"small human figure used in witchcraft and sorcery," c. 1300, popet, early form of puppet (n.). Meaning "small or dainty person" is recorded from late 14c.; later a term of endearment (18c.) but also in other cases one of contempt.
1877, "delicacies, articles of fine food," American English, from German delikatessen, plural of delikatesse "a delicacy, fine food," from French délicatesse (1560s), from délicat "fine," from Latin delicatus "alluring, delightful, dainty" (see delicate). As a store where such things are sold, 1901, short for delicatessen shop.
c. 1500, "a favorite; a darling, one who or that which is beloved" (a sense now obsolete), from Old French mignon "a favorite, darling" (n.), also a term of (probably homosexual) abuse; as an adjective, "dainty, pleasing, favorite," from mignot "pretty, attractive, dainty, gracious, affectionate." The French word is of uncertain origin, perhaps from Celtic (compare Old Irish min "tender, soft"), or from Old High German minnja, minna "love, memory" (see minnesinger).
Used 16c.-17c. without disparaging overtones, but also from c. 1500 as "a favorite of a sovereign prince," especially "an intriguing favorite, a low or servile dependent." It also was used from 16c. for "a pert or saucy girl."
late 14c., of persons, "self-indulgent, loving ease;" also "sensitive, easily hurt, feeble;" of things, "delightful," from Latin delicatus "alluring, delightful, dainty," also "addicted to pleasure, luxurious, effeminate," in Medieval Latin "fine, slender;" related to deliciae "pleasure, delight, luxury," and delicere "to allure, entice," from de "away" (see de-) + lacere "to lure, entice," which is of uncertain origin. Compare delicious, delectable, delight.
Meaning "so fine or tender as to be easily broken" is recorded from 1560s. Meaning "requiring nice and skillful handling" is by 1742. Sense of "exquisitely adjusted in construction" is from 1756. Related: Delicateness.
late 15c., "tastefully ornate," from Old French élégant (15c.) and directly from Latin elegantem (nominative elegans) "choice, fine, tasteful," collateral form of present participle of eligere "select with care, choose" (see election). Meaning "characterized by refined grace" is from 1520s. Latin elegans originally was a term of reproach, "dainty, fastidious;" the notion of "tastefully refined" emerged in classical Latin. Related: Elegantly.
Elegant implies that anything of an artificial character to which it is applied is the result of training and cultivation through the study of models or ideals of grace; graceful implies less of consciousness, and suggests often a natural gift. A rustic, uneducated girl may be naturally graceful, but not elegant. [Century Dictionary]
1841 in cookery, reborrowing from French of the same word that had been taken 14c. and Englished as fillet (q.v.). Filet mignon (literally "dainty fillet") for "small, round, tender cut of meat from the center of the fillet" is attested as a French word in English from 1815.
The 'Chateaubriand,' the 'entrecôte,' and the 'filet mignon' (of mutton), with other forms, are all due to the more enlarged sympathies of the French butcher for what is perfect. We must entirely change the mode of cutting up the carcase before we can arrive at the same perfection in form of meat purchasable, and as that is hopeless, so is it useless to insist further on the subject on behalf of the public. ["The Kitchen and the Cellar," Quarterly Review, April 1877]
mid-15c., "foolish person," of unknown origin, perhaps related to obsolete verb fop "make a fool of," from a continental source akin to German foppen "jeer at, make a fool of." Sense of "dandy, coxcomb, man ostentatiously nice in manner and appearance" is from 1670s, perhaps given in derision by those who thought such things foolish. The 18c. was their period of greatest florescense. The junior variety was a fopling (1680s).
His was the sumptuous age of powder and patches. He was especially dainty in the matters of sword-knots, shoe-buckles, and lace ruffles. He was ablaze with jewelry, took snuff with an incomparable air out of a box studded with diamonds, and excelled in the "nice conduct of a clouded cane." [Charles J. Dunphie, "Fops and Foppery," New York, 1876]
Middle English priken, from Old English prician "to pierce with a sharp point, prick out, place a point, dot, or mark upon; sting; cause a pricking sensation," from West Germanic *prikojan (source also of Low German pricken, Dutch prikken "to prick"), of uncertain origin. Danish prikke "to mark with dots," Swedish pricka "to point, prick, mark with dots" probably are from Low German. Related: Pricked; pricking.
From c. 1200 in a figurative sense of "to cause agitation, to distress, to trouble;" late 14c. as "incite, stir to action." Pricklouse (c. 1500) was a derisive name for a tailor. To prick up (one's) ears is 1580s, originally of animals with pointed ears (prycke-eared, of foxes or horses or dogs, is from early 15c.).
thou prick-ear'd cur of Iceland!
["Henry V," ii. 1. 44.]
Prick-me-dainty (1520s) was an old term for one who is affectedly finical.
Extended meaning "child" is first recorded as slang 1590s, established in informal usage by 1840s. Applied to skillful young thieves and pugilists at least since 1812. Kid stuff "something easy" is from 1913 (the phrase was in use about that time in reference to vaudeville acts or advertisements featuring children, and to child-oriented features in newspapers).
In clothing, "made of soft leather," as though from the skin of a kid, but commercially often of other skins. Hence kid glove "a glove made of kidskin leather" is from 1680s; sense of "characterized by wearing kid gloves," therefore "dainty, delicate" is from 1856.
Old English clæne "free from dirt or filth, unmixed with foreign or extraneous matter; morally pure, chaste, innocent; open, in the open," of beasts, "not forbidden by ceremonial law to eat," from West Germanic *klainja- "clear, pure" (source also of Old Saxon kleni "dainty, delicate," Old Frisian klene "small," Old High German kleini "delicate, fine, small," German klein "small;" English preserves the original Germanic sense), perhaps from PIE root *gel- "bright, gleaming" (source also of Greek glene "eyeball," Old Irish gel "bright"). But Boutkan doubts the IE etymology and that the "clean" word and the "small" word are the same.
"Largely replaced by clear, pure in the higher senses" [Weekley], but as a verb (mid-15c.) it has largely usurped what once belonged to cleanse. Meaning "whole, entire" is from c. 1300 (clean sweep in the figurative sense is from 1821). Sense of "not lewd" (as in good, clean fun) is from 1867; that of "not carrying anything forbidden" is from 1938; that of "free of drug addiction" is from 1950s. To come clean "confess" is from 1919, American English.