"the Roman god Mercury," herald and ambassador of his father, Jupiter, mid-12c., Mercurie, from Latin Mercurius "Mercury," originally a god of tradesmen and thieves, from merx "merchandise" (see market (n.)); or perhaps [Klein, Tucker] from Etruscan and influenced by merx. De Vaan thinks it possible the whole stem *merk- was borrowed and the god-name with it.
Mercury later was identified with Greek Hermes and still later with Germanic Woden. From his role as a messenger and conveyor of information, since mid-17c. Mercury has been a common name for a newspaper.
The planet closest to the sun was so called in classical Latin (c. 1300 in English). A hypothetical inhabitant of the planet was a Mercurean (1855) or a Mercurian (1755). For the metallic element, see mercury.
In U.S. numismatics, the Mercury-head dime (so called by 1941) was in circulation from 1916; properly it is the female head of Liberty, in her characteristic cap, here winged to symbolize freedom of thought. But the resemblance to Mercury was noted in coin circles at once, and the coin design sometimes was popularly mistaken as the head of Mercury, Roman god of making money and thieving, in his winged hat. It was so-called in 1933 in newspaper articles calling attention to the fasces on the reverse. The coin is more correctly the Winged Liberty-head dime (simple Liberty-head dime being a designation of the previous design). The design was replaced in 1946, which made it necessary for it to have an agreed-upon specifying name.
There's the four-year-old who counted out 20 cents with the remark: "A boy dime and a girl dime."
Translated, this means a Roosevelt dime and one classified by coin books as the "new Mercury head" dime.
[Dothan Eagle, June 25, 1951]
Old English cild "fetus, infant, unborn or newly born person," from Proto-Germanic *kiltham (source also of Gothic kilþei "womb," inkilþo "pregnant;" Danish kuld "children of the same marriage;" Old Swedish kulder "litter;" Old English cildhama "womb," lit. "child-home"); no certain cognates outside Germanic. "App[arently] originally always used in relation to the mother as the 'fruit of the womb'" [Buck]. Also in late Old English, "a youth of gentle birth" (archaic, usually written childe). In 16c.-17c. especially "girl child."
The wider sense "young person before the onset of puberty" developed in late Old English. Phrase with child "pregnant" (late 12c.) retains the original sense. The sense extension from "infant" to "child" also is found in French enfant, Latin infans. Meaning "one's own child; offspring of parents" is from late 12c. (the Old English word was bearn; see bairn). Figurative use from late 14c. Most Indo-European languages use the same word for "a child" and "one's child," though there are exceptions (such as Latin liberi/pueri).
The difficulty with the plural began in Old English, where the nominative plural was at first cild, identical with the singular, then c.975 a plural form cildru (genitive cildra) arose, probably for clarity's sake, only to be re-pluraled late 12c. as children, which is thus a double plural. Middle English plural cildre survives in Lancashire dialect childer and in Childermas.
Child abuse is attested by 1963; child-molester from 1950. Child care is from 1915. Child's play, figurative of something easy, is in Chaucer (late 14c.):
I warne yow wel, it is no childes pley To take a wyf withouten auysement. ["Merchant's Tale"]
c. 1300, marien, of parents or superiors, "to give (offspring) in marriage," also intransitive, "to enter into the conjugal state, take a husband or wife," from Old French marier "to get married; to marry off, give in marriage; to bring together in marriage," from Latin marītāre "to wed, marry, give in marriage" (source of Italian maritare, Spanish and Portuguese maridar), from marītus (n.) "married man, husband," which is of uncertain origin.
Perhaps ultimately "provided with a *mari," a young woman, from PIE *mari-, *mori- "young wife, young woman" (source also of Welsh morwyn "girl, maiden," Middle Welsh merch "daughter"), akin to *meryo- "young man" (source of Sanskrit marya- "young man, suitor").
By early 14c. as "to take (someone) in marriage, take for a husband or wife;" by late 14c. as "become husband and wife according to law or custom; get married (to one another)." Transitive sense, of a priest, etc., who performs the rite of marriage, "to unite in wedlock or matrimony," by 1520s.
Figurative meaning "unite intimately or by some close bond of connection" is from early 15c. Related: Married; marrying. Phrase the marrying kind, describing one inclined toward marriage and almost always used with a negative, is attested by 1824, probably short for marrying kind of men, which is from a popular 1756 essay by Chesterfield.
In some Indo-European languages there were distinct "marry" verbs for men and women, though some of these have become generalized. Compare Latin ducere uxorem (of men), literally "to lead a wife;" nubere (of women), perhaps originally "to veil" [Buck]. Also compare Old Norse kvangask (of men) from kvan "wife" (see quean), so, "take a wife;" giptask (of women), from gipta, a specialized use of "to give" (see gift (n.)), so, "to be given."
Middle English wif, wyf, from Old English wif (neuter) "woman, female, lady," also, but not especially, "wife," from Proto-Germanic *wīfa- (source also of Old Saxon, Old Frisian wif, Old Norse vif, Danish and Swedish viv, Middle Dutch, Dutch wijf, Old High German wib, German Weib), of uncertain origin and disputed etymology, not found in Gothic.
Apparently felt as inadequate in its basic sense, leading to the more distinctive formation wifman (source of woman). Dutch wijf now means, in slang, "girl, babe," having softened somewhat from earlier sense of "bitch." The Modern German cognate (Weib) also tends to be slighting or derogatory; Middle High German wip in early medieval times was "woman, female person," vrouwe (Frau) being retained for "woman of gentle birth, lady;" but from c. 1200 wip "took on a common, almost vulgar tone that restricted its usage in certain circles" and largely has been displaced by Frau.
The more usual Indo-European word is represented in English by queen/quean. Words for "woman" also double for "wife" in some languages. Some proposed PIE roots for wife include *weip- "to twist, turn, wrap," perhaps with sense of "veiled person" (see vibrate); and more recently *ghwibh-, a proposed root meaning "shame," also "pudenda," but the only examples of it would be the Germanic words and Tocharian (a lost IE language of central Asia) kwipe, kip "female pudenda."
The modern sense of "female spouse" began as a specialized sense in Old English; the general sense of "woman" is preserved in midwife, old wives' tale, etc. Middle English sense of "mistress of a household" survives in housewife; and the later restricted sense of "tradeswoman of humble rank" in fishwife. By 1883 as "passive partner in a homosexual couple." Wife-swapping is attested from 1954.
1640s, "animating spirit, the human spirit or mind," from Latin psyche, from Greek psykhē "the soul, mind, spirit; life, one's life, the invisible animating principle or entity which occupies and directs the physical body; understanding, the mind (as the seat of thought), faculty of reason," also "ghost, spirit of a dead person;" probably akin to psykhein "to blow, breathe," also "to cool, to make dry."
These are sometimes traced to a PIE root *bhes- "to blow, to breathe" (source also of Sanskrit bhas-), "Probably imitative" [Watkins]. Beekes finds this tempting but not convincing and doubts the existence of the PIE verb based on scant evidence.
Personified by the Greeks as Psykhē, the beloved of Eros, often represented as a fair young girl; the butterfly was her symbol. Also in ancient Greek, "departed soul, spirit, ghost," seen as a winged creature and often represented symbolically as a butterfly or moth.
The word had extensive sense development in Platonic philosophy and Jewish-influenced theological writing of St. Paul (compare spirit (n.)). Thus in Biblical use the Greek word was "the soul as the seat of feelings, desires, affections, etc.," also "the soul regarded as a moral being designed for everlasting life," and "the soul as an essence which differs from the body and is not dissolved by death." In English, the meaning "human soul" is from 1650s; the psychological sense of "mind" is attested by 1910.
In the Jewish-Alexandrine Pauline, and Neo-Platonist psychology, the psyche is in general treated as the animating principle in close relation to the body, whereas the pneuma (as representing the divine breath breathed into man), the nous, and the Logos (q.v.) stand for higher entities. They are the more universal, the more divine, the ethically purer. By this more explicit separation of the intellectual and ethical activities from the physiological the conception of the mental or psychical (in the modern sense) was at length reached. ["Dictionary of Philosophy and Psychology," J.M. Baldwin, ed., London, 1902]
"sequence of sensations or images passing through the mind of a sleeping person," mid-13c., probably related to Old Norse draumr, Danish drøm, Swedish dröm, Old Saxon drom "merriment, noise," Old Frisian dram "dream," Dutch droom, Old High German troum, German Traum "dream." These all are perhaps from a Proto-Germanic *draugmas "deception, illusion, phantasm" (source also of Old Saxon bidriogan, Old High German triogan, German trügen "to deceive, delude," Old Norse draugr "ghost, apparition"). Possible cognates outside Germanic are Sanskrit druh- "seek to harm, injure," Avestan druz- "lie, deceive."
Old English dream meant "joy, mirth, noisy merriment," also "music." Much study has failed to prove that Old English dream is the source of the modern word for "sleeping vision," despite being identical in form. Perhaps the meaning of the word changed dramatically, or "vision" was an unrecorded secondary Old English meaning of dream, or there are two words here.
OED offers this theory for the absence of dream in the modern sense in the record of Old English: "It seems as if the presence of dream 'joy, mirth, music,' had caused dream 'dream' to be avoided, at least in literature, and swefn, lit. 'sleep,' to be substituted ...."
The dream that meant "joy, mirth, music" faded out of use after early Middle English. According to Middle English Compendium, the replacement of swefn (Middle English swevn) by dream in the sense "sleeping vision" occurs earliest and is most frequent in the East Midlands and the North of England, where Scandinavian influence was strongest.
Dream in the sense of "that which is presented to the mind by the imaginative faculty, though not in sleep" is from 1580s. The meaning "ideal or aspiration" is from 1931, from the earlier sense of "something of dream-like beauty or charm" (1888). The notion of "ideal" is behind dream girl (1850), etc.
Before it meant "sleeping vision" Old English swefn meant "sleep," as did a great many Indo-European "dream" nouns originally, such as Lithuanian sapnas, Old Church Slavonic sunu, and the Romanic words (French songe, Spanish sueño, Italian sogno all from Latin somnium. All of these (including Old English swefn) are from PIE *swep-no-, which also is the source of Greek hypnos (from PIE root *swep- "to sleep"). Old English also had mæting in the "sleeping vision" sense.
Old English wicce "female magician, sorceress," in later use especially "a woman supposed to have dealings with the devil or evil spirits and to be able by their cooperation to perform supernatural acts," fem. of Old English wicca "sorcerer, wizard, man who practices witchcraft or magic," from verb wiccian "to practice witchcraft" (compare Low German wikken, wicken "to use witchcraft," wikker, wicker "soothsayer").
OED says of uncertain origin; Liberman says "None of the proposed etymologies of witch is free from phonetic or semantic difficulties." Klein suggests connection with Old English wigle "divination," and wig, wih "idol." Watkins says the nouns represent a Proto-Germanic *wikkjaz "necromancer" (one who wakes the dead), from PIE *weg-yo-, from PIE root *weg- "to be strong, be lively."
That wicce once had a more specific sense than the later general one of "female magician, sorceress" perhaps is suggested by the presence of other words in Old English describing more specific kinds of magical craft. In the Laws of Ælfred (c. 890), witchcraft was specifically singled out as a woman's craft, whose practitioners were not to be suffered to live among the West Saxons:
Ða fæmnan þe gewuniað onfon gealdorcræftigan & scinlæcan & wiccan, ne læt þu ða libban.
The other two words combined with it here are gealdricge, a woman who practices "incantations," and scinlæce "female wizard, woman magician," from a root meaning "phantom, evil spirit."
Another word that appears in the Anglo-Saxon laws is lyblæca "wizard, sorcerer," but with suggestions of skill in the use of drugs, because the root of the word is lybb "drug, poison, charm" (see leaf (n.)). Lybbestre was a fem. word meaning "sorceress," and lybcorn was the name of a certain medicinal seed (perhaps wild saffron). Weekley notes possible connection to Gothic weihs "holy" and German weihan "consecrate," and writes, "the priests of a suppressed religion naturally become magicians to its successors or opponents." Whatever the English word's origin, the use of a "poisoner" word for "witch, sorceress" parallels that of the Hebrew word used for "witch, sorceress" in the Levitical condemnation.
In Anglo-Saxon glossaries, wicca renders Latin augur (c. 1100), and wicce stands for "pythoness, divinatricem." In the "Three Kings of Cologne" (c. 1400) wicca translates Magi:
Þe paynyms ... cleped þe iij kyngis Magos, þat is to seye wicchis.
The glossary translates Latin necromantia ("demonum invocatio") with galdre, wiccecræft. The Anglo-Saxon poem called "Men's Crafts" (also "The Gifts of Men") has wiccræft, which appears to be the same word, and by its context means "skill with horses." In a c. 1250 translation of "Exodus," witches is used of the Egyptian midwives who save the newborn sons of the Hebrews: "Ðe wicches hidden hem for-ðan, Biforen pharaun nolden he ben."
Witch in reference to a man survived in dialect into 20c., but the fem. form was so dominant by 1601 that men-witches or he-witch began to be used. Extended sense of "old, ugly, and crabbed or malignant woman" is from early 15c; that of "young woman or girl of bewitching aspect or manners" is first recorded 1740. Witch doctor is from 1718; applied to African magicians from 1836.
At this day it is indifferent to say in the English tongue, 'she is a witch,' or 'she is a wise woman.' [Reginald Scot, "The Discoverie of Witchcraft," 1584]
by 1830, "to cheat, deceive," in an English collection of Irish songs, and also used, punningly, in the lines of an Englishman character in a "grand dramatic melodrama" set in India: "There, thanks to my canoe—we've canoodled those Bramins nicely, and effected a clear retreat to my retreat here." ["The Cataract of the Ganges, or The Rajah's Daughter" by W.T. Moncrieff].
It is used in New Orleans by 1843, also as a noun, "hanky-panky, illicit procedure." After 1848, canoodling or cahoodling turns up in Southern U.S. newspapers with a sense of "political manipulation, back-room deals:
The truth is, while cahoodling at the top of his bent for Taylor, to the friends of the other candidates he professed unalterable devotion to the fortunes of the favorite of each." [North Carolina Standard (Raleigh), June 28, 1848, in an account of political doings from Washington]
Very clever canoodling, this! [North Carolina Times (Raleigh), July 1, 1848, in reference to the sectional wrangling over the Wilmot Proviso.]
Canoodling is frequent in certain North Carolina papers through the 1870s. The Standard (July 12, 1866) writes of cohooting and canoodling.
The Washington (D.C.) Evening Star also used it often from 1854, in columns widely reprinted in the Southern press, but as cahoodling, also, at least once cohoodling [Sept. 29, 1858]. It defines "the cahoodling line" as "those in Washington interested in securing places at a distance for their respective friends" [Sept. 9, 1854].
The word seemed to require explanation when it appeared in the northern press. From A Chicago Tribune account (Dec. 14, 1859) from a D.C. correspondent of the fight over Speaker of the House:
He also handed to the Clerk a letter from Douglas denying that Greeley and he ever "cahoodled" in his (Douglas') parlor, or secure his re-election.
It is spelled canoedle in a Pennsylvania paper [Lebanon Daily News, Oct. 17, 1874], but this might have been for humorous effect, as it is in a mock letter to a would-be candidate ("You canoedling unculinary old cucumber, shut up ; you have no chance for Congress, and Cherrington says you are not fit to watch his fish ponds.")
The sense shift toward "to indulge in caresses and fondling endearments" [OED] is attested by 1860s; W.S. Fortey published in an English songbook "And he Said my Dear Maid will you Marry Me?" a woman's comical lament about her wooer:
But he wanted to kiss and canoodle me
So I wouldn't allow it at all!
What is evidently a reworking of the "Ganges" play from 1866 uses canoodling in a way suggestive of fond caressing. [The Western Times, Exeter, Dec. 28, 1866]. Another early use is in Trewman's Exeter Flying Post for Feb. 18, 1874. The newspaper's account of the Cullompton petty session of two days previous includes the case of a young fellow charged with "being on the premises of Mr. R. M. Dawdney, of Pound Down Farm, Silverton, for an unlawful purpose," viz. to spoon with his sweetheart, Dawdney's servant girl, "in the small hours of the morning."
The defendant was directed to pay the expenses and he left the court with the evident impression that "canoodling" by night was sometimes attended with unpleasant results.
In 1869 W.S. Gilbert published "The King of Canoodle-Dum," one of his popular, buffoonish "Bab Ballads." It concerns an English sailor shipwrecked in the West Indies who is taken up by said native "king" and given a life of tropical luxury. Thanks probably to the song, Canoodle-dum seems to have had some currency in England in the 1870s, referring vaguely to peoples in Africa or the Caribbean.