late 14c., "upper regions of space," from Old French ether (12c.) and directly from Latin aether "the upper pure, bright air; sky, firmament," from Greek aithēr "upper air; bright, purer air; the sky" (opposed to aēr "the lower air"), from aithein "to burn, shine," from PIE *aidh- "to burn" (see edifice).
In ancient cosmology, the element that filled all space beyond the sphere of the moon, constituting the substance of the stars and planets. Conceived of as a purer form of fire or air, or as a fifth element. From 17c.-19c., it was the scientific word for an assumed "frame of reference" for forces in the universe, perhaps without material properties. The concept was shaken by the Michelson-Morley experiment (1887) and discarded early 20c. after the Theory of Relativity won acceptance, but before it went it gave rise to the colloquial use of ether for "the radio" (1899).
The name also was bestowed c. 1730 (Frobenius; in English by 1757) on a volatile chemical compound known since 14c. for its lightness and lack of color (its anesthetic properties weren't fully established until 1842).
Sense "foremost part of anything" emerged in the English word mid-14c.; sense of "the face as expressive of temper or character" is from late 14c. (hence frontless "shameless," c. 1600). The military sense of "foremost part of an army" (mid-14c.) led to the meaning "field of operations in contact with the enemy" (1660s); home front is from 1919. Meaning "organized body of political forces" is from 1926. Sense of "public facade" is from 1891; that of "something serving as a cover for illegal activities" is from 1905. Adverbial phrase in front is from 1610s. Meteorological sense first recorded 1921.
early 13c., "scales, apparatus for weighing by comparison of mass," from Old French balance "balance, scales for weighing" (12c.), also in figurative sense; from Medieval Latin bilancia, from Late Latin bilanx, from Latin (libra) bilanx "(scale) having two pans," possibly from Latin bis "twice" (from PIE root *dwo- "two") + lanx "dish, plate, scale of a balance," which is of uncertain origin.
The accounting sense "arithmetical difference between the two sides of an account" is from 1580s; meaning "sum necessary to balance the two sides of an account" is from 1620s. Meaning "what remains or is left over" is by 1788, originally in commercial slang. Sense of "physical equipoise" is from 1660s; the meaning "general harmony between parts" is from 1732.
Many figurative uses are from Middle English image of the scales in the hands of personified Justice, Fortune, Fate, etc.; thus in (the) balance "at risk, in jeopardy or danger" (c. 1300). Balance of power in the geopolitical sense "distribution of forces among nations so that one may not dominate another" is from 1701. Balance of trade "difference between the value of exports from a country and the value of imports into it" is from 1660s.
"one who fights with the fists," 1789, from Latin pugil "boxer, fist-fighter," related to pugnus "a fist" (from suffixed form of PIE root *peuk- "to prick") + -ist. For sense development, compare punch (v.), also from a root meaning "to pierce." Related: Pugilistic "of or pertaining to fighting with the fists" (1789); pugilistically.
Pugil (n.) occasionally turns up in English as "boxer, fist-fighter" (17c.-18c), but it has not caught on; earlier it meant "a little handful or a big pinch" of something (1570s). Pugil stick (1962) was introduced by U.S. military as a substitute for rifles in bayonet drills.
UNTIL recently bayonet training has lacked realism. Bayonet instruction consisted of basic positions and movements, the fundamentals of bayonet fighting, and a practical examination conducted on the Bayonet Assault Course. This training is essential for the combat Infantryman; however, he completes his training without knowing what an actual bayonet fight is like. The dummies used in training cannot fight back or take evasive action. The only true test of an Infantryman's skill with bayonet is vicious, close combat against an armed opponent. [Lt. Wendell O. Doody, "Pugil, Man, Pugil!" in Infantry magazine, Nov.-Dec. 1962]
c. 1200, "to thrust (something) in, drive (a stake), pierce with a sharp point," senses now obsolete, also "to fasten, settle," probably from an unrecorded Old English *piccean, related to prick (v.). The original past tense was pight.
The sense of "set upright" (mid-13c.) as in pitch a tent (late 13c.), is from the notion of driving or thrusting the pegs into the ground. The meaning "incline forward and downward" is from 1510s. The intransitive sense of "to plunge or fall headlong" is by 1680s, probably from the use with reference to ships (see below) extended to persons, animals, etc.
The meaning "to throw, fling, hurl, toss" (a ball, a person, hay, etc.) evolved by late 14c. from that of "hit the mark." Specifically in baseball, "to hurl (the ball) to the batter," by 1868.
Musical sense of "determine or set the key of" is by 1630s. Of ships, "to plunge with alternate fall and rise of the bow and stern" as in passing over waves, 1620s.
To pitch in "work vigorously" is from 1847, perhaps from farm labor. A pitched battle is one in which the armies are previously drawn up in form, with a regular disposition of the forces (from the verb in the sense of "to fix or set in order, arrange," late 15c.). Related: Pitched.
early 14c., misterie, in a theological sense, "religious truth via divine revelation, hidden spiritual significance, mystical truth," from Anglo-French *misterie, Old French mistere "secret, mystery, hidden meaning" (Modern French mystère) and directly from Latin mysterium "secret rite, secret worship; a sacrament, a secret thing."
This is from Greek mystērion (usually in plural mysteria) "secret rite or doctrine (known and practiced by certain initiated persons only), consisting of purifications, sacrificial offerings, processions, songs, etc.," from mystēs "one who has been initiated," from myein "to close, shut" (see mute (adj.)); perhaps referring to the lips (in secrecy) or to the eyes (only initiates were allowed to see the sacred rites).
The Greek word was used in Septuagint for "secret counsel of God," translated in Vulgate as sacramentum. Non-theological use in English, "a hidden or secret thing; a fact, matter, etc., of which the meaning explanation, or cause is unknown," is from late 14c. In reference to the ancient rites of Greece, Egypt, etc. it is attested from 1640s. Meaning "detective story" is recorded by 1908. Mystery meat, slang for "unidentifiable meat served in a military mess, student dining hall, etc." is by 1949, probably from World War II armed services.
"type of neck-cloth worn usually by men," 1650s, from French cravate (17c.), from Cravate, literally "Croatian," from German Krabate, from Serbo-Croatian Hrvat "a Croat" (see Croat). Cravats came into fashion 1650s in imitation of linen scarves worn by the Croats or Crabats, 17th-century light cavalry forces who fought on the side of the Catholic League in the Thirty Years' War. The name in this context was not an ethnic label as much as a generic designation for light cavalry from the Hapsburg Military Frontier, which included Croats, Hungarians, Serbs, Wallachians, Poles, Cossacks and Tatars.
When first introduced, it was commonly of lace, or of linen edged with lace. ... The modern cravat is rather a necktie, passed once round the neck, and tied in front in a bow, or, as about 1840 and earlier (when the cravat consisted of a triangular silk kerchief, usually black), twice round the neck, in imitation of the stock. Formerly, when starched linen cravats were worn, perfection in the art of tying them was one of the great accomplishments of a dandy. The cravat differs properly from the scarf, which, whether tied, or passed through a ring, or held by a pin, hangs down over the shirt front. [Century Dictionary, 1897]
Middle English riden, from Old English ridan "sit or be carried on" (as on horseback), "move forward; rock; float, sail" (class I strong verb; past tense rad, past participle riden), from Proto-Germanic *ridan (source also of Old Norse riða, Old Saxon ridan, Old Frisian rida "to ride," Middle Dutch riden, Dutch rijden, Old High German ritan, German reiten), from PIE *reidh- "to ride" (source also of Old Irish riadaim "I travel," Old Gaulish reda "chariot"). Common to Celtic and Germanic, perhaps a loan word from one to the other.
Of a ship, "to sail, float, rock," c. 1300. The meaning "heckle" is by 1912 from earlier sense of "dominate cruelly, have the mastery of, harass at will" (1580s) on the notion of "control and manage," as a rider does a horse, especially harshly or arrogantly. The verb in venery is from mid-13c.
To ride out "endure (a storm, etc.) without great damage" is from 1520s, literal and figurative. To let (something) ride "allow to pass without comment or intervention" is by 1921. To ride herd on "guard and control" is by 1897, from cattle-driving. To ride shotgun "ride in the passenger seat of an automobile" is by 1919, from the custom of having an armed man up beside the driver of a stagecoach to ward off trouble. To ride shank's mare "walk" is from 1846 (see shank (n.)). The ____ rides again cliche is from Hollywood movie titles ("Destry Rides Again," 1939).
also logrolling, in the legislative vote-trading sense, "mutual aid given in carrying out several schemes or gaining individual ends," 1823, American English, from the notion of neighbors on the frontier joining forces for rolling logs into heaps after the trees have been felled to clear the land (as in phrase you roll my log and I'll roll yours); see log (n.1) + verbal noun from roll (v.). "Sometimes many neighbors were invited to assist, and a merrymaking followed. [Century Dictionary]. In lumbering, in reference to rolling logs into a stream where they bound together and floated down to the mills.
LOG-ROLLING. 1. In the lumber regions of Maine it is customary for men of different logging camps to appoint days for helping each other in rolling the logs to the river, after they are felled and trimmed — this rolling being about the hardest work incident to the business. Thus the men of three or four camps will unite, say on Monday, to roll for camp No. 1, — on Tuesday for camp No. 2, — on Wednesday for camp No. 3, — and so on, through the whole number of camps within convenient distance of each other. [Bartlett]
However the phrase is not attested in any literal sense, only the political sense, until 1848.
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.