Etymology
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hex (v.)

1830, American English, from Pennsylvania German hexe "to practice witchcraft," from German hexen "to hex," related to Hexe "witch," from Middle High German hecse, hexse, from Old High German hagazussa (see hag). Noun meaning "magic spell" is first recorded 1909; earlier it meant "a witch" (1856). Compare Middle English hexte "the devil" (mid-13c.), perhaps originally "sorcerer," probably from Old English haehtis.

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hassle (n.)

"fuss, trouble," 1945, American English (in "Down Beat" magazine), perhaps from U.S. Southern dialectal hassle "to pant, breathe noisily" (1928), of unknown origin; or perhaps from hatchel "to harass" (1800), which may be a variant of hazel, the name of the plant that furnished switches for whippings. Noted in 1946 as a show biz vogue word.

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catkin (n.)

"spike of a flowering tree or shrub (especially a willow or birch) after fruiting," 1570s, from Dutch katteken "flowering stem of willow, birch, hazel, etc.," literally "kitten," diminutive of katte "cat" (see cat (n.)). So called for their soft, furry appearance.

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obeah (n.)

"sorcery, witchcraft" among Africans in Africa and the West Indies, 1760, from a West African word, such as Efik (southern Nigeria) ubio "a thing or mixture left as a charm to cause sickness or death," Twi ebayifo "witch, wizard, sorcerer."

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fly-by-night (n.)

1796, slang, said by Grose to be an old term of reproach to a woman signifying that she was a witch; used from 1823 in reference to anyone who departs hastily from a recent activity, especially while owing money. The different senses involve the two verbs fly.

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heckle (v.)

early 14c., "to comb (flax or hemp) with a heckle;" from heckle (n.) or from related Middle Dutch hekelen. Figurative meaning "to question severely in a bid to uncover weakness" is from late 18c. "Long applied in Scotland to the public questioning of parliamentary candidates" [OED]. Presumably from a metaphor of rough treatment, but also compare hatchel "to harass" (1800), which may be a variant of hazel, the name of the plant that furnished switches for whippings. Related: Heckled; heckling.

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bewitch (v.)

c. 1200, biwicchen, "cast a spell on; enchant, subject to sorcery," from be- + Old English wiccian "to enchant, to practice witchcraft" (see witch). Literal at first, and with implication of harm; the figurative sense of "fascinate, charm past resistance" is from 1520s. *Bewiccian may well have existed in Old English, but it is not attested. Related: Bewitchery; bewitchment.

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wicked (adj.)

c. 1200, extended form of earlier wick "bad, wicked, false" (12c.), which apparently is an adjectival use of Old English wicca "wizard" (see witch). Formed as if a past participle, but there is no corresponding verb. For evolution, compare wretched from wretch. Slang ironic sense of "wonderful" first attested 1920, in F. Scott Fitzgerald. As an adverb from early 15c. Related: Wickedly.

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walnut (n.)

Old English walhnutu "nut of the walnut tree," literally "foreign nut," from wealh "foreign" (see Welsh) + hnutu (see nut). Compare Old Norse valhnot, Middle Low German walnut, Middle Dutch walnote, Dutch walnoot, German Walnuss. So called because it was introduced from Gaul and Italy, distinguishing it from the native hazel nut. Compare the Late Latin name for it, nux Gallica, literally "Gaulish nut." Applied to the tree itself from 1600 (earlier walnut tree, c. 1400).

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filbert (n.)

"hazelnut," late 14c., from Anglo-French philber (late 13c.), from Norman dialect noix de filbert, in reference to St. Philbert, 7c. Frankish abbot, so called because the hazel nuts ripen near his feast day, Aug. 22 (Old Style). Weekley compares German Lambertsnuss "filbert," associated with St. Lambert (Sept. 17); also German Johannisbeere "red currant," associated with St. John's Day (June 24). The saint's name is Old High German Filu-berht, literally "very bright."

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