also diaeresis, 1610s, "sign or mark ( ) regularly placed over the second of two contiguous vowels to indicate they are pronounced as two simple sounds," from Late Latin diaeresis, from Greek diairesis "division," noun of action from diairein "to divide, separate," from dia "apart" (see dia-) + hairein "to take" (see heresy).
Meaning "separate pronunciation of two vowels usually united as a diphthong" is from 1650s. In classical prosody, "the slight break in the forward motion of a line that is felt when the end of a foot coincides with the end of a word" [Miller Williams, "Patterns of Poetry"]. Related: dieretic; diaeretic.
late 13c., "white fibrous substance containing the seeds of the cotton plant," from Old French coton (12c.), ultimately (via Provenal, Italian, or Old Spanish) from Arabic qutn, a word perhaps of Egyptian origin. Also ultimately from the Arabic word are Dutch katoen, German Kattun, Provenal coton, Italian cotone, Spanish algodon, Portuguese algodo.
As "cloth made of cotton," from early 15c. Meaning "the cotton plant" is from c. 1400. As an adjective, "made of cotton," from 1550s. Cotton gin is recorded from 1794 (see gin (n.2)). Philip Miller of the Chelsea Physic Garden sent the first cotton seeds to American colony of Georgia in 1732.
1630s, "Any rhyming verse in which the meter is forced into metronomic regularity by the stressing of normally unstressed syllables and in which rhyme is forced or banal" [Miller Williams, "Patterns of Poetry"]. Earlier as an adjective (rim doggerel, late 14c.), an epithet applied to loose, irregular verse in burlesque poetry.
Probably from pejorative suffix -rel + dog (n.), but the sense connection is not obvious. Perhaps it was applied to bad poetry with a suggestion of puppyish clumsiness, or being fit only for dogs, or from the "mean, contemptible" associations of dog in Middle English. Attested as a surname from late 13c., but the sense is not evident. Related: Doggerelist.
1727, "resemblance of sounds between words other than rhyme," from French assonance, from assonant, from Latin assonantem (nominative assonans), present participle of assonare/adsonare "to resound, respond," from ad "to" (see ad-) + sonare "to sound" (from PIE root *swen- "to sound").
More specific sense in prosody of "rhyming or correspondence of accented vowels but not consonants" is from 1823. In 20c. the sense tended to merge with consonance in the notion of slant rhyme, off rhyme, but properly there is a distinction.
Assonance is the relationship between words with different consonants immediately preceding and following the last accented vowels, which vowels have identical sounds (hit/will, disturb/bird, absolute/unglued). Consonance is the relationship between words whose final accented vowel sounds are different but with the same consonant frame (truck/trick, billion/bullion, impelling/compiling, trance/trounce). [Miller Williams, "Patterns of Poetry"]
1580s, "pertaining to or constituting a lengthy heroic poem," via French épique or directly from Latin epicus, from Greek epikos, from epos "a word; a tale, story; promise, prophecy, proverb; poetry in heroic verse" (from PIE root *wekw- "to speak").
Extended sense of "grand, heroic" is recorded in English by 1731. From 1706 as a noun in reference to an epic poem, "A long narrative told on a grand scale of time and place, featuring a larger-than-life protagonist and heroic actions" [Miller Williams, "Patterns of Poetry"]. Earlier as "an epic poet" (1630s).
I believe the word 'epic' is usually understood by English readers to mean merely a long and grand poem instead of a short slight one—at least, I know that as a boy I remained long under that impression myself. It really means a poem in which story-telling, and philosophical reflection as its accompaniment, take the place of dramatic action, and impulsive song. [Ruskin, "Elements of English Prosody, for use in St. George's Schools," 1880]
type of nonsense verse of five lines, 1896, perhaps from the county and city of Limerick in Ireland, but if so the connection is obscure. Often (after OED's Murray) attributed to a party game in which each guest in turn made up a nonsense verse and all sang a refrain with the line "Will you come up to Limerick?" but he reported this in 1898 and earlier evidence is wanting. Or perhaps from Learic, from Edward Lear (1812-1888) English humorist who popularized the form. Earliest examples are in French, which further complicates the quest for the origin. OED's first record of the word is in a letter of Aubrey Beardsley.
The limerick may be the only traditional form in English not borrowed from the poetry of another language. ... John Ciardi suggests that the Irish Brigade, which served in France for most of the eighteenth century, might have taken the form to France or developed an English version of a French form. ... The contemporary limerick usually depends on a pun or some other turn of wit. It is also likely to be somewhat suggestive or downright dirty. [Miller Williams, "Patterns of Poetry," Baton Rouge: Louisiana State University, 1986]
The place name is literally "bare ground," from Irish Liumneach, from lom "bare, thin." It was famous for hooks.
Old English drifan "to compel or urge to move, impel in some direction or manner; to hunt (deer), pursue; to rush against" (class I strong verb; past tense draf, past participle drifen), from Proto-Germanic *dreibanan (source also of Old Frisian driva"I lead, impel, drive (away)," Old Saxon driban, Dutch drijven, Old High German triban, German treiben, Old Norse drifa, Gothic dreiban "to drive"), perhaps from PIE root *dhreibh- "to drive, push," but it may be a Germanic isolated word.
Used in Old English of nails, ships, plows, vehicles, cattle; in Middle English of bargains. Meaning "compel or incite to action or condition of any kind" (drive mad) is by late 12c. Sense of "work with energy, labor actively" is c. 1200; that of "aim a blow" is by early 14c.. Transitive meaning "convey (someone) in a carriage," later an automobile, is from 1660s. The original sense of "pushing from behind" was altered in Modern English by application to automobiles. Related: Driving.
MILLER: "The more you drive, the less intelligent you are." ["Repo Man," 1984]
1590s, "offensive to the senses, or to taste and refinement," from French obscène (16c.), from Latin obscenus "offensive," especially to modesty, originally "boding ill, inauspicious," a word of unknown origin; perhaps from ob "in front of" (see ob-) + caenum "filth."
The meaning "offensive to modesty or decency, impure, unchaste" is attested from 1590s. Legally, "any impure or indecent publication tending to corrupt the mind and to subvert respect for decency and morality." In modern U.S. law, the definition hinged on "whether to the average person, applying contemporary community standards, the dominant theme of the material taken as a whole appeals to a prurient interest." [Justice William Brennan, "Roth v. United States," June 24, 1957]; this was refined in 1973 by "Miller v. California":
The basic guidelines for the trier of fact must be: (a) whether 'the average person, applying contemporary community standards' would find that the work, taken as a whole, appeals to the prurient interest, (b) whether the work depicts or describes, in a patently offensive way, sexual conduct specifically defined by the applicable state law; and (c) whether the work, taken as a whole, lacks serious literary, artistic, political, or scientific value.
1815, "small pellets made of lime or soft plaster, used in Italy during carnival by the revelers for pelting one another in the streets," from Italian plural of confetto "sweetmeat," via Old French, from Latin confectum, confectus (see confection).
The little balls (which left white marks) were substitutes for the small sugar-plum candies that traditionally were thrown during Italian carnivals; the custom was adopted in England by early 19c. for weddings and other occasions, with symbolic tossing of little bits of paper (which are called confetti by 1846).
The chief amusement of the Carnival consists in throwing the confetti—a very ancient practice, and which, with a little research, may be traced up through the Italian Chronicles to the time of the Romans. The confetti were originally of sugar, and the nobility still pique themselves on adhering to so costly a material. The people have degraded them to small balls of lime, which allows more sport, and takes in a much greater number of combatants. [Dr. Abraham Eldon, "The Continental Traveller's Oracle; or, Maxims for Foreign Locomotion," London, 1828]
[The Roman ladies] are generally provided with a small basket of confetti, and as their acquaintance and admirers pass in review, they must be prepared to receive a volley of them. It is thought quite the supreme bon ton for a Roman beau, to mark how many distinguished beauties he is in favour with, by having both his coat and hat covered as white as a miller with the flour of these confetti. [John Bramsen, "Letters of a Prussian Traveller," 1818]