1820, from German Walpurgisnacht, witches' revel, especially on the Brocken in the Harz Mountains, on May-day eve, literally "the night of (St.) Walpurgis," from Walburga, English abbess who migrated to Heidenheim, Germany, and died there c. 780; May 1 being the day of the removal of her bones from Heidenheim to Eichstädt.
"first of May," on which the opening of the season of flowers and fruit formerly was celebrated throughout Europe, mid-13c.; see May + day (n.). May Queen "girl or young woman crowned with flowers and honored as queen at the games held on May Day," seems to be a Victorian re-invented tradition; the phrase Queen of Maij is attested from c. 1500.
May Day's association with communism (and socialism and anarchism) dates to 1890. A U.S. general strike for an eight-hour workday began May 1, 1886, and culminated in the Haymarket bombing affair in Chicago on May 4. By 1890 strikes, protests, and rallies were being held in Europe by socialist and labor organizations on May 1, at first in support of the eight-hour day, more or less in commemoration of the 1886 strike.
"utmost limit to which one can go," Latin, literally "no more beyond;" the motto traditionally inscribed on the Pillars of Hercules.
"small town house or rooms used for short residences," 1829, French, pied à terre, literally "foot on the ground."
type of chess opening, 1876, from Ruy López de Segura (fl. 1560), Spanish bishop and writer on chess, who developed it.
common name for auricula, 1825, so called from the powder on the leaves and flower; millers, by the nature of their work, being famously dusty.
pieces of lamb or other meat grilled on skewers, 1914, from Armenian shish kabab, from Turkish siskebap, from sis "skewer" + kebap "roast meat."
"evening before the first day of the new year," c. 1300; "þer þay dronken & dalten ... on nwe gerez euen." The Julian calendar began on January 1, but the Christian Church frowned on pagan celebrations of this event and chose the Feast of the Annunciation (March 25) as its New Year's Day. The civic year in England continued to begin January 1 until late 12c., and even though legal documents then shifted to March 25, popular calendars and almanacs continued to begin on January 1. The calendar reform of 1751 restored the Julian New Year in England. New Year's was the main midwinter festival in Scotland from 17c., when Protestant authorities banned Christmas, and continued so after England reverted to Christmas, hence the Scottish flavor ("Auld Lang Syne," etc.). New Year's gathering in public places began 1878 in London, after new bells were installed in St. Paul's.