"effeminate man, male homosexual who takes the passive role," 1924, from female name Nancy (q.v.), which was in use as an adjective meaning "effeminate" (applied to men) by 1904 in prison slang, a shortening of earlier Miss Nancy, a derogatory term for a finicky, effeminate man which is attested by 1824; Nancy boy "effeminate male homosexual" is attested by 1939.
Nancy, Miss, an opprobrious epithet for an exceedingly effeminate, over-nice young man. The original Miss Nancy, however, was a Mrs. Anna Oldfield, a celebrated actress, who died in 1730 and was buried in Westminster Abbey. She was extremely vain and nice about her dress, and as she lay in state, attended by two noblemen, she was attired, as she had directed shortly before her death, in "a very fine Brussels lace head-dress, a Holland shift with a tucker and double ruffles of the same lace, a pair of new kid gloves," etc., a circumstance alluded to by Pope .... [William S. Walsh, "Handy-Book of Literary Curiosities," 1892]
Walsh's proposed origin might not be exact. Related: Nancified.
measure of length, Old English gerd (Mercian), gierd (West Saxon) "rod, staff, stick; measure of length," from West Germanic *gazdijo, from Proto-Germanic *gazdjo "stick, rod" (source also of Old Saxon gerda, Old Frisian ierde, Dutch gard "rod;" Old High German garta, German gerte "switch, twig," Old Norse gaddr "spike, sting, nail"), from PIE root *ghazdh-o- "rod, staff, pole" (source also of Latin hasta "shaft, staff"). The nautical yard-arm retains the original sense of "stick."
Originally in Anglo-Saxon times a land measure of roughly 5 meters (a length later called rod, pole, or perch). Modern measure of "three feet" is attested from late 14c. (earlier rough equivalent was the ell of 45 inches, and the verge). In Middle English and after, the word also was a euphemism for "penis" (as in "Love's Labour's Lost," V.ii.676). Slang meaning "one hundred dollars" first attested 1926, American English. Middle English yerd (Old English gierd) also was "yard-land, yard of land," a varying measure but often about 30 acres or a quarter of a hide.
Old English ribb "a rib; one of a series of long, slender, curved bones of humans and animals, forming a kind of cage or partial enclosure for the chief organs," from Proto-Germanic *rebjan (source also of Old Norse rif, Old Saxon ribbi, Old Frisian rib, reb, Middle Dutch, Dutch ribbe, Old High German ribba, German Rippe).
Boutkan finds the old derivation of this from PIE *rebh- "to roof, cover" (on the notion of "a covering" of the cavity of the chest) doubtful, "particularly because the alleged semantic development to 'rib' is found only in Gmc. and Slavic."
Cookery sense of "piece of meat from an ox, pig, etc. containing one or more ribs" is from early 15c. As "a ship's curved frame timber" from 1550s.
Rib-roast "joint of meat for roasting which includes one or more ribs" is by 1889. Rib-eye for a cut of meat that lies along the outer side of a rib is by 1926, American English, with eye in a specialized sense in butchery. Rib joint "brothel" is slang from 1943, probably in reference to Adam's rib (compare rib "woman, wife," attested from 1580s).
1857, American English, a Midwestern word for "to talk aimlessly and boastingly; to indulge in 'high falutin'," according to Farmer (1890), who seems to have been the only British lexicographer to notice it. He says it was based on blow (v.1) on the model of deviate, etc.
It seems to have been felt as outdated slang already by late 19c. ("It was a pleasure for him to hear the Doctor talk, or, as it was inelegantly expressed in the phrase of the period, 'bloviate' ...." ["Overland Monthly," San Francisco, 1872, describing a scene from 1860]), but it enjoyed a revival early 1920s during the presidency of Warren G. Harding, who wrote a notoriously ornate and incomprehensible prose (e.e. cummings eulogized him as "The only man, woman or child who wrote a simple declarative sentence with seven grammatical errors") at which time the word took on its connection with political speech; it faded again thereafter, but, with its derivative, bloviation, it enjoyed a revival in the 2000 U.S. election season that continued through the era of blogging.
"a large waterfowl proverbially noted, I know not why, for foolishness" [Johnson], Old English gos "a goose," from Proto-Germanic *gans- "goose" (source also of Old Frisian gos, Old Norse gas, Old High German gans, German Gans "goose"), from PIE *ghans- (source also of Sanskrit hamsah (masc.), hansi (fem.), "goose, swan;" Greek khen; Latin anser; Polish gęś "goose;" Lithuanian žąsis "goose;" Old Irish geiss "swan"), probably imitative of its honking.
Geese are technically distinguished from swans and from ducks by the combination of feathered lores, reticulate tarsi, stout bill high at the base, and simple hind toe. [Century Dictionary]
Spanish ganso "goose" is from a Germanic source. Loss of "n" sound before "s" is normal in English (compare tooth). Plural form geese is an example of i-mutation. Meaning "simpleton, silly or foolish person" is from early 15c. To cook (one's) goose is attested by 1845, of unknown origin; attempts to connect it to Swedish history and Greek fables are unconvincing. Goose-egg "zero" is attested by 1866 in baseball slang, from being large and round. The goose that lays golden eggs (15c.) is from Aesop.
initial sound-cluster, containing the exceptions to the general rule that sc- or sk- in Modern English indicates a word not from Old English (whose sc- regularly becomes sh-). Words often are found in pairs, especially in dialect and slang, one in scr-, one in shr- (or schr-); a prominent surviving example is shred and screed, the same Old English word surviving in two forms now much different in meaning.
OED also notes that "Many English words beginning with scr- agree more or less closely in meaning with other words differing from them in form only by the absence of the initial s" (such as crunch/scrunch, scringe, an alternative form of cringe, etc.)
It does not appear that these coincidences are due to any one general cause ..., but it is probable that the existence of many pairs of synonyms with scr- and cr- produced a tendency to change cr-, in words expressive of sounds or physical movements, into scr- so as to render the word echoic or phonetically symbolic. [OED]
Middle English mille, "building fitted to grind grain," Old English mylen "a mill" (10c.), an early Germanic borrowing from Late Latin molina, molinum "mill" (source of French moulin, Spanish molino), originally fem. and neuter of molinus "pertaining to a mill," from Latin mola "mill, millstone," related to molere "to grind," from PIE root *mele- "to crush, grind." The -n- gradually was lost in English but survives in the surname Milner. Also from Late Latin molina, directly or indirectly, are German Mühle, Old Saxon mulin, Old Norse mylna, Danish mølle, Old Church Slavonic mulinu.
The meaning "mechanical device for grinding grain for food" is from 1550s. The broader sense of "machine for grinding or pulverizing any solid substance" is attested from 1670s. Other types of manufacturing machines driven by wind or water, that transform raw material by a process other than grinding began to be called mills by early 15c. Sense of "large building fitted with machinery for manufacturing" is from c. 1500. In old slang also "a typewriter" (1913); "a boxing match or other pugilistic bout" (1819).
Old English word for the animal was hreremus, from hreran "to shake" (see rare (adj.2)), and rattle-mouse, an old dialectal word for "bat," is attested from late 16c. Flitter-mouse (1540s) is occasionally used in English (variants flinder-mouse, flicker-mouse) in imitation of German fledermaus "bat," from Old High German fledaron "to flutter."
As a contemptuous term for an old woman, it is perhaps a suggestion of witchcraft (compare fly-by-night), or from bat as "prostitute who plies her trade by night" [Farmer, who calls it "old slang" and finds French equivalent "night swallow" (hirondelle de nuit) "more poetic"].
c. 1200, "the following of a wrong scent by hounds" (a sense now obsolete but in one phrase); early 14c., "debauchery, extravagance, wanton living," from Anglo-French rioute, Old French riot, riote (12c.) "dispute, quarrel, (tedious) talk, chattering, argument, domestic strife," also a euphemism for "sexual intercourse," of uncertain origin. Compare Italian riotta (Medieval Latin riota) "quarrel, dispute, uproar, riot." Perhaps from Latin rugire "to roar."
The meaning "civil disorder, violent disturbance of the peace, public disturbance arising from wanton and disorderly conduct" is attested by late 14c. The meaning "something spectacularly successful" first recorded 1909 in theater slang. The sense of "vivid display of colors" is by 1891.
To run riot "act or move without control or restraint" is by 1520s, a figurative extension of the oldest Middle English meaning of the word, in reference to hounds following the wrong scent. The Riot Act, part of which must be read to a mob before active measures can be taken, was passed 1714 (1 Geo. I, st.2, c.5). Riot girl and alternative form riot grrl first recorded 1992.
Its meaning forked in English. Via the notion of "coarse in texture or quality" came the senses "not sensitive, dull stupid" (1520s), "vulgar, coarse in a moral sense" (1530s). Via notion of "general, not in detail" came the sense "entire, total, whole, without deductions" (early 15c.), as in gross national product (1947). Meaning "glaring, flagrant, monstrous" is from 1580s; modern meaning "disgusting" is first recorded 1958 in U.S. student slang, from earlier use as an intensifier of unpleasant things (gross stupidity, etc.).