1855, theater slang for "a failure in performance;" by 1862 it had acquired the general sense of "any ignominious failure or dismal flop," on or off the stage. It comes via the French phrase faire fiasco "turn out a failure" (19c.), from Italian far fiasco "suffer a complete breakdown in performance," literally "make a bottle," from fiasco "bottle," from Late Latin flasco "bottle" (see flask).
The literal sense of the image (if it is one) is obscure today, but "the usual range of fanciful theories has been advanced" [Ayto]. Century Dictionary says "perhaps in allusion to the bursting of a bottle," Weekley pronounces it impenetrable and compares French ramasser un pelle "to come a cropper (in bicycling), literally to pick up a shovel." OED keeps its distance and lets nameless "Italian etymologists" make nebulous reference to "alleged incidents in Italian theatrical history." Klein suggests Venetian glass-crafters tossing aside imperfect pieces to be made later into common flasks. But according to an Italian dictionary, fare il fiasco used to mean "to play a game so that the one that loses will pay the fiasco," in other words, he will buy the next bottle (of wine). If the dates are not objectionable, that plausibly connects the literal sense of the word with the notion of "a costly mistake."
Old English scitte "purging, diarrhea," from source of shit (v.). Sense of "excrement" dates from 1580s (Old English had scytel, Middle English shitel for "dung, excrement;" the usual 14c. noun seems to have been turd). Use for "obnoxious person" is at least since 1508; meaning "misfortune, trouble" is attested from 1937. Shit-faced "drunk" is 1960s student slang; shit list is from 1942.
Up shit creek "in trouble" is by 1868 in a South Carolina context (compare the metaphoric salt river, of which it perhaps a coarse variant). To not give a shit "not care" is from 1922. Pessimistic expression same shit different day attested by 1989. Shitload (also shit-load) for "a great many" is by 1970. Shitticism is Robert Frost's word for scatological writing. Piece of shit "contemptible person" is by 1916.
The expression [the shit hits the fan] is related to, and may well derive from, an old joke. A man in a crowded bar needed to defecate but couldn't find a bathroom, so he went upstairs and used a hole in the floor. Returning, he found everyone had gone except the bartender, who was cowering behind the bar. When the man asked what had happened, the bartender replied, 'Where were you when the shit hit the fan?' [Hugh Rawson, "Wicked Words," 1989]
1530s, "thing that rubs" (a brush, cloth, etc.), agent noun from rub (v.). By c. 1600 as "one who applies friction or massage in some process."
The meaning "elastic substance from tropical plants" is recorded by 1788, short for India rubber. Earlier known also as catouchou, caoutchouc, it was introduced to Europe 1744 by Charles Marie de la Condamine, so called because it originally was used to erase pencil marks from paper, etc. Later extended to synthetic substances having the same qualities.
This substance is very useful in drawing, &c., for erasing the strokes of black lead pencils, and is popularly called rubber, and lead-eater. [from the entry for Caoutchouc in George Selby Howard, "New Royal Cyclopaedia," 1788]
The meaning "an overshoe made of rubber" is 1842, American English; slang sense of "contraceptive sheath, condom" is by 1930s. As an adjective by 1844, "In very common use from about 1875" [OED]. Some figurative phrases are from the notion of rubber automobile tires.
Rubber cement "adhesive compound containing rubber" is attested from 1856 (from 1823 as India-rubber cement). Rubber check (one that "bounces") is from 1927. The decorative household rubber plant is so called by 1876 (earlier India-rubber plant, by 1805). Rubber-chicken circuit "after-dinner speaking tour" is by 1959, in reference to the likely quality of the food.
"kind of food made from flour or the meal of some grain, kneaded into a dough, fermented, and baked," Old English bread "bit, crumb, morsel; bread," cognate with Old Norse brauð, Danish brød, Old Frisian brad, Middle Dutch brot, Dutch brood, German Brot. According to one theory [Watkins, etc.] from Proto-Germanic *brautham, from PIE root *bhreu- "to boil, bubble, effervesce, burn," in reference to the leavening.
But OED argues at some length for the basic sense being not "cooked food" but "piece of food," and the Old English word deriving from a Proto-Germanic *braudsmon- "fragments, bits" (cognate with Old High German brosma "crumb," Old English breotan "to break in pieces") and being related to the root of break (v.). It cites Slovenian kruh "bread," literally "a piece."
Either way, by c. 1200 it had replaced the usual Old English word for "bread," which was hlaf (see loaf (n.)).
Extended sense of "food, sustenance in general" (late 12c.) is perhaps via the Lord's Prayer. Slang meaning "money" dates from 1940s, but compare breadwinner, and bread as "one's livelihood" dates to 1719. Bread and circuses (1914) is from Latin, in reference to food and entertainment provided by the government to keep the populace content. "Duas tantum res anxius optat, Panem et circenses" [Juvenal, Sat. x.80].
Meaning "thread or cord composed of two or more fibers" is recorded from 1550s. Meaning "act or action of turning on an axis" is attested from 1570s. Sense of "beverage consisting of two or more liquors" is first attested c. 1700. Meaning "thick cord of tobacco" is from 1791. Meaning "curled piece of lemon, etc., used to flavor a drink" is recorded from 1958. Sense of "unexpected plot development" is from 1941.
The popular rock 'n' roll dance craze is from 1961, so called from the motion involved, but twist was used to describe popular dances in 1894 and again in the 1920s. To get one's knickers in a twist "be unduly agitated" is British slang first attested 1971.
c. 1300, "grating or open frame with bars or pegs upon which things are hung or placed," especially for kitchen use, possibly from Middle Dutch rec "framework," literally "something stretched out, related to recken (modern rekken) "stretch out," cognate with Old English reccan "to stretch out," from Proto-Germanic *rak- (source also of Old Saxon rekkian, Old Frisian reza, Old Norse rekja, Old High German recchen, German recken, Gothic uf-rakjan "to stretch out"), from PIE root *reg- "to move in a straight line."
Or it might have developed from the Old English verb. The sense of "frame on which clothes or skins are stretched to dry" is by early 14c. The sense of "framework above a manger for holding hay or other fodder for livestock" is from mid-14c. As the name of a type of instrument of torture by early 15c., perhaps from German rackbank, originally an implement for stretching leather, etc. Sense of "punishment by the rack" is by 1580s.
Mechanical meaning "metal bar with teeth on one edge" is from 1797 (see pinion). Meaning "set of antlers" is first attested 1945, American English; hence slang sense of "a woman's breasts" (especially if large), by 1991. Meaning "framework for displaying clothes" is from 1948; hence off the rack (1951) of clothing, as opposed to tailored.
early 13c., from Old French figue "fig" (12c.), from Old Provençal figa, from Vulgar Latin *fica, corresponding to Latin ficus "fig tree, fig," which, with Greek sykon, Armenian t'uz is "prob. fr. a common Mediterranean source" [Buck], possibly a Semitic one (compare Phoenician pagh "half-ripe fig"). A reborrowing of a word that had been taken directly from Latin as Old English fic "fig, fig-tree."
The insulting sense of the word in Shakespeare, etc. (A fig for ...) is 1570s (in 17c. sometimes in Italian form fico), in part from fig as "small, valueless thing," but also from Greek and Italian use of their versions of the word as slang for "vulva," apparently because of how a ripe fig looks when split open [Rawson, Weekley]. Giving the fig (Old French faire la figue, Spanish dar la higa) was an indecent gesture of ancient provenance, made by putting the thumb between two fingers or into the mouth, with the intended effect of the modern gesture of "flipping the bird" (see bird (n.3)). Also compare sycophant.
Use of fig leaf in figurative sense of "flimsy disguise" (1550s) is from Genesis iii.7. Fig-faun translates Latin faunus ficarius (Jeremiah l.39). Fig Newtons (by 1907) are named for Newton, Massachusetts.
"to defecate," 1846, from a cluster of older nouns, now dialectal or obsolete, applied to things cast off or discarded (such as "weeds growing among corn" (early 15c.), "residue from renderings" (late 15c.), underworld slang for "money" (18c.), and in Shropshire, "dregs of beer or ale"), all probably from Middle English crappe "grain that was trodden underfoot in a barn, chaff" (mid-15c.), from French crape "siftings," from Old French crappe, from Medieval Latin crappa, crapinum "chaff." Related: Crapped; crapping.
For connection of the idea of defecation with that of shedding or casting off from the body, compare shit (v.). Despite the etymological legend, the word is not from the name of Thomas Crapper (1837-1910) who was, however, a busy plumber and may have had some minor role in the development of modern toilets. The name Crapper is a northern form of Cropper (attested from 1221), an occupational surname, obviously, but the exact reference is unclear. Crap (v.) as a variant of crop (v.) was noted early 19c, as a peculiarity of speech in Scotland and what was then the U.S. Southwest (Arkansas, etc.).
Draw out yere sword, thou vile South'ron!
Red wat wi' blude o' my kin!
That sword it crapped the bonniest flower
E'er lifted its head to the sun!
[Allan Cunningham (1784-1842), "The Young Maxwell"]
Middle English sellen, from Old English sellan "to give (something to someone), furnish, supply, lend; surrender, give up; deliver to; promise," from Proto-Germanic *saljanan "offer up, deliver" (source also of Old Norse selja "to hand over, deliver, sell;" Old Frisian sella, Old High German sellen "to give, hand over, sell;" Gothic saljan "to offer a sacrifice"), ultimately from PIE root *sel- (3) "to take, grasp."
Meaning "to give up for money, accept a price or reward for" had emerged by late Old English, but in Chaucer selle still can mean "to give." Students of Old English learn early that the word they encounter that looks like sell usually means "give." An Old English word for "to sell" was bebycgan, from bycgan "to buy."
The meaning "betray for gain" is from c. 1200. Slang meaning "to swindle" is from 1590s. To sell off "dispose of by sale, sell all of" is by 1700. To sell one's soul "make a contract with the devil," often figurative, is from c. 1570. Sell-by in reference to dates stamped on perishable packaged foods is from 1972. To sell like hot cakes is from 1839. To sell (someone) down the river figuratively is by 1927, probably from or with recollection of slavery days, on notion of sale from the Upper South to the cotton plantations of the Deep South (attested in this literal sense since 1851).
[stone, mass of mineral matter], Middle English rokke, roche "stone as a substance; large rocky formation, rocky height or outcrop, crag," from Old English rocc (as in stanrocc "stone rock or obelisk") and directly from Old North French roque, variant of Old French roche, which is cognate with Medieval Latin rocca (8c.), from Vulgar Latin *rocca, a word of uncertain origin. According to Klein and Century Dictionary, sometimes said to be from Celtic (compare Breton roch). Diez suggests Vulgar Latin *rupica, from Latin rupes "rocks."
In Middle English it seems to have been used principally for large rock formations but occasionally of individual boulders. The extended sense of "a stone of any size" is by 1793, American English colloquial, and long was considered incorrect.
It is an error to use rock for a stone so small that a man can handle it : only a fabulous person or a demi-god can lift a rock. [Century Dictionary]
The meaning "precious stone," especially a diamond, is by 1908, U.S. slang; the sense of "crystallized cocaine" is attested from 1973 in West Coast slang. Also used attributively in names of animals that frequent rocky habitats, as in rockfish, rock badger, rock lobster (the last attested by 1843).
Rock is used figuratively for "a sure foundation, something which gives one protection and security" (especially with reference to Christ), from the 1520s (Tyndale); but it also has been used since the 1520s as "cause or source of peril or destruction," an image from shipwrecks.
Between a rock and a hard place "beset by difficulties with no good alternatives" is attested by 1914 in U.S. Southwest:
to be between a rock and a hard place, vb. ph. To be bankrupt. Common in Arizona in recent panics; sporadic in California. [Dialect Notes, vol. v, part iv, 1921]
As an example of fine distinctions, a party of men were discussing the present situation of the German army, this week. One remarked that the Germans were between the devil and the deep sea; while another corrected him by saying that the Germans were between the upper and nether mill stone. The third man whose name is Pilgreen, and who works in the treasurer's office, simply remarked that the Germans were between a rock and a hard place. [local item in the Pouteau (Oklahoma) Weekly Sun, Oct. 1, 1914]
The rock-scissors-paper game is attested by that name by 1976 (as paper stone and scissors by 1941). Sources agree it is based on Japanese Jan Ken Po or Jan Ken Pon (or Janken for short); the Japanese game is described in English publications by 1879.