Etymology
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cardinal (adj.)
Origin and meaning of cardinal

"chief, pivotal," early 14c., from Latin cardinalis "principal, chief, essential," a figurative use, literally "pertaining to a hinge," from cardo (genitive cardinis) "that on which something turns or depends; pole of the sky," originally "door hinge," which is of unknown origin. Related: Cardinally.

The cardinal numbers (1590s) are "one, two, three," etc. as opposed to ordinal numbers "first, second, third," etc.; they are so called because they are the principal numbers and the ordinals depend on them.

The cardinal points (1540s) are north, south, east, west. The cardinal sins were so called from c. 1600. The cardinal virtues (early 14c.) were divided into natural (justice, prudence, temperance, fortitude) and theological (faith, hope, charity). The natural ones were the original classical ones, which were amended by Christians. But typically in Middle English only the first four were counted as the cardinal virtues:

Of þe uour uirtues cardinales spekeþ moche þe yealde philosofes. ["Ayenbite of Inwyt," c. 1340]

By analogy of this, and cardinal winds (late 14c.), cardinal signs (four zodiacal signs marking the equinoxes and the solstices, late 14c.), etc., the adjective in Middle English acquired an association with the number four.

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clear (v.)

mid-14c., "make clear (an obscure subject) in the mind, explain, elucidate;" late 14c., "make clean, cleanse, purify; clarify (a liquid), remove what clouds or diminishes brightness or transparency;" also "prove innocent, vindicate;" of the weather, sea, sky, clouds, etc., "clear up, become fair or calm;" from clear (adj.).  Related: Cleared; clearing.

Intransitive sense of "become free from murkiness" is from 1580s. Meaning "to free from obstructions" is from 1520s; that of "to free from entanglement" is from 1590s; that of "pass (an obstacle) without entanglement or collision" is from 1630s. Sense of "to remove (something) out of the way" is from 1670s; that of "to clear land of trees and underbrush" is from 1690s. Meaning "to leap clear over" is first attested 1791. Meaning "to gain (a sum of money) in clear profit" is from 1719. Meaning "get approval for (a proposal, etc.) from authority" is from 1944; meaning "establish as suitable for national security work" is from 1948.

To clear (one's) throat is from 1881; earlier clear (one's) voice (1701). To clear out "depart, leave" (1825), perhaps is from the notion of ships satisfying customs, harbor regulations, etc., then setting sail. To get clear of is from 1590s. To clear up is from 1620s of weather, 1690s as "make clear to the mind." Clear the deck (1802) is from sailing ships. Clear the air in the figurative sense is from late 14c. To clear the coast (1520s) was to make it suitable for landing.

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proper (adj.)

c. 1300, propre, "adapted to some purpose, fit, apt; commendable, excellent" (sometimes ironic), from Old French propre "own, particular; exact, neat, fitting, appropriate" (11c.) and directly from Latin proprius "one's own, particular to itself," from pro privo "for the individual, in particular," from ablative of privus "one's own, individual" (see private (adj.)) + pro "for" (see pro-). Related: Properly; properness. As an adverb, "very exceedingly," from mid-15c., but since 19c. the use is considered vulgar.

From early 14c. as "belonging or pertaining to oneself; individual; intrinsic;" also as "pertaining to a person or thing in particular, special, specific; distinctive, characteristic;" also "what is by the rules, correct, appropriate, acceptable." From early 15c. as "separate, distinct; itself." Meaning "socially appropriate, decent, respectable" is recorded by 1704.

Proper name "name belonging to or relating to the person or thing in question, name given to an individual of a class for distinction from others of the same class" is from c. 1300, a sense also preserved in astronomical proper motion "change in the apparent places of a celestial object in the sky relative to other stars or planets" (c. 1300). Proper noun is from mid-15c.

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race (n.1)

[act of running] late Old English, also rase, "a narrative, an account;" c. 1300, "an act of swift running, a hurried attack," also "a course of life or conduct, a swift current;" from Old Norse rās "a running, a rush (of water)," cognate with Old English ræs "a running, a rush, a leap, jump; a storming, an attack;" or else a survival of the Old English word with spelling and pronunciation influenced by the Old Norse noun and the verb. The Norse and Old English words are from Proto-Germanic *res- (source also of Middle Dutch rasen "to rave, rage," German rasen, Old English raesettan "to rage" (of fire)), from a variant form of PIE *ers- (1) "be in motion" (see err).

Originally a northern word, it became general in English c. 1550. Formerly used more broadly than now, of any course which has to be run, passed over, or gone through, such as the course of time or events or a life (c. 1300) or the track of a heavenly body across the sky (1580s). To rue (one's) race (15c.) was to repent the course one has taken.

Meaning "contest of speed involving two or more competitors; competitive trial in running, riding, etc." is from 1510s. For the sense of "artificial stream leading water to a mill, etc.," see race (n.3). Meaning "electoral contest for public office" is by 1827.

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weather (n.)

Old English weder "air, sky; breeze, storm, tempest," from Proto-Germanic *wedra- "wind, weather" (source also of Old Saxon wedar, Old Norse veðr, Old Frisian, Middle Dutch, Dutch weder, Old High German wetar, German Wetter "storm, wind, weather"), traditionally said to be from PIE *we-dhro-, "weather" (source also of Lithuanian vėtra "storm," Old Church Slavonic vedro "good weather"), suffixed form of root *we- "to blow." But Boutkan finds this "problematic from a formal point of view" and finds only the Slavic word a likely cognate.

Alteration of -d- to -th- begins late 15c., though such pronunciation may be older (see father (n.)). In nautical use, as an adjective, "toward the wind" (opposed to lee).

Greek had words for "good weather" (aithria, eudia) and words for "storm" and "winter," but no generic word for "weather" until kairos (literally "time") began to be used as such in Byzantine times. Latin tempestas "weather" (see tempest) also originally meant "time;" and words for "time" also came to mean weather in Irish (aimsir), Serbo-Croatian (vrijeme), Polish (czas), etc. Weather-report is from 1863. Weather-breeder "fine, serene day which precedes and seems to prepare a storm" is from 1650s.

Surnames Fairweather, Merriweather probably reflect disposition; medieval lists and rolls also include Foulweder, Wetweder, Strangweder.

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reck (v.)

Middle English recchen "to care, heed, have a mind, be concerned about" (later usually with of), from Old English reccan (2) "take care of, be interested in, care for; have regard to, take heed of; to care, heed; desire (to do something)" (strong verb, past tense rohte, past participle rought), from West Germanic *rokjan, from Proto-Germanic *rokja- (source also of Old Saxon rokjan, Middle Dutch roeken, Old Norse rækja "to care for," Old High German giruochan "to care for, have regard to," German geruhen "to deign," which is influenced by ruhen "to rest").

This is reconstructed to be from PIE root *reg- "move in a straight line," with derivatives meaning "to direct in a straight line," thus "to lead, rule." The -k- sound is probably a northern influence from Norse. No known cognates outside Germanic. "From its earliest appearance in Eng., reck is almost exclusively employed in negative or interrogative clauses" [OED]. Related: Recked; recking. Also compare reckless.

And in that very moment, away behind in some courtyard of the City, a cock crowed. Shrill and clear he crowed, recking nothing of wizardry or war, welcoming only the morning that in the sky far above the shadows of death was coming with the dawn. [J.R.R. Tolkien, "Return of the King," 1955]
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clear (adj.)

c. 1300, "giving light, shining, luminous;" also "not turbid; transparent, allowing light to pass through; free from impurities; morally pure, guiltless, innocent;" of colors, "bright, pure;" of weather or the sky or sea, "not stormy; mild, fair, not overcast, fully light, free from darkness or clouds;" of the eyes or vision, "clear, keen;" of the voice or sound, "plainly audible, distinct, resonant;" of the mind, "keen-witted, perspicacious;" of words or speech, "readily understood, manifest to the mind, lucid" (an Old English word for this was sweotol "distinct, clear, evident"); of land, "cleared, leveled;" from Old French cler "clear" (of sight and hearing), "light, bright, shining; sparse" (12c., Modern French clair), from Latin clarus "clear, loud," of sounds; figuratively "manifest, plain, evident," in transferred use, of sights, "bright, distinct;" also "illustrious, famous, glorious" (source of Italian chiaro, Spanish claro), from PIE *kle-ro-, from root *kele- (2) "to shout."

The prehistoric sense evolution to light and color involves an identification of the spreading of sound and the spreading of light (compare English loud, used of colors; German hell "clear, bright, shining," of pitch, "distinct, ringing, high").

Also in Middle English "beautiful, magnificent, excellent" (c. 1300); of possession or title, "unrestricted, unconditional, absolute," early 15c. Of complexion, from c. 1300. Sense of "free from encumbrance," later largely nautical, developed c. 1500. Meaning "obvious to the senses" is from 1835. Clear-sighted is from 1580s (clear-eyed is from 1520s); clear-headed is from 1709. For coast is clear see clear (v.).

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Charles's Wain (n.)

famous seven-star figure of the northern sky, Old English Carles wægn, a star-group associated in medieval times with Charlemagne, but earlier with the nearby bright star Arcturus. Arcturus is linked by folk etymology to Latin Arturus "Arthur," which places the seven-star asterism at the crux of the legendary association (or confusion) of Arthur and Charlemagne. Evidence from Dutch (cited in Grimm, "Teutonic Mythology") suggests that it might originally have been Woden's wagon. More recent names for it are the Plough (by 15c., chiefly British) and the Dipper (1833, chiefly American).

It is called "the Wagon" in a Mesopotamian text from 1700 B.C.E., and it is mentioned in the Biblical Book of Job. The seven bright stars in the modern constellation Ursa Major have borne a dual identity in Western history at least since Homer's time, being seen as both a wagon and a bear: as in Latin plaustrum "freight-wagon, ox cart" and arctos "bear," both used of the seven-star pattern, as were equivalent Greek amaxa (Attic hamaxa) and arktos.

The identification with a wagon is easy to see, with four stars as the body and three as the pole. The identification with a bear is more difficult, as the figure has a tail longer than its body. As Allen writes, "The conformation of the seven stars in no way resembles the animal,—indeed the contrary ...." But he suggests the identification "may have arisen from Aristotle's idea that its prototype was the only creature that dared invade the frozen north." The seven stars never were below the horizon in the latitude of the Mediterranean in Homeric and classical times (not so today, due to precession of the equinoxes). See also arctic for the identification of the bear and the north in classical times.

A variety of French and English sources from the early colonial period independently note that many native North American tribes in the northeast had long seen the seven-star group as a bear tracked by three hunters (or a hunter and his two dogs).

Among the Teutonic peoples, it seems to have been only a wagon. A 10c. Anglo-Saxon astronomy manual uses the Greek-derived Aretos, but mentions that the unlearned call it "Charles's Wain":

Arheton hatte an tungol on norð dæle, se haefð seofon steorran, & is for ði oþrum naman ge-hatan septemtrio, þone hatað læwede meon carles-wæn. ["Anglo-Saxon Manual of Astronomy"] 

[Septemtrio, the seven oxen, was yet another Roman name.] The star picture was not surely identified as a bear in English before late 14c.

The unlearned of today are corrected that the seven stars are not the Great Bear but only a part of that large constellation. But the name "Bear" belongs to the seven stars, and from Homer's time down to Thales, "the Bear" meant just that, but modern astronomers drew it bigger in parceling out the sky for their convenience.

From Rome to Anglo-Saxon England to Arabia to India, ancient astronomy texts mention a supposed duplicate constellation to the northern bear in the Southern Hemisphere, never visible from the north. This perhaps is based on sailors' tales of the Southern Cross.

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blue (adj.1)

"of the color of the clear sky," c. 1300, bleu, blwe, etc., "sky-colored," also "livid, lead-colored," from Old French blo, bleu "pale, pallid, wan, light-colored; blond; discolored; blue, blue-gray," from Frankish *blao or some other Germanic source, from Proto-Germanic *blæwaz (source also of Old English blaw, Old Saxon and Old High German blao, Danish blaa, Swedish blå, Old Frisian blau, Middle Dutch bla, Dutch blauw, German blau "blue").

This is from PIE *bhle-was "light-colored, blue, blond, yellow," from root *bhel- (1) "to shine, flash, burn," also "shining white" and forming words for bright colors. The same PIE root yielded Latin flavus "yellow," Old Spanish blavo "yellowish-gray," Greek phalos "white," Welsh blawr "gray," showing the slipperiness of definition in Indo-European color-words. Many Indo-European languages seem to have had a word to describe the color of the sea, encompassing blue and green and gray; such as Irish glass (from PIE root *ghel- (2) "to shine,"); Old English hæwen "blue, gray," related to har (see hoar); Serbo-Croatian sinji "gray-blue, sea-green;" Lithuanian šyvas, Russian sivyj "gray."

The exact color to which the Gmc. term applies varies in the older dialects; M.H.G. bla is also 'yellow,' whereas the Scandinavian words may refer esp. to a deep, swarthy black, e.g. O.N. blamaðr, N.Icel. blamaður 'Negro' [Buck] 

The present spelling in English is since 16c., common from c. 1700. The sense "lead-colored, blackish-blue, darkened as if by bruising" is perhaps by way of the Old Norse cognate bla "livid, lead-colored." It is the meaning in black and blue, and blue in the face "livid with effort" (1864, earlier black and blue in the face, 1829).

The color of constancy since Chaucer at least, but apparently for no deeper reason than the rhyme in true blue (c. 1500). The figurative meaning "sad, sorrowful, afflicted with low spirits" is from c. 1400, perhaps from the "livid" sense and implying a bruised heart or feelings. Of women, "learned, pedantic," by 1788 (see bluestocking). In some phrases, such as blue murder, it appears to be merely intensive.

Few words enter more largely into the composition of slang, and colloquialisms bordering on slang, than does the word BLUE. Expressive alike of the utmost contempt, as of all that men hold dearest and love best, its manifold combinations, in ever varying shades of meaning, greet the philologist at every turn. [John S. Farmer, "Slang and Its Analogues Past and Present," 1890, p.252] 

Blue pencil as an editor's characteristic tool to mark corrections in copy is from 1885; also as a verb from 1885. The fabulous story of Blue-beard, who kept his murdered wives in a locked room, is in English from 1798. For blue ribbon see cordon bleu under cordon. Blue whale is attested from 1851, so called for its color. Blue cheese is from 1862. Blue water "the open ocean" is from 1822. Blue streak, of something resembling a bolt of lightning (for quickness, intensity, etc.) is from 1830, Kentucky slang. Delaware has been the Blue Hen State at least since 1830, supposedly from a nickname of its regiments in the Revolutionary War.

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