*perə-, Proto-Indo-European root meaning "to produce, procure" and yielding and derived words in diverse senses; possibly related to *pere- (2) "to grant, allot."
It forms all or part of: ante-partum; apparatus; apparel; biparous; disparate; emperor; empire; heifer; imperative; imperator; imperial; juniper; multiparous; nulliparous; oviparous; para- (2) "defense, protection against; that which protects from;" Parabellum; parachute; parade; parados; parapet; parasol; pare; parent; -parous; parry; parturient; poor; post-partum; preparation; prepare; primipara; puerperal; rampart; repair (v.1) "to mend, put back in order;" repertory; separate; sever; several; spar (v.); viper; vituperation; viviparous.
It is the hypothetical source of/evidence for its existence is provided by: Sanskrit prthukah "child, calf, young of an animal;" Greek poris "calf, bull;" Latin parare "make ready, prepare," parire "produce, bring forth, give birth to;" Czech spratek "brat, urchin, premature calf;" Lithuanian periu, perėti "to brood;" Old High German farro, German Farre "bullock," Old English fearr "bull."
early 15c. classical correction of Middle English parfit "flawless, ideal" (c. 1300), also "complete, full, finished, lacking in no way" (late 14c.), from Old French parfit "finished, completed, ready" (11c.), from Latin perfectus "completed, excellent, accomplished, exquisite," past participle of perficere "accomplish, finish, complete," from per "completely" (see per) + combining form of facere "to make, to do" (from PIE root *dhe- "to set, put").
Often used in English as an intensive (perfect stranger, etc.), from the notion of "complete." Grammatical sense, in reference to verb tense describing an action as completed, is from c. 1500. As a noun, late 14c. ("perfection"), from the adjective.
The difference between the Preterit and the Perfect is in English observed more strictly than in the other languages possessing corresponding tenses. The Preterit refers to some time in the past without telling anything about the connexion with the present moment, while the Perfect is a retrospective present, which connects a past occurrence with the present time, either as continued up to the present moment (inclusive time) or as having results or consequences bearing on the present moment. [Otto Jespersen, "Essentials of English Grammar," 1933]
c. 1200, recenen, rekenen, "enumerate, count up; name one by one; relate, recount; make calculations," from Old English gerecenian "to explain, relate, recount; arrange in order," from Proto-Germanic *(ga)rakinaz "ready, straightforward" (source also of Old Frisian rekenia, Middle Dutch and Dutch rekenen, Old High German rehhanon, German rechnen, Gothic rahnjan "to count, reckon"), from PIE root *reg- "move in a straight line," with derivatives meaning "to direct in a straight line," thus "to lead, rule."
The intransitive sense of "make a computation, cast up an account" is from c. 1300. From 1550s as "take into account." In I reckon the sense is "hold as a supposition or opinion, regard, consider as being," and the expression, used parenthetically, dates from c. 1600 and formerly was in literary use (Richardson, Swift, Jowett, etc.), but came to be associated with U.S. Southern dialect and thereafter was regarded by Anglophiles as provincial or vulgar. Related: Reckoned; reckoning.
For I reckon that the sufferings of this present time are not worthy to be compared with the glory which shall be revealed in us. [Romans viii.18]
Middle English shiften, from Old English sciftan, scyftan "arrange, place, put in order" (a sense now obsolete), also "divide, separate, partition; distribute, allot, share" (now obsolete or provincial), from Proto-Germanic *skiftan (source also of Old Norse skipta "to divide, change, separate," Old Frisian skifta "to decide, determine, test," Dutch schiften "to divide, turn," German schichten "to classify," Schicht "shift"). This is said to be related to the source of Old English sceadan "divide, separate" (see shed (v.)).
By c. 1200 as "to dispose; make ready; set in order, control," also intransitive, "take care of oneself." Thus "manage to succeed, make out a livelihood" (as in shift for oneself, 1510s; also compare makeshift).
The sense of "to alter, to change" appeared by mid-13c. (compare shiftless). Also from mid-13c. in the transitive sense of "remove and replace with another or others," originally especially of clothing, hence "put on and replace one's clothes" (c.1400).
From c. 1300 as "to go, move, depart; move (someone or something), transport" as from one place or position to another. The meaning "change the gear setting of an engine" is from 1910; to shift gears in the figurative sense is from 1961. Related: Shifted; shifting.
The phrase sixty-four dollar question "crucial question, most difficult question" is attested in general use from 1942, from the popular radio quiz show "Take It or Leave It" (debuted 1940), in which contestants answered questions of ascending difficulty and with ascending prizes for right answers, from $1 for the first to $64 for the seventh and last, and the option to take the winnings or take the next question. The show renamed itself "The $64 Question" in 1950. The amount of money offered advanced over time, and by 1955 it was "The $64,000 Question."
Baggy-browed Phil Baker took the $64 Question to Hollywood this week. As custodian of the renowned question—now so much a part of the national idiom that even $64 prose stylists avoid using it—and quizmaster of one of U.S. radio's most popular shows, Take It or Leave It (CBS, Sun., 10 p.m., E.W.T.), Phil Baker was ready to put both on celluloid. But there would be one slight variation: to suit Hollywood's philosophy, the $64 Question would become the $640 Question. [Time, March 6, 1944].
c. 1300 (late 13c. as a surname, late 14c. as the name of a dog), "merry, cheerful, naturally of a happy disposition; comical; suggesting joy or merriment," from Old French jolif "festive, merry; amorous; pretty" (12c., Modern French joli "pretty, nice"), a word of uncertain origin. It has an apparent cognate in Italian giulivo "merry, pleasant."
It is often suggested that the word is ultimately Germanic, from a source akin to Old Norse jol "a winter feast" (see yule). OED, however, finds this "extremely doubtful," based on "historic and phonetic difficulties." Perhaps the French word is from Latin gaudere "to rejoice," from PIE *gau- "to rejoice" (see joy).
Meaning "great, remarkable, uncommon" is from 1540s, hence its use as a general intensifier in expressions of admiration. Colloquial meaning "somewhat drunk" is from 1650s. As an adverb from early 15c., "stoutly, boldly." For loss of -f, compare tardy, hasty. Related: Jolliness. Broader Middle English senses, mostly now lost, include "vigorous, strong, youthful" (c. 1300); "amorous; lecherous; ready to mate; in heat" (c. 1300); "pleasing, beautiful, handsome; noble-looking; handsomely dressed" (c. 1300); playful, frisky (mid-14c.); "arrogant, overweening, foolish" (mid-14c.).
c. 1400, handsom "easy to handle, ready at hand," from hand (n.) + -some (1). Sense extended to "fit, appropriate" (1550s, implied in handsomely), then "having fine form, good-looking, agreeable to the eye" (1580s). Meaning "generous, on a liberal scale" (of rewards, etc.) first recorded 1680s.
[Americans] use the word "handsome" much more extensively than we do: saying that Webster made a handsome speech in the Senate: that a lady talks handsomely, (eloquently:) that a book sells handsomely. A gentleman asked me on the Catskill Mountain, whether I thought the sun handsomer there than at New York. [Harriet Martineau, "Society in America," 1837]
Bartlett (1848) quotes Webster (the lexicographer) on this colloquial American use of handsome: "In general, when applied to things, it imports that the form is agreeable to the eye, or to the taste; and when applied to manner, it conveys the idea of suitableness or propriety with grace." Related: Handsomeness. For sense development, compare pretty (adj.), fair (adj.). Similar formation in Dutch handzaam "tractable, serviceable."
Handsome is founded upon the notion of proportion, symmetry, as the result of cultivation or work; a handsome figure is strictly one that has been developed by attention to physical laws into the right proportions. It is less spiritual than beautiful; a handsome face is not necessarily a beautiful face. [Century Dictionary, 1895]
1791, in a South African context, "private military raid undertaken by the Boers against the natives for personal ends," also the name of the leader of the raid and the permission given for it, from Afrikaans commando, "a troop under a commander," from Portuguese commando, literally "party commanded" (see command (v.)).
"A colonist" says he, "who lives two hundred leagues up the country, arrives at the Cape, to complain that the Caffrees have taken all his cattle; and intreats a commando, which is a permission to go, with the help of his neighbours, to retake his property; the governor, who either does not, or feigns not to understand the trick, adheres strictly to the facts expressed in the petition: a preamble of regular information would occasion long delays; a permission is easily given—tis but a word—the fatal word is written, which proves a sentence of death to a thousand poor savages, who have no such defence or resources as their persecutors." [George Carter, "A Narrative of the Loss of the Grosvenor," 1791]
Sense of "elite special forces soldier trained for rapid operations" is from 1940 (originally of shock troops to repel the threatened German invasion of England), first attested in writings of Winston Churchill, who could have picked it up during the Boer War.
Phrase going commando "not wearing underwear" attested by 1996, U.S. slang, perhaps on notion of being ready for instant action.
"cold, factual person," from the name of the school-board superintendent and mill-owner in Dickens' "Hard Times" (1854):
THOMAS GRADGRIND, sir. A man of realities. A man of facts and calculations. A man who proceeds upon the principle that two and two are four, and nothing over, and who is not to be talked into allowing for anything over. Thomas Gradgrind, sir - peremptorily Thomas - Thomas Gradgrind. With a rule and a pair of scales, and the multiplication table always in his pocket, sir, ready to weigh and measure any parcel of human nature, and tell you exactly what it comes to. It is a mere question of figures, a case of simple arithmetic. ....
In such terms Mr. Gradgrind always mentally introduced himself, whether to his private circle of acquaintance, or to the public in general. In such terms, no doubt, substituting the words 'boys and girls,' for 'sir,' Thomas Gradgrind now presented Thomas Gradgrind to the little pitchers before him, who were to be filled so full of facts.
Indeed, as he eagerly sparkled at them from the cellarage before mentioned, he seemed a kind of cannon loaded to the muzzle with facts, and prepared to blow them clean out of the regions of childhood at one discharge. He seemed a galvanizing apparatus, too, charged with a grim mechanical substitute for the tender young imaginations that were to be stormed away.