"fanatical enthusiasm for a cause or person, blindly shared by the masses;" 1845, a German word in a specialized philosophical sense taken whole into English (in the Edinburgh Review, which adds "a word untranslatable, because the thing itself is un-English"), from German Schwärmerei "noisy, dissolute pleasures; religious fanaticism," from schwärmen "to swarm," figuratively "to be enthusiastic" (related to the noun Schwarm; see swarm (n.)).
The second element might be the German equivalent of -ery, but the sense is not clear. Perhaps the meaning in -rei is essentially diminutive and also denotes ridiculousness or contemptibility [a suggestion from D. Boileau, "Nature and Genius of the German Language," 1843, who cites among other examples Liebelei, "vulgar, insipid sweet-hearting," Ausländerei "too-frequent use of foreign words." Also compare later Schweinerei, "obnoxious behavior; a repulsive incident or thing," literally "piggishness"].
Used in German by Kant, Schelling, Hölderlin; used in late 19c. English by Carlyle, Ruskin, etc.
But we are in hard times, now, for all men's wits; for men who know the truth are like to go mad from isolation; and the fools are all going mad in "Schwärmerei,"—only that is much the pleasanter way. [Ruskin, "Fors Clavigera"]
In mid-20c. also "schoolgirl crush." Related: Schwärmerisch.
masc. proper name, typically a shortening of Samuel (q.v.).
Sam Browne in reference to a type of belt with shoulder strap is by 1915, from Sir Samuel James Browne (1824-1901), the British general who invented it. Sam Hill as an American English emphatic euphemism for "Hell!" (in exasperation) is by 1839. Sam Slick as the type of the resourceful Yankee (especially in the mind of the South) is from the character created 1835 by Nova Scotian judge Thomas Chandler Haliburton in a series of popular books.
I’ll tell you how I’d work it. I’d say, “Here’s a book they’ve namesaked arter me, Sam Slick the Clockmaker, but it tante mine, and I can’t altogether jist say rightly whose it is …. Its about the wittiest book I ever seed. Its nearly all sold off, but jist a few copies I’ve kept for my old customers. The price is just 5s. 6d. but I’ll let you have it for 5s. because you’ll not get another chance to have one.” Always ax a sixpence more than the price, and then bate it, and when Blue Nose hears that, he thinks he’s got a bargain, and bites directly. I never see one on ’em yet that didn’t fall right into the trap. [from "The Clockmaker: The Sayings and Doings of Samuel Slick of Slickville"]
late 14c., "a thing done," from Latin actus "a doing; a driving, impulse, a setting in motion; a part in a play," and actum "a thing done" (originally a legal term), both from agere "to set in motion, drive, drive forward," hence "to do, perform," figuratively "incite to action; keep in movement, stir up" (from PIE root *ag- "to drive, draw out or forth, move").
The verb agere had a broad range of meaning in Latin, including "act on stage, play the part of; plead a cause at law; chase; carry off, steal." The theatrical ("part of a play," 1510s) and legislative (early 15c.) senses of the noun also were in Latin.
The meaning "one of a series of performances in a variety show" is from 1890. The meaning "display of exaggerated behavior" is from 1928, extended from the theatrical sense. In the act "in the process" is from 1590s, perhaps originally from a late 16c. sense of the act as "sexual intercourse." Act of God "uncontrollable natural force" is recorded by 1726.
An act of God is an accident which arises from a cause which operates without interference or aid from man (1 Pars. on Cont. 635); the loss arising wherefrom cannot be guarded against by the ordinary exertions of human skill and prudence so as to prevent its effect. [William Wait, "General Principles of the Law," Albany, 1879]
To get into the act "participate" is from 1947; to get (one's) act together "organize one's (disorderly) life" is by 1976, perhaps euphemistic.
1855, theater slang for "a failure in performance;" by 1862 it had acquired the general sense of "any ignominious failure or dismal flop," on or off the stage. It comes via the French phrase faire fiasco "turn out a failure" (19c.), from Italian far fiasco "suffer a complete breakdown in performance," literally "make a bottle," from fiasco "bottle," from Late Latin flasco "bottle" (see flask).
The literal sense of the image (if it is one) is obscure today, but "the usual range of fanciful theories has been advanced" [Ayto]. Century Dictionary says "perhaps in allusion to the bursting of a bottle," Weekley pronounces it impenetrable and compares French ramasser un pelle "to come a cropper (in bicycling), literally to pick up a shovel." OED keeps its distance and lets nameless "Italian etymologists" make nebulous reference to "alleged incidents in Italian theatrical history." Klein suggests Venetian glass-crafters tossing aside imperfect pieces to be made later into common flasks. But according to an Italian dictionary, fare il fiasco used to mean "to play a game so that the one that loses will pay the fiasco," in other words, he will buy the next bottle (of wine). If the dates are not objectionable, that plausibly connects the literal sense of the word with the notion of "a costly mistake."
late 13c., rosten, "to cook (meat, fish, etc.) by dry heat," from Old French rostir "to roast, burn" (Modern French rôtir), from Frankish *hraustjan (cognate with Old High German rosten, German rösten, Middle Dutch roosten "to roast"), originally "cook on a grate or gridiron," related to Germanic words meaning "gridiron, grate;" such as German Rost, Middle Dutch roost, from Proto-Germanic *raustijanan"to roast." Compare roster.
"Also freq. in mod. use to cook (meat) in an oven, for which the more original term is bake" [OED]. Intransitive sense of "be very hot, be exposed to great heat, become roasted" is from c. 1300. Of coffee beans by 1724. The meaning "make fun of (often in an affectionate way) for the amusement of the company" is from 1710. Related: Roasted; roasting.
Roast beef is recorded from 1630s; French rosbif is from English.
Bifteck and rosbif, words that have come into French after the invasions of 1814 and 1815, are only imitations of the English way of pronouncing "beef-steak" and "roast beef," the French not recognizing their word rôti, formerly rosti, in the English sounds of "roast" nor bœuf, in that of "beef," which in Norman-French was written bœf and buef, and probably pronounced somewhat like the present English. [Jean Roemer, "Origins of the English People and of the English Language," London, 1888]
a modern book-form to represent Old English run, rune "secret, mystery, dark mysterious statement, (secret) council," also "a runic letter" (runstæf), from Proto-Germanic *runo (source also of Old Norse run "a secret, magic sign, runic character," Old High German runa "a secret conversation, whisper," Gothic runa), from PIE *ru-no-, source of technical terms of magic in Germanic and Celtic (source also of Gaelic run "a secret, mystery, craft, deceit, purpose, intention, desire," Welsh rhin "a secret, charm, virtue"). Also see Runnymede.
The word entered Middle English as roun and by normal evolution would have become Modern English *rown, but it died out mid-15c. when the use of runes did. The modern usage is from late 17c., from German philologists who had reintroduced the word in their writings from a Scandinavian source (such as Danish rune, from Old Norse run).
The presumption often is that the magical sense was the original one in the word and the use of runes as letters was secondary to ancient Germanic peoples, but this is questioned by some linguists. The runic alphabet itself is believed to have developed by 2c. C.E. from contact with Greek writing, with the letters modified to be more easily cut into wood or stone. Related: Runed; runecraft.
zodiac constellation, late Old English, from Latin taurus "bull, bullock, steer," also the name of the constellation, from PIE *tau-ro- "bull" (source also of Greek tauros, Old Church Slavonic turu "bull, steer;" Lithuanian tauras "aurochs;" Old Prussian tauris "bison"); from PIE *tauro- "bull," from root *(s)taeu- "stout, standing, strong" (source also of Sanskrit sthura- "thick, compact," Avestan staora- "big cattle," Middle Persian stor "horse, draft animal," Gothic stiur "young bull," Old English steor); extended form of root *sta- "to stand, make or be firm."
Klein proposes a Semitic origin (compare Aramaic tora "ox, bull, steer," Hebrew shor, Arabic thor, Ethiopian sor). De Vaan writes: "The earlier history of the word is uncertain: there is no cognate in [Indo-Iranian] or Tocharian, whereas there are Semitic words for 'bull' which are conspicuously similar. Hence, it may have been an early loanword of the form *tauro- into the western IE languages." Meaning "person born under the sign of the bull" is recorded from 1901. The Taurid meteors (peaking Nov. 20) so called from 1878.
At midnight revels when the gossips met,
He was the theme of their eternal chat:
This ask'd what form great Jove would next devise,
And when his godship would again Taurise?
[William Somerville, "The Wife," 1727]
"cold, factual person," from the name of the school-board superintendent and mill-owner in Dickens' "Hard Times" (1854):
THOMAS GRADGRIND, sir. A man of realities. A man of facts and calculations. A man who proceeds upon the principle that two and two are four, and nothing over, and who is not to be talked into allowing for anything over. Thomas Gradgrind, sir - peremptorily Thomas - Thomas Gradgrind. With a rule and a pair of scales, and the multiplication table always in his pocket, sir, ready to weigh and measure any parcel of human nature, and tell you exactly what it comes to. It is a mere question of figures, a case of simple arithmetic. ....
In such terms Mr. Gradgrind always mentally introduced himself, whether to his private circle of acquaintance, or to the public in general. In such terms, no doubt, substituting the words 'boys and girls,' for 'sir,' Thomas Gradgrind now presented Thomas Gradgrind to the little pitchers before him, who were to be filled so full of facts.
Indeed, as he eagerly sparkled at them from the cellarage before mentioned, he seemed a kind of cannon loaded to the muzzle with facts, and prepared to blow them clean out of the regions of childhood at one discharge. He seemed a galvanizing apparatus, too, charged with a grim mechanical substitute for the tender young imaginations that were to be stormed away.
late 14c., in alchemy, "one of the two main ingredients of the philosopher's stone," from Medieval Latin magnesia, from Greek (he) Magnesia (lithos) "the lodestone," literally "(the) Magnesian (stone)," a mineral said to have been brought from Magnesia, the region in Thessaly, which is said to be named for the native people name Magnetes, which is of unknown origin.
The ancient word, in this sense, has evolved into magnet. But in ancient times the same word, magnes, was used of lodestone as well as of a mineral commonly used in bleaching glass (modern pyrolusite, or manganese dioxide).
In the Middle Ages there was some attempt to distinguish lodestone as magnes (masc.) and pyrolusite as magnesia (fem.). Meanwhile, in 18c., a white powder (magnesium carbonate) used as a cosmetic and toothpaste was sold in Rome as magnesia alba ("white magnesia").
It was from this last, in 1808, that Davy isolated magnesium. He wanted to call it magnium, to stay as far as possible from the confused word magnesia, but the name was adopted in the form magnesium. Meanwhile from 16c. the other name of pyrolusite had been corrupted to manganese, and when, in 1774, a new element was isolated from it, it came to be called manganese.
Magnesia in its main modern sense of "magnesium oxide" (1755) is perhaps an independent formation from Modern Latin magnes carneus "flesh-magnet" (c. 1550), so called because it adheres strongly to the lips.
early 13c., "what befalls one; state of affairs," from Old French cas "an event, happening, situation, quarrel, trial," from Latin casus "a chance, occasion, opportunity; accident, mishap," literally "a falling," from cas-, past-participle stem of cadere "to fall, sink, settle down, decline, perish" (used widely: of the setting of heavenly bodies, the fall of Troy, suicides), from PIE root *kad- "to fall."
The notion is of "that which falls" as "that which happens" (compare befall). From its general nature, the word has taken on widespread extended and transferred meanings. The meaning "instance, example" is from c. 1300. The meaning "actual state of affairs" is from c. 1400. In law, "an instance of litigation" (late 14c.); in medicine, "an instance of a disease" (late 14c.).
The grammatical sense, "one of the forms which make up the inflections of a noun" (late 14c.) also was in Latin, translating Greek ptōsis "declension," literally "a falling." "A noun in the nominative singular ..., or a verb in the present indicative ..., is conceived as standing straight. Then it falls, or is bent, or declines into various positions" [Gilbert Murray, "Greek Studies"]
The U.S. slang meaning "person" (especially one peculiar or remarkable in any way) is from 1848. The meaning "incident or series of events requiring police investigation" is from 1838. In case "in the event" is recorded from mid-14c. Case-history is from 1879, originally medical; case-study "study of a particular case" is from 1879, originally legal; case-law "law as settled by previous court cases" is from 1861.