1640s, "animating spirit, the human spirit or mind," from Latin psyche, from Greek psykhē "the soul, mind, spirit; life, one's life, the invisible animating principle or entity which occupies and directs the physical body; understanding, the mind (as the seat of thought), faculty of reason," also "ghost, spirit of a dead person;" probably akin to psykhein "to blow, breathe," also "to cool, to make dry."
These are sometimes traced to a PIE root *bhes- "to blow, to breathe" (source also of Sanskrit bhas-), "Probably imitative" [Watkins]. Beekes finds this tempting but not convincing and doubts the existence of the PIE verb based on scant evidence.
Personified by the Greeks as Psykhē, the beloved of Eros, often represented as a fair young girl; the butterfly was her symbol. Also in ancient Greek, "departed soul, spirit, ghost," seen as a winged creature and often represented symbolically as a butterfly or moth.
The word had extensive sense development in Platonic philosophy and Jewish-influenced theological writing of St. Paul (compare spirit (n.)). Thus in Biblical use the Greek word was "the soul as the seat of feelings, desires, affections, etc.," also "the soul regarded as a moral being designed for everlasting life," and "the soul as an essence which differs from the body and is not dissolved by death." In English, the meaning "human soul" is from 1650s; the psychological sense of "mind" is attested by 1910.
In the Jewish-Alexandrine Pauline, and Neo-Platonist psychology, the psyche is in general treated as the animating principle in close relation to the body, whereas the pneuma (as representing the divine breath breathed into man), the nous, and the Logos (q.v.) stand for higher entities. They are the more universal, the more divine, the ethically purer. By this more explicit separation of the intellectual and ethical activities from the physiological the conception of the mental or psychical (in the modern sense) was at length reached. ["Dictionary of Philosophy and Psychology," J.M. Baldwin, ed., London, 1902]
type of tall tree native to western Asia, southern Europe, and eastern U.S., also the large "nut" that it produces, 1560s, from chesten nut (1510s), with superfluous nut (n.) + Middle English chasteine, from Old French chastain (12c., Modern French châtaigne), from Latin castanea "chestnut, chestnut tree," from Greek kastaneia, which the Greeks explained as either "nut from Castanea" in Pontus, or "nut from Castana" in Thessaly, but probably both places are named for the trees, not the other way around, and the word is borrowed from a language of Asia Minor (compare Armenian kask "chestnut," kaskeni "chestnut tree"). In reference to the dark reddish-brown color, 1650s. Applied to the horse-chestnut by 1832.
Slang sense of "venerable joke or story" is from 1885, explained by U.S. actor Joseph Jefferson ("Lippincott's Monthly Magazine," January 1888) as probably abstracted from the 1816 melodrama "The Broken Sword" by William Dimond where an oft-repeated story involving a chestnut tree figures in an exchange between the characters "Captain Zavior" and "Pablo":
Zav. Let me see—aye! it is exactly six years since, that peace being restored to Spain, and my ship paid off, my kind brother offer'd me a snug hammock in the dwelling of my forefathers;—I mounted a mule at Barcelona, and trotted away for my native mountains. At the dawn of the fourth day's journey, I entered the wood of Collares, when, suddenly from the thick boughs of a cork-tree—
Pab. [Jumping up.] A chesnut, Captain, a chesnut!
Zav. Bah! you booby, I say, a cork.
Pab. And I swear, a chesnut—Captain! this is the twenty-seventh time I have heard you relate this story, and you invariably said, a chesnut, till now.
Zav. Did I? Well, a chesnut be it then. But, take your seat again.
Jefferson traced the connection through William Warren (1812-1888), "the veteran comedian of Boston" (and Jefferson's cousin) who often played Pablo in the melodrama.
1590s, "compatriot," from French patriote (15c.) and directly from Late Latin patriota "fellow-countryman" (6c.), from Greek patriotes "fellow countryman," from patrios "of one's fathers," patris "fatherland," from pater (genitive patros) "father" (see father (n.)); with -otes, suffix expressing state or condition. Liddell & Scott write that patriotes was "applied to barbarians who had only a common [patris], [politai] being used of Greeks who had a common [polis] (or free-state)."
Meaning "loyal and disinterested lover and defender of one's country and its interests" is attested from c. 1600, but it became an ironic term of ridicule or abuse from mid-18c. in England, so that Johnson, who at first defined it as "one whose ruling passion is the love of his country," in his fourth edition added, "It is sometimes used for a factious disturber of the government."
The name of patriot had become [c. 1744] a by-word of derision. Horace Walpole scarcely exaggerated when he said that ... the most popular declaration which a candidate could make on the hustings was that he had never been and never would be a patriot. [Macaulay, "Horace Walpole," 1833]
It was somewhat revived in reference to resistance movements in overrun countries in World War II, and it has usually had a positive sense in American English, where the phony and rascally variety has been consigned to the word patrioteer (1928).
Oriana Fallaci ["The Rage and the Pride," 2002] marvels that Americans, so fond of patriotic, patriot, and patriotism, lack the root noun and are content to express the idea of patria by cumbersome compounds such as homeland. (Joyce, Shaw, and H.G. Wells all used patria as an English word early 20c., but it failed to stick.) Patriots' Day (April 19, the anniversary of the 1775 skirmishes at Lexington and Concord Bridge) was observed as a legal holiday in Maine and Massachusetts from 1894.
Middle English nede, from Old English nied (West Saxon), ned (Mercian) "what is required, wanted, or desired; necessity, compulsion, the constraint of unavoidable circumstances; duty; hardship, emergency, trouble, time of peril or distress; errand, business," originally "violence, force," from Proto-Germanic *nauthiz/*naudiz (source also of Old Saxon nod, Old Norse nauðr "distress, emergency, need," Old Frisian ned, "force, violence; danger, anxiety, fear; need," Middle Dutch, Dutch nood "need, want, distress, peril," Old High German not, German Not "need, distress, necessity, hardship," Gothic nauþs "need").
This is apparently from a root *nauti- "death, to be exhausted," source also of Old English ne, neo, Old Norse na, Gothic naus "corpse;" Old Irish naunae "famine, shortage," Old Cornish naun "corpse;" Old Church Slavonic navi "corpse," nazda, Russian nuzda, Polish nędza "misery, distress;" Old Prussian nowis "corpse," nautin "need, distress," nawe "death;" Lithuanian novyti "to torture, kill," nove "death." As it is attested only in Germanic, Celtic, and Balto-Slavic, it might be non-PIE, from a regional substrate language.
From 12c. as "lack of something that is necessary or important; state or condition of needing something;" also "a necessary act, required work or duty." Meaning "extreme poverty, destitution, want of means of subsistence" is from early 14c.
The more common Old English word for "need, necessity, want" was ðearf, but they were connected via a notion of "trouble, pain," and the two formed a compound, niedðearf "need, necessity, compulsion, thing needed." Nied also might have been influenced by Old English neod "desire, longing," which often was spelled the same. Nied was common in Old English compounds, such as niedfaru "compulsory journey," a euphemism for "death;" niedhæmed "rape" (the second element being an Old English word meaning "sexual intercourse"); niedling "slave."
Middle English wif, wyf, from Old English wif (neuter) "woman, female, lady," also, but not especially, "wife," from Proto-Germanic *wīfa- (source also of Old Saxon, Old Frisian wif, Old Norse vif, Danish and Swedish viv, Middle Dutch, Dutch wijf, Old High German wib, German Weib), of uncertain origin and disputed etymology, not found in Gothic.
Apparently felt as inadequate in its basic sense, leading to the more distinctive formation wifman (source of woman). Dutch wijf now means, in slang, "girl, babe," having softened somewhat from earlier sense of "bitch." The Modern German cognate (Weib) also tends to be slighting or derogatory; Middle High German wip in early medieval times was "woman, female person," vrouwe (Frau) being retained for "woman of gentle birth, lady;" but from c. 1200 wip "took on a common, almost vulgar tone that restricted its usage in certain circles" and largely has been displaced by Frau.
The more usual Indo-European word is represented in English by queen/quean. Words for "woman" also double for "wife" in some languages. Some proposed PIE roots for wife include *weip- "to twist, turn, wrap," perhaps with sense of "veiled person" (see vibrate); and more recently *ghwibh-, a proposed root meaning "shame," also "pudenda," but the only examples of it would be the Germanic words and Tocharian (a lost IE language of central Asia) kwipe, kip "female pudenda."
The modern sense of "female spouse" began as a specialized sense in Old English; the general sense of "woman" is preserved in midwife, old wives' tale, etc. Middle English sense of "mistress of a household" survives in housewife; and the later restricted sense of "tradeswoman of humble rank" in fishwife. By 1883 as "passive partner in a homosexual couple." Wife-swapping is attested from 1954.
ruminant mammal of the genus Ovis, as a domestic species, one of the animals most useful to humans, Old English sceap, scep, Northumbrian scap, 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), a word 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. From 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; the phrase itself by 1570s. 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 "an ill-trained mongrel, a dog that worries sheep" (1540s) and had extended senses: a mutton-monger" (1590s); and "a whore-monger" (1610s, i.e. one who "chases mutton"); hence Shakespeare's sheep-biting "thieving, sneaky." An old London chronicle c. 1450 has went to sheep-wash for "were slain."
Old English bæc "back," from Proto-Germanic *bakam (cognates: Old Saxon and Middle Dutch bak, Old Frisian bek), with no known connections outside Germanic. In other modern Germanic languages the cognates mostly have been ousted in this sense by words akin to Modern English ridge (such as Danish ryg, German Rücken).
Many Indo-European languages show signs of once having distinguished the horizontal back of an animal (or a mountain range) from the upright back of a human. In other cases, a modern word for "back" may come from a word related to "spine" (Italian schiena, Russian spina) or "shoulder, shoulder blade" (Spanish espalda, Polish plecy).
By synecdoche, "the whole body," especially with reference to clothing. The meaning "upright part of a chair" is from 1520s. As a U.S. football position by 1876, so called from being behind the line of rushers; further distinguished according to relative position as quarterback, halfback, fullback. To turn (one's) back on (someone or something) "ignore" is from early 14c.
To know (something) like the back of one's hand, implying familiarity, is first attested 1893 in a dismissive speech made to a character in Robert Louis Stevenson's "Catriona":
If I durst speak to herself, you may be certain I would never dream of trusting it to you; because I know you like the back of my hand, and all your blustering talk is that much wind to me.
The story, a sequel to "Kidnapped," has a Scottish setting and context, and the back of my hand to you was noted in the late 19th century as a Scottish expression meaning "I will have nothing to do with you" [see Longmuir's edition of Jamieson's Scottish dictionary]. In English generally, the back of (one's) hand has been used to imply contempt and rejection at least since 1300. Perhaps the connection of a menacing dismissal is what made Stevenson choose that particular anatomical reference.
Old English hlot "object used to determine someone's share" (anything from dice to straw, but often a chip of wood with a name inscribed on it), also "what falls to a person by lot," from Proto-Germanic *khlutom (source also of Old Norse hlutr "lot, share," Old Frisian hlot "lot," Old Saxon hlot, Middle Dutch, Dutch lot, Old High German hluz "share of land," German Los), from a strong verb (the source of Old English hleotan "to cast lots, obtain by lot; to foretell"). The whole group is of unknown origin.
The object was placed with others in a receptacle (such as a hat or helmet), which was shaken, the winner being the one whose name or mark was on the lot that fell out first. Hence the expression cast lots; to cast (one's) lot with another (1530s, originally biblical) is to agree to share winnings. In some cases the lots were drawn by hand, hence to draw lots. The word was adopted from Germanic into the Romanic languages (Spanish lote, and compare lottery, lotto).
Meaning "choice resulting from the casting of lots" first attested c. 1200. Meaning "share or portion of life" in any way, "that which is given by fate, God or destiny" is from c. 1300. Meaning "number of persons or things of the same kind" is from 1570s (compare Latin mala merx, of persons, literally "a bad lot"). Sense of "plot of land" is first recorded 1630s, American English (distribution of the most desirable properties in new settlements often was determined by casting lots), then especially "parcel of land set aside for a specified purpose" (the Hollywood sense is from 1928). The common U.S. city lot was a rectangle 25 feet wide (along the street) by 100 deep; it was so universal as to be sometimes a unit of measure.
Meaning "group, collection" is 1725, from the notion of auction lots. Lots in the generalized sense of "great many" is attested by 1812; lotsa, colloquial for "lots of," is from 1927; lotta for "lot of" is by 1906.
third letter of the alphabet. Alphabetic writing came to Rome via the southern Etruscan "Caeretan" script, in which gamma was written as a crescent. Early Romans made little use of Greek kappa and used gamma for both the "g" and "k" sounds, the latter more frequently, so that the "k" sound came to be seen as the proper one for gamma. Classical Latin -c-, with only the value "k," passed to Celtic and, via missionary Irish monks, to the Anglo-Saxons. Also see cee.
In some Old English words, before some vowels and in certain positions, -c- had a "ts" sound that was respelled ch- in Middle English by French scribes (chest, cheese, church; see ch). In Old English -k- was known but little used.
Meanwhile, in Old French, many "k" sounds drifted to "ts" and by 13c., "s," but still were written -c-. Thus the 1066 invasion brought to the English language a flood of French and Latin words in which -c- represented "s" (as in cease, ceiling, circle) and a more vigorous use of -k- to distinguish that sound. By 15c. even native English words with -s- were being respelled with -c- for "s" (ice, mice, lice).
In some English words from Italian, the -c- has a "ch" sound (via a sound evolution somewhat like the Old French one). In German, -c- in loanwords was regularized to -k- or -z- (depending on pronunciation) in the international spelling reform of 1901, which was based on the Duden guide of 1880.
As a symbol in the Roman numeral system, "one hundred;" the symbol originally was a Greek theta, but was later reduced in form and understood to stand for centum. In music, it is the name of the keynote of the natural scale, though the exact pitch varied in time and place 18c. and 19c. from 240 vibrations per second to 275; it wasn't entirely regularized (at 261.63) until the adoption of the A440 standard in the 1930s. C-spring as a type of carriage spring is from 1794, so called for its shape.
eighth letter of the alphabet; it comes from Phoenician, via Greek and Latin. In Phoenician it originally had a rough guttural sound like German Reich or Scottish loch. In Greek at first it had the value of Modern English -h-, and with this value it passed into the Latin alphabet via Greek colonies in Italy. Subsequently in Greek it came to be used for a long "e" sound; the "h" sound being indicated by a fragment of the letter, which later was reduced to the aspiration mark.
In Germanic it was used for the voiceless breath sound when at the beginning of words, and in the middle or at the end of words for the rough guttural sound, which later came to be written -gh.
The sound became totally silent in Vulgar Latin and in the languages that emerged from it; thus the letter was omitted in Old French and Italian, but it was restored pedantically in French and Middle English spelling, and often later in English pronunciation. Thus Modern English has words ultimately from Latin with missing -h- (able, from Latin habile); with a silent -h- (heir, hour); with a formerly silent -h- now often vocalized (humble, humor, herb); and even a few with an unetymological -h- fitted in confusion to words that never had one (hostage, hermit). Relics of the formerly unvoiced -h- persist in pedantic insistence on an historical (object) and in obsolete mine host.
The pronunciation "aitch" was in Old French (ache "name of the letter H"), and is from a presumed Late Latin *accha (compare Italian effe, elle, emme), with the central sound approximating the rough, guttural value of the letter in Germanic. In earlier Latin the letter was called ha. The use in digraphs (as in -sh-, -th-) goes back to the ancient Greek alphabet, which used it in -ph-, -th-, -kh- until -H- took on the value of a long "e" and the digraphs acquired their own characters. The letter passed into Roman use before this evolution, and thus retained there more of its original Semitic value.