mid-13c., "deserted, uncultivated, waste, barren, unproductive," from Old French desert and Latin desertum (see desert (n.1)). Meaning "pertaining to or belonging to a desert" is from 1630s. Desert island, one that is uninhabited, is from c. 1600.
Middle English sere, "dried up, withered, barren" (of plants, etc.), from Old English sear, from Proto-Germanic *sauzas (source also of Middle Low German sor, Dutch zoor "dry"), from PIE root *saus- "dry" (source also of Sanskrit susyati "dries, withers;" Old Persian uška- "dry" (adj.), "land" (n.); Avestan huška- "dry;" Greek auos "dry," auein "to dry;" Latin sudus "dry"). Related to sear. Figurative use from 1530s. Sere month was an old name for "August."
1610s, "dull in the mind, flat, insipid, wanting in interest," from Latin ieiunus "empty, dry, barren," literally "fasting, hungry," a word of obscure origin. De Vaan finds it to be from a PIE root meaning "to worship, reverence," hence "to sacrifice" (with cognates including Sanskrit yajati "to honor, worship, sacrifice," Avestan yaza- "to worship," Greek agios, agnos "holy;" see hagio-), and writes that the Latin word and its relatives "would be based on the habit to perform the first sacrifice of the day on an empty stomach." Related: jejunal; jejunally.
Originally of things; of persons or minds from c. 1600. Meaning "working at an even rate" is first recorded in 1540s. Steady progress is etymologically a contradiction in terms. Steady state first attested 1885; as a cosmological theory (propounded by Bondi, Gold, and Hoyle), it is attested from 1948. Related: Steadily.
c. 1300, bleik, "pale, pallid," from Old Norse bleikr "pale, whitish, blond," from Proto-Germanic *blaika- "shining, white" (source also of Old Saxon blek "pale, shining," Dutch bleek, Old High German bleih, German bleich), from PIE root *bhel- (1) "to shine, flash, burn," also "shining white."
The original English sense is obsolete; the meaning "bare, windswept" is from 1530s; figurative sense of "cheerless" is from c. 1719. The same Germanic root produced Middle English blake "pale" (Old English blac), but this fell from use, probably from confusion with blæc "black" (the surname Blake can mean either "one of pale complexion" or "one of dark complexion"). Bleak has survived, not in the "pale" sense, but meaning only "bare, barren." Related: Bleakly; bleakness.