Etymology
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halcyon (adj.)
"calm, quiet, peaceful," 1540s, in halcyon dayes (translating Latin alcyonei dies, Greek alkyonides hemerai), 14 days of calm weather at the winter solstice, when a mythical bird (also identified with the kingfisher) was said to breed in a nest floating on calm seas. The name of this fabulous bird is attested in Middle English as alcioun (late 14c.).

The name is from Latin halcyon, alcyon, from Greek halkyon, variant (perhaps a misspelling) of alkyon "kingfisher," a word of unknown origin. The explanation that this is from hals "sea; salt" (see halo-) + kyon "conceiving," present participle of kyein "to conceive," literally "to swell" (see cumulus) probably is ancient folk-etymology to explain a loan-word from a non-Indo-European language. Identified in mythology with Halcyone, daughter of Aeolus, who when widowed threw herself into the sea and became a kingfisher.
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nous (n.)

college slang for "intelligence, wit, cleverness, common sense," 1706, from Greek nous, Attic form of noos "mind, intelligence, perception, intellect," which was taken in English in philosophy 1670s as "the perceptive and intelligent faculty." The Greek word is of uncertain origin. Beekes writes, "No doubt an old inherited verbal noun ..., though there is no certain etymology."

It is always difficult to find an English word to represent nous. The standard dictionary translation is "mind," but this does not have the correct connotations, particularly when the word is used in a religious philosophy. ... Mathematics, the world of ideas, and all thought about what is not sensible, have, for Pythagoras, Plato, and Plotinus, something divine; they constitute the activity of nous, or at least the nearest approach to its activity that we can conceive. [Bertrand Russell, "A History of Western Philosophy"]
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think (v.)

Old English þencan "imagine, conceive in the mind; consider, meditate, remember; intend, wish, desire" (past tense þohte, past participle geþoht), probably originally "cause to appear to oneself," from Proto-Germanic *thankjan (source also of Old Frisian thinka, Old Saxon thenkian, Old High German denchen, German denken, Old Norse þekkja, Gothic þagkjan).

Old English þencan is the causative form of the distinct Old English verb þyncan "to seem, to appear" (past tense þuhte, past participle geþuht), from Proto-Germanic *thunkjan (source also of German dünken, däuchte). Both are from PIE *tong- "to think, feel" which also is the root of thought and thank.

The two Old English words converged in Middle English and þyncan "to seem" was absorbed, except for its preservation in archaic methinks "it seems to me."

As a noun, think, "act of prolonged thinking," is attested by 1834. The figurative thinking cap is attested from 1839.

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ragtime (n.)

also rag-time, "syncopated, jazzy piano music," 1896, perhaps from rag "dance ball" (1895, American English dialect), or a shortening of ragged, in reference to the syncopated melody. Rag (n.) "ragtime dance tune" is from 1897.

If rag-time was called tempo di raga or rague-temps it might win honor more speedily. ... What the derivation of the word is[,] I have not the faintest idea. The negroes call their clog-dancing "ragging" and the dance a "rag." [Rupert Hughes, Boston Musical Record, April 1900]
Conceive the futility of trying to reduce the intangible ragness to a strict system of misbegotten grace notes and untimely rests! In attempting to perfect, and simplify, art is destroying the unhampered spirit in which consists the whole beauty of rag-time music. The very essence of rag-time is that it shall lack all art, depending for the spirit to be infused more upon the performer than upon the composer himself. [Yale Literary Magazine, June 1899]
Her first "rag-time" was "The Bully," in which she made great sport by bringing a little coloured boy on the stage with her. Miss [May] Irwin says the way to learn to sing "rag-time" is to catch a negro and study him. [Lewis C. Strang, "Famous Actresses of the Day in America," Boston, 1899]
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atmosphere (n.)

1630s, atmosphaera (modern form from 1670s), "gaseous envelop surrounding the earth," from Modern Latin atmosphaera, from Greek atmos "vapor, steam" (see atmo-) + sphaira "sphere" (see sphere). In old science, "vaporous air," which was considered a part of the earth and a contamination of the lower part of the air (n.1).

Þe ouer partye of þe eyr is pure and clene, clere, esy & softe, ffor mevynge of stormys, of wynde and of wedir may nat reche þerto; and so it perteyneþ to heuenlych kynde. And þe neþir partye is nyʒe to þe spere of watir and of erþe, and is troubly, greet and þicke, corpulent and ful of moyst erþy vapoures, as longiþ to erþy partyes. Þe eyr strecchiþ hym kyndely al aboute fro þe ouer partye of þe erþe and of watir anon to þe spere of fire. [Bartholomew Glanville, "De proprietatibus rerum," c. 1240, translated by John of Trevisa c. 1398 ]

First used in English in connection with the Moon, which, as it turns out, practically has none.

'Tis Observed, in the Solary Eclipses, that there is some times a great Trepidation about the Body of the Moon, from which we may likewise argue an Atmo-sphaera, since we cannot well conceive what so probable a cause there should be of such an appearance as this, Quod radii Solares a vaporibus Lunam ambientibus fuerint intercisi, that the Sun-beams were broken and refracted by the Vapours that encompassed the Moon. [Rev. John Wilkins, "Discovery of New World or Discourse tending to prove that it probable there may be another World in the Moon," 1638]

Figurative sense of "surrounding influence, mental or moral environment" is c. 1800.

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understand (v.)
Origin and meaning of understand

Old English understandan "to comprehend, grasp the idea of, receive from a word or words or from a sign the idea it is intended to convey; to view in a certain way," probably literally "stand in the midst of," from under + standan "to stand" (see stand (v.)).

If this is the meaning, the under is not the usual word meaning "beneath," but from Old English under, from PIE *nter- "between, among" (source also of Sanskrit antar "among, between," Latin inter "between, among," Greek entera "intestines;" see inter-). Related: Understood; understanding.

That is the suggestion in Barnhart, but other sources regard the "among, between, before, in the presence of" sense of Old English prefix and preposition under as other meanings of the same word. "Among" seems to be the sense in many Old English compounds that resemble understand, such as underniman "to receive," undersecan "examine, investigate, scrutinize" (literally "underseek"), underðencan "consider, change one's mind," underginnan "to begin."

It also seems to be the sense still in expressions such as under such circumstances. Perhaps the ultimate sense is "be close to;" compare Greek epistamai "I know how, I know," literally "I stand upon."

Similar formations are found in Old Frisian (understonda), Middle Danish (understande), while other Germanic languages use compounds meaning "stand before" (German verstehen, represented in Old English by forstanden "understand," also "oppose, withstand"). For this concept, most Indo-European languages use figurative extensions of compounds that literally mean "put together," or "separate," or "take, grasp" (see comprehend).

The range of spellings of understand in Middle English (understont, understounde, unþurstonde, onderstonde, hunderstonde, oundyrston, wonderstande, urdenstonden, etc.) perhaps reflects early confusion over the elements of the compound. Old English oferstandan, Middle English overstonden, literally "over-stand" seem to have been used only in literal senses.

By mid-14c. as "to take as meant or implied (though not expressed); imply; infer; assume; take for granted." The intransitive sense of "have the use of the intellectual faculties; be an intelligent and conscious being" also is in late Old English. In Middle English also "reflect, muse, be thoughtful; imagine; be suspicious of; pay attention, take note; strive for; plan, intend; conceive (a child)." Also sometimes literal, "to occupy space at a lower level" (late 14c.) and, figuratively, "to submit." For "to stand under" in a physical sense, Old English had undergestandan.

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