Sense of "leniency, forbearance of restraint or control of another, gratification of desire or humor" is attested from late 14c. That of "yielding to one's inclinations" (technically self-indulgence) in English is from 1630s. In British history, Indulgence also refers to grants of certain liberties to Nonconformists under Charles II and James II, as special favors rather than legal rights. The sale of indulgences in the original Church sense was done at times merely to raise money and was widely considered corrupt; the one in 1517 helped to spark the Protestant revolt in Germany.
Middle English folwen, from Old English folgian, fylgian, fylgan "to accompany (especially as a disciple), move in the same direction as; follow after, pursue, move behind in the same direction," also "obey (a rule or law), conform to, act in accordance with; apply oneself to (a practice, trade, or calling)," from Proto-Germanic *fulgojanan (source also of Old Saxon folgon, Old Frisian folgia, Middle Dutch volghen, Dutch volgen, Old High German folgen, German folgen, Old Norse fylgja "to follow"). Probably originally a compound, *full-gan, with a sense of "full-going," the sense then shifting to "serve, go with as an attendant" (compare fulfill). Related: Followed; following.
Sense of "accept as leader or guide, obey or be subservient to" was in late Old English. Meaning "come after in time" is from c. 1200; meaning "to result from" (as effect from cause) is from c. 1200. Meaning "to keep up with mentally, comprehend" is from 1690s. Intransitive sense "come or go behind" is from mid-13c. To follow one's nose "go straight on" first attested 1590s. "The full phrase is, 'Follow your nose, and you are sure to go straight.' " [Farmer]. The children's game follow my leader is attested by that name from 1812 (as follow the leader by 1896).
1530s, "fearful, timid," a sense now obsolete, from Latin meticulosus, metuculosus "fearful, timid," literally "full of fear," from metus "fear, dread, apprehension, anxiety," a word of unknown origin. The old word seems to have become archaic after c. 1700, fossilized in a passage of Sir Thomas Browne, though it turns up occasionally and obscurely as late as 1807.
It began to return to English in a sense of "fussy about details" by 1840s, from French méticuleux "timorously fussy" [Fowler, who rails against it, attributes this use in English to "literary critics"], the French descendant of the Latin word, but it took time for this to percolate. Meticulous appears 1852 in Halliwell's "Dictionary of Archaic and Provincial Words" (with the definition "timorous") and is marked "obsolete" in Craig's dictionary of the same year. It was listed by Richard Trench ["English Past and Present," 1868], who started the movement that became the OED, among the words that had been "rejected and disallowed by the true linguistic instincts of the national mind."
It is marked archaic in the Imperial Dictionary (1883), which has only the sense "timid," but not so marked in Century Dictionary (1890), which defines it as "Timid; over-careful." It was much criticized, and somewhat defended, in writerly publications c. 1914-1924. Related: Meticulosity.
c. 1300, "fixed payment (usually in exchange for taxes collected, etc.), fixed rent," from Old French ferme "a rent, lease" (13c.), from Medieval Latin firma "fixed payment," from Latin firmare "to fix, settle, confirm, strengthen," from firmus "strong; stable," figuratively "constant, trusty" (from suffixed form of PIE root *dher- "to hold firmly, support").
Sense of "tract of leased land" is first recorded early 14c.; that of "cultivated land" (leased or not) is 1520s. A word of confused history, but there is agreement that "the purely agricultural sense is comparatively modern" [Century Dictionary]. There is a set of Old English words that appear to be related in sound and sense; if these, too, are from Latin it would be a very early borrowing. Some books strenuously defend a theory that the Anglo-Saxon words are original (perhaps related to feorh "life").
Phrase buy the farm "die in battle," is from at least World War II, perhaps a cynical reference to the draftee's dream of getting out of the war and going home, in many cases to a peaceful farmstead. The simple term buy it as slang for "suffer a mishap," especially "to die" is attested by 1825, and seems to have been picked up in airmen's jargon. Meanwhile fetch the farm is prisoner slang from at least 1879 for "get sent to the infirmary," with reference to the better diet and lighter duties there.
1884, Tabloid, "small tablet of medicine," trademark name (by Burroughs, Wellcome and Co.) for compressed or concentrated chemicals and drugs, a hybrid formed from tablet + Greek-derived suffix -oid. By 1898, it was being used figuratively to mean a compressed form or dose of anything, hence tabloid journalism (1901), and newspapers that typified it (1917), so called for having short, condensed news articles and/or for being small in size. Associated originally with Alfred C. Harmsworth, editor and proprietor of the London Daily Mail.
Mr. Harmsworth entered a printing office twenty years ago as office-boy, and today owns thirty periodicals besides The Mail. Upon a friendly challenge from Mr. Pulitzer of The New York World, the English journalist issued the first number of The World for the new century in the ideal form. The size of the page was reduced to four columns and the general make-up was similar in appearance to that of one of the weekly magazines. Current news was presented in condensed and tabulated form, of which the editor says: "The world enters today upon the twentieth or time-saving century. I claim that by my system of condensed or tabloid journalism hundreds of working hours can be saved each year." ["The Twentieth Century Newspaper," in The Social Gospel, February 1901]
c. 1200, "a Roman legion," from Old French legion "squad, band, company, Roman legion," from Latin legionem (nominative legio) "Roman legion, body of soldiers, a levy of troops," from legere "to gather; to choose, pick out, select," from PIE root *leg- (1) "to collect, gather." Tucker writes that "The common sense is 'pick,'" but it is unclear whether the use here is "picking up or picking out." Roughly 3,000 to 6,000 men, under Marius usually with attached cavalry. "The legions were numbered in the order of their levy, but were often known by particular names" [Lewis].
The great power of the Roman legion was due to its rigid discipline and its tactical formation in battle, which was so open and flexible as to enable it to meet every emergency without surprise or derangement.
Generalized sense of "a large number of persons" (c. 1300) is due to translations of the allusive phrase in Mark v.9. Of modern military bodies from 1590s. American Legion, U.S. association of ex-servicemen, founded in 1919. Legion of Honor is French légion d'honneur, an order of distinction founded by Napoleon in 1802. Foreign Legion is French légion étrangère "body of foreign volunteers in a modern army," originally Polish, Belgian, etc. units in French army; they traditionally served in colonies or distant expeditions. Related: Legionary.
"insincere, trifling, or deceptive talk," 1914. Popularly associated with roughly contemporary bullshit (n.) in the same sense, and in modern use often felt as a shortened form of it. There seems to have been an identical Middle English word meaning "false talk, fraud," apparently from Old French bole "deception, trick, scheming, intrigue," and perhaps related to modern Icelandic bull "nonsense."
Sais christ to ypocrites ... yee ar ... al ful wit wickednes, tresun, and bull. ["Cursor Mundi," Northumbrian, early 14c.]
There also was an early Modern English verb bull meaning "to mock, cheat," which dates from 1530s. Bull session is attested from 1920.
Also of uncertain connection with the bull that means "a gross inconsistency in language, a ludicrous blunder involving a contradiction in terms" (1630s), said by the English to be characteristic of the Irish, and thus often called an Irish bull. Sydney Smith defined it as "an apparent congruity, and real incongruity of ideas, suddenly discovered." Three examples attributed to Sir Boyle Roche: "Why should we do anything for posterity, for what, in the name of goodness, has posterity done for us?" ... "It would surely be better, Mr. Speaker, to give up not only a part, but, if necessary, even the whole of our Constitution, to preserve the remainder." ... "The best way to avoid danger is to meet it plump."
1560s, "A solid generated by the revolution of a right-angled triangle upon one of its sides as an axis" [Century Dictionary], from French cone (16c.) or directly from Latin conus "a cone, peak of a helmet," from Greek konos "cone, spinning top, pine cone," which is perhaps from a PIE root *ko- "to sharpen" (source also of Sanskrit sanah "whetstone," Latin catus "sharp," Old English han "stone"), but Beekes considers it likely a Pre-Greek word.
There is a use from c. 1400 as "angle or corner of a quadrant," from Latin. From 1560s as "dry, cone-shaped fruit of the pine;" from 1771 as "hill surrounding the crater of a volcano; 1867 as "minute structure in the retina of the eye;" by 1909 as "a conical wafer to hold ice-cream." Cone-shell is from 1770, so called for its shape; cone-flower is from 1822, so called for its conical receptacles.
Probably the greatest "rage" of the year in the eating line has been the ice cream cone. The craze has known no section, although the Middle West has eaten more than any other section, and the South has yet to acquire the habit. As a result of this craze hundreds of cone factories have sprung up, and every one has made large profits. Thus an important side line has come to the fore in aid of the ice cream industry. [The Ice Cream Trade Journal, October 1909]
1824; said to have been given as a toast by Sir William Curtis (1752-1829), a beloved lord mayor of London in the 1820s, who seems to have been a figure of fun to whom many mangled phrases were attributed. Among the toasts he is alleged to have given at public dinners were "The Female Ladies of London;" "The three C's—Cox, King, and Curtis;" and "The three R's—Reading, Writing, and Rithmetic."
It has been very much the fashion amongst a class of persons to attribute to Sir W. C. ... a vulgarity and ignorance of speech which are by no means consistent with his character and conduct. The worthy and hospitable baronet has a rapid mode of speech, but it is always correct ; and although some eccentricities are mixed up in his composition, he is highly honourable, and has been a very useful member of society, particularly to his London constituents. [The Mirror, Jan. 29, 1825]
After listing some examples, the article continues:
It is, however, very certain, that at a city festival some years ago, having indulged very freely, he fell asleep, when some wag, choosing to consider him dead, wrote his epitaph, which was found next morning pinned to the baronet's dress coat:—
"Here lies the great Curtis,
Of London, Lord May'r:
He's left this here world,
And gone to that there."
"raptorial nocturnal bird of prey of the family Strigidæ," Middle English oule, from Old English ule "owl," from Proto-Germanic *uwwalon- (source also of Middle Dutch, Dutch uil, Old High German uwila, German Eule, Old Norse ugla), a diminutive of PIE root *u(wa)l-, which is imitative of a wail or an owl's hoot (compare howl and Latin ulula "owl;" also see ululation).
The bird was used in proverbs and figures of speech in reference to its nocturnal habits, but also in Middle English for ugliness (late 14c.), spiritual blindness (c. 1400), and maliciousness (mid-15c.). It was a name for Satan in early 15c. The association with gravity and wisdom comes later, after the revival of classical learning: A small, brown type of owl is common on the Acropolis and about Athens and was hence taken in ancient times as an emblem of the city and by extension of its patron deity, Athene, goddess of wisdom. Hence also the saying bring (or send) owls to Athens "perform unnecessary labor."
By 1895 in reference to a person whose pleasure or business is to be up at night. Owl-flight "twilight" is from late 15c. The name of the trickster Till Eulenspiegel (literally "owl-mirror") of the popular German tales was rendered in English as Owlglass when they were first translated c. 1560; Jonson and Scott use the half-translated Owl-spiegle.