Old English mara "greater, relatively greater, more, stronger, mightier," used as a comparative of micel "great" (see mickle), from Proto-Germanic *maiz (source also of Old Saxon mera, Old Norse meiri, Old Frisian mara, Middle Dutch mere, Old High German meriro, German mehr, Gothic maiza), from PIE *meis- (source also of Avestan mazja "greater," Old Irish mor "great," Welsh mawr "great," Greek -moros "great," Oscan mais "more"), perhaps from a root *me- "big."
Sometimes used as an adverb in Old English ("in addition"), but Old English generally used related ma "more" as adverb and noun. This became Middle English mo, but more in this sense began to predominate in later Middle English.
"Take some more tea," the March Hare said to Alice, very earnestly.
"I've had nothing yet," Alice replied in an offended tone, "so I can't take more."
"You mean you can't take less," said the Hatter: "it's very easy to take more than nothing."
As a noun, "a greater quantity, amount, or number," in Old English. More and more "larger and larger amounts" is from 12c. More or less "in a greater or lesser degree" is from early 13c.; appended to a statement to indicate nearness but not precision, from 1580s. The more the merrier "the larger the company the greater the enjoyment" is from late 14c. (þe mo þe myryer).
An Old English masc. noun meaning "male witch, wizard, soothsayer, sorcerer, astrologer, magician;" see witch. Use of the word in modern contexts traces to English folklorist Gerald Gardner (1884-1964), who is said to have joined circa 1939 an occult group in New Forest, Hampshire, England, for which he claimed an unbroken tradition to medieval times. Gardner seems to have first used it in print in 1954, in his book "Witchcraft Today" ("Witches were the Wica or wise people, with herbal
knowledge and a working occult teaching usually used for good ...."). In published and unpublished material, he apparently only ever used the word as a mass noun referring to adherents of the practice and not as the name of the practice itself. Some of his followers continue to use it in this sense. According to Gardner's book "The Meaning of Witchcraft" (1959), the word, as used in the initiation ceremony, played a key role in his experience:
I realised that I had stumbled upon something interesting; but I was half-initiated before the word, 'Wica' which they used hit me like a thunderbolt, and I knew where I was, and that the Old Religion still existed. And so I found myself in the Circle, and there took the usual oath of secrecy, which bound me not to reveal certain things.
In the late 1960s the term came into use as the title of a modern pagan movement associated with witchcraft. The first printed reference in this usage seems to be 1969, in "The Truth About Witchcraft" by freelance author Hans Holzer:
If the practice of the Old Religion, which is also called Wicca (Craft of the Wise), and thence, witchcraft, is a reputable and useful cult, then it is worthy of public interest.
And, quoting witch Alex Sanders:
"No, a witch wedding still needs a civil ceremony to make it legal. Wicca itself as a religion is not registered yet. But it is about time somebody registered it, I think. I've done all I can to call attention to our religion."
Sanders was a highly visible representative of neo-pagan Witchcraft in the late 1960s and early 1970s. During this time he appears to have popularized use of the term in this sense. Later books c. 1989 teaching modernized witchcraft using the same term account for its rise and popularity, especially in U.S.
"man who draws attention by unusual finery of dress and fastidiousness manners, a fop," c. 1780, of uncertain origin; attested earliest in a Scottish border ballad:
I've heard my granny crack
O' sixty twa years back
When there were sic a stock of Dandies O
etc. In that region, Dandy is diminutive of Andrew (as it was in Middle English generally). OED notes that the word was in vogue in London c. 1813-1819. His female counterpart was a dandizette (1821) with French-type ending.
Meaning "anything superlative or fine" is from 1786. As an adjective, "characteristic of a dandy, affectedly neat and trim," by 1813; earlier in the sense of "fine, splendid, first-rate" (1792) and in this sense it was very popular c. 1880-1900.
The popular guess, since at least 1827, is that it is from French Dandin, a mock surname for a foolish person used in 16c. by Rabelais (Perrin Dandin), also by Racine, La Fontaine, and Molière, from dandiner "to walk awkwardly, waddle." Farmer rejects this and derives it from dandyprat, an Elizabethan word for "a dwarf; a page; a young or insignificant person," originally (early 16c.) the name of a small silver coin. Both words are of unknown origin, and OED finds the connection of both to dandy to be "without any apparent ground." English dandy was itself borrowed into French c. 1830.
Jack-a-Dandy, or Jack O'Dandy figures in writings from the early 17c. He is listed among other famous Jacks in "Iack a Lent" (1620) and is sometimes defined as an impertinent little man, but other uses are unclear as to sense and in at least one instance from 1620s he is a bogeyman character.
DANDY was first applied half in admiration half in derision to a fop about the year 1816. John Bee (Slang Dict., 1823) says that Lord Petersham was the chief of these successors to the departed Macaronis, and gives, as their peculiarities, 'French gait, lispings, wrinkled foreheads, killing king's English, wearing immense plaited pantaloons, coat cut away, small waistcoat, cravat and chitterlings immense, hat small, hair frizzled and protruding.' [Farmer and Henley, "Slang and its Analogues," 1891]
Middle English sēn, from Old English seon (Anglian sean) "be or become aware of by means of the eye; look, behold;" also "perceive mentally, understand; experience; visit (a place); inspect" (contracted class V strong verb; past tense seah, past participle sewen), from Proto-Germanic *sehwanan (source also of Old Saxon, Old High German sehan, Middle High German, German sehen, Old Frisian sia, Middle Dutch sien, Old Norse sja, Gothic saihwan).
This is reconstructed to be from PIE root *sekw- (2) "to see." That PIE root often was said to be probably identical with *sekw- (1) "to follow," which produced words for "say" in Greek and Latin, and also words for "follow" (such as Latin sequor), but "opinions differ in regard to the semantic starting-point and sequences" [Buck]. Thus see might mean, etymologically, "follow with the eyes" (and in some languages extending to "speak, say, tell"). But OED finds this "involves a hypothetical sense-development which it is not easy to accept with confidence," and Boutkan also doubts the connection and gives the word "No certain PIE etymology."
It is attested by late Old English as "be able to see with the eyes, have the faculty of sight, not be blind."
As the sense of sight affords far more complete and definite information respecting external objects than any other of the senses, mental perceptions are in many (perh. in all) languages referred to in visual terms, and often with little or no consciousness of metaphor. [OED]
English see has been used in many of these senses since early Middle English: "foresee; behold in the imagination or in a dream," also "to recognize the force of (a demonstration)," all c. 1200.
It is attested by c. 1300 as "ensure, make sure" (something is so, someone does something). To see to is by late 14c. as "be attentive to, take special care about" (also "to look at"); hence "attend to, arrange for, bring about as a result." See to it "take special care; see that it be done" is from late 15c.
The sense of "escort" (as in see you home) is attested c. 1600 in Shakespeare. The meaning "to receive as a visitor" is attested from c. 1500. The wagering sense of "equal a bet, accept by staking a similar sum" is by 1590s. Used in phrases expressing comparative and superlative (best I've ever seen) from early 14c.
Imperative use of see! "look! behold!" is by early 14c. Emphatic expression see here is attested from early 15c.; probably the notion is "see, here is ...;" but the modern use of it as "a brusque form of address used to preface an order," etc. [OED] is by 1897 in schoolboy talk. The qualifying expression as far as I can see is attested from 1560s.
Let me see as a statement expressing consideration when the speaker is trying to recall something is recorded from 1510s. See you as a casual farewell is attested by 1891 (see you soon; probably short for hope to see you soon). To see something in (someone, etc.) "perceive good or attractive qualities in" is by 1832.
1786, earlier neger (1568, Scottish and northern England dialect), negar, negur, from French nègre, from Spanish negro (see Negro). From the earliest usage it was "the term that carries with it all the obloquy and contempt and rejection which whites have inflicted on blacks" [cited in Gowers, 1965, probably Harold R. Isaacs]. But as black African inferiority was at one time a near universal assumption in English-speaking lands, the word in some cases could be used without deliberate insult. More sympathetic writers late 18c. and early 19c. seem to have used black (n.) and, after the American Civil War, colored person.
Nigger is more English in form than negro, and was formerly and to some extent still is used without intent; but its use is now confined to colloquial or illiterate speech, in which it generally conveys more or less of contempt. [Century Dictionary, 1895]
"You're a fool nigger, and the worst day's work Pa ever did was to buy you," said Scarlett slowly. ... There, she thought, I've said "nigger" and Mother wouldn't like that at all. [Margaret Mitchell, "Gone With the Wind," 1936]
It was also applied by English colonists to the dark-skinned native peoples in India, Australia, Polynesia.
One hears the contemptuous term "nigger" still applied to natives by those who should know better, especially by youths just come from home, and somewhat intoxicated by sudden power. [Samuel Smith, "India Revisited," in "The Contemporary Review," July 1886]
The reclamation of the word as a neutral or positive term in black culture (not universally regarded as a worthwhile enterprise), often with a suggestion of "soul" or "style," is attested first in the U.S. South, later (1968) in the Northern, urban-based Black Power movement. The variant nigga, attested from 1827 (as niggah from 1835), is found usually in situations where blacks use the word. Also compare nigra.
[F]or when a town black has called a country black (equally black with himself) a "dam black plantation nigga," you may know that he has been terribly provoked, and has now ejected his last drop of gall in that most contemptuous epithet. [The Pamphleteer, vol. XXVIII, No. LVI, 1827]
Used in combinations (such as nigger-brown) since 1840s for various dark brown or black hues or objects; euphemistic substitutions (such as Zulu) began to appear in these senses c. 1917. Brazil nuts were called nigger toes by 1896. Nigger stick "prison guard's baton" is attested by 1971. To work like a nigger "work very hard" is by 1836.
Slang phrase nigger in the woodpile "a concealed motive or unknown factor affecting a situation in an adverse way" [OED] is attested by 1800; Thornton's "American Glossary" (1912) defines it as "A mode of accounting for the disappearance of fuel," hence "an unsolved mystery." Nigger heaven "the top gallery in a (segregated) theater" first attested 1878 in reference to Troy, N.Y. Nigger-shooter "slingshot" is by 1876.