c. 1200, pece, "fixed amount, measure, portion;" c. 1300, "fragment of an object, bit of a whole, slice of meat; separate fragment, section, or part," from Old French piece "piece, bit portion; item; coin" (12c.), from Vulgar Latin *pettia, probably from Gaulish *pettsi (compare Welsh peth "thing," Breton pez "piece, a little"), perhaps from an Old Celtic base *kwezd-i-, from PIE root *kwezd- "a part, piece" (source also of Russian chast' "part"). Related: Pieces.
Meaning "separate article forming part of a class or group" is from c. 1400; that of "specimen, instance, example" is from 1560s. Sense of "portable firearm" is from 1580s, earlier "artillery weapon" (1540s). The meaning "chessman" is from 1560s. Meaning "a period of time" is from early 14c.; that of "a portion of a distance" is from 1610s; that of "literary composition" dates from 1530s.
Piece of (one's) mind "one's opinion expressed bluntly" is from 1570s. Piece of work "remarkable person" echoes Hamlet. Piece as "a coin" is attested in English from c. 1400, hence piece of eight, old name for the Spanish dollar (c. 1600) of the value of 8 reals and bearing a numeral 8. Adverbial phrase in one piece "whole, undivided, without loss or injury" is by 1580s; of a piece "as of the same piece or whole" is from 1610s.
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]
Old English ascian "ask, call for an answer; make a request," from earlier ahsian, from Proto-Germanic *aiskojanan (source also of Old Saxon escon, Old Frisian askia "request, demand, ask," Middle Dutch eiscen, Dutch eisen "to ask, demand," Old High German eiscon "to ask (a question)," German heischen "to ask, demand"), from PIE *ais- "to wish, desire" (source also of Sanskrit icchati "seeks, desires," Armenian aic "investigation," Old Church Slavonic iskati "to seek," Lithuanian ieškau, ieškoti "to seek").
Form in English influenced by a Scandinavian cognate (such as Danish æske; the Old English would have evolved by normal sound changes into ash, esh, which was a Midlands and southwestern England dialect form). Modern dialectal ax is as old as Old English acsian and was an accepted literary variant until c. 1600. Related: Asked; asking.
Old English also had fregnan/frignan which carried more directly the sense of "question, inquire," and is from PIE root *prek-, the common source of words for "ask" in most Indo-European languages (see pray). If you ask me "in my opinion" is attested from 1910.
late Old English horsian "to provide with a horse or horses," from horse (n.). Related: Horsed; horsing. Sense of "to play excessive jokes on" is by 1893, mostly in formation horse around (1928), perhaps from horse-play, or from earlier nautical jargon use of the verb in reference to men, "drive or urge to work unfairly and tyrannically" (1867). But also consider the vulgar expressions arsing about (1660s), arsing around (1922).
[A] favorite pastime for many men is to "horse" or guy a friend who has shown himself susceptible to ridicule or fun making. "Horsing" is extremely wholesome mental discipline for over sensitive or super-conceited young men. "Horsing" always implies a joke at another's expense. As to how it came into use there is no satisfactory theory to offer. [Yale Literary Magazine, December 1893]
As a verb, horse also meant "to mount on horseback" (early 14c., horsen), "to spank" as one does a horse to get it to go (1825), also "to copulate, mount" (as a stallion does a mare), hence figuratively, of men, "copulate with" a woman (mid-15c.).
"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.
word-forming element of Greek origin meaning 1. "after, behind; among, between," 2. "changed, altered," 3. "higher, beyond;" from Greek meta (prep.) "in the midst of; in common with; by means of; between; in pursuit or quest of; after, next after, behind," in compounds most often meaning "change" of place, condition, etc. This is from PIE *me- "in the middle" (source also of German mit, Gothic miþ, Old English mið "with, together with, among").
The notion of "changing places with" probably led to the senses of "change of place, order, or nature," which was a principal meaning of the Greek word when used as a prefix (but it also denoted "community, participation; in common with; pursuing").
The third, modern, sense, "higher than, transcending, overarching, dealing with the most fundamental matters of," is due to misinterpretation of metaphysics (q.v.) as "science of that which transcends the physical." This has led to a prodigious erroneous extension in modern usage, with meta- affixed to the names of other sciences and disciplines, especially in the academic jargon of literary criticism: Metalanguage (1936) "a language which supplies terms for the analysis of an 'object' language;" metalinguistics (by 1949); metahistory (1957), metacommunication, etc.
1510s, "purpose, design," from Latin institutum "an ordinance; a purpose; a custom; precedents; principal components," literally "thing set up," noun use of neuter past participle of instituere "to set up, put in place; arrange; found, establish" (see institute (v.)).
From 1540s in English as "an established law." The sense of "an organization or society devoted to some specific work," especially literary or scientific, is from 1828, from French use in Institut national des Sciences et des Arts (established 1795); Dutch instituut, German Institut also are from French. The specialized (mostly U.S.) sense "traveling academy for teachers in a district" is from 1839.
A "Teachers' Institute" is a meeting composed of teachers of Common Schools, assembled for the purpose of improvement in the studies they are to teach, and in the principles by which they are to govern. It is the design of a Teachers' Institute to bring together those who are actually engaged in teaching Common Schools, or who propose to become so, in order that they may be formed into classes and that these classes, under able instructers, may be exercised, questioned and drilled, in the same manner that the classes of a good Common School are exercised, questioned and drilled. [Horace Mann, secretary's report to the Boston Board of Education, Sept. 1, 1845]
"common running garden plant," cultivated from earliest times in many Old World countries, also the long, fleshy fruit of the plant, late 14c., cucomer, from Old French cocombre (13c., Modern French concombre), from Latin cucumerem (nominative cucumis), perhaps from a pre-Italic Mediterranean language. The Latin word also is the source of Italian cocomero, Spanish cohombro, Portuguese cogombro. Replaced Old English eorþæppla (plural), literally "earth-apples."
Cowcumber was the common form of the word in 17c.-18c., in good literary use and representing the modern evolution of the Middle English form. Cucumber is an attempted reversion to Latin. In 1790s the pronunciation "cowcumber" was standard except in western England dialects and "coocumber" was considered pedantic, but 30 years later, with the spread of literacy and education "cowcumber" was limited to the ignorant and old-fashioned.
It was planted as a garden vegetable by 1609 by Jamestown colonists. Short form cuke is attested by 1977. Phrase cool as a cucumber (c. 1732) embodies ancient folk knowledge confirmed by science in 1970: inside of a field cucumber on a warm day is 20 degrees cooler than the air temperature. The sea-cucumber (1841) is so called for the shape of some species.
also rag-time, "syncopated, jazzy piano music," 1896, perhaps from rag "dance ball" (1895, American English dialect), or a shortening of ragged, in reference to the syncopated melody. Rag (n.) "ragtime dance tune" is from 1897.
If rag-time was called tempo di raga or rague-temps it might win honor more speedily. ... What the derivation of the word is[,] I have not the faintest idea. The negroes call their clog-dancing "ragging" and the dance a "rag." [Rupert Hughes, Boston Musical Record, April 1900]
Conceive the futility of trying to reduce the intangible ragness to a strict system of misbegotten grace notes and untimely rests! In attempting to perfect, and simplify, art is destroying the unhampered spirit in which consists the whole beauty of rag-time music. The very essence of rag-time is that it shall lack all art, depending for the spirit to be infused more upon the performer than upon the composer himself. [Yale Literary Magazine, June 1899]
Her first "rag-time" was "The Bully," in which she made great sport by bringing a little coloured boy on the stage with her. Miss [May] Irwin says the way to learn to sing "rag-time" is to catch a negro and study him. [Lewis C. Strang, "Famous Actresses of the Day in America," Boston, 1899]
A book containing either all or the principal words of a language, or words of one or more specified classes, arranged in a stated order, usually alphabetical, with definitions or explanations of their meanings and other information concerning them, expressed either in the same or in another language; a word-book; a lexicon; a vocabulary .... [Century Dictionary]
1520s, from Medieval Latin dictionarium "collection of words and phrases," probably a shortening of dictionarius (liber) "(book) of words," from Latin dictionarius "of words," from dictio "a saying, expression," in Late Latin "a word," noun of action from past-participle stem of dicere "speak, tell, say," from PIE root *deik- "to show," also "pronounce solemnly."
The Medieval Latin word is said to have been first used by Johannes de Garlandia (John of Garland) as the title of a Latin vocabulary published c. 1220. Probably first English use in title of a book was in Sir Thomas Elyot's "Latin Dictionary" (1538).
As an adjective, "of or pertaining to a dictionary," from 1630s. Dictionarist "compiler of a dictionary" (1610s) is older than dictionarian (1806 as a noun, 1785 as an adjective). Grose's 1788 "Dictionary of the Vulgar Tongue" has "RICHARD SNARY. A dictionary."
DICTIONARY, n. A malevolent literary device for cramping the growth of a language and making it hard and inelastic. This dictionary, however, is a most useful work. [Bierce]