a word used to denote the marriage of a man of high rank to a woman of lower station with stipulations limiting her claims, also of the marriage of a woman of high rank to a man of lower station; 1727, from French morganatique (18c.), from Medieval Latin matrimonium ad morganaticam "marriage of the morning," probably from Old High German *morgangeba (Middle High German morgengabe) "morning gift," corresponding to Old English morgengifu (see morn + gift (n.) ).
In an unequal marriage between a man of royal blood and a common woman, this was a gift traditionally given to the wife on the morning after consummation, representing the only share she and her children may claim in the husband's estate. Also known as left-handed marriage, because the groom gives the bride his left hand instead of his right, but sometimes this latter term is used of a class of marriage (especially in Germany) where the spouse of inferior rank is not elevated, but the children inherit rights of succession. Related: Morganatically.
late 14c., of a person, "to trim, to dress up," probably a variation of Middle English proynen, proinen, of a bird, "trim the feather with the beak;" of a person, "to dress or groom oneself carefully" (see prune (v.)). Middle English prene "to pin, pierce, fasten with a pin" probably influenced the form of this word. It is from Old English preon, a general Germanic word (compare Dutch priemen, Low German prünen, East Frisian prinen).
In English, the use in reference to a bird, "to trim the feathers with the beak," is from late 15c. Because of the late medieval popularity of falconry, bird activities were more closely observed and words for them were more precise in English than today.
Youre hawke proynith and not pikith and she prenyth not bot whan she begynnyth at hir leggys, and fetcheth moystour like oyle at hir taill. ["Book of St. Albans," 1486]
Preening as a present-participle adjective meaning "proud, self-confident" is by 1903.
late 14c., from Old French escuier "shield-bearer (attendant young man in training to be a knight), groom" (Modern French écuyer), from Medieval Latin scutarius "shield-bearer, guardsman" (in classical Latin, "shield-maker"), from scutum "shield" (see escutcheon). For initial e-, see e-. Compare squire (n.). Originally the feudal rank below knight, sense broadened 16c. to a general title of courtesy or respect for the educated and professional class, especially, later, in U.S., regarded as belonging especially to lawyers.
In our own dear title-bearing, democratic land, the title of esquire, officially and by courtesy, has come to include pretty much everybody. Of course everybody in office is an esquire, and all who have been in office enjoy and glory in the title. And what with a standing army of legislators, an elective and ever-changing magistracy, and almost a whole population of militia officers, present and past, all named as esquires in their commissions, the title is nearly universal. [N.Y. Commercial Advertiser newspaper, quoted in Bartlett, 1859]
late 14c., prouynen, proinen, of a bird, "to trim the feathers with the beak;" of a person, "to dress or groom oneself carefully," from an extended or transferred sense of Old French proignier, poroindre "cut back (vines), prune" (Modern French provigner), a word of unknown origin. Compare preen, which seems to be a variant of this word that kept the original senses.
The main modern sense of "lop superfluous twigs or branches from" is from 1540s, perhaps a separate borrowing of the French word. It is earlier in English in a general sense of "lop off as superfluous or injurious" (early 15c.).
Perhaps [Watkins] from Gallo-Roman *pro-retundiare "cut in a rounded shape in front," from pro "forth" (see pro-) + *retundiare "round off," from Latin rotundus (see round (adj.)). Klein suggests the Old French word is from provain "layer of a vine," from Latin propago (see prop (n.1)).
Related: Pruned; pruning. Pruning hook, knife with a hooked blade used for pruning plants, is from 1610s; pruning knife, knife with a curved blade, is from 1580s.
mid-13c. "that which is given" (c. 1100 in surnames), from a Scandinavian source such as Old Norse gift, gipt "gift; good luck," from Proto-Germanic *geftiz (source also of Old Saxon gift, Old Frisian jefte, Middle Dutch ghifte "gift," German Mitgift "dowry"), from *geb- "to give," from PIE root *ghabh- "to give or receive." For German Gift, Dutch, Danish, Swedish gift "poison," see poison (n.).
Sense of "natural talent" (regarded as conferred) is from c. 1300, perhaps from earlier sense of "inspiration, power miraculously bestowed" (late 12c.), as in the Biblical gift of tongues. Old English cognate gift is recorded only in the sense "bride-price, marriage gift (by the groom), dowry" (hence gifta (pl.) "a marriage, nuptials"). The Old English noun for "a giving, gift" was giefu, which is related to the Old Norse word. Sense of "natural talent" is c. 1300, perhaps from earlier sense of "inspiration" (late 12c.). The proverbial gift horse was earlier given horse:
No man ought to looke a geuen hors in the mouth. [Heywood, 1546]
The modern form perhaps traces to Butler's "Hudibras" (1663), where the tight iambic tetrameter required a shorter phrase:
He ne'er consider'd it, as loth
To look a Gift-horse in the mouth.