Old English hwit "whiteness, white food, white of an egg," from white (adj.). Also in late Old English "a highly luminous color devoid of chroma." Meaning "white part of the eyeball" is from c. 1400. Meaning "white man, person of a race distinguished by light complexion" is from 1670s; white man in this sense is from 1690s. White man's burden is from Kipling's 1899 poem:
Take up the White Man's burden—
The savage wars of peace—
Fill full the mouth of Famine
And bid the sickness cease;
And when your goal is nearest
The end for others sought,
Watch sloth and heathen Folly
Bring all your hopes to nought.
"one who changes from one sect, creed, etc. to another," late 14c., proselite, "a convert, especially "a heathen convert to Judaism" (in Biblical writings, e.g. Matthew xxiii.15, Ezekiel xiv.7), from Old French proselite (13c., Modern French prosélyte), from Late Latin proselytus, from Greek prosēlytos "convert (to Judaism), stranger," literally "one who has come over."
It is a noun use of an adjective meaning "having arrived," from pros "from, forth, toward" (see pros-) + eleusomai "to go, come" (from PIE *elu-to-, from root *leudh- "to grow up, come out" (see liberal (adj.)).
c. 1200, "an evil spirit, malignant supernatural being, an incubus, a devil," from Latin daemon "spirit," from Greek daimōn "deity, divine power; lesser god; guiding spirit, tutelary deity" (sometimes including souls of the dead); "one's genius, lot, or fortune;" from PIE *dai-mon- "divider, provider" (of fortunes or destinies), from root *da- "to divide."
The malignant sense is because the Greek word was used (with daimonion) in Christian Greek translations and the Vulgate for "god of the heathen, heathen idol" and also for "unclean spirit." Jewish authors earlier had employed the Greek word in this sense, using it to render shedim "lords, idols" in the Septuagint, and Matthew viii.31 has daimones, translated as deofol in Old English, feend or deuil in Middle English. Another Old English word for this was hellcniht, literally "hell-knight."
The usual ancient Greek sense, "supernatural agent or intelligence lower than a god, ministering spirit" is attested in English from 1560s and is sometimes written daemon or daimon for purposes of distinction. Meaning "destructive or hideous person" is from 1610s; as "an evil agency personified" (rum, etc.) from 1712.
The Demon of Socrates (late 14c. in English) was a daimonion, a "divine principle or inward oracle." His accusers, and later the Church Fathers, however, represented this otherwise. The Demon Star (1895) is Algol (q.v.) .
Technically, "a non-Muslim," but in Ottoman times it came to be used there almost exclusively as the disparaging word for "Christian." It also was used by Muslims in East Africa of the pagan black Africans; English missionaries then picked it up as an equivalent of "heathen" to refer to Bantus in South Africa (1731), from which use in English it came generally to mean "South African black" regardless of ethnicity, and to be a term of abuse at least since 1934.
Pope Gregory the Great intended to make London, as the largest southern Anglo-Saxon city, the metropolitan see of southern England, but Christianity got a foothold first in the minor kingdom of Kent, whose heathen ruler Ethelbert had married a Frankish Christian princess. London was in the Kingdom of Essex and out of reach of the missionaries at first. Therefore, in part perhaps to flatter Ethelbert, his capital was made the cathedral city. Related: Canterburian. The shrine of Thomas à Becket, murdered there 1170, was a favorite pilgrimage destination.
late 15c. (earlier ethnical, early 15c.) "pagan, heathen," from Late Latin ethnicus, from Greek ethnikos "of or for a nation, national," by some writers (Polybius, etc.) "adopted to the genius or customs of a people, peculiar to a people," and among the grammarians "suited to the manners or language of foreigners," from ethnos "band of people living together, nation, people, tribe, caste," also used of swarms or flocks of animals, properly "people of one's own kind," from PIE *swedh-no-, suffixed form of root *s(w)e-, third person pronoun and reflexive, also forming words referring to the social group (see idiom). Earlier in English as a noun, "a heathen, pagan, one who is not a Christian or Jew" (c. 1400). In modern noun use, "member of an ethnic group," from 1945.
In Septuagint, Greek ta ethne translates Hebrew goyim, plural of goy "nation," especially of non-Israelites, hence especially "gentile nation, foreign nation not worshipping the true God" (see goy), and ethnikos is used by ecclesiastical writers in a sense of "savoring of the nature of pagans, alien to the worship of the true God," and as a noun "the pagan, the gentile." The classical sense of "peculiar to a race or nation" in English is attested from 1851, a return to the word's original meaning; that of "different cultural groups" is 1935; and that of "racial, cultural or national minority group" is American English 1945. Ethnic cleansing is attested from 1991.
Although the term 'ethnic cleansing' has come into English usage only recently, its verbal correlates in Czech, French, German, and Polish go back much further. [Jerry Z. Muller, "Us and Them: The Enduring Power of Ethnic Nationalism," Foreign Affairs, March/April 2008]
Old English geol, geola "Christmas Day, Christmastide," which is cognate with Old Norse jol (plural), the name of a heathen feast, later taken over by Christianity; the Germanic word is of unknown origin. The Old English (Anglian) cognate giuli was the Anglo-Saxons' name for a two-month midwinter season corresponding to Roman December and January, a time of important feasts but not itself a festival.
After conversion to Christianity the word narrowed to mean "the 12-day feast of the Nativity" (which began Dec. 25), but was replaced by Christmas by 11c., except in the northeast (areas of Danish settlement), where it remained the usual word.
Revived 19c. by writers to mean "the Christmas of 'Merrie England.' " First direct reference to the Yule log is 17c. According to some sources, Old Norse jol was borrowed into Old French as jolif, hence Modern French joli "pretty, nice," originally "festive" (see jolly).
Middle English Saracene, Sarcene, Sarazyn, Sarasine, "a Turk; an Arab; a Muslim," from Old English (in translations from Latin), from Old French Saracin, Sarrasine or Medieval Latin Saracenus, from Greek sarakenos. This usually is said to be from Arabic sharquiyin, accusative plural of sharqiy "eastern," from sharq "east, sunrise," but this is not certain. In medieval times the name was associated with that of Biblical Sarah (q.v.).
Peple þat cleped hem self Saracenys, as þogh þey were i-come of Sarra [Ranulph Higden’s "Polychronicon," mid-14c., John Trevisa's translation, 1380s ]
It was the name Greeks and Romans gave to the nomads of the Syrian and Arabian deserts and the inhabitants of Arabia Felix, in the West it took on a sense of "Middle Eastern Muslim" from the Crusades. It also could be applied to any non-Christian people against whom a crusade was preached (the pagan Lithuanians), and in Middle English it was used generally for "one who is not a Christian or Jew; heathen, pagan" (mid-13c.). From c. 1300 as an adjective. Related: Saracenic; Sarcenism ("Islam"), and compare sarsen. Sarsinrie, "the Saracen people or country," is attested in mid-15c.
Sense evolved in English and French to "having the character or manners of one of noble rank or birth," varying according to how those were defined. From mid-13c. in English as "gracious, kind" (now obsolete), manners prescribed for Christian or chivalrous nobility. From late 13c. as "courteous, polite, well-bred, charming;" c. 1300 as "graceful, beautiful." Meaning "mild, tender; easy; not harsh" (of animals, things, persons) is from 1550s. Older sense remains in gentleman, and compare gentile (adj.), an alternative form which tends to keep the Biblical senses of the Latin word (though gentle in Middle English sometimes meant "pagan, heathen"), and genteel, which is the same word borrowed again from French. From 1823 as "pertaining to the fairies."
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]