c. 1200, "a step, a stair," also "a position in a hierarchy," and "a stage of progress, a single movement toward an end," from Old French degré (12c.) "a step (of a stair), pace, degree (of relationship), academic degree; rank, status, position," which is said to be from Vulgar Latin *degradus "a step," from Latin de- "down" (see de-) + gradus "a step; a step climbed;" figuratively "a step toward something, a degree of something rising by stages" (from PIE root *ghredh- "to walk, go").
A word of wide use in Middle English; in 14c. it also meant "way, manner; condition, state, standing." Most extended senses in Middle English are from the notion of a hierarchy of steps. Genealogical sense of "a certain remove in the line of blood" is from mid-14c.; educational sense of "an academic rank conferred by diploma" is from late 14c. By degrees "gradually, by stages" is from late 14c.
Other transferred senses are from the notion of "one of a number of subdivisions of something extended in space or time," hence "intensive quality, measure, extent." The meaning "1/360th of a circle" is from late 14c. (The division of the circle into 360 degrees was known in Babylon and Egypt; the number is perhaps from the daily motion of the sun through the zodiac in the course of a year.) From 1540s as "a measure of heat;" the specific use as a unit of temperature on a thermometer is by 1727. In reference to crime, by 1670s as "one of certain distinctions of culpability;" in U.S. use by 1821 as "one of the phases of the same kind of crime."
c. 1300, "supplies or provisions for a household, camp, etc.," from store (v.) or else from Old French estore "provisions; a fleet, navy, army," from estorer or from Medieval Latin staurum, instaurum "store." General sense of "sufficient supply" is attested from late 15c. The meaning "place where goods are kept for sale" is first recorded 1721 in American English (British English prefers shop (n.)), from the sense "place where supplies and provisions are kept" (1660s).
The word store is of larger signification than the word shop. It not only comprehends all that is embraced in the word shop, when that word is used to designate a place in which goods or merchandise are sold, but more, a place of deposit, a store house. In common parlance the two words have a distinct meaning. We speak of shops as places in which mechanics pursue their trades, as a carpenter's shop a blacksmith's shop a shoemaker's shop. While, if we refer to a place where goods and merchandise are bought and sold, whether by wholesale or retail, we speak of it as a store. [C.J. Brickell, opinion in Sparrenberger v. The State of Alabama, December term, 1875]
Stores "articles and equipment for an army" is from 1630s. In store "laid up for future use" (also of events, etc.) is recorded from late 14c. Store-bought is attested from 1912, American English; earlier store-boughten (1872).
early 14c., savete, "freedom or immunity from harm or danger; an unharmed or uninjured state or condition," from Old French sauvete, salvete "safety, safeguard; salvation; security, surety," earlier salvetet (11c., Modern French sauveté), from Medieval Latin salvitatem (nominative salvitas) "safety," from Latin salvus "uninjured, in good health, safe" (from PIE root *sol- "whole, well-kept"). From late 14c. as "means or instrument of safety, a safeguard."
The meaning "trigger-lock on a gun" is attested by 1881, perhaps short for safety-lock (1877), etc. As a North American football position, by 1931; as a type of score against one's own team, 1881.
Safety-valve, which diminishes the risk of explosion, is from 1797; figurative sense recorded from 1818. Safety-net in literal sense (in machinery) is by 1916, later of aerial circus performances (1920s); figurative use is by 1950. Safety-bicycle as a name for the modern type, with low, equal-sized wheels and a driving mechanism, is by 1866. Safety-razor is by 1877. A safety-belt (1840) was at first for window washers and firefighters; it was used of restraining straps for airplane pilots by 1911, extended to automobiles by 1948. Safety first as an accident-prevention slogan first recorded 1873.
Safety first, and saving of fuel second, should be the rule in steam engineering. [Scientific American, June 15, 1861]
c. 1300, "a gathering of persons, a group gathered for some purpose," from Old French as(s)emblee "assembly, gathering; union, marriage," noun use of fem. past participle of assembler "to assemble" (see assemble). Meaning "a gathering together" is recorded from early 15c.; that of "act of assembling parts or objects" is from 1914, as is assembly line.
Perhaps the most interesting department in the whole factory, to the visitor, is the final assembly. In this division, all the assembled units meet the assembly conveyor at the point where they are needed. At the start of the track a front axle unit, a rear axle unit and a frame unit are assembled. This assembly is then started in motion by means of a chain conveyor, and as it moves down the room at a constant speed of eight feet per minute, each man adds one part to the growing chassis or does one operation, which is assigned to him, so that when the chassis reaches the end of the line, it is ready to run on its own power. ["The Story of an Automobile Factory," in "Universal Book of Knowledge and Wonders," 1917]
School sense, "gathering of all students for a presentation" is from 1932. From mid-14c. as "a gathering for deliberation," hence it is the name of the lower house in state (earlier colonial) legislatures in America (1680s). In 17c.-18c. assemblies "dancing balls 'among polite persons of both sexes,' often paid for by subscription of the participants" were a prominent feature of social life.
late 14c., "clearly revealed to the eye or the understanding, open to view or comprehension," from Old French manifest "evident, palpable," (12c.), or directly from Latin manifestus "plainly apprehensible, clear, apparent, evident;" of offenses, "proved by direct evidence;" of offenders, "caught in the act," probably from manus "hand" (from PIE root *man- (2) "hand") + -festus, which apparently is identical to the second element of infest.
De Vaan writes, "If manifestus may be interpreted as 'caught by hand', the meanings seem to point to 'grabbing' or 'attacking' for -festus." But he finds none of the proposed ulterior connections compelling, and concludes that, regarding infestus and manifestus, "maybe the two must be separated." If not, the sense development might be from "caught by hand" to "in hand, palpable."
Manifest destiny, "that which clearly appears destined to come to pass; a future state, condition, or event which can be foreseen with certainty, or is regarded as inevitable" was much used in American politics from about the time of the Mexican War "by those who believed that the United States were destined in time to occupy the entire continent" [Century Dictionary].
Other nations have tried to check ... the fulfillment of our manifest destiny to overspread the Continent allotted by Providence for the free development of our yearly multiplying millions. [John O'Sullivan (1813-1895), "U.S. Magazine & Democratic Review," July 1845]
The phrase apparently is O'Sullivan's coinage; the notion is as old as the republic.
c. 1300, nacioun, "a race of people, large group of people with common ancestry and language," from Old French nacion "birth, rank; descendants, relatives; country, homeland" (12c.) and directly from Latin nationem (nominative natio) "birth, origin; breed, stock, kind, species; race of people, tribe," literally "that which has been born," from natus, past participle of nasci "be born" (Old Latin gnasci), from PIE root *gene- "give birth, beget," with derivatives referring to procreation and familial and tribal groups.
The word is used in English in a broad sense, "a race of people an aggregation of persons of the same ethnic family and speaking the same language," and also in the narrower sense, "a political society composed of a government and subjects or citizens and constituting a political unit; an organized community inhabiting a defined territory within which its sovereignty is exercised."
In Middle English it is not easy to distinguish them, but the "political society" sense emerged by 16c., perhaps late 14c. and it has gradually predominated. The older sense is preserved in the application of nation to the native North American peoples (1640s). Nation-building "creation of a new nation" is attested by 1907 (implied in nation-builder). Nation-state "sovereign country the inhabitants of which are united by language, culture, and common descent" is from 1918.
A nation is an organized community within a certain territory; or in other words, there must be a place where its sole sovereignty is exercised. [Theodore D. Woolsey, "Introduction to the Study of International Law," 1864]
Old English bodig "trunk of a man or beast, physical structure of a human or animal; material frame, material existence of a human; main or principal part of anything," related to Old High German botah, but otherwise of unknown origin. Not elsewhere in Germanic, and the word has died out in German (replaced by Leib, originally "life," and Körper, from Latin), "but in English body remains as a great and important word" [OED].
Extension to "a person, a human being" is from c. 1300. Meaning "main part" of anything was in late Old English, hence its use in reference to vehicles (1520s). From 1580s as "part of the dress which covers the body." From 1590s as "main part of a group, any number of individuals spoken of collectively." From 1660s as "main portion of a document." Contrasted with soul at least since mid-13c. Meaning "corpse" ("dead body") is from c. 1200. Transferred to matter generally in Middle English (as in heavenly body, late 14c.).
Body politic "the nation, the state, whole body of people living under an organized government" first recorded late 15c., with French word order. Body image was coined 1934. Body count "number of enemy killed in battle or otherwise" is from 1968, from the Vietnam War. Body language is attested from 1967, perhaps from French langage corporel (1966). Body-snatcher "one who secretly disinters the bodies of the recently dead for dissection" is from 1834. Phrase over my dead body attested by 1833.
"in a state of decline or decay (from a former condition of excellence)," 1837 (Carlyle), from French décadent, back-formation from décadence (see decadence). In reference to literary (later, other artistic) schools that believed, or affected to believe, they lived in an age of artistic decadence, 1885 in French, 1888 in English. Usually in a bad sense:
Bread, supposedly the staff of life, has become one of our most decadent foods — doughy, gummy, and without the aroma, flavor, texture, taste and appearance that is typical of good bread. ["College and University Business" 1960]
Beckoning sense of "desirable and satisfying to self-indulgence" begins c. 1970 in commercial publications in reference to desserts.
As a noun, "one whose artistic or literary work is supposed to show marks of decadence," 1889 (from 1887 as a French word in English), originally in a French context.
On the subject of poetry I am bound to signalize one of those grotesque, unexpected apparitions which would appear to be constitutional to our country [i.e. France] .... I refer to the recent appearance of a literary clique of madmen or idlers, the self-named décadents. I own I am almost ashamed to occupy your time with this unworthy subject, which I should not have thought fit to introduce had not our newspapers and even our reviews taken the décadents to task, and were it not that they have furnished chroniqueurs short of copy with matter for articles, and that the serious Temps itself has taken up their trashy nonsense. [The Athenaeum, Jan. 1, 1887]
apparently an early Middle English merger of three related Old English nouns, flota "boat, fleet," flote "troop, flock," flot "body of water, sea;" all from the source of float (v.). The early senses were the now-mostly-obsolete ones of the Old English words: "state of floating" (early 12c.), "swimming" (mid-13c.); "a fleet of ships; a company or troop" (c. 1300); "a stream, river" (early 14c.). From c. 1300 as an attachment for buoyancy on a fishing line or net; early 14c. as "raft." Meaning "platform on wheels used for displays in parades, etc." is from 1888, probably from earlier sense of "flat-bottomed boat" (1550s). As a type of fountain drink, by 1915.
Float.—An ade upon the top of which is floated a layer of grape juice, ginger ale, or in some cases a disher of fruit sherbet or ice cream. In the latter case it would be known as a "sherbet float" or an "ice-cream float." ["The Dispenser's Formulary: Or, Soda Water Guide," New York, 1915]
Few soda water dispensers know what is meant by a "Float Ice Cream Soda." This is not strange since the term is a coined one. By a "float ice cream soda" is meant a soda with the ice cream floating on top, thus making a most inviting appearance and impressing the customer that you are liberal with your ice cream, when you are not really giving any more than the fellow that mixes his ice cream "out of sight." [The Spatula, Boston, July, 1908]
late 14c., "males or females collectively," from Latin sexus "a sex, state of being either male or female, gender," of uncertain origin. "Commonly taken with seco as division or 'half' of the race" [Tucker], which would connect it to secare "to divide or cut" (see section (n.)).
Secus seems the more original formation, but it is strange that the older texts only know sexus. The modern meaning of sectiō 'division' suggests that sec/xus might derive from secāre 'to sever', but the morphology remains unclear: does sexus go back to an s-present *sek-s- 'to cut up', or was it derived from a form *sek-s- of the putative s-stem underlying secus? [Michiel de Vaan, "Etymological Dictionary of Latin and the other Italic Languages," Leiden, 2008]
Meaning "quality of being male or female" first recorded 1520s. Meaning "sexual intercourse" is attested by 1906; the meaning "genitalia" is attested by 1938. Sex appeal is attested by 1904.
For the raw sex appeal of the burlesque "shows" there is no defense, either. These "shows" should be under official supervision, at the least, and boys beneath the age of eighteen forbidden, perhaps, to attend their performance, just as we forbid the sale of liquors to minors. [Walter Prichard Eaton, "At the New Theatre and Others: The American Stage, Its Problems and Performances," Boston, 1910]
Sex drive is by 1918; sex object by 1901; sex symbol by 1871 in anthropology; the first person to whom the term was applied seems to have been Marilyn Monroe (1959). Sex therapist is from 1974.