late 14c., satire, "one of a type of woodland deities part human or animal; demigod or spirit of the air or woods, companion of Bacchus," from Old French satire and directly from Latin satyrus, from Greek satyros, a word of unknown origin. "The etymology of [satyros] is unknown. A number of hypotheses have been proposed, but none of them makes sense ..." [Beekes].
In pre-Roman Greek art, a man-like being with the tail and ears of a horse; the conception of a being part man part goat is due to Roman sculptors, who seem to have assimilated them to the fauns of native mythology. In some English bibles the word is used curiously to translate Hebrew se'irim, a type of hairy monster superstitiously believed to inhabit deserts.
In Middle English the word could mean also a kind of ape supposed to live in Africa or Arabia (late 14c.), after a use of Greek satyros, and the name was later applied by zoologists to the orangutan (1690s). From 1781 as "very lecherous or lascivious person." Related: Satyress.
"vulgar, obscene, scurrilous," from Latin Fescenninus (versus), a rude form of dramatic or satiric verse, from Fescennia, city in Etruria, noted for such productions.
The Fescennine Songs were the origin of the Satire, the only important species of literature not derived from the Greeks, and altogether peculiar to Italy. These Fescennine Songs were rude dialogues, in which the country people assailed and ridiculed one another in extempore verses, and which were introduced as an amusement in various festivals. [William Smith, "A Smaller History of Rome," London, 1870]
member of a supposed secret society possessing ancient occult wisdom, 1620s, from Modern Latin rosa crucis (DuCange) or crux, in either case a Latinization of German Rosenkreuz, French rosecroix, in either case from the name of the society's reputed founder, Christian Rosenkreuz, said to date from 1484 but not mentioned before 1614. As an adjective from 1660s. Related: Rosicrucianism.
The book describing the Rosicrucians ("Fama Fraternitatis," published in 1614) is generally regarded as merely an elaborate satire on the charlatanry and credulity of the times. Books of Rosicrucian pretensions were formerly numerous in England as well as in Germany, and several have lately reappeared in the United States. [Century Dictionary, 1895]
1570s, sarcasmus, "a biting taunt or gibe, a satirical remark or expression," from Late Latin sarcasmus, from late Greek sarkasmos "a sneer, jest, taunt, mockery," from sarkazein "to speak bitterly, sneer," literally "to strip off the flesh" (like dogs), from sarx (genitive sarkos) "flesh," properly "piece of meat" (see sarco-). The modern form of the English word is from 1610s. "Now usually in a generalized sense: sarcastic language; sarcastic meaning or purpose" [OED]. Also see humor (n.).
The essential thing about sarcasm is its cutting edge ; it therefore is intensely concentrated, lying in a sentence or a phrase ; it is used to scourge the follies or foibles or vices of men, but has little of reformatory purpose. Satire is more elaborate than sarcasm, is not necessarily bitter, and has, presumably, some aim at the reformation of that which is satirized. [Century Dictionary]
1759 (in translations of Voltaire), from French optimisme (1737), from Modern Latin optimum, used by Gottfried Leibniz (in "Thodice," 1710) to mean "the greatest good," from Latin optimus "the best" (see optimum). The doctrine holds that the actual world is the "best of all possible worlds," in which the creator accomplishes the most good at the cost of the least evil.
En termes de l'art, il l'appelle la raison du meilleur ou plus savamment encore, et Théologiquement autant que Géométriquement, le systême de l'Optimum, ou l'Optimisme. ["Memoires pour l'Histoire Des Sciences & des beaux Arts," (Journal de Trévoux), Feb. 1737]
Launched out of philosophical jargon and into currency by Voltaire's satire on it in "Candide." General sense of "belief that good ultimately will prevail in the world" first attested 1841 in Emerson; meaning "tendency to take a hopeful view of things" first recorded 1819 in Shelley.
late 14c., "force-meat, stuffing;" 1520s, in the dramatic sense "ludicrous satire; low comedy," from French farce "comic interlude in a mystery play" (16c.), literally "stuffing," from Old French farcir "to stuff," (13c.), from Latin farcire "to stuff, cram," which is of uncertain origin, perhaps from PIE *bhrekw- "to cram together," and thus related to frequens "crowded."
... for a farce is that in poetry which grotesque is in a picture. The persons and action of a farce are all unnatural, and the manners false, that is, inconsisting with the characters of mankind. [Dryden, "A Parallel of Poetry and Painting"]
According to OED and other sources, the pseudo-Latin farsia was applied 13c. in France and England to praise phrases inserted into liturgical formulae (for example between kyrie and eleison) at the principal festivals, then in Old French farce was extended to the impromptu buffoonery among actors that was a feature of religious stage plays. Generalized sense of "a ridiculous sham" is from 1690s in English.
late 12c., scathen, "to harm, injure, hurt; to cause harm, damage, or loss to," from Old Norse skaða "to hurt, harm, damage, injure," from Proto-Germanic *skathan- (source also of Old English sceaþian "to hurt, injure," Old Saxon skathon, Old Frisian skathia, Middle Dutch scaden, Dutch schaden, Old High German scadon, German schaden, Gothic scaþjan "to injure, damage").
In some sources this is traced to a PIE *sket- "to injure." The Germanic word was seen as cognate with some Celtic formations and Greek a-skēthēs "unharmed, unscathed," but Beekes finds that connection "impossible" on phonetic grounds and Boutkan, agreeing, writes that "The etymon is limited to Celt.-Gmc." and offers no IE etymology.
It survives mostly in its negative past participle unscathed, and in the figurative meaning "sear with invective or satire" (1852, usually as scathing). The latter seems to have developed specifically from the word in the sense of "scar, scorch" used by Milton in "Paradise Lost" (1667).
Knothead also was used as a term in cattle and sheep raising, defined in 1922 as "a type of poorly bred, stunted northern cattle, about the size of yearlings, but with heavy horns indicating that they are older." It turns up, however, in an 1849 petition to the Ohio Legislature, recommending a certain person for a court position, in part because he is a knot-head, which the report of the petition notes is a term of praise for a judge because they are asked to untangle knotty legal questions, but which phrase, it adds, "is believed not to be in use among gentlemen in the north part of the State." [Appendix to the Journal of the Ohio House of Representatives, Session of 1848-9]
"hard aromatic seed of the fruit of a tree found in the East Indies," used as a spice on cookery, c. 1300, note-mug, from Old North French or Anglo-French *noiz mugue, from Old French nois muguete, an unexplained alteration of nois muscade "nut smelling like musk," from nois "nut" (from Latin nux, from PIE *kneu- "nut;" see nucleus) + Latin muscada, fem. of muscat "musky" (see muscat). Probably influenced in English by Medieval Latin nux maga (compare unaltered Dutch muskaatnoot, German muscatnuß, Swedish muskotnöt).
American English colloquial wooden nutmeg "anything false or fraudulent" is from 1827; Connecticut is called the Nutmeg State "in allusion to the story that wooden nutmegs are there manufactured for exportation." [John Russell Bartlett, "Dictionary of Americanisms," 1859]
At a dinner party, the other day, during a little playful discussion of Yankee character, a bland and benevolent-looking old gentleman at my side informed me that he had come to the conclusion that the wooden-nutmeg story was neither more nor less than a mischievous satire. "For," said he, "there would be such an amount of minute carving required to make a successful imitation of the nutmeg, that the deception would hardly pay the workman. For myself, I do not believe the cheat was ever practised." I thanked him in the name of my country for the justice done her, and assured him that the story of the Yankee having whittled a large lot of unsaleable shoe-pegs into melon seeds, and sold them to the Canadians, was also a base fabrication of our enemies. [Grace Greenwood, "Haps and Mishaps of a Tour in Europe in 1853"]