pencil (n.)
Origin and meaning of pencil

mid-14c., pencel, "an artist's small, fine brush of camel hair," used for painting, manuscript illustration, etc., from Old French pincel "artist's paintbrush" (13c., Modern French pinceau) and directly from Medieval Latin pincellus, from Latin penicillus "painter's brush, hair-pencil," literally "little tail," diminutive of peniculus "brush," itself a diminutive of penis "tail" (see penis).

Small brushes formerly were used for writing before modern lead or chalk pencils. Sticks of pure graphite (commonly known as black lead) were used for marking things in England from the mid-16c., and the wooden enclosure for them was developed in the same century on the Continent. This seems to have been the time the word pencil was transferred from a type of brush to "graphite writing implement." The modern clay-graphite mix was developed early 19c., and pencils of this sort were mass-produced from mid-19c. Hymen L. Lipman of Philadelphia obtained a patent for the pencil with an attached eraser in 1858.

Derogatory slang pencil-pusher "office worker" is from 1881 (pen-driver, jocular for "clerk, writer," is from 1820); pencil neck "weak person" first recorded 1973. Pencil-sharpener as a mechanical device for putting the point on a lead pencil is by 1854.

And here is a new and serviceable invention—a pencil sharpener. It is just the thing to carry in the pocket, being no larger than a lady's thimble. It sharpens a lead pencil neatly and splendidly, by means of a small blade fitted in a cap, which is turned upon the end of a pencil. A patent has been applied for. Made by Mr. W. K. Foster, of Bangor. ["The Portland Transcript," Portland, Maine, Sept. 30, 1854]
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billion (n.)

1680s, from French billion (originally byllion in Chuquet's unpublished "Le Triparty en la Science des Nombres," 1484; copied by De la Roche, 1520); see bi- "two" + million. A million million in Britain and Germany (numeration by groups of sixes), which was the original sense; subsequently altered in French to "a thousand million" (numeration by groups of threes) and picked up in that form in U.S., "due in part to French influence after the Revolutionary War" [David E. Smith, "History of Mathematics," 1925]. France reverted to the original meaning in 1948. British usage is truer to the etymology, but U.S. sense is said to be increasingly common there in technical writing.

In Italian arithmetics from the last quarter of the fifteenth century the words bilione or duilione, trilione, quadrilione or quattrilione, quintilione, cinquilione, or quinquilione, sestione or sestilione, settilione, ottilione, noeilione and decilione occur as common abbreviations of due volte millioni, tre volte millione, etc. In other countries these words came into use much later, although one French writer, Nicolas Chuquet, mentions them as early as 1484, in a book not printed until 1881. The Italians had, besides, another system of numeration, proceeding by powers of a thousand. The French, who like other northern peoples, took most if not all their knowledge of modern or Arabic arithmetic from the Italians, early confounded the two systems of Italian numeration, counting in powers of a thousand, but adopting the names which properly belong to powers of a million. [Century Dictionary]

For a time in Britain gillion (1961), based on giga-, was tried as "a thousand million" to avoid ambiguity. Compare milliard.

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money (n.)

mid-13c., monie, "funds, means, anything convertible into money;" c. 1300, "coinage, coin, metal currency," from Old French monoie "money, coin, currency; change" (Modern French monnaie), from Latin moneta "place for coining money, mint; coined money, money, coinage," from Moneta, a title or surname of the Roman goddess Juno, near whose temple on the Capitoline Hill money was coined (and in which perhaps the precious metal was stored); from monere "advise, warn, admonish" (on the model of stative verbs in -ere; see monitor (n.)), by tradition with the sense of "admonishing goddess," which is sensible, but the etymology is difficult. A doublet of mint (n.2)).

It had been justly stated by a British writer that the power to make a small piece of paper, not worth one cent, by the inscribing of a few names, to be worth a thousand dollars, was a power too high to be entrusted to the hands of mortal man. [John C. Calhoun, speech, U.S. Senate, Dec. 29, 1841] 

Extended by early 19c. to include paper recognized and accepted as a substitute for coin. The highwayman's threat your money or your life is attested by 1774. Phrase in the money (1902) originally referred to "one who finishes among the prize-winners" (in a horse race, etc.). The challenge to put (one's) money where (one's) mouth is is recorded by 1942 in African-American vernacular. Money-grub for "avaricious person, one who is sordidly intent on amassing money" is from 1768; money-grubber is by 1835. The image of money burning a hole in someone's pocket is attested from 1520s (brennyd out the botom of hys purs).

I am not interested in money but in the things of which money is the symbol. [Henry Ford]
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racist (n.)

1932 (as an adjective from 1938), from race (n.2) + -ist. Racism (q.v.) is in use by 1928, originally in the context of fascist theories, and common from 1936. These words replaced earlier racialism (1882) and racialist (1910), both often used early 20c. in a British or South African context. There are isolated uses of racism from c. 1900.

Returning recently from a six months' visit to Europe, the Rev. John LaFarge, noted Catholic writer, warned at a dinner given in his honor that the destructive forces of "racism" are increasing in the United States, and that they could cause irreparable harm among the American people if immediate steps are not taken to combat them.
Father LaFarge said that American racism is directed principally against Negroes, Jews, and foreigners. He described it as "the pale but venomous cousin" of Nazi racism. Like its Nazi counterpart, he added, it has erected impassable barriers between extensive regions and large groups of people, has formed its own myths and moulded its own social institutions, and above all has come consistently into conflict with Christian teachings. [Opportunity, Journal of Negro Life, vol. XVII, No. 2, Feb. 1939]

Earlier, race hatred (1852 of the Balkans, 1858 of British India, 1861 of white and black in America), race prejudice (1867 of English in India, 1869 of white and black in America, 1870 of the English toward Irish) were used, and, especially in 19c. U.S. political contexts, negrophobia. Anglo-Saxonism as "belief in the superiority of the English race" had been used (disparagingly) from 1860. Anti-Negro (adj.) is attested in British and American English from 1819.

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common termination and word-forming element of English adjectives (typically based on verbs) and generally adding a notion of "capable of; allowed; worthy of; requiring; to be ______ed," sometimes "full of, causing," from French -able and directly from Latin -abilis. It is properly -ble, from Latin -bilis (the vowel being generally from the stem ending of the verb being suffixed), and it represents PIE *-tro-, a suffix used to form nouns of instrument, cognate with the second syllables of English rudder and saddle (n.).

A living element in English, used in new formations from either Latin or native words (readable, bearable) and also with nouns (objectionable, peaceable). Sometimes with an active signification (suitable, capable), sometimes of neutral signification (durable, conformable). It has become very elastic in meaning, as in a reliable witness, a playable foul ball, perishable goods. A 17c. writer has cadaverable "mortal."

To take a single example in detail, no-one but a competent philologist can tell whether reasonable comes from the verb or the noun reason, nor whether its original sense was that can be reasoned out, or that can reason, or that can be reasoned with, or that has reason, or that listens to reason, or that is consistent with reason; the ordinary man knows only that it can now mean any of these, & justifiably bases on these & similar facts a generous view of the termination's capabilities; credible meaning for him worthy of credence, why should not reliable & dependable mean worthy of reliance & dependence? [Fowler]

In Latin, -abilis and -ibilis depended on the inflectional vowel of the verb. Hence the variant form -ible in Old French, Spanish, English. In English, -able tends to be used with native (and other non-Latin) words, -ible with words of obvious Latin origin (but there are exceptions). The Latin suffix is not etymologically connected with able, but it long has been popularly associated with it, and this probably has contributed to its vigor as a living suffix.

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name of an imaginary realm in "Las sergas de Esplandián" ("Exploits of Espladán"), a romance by Spanish writer Garci Ordóñez de Montalvo, published in 1510. It was a sequel to his "Amadis de Gaula," and was said to have been influential among Spanish explorers of the New World. It could have led them to misidentify Baja California as this mythical land and to mistake it for an island. The Amadis tales are the Iberian equivalent of the Arthurian romances; they are older than 1510 (traces of them have been found mid-14c.) and were wildly popular. That conquistadors and sailors would have known the story in all its imaginative detail is hardly surprising.

Amadis de Gaula ... set a fashion: all later Spanish writers of books of chivalry adopted the machinery of Amadis de Gaula. Later knights were not less brave (they could not be braver than) Amadis; heroines were not less lovely (they could not be lovelier) than Oriana; there was nothing for it but to make the dragons more appalling, the giants larger, the wizards craftier, the magic castles more inaccessible, the enchanted lakes deeper. Subsequent books of chivalry are simple variants of the types in Amadis de Gaula: Cervantes made his barber describe it as 'the best of all books of this kind.' This verdict is essentially just. Amadis de Gaula was read everywhere, especially in the French version of Herberay des Essarts. It was done into Hebrew during the sixteenth century, and attracted readers as different as St Ignatius of Loyola and Henry of Navarre. Its vogue perhaps somewhat exceeded its merit, but its merits are not inconsiderable. [James Fitzmaurice-Kelly, "Spanish Literature," 1922 edition]

Where Montalvo got the name and what it means, if anything, is a mystery. In reference to the native inhabitants, Californian is attested from 1785 as an adjective, 1789 as a noun. The element Californium (1950) was named in reference to University of California, where it was discovered.

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gazette (n.)

"newspaper," c. 1600, from French gazette (16c.), from Italian gazzetta, Venetian dialectal gazeta "newspaper," also the name of a small copper coin, literally "little magpie," from gazza; applied to the monthly newspaper (gazeta de la novità) published in Venice by the government, either from its price or its association with the bird (typical of false chatter), or both. First used in English 1665 for the paper issued at Oxford, whither the court had fled from the plague.

The coin may have been so called for its marking; Gamillscheg writes the word is from French gai (see jay). The general story of the origin of the word is broadly accepted, but there are many variations in the details:

We are indebted to the Italians for the idea of newspapers. The title of their gazettas was, perhaps, derived from gazzera, a magpie or chatterer; or, more probably, from a farthing coin, peculiar to the city of Venice, called gazetta, which was the common price of the newspapers. Another etymologist is for deriving it from the Latin gaza, which would colloquially lengthen into gazetta, and signify a little treasury of news. The Spanish derive it from the Latin gaza, and likewise their gazatero, and our gazetteer, for a writer of the gazette and, what is peculiar to themselves, gazetista, for a lover of the gazette. [Isaac Disraeli, "Curiosities of Literature," 1835]
Gazzetta It., Sp. gazeta, Fr. E. gazette; prop. the name of a Venetian coin (from gaza), so in Old English. Others derive gazette from gazza a magpie, which, it is alleged, was the emblem figured on the paper; but it does not appear on any of the oldest Venetian specimens preserved at Florence. The first newspapers appeared at Venice about the middle of the 16th century during the war with Soliman II, in the form of a written sheet, for the privilege of reading which a gazzetta (= a crazia) was paid. Hence the name was transferred to the news-sheet. [T.C. Donkin, "Etymological Dictionary of the Romance Languages" (based on Diez), 1864]
GAZETTE. A paper of public intelligence and news of divers countries, first printed at Venice, about the year 1620, and so called (some say) because una gazetta, a small piece of Venetian coin, was given to buy or read it. Others derive the name from gazza, Italian for magpie, i.e. chatterer.—Trusler. A gazette was printed in France in 1631; and one in Germany in 1715. [Haydn's "Dictionary of Dates," 1857]
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charade (n.)

1776, from French charade (18c.), probably from Provençal charrado "long talk, chatter," which is of obscure origin, perhaps from charrar "to chatter, gossip," of echoic origin. Compare Italian ciarlare, Spanish charlar "to talk, prattle."

An enigma whose solution is a word of two or more syllables, each of which separately significant in sound, and which, as well as the whole word, must be discovered from a dialogue or description in which it is used, or from dramatic representation. [Century Dictionary]

 The thing itself was originally a verse word-play based on enigmatic descriptions of the words or syllables according to particular rules.

As we have ever made it a Rule to shew our Attention to the Reader, by 'catching the Manners living, as they rise,' as Mr. Pope expresses it, we think ourselves obliged to give Place to the following Specimens of a new Kind of SMALL WIT, which, for some Weeks past, has been the Subject of Conversation in almost every Society, from the Court to the Cottage. The CHARADE is, in fact, a near Relation of the old Rebus. It is usually formed from a Word of two Syllables; the first Syllable is described by the Writer; then the second; they are afterwards united and the whole Word marked out .... [supplement to The Universal Magazine of Knowledge and Pleasure, volumes 58-59, 1776] 

Among the examples given are:

My first makes all nature appear of one face;
At the next we find music, and beauty and grace;
And, if this Charade is most easily read,
I think that the third shou'd be thrown at my head.

The answer is "snow-ball." The silent charade, the main modern form of the game, was at first a variant known as dumb charades that adhered to the old pattern, and the performing team acted out all the parts in order before the audience team began to guess.

There is one species of charade which is performed solely by "dumb motions," somewhat resembling the child's game of "trades and professions"; but the acting charade is a much more amusing, and more difficult matter. ["Goldoni, and Modern Italian Comedy," in The Foreign And Colonial Quarterly Review, vol. vi, 1846] 

An 1850 book, "Acting Charades," reports that Charades en Action were all the rage in French society, and that "Lately, the game has been introduced into the drawing-rooms of a few mirth-loving Englishmen. Its success has been tremendous." Welsh siarad obviously is a loan-word from French or English, but its meaning of "speak, a talk" is closer to the Provençal original.

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slang (n.)

1756, "special vocabulary of tramps or thieves," later "jargon of a particular profession" (1801). The sense of "very informal language characterized by vividness and novelty" is by 1818.

Anatoly Liberman writes here an extensive account of the established origin of the word from the Northern England noun slang "a narrow piece of land running up between other and larger divisions of ground" and the verb slanger "linger, go slowly," which is of Scandinavian origin (compare Norwegian slenge "hang loose, sling, sway, dangle," Danish slænge "to throw, sling"). "Their common denominator seems to be 'to move freely in any direction' " [Liberman]. Noun derivatives of these (Danish slænget, Norwegian slenget) mean "a gang, a band," and Liberman compares Old Norse slangi "tramp" and slangr "going astray" (used of sheep). He writes:

It is not uncommon to associate the place designated for a certain group and those who live there with that group’s language. John Fielding and the early writers who knew the noun slang used the phrase slang patter, as though that patter were a kind of talk belonging to some territory.

So the sense evolution would be from slang "a piece of delimited territory" to "the territory used by tramps for their wandering," to "their camping ground," and finally to "the language used there." The sense shift then passes through itinerant merchants:

Hawkers use a special vocabulary and a special intonation when advertising their wares (think of modern auctioneers), and many disparaging, derisive names characterize their speech; charlatan and quack are among them.

Liberman concludes: 

[Slang] is a dialectal word that reached London from the north and for a long time retained the traces of its low origin. The route was from "territory; turf" to "those who advertise and sell their wares on such a territory," to "the patter used in advertising the wares," and to "vulgar language" (later to “any colorful, informal way of expression”).


[S]lang is a conscious offence against some conventional standard of propriety. A mere vulgarism is not slang, except when it is purposely adopted, and acquires an artificial currency, among some class of persons to whom it is not native. The other distinctive feature of slang is that it is neither part of the ordinary language, nor an attempt to supply its deficiencies. The slang word is a deliberate substitute for a word of the vernacular, just as the characters of a cipher are substitutes for the letters of the alphabet, or as a nickname is a substitute for a personal name. [Henry Bradley, from "Slang," in Encyclopedia Britannica, 11th ed.]

A word that ought to have survived is slangwhanger (1807, American English) "noisy or abusive talker or writer."

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penny (n.)

English coin, Middle English peni, from Old English pening, penig, Northumbrian penning "penny," from Proto-Germanic *panninga- (source also of Old Norse penningr, Swedish pänning, Danish penge, Old Frisian panning, Old Saxon pending, Middle Dutch pennic, Dutch penning, Old High German pfenning, German Pfennig, not recorded in Gothic where skatts is used instead), a word of unknown origin.

Offa's reformed coinage on light, broad flans is likely to have begun c.760-5 in London, with an awareness of developments in Francia and East Anglia. ... The broad flan penny established by Offa remained the principal denomination, with only minor changes, until the fourteenth century. [Anna Gannon, "The Iconography of Early Anglo-Saxon Coinage," Oxford, 2003]

The English coin was originally set at one-twelfth of a shilling (or 240 to a Tower pound) and was of silver, later copper, then bronze. There are two plural forms: pennies of individual coins, pence collectively. In Middle English, any coin could be called a penny, and in translations it rendered various foreign coins of small denomination, especially Latin denarius, whence comes its abbreviation d.

As an American English colloquial for cent, it is recorded by 1889. In reference to nails, "a pound," denoting that 1,000 nails will weigh so much, OED says it probably is based originally on the price per 100 and persisted as prices fell.

Penny-a-liner "writer for a journal or newspaper" is attested by 1830, from their supposed rate of pay. Penny dreadful in reference to "cheap and gory fiction" dates from 1870. Phrase penny-wise and pound-foolish is recorded from c. 1600.

Penny-pincher "miserly person" is recorded from 1906 (Middle English had pinchpenny (n.) in that sense; as an adjective penny-pinching is recorded from 1858, American English). Penny loafers attested from 1960, perhaps from the fashion of slipping a penny into the slits of the bands across the facing.

"A regular penny-a-liner is a person who supplies the newspapers of the city with short articles of news, ingenious remarks upon the current topics of the day, reports of meetings, or of cases in the police offices, accidents, &c. &c., but who, observe, has no express engagement from, or any direct connexion with, any newspaper whatever. His success is wholly precarious—always uncertain. If the contributions which those persons forward for publication, in this way, are published, they are certain of payment for them at the rate of one penny, three half-pence, and in rare cases, two pence a-line, according to the importance of the subject matter supplied. ["The London Penny-a-Line System," Irish Monthly Magazine, January 1833]
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