"that which is placed at hazard as a wager, the sum of money or other valuable consideration which is deposited as a pledge or wager to be lost or won according to the issue of a contest or contingency," 1530s, perhaps from stake (v.2), which is attested a few years earlier, but both the noun and verb are of uncertain origin. Perhaps literally "that which is fixed or put up," either from a particular use of stake (n.1) "stake, pole," or from the notion of "a post on which a gambling wager was placed" (but OED points out there is "no evidence of the existence of such a custom"). Weekley suggests "there is a tinge of the burning or baiting metaphor" in this usage.
Meaning "the prize in a contest of strength, skill, speed, etc." is by 1620s; plural stakes, "sum of money to be won in a (horse) race," is recorded by 1690s (compare sweepstakes). Meaning "an interest, something to gain or lose" is by 1580s; hence have a stake in "have an interest in the turn of events, have something to gain or lose" (1784). The phrase at stake "state of being laid or pledged as a wager; state of being at hazard or in peril" is from c. 1600.
1844, from berserk (n.) "Norse warrior" (by 1835), an alternative form of berserker, a word which was introduced (as berserkar) by Sir Walter Scott in "The Pirate" (1822), from Old Norse berserkr (n.) "raging warrior of superhuman strength." It is probably from *ber- "bear" + serkr "shirt," thus literally "a warrior clothed in bearskin" (see bear (n.) + sark). Thus not, as Scott evidently believed, from Old Norse berr "bare, naked" and meaning "warrior who fights without armor."
Thorkelin, in the essay on the Berserkir, appended to his edition of the Kristni Saga, tells that an old name of the Berserk frenzy was hamremmi, i.e., strength acquired from another strange body, because it was anciently believed that the persons who were liable to this frenzy were mysteriously endowed, during its accesses, with a strange body of unearthly strength. If, however, the Berserk was called on by his own name, he lost his mysterious form, and his ordinary strength alone remained. [Notes and Queries, Dec. 28, 1850]
Perhaps later writers mistook the -r for an agent-noun suffix. The picture is further complicated because it has the form of the Old Norse plural, and English berserker sometimes is plural. The adjectival use probably grew from such phrases as berserk frenzy, or as a title (Arngrim the Berserk).
common Irish surname, Gaelic Murchadh "sea-warrior." The Celtic "sea" element is also in names Muriel (q.v.), Murdoch (Old Irish Muireadhach, Old Welsh Mordoc "mariner"), etc. As colloquial for "a potato" by 1811, apparently in allusion ot it being a staple food of the Irish.
Murphy bed (1912; in full Murphy In-A-Dor Bed) is named for U.S. inventor William Lawrence Murphy (1876-1959). By happy coincidence, Murphy was an illiterate 18c.-19c. perversion of Morpheus, god of sleep. Murphy's law (1958) is used of various pessimistic aphorisms. If there ever was a real Murphy his identity is lost to history. Said to be military originally, and it probably pre-dates the earliest printed example (the 1958 citation calls it "an old military maxim").
No history of the subject would be complete without some reference to the semilegendary, almost anonymous Murphy (floreat circa 1940?) who chose to disguise his genius by stating a fundamental systems theorem in commonplace, almost pedestrian terminology. This law, known to schoolboys the world over as Jellybread always falls jelly-side down, is here restated in Murphy's own words, as it appears on the walls of most of the world's scientific laboratories:
If Anything Can Go Wrong, It Will.
[John Gall, "Systemantics," 1975]
c. 1300, "extent or area; room" (to do something), a shortening of Old French espace "period of time, distance, interval" (12c.), from Latin spatium "room, area, distance, stretch of time," a word of unknown origin (also source of Spanish espacio, Italian spazio).
From early 14c. as "a place," also "amount or extent of time." From mid-14c. as "distance, interval of space;" from late 14c. as "ground, land, territory; extension in three dimensions; distance between two or more points." From early 15c. as "size, bulk," also "an assigned position." Typographical sense is attested from 1670s (typewriter space-bar is from 1876, earlier space-key, 1860).
Astronomical sense of "stellar depths, immense emptiness between the worlds" is by 1723, perhaps as early as "Paradise Lost" (1667), common from 1890s. Space age is attested from 1946. Many compounds first appeared in science fiction and speculative writing, such as spaceship (1894, "A Journey in Other Worlds," John Jacob Astor); spacecraft (1928, Popular Science); space travel (1931); space station (1936, "Rockets Through Space"); spaceman (1942, Thrilling Wonder Stories). Space race attested from 1959. Space shuttle attested by 1970.
Space isn't remote at all. It's only an hour's drive away if your car could go straight upwards. [Sir Fred Hoyle, London Observer, 1979]
Old English hit, neuter nominative and accusative of third person singular pronoun, from Proto-Germanic demonstrative base *khi- (source also of Old Frisian hit, Dutch het, Gothic hita "it"), from PIE *ko- "this" (see he). Used in place of any neuter noun, hence, as gender faded in Middle English, it took on the meaning "thing or animal spoken about before."
The h- was lost due to being in an unemphasized position, as in modern speech the h- in "give it to him," "ask her," is heard only "in the careful speech of the partially educated" [Weekley]. It "the sex act" is from 1610s; meaning "sex appeal (especially in a woman)" first attested 1904 in works of Rudyard Kipling, popularized 1927 as title of a book by Elinor Glyn, and by application of It Girl to silent-film star Clara Bow (1905-1965). In children's games, the meaning "the one who must tag or catch the others" is attested from 1842.
From Old English as nominative of an impersonal verb or statement when the thing for which it stands is implied (it rains, it pleases me). After an intransitive verb, used transitively for the action denoted, from 1540s (originally in fight it out). That's it "there is no more" is from 1966; this is it "the anticipated or dreaded moment has arrived" is from 1942.
suffix forming the genitive or possessive singular case of most Modern English nouns; its use gradually was extended in Middle English from Old English -es, the most common genitive inflection of masculine and neuter nouns (such as dæg "day," genitive dæges "day's"). The "-es" pronunciation is retained after a sibilant.
Old English also had genitives in -e, -re, -an, as well as "mutation-genitives" (boc "book," plural bec), and the -es form never was used in plural (where -a, -ra, -na prevailed), thus avoiding the verbal ambiguity of words like kings'.
In Middle English, both the possessive singular and the common plural forms were regularly spelled es, and when the e was dropped in pronunciation and from the written word, the habit grew up of writing an apostrophe in place of the lost e in the possessive singular to distinguish it from the plural. Later the apostrophe, which had come to be looked upon as the sign of the possessive, was carried over into the plural, but was written after the s to differentiate that form from the possessive singular. By a process of popular interpretation, the 's was supposed to be a contraction for his, and in some cases the his was actually "restored." [Samuel C. Earle, et al, "Sentences and their Elements," New York: Macmillan, 1911]
As a suffix forming some adverbs, it represents the genitive singular ending of Old English masculine and neuter nouns and some adjectives.
"male deer," c. 1300, earlier "male goat;" from Old English bucca "male goat," from Proto-Germanic *bukkon (source also of Old Saxon buck, Middle Dutch boc, Dutch bok, Old High German boc, German Bock, Old Norse bokkr), perhaps from a PIE root *bhugo (source also of Avestan buza "buck, goat," Armenian buc "lamb"), but some speculate that it is from a lost pre-Germanic language. Barnhart says Old English buc "male deer," listed in some sources, is a "ghost word or scribal error." The Germanic word (in the sense "he-goat") was borrowed in French as bouc.
Meaning "a man" is from c. 1300 (Old Norse bokki also was used in this sense). Especially "fashionable man" (1725); also used of a male Native American (c. 1800) or Negro (1835). This also is perhaps the sense in army slang buck private "private of the lowest class" (1870s).
The phrase pass the buck is recorded in the literal sense 1865, American English poker slang; the buck in question being originally perhaps a buckhorn-handled knife:
The 'buck' is any inanimate object, usually [a] knife or pencil, which is thrown into a jack pot and temporarily taken by the winner of the pot. Whenever the deal reaches the holder of the 'buck', a new jack pot must be made. [J.W. Keller, "Draw Poker," 1887]
The figurative sense of "shift responsibility" is first recorded 1912; the phrase the buck stops here (1952) is associated with U.S. President Harry Truman.
"all right, correct," 1839, only survivor of a slang fad in Boston and New York c. 1838-9 for abbreviations of common phrases with deliberate, jocular misspellings (such as K.G. for "no go," as if spelled "know go;" N.C. for "'nuff ced;" K.Y. for "know yuse"). In the case of O.K., the abbreviation is of "oll korrect."
Probably further popularized by use as an election slogan by the O.K. Club, New York boosters of Democratic president Martin Van Buren's 1840 re-election bid, in allusion to his nickname Old Kinderhook, from his birth in the N.Y. village of Kinderhook. Van Buren lost, the word stuck, in part because it filled a need for a quick way to write an approval on a document, bill, etc.
Spelled out as okeh, 1919, by Woodrow Wilson, on assumption that it represented Choctaw okeh "it is so" (a theory which lacks historical documentation); this spelling was ousted quickly by okay after the appearance of that form in 1929. Greek immigrants to America who returned home early 20c. having picked up U.S. speech mannerisms were known in Greece as okay-boys, among other things.
The noun is first attested 1841, "endorsement, approval, authorization" (especially as indicated by the letters O.K.); the verb, "to approve, agree to, sanction," is by 1888. Okey-doke is student slang first attested 1932.
"identical, equal; unchanging; one in substance or general character," from Proto-Germanic *samaz "same" (source also of Old Saxon, Old High German, Gothic sama, Old High German samant, German samt "together, with," Gothic samana "together," Dutch zamelen "to collect," German zusammen "together"), from PIE *samos "same," from suffixed form of root *sem- (1) "one; as one, together with."
Old English seems to have lost the adjective except in the adverbial phrase swa same "the same as" (literally "so same"). But the word that emerged in Middle English as "the ordinary adjectival pronominal designation of identity" [OED] is considered to be more likely (or mostly) from the Old Norse cognate same, samr "same." In its revival it replaced synonymous ilk.
As a pronoun, "the person or thing just mentioned," from c. 1300. In Middle English also a verb and an adjective, "together, mutually" (as in comen same "gather together, unite," kissen same "embrace one another").
Colloquial phrase same here "the same thing applies to me" as an exclamation of agreement is from 1895. All the same is from 1803 as "nevertheless, in spite of what has been mentioned." Same difference, a curious way to say "not different; equal," is attested from 1945. Often expanded for emphasis: ilk-same (mid-13c.); the self-same (early 15c.); one and the same is in Wyclif (late 14c.), translating Latin unus atque idem.
ruminant mammal, Old English sceap, scep, from West Germanic *skæpan (source also of Old Saxon scap, Old Frisian skep, Middle Low German schap, Middle Dutch scaep, Dutch schaap, Old High German scaf, German Schaf), of unknown origin. Not found in Scandinavian (Danish has faar for "sheep") or Gothic (which uses lamb), and with no known cognates outside Germanic. The more usual Indo-European word for the animal is represented in English by ewe.
The plural form was leveled with the singular in Old English, but Old Northumbrian had a plural scipo. Used since Old English as a type of timidity and figuratively of those under the guidance of God. The meaning "stupid, timid person" is attested from 1540s. The image of the wolf in sheep's clothing was in Old English (from Matthew vii.15); that of separating the sheep from the goats is from Matthew xxv.33. To count sheep in a bid to induce sleep is recorded from 1854 but seems not to have been commonly written about until 1870s. It might simply be a type of a tedious activity, but an account of shepherd life from Australia from 1849 ["Sidney's Emigrant's Journal"] describes the night-shepherd ("hut-keeper") taking a count of the sheep regularly at the end of his shift to protect against being answerable for any animals later lost or killed.
Sheep's eyes "loving looks" is attested from 1520s (compare West Frisian skiepseach, Dutch schaapsoog, German Schafsauge). A sheep-biter was "a dog that worries sheep" (1540s); "a mutton-monger" (1590s); and "a whore-monger" (1610s, i.e. one who "chases mutton"); hence Shakespeare's sheep-biting "thieving, sneaky."