large amphibious reptile, reptile of the order Crocodilia, 1560s, a respelling (to conform to Latin and French) of Middle English cokedrille, cocodril, kokedrille, etc. (c. 1300), from Old French cocodrille (13c.) and Medieval Latin cocodrillus, from classical Latin crocodilus, from Greek krokodilos, a word of unknown origin. According to Herodotus, it was an Ionic name for a kind of lizard, transferred to the crocodile. Beekes writes that "Frisk's etymology as a compound from [krokē] 'gravel' and [drilos] 'worm' (with dissimilation) should be forgotten."
The name later was extended to related species in India, the Americas, etc. The crocodile tears story, figurative of false or simulated grief, was in English from at least c. 1400. Related: Crocodilian; crocodiline.
The word also figures in logic, as the name of a sophism of counter-questioning.
Thus, in the old example, a crocodile has stolen a child, and promises to restore it to the father if the latter answers correctly his question, Am I going to restore child? If the father says Yes, the crocodile eats the child and tells the father he is wrong. If the father says No, the reply is that in that case the child cannot be restored, for to do so would violate the agreement, since the father's answer would then be incorrect. [Century Dictionary]
"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.
late Old English dung "manure, decayed matter used to fertilize soil," from Proto-Germanic *dungō (source also of Old Frisian and Old Saxon dung "manure;" Old High German tunga "manuring," tung "underground room covered with manure;" German Dung; Old Norse dyngja "heap of manure, women's apartment;" Swedish dynga "dung, muck;" Danish dynge "heap, mass, pile"), perhaps from a PIE *dhengh- "covering" (source also of Lithuanian dengti "to cover," Old Irish dingim "I press").
The word recalls the ancient Germanic custom (reported by Tacitus) of covering underground shelters with manure to keep in warmth in winter. The meaning "animal excrement," whether used as fertilizer or not, is from late 13c.
It appears that the whole body of journeymen tailors is divided into two classes, denominated Flints and Dungs: the former work by the day and receive all equal wages; the latter work generally by the piece ["The Annual Register for the Year 1824," London, 1825].
Dung beetle, common name of the beetles which roll up balls of dung," is attested by 1630s. In colloquial American English, tumble-bug. An Old English word for it was tordwifel "turd weevil."
Old English bisignes (Northumbrian) "care, anxiety, occupation," from bisig "careful, anxious, busy, occupied, diligent" (see busy (adj.)) + -ness. The original sense is obsolete, as is the Middle English sense of "state of being much occupied or engaged" (mid-14c.), the latter replaced by busyness. Johnson's dictionary also has busiless "At leisure; without business; unemployed." The modern two-syllable pronunciation is from 17c.
The sense of "a person's work, occupation, that which one does for a livelihood" is recorded late 14c. (in late Old English bisig appears as a noun with the sense "occupation, state of employment"). The sense of "that which is undertaken as a duty" is from late 14c. The meaning "what one is about at the moment" is from 1590s. The sense of "trade, commercial engagements, mercantile pursuits collectively" is attested by 1727, on the notion of "matters which occupy one's time and attention." In 17c. business also could mean "sexual intercourse."
Business card is attested from 1840; business letter from 1766. Business end "the practical or effective part" (of something) is American English, by 1874. Phrase business as usual attested from 1865. To mean business "be intent on serious action" is from 1856. To mind (one's) own business "attend to one's affairs and not meddle with those of others" is from 1620s.
"domesticated or tamed animal kept as a favorite," 1530s, originally in Scottish and northern England dialect (and exclusively so until mid-18c.), a word of unknown origin. Sense of "indulged or favorite child" (c. 1500) is recorded slightly earlier than that of "animal kept as a favorite" (1530s), but the latter may be the primary meaning. Probably associated with or influenced by petty.
Know nature's children all divide her care;
The fur that warms a monarch warm'd a bear.
While man exclaims, 'See all things for my use!'
'See man for mine!' replies a pamper'd goose:
[Alexander Pope, "Essay on Man"]
It is an amiable part of human nature, that we should love our animals; it is even better to love them to the point of folly, than not to love them at all. [Stevie Smith, "Cats in Colour," 1959]
In early use typically a lamb brought up by hand (compare cade); but the earliest surviving reference lists "Parroquets, monkeys, peacocks, swans, &c., &c." As a term of endearment by 1849. Teacher's pet as a derogatory term for a teacher's favorite pupil is attested by 1854, American English. Pet-shop "shop selling animals to be kept as pets" is from 1928.
1875, "special spiritual gift or power divinely conferred, talent from God" (as on the early Christians in "Acts," etc.), Latinized form of Greek kharisma "favor, divine gift," from kharizesthai "to show favor to," from kharis "grace, beauty, kindness" (Charis was the name of one of the three attendants of Aphrodite), which is related to khairein "to rejoice at" (from PIE root *gher- (2) "to like, want").
In the form charism (plural charismata) it is attested in the "special spiritual gift from god" sense from 1640s. Middle English, meanwhile, had karisme "spiritual gift, divine grace" (c. 1500).
These gifts were of two classes, the gift of healing and gift of teaching, the latter again being of two kinds, the gift of prophecy and the gift of tongues. Such gifts have been claimed in later ages by certain teachers and sects in the church, as the Montanists and the Irvingites, and in recent times by some of those who practise the so-called faith-cure. [Century Dictionary, 1897]
The meaning "gift of leadership, power of authority" is from c. 1930, from German, used in this sense by Max Weber (1864-1920) in "Wirtschaft u. Gesellschaft" (1922). The more mundane sense of "personal charm" recorded by 1959.
1808, from Italian improvisare "to sing or speak extempore," from Latin improviso "unforeseen; not studied or prepared beforehand," ablative of improvisus "not foreseen, unexpected," from assimilated form of in- "not, opposite of" (see in- (1)) + provisus "foreseen," also "provided," past participle of providere "foresee, provide" (see provide). Also partly from French improviser.
Regarded as a foreign word and generally printed in italics in English in early 19c. Other verbs were improvisate (1825), improvisatorize (1828), the latter from improvisator "one of a class of noted extemporaneous poets of Italy" (1765), the earliest word of the group to appear in English. Related: Improvised; improvising.
The metre generally adopted for these compositions was the ottava rima, although Doni affirms that the Florentines used to improvise* in all kinds of measure.
* This new-coined verb is introduced to avoid circumlocution, for this time only: therefore I hope your readers will excuse it. I conjugate it after the regular verb to revise — improvise — improvising — improvised. ["On the Improvvisatori of Italy," in The Athenaeum, August 1808]
Our travellers have introduced among us the substantive improvisatore unaltered from the Italian; but as the verb improvisare could not be received without alteration, we lack it altogether, though the usage of the noun requires that of the verb: I here endeavor to supply the deficience by the word improvisate. [Samuel Oliver Jr., "A General, Critical Grammar of the Inglish Language," London, 1825]
"an ice-skate, a contrivance for enabling a person to glide swiftly on ice," 1660s, skeates (plural), from Dutch schaats (plural schaatsen), a singular mistaken in English for plural, from Middle Dutch schaetse. The word and the custom were brought to England after the Restoration by exiled followers of Charles II who had taken refuge in Holland.
The Dutch word is perhaps from Old North French escache "a stilt, trestle," related to Old French eschace "stilt" (French échasse), from Frankish *skakkja "stilt" or a similar Germanic source (compare Frisian skatja "stilt"), perhaps literally "thing that shakes or moves fast" and related to root of Old English sceacan "to vibrate" (see shake (v.)). Or perhaps [Klein] the Dutch word is connected to Middle Low German schenke, Old English scanca "leg" (see shank). If the former, the sense alteration in Dutch from "stilt" to "skate" is not clearly traced. The latter theory perhaps is supported by evidence that the original ice skates, up to medieval times, were leg bones of horse, ox, or deer, strapped to the feet with leather strips.
The sense in English was extended to roller-skates by 1876. The meaning "an act of skating" is from 1853. A slightly older word for an ice skate was scrick-shoe (1650s), from Middle Dutch scricschoe, from schricken "to slide."
early 13c., "of or pertaining to the head," from Old French capital, from Latin capitalis "of the head," hence "capital, chief, first," from caput (genitive capitis) "head" (from PIE root *kaput- "head"). The meaning "main, principal, chief, dominant, first in importance" is from early 15c. in English. The modern informal sense of "excellent, first-rate" is by 1754 (as an exclamation of approval, OED's first example is 1875), perhaps from earlier use of the word in reference to ships, "first-rate, powerful enough to be in the line of battle," attested from 1650s, fallen into disuse after 1918. Related: Capitally.
A capital letter "upper-case latter," of larger face and differing more or less in form (late 14c.) is so called because it stands at the "head" of a sentence or word. Capital gain is recorded from 1921. Capital goods is recorded from 1899.
A capital crime or offense (1520s) is one that involves the penalty of death and thus affects the life or "head" (capital had a sense of "deadly, mortal" from late 14c. in English, as it did earlier in Latin). The felt connection between "head" and "life, mortality" also existed in Old English: as in heafodgilt "deadly sin, capital offense," heafdes þolian "to forfeit life." Capital punishment was in Blackstone (1765) and classical Latin capitis poena.
c. 1200, onur, "glory, renown, fame earned," from Anglo-French honour, Old French onor, honor "honor, dignity, distinction, position; victory, triumph" (Modern French honneur), from Latin honorem (nominative honos, the form used by Cicero, but later honor) "honor, dignity, office, reputation," which is of unknown origin. In Middle English, it also could mean "splendor, beauty; excellence." Until 17c., honour and honor were equally frequent; the former now preferred in England, the latter in U.S. by influence of Noah Webster. Meaning "feminine purity, a woman's chastity" first attested late 14c. Honor roll in the scholastic sense attested by 1872.
The initial h in honest, honor, etc., is merely etymological, the sound having already disappeared when the word came into ME use. [Century Dictionary]
It was a Latinate correction that began to be made in early Old French. From c. 1300 as "action of honoring or paying respect to; act or gesture displaying reverence or esteem; state or condition inspiring respect; nobleness of character or manners; high station or rank; a mark of respect or esteem; a source of glory, a cause of good reputation." Meaning "one's personal title to high respect or esteem" is from 1540s. Bartlett ("Dictionary of Americanisms," 1848) reports honor bright! as "A protestation of honor among the vulgar."