loose ("open") star cluster (M44) in Cancer, 1650s, from Latin praesaepe the Roman name for the grouping, literally "enclosure, stall, manger, hive," from prae "before" (see pre-) + saepire "to fence" (see septum).
It is similar to the Hyades but more distant, about 600 light-years away (as opposed to about 150 for the Hyades), consists of about 1,000 stars, mostly older, the brightest of them around magnitude 6.5 and thus not discernible to the naked eye even on the clearest nights, but their collective light makes a visible fuzz of nebular glow that the ancients likened to a cloud (the original nebula); Galileo was the first to resolve it into stars (1609).
The modern name for it in U.S. and Britain, Beehive, seems no older than 1840. Greek names included Nephelion "Little Cloud" and Akhlys "Little Mist." "In astrology, like all clusters, it threatened mischief and blindness" [Richard Hinckley Allen, "Star Names and Their Meanings," 1899].
"Manger" to the Romans perhaps by influence of two nearby stars, Gamma and Delta Cancri, dim and unspectacular but both for some reason figuring largely in ancient astrology and weather forecasting, and known as "the Asses" (Latin Aselli), supposedly those of Silenus.
"black man," 1838, American English, originally the name of a black minstrel character in a popular song-and-dance act by T.D. Rice (1808-1860) that debuted 1828 and attained national popularity by 1832:
Wheel about, an' turn about, an' do jis so;
Eb'ry time I wheel about, I jump Jim Crow.
Where and how Rice got it, or wrote it, is a mystery. Even before that, crow (n.) had been a derogatory term for a black man. As an adjective from 1833, in reference to the song. Association with segregation dates from 1841, in reference to separate railroad cars for blacks in Massachusetts. Modern use as a type of racial discrimination is from 1943. Jim Crow also could be a reference to someone's change of (political) principles (1837, from the "jump" in the song) or reversible machinery (1875, "wheel about").
On his arrival in Boston, Mr. [Charles Lenox] R[emond] went to the Eastern rail-road depot, in order to visit his parents in Salem; but, instead of being allowed to ride with other passengers, he was compelled to take a seat in what is contemptuously called the "Jim Crow car," as though he were a leper or a wild animal! [Annual Report of the Massachusetts Anti-Slavery Society, 1842]
Old English Lucifer "Satan," also "morning star, Venus in the morning sky before sunrise," also an epithet or name of Diana, from Latin Lucifer "morning star," noun use of adjective, literally "light-bringing," from lux (genitive lucis) "light" (from PIE root *leuk- "light, brightness") + ferre "to carry, bear," from PIE root *bher- (1) "to carry," also "to bear children." Venus in the evening sky was Hesperus.
Belief that it was the proper name of Satan began with its use in Bible to translate Greek Phosphoros, which translates Hebrew Helel ben Shahar in Isaiah xiv.12 — "How art thou fallen from heaven, O Lucifer, son of the morning!" [KJV] Because of the mention of a fall from Heaven, the verse was interpreted spiritually by Christians as a reference to Satan, even though it is literally a reference to the King of Babylon (see Isaiah xiv.4). Sometimes rendered daystar in later translations.
As "friction match," 1831, short for Lucifer match (1831). Among the 16c. adjectival forms were Luciferian, Luciferine, Luciferous. There was a noted Bishop Lucifer of Cagliari in Sardinia in the 4th century, a strict anti-Arian regarded locally as a saint.
fem. proper name, name of the faithful wife in the "Odyssey," from Greek Pēnelopē, Pēnelopeia, which is perhaps related to pēne "thread on the bobbin," from pēnos "web," cognate with Latin pannus "cloth garment" (see pane (n.)). But Beekes suggests rather a connection with pēnelops "duck or wild goose with colored neck." Used in English as the type of the virtuous wife (1580) as it was in Latin.
Penelope, the daughter of Icarus, was a rare and perfect example of chastity. For though it was generally thought that her husband Ulysses was dead, since he had been absent from her twenty years; yet, neither the desires of her parents, nor the solicitations of her lovers, could prevail on her to marry another man, and to violate the promises of constancy which she gave to her husband when he departed. And when many noblemen courted her, and even threatened her with ruin, unless she declared which of them should marry her, she desired that the choice might be deferred till she had finished the piece of needle-work about which she was then employed: but undoing by night what she had worked by day, she delayed them till Ulysses returned and killed them all. Hence came the proverb, "To weave Penelope's web;" that is, to labour in vain; when one hand destroys what the other has wrought. [Andrew Tooke, "The Pantheon, Representing the Fabulous Histories of the Heathen Gods and Most Illustrious Heroes, in a Plain and Familiar Method," London: 1824]
third letter of the alphabet. Alphabetic writing came to Rome via the southern Etruscan "Caeretan" script, in which gamma was written as a crescent. Early Romans made little use of Greek kappa and used gamma for both the "g" and "k" sounds, the latter more frequently, so that the "k" sound came to be seen as the proper one for gamma. Classical Latin -c-, with only the value "k," passed to Celtic and, via missionary Irish monks, to the Anglo-Saxons. Also see cee.
In some Old English words, before some vowels and in certain positions, -c- had a "ts" sound that was respelled ch- in Middle English by French scribes (chest, cheese, church; see ch). In Old English -k- was known but little used.
Meanwhile, in Old French, many "k" sounds drifted to "ts" and by 13c., "s," but still were written -c-. Thus the 1066 invasion brought to the English language a flood of French and Latin words in which -c- represented "s" (as in cease, ceiling, circle) and a more vigorous use of -k- to distinguish that sound. By 15c. even native English words with -s- were being respelled with -c- for "s" (ice, mice, lice).
In some English words from Italian, the -c- has a "ch" sound (via a sound evolution somewhat like the Old French one). In German, -c- in loanwords was regularized to -k- or -z- (depending on pronunciation) in the international spelling reform of 1901, which was based on the Duden guide of 1880.
As a symbol in the Roman numeral system, "one hundred;" the symbol originally was a Greek theta, but was later reduced in form and understood to stand for centum. In music, it is the name of the keynote of the natural scale, though the exact pitch varied in time and place 18c. and 19c. from 240 vibrations per second to 275; it wasn't entirely regularized (at 261.63) until the adoption of the A440 standard in the 1930s. C-spring as a type of carriage spring is from 1794, so called for its shape.
eighth letter of the alphabet; it comes from Phoenician, via Greek and Latin. In Phoenician it originally had a rough guttural sound like German Reich or Scottish loch. In Greek at first it had the value of Modern English -h-, and with this value it passed into the Latin alphabet via Greek colonies in Italy. Subsequently in Greek it came to be used for a long "e" sound; the "h" sound being indicated by a fragment of the letter, which later was reduced to the aspiration mark.
In Germanic it was used for the voiceless breath sound when at the beginning of words, and in the middle or at the end of words for the rough guttural sound, which later came to be written -gh.
The sound became totally silent in Vulgar Latin and in the languages that emerged from it; thus the letter was omitted in Old French and Italian, but it was restored pedantically in French and Middle English spelling, and often later in English pronunciation. Thus Modern English has words ultimately from Latin with missing -h- (able, from Latin habile); with a silent -h- (heir, hour); with a formerly silent -h- now often vocalized (humble, humor, herb); and even a few with an unetymological -h- fitted in confusion to words that never had one (hostage, hermit). Relics of the formerly unvoiced -h- persist in pedantic insistence on an historical (object) and in obsolete mine host.
The pronunciation "aitch" was in Old French (ache "name of the letter H"), and is from a presumed Late Latin *accha (compare Italian effe, elle, emme), with the central sound approximating the rough, guttural value of the letter in Germanic. In earlier Latin the letter was called ha. The use in digraphs (as in -sh-, -th-) goes back to the ancient Greek alphabet, which used it in -ph-, -th-, -kh- until -H- took on the value of a long "e" and the digraphs acquired their own characters. The letter passed into Roman use before this evolution, and thus retained there more of its original Semitic value.
"the Scriptures of the Old and New Testaments," early 14c., from Anglo-Latin biblia, Old French bible (13c.) "the Bible," also any large book generally, from Medieval and Late Latin biblia "the Bible" (neuter plural interpreted as feminine singular), from phrase biblia sacra "holy books," a translation of Greek ta biblia to hagia "the holy books." The Latin word is from the Greek one, biblion "paper, scroll," also the ordinary word for "a book as a division of a larger work;" see biblio-.
The Christian scripture was referred to in Greek as Ta Biblia as early as c. 223. Bible replaced Old English biblioðece (see bibliothec) as the ordinary word for "the Scriptures." Figurative sense of "any authoritative book" is from 1804. Bible-thumper "strict Christian" is from 1870. Bible belt in reference to the swath of the U.S. South then dominated by fundamentalist Christians is from 1926; likely coined by H.L. Mencken.
Her first husband was a missionary to China, and died miserably out there, leaving her with a small baby and no funds. Her second seems to have left her nearly as quickly, though under his own steam: her souvenir was another infant. For years she toured the Bible Belt in a Ford, haranguing the morons nightly under canvas. [H.L. Mencken, review of Aimee Semple McPherson's "In the Service of the King: The Story of My Life," The American Mercury, April 1928]
Walter Scott and Pope's Homer were reading of my own election, but my mother forced me, by steady daily toil, to learn long chapters of the Bible by heart; as well as to read it every syllable through, aloud, hard names and all, from Genesis to the Apocalypse, about once a year; and to that discipline — patient, accurate, and resolute — I owe, not only a knowledge of the book, which I find occasionally serviceable, but much of my general power of taking pains, and the best part of my taste in literature. ... [O]nce knowing the 32nd of Deuteronomy, the 119th Psalm, the 15th of 1st Corinthians, the Sermon on the Mount, and most of the Apocalypse, every syllable by heart, and having always a way of thinking with myself what words meant, it was not possible for me, even in the foolishest times of youth, to write entirely superficial or formal English .... [John Ruskin, "Fors Clavigera," 1871]
fourteenth letter of the English alphabet; in chemistry, the symbol for nitrogen.
In late Middle English a and an commonly were joined to the following noun, if that word began with a vowel, which caused confusion over how such words ought to be divided when written separately. In nickname, newt, and British dialectal naunt, the -n- belongs to a preceding indefinite article an or possessive pronoun mine.
Other examples of this from Middle English manuscripts include a neilond ("an island," early 13c.), a narawe ("an arrow," c. 1400), a nox ("an ox," c. 1400), a noke ("an oak," early 15c.), a nappyle ("an apple," early 15c.), a negge ("an egg," 15c.), a nynche ("an inch," c. 1400), a nostryche ("an ostrich," c. 1500). A manuscript from c. 1500 has a nylle for "an isle." My naunt for mine aunt is recorded from 13c.-17c. None other could be no noder (mid-15c.). My nown (for mine own) was frequent 15c.-18c. In 16c., an idiot sometimes became a nidiot (1530s), which, with still-common casual pronunciation, became nidget (1570s), which, alas, has not survived. Also compare nonce, pigsney. Even in 19c. provincial English and U.S., noration (from an oration) was "a speech; a rumor."
The process also worked in surnames, from oblique cases of Old English at "by, near," as in Nock/Nokes/Noaks from atten Oke "by the oak;" Nye from atten ye "near the lowland;" and see Nashville. (Elision of the vowel of the definite article also took place and was standard in Chancery English of the 15c.: þarchebisshop for "the archbishop," thorient for "the orient.")
But it is more common for an English word to lose an -n- to a preceding a: apron, auger, adder, umpire, humble pie, etc. By a related error in Elizabethan English, natomy or atomy was common for anatomy, noyance (annoyance) and noying (adj.) turn up 14c.-17c., and Marlowe (1590) has Natolian for Anatolian. The tendency is not limited to English: compare Luxor, jade (n.1), lute, omelet, and Modern Greek mera for hēmera, the first syllable being confused with the article.
The mathematical use of n for "an indefinite number" is attested by 1717 in phrases such as to the nth power (see nth). In Middle English n. was written in form documents to indicate an unspecified name of a person to be supplied by the speaker or reader.
1507, "the western hemisphere, North and South America," in Cartographer Martin Waldseemüller's treatise "Cosmographiae Introductio," from Modern Latin Americanus, after Amerigo Vespucci (1454-1512) who made two trips to the New World as a navigator and claimed to have discovered it. His published works put forward the idea that it was a new continent, and he was first to call it Novus Mundus "New World." Amerigo is more easily Latinized than Vespucci (Latin Vesputius, which might have yielded place-name Vesputia). The sense in English naturally was restricted toward the British colonies, then the United States.
The man's name Amerigo is Germanic, said to derive from Gothic Amalrich, literally "work-ruler." The Old English form of the name has come down as surnames Emmerich, Emery, etc. The Italian fem. form merged into Amelia.
Colloquial pronunciation "Ameri-kay," not uncommon 19c., goes back to at least 1643 and a poem that rhymed the word with away. Amerika "U.S. society viewed as racist, fascist, oppressive, etc." is attested from 1969; the spelling is German but may also suggest the KKK.
It is a thousand pities that the puny witticisms of a few professional objectors should have the power to prevent, even for a year, the adoption of a name for our country. At present we have, clearly, none. There should be no hesitation about "Appalachia." In the first place, it is distinctive. "America" is not, and can never be made so. We may legislate as much as we please, and assume for our country whatever name we think right — but to use it will be no name, to any purpose for which a name is needed, unless we can take it away from the regions which employ it at present. South America is "America," and will insist upon remaining so. [Edgar Allan Poe, "Marginalia," in Graham's Magazine, Philadelphia, December 1846]
FREDONIA, FREDONIAN, FREDE, FREDISH, &c. &c. These extraordinary words, which have been deservedly ridiculed here as well as in England, were proposed sometime ago, and countenanced by two or three individuals, as names for the territory and people of the United States. The general term American is now commonly understood (at least in all places where the English language is spoken,) to mean an inhabitant of the United States; and is so employed, except where unusual precision of language is required. [John Pickering, "A Vocabulary, or Collection of Words and Phrases Which Have Been Supposed to be Peculiar to the United States of America," Boston, 1816]
eighteenth letter of the English alphabet, traceable to Phoenician and always representing more or less the same sound, which in many languages is typically so resonant and continuous as to be nearly akin to the vowels, but in English is closer to -l-.
It was aspirated at the start of words (hr-) in Old English, as in Greek, but this was abandoned in English spelling and pronunciation by the end of the Old English period, but the rh- spelling survives in many words borrowed from Greek. In many languages and some dialects (e.g. Scottish) it is pronounced with a distinct trilling vibration of the tongue-tip, which gave it its ancient nickname of "the dog letter;" in other regional dialects (e.g. Boston) it is omitted unless followed by a vowel, while in others it is introduced artificially in pronunciation ("idear," "drawring").
If all our r's that are written are pronounced, the sound is more common than any other in English utterance (over seven per cent.); the instances of occurrence before a vowel, and so of universal pronunciation, are only half as frequent. There are localities where the normal vibration of the tip of the tongue is replaced by one of the uvula, making a guttural trill, which is still more entitled to the name of "dog's letter" than is the ordinary r; such are considerable parts of France and Germany; the sound appears to occur only sporadically in English pronunciation. [Century Dictionary]
Louise Pound ("The Humorous 'R'") notes that in British humorous writing, -ar- "popularly indicates the sound of the vowel in father" and formations like larf (for laugh) "are to be read with the broad vowel but no uttered r."
The moment we encounter the added r's of purp or dorg in our reading we know that we have to do with humor, and so with school-marm. The added consonants are supposed to be spoken, if the words are uttered, but, as a matter of fact, they are less often uttered than seen. The words are, indeed, largely visual forms; the humor is chiefly for the eye. [Louise Pound, "The Humorous 'R,'" American Mercury, October 1924]
She also quotes Henry James on the characteristic prominence of the medial -r- sound (which tends to be dropped in England and New England) in the speech of the U.S. Midwest, "under some strange impulse received toward consonantal recovery of balance, making it present even in words from which it is absent, bringing it in everywhere as with the small vulgar effect of a sort of morose grinding of the back teeth."
In a circle, meaning "registered (trademark)," attested by 1925. R&R "rest and relaxation," is attested by 1953, American English; R&B "rhythm and blues" (type of popular music) is attested by 1949, American English. Form three Rs, see Three Rs.