Etymology
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nicotine (n.)

also nicotin, poisonous volatile alkaloid base found in tobacco leaves, 1819, from French nicotine, earlier nicotiane, from Modern Latin Nicotiana, the formal botanical name for the tobacco plant, named for Jean Nicot (c. 1530-1600), French ambassador to Portugal, who sent tobacco seeds and powdered leaves from Lisbon to France 1561. His name is a diminutive of Nicolas (see Nicholas).

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naphtha (n.)

1570s, from Latin, from Greek naphtha "bitumen," perhaps from Persian neft "pitch," or Aramaic (Semitic) naphta, nephta, but these could as well be from Greek. In Middle English as napte (late 14c.), from Old French napte, but the modern word is a re-introduction. In ancient writers it refers to a more fluid and volatile variety of natural asphalt or bitumen. In modern use, a colorless inflammable liquid distilled from petroleum.

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carburetor (n.)
also carburator, carburettor, device to enhance a gas flame by adding volatile hydrocarbons, 1866, from carburet "compound of carbon and another substance" (1795, now displaced by carbide), also used as a verb, "to combine with carbon" (1802); from carb-, combining form of carbon, + -uret, an archaic suffix from Modern Latin -uretum, used in English to parallel French words in -ure. Motor vehicle sense "apparatus for injecting fuel in fine particles into air to prepare it for the cylinder" is from 1896.
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gasoline (n.)

"light, volatile liquid obtained from distillation of petroleum," 1864, a variant of gasolene (from 1863 in Britain), which apparently was a trade name at first, from gas (n.1) in its then-popular loose sense of "compound of gases used for illuminating and heating purposes;" the -ol probably here represents Latin oleum "oil" and the ending is from the chemical suffix -ine (2). Shortened form gas was in common use in U.S. by 1897. Gas station as a fuel filling station for automobiles recorded by 1924.

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mercurial (adj.)

late 14c., "pertaining to or under the influence of the planet Mercury," from Latin Mercurialis, from Mercurius (see Mercury). Meaning "pertaining to the god Mercury, having the form or qualities attributed to Mercury" (in reference to his role as god of trade or as herald and guide) is from 1590s. Meaning "light-hearted, sprightly, volatile, changeable, quick" (1640s) is from the qualities supposed to characterize those born under the planet Mercury (they also are the qualities of the god Mercury), probably also partly by association with the qualities of quicksilver. A variant in this sense was mercurious (1590s). Related: Mercurially; mercuriality.

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spirit (n.)
Origin and meaning of spirit

mid-13c., "animating or vital principle in man and animals," from Anglo-French spirit, Old French espirit "spirit, soul" (12c., Modern French esprit) and directly from Latin spiritus "a breathing (respiration, and of the wind), breath; breath of a god," hence "inspiration; breath of life," hence "life;" also "disposition, character; high spirit, vigor, courage; pride, arrogance," related to spirare "to breathe," perhaps from PIE *(s)peis- "to blow" (source also of Old Church Slavonic pisto "to play on the flute"). But de Vaan says "Possibly an onomatopoeic formation imitating the sound of breathing. There are no direct cognates."

Meaning "supernatural immaterial creature; angel, demon; an apparition, invisible corporeal being of an airy nature" is attested from mid-14c.; from late 14c. as "a ghost" (see ghost (n.)). From c. 1500 as "a nature, character"; sense of "essential principle of something" (in a non-theological context, as in Spirit of St. Louis) is attested from 1680s, common after 1800; Spirit of '76 in reference to the qualities that sparked and sustained the American Revolution is attested by 1797 in William Cobbett's "Porcupine's Gazette and Daily Advertiser."

From late 14c. in alchemy as "volatile substance; distillate;" from c. 1500 as "substance capable of uniting the fixed and the volatile elements of the philosopher's stone." Hence spirits "volatile substance;" sense narrowed to "strong alcoholic liquor" by 1670s. This also is the sense in spirit level (1768). Also from mid-14c. as "character, disposition; way of thinking and feeling, state of mind; source of a human desire;" in Middle English freedom of spirit meant "freedom of choice." From late 14c. as "divine substance, divine mind, God;" also "Christ" or His divine nature; "the Holy Ghost; divine power;" also, "extension of divine power to man; inspiration, a charismatic state; charismatic power, especially of prophecy." Also "essential nature, essential quality." From 1580s in metaphoric sense "animation, vitality."

According to Barnhart and OED, originally in English mainly from passages in Vulgate, where the Latin word translates Greek pneuma and Hebrew ruah. Distinction between "soul" and "spirit" (as "seat of emotions") became current in Christian terminology (such as Greek psykhe vs. pneuma, Latin anima vs. spiritus) but "is without significance for earlier periods" [Buck]. Latin spiritus, usually in classical Latin "breath," replaces animus in the sense "spirit" in the imperial period and appears in Christian writings as the usual equivalent of Greek pneuma. Spirit-rapping is from 1852.

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smoke (n.1)

late Old English smoca (rare) "fumes and volatile material given off by burning substances," related to smeocan "give off smoke," from Proto-Germanic *smuk- (source also of Middle Dutch smooc, Dutch smook, Middle High German smouch, German Schmauch), from PIE root *smeug- "to smoke; smoke" (source also of Armenian mux "smoke," Greek smykhein "to burn with smoldering flame," Old Irish much, Welsh mwg "smoke").

There is no fyre without some smoke [Heywood, 1562]

The more usual noun was Old English smec, which became dialectal smeech. Abusive meaning "black person" attested from 1913, American English. Smoke-eater "firefighter" is c. 1930. Figurative phrase go up in smoke "be destroyed" (as if by fire) is from 1933. Smoke-alarm first attested 1936; smoke-detector from 1957.

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alcohol (n.)

1540s (early 15c. as alcofol), "fine powder produced by sublimation," from Medieval Latin alcohol "powdered ore of antimony," from Arabic al-kuhul "kohl," the fine metallic powder used to darken the eyelids, from kahala "to stain, paint." The al- is the Arabic definite article, "the."

Paracelsus (1493-1541) used the word to refer to a fine powder but also a volatile liquid. By 1670s it was being used in English for "any sublimated substance, the pure spirit of anything," including liquids.

The sense of "intoxicating ingredient in strong liquor" is attested by 1753, short for alcohol of wine, which then was extended to "the intoxicating element in fermented liquors." The formerly preferred terms for the substance were rectified spirits or brandy.

In organic chemistry, the word was extended by 1808 to the class of compounds of the same type as this (a 1790 translation of Lavoisier's "Elements of Chemistry" has alkoholic gas for "the combination of alkohol with caloric").

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perspire (v.)

1640s, of a volatile liquid, "to evaporate through the pores" (intransitive), a back-formation from perspiration and in part from Latin perspirare "blow or breathe constantly," from per "through" (from PIE root *per- (1) "forward," hence "through") + spirare "to breathe, blow" (see spirit (n.)). The meaning "to sweat, to give out watery substance through the pores of the skin" (intransitive) is a polite usage attested from 1725. Medical men tried to maintain a distinction between "sensible" (sweat) and "insensible" perspiration:

[I]t is sufficient for common use to observe, that perspiration is that insensible discharge of vapour from the whole surface of the body and the lungs which is constantly going on in a healthy state; that it is always natural and always salutary; that sweat, on the contrary, is an evacuation, which never appears without some uncommon effort, or some disease to the system, that it weakens and relaxes, and is so far from coinciding with perspiration, that it obstructs and checks it. [Charles White, "A Treatise on the Management of Pregnant and Lying-in Women," London, 1791]

Related: Perspired; perspiring.

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ether (n.)

late 14c., "upper regions of space," from Old French ether (12c.) and directly from Latin aether "the upper pure, bright air; sky, firmament," from Greek aithēr "upper air; bright, purer air; the sky" (opposed to aēr "the lower air"), from aithein "to burn, shine," from PIE *aidh- "to burn" (see edifice).

In ancient cosmology, the element that filled all space beyond the sphere of the moon, constituting the substance of the stars and planets. Conceived of as a purer form of fire or air, or as a fifth element. From 17c.-19c., it was the scientific word for an assumed "frame of reference" for forces in the universe, perhaps without material properties. The concept was shaken by the Michelson-Morley experiment (1887) and discarded early 20c. after the Theory of Relativity won acceptance, but before it went it gave rise to the colloquial use of ether for "the radio" (1899).

The name also was bestowed c. 1730 (Frobenius; in English by 1757) on a volatile chemical compound known since 14c. for its lightness and lack of color (its anesthetic properties weren't fully established until 1842).

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