"rod or pole on which a bird alights and rests," late 13c., originally only "a pole, rod, stick, stake," from Old French perche "unit of linear measurement" (5.5 yards), also "measuring rod, pole, bar" used to measure this length (13c.), from Latin pertica "pole, long staff, measuring rod," which is related to Oscan perek "pole," Umbrian perkaf "twigs, rods." Meaning "a bar fixed horizontally for a hawk or tame bird to rest on" is attested from late 14c.; this led to the general sense of "any thing that any bird alights or rests on" (late 15c.). Figurative sense of "an elevated or secure position" is recorded from 1520s.
"dense, low shrub thicket," 1850, American English, from Spanish chaparro "evergreen oak," perhaps from Basque txapar "little thicket," diminutive of sapar "heath, thicket."
In Spain, a chaparral is a bush of a species of oak. The termination al signifies a place abounding in; as, chaparral, a place of oak-bushes, almendral, an almond orchard; parral, a vineyard; cafetal, a coffee plantation, etc., etc.
This word, chaparral, has been introduced into the language since our acquisition of Texas and New Mexico, where these bushes abound. It is a series of thickets, of various sizes, from one hundred yards to a mile through, with bushes and briars, all covered with thorns, and so closely entwined together as almost to prevent the passage of any thing larger than a wolf or hare. [John Russell Bartlett, "Dictionary of Americanisms," 1859]
Middle English rode, "a cross; a crucifix," especially a large one, from Old English rod "cross," especially that upon which Christ suffered, from Proto-Germanic *rod- (source also of Old Saxon ruoda "stake, pile, cross," Old Norse roða, Old Frisian rode, Middle Dutch roede, Old High German ruota, German Rute "rod, pole"), which is of uncertain origin. Perhaps it shares a PIE root with Latin ratis "raft," retae "trees standing on the bank of a stream;" Old Church Slavonic ratiste "spear, staff;" Lithuanian reklės "scaffolding," but de Vaan is doubtful. Probably not connected with rod.
Also in Old English "a pole;" and in Middle English also a local measure varying from 6 to 8 yards and a square measure of land.
name of a large venomous snake of sub-Saharan Africa, attested by 1859, from Zulu (i)mamba or Swahili mamba.
"Now about snakes. I have never forgotten your quiet, dignified unbelief in my snake histories, and have taken every opportunity of finding out all I can about them; more particularly of the 'mamba' or chasing snake. It is a most vicious creature, and will chase you a mile. You must ride hard if one makes for you. It reaches sixteen or eighteen feet, and has the power of erecting itself on its tail when in pursuit of its object; then throwing itself down and rushing on twenty yards or so, and then reaiing up again: and so on, till it comes to some bush or tree, round which it throws its strong tail, and then strikes right and left at its enemies." [Journal of the Society of Arts, March 11, 1859]
"sudden pitch to one side," 1784, from earlier lee-larches (1765), a nautical term for "the sudden roll which a ship makes to lee-ward in a high sea, when a large wave strikes her, and bears her weather-side violently up, which depresses the other in proportion" ["Complete Dictionary of Arts and Sciences," London 1765]. This is perhaps from French lacher "to let go," from Latin laxus (see lax).
When a Ship is brought by the Lee, it is commonly occaſsioned by a large Sea, and by the Neglect of the Helm's-man. When the Wind is two or three Points on the Quarter, the Ship taking a Lurch, brings the Wind on the other Side, and lays the Sails all dead to the Maſt; as the Yards are braced up, ſhe then having no Way, and the Helm being of no Service, I would therefore brace about the Head ſails ſharp the other Way .... [John Hamilton Moore, Practical Navigator, 8th ed., 1784]
"noisy dance," 1841, Southern U.S., apparently originally the name of a specific dance, perhaps from perceived similarity of dance motions to those of farm chores, hence from hoe (n.).
The step of every negro dance that was ever known, was called into requisition and admirably executed. They performed the "double shuffle," the "Virginny break-down," the "Kentucky heeltap," the "pigeon wing," the "back balance lick," the "Arkansas hoe down," with unbounded applause and irresistible effect. ["Scouting Expeditions of McCulloch's Texas Rangers," 1848]
"Hoe corn, hill tobacco" is noted as a line in the chorus of a slave song in 1838, and Washington Irving writes of a dance called "hoe corn and dig potatoes" in 1807.
The same precedence is repeated until all the merchandise is disposed of, the table is then banished the room, and the whole party hoe it down in straight fours and set dances, till the hour when "ghosts wandering here and there, troop home to church-yards." This is what we kintra folk call a strauss. ["Der Teufelskerl. A Tale of German Pennsylvania," in Burton's Gentleman's Magazine, January 1840]
Middle English rod, rodde, "a stick of wood," especially a straight cutting from a woody plant, stripped of twigs, and having a particular purpose" (walking stick, wand of office, instrument of punishment), from Old English rodd "a rod, pole," which is probably cognate with Old Norse rudda "club," from Proto-Germanic *rudd- "stick, club," from PIE *reudh- "to clear land." Other sources formerly consider it to correspond to the continental words under rood.
As a long, tapering elastic pole for fishing, from mid-15c. Figurative sense of "offshoot" (mid-15c.) led to Biblical meaning "scion, tribe." As an instrument of punishment, attested from mid-12c.; also used figuratively for "any sort of correction or punishment" (14c.). In mechanics, "any bar slender in proportion to its length" (1728).
As a unit of linear measure (5½ yards or 16½ feet, also called perch or pole) attested from late 14c., from the pole used to mark it off. As a measure of land area, "a square perch," from late 14c., the usual measure in brickwork. Meaning "light-sensitive cell in a retina" is by 1837, so-called for their shape. Slang meaning "penis" is recorded from 1902; that of "handgun, pistol, revolver" is by 1903.
c. 1400, erþe-worme, popular name of the worms of the family Lumbricidae, from earth + worm (n.). In this sense Old English had eorðmata, also regnwyrm, literally "rain-worm." Old English also had angel-twæcce "earthworm used as bait" (with second element from root of twitch), sometimes used in medieval times as a medicament:
For the blake Jawndes take angylltwacches, er þei go in to the erth in the mornynge and fry hem. Take ix or x small angyltwacches, and bray hem, and giff the syke to drynke fastynge, with stale ale, but loke þat thei bene grounden so small that þe syke may nat se, ne witt what it is, for lothynge. [Book of Medical Recipes in Medical Society of London Library, c. 1450]
The people who inhabit the highlands of Southern Brazil have a firm belief in the existence of a gigantic earthworm fifty yards or more in length, five in breadth, covered with bones as with a coat-of-mail, and of such strength as to be able to uproot great pine-trees as though they were blades of grass, and to throw up such quantities of clay in making its way underground as to dam up streams and divert them into new courses. This redoubtable monster is known as the "Minhocao." [Popular Science, August 1878]
"long pole on a ship, secured as the lower end to the keel, to support the yards, sails, and rigging in general," Old English mæst, from Proto-Germanic *mastaz (source also of Old Norse mastr, Middle Dutch maste, Dutch, Danish mast, German Mast), from PIE *mazdo- "a pole, rod" (source also of Latin malus "mast," Old Irish matan "club," Irish maide "a stick," Old Church Slavonic mostu "bridge").
The single mast of an old ship was the boundary between the quarters of the officers and those of the crew, hence before the mast "serving as an ordinary seaman" in the title of Dana's book, etc.
In all large vessels the masts are composed of several lengths, called lower mast, topmast, and topgallantmast. The royalmast is now made in one piece with the topgallantmast. A mast consisting of a single length is called a pole-mast. In a full-rigged ship with three masts, each of three pieces, the masts are distinguished as the foremast, the mainmast, and the mizzenmast; and the pieces as the foremast (proper), foretopmast, foretopgallantmast, etc. In vessels with two masts, they are called the foremast and mainmast; in vessels with four masts, the aftermast is called the spanker-mast or jigger-mast. [Century Dictionary, 1895]
also hammer-head, 1560s, "head of a hammer," from hammer (n.) + head (n.). From 1796 (American English) in reference to a kind of shark, so called for its broad, transverse head. The animal is referred to as hammer-headed shark from 1752 and hammer-fish from 1745. The older name for it was balance-fish; there was a full specimen and a head of another under that name in the Royal Society Museum by 1681:
He hath his Name not unaptly from the ſhape of his Head, very different from that of all other Fiſhes, being ſpread out horizontally, like the Beam of a Balance; his eyes ſtanding at the two extremes, as the iron Hooks do at the end of the Beam. He grows sometimes to the length of four or five yards: but this is a young one. [Nehemiah Grew, M.D., "Catalogue & Deſcription Of the Natural and Artificial Rarities Belonging to the Royal Society And preſerved at Greſham Colledge. Whereunto is Subjoyned the Comparative Anatomy of Stomachs and Guts. By the ſame author" London, 1681 ]
Compare French requin marteau, Italian pesce martello, etc. The Greeks named it for the cross-bar of a yoke (zygon) and called it zygania. "According to Xenocrates, and to Philotinus ap. Galen vi. 727, it is tough and indigestible, but may be eaten pickled" [Thompson].