early 15c., "fixed standard of measure" (surname Gageman is early 14c.), from Old North French gauge "gauging rod" (see gauge (v.)). Meaning "instrument for measuring" is from 1670s; meaning "distance between rails on a railway" is from 1841.
Railway-gage, the distance between perpendiculars on the insides of the heads of the two rails of a track. Standard gage is 4 feet 8 1/2 inches; anything less than this is narrow gage; anything broader is broad gage. The dimension was fixed for the United States by the wheels of the British locomotive imported from the Stephenson Works in 1829. [Century Dictionary]
16c. variant of scrycke (c. 1200), from Old Norse skrækja "to screech" (see screech), probably of imitative origin. Related: Shrieked; shrieking. The noun is attested from 1580s, from the verb.
A shriek is sharper, more sudden, and, when due to fear or pain, indicative of more terror or distress than a scream. Screech emphasizes the disagreeableness of the sharpness or shrillness, and its lack of dignity in a person. It is more distinctly figurative to speak of the shriek of a locomotive than to speak of its scream or screech. [Century Dictionary]
early 14c., "a drawing out, delay;" late 14c., "trailing part of a skirt, gown, or cloak;" also "retinue, procession," from Old French train "tracks, path, trail (of a robe or gown); act of dragging," from trainer "to pull, drag, draw," from Vulgar Latin *traginare, extended from *tragere "to pull," back-formation from tractus, past participle of Latin trahere "to pull, draw" (see tract (n.1)).,
General sense of "series, progression, succession, continuous course" is from late 15c.; train of thought is attested from 1650s. The railroad sense "locomotive and the cars coupled to it" is recorded from 1820 (publication year, dated 1816), from the notion of a "trailing succession" of wagons or carriages pulled by a mechanical engine.
Better remembered, if at all, as a political term: During a heated Democratic party meeting in Tammany Hall c. 1835, the opposition doused the gaslights to break it up, and the radical delegates used loco-foco matches to relight them. When it was publicized, the name loco-foco entered U.S. political jargon (by 1837) and down to the Civil War was applied, usually disparagingly, to a radical faction of the Democratic Party (but by the Whigs to all Democrats).
dance style, 1893, from two + step (n.); so called for the time signature of the music (as distinguished from the three-step waltz). But as the positions taken by the dancers involved direct contact, it was highly scandalous in its day and enormously popular.
A certain Division of an Auxiliary gave a dance not long since. I went and looked on. What did they dance? Two-step, two-step and two-step. How did they dance? When we used to waltz, we clasped arms easily, took a nice, respectable position, and danced in a poetry of motion. Now, girls, how do you two-step? In nine cases out of ten the dear girl reposes her head on the young man's shoulder, or else their faces press each other. He presses her to his breast as closely as possible, and actually carries her around. Disgraceful? I should say so. Do you wonder at the ministers preaching on dancing as a sin, when it looks like this to a woman like myself who believes in dancing and has danced all her life? Mothers, as you love your girls, forbid them to dance after this manner. [letter in the ladies' section of Locomotive Engineers' Monthly Journal, March 1898]
To the Two Step may be accredited, serious injury to the Waltz, awkward and immodest positions assumed in round dancing, also as being a prominent factor in overcrowding the profession and causing a general depression in the business of the legitimate Master of Dancing. [The Director, March 1898]
Middle English iron, iren, yron, from Old English iren, variant (with rhotacism of -s-) of isen, later form of isern, isærn "the metal iron; an iron weapon or instrument," from Proto-Germanic *isarn (source also of Old Saxon isarn, Old Frisian isern, Old Norse isarn, Middle Dutch iser, Old High German isarn, German Eisen).
This perhaps is an early borrowing of Celtic *isarnon (compare Old Irish iarn, Welsh haiarn), which Watkins suggests is from PIE *is-(e)ro- "powerful, holy," from PIE *eis "strong" (source also of Sanskrit isirah "vigorous, strong," Greek ieros "strong"), on the notion of "holy metal" or "strong metal" (in contrast to softer bronze).
It was both an adjective and a noun in Old English, but in form it is an adjective. The alternative isen survived into early Middle English as izen. In southern England the Middle English word tended to be ire, yre, with loss of -n, perhaps regarded as an inflection; in the north and Scotland, however, the word tended to be contracted to irn, yrn, still detectable in dialect.
Right so as whil that Iren is hoot men sholden smyte. [Chaucer, c. 1386]
Chemical symbol Fe is from the Latin word for the metal, ferrum (see ferro-). Meaning "metal device used to press or smooth clothes" is from 1610s. Meaning "golf club with an iron head, 1842. To have (too) many irons in the fire "to be doing too much at once" is from 1540s. Iron lung "artificial respiration tank" is from 1932. The iron crown was that of the ancient kings of Lombardy, with a thin band of iron in the gold, said to have been forged from a nail of Christ's Cross. Iron horse "railroad locomotive" is from an 1839 poem. Iron maiden, instrument of torture, is from 1837 (probably translating German eiserne jungfrau). The unidentified French political prisoner known as the man in the iron mask died in the Bastille in 1703. In British history, Wellington was called the Iron Duke by 1832.