reprinted in Northern newspapers in 1859, representing Hoosier speech. Perhaps it is connected to earlier use in northern England dialect with a meaning "to spill, scatter." Liberman says it "has no connection with any word of Greek, Irish, or Swedish, and it is not a blend" [contra De Vere]. He calls it instead an "enlargement of dial. scaddle 'scare, frighten.'" Related: Skedaddled; skedaddling. As a noun from 1862, "a hasty flight."
For the benefit of future etymologists who may have a dictionary to make out when the English language shall have adopted "skadaddle" into familiar use by the side of "employee" and "telegram," we here define the new term. It is at least an error of judgment, if not an intentional unkindness, to foist "skadaddle" on our Teutonic soldiers. The word is used throughout the whole Army of the Potomac, and means "to cut stick, "vamose the ranche," "slope," "cut your lucky," or "clear out." [New York Post, October 1861]
c. 1300, neveu, "son of one's sister or brother," also "a grandson; a relative; a kinsman," from Old French neveu (Old North French nevu) "grandson, descendant," from Latin nepotem (nominative nepos) "sister's son, grandson, descendant," in post-Augustan Latin (c. 150 A.D.), "nephew," from PIE *nepot- "grandchild," and in a general sense, "male descendant other than son" (source also of Sanskrit napat "grandson, descendant;" Old Persian napat- "grandson;" Old Lithuanian nepuotis "grandson;" Dutch neef; German Neffe "nephew;" Old Irish nia, genitive niath "son of a sister," Welsh nei).
The original pronunciation is /nev-u/; the spelling was changed unetymologically to -ph- after c. 1400, and the pronunciation partly followed it. Used in English in all the classical senses until the meaning narrowed in 17c., and also as a euphemism for "the illegitimate son of an ecclesiastic" (1580s). The Old English cognate, nefa "nephew, stepson, grandson, second cousin" survived to 16c.
[I]ts final exclusive use for 'nephew' instead of 'grandson' is prob. due in part to the fact that, by reason of the great difference in age, a person has comparatively little to do with his grandsons, if he has any, while nephews are proverbially present and attentive, if their uncle is of any importance. [Century Dictionary]
"black man," 1838, American English, originally the name of a black minstrel character in a popular song-and-dance act by T.D. Rice (1808-1860) that debuted 1828 and attained national popularity by 1832:
Wheel about, an' turn about, an' do jis so;
Eb'ry time I wheel about, I jump Jim Crow.
Where and how Rice got it, or wrote it, is a mystery. Even before that, crow (n.) had been a derogatory term for a black man. As an adjective from 1833, in reference to the song. Association with segregation dates from 1841, in reference to separate railroad cars for blacks in Massachusetts. Modern use as a type of racial discrimination is from 1943. Jim Crow also could be a reference to someone's change of (political) principles (1837, from the "jump" in the song) or reversible machinery (1875, "wheel about").
On his arrival in Boston, Mr. [Charles Lenox] R[emond] went to the Eastern rail-road depot, in order to visit his parents in Salem; but, instead of being allowed to ride with other passengers, he was compelled to take a seat in what is contemptuously called the "Jim Crow car," as though he were a leper or a wild animal! [Annual Report of the Massachusetts Anti-Slavery Society, 1842]
mid-15c., "a certain length" of something; 1520s, "gash, incision, opening made by an edged instrument," from cut (v.).
Meaning "piece cut off" (especially of meat) is from 1590s. Figurative sense of "a wounding sarcasm" is from 1560s. Meaning "an excision or omission of a part" is from c. 1600. Sense of "a reduction" is by 1881. Meaning "manner in which a thing is cut" is from 1570s, hence "fashion, style, make" (1580s).
Dialectal or local sense of "a creek or inlet" is from 1620s. Meaning "channel or trench made by cutting or digging" is from 1730. Meaning "block or stamp on which a picture is engraved" is from 1640s. Sense of "act of cutting a deck of cards" is from 1590s. Cinematic sense of "a quick transition from one shot to the next" is by 1933. Meaning "share" (of profit, loot, etc.) is by 1918.
Meaning "phonograph recording" is by 1949; the verb in the sense "make a recording" is by 1937, from the literal sense in reference to the mechanical process of making sound recordings.
Instead of a cutting tool actually operated by the sound vibrations from the voices or instruments of performing artists, the panatrope records are cut by a tool that is operated electrically. ["The New Electric Phonograph," in Popular Science, February 1926].
A cut above "a degree better than" is from 1818. Cold-cuts "cooked meats sliced and served cold" (1945) translates German kalter Aufschnitt.
1831, "iron rolled in large, flat plates for use in making steam boilers," from boiler + plate (n.). In newspaper (and now information technology) slang, the sense of "unit of writing that can be used over and over without change" is attested by 1887. The connecting notion probably is the permanence of the prepared plate compared to set type: From the 1870s to the 1950s, publicity items were cast or stamped in metal ready for the printing press and distributed to country newspapers as filler. An early provider was the American Press Association (1882). The largest supplier later was Western Newspaper Union.
An older name for it was plate-matter "type cast in a number of stereotype plates for insertion in different newspapers" (1878). Plate (n.) is attested by 1824 in printing as "a cast of a page of composed movable types."
WITHIN the past ten years, "plate matter" has become more and more popular among out-of-town papers, and the more enterprising are discarding the ready prints and are using plate matter instead. For a long time there was a prejudice against "Boiler Plates," but editors of small, and even of prosperous papers, began to discover that better matter was going out in the plates than they could afford, individually, to pay for. It was found that the reading public did not care, so long as the reading columns were bright and newsy, whether they were set up in the local office or in New York. ["The Journalist Souvenir," 1887]
c. 1200, of areas, "great in expanse," of persons, "bountiful, inclined to give or spend freely," from Old French large "broad, wide; generous, bounteous" (12c.), from Latin largus "abundant, copious, plentiful; bountiful, liberal in giving, generous" (source also of Spanish largo "long," Italian largo "wide"), a word of unknown origin.
The modern English meanings "extensive; big in overall size; great in number" emerged 14c. Adjective phrase larger-than-life first attested 1840 (bigger than life is from 1640s). Large-handed has meant both "grasping, greedy" (c. 1600) and "generous, liberal" (1620s); also "having large hands" (1896). Living large is a modern colloquial expression (1994 in African-American vernacular), but large in the sense of "prodigal, lavish" is from late 14c. and, of circumstances, "comfortable, easy" from 1738, and in more recent use Farmer and Henley ("Slang and Its Analogues") have it as "impressively, to excess" from 1852.
In mod.Eng., a general designation for considerable magnitude, used instead of great when it is not intended to convey the emotional implication now belonging to that word. [OED]
An older sense of "freedom from prison or restraining influence" is preserved in at large "at (one's) liberty, free from imprisonment or confinement free to move openly" (late 14c.). The phrase, with the meaning "free or at liberty in a general way (without particulars)" is from 1620s; specifically of electors from 1741, American English.
mid-13c., suster, "female sibling, a female person in her relation to other children of the same parents," from Old English sweostor, swuster, Northumbrian soester "sister," or a Scandinavian cognate (Old Norse systir, Swedish syster, Danish søster), in any case from Proto-Germanic *swestr- (source also of Old Saxon swestar, Old Frisian swester, Middle Dutch suster, Dutch zuster, Old High German swester, German Schwester, Gothic swistar).
These are from PIE *swesor, one of the most persistent and unchanging root words, recognizable in almost every modern Indo-European language (Sanskrit svasar-, Avestan shanhar-, Latin soror, Old Church Slavonic, Russian sestra, Lithuanian sesuo, Old Irish siur, Welsh chwaer). Greek eor "daughter, cousin" is the surviving relic of the root in that language, perhaps from a dialectal vocative form; it was replaced as "sister" byadelphē (for which see Adelphi).French soeur "a sister" (11c., instead of *sereur) is directly from Latin soror, a rare case of a borrowing from the nominative case.
The forms in -u- persisted through Middle English; for the vowel evolution, see bury. It was used of nuns in Old English, of the Fates from c. 1300, the Muses from late 14c., and of the Pleiades from early 15c.
From late 14c. as "fellow woman," without regard to relationship, "fellow creature, woman sharing the human condition," also "woman engaged in the same activity as another." The meaning "female fellow-Christian, woman of one's own faith" is from mid-15c. In modern use, of a woman in general from 1906; especially in U.S. of "a Black woman" from 1926; and in the sense of "fellow feminist" from 1912. Sister act "variety act by two or more sisters" is from vaudeville (1908).