mid-13c. (late 12c. as a surname), Anglo-French ivorie, from Old North French ivurie (12c.), from Medieval Latin eborium "ivory," noun use of neuter of Latin eboreus "of ivory," from ebur (genitive eboris) "ivory," probably via Phoenician from an African source (compare Egyptian ab "elephant," Coptic ebu "ivory").
It replaced Old English elpendban, literally "elephant bone." Applied in slang to articles made from it, such as dice (1830) and piano keys (1818). As a color, especially in reference to human skin, it is attested from 1580s. Ivories as slang for "teeth" dates from 1782. Black ivory was ivory burnt and powdered, used as a pigment (1810); the sense "African slaves as an article of commerce" is attested from 1834.
Mr. Dunlap then asked the witness what he himself traded in, when on the African coast, and he replied "sometimes in black ivory;" but, being more closely pressed to explain what he meant by "black ivory," he admitted that when he could not get a cargo of real ivory, he took one of slaves. ["Trial of the Twelve Spanish Pirates," Boston, 1834]
Related: Ivoried; ivorine.
symbol of artistic or intellectual aloofness, by 1889, from French tour d'ivoire, used in 1837 by critic Charles-Augustin Sainte-Beuve (1804-1869) with reference to the poet Alfred de Vigny (1797-1863), whom he accused of excessive aloofness.
Et Vigny, plus secret, comme en sa tour d'ivoire, avant midi rentrait. [Sainte-Beuve, "Pensées d'Août, à M. Villemain," 1837]
Used earlier as a type of a wonder or a symbol of "the ideal." The literal image is perhaps from Song of Solomon [vii:4]:
Thy neck is as a tower of ivory; thine eyes like the fishpools in Heshbon, by the gate of Bathrabbim: thy nose is as the tower of Lebanon which looketh toward Damascus. [KJV]
climbing plant, Old English ifig, from West Germanic *ibakhs (source also of Middle Low German iflof, Dutch eiloof, Old High German ebahewi, German Efeu), a word of unknown origin; the second element in the Old High German word might be heu "hay."
Ivy bush as a sign of a tavern where wine is served is attested from mid-15c. (the ivy being sacred to Bacchus). Ivy League, inspired by the image of old, ivy-mantled walls, dates to 1935, originally in reference to a conference of football teams agreeing to organize teams and play games by set rules; it consists of Brown, Columbia, Cornell, Dartmouth, Harvard, Pennsylvania, Princeton, and Yale.
Incidentally, "Ivy League" is a poor name; it suggests that athletic morality is concentrated in a few very old colleges. Obviously, membership should be determined not by the amount of ivy on an institution's walls, but by its willingness to adopt and follow certain fundamental principles of education and sport. [Princeton Alumni Weekly, Dec. 6, 1935]
word-forming element used to make verbs, Middle English -isen, from Old French -iser/-izer, from Late Latin -izare, from Greek -izein, a verb-forming element denoting the doing of the noun or adjective to which it is attached.
The variation of -ize and -ise began in Old French and Middle English, perhaps aided by a few words (such as surprise, see below) where the ending is French or Latin, not Greek. With the classical revival, English partially reverted to the correct Greek -z- spelling from late 16c. But the 1694 edition of the authoritative French Academy dictionary standardized the spellings as -s-, which influenced English.
In Britain, despite the opposition to it (at least formerly) of OED, Encyclopaedia Britannica, the Times of London, and Fowler, -ise remains dominant. Fowler thinks this is to avoid the difficulty of remembering the short list of common words not from Greek which must be spelled with an -s- (such as advertise, devise, surprise). American English has always favored -ize. The spelling variation involves about 200 English verbs.
clothing manufacturer trendy in the 1970s and 1980s, the company name was bought in 1930s from A.J. Izod, a London tailoring establishment. The surname (also Izzard, etc.) goes back to the Middle Ages and might be related to the proper name Isold.