1570s, of medicines, "that tends to prevent or defend from disease," from French prophylactique (16c.) and directly as a Latinized borrowing of Greek prophylaktikos "precautionary," from prophylassein "keep guard before, ward off, be on one's guard," from pro "before" (see pro-) + phylassein, Ionic variant of phylattein "to watch over, to guard," but also "cherish, keep, remain in, preserve," from phylax "guard," a word of unknown origin.
The noun is first recorded 1640s, "a medicine or treatment to prevent or defend against disease;" meaning "condom" is from 1943, replacing earlier preventive (1822), preventative (1901). Condoms originally were used more to thwart contagious disease than to prevent pregnancy. Related: Prophylactical.
skin disease characterized by eruptions and inflammation, c. 1400, "the itch; scabby skin generally," from Latin scabies "mange, itch, roughness," from scabere "to scratch, scrape" (from PIE root *(s)kep-, a base forming words meaning "to cut, scrape, hack," source also of Gothic scaban, Old English sceafan "to scrape, shave;" Greek skaptein "to dig;" Old Church Slavonic skobli "scraper;" Lithuanian skabus "sharp," skabėti "to cut;" Lettish skabrs "splintery, sharp").
Modern medical use in reference to a contagious skin disease due to a parasitic mite is by 1814. The older name for a skin condition or disease was simply scab. Scabbed "afflicted with scabies or mange" is by c. 1300. Related: Scabious.
1660s, "period a ship suspected of carrying contagious disease is kept in isolation," from Italian quaranta giorni, literally "space of forty days," from quaranta "forty," from Latin quadraginta"forty" (related to quattuor "four," from PIE root *kwetwer- "four").
The name is from the Venetian policy (first enforced in 1377) of keeping ships from plague-stricken countries waiting off its port for 40 days to assure that no latent cases were aboard. Also see lazaretto. The extended sense of "any period of forced isolation" is from 1670s.
Earlier in English the word meant "period of 40 days in which a widow has the right to remain in her dead husband's house" (1520s), and, as quarentyne (15c.), "desert in which Christ fasted for 40 days," from Latin quadraginta "forty."
"act or habit of misapplying words through ambition to use fine language," also a word so misapplied, 1826, from Mrs. Malaprop, character in Sheridan's play "The Rivals" (1775), noted for her ridiculous misuse of large words (such as contagious countries for contiguous countries), her name coined from malapropos.
When Mrs. Malaprop, in Sheridan's Rivals, is said to 'deck her dull chat with hard words which she don't understand,' she protests, 'Sure, if I reprehend anything in this world it is the use of my oracular tongue, & a nice derangement of epitaphs'—having vague memories of apprehend, vernacular, arrangement, & epithets. She is now the matron saint of those who go wordfowling with a blunderbuss. [Fowler]
"sudden mass terror," especially an exaggerated fright affecting a number of persons without visible cause or inspired by trifling cause or danger, 1708, from an earlier adjective (c. 1600, modifying fear, terror, etc.), from French panique (15c.), from Greek panikon, literally "pertaining to Pan," the god of woods and fields, who was the source of mysterious sounds that caused contagious, groundless fear in herds and crowds, or in people in lonely spots. In the sense of "panic, fright" the Greek word is short for panikon deima "panic fright," from neuter of Panikos "of Pan."
The meaning "widespread apprehension in a trading community about financial matters" is recorded by 1757. Panic-stricken is attested from 1804. Panic attack attested by 1970. Panic button in a figurative sense is by 1948 in the jargon of jet pilots; the literal sense is by 1965 in reference to prison security.
And if he gets in a tight spot and doesn't know what to do, he "pushes the panic button for two minutes of disorganized confusion." During his first few weeks he may even find the panic button "stuck in the on position." ["How Jet Jockeys Are Made," Popular Science, December 1948]
also shmuck, "contemptible person," 1892, from East Yiddish shmok, literally "penis," probably from Old Polish smok "grass snake, dragon," and likely not the same word as German Schmuck "jewelry, adornments," which is related to Low German smuck "supple, tidy, trim, elegant," and to Old Norse smjuga "slip, step through" (see smock).
In Jewish homes, the word was "regarded as so vulgar as to be taboo" [Leo Rosten, "The Joys of Yiddish," 1968] and Lenny Bruce wrote that saying it on stage got him arrested on the West Coast "by a Yiddish undercover agent who had been placed in the club several nights running to determine if my use of Yiddish terms was a cover for profanity." Euphemized as schmoe, which was the source of Al Capp's cartoon strip creature the shmoo.
"[A]dditional associative effects from German schmuck 'jewels, decoration' cannot be excluded (cross-linguistically commonplace slang: cf. Eng. 'family jewels')" [Mark R.V. Southern, "Contagious Couplings: Transmission of Expressives in Yiddish Echo Phrases," 2005]. But the English phrase refers to the testicles and is a play on words, the "family" element being the essential ones. Words for "decoration" seem not to be among the productive sources of European "penis" slang terms.