ceramic ware having a translucent body, and, when it is glazed, a translucent glaze, 1530s, from French porcelaine and directly from Italian porcellana "porcelain" (13c.), literally "cowrie shell;" the chinaware being so called from resemblance of its lustrous transparency to the shiny surface of the shells. As an adjective from 1590s.
The shell's name in Italian is from porcella "young sow," fem. of Latin porcellus "young pig," diminutive of porculus "piglet," itself a diminutive of porcus "pig" (from PIE root *porko-"young pig"). Compare Greek khorinē "cowrie," also literally "a little pig."
According to an old theory, the connection of the shell and the pig is a perceived resemblance of the shell (also Venus shell) opening to the exposed outer genitalia of pigs. For a different answer, Century Dictionary (1897) writes that the shell was "so called because the shape of the upper surface resembles the curve of a pig's back."
Thompson ["A Glossary of Greek Fishes"] writes, "According to a widespread belief the cowries were a charm or talisman against sterility. They are among the women's ornaments at Pompeii, and are found in women's graves in France and England as late as the Middle Age ...." He writes that the bigger, showier shells, from the Red Sea, probably account for the "popular and erotic names," but adds that the association of the shells with female sex is almost worldwide.
porcelain is china & china is p.; there is no recondite difference between the two things, which indeed are not two, but one; & the difference between the two words is merely that china is the homely term, while porcelain is exotic & literary. [Fowler]
1590s, "close study or thought;" 1610s, "a product of such study or thought, literary work showing signs of too-careful elaboration," from Latin lucubrationem (nominative lucubratio) "nocturnal study, night work," noun of action from past-participle stem of lucubrare, literally "to work by artificial light," from stem of lucere "to shine," from suffixed (iterative) form of PIE root *leuk- "light, brightness." Related: Lucubrations.
The current story in antiquity was that Aeschylus had been killed near Gela in Sicily by a tortoise dropt on his head by an eagle, which mistook the bald shiny pate of the venerable poet for a stone, and hoped to smash the tortoise on it. See Biographi Graeci, ed. Westermann, p. 120 ; Aelian Nat. Anim. vii. 16 ; Suidas, s.v. Αίσχύλοσ ; Valerius Maximus, ix. 12. Ext. 2. This important topic has produced the usual crop of learned dissertations. The late Professor F. G. Welcker gravely discussed it by the help of ornithological information derived from Aesop's fables, notes of travel made by the professor himself on the supposed scene of the catastrophe, and statistics as to the number of bald-headed men in antiquity. The interesting inquiry has since been prosecuted by other scholars with equal judgment and learning. The reader who desires to peruse these ponderous lucubrations should consult Rheinisches Museum, N.F. 7 (1850), pp. 139-144, 285 sq ; id., 9 (1854), pp. 148-155, 160* ; id., 37 (1882), pp. 308-312 ; Fleckeisen's Jahrbücher, 26 (1880), pp. 22-24 ; Welcker, Antike Denkmäler, 2. pp. 337-346. [J.G. Frazer, notes to Pausanias's "Description of Greece," 1898]
supernatural being in Scandinavian mythology and folklore, 1610s (with an isolated use mid-14c.), from Old Norse troll "giant being not of the human race, evil spirit, monster." Some speculate that it originally meant "creature that walks clumsily," and derives from Proto-Germanic *truzlan, from *truzlanan (see troll (v.)). But it seems to have been a general supernatural word, such as Swedish trolla "to charm, bewitch;" Old Norse trolldomr "witchcraft."
The old sagas tell of the troll-bull, a supernatural being in the form of a bull, as well as boar-trolls. There were troll-maidens, troll-wives, and troll-women; the trollman, a magician or wizard, and the troll-drum, used in Lappish magic rites. The word was popularized in literary English by 19c. antiquarians, but it has been current in the Shetlands and Orkneys since Viking times. The first record of the word in modern English is from a court document from the Shetlands, regarding a certain Catherine, who, among other things, was accused of "airt and pairt of witchcraft and sorcerie, in hanting and seeing the Trollis ryse out of the kyrk yeard of Hildiswick."
Originally conceived as a race of malevolent giants, they have suffered the same fate as the Celtic Danann and by 19c. were regarded by peasants in in Denmark and Sweden as dwarfs and imps supposed to live in caves or under the ground.
They are obliging and neighbourly; freely lending and borrowing, and elsewise keeping up a friendly intercourse with mankind. But they have a sad propensity to thieving, not only stealing provisions, but even women and children. [Thomas Keightley, "The Fairy Mythology," London, 1850]
1596, in reference to the famous London prison, on the site of one of the seven gates in the old London wall (the main gate to the west); this one having been used as a lock-up since the 1100s. So called because it was thought to be more recent than the others (but it apparently dated to Roman times) or because it had been rebuilt at some point. The gate was demolished in the 18c.; the last prison of that name was torn down 1902-3.
Newgate frill, "a beard shaved so as to grow only under the chin and jaw," so called in allusion to the position of the hangman's noose, is by 1851. The author of "The Habits of Good Society" (1859) calls it "a kind of compromise between the beard and the razor."
Both Coleridge and Ruskin praised Thomas Hood's Newgatory.
Hood was addressing the admirable Mrs. Fry, who, as every one knows, set up a school in Newgate to teach the poor neglected outcasts what they had never heard from Christian lips before. One of the chief points made by Hood is this,—how much better, kinder, wiser, more politic even, it would be to multiply these schools outside, not inside the Prison walls, so that prevention might take the place of cure. [Alfred Ainger, preface to "Humorous Poems by Thomas Hood"]
As a literary study, this exquisite pun of Hood's ... deserves the most careful memory, as showing what a noble and instructive lesson even a pun may become, when it is deep in its purpose, and founded on a truth which is perfectly illustrated by the seeming equivocation. [Ruskin, "Fors Clavigera"]
"a native of Germany," 1520s, from Latin Germanus (adjective and noun, plural Germani), first attested in writings of Julius Caesar, who used Germani to designate a group of tribes in northeastern Gaul, of unknown origin and considered to be neither Latin nor Germanic. Perhaps originally the name of an individual tribe, but Gaulish (Celtic) origins have been proposed, from words perhaps originally meaning "noisy" (compare Old Irish garim "to shout") or "neighbor" (compare Old Irish gair "neighbor"). Middle English had Germayns (plural, late 14c.), but only in the sense "ancient Teuton, member of the Germanic tribes." The earlier English word was Almain (early 14c., via French; see Alemanni) or Dutch. Shakespeare and Marlowe have Almain for "German; a German."
Þe empere passede from þe Grees to þe Frenschemen and to þe Germans, þat beeþ Almayns. [Ranulph Higden’s "Polychronicon," mid-14c., John Trevisa's translation, 1380s]
Their name for themselves, die Deutschen (see Dutch), dates from 12c. Roman writers also used Teutoni as a German tribal name, and writers in Latin after about 875 commonly refer to the German language as teutonicus (see Teutonic). Meaning "the German language" in English is from 1748. High German (1823 in English) and Low German as a division of dialects is geographical: High German (from 16c. established as the literary language) was the German spoken in the upland regions in southern Germany, Low German (often including Dutch, Frisian, Flemish), also called Plattdeutsch was spoken in the regions near the North Sea. In the U.S. German also was used of descendants of settlers from Germany.
Old English stæf (plural stafas), "walking stick, strong pole used for carrying, rod used as a weapon, pastoral staff," probably originally *stæb, from Proto-Germanic *stab- (source also of Old Saxon staf, Old Norse stafr, Danish stav, Old Frisian stef, Middle Low German and Middle Dutch staf, Old High German stab, German Stab, Gothic *stafs "element;" Middle Dutch stapel "pillar, foundation"), from PIE root *stebh- "post, stem, to support, place firmly on, fasten" (source also of Old Lithuanian stabas "idol," Lithuanian stiebas "staff, pillar;" Old Church Slavonic stoboru "pillar;" Sanskrit stabhnati "supports;" Greek stephein "to tie around, encircle, wreathe," staphyle "grapevine, bunch of grapes;" Old English stapol "post, pillar").
As "pole from which a flag is flown," 1610s. In musical notation from 1660s. Sense of "group of military officers that assists a commander" is attested from 1702, apparently from German, from the notion of the "baton" that is a badge of office or authority (a sense attested in English from 1530s); hence staff officer (1702), staff-sergeant (1811). Meaning "group of employees (as at an office or hospital)" is first found 1837. Staff of life "bread" is from the Biblical phrase break the staff of bread meaning "cut off the supply of food" (Leviticus xxvi.26), translating Hebrew matteh lekhem.
The Old English word, in plural, was the common one used for "letter of the alphabet, character," hence "writing, literature," and many compounds having to do with writing, such as stæfcræft "grammar," stæfcræftig "lettered," stæflic "literary," stæfleahtor "grammatical error," with leahtor "vice, sin, offense."
Middle English rough (late 14c.), also rouhe, rouwe, roghe, rugh, etc., from Old English ruh, rug- "not smooth to the touch, coarse (of cloth); hairy, shaggy;" of hides, "undressed, untrimmed;" of ground, "uncultivated." This is from West Germanic *rukhwaz "shaggy, hairy, rough" (source also of Middle Dutch ruuch, Dutch ruig, Old High German ruher, German rauh), from Proto-Germanic *rukhaz, which is perhaps related to the source of Sanskrit ruksah "rough;" Latin ruere "to rush, fall violently, collapse," ruina "a collapse;" Lithuanian raukas "wrinkle," rukti "to shrink."
The original -gh- sound was guttural, as in Scottish loch. The form row was a regular variant from early 16c. and lingered in dialects. Of actions, "characterized by harshness or disparity," c. 1300; of land, terrain, late 15c. as "rugged, hard to traverse." Of stormy weather from mid-14c.; by late 14c. of turbulent seas, rude language, discordant sounds.
From mid-14c. as "crudely made;" c. 1600 as "rudely sufficient, not smooth or formed by art." Rough stone "undressed stone mortared together" is from mid-15c. Of writing or literary style, "lacking refinement, unpolished," 1530s. The sense of "approximate" is recorded from c. 1600.
Rough draft (or draught) is from 1690s. Rough-and-ready "rude and disorderly" is by 1832, from an earlier noun (1810), originally military; rough-and-tumble "not elaborately or carefully ordered" is from a style of free-fighting characterized by indiscriminate blows and falls (1810). Rough music "din produced by banging pots, pans, etc. for the purpose of annoying or punishing a neighbor" is by 1708. Rough-snout (c. 1300) was an old term for "a bearded face."
c. 1300, devis, "intent, desire; an expressed intent or desire; a plan or design; a literary composition," from Old French devis "division, separation; disposition, wish, desire; coat of arms, emblem; a bequest in a will, act of bequeathing," from deviser "arrange, plan, contrive," literally "dispose in portions," from Vulgar Latin *divisare, frequentative of Latin dividere "to divide" (see divide (v.)).
The basic sense is "method by which something is divided," which arose in Old French and led to the range of modern meanings via the notion of "something invented or fitted to a particular use or purpose," hence "an invention; a constructed tool; inventiveness; a contriving, a plan or scheme."
In English from c. 1400 as "artistic design, work of art; ornament," hence especially "a representation of some object or scene, accompanied by a motto or legend, used as an expression of the bearer's aspirations or principles." Also from c. 1400 as "mechanical contrivance," such as a large crossbow fitted with a crank. From mid-15c. as "a bequest in a will." Since c. 1996 the word has come to be used especially for "hand-held or mobile computing or electronic instrument."
We live in a kind of world and in an age of the world where devices of all sorts are growing in complexity, where, therefore, the necessity for alertness and self-mastery in the control of device is ever more urgent. If we are democrats we know that especial perils beset us, both because of the confusion of our aims and because it is easier for the mob than for the individual to mistake appetite for reason, and advantage for right. [Hartley Burr Alexander, "'Liberty and Democracy,' and Other Essays in War-Time," 1918]
Old English bisceop "bishop, high priest (Jewish or pagan)," from Late Latin episcopus, from Greek episkopos "watcher, (spiritual) overseer," a title for various government officials, later taken over in a Church sense, from epi- "over" (see epi-) + skopos "one that watches, one that looks after; a guardian, protector" (from PIE root *spek- "to observe"). Given a specific sense in the Church, but the word also was used in the New Testament as a descriptive title for elders, and continues as such in some non-hierarchical Christian sects.
A curious example of word-change, as effected by the genius of different tongues, is furnished by the English bishop and the French évêque. Both are from the same root, furnishing, perhaps the only example of two words from a common stem so modifying themselves in historical times as not to have a letter in common. (Of course many words from a far off Aryan stem are in the same condition.) The English strikes off the initial and terminal syllables, leaving only piscop, which the Saxon preference for the softer labial and hissing sounds modified into bishop. Évêque (formerly evesque) merely softens the p into v and drops the last syllable. [William S. Walsh, "Handy-Book of Literary Curiosities," Philadelphia, J.B. Lippincott, 1892]
Late Latin episcopus in Spanish became obispo, in Italian vescovo, in Welsh esgob. The Germanic forms include Old Saxon biscop, Old High German biscof. Further afield it became Lithuanian vyskupas, Albanian upeshk, Finnish piispa. A once-popular pun on it was bite-sheep (1550s, also in German, biss-schaf). The chess piece (formerly archer, before that alfin) was so called from 1560s.
1540s, "structure of any kind," from Middle French machine "device, contrivance," from Latin machina "machine, engine, military machine; device, trick; instrument" (source also of Spanish maquina, Italian macchina), from Greek makhana, Doric variant of Attic mēkhanē "device, tool, machine;" also "contrivance, cunning," traditionally (Watkins) from PIE *magh-ana- "that which enables," from root *magh- "to be able, have power." But Beekes, on formal grounds, objects to the connection to words in Germanic and Slavic. He finds the Greek word isolated and is convinced that it is Pre-Greek.
Main modern sense of "device made of moving parts for applying mechanical power" (1670s) probably grew out of mid-17c. senses of "apparatus, appliance" and "military siege-tower." It gradually came to be applied to an apparatus that works without the strength or skill of the workman.
From 17c.-19c. also "a vehicle; a stage- or mail-coach; a ship," and, from 1901, "a motor-car." Also in late 19c. slang the word was used for both "penis" and "vagina," one of the few so honored.
The political sense "a strict organization of the working members of a political party to secure a predominating influence for themselves and their associates" is U.S. slang, attested by 1876. Machine age, a time notable for the extensive use of mechanical devices, is attested by 1882, though there is this:
The idea of remodelling society at public meetings is one of the least reasonable which ever entered the mind of an agitator: and the notion that the relations of the sexes can be re-arranged and finally disposed of by preamble and resolution, is one of the latest, as it should have been the last, vagary of a machine age. ["The Literary World," Nov. 1, 1851]
Machine for living(in) "house" translates Le Corbusier's machine à habiter (1923).