Etymology
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crank (n.)

"bent or vertical handle for turning a revolving axis," Old English *cranc, implied in crancstæf "a weaver's instrument," crencestre "female weaver, spinster," which is related to crincan "to bend, yield," from Proto-Germanic *krank- "bend, curl up" (see cringe).

English retains the literal sense of the ancient word ("something bent or crooked"), while in other Germanic languages it tends to have only a figurative sense (German and Dutch krank "sick," formerly "weak, small"). The Continental definition entered into English crank via slang counterfeit crank "one who shams sickness to get charity" (1560s). OED notes that "the 16th c. vagabonds' cant contains words taken directly from Continental languages." It apparently lingered in the north (the 1825 supplement to Jamieson's Scottish dictionary has crank "infirm, weak, etc.") and might have influenced the development of the English word.

Meaning "twist or turn of speech, grotesquery in words" is from 1590s; that of "absurd or unreasonable act" (perhaps caused by "twisted judgment") is from 1848. The sense of "eccentric person," especially one who is irrationally fixated, is first recorded 1833; this sometimes is said to be from the crank of a barrel organ, which makes it play the same tune over and over; but more likely it is a back-formation from cranky (q.v.) and thus from the notion of one having a mental "twist."

The person who adopts "any presentiment, any extravagance as most in nature," is not commonly called a Transcendentalist, but is known colloquially as a "crank." [Oliver W. Holmes, "Ralph Waldo Emerson"]

There also was a crank (adj.) in Middle English meaning "lively, brisk, merry," but it is of uncertain origin and connection. Cranky for "merry, lively" lingered into 19c. in northern England dialects and American English. Meaning "methamphetamine" attested by 1989, from the verb.

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oe 

a digraph written also as a ligature (œ) found in Latin words and Greek borrowings into Latin, representing Greek -oi-. Words with -oe- that came early into English from Old French or Medieval Latin usually already had been leveled to -e- (economic, penal, cemetery), but later borrowings directly from Latin or Greek tended to retain it at first (oestrus, diarrhoea, amoeba) as did proper names (Oedipus, Phoebe, Phoenix) and purely technical terms. British English tends to be more conservative with it than American, which has done away with it in all but a few instances.

It also occurred in some native Latin words (foedus "treaty, league," foetere "to stink," hence occasionally in English foetid, foederal, which last was the form in the original publications of the "Federalist" papers). In these it represents an ancient -oi- in Old Latin (for example Old Latin oino, Classical Latin unus), which apparently passed through an -oe- form before being leveled out but was preserved into Classical Latin in certain words, especially those belonging to the realms of law (such as foedus) and religion. These language demesnes, along with the vocabulary of sailors, are the most conservative branches of any language in any time, through a need for precision and immediate comprehension, demonstration of learning, or superstitious dread. But in foetus it was an unetymological spelling in Latin that was picked up in English and formed the predominant spelling of fetus into the early 20c.

The digraph in English also can represent a modified vowel, a mutation or umlaut of -o- in German or Scandinavian words (such as Goethe) and a similar vowel in French words (e.g. oeil "eye," from Latin oculus).

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church (n.)
Origin and meaning of church

Old English cirice, circe "place of assemblage set aside for Christian worship; the body of Christian believers, Christians collectively; ecclesiastical authority or power," from Proto-Germanic *kirika (source also of Old Saxon kirika, Old Norse kirkja, Old Frisian zerke, Middle Dutch kerke, Dutch kerk, Old High German kirihha, German Kirche).

This is probably [see extensive note in OED] borrowed via an unrecorded Gothic word from Greek kyriake (oikia), kyriakon doma "the Lord's (house)," from kyrios "ruler, lord," from PIE root *keue- "to swell" ("swollen," hence "strong, powerful"). 

Greek kyriakon (adj.) "of the Lord" was used of houses of Christian worship since c. 300, especially in the East, though it was less common in this sense than ekklesia or basilike. An example of the direct Greek-to-Germanic transmission of many Christian words, via the Goths; probably it was used by West Germanic people in their pre-Christian period.

The word also was picked up by the Slavic tongues, probably via Germanic (Old Church Slavonic criky, Russian cerkov). Finnish kirkko, Estonian kirrik are from Scandinavian. Romance and Celtic languages use variants of Latin ecclesia (such as French église, 11c.).

Phonetic spelling from c. 1200, established by 16c. For vowel evolution, see bury. After the Reformation, church was used for any particular Christian denomination agreeing on doctrine and forms of worship.

As an adjective, "pertaining to a church," from 1570s. Church-bell was in late Old English. Church-goer is from 1680s. Church-key "key of a church door" is from early 14c.; slang use for "can or bottle opener" is by 1954, probably originally U.S. college student slang. Church-mouse (1731) "a mouse supposed to live in a church" (where there is nothing for it to eat) is proverbial in many languages for poverty.

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power (n.)
Origin and meaning of power

c. 1300, pouer, "ability; ability to act or do; strength, vigor, might," especially in battle; "efficacy; control, mastery, lordship, dominion, ability or right to command or control; legal power or authority; authorization; military force, an army," from Anglo-French pouair, Old French povoir, noun use of the infinitive, "to be able," earlier podir (9c.), from Vulgar Latin *potere (source also of Spanish poder, Italian potere), from Latin potis "powerful" (from PIE root *poti- "powerful; lord").

Whatever some hypocritical ministers of government may say about it, power is the greatest of all pleasures. It seems to me that only love can beat it, and love is a happy illness that can't be picked up as easily as a Ministry. [Stendhal "de l'Amour," 1822]

Meaning "one who has power, person in authority or exercising great influence in a community" is late 14c. Meaning "a specific ability or capacity" is from early 15c. In mechanics, "that with which work can be done," by 1727.

Sense of "property of an inanimate thing or agency of modifying other things" is by 1590s. Meaning "a state or nation with regard to international authority or influence" [OED] is from 1726. Meaning "energy available for work is from 1727. Sense of "electrical supply" is from 1896.

Colloquial a power of for "a large quantity of, a great number of" is from 1660s (compare powerful). Phrase the powers that be "the authorities concerned" is from Romans xiii.1. As a statement wishing good luck, more power to(someone) is recorded from 1842. A man-advantage power play in ice hockey so called by 1940. Power failure "failure of the (electrical) power supply" is from 1911; power steering in a motor vehicle is from 1921. Power politics "political action based on or backed by threats of force" (1937) translates German Macht-politik.

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yellow ribbon 

The American folk custom of wearing or displaying a yellow ribbon to signify solidarity with loved ones or fellow citizens at war originated during the U.S. embassy hostage crisis in Iran in 1979. It does not have a connection to the American Civil War, beyond the use of the old British folk song "Round Her Neck She Wore A Yellow Ribbon" in the John Wayne movie of the same name, with a Civil War setting, released in 1949.

The story of a ribbon tied to a tree as a signal to a convict returning home that his loved ones have forgiven him is attested from 1959, but the ribbon in that case was white.

The ribbon color seems to have changed to yellow first in a version retold by newspaper columnist Pete Hamill in 1971. The story was dramatized in June 1972 on ABC-TV (James Earl Jones played the ex-con). Later that year, Irwin Levine and L. Russell Brown copyrighted the song "Tie a Yellow Ribbon Round the Ole Oak Tree," which became a pop hit in early 1973 and sparked a lawsuit by Hamill, later dropped.

In 1975, the wife of a Watergate conspirator put out yellow ribbons when her husband was released from jail, and news coverage of that was noted and remembered by Penne Laingen, whose husband was U.S. ambassador to Iran in 1979 and one of the Iran hostages taken in the embassy on Nov. 4. Her yellow ribbon in his honor was written up in the Dec. 10, 1979, Washington Post.

When the hostage families organized as the Family Liaison Action Group (FLAG), they took the yellow ribbon as their symbol. The ribbons revived in the 1991 Gulf War and again during the 2000s wars in Afghanistan and Iraq.

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cheese (n.1)

curd of milk coagulated, separated from the whey, pressed and used as food, Old English cyse (West Saxon), cese (Anglian) "cheese," from West Germanic *kasjus (source also of Old Saxon kasi, Old High German chasi, German Käse, Middle Dutch case, Dutch kaas), from Latin caseus "cheese" (source of Italian cacio, Spanish queso, Irish caise, Welsh caws).

Of unknown origin; perhaps from a PIE root *kwat- "to ferment, become sour" (source also of Prakrit chasi "buttermilk;" Old Church Slavonic kvasu "leaven; fermented drink," kyselu "sour," -kyseti "to turn sour;" Czech kysati "to turn sour, rot;" Sanskrit kvathati "boils, seethes;" Gothic hwaþjan "foam").

But de Vaan writes, "no etymology can be found which does not require some poorly-founded assumptions," and suggests a loan-word. Also compare fromage. Old Norse ostr, Danish ost, Swedish ost are related to Latin ius "broth, sauce, juice."

Earliest references would be to compressed curds of milk used as food; pressed or molded cheeses with rinds are from 14c. Transferred to other cheese-like substances by 1530s. As a photographer's word to make subjects hold a smile, it is attested from 1930, but in a reminiscence of schoolboy days, which suggests an earlier use. Probably for the forced smile involved in making the -ee- sound.

Green cheese is that newly made; the notion that the moon is made of green cheese as a type of a ridiculous assertion is from 1520s. To make cheeses (1835) was a schoolgirls' amusement of wheeling rapidly so one's petticoats blew out in a circle then dropping down so they came to rest inflated and resembling a wheel of cheese; hence, used figuratively for "a deep curtsy." Bartlett ("Dictionary of Americanisms," 1848) defines head cheese as "The ears and feet of swine cut up fine, and, after being boiled, pressed into the form of a cheese."

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sex (n.)
Origin and meaning of sex

late 14c., "males or females collectively," from Latin sexus "a sex, state of being either male or female, gender," of uncertain origin. "Commonly taken with seco as division or 'half' of the race" [Tucker], which would connect it to secare "to divide or cut" (see section (n.)).

Secus seems the more original formation, but it is strange that the older texts only know sexus. The modern meaning of sectiō 'division' suggests that sec/xus might derive from secāre 'to sever', but the morphology remains unclear: does sexus go back to an s-present *sek-s- 'to cut up', or was it derived from a form *sek-s- of the putative s-stem underlying secus?  [Michiel de Vaan, "Etymological Dictionary of Latin and the other Italic Languages," Leiden, 2008]

Meaning "quality of being male or female" first recorded 1520s. Meaning "sexual intercourse" is attested by 1906; the meaning "genitalia" is attested by 1938. Sex appeal is attested by 1904.

For the raw sex appeal of the burlesque "shows" there is no defense, either. These "shows" should be under official supervision, at the least, and boys beneath the age of eighteen forbidden, perhaps, to attend their performance, just as we forbid the sale of liquors to minors. [Walter Prichard Eaton, "At the New Theatre and Others: The American Stage, Its Problems and Performances," Boston, 1910]

Sex drive is by 1918; sex object by 1901; sex symbol by 1871 in anthropology; the first person to whom the term was applied seems to have been Marilyn Monroe (1959). Sex therapist is from 1974.

It is curious that the Anglo-Saxon language seems to have had no abstract term for sex, which was expressed only severally as manhood or womanhood. [Thomas Wright, note to "Anglo-Saxon and Old English Vocabularies," 1884]
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author (n.)

mid-14c., auctor, autour, autor "father, creator, one who brings about, one who makes or creates" someone or something, from Old French auctor, acteor "author, originator, creator, instigator" (12c., Modern French auteur) and directly from Latin auctor "promoter, producer, father, progenitor; builder, founder; trustworthy writer, authority; historian; performer, doer; responsible person, teacher," literally "one who causes to grow," agent noun from auctus, past participle of augere "to increase," from PIE root *aug- (1) "to increase."

From late 14c. as "a writer, one who sets forth written statements, original composer of a writing" (as distinguished from a compiler, translator, copyist, etc.). Also from late 14c. as "source of authoritative information or opinion," now archaic but the sense behind authority, etc. In Middle English the word was sometimes confused with actor. The -t- changed to -th- 16c., on model of change in Medieval Latin, on mistaken assumption of Greek origin and confusion with authentic.

...[W]riting means revealing oneself to excess .... This is why one can never be alone enough when one writes, why even night is not night enough. ... I have often thought that the best mode of life for me would be to sit in the innermost room of a spacious locked cellar with my writing things and a lamp. Food would be brought and always put down far away from my room, outside the cellar's outermost door. The walk to my food, in my dressing gown, through the vaulted cellars, would be my only exercise. I would then return to my table, eat slowly and with deliberation, then start writing again at once. And how I would write! From what depths I would drag it up! [Franz Kafka, "Letters to Felice," 1913]
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mutual (adj.)

late 15c., "reciprocally given and received," originally of feelings, from Old French mutuel (14c.), from Latin mutuus "reciprocal, done in exchange," from PIE root *mei- (1) "to change, go, move," "with derivatives referring to the exchange of goods and services within a society as regulated by custom or law" [Watkins].

The meaning "common" is from 1630s. "Used in this sense loosely and improperly (but not infrequently, and by many writers of high rank), especially in the phrase a mutual friend" [Century Dictionary].

That is common which pertains equally to two or more persons or things. That is mutual which is freely interchanged: mutual love, affection, hatred. The word is sometimes incorrectly used for common: our mutual friend, a phrase of very frequent occurrence, no doubt owing to the perfectly correct 'mutual friendship.' [J.H.A. Günther, "English Synonyms Explained & Illustrated," Groningen, 1904]

Mutual Admiration Society (1851) seems to have been coined by Thoreau. Mutual fund is recorded from 1950.

The Cold War's mutual assured destruction is attested from 1966. Assured destruction was a 1962 term in U.S. military policy circles in reference to nuclear weapons as a deterrent, popularized c. 1964 by Robert McNamara, U.S. Secretary of Defense under Lyndon Johnson, e.g. statement before House Armed Services Committee, Feb. 18, 1965. The notion was "the minimum threat necessary to assure deterrence: the capability to exterminate not less than one third of the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics' (USSR) population in a retaliatory nuclear attack." [Martin Folly, "Historical Dictionary of U.S. Diplomacy During the Cold War"].

By 1964, as the Soviet Union caught up to NATO in ICBMs, the mutual was added, perhaps first by Donald Brennan, conservative defense analyst and a public critic of the policy, who also noted the acronym MAD.)

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Hobbit (n.)

1937, coined in the fantasy tales of J.R.R. Tolkien (1892-1973).

On a blank leaf I scrawled: 'In a hole in the ground there lived a hobbit.' I did not and do not know why. [Tolkien, letter to W.H. Auden, dated 1955]

The word also turns up in a very long list of folkloric supernatural creatures in the writings of Michael Aislabie Denham (d. 1859) as an aside to his explanation that those born on Christmas Eve cannot see spirits. Denham was an early folklorist who concentrated on Northumberland, Durham, Westmoreland, Cumberland, the Isle of Man, and Scotland. This was printed in volume 2 of "The Denham Tracts" [ed. James Hardy, London: Folklore Society, 1895], a compilation of Denham's scattered publications.

What a happiness this must have been seventy or eighty years ago and upwards, to those chosen few who had the good luck to be born on the eve of this festival of all festivals; when the whole earth was so overrun with ghosts, boggles, bloody-bones, spirits, demons, ignis fatui, brownies, bugbears, black dogs, specters, shellycoats, scarecrows, witches, wizards, barguests, Robin-Goodfellows, hags, night-bats, scrags, breaknecks, fantasms, hobgoblins, hobhoulards, boggy-boes, dobbies, hob-thrusts, fetches, kelpies, warlocks, mock-beggars, mum-pokers, Jemmy-burties, urchins, satyrs, pans, fauns, sirens, tritons, centaurs, calcars, nymphs, imps, incubuses, spoorns, men-in-the-oak, hell-wains, fire-drakes, kit-a-can-sticks, Tom-tumblers, melch-dicks, larrs, kitty-witches, hobby-lanthorns, Dick-a-Tuesdays, Elf-fires, Gyl-burnt-tales, knockers, elves, rawheads, Meg-with-the-wads, old-shocks, ouphs, pad-foots, pixies, pictrees, giants, dwarfs, Tom-pokers, tutgots, snapdragons, sprets, spunks, conjurers, thurses, spurns, tantarrabobs, swaithes, tints, tod-lowries, Jack-in-the-Wads, mormos, changelings, redcaps, yeth-hounds, colt-pixies, Tom-thumbs, black-bugs, boggarts, scar-bugs, shag-foals, hodge-pochers, hob-thrushes, bugs, bull-beggars, bygorns, bolls, caddies, bomen, brags, wraiths, waffs, flay-boggarts, fiends, gallytrots, imps, gytrashes, patches, hob-and-lanthorns, gringes, boguests, bonelesses, Peg-powlers, pucks, fays, kidnappers, gallybeggars, hudskins, nickers, madcaps, trolls, robinets, friars' lanthorns, silkies, cauld-lads, death-hearses, goblins, hob-headlesses, bugaboos, kows, or cowes, nickies, nacks necks, waiths, miffies, buckies, ghouls, sylphs, guests, swarths, freiths, freits, gy-carlins Gyre-carling, pigmies, chittifaces, nixies, Jinny-burnt-tails, dudmen, hell-hounds, dopple-gangers, boggleboes, bogies, redmen, portunes, grants, hobbits, hobgoblins, brown-men, cowies, dunnies, wirrikows, alholdes, mannikins, follets, korreds, lubberkins, cluricauns, kobolds, leprechauns, kors, mares, korreds, puckles korigans, sylvans, succubuses, blackmen, shadows, banshees, lian-hanshees, clabbernappers, Gabriel-hounds, mawkins, doubles, corpse lights or candles, scrats, mahounds, trows, gnomes, sprites, fates, fiends, sibyls, nicknevins, whitewomen, fairies, thrummy-caps, cutties, and nisses, and apparitions of every shape, make, form, fashion, kind and description, that there was not a village in England that had not its own peculiar ghost. Nay, every lone tenement, castle, or mansion-house, which could boast of any antiquity had its bogle, its specter, or its knocker. The churches, churchyards, and crossroads were all haunted. Every green lane had its boulder-stone on which an apparition kept watch at night. Every common had its circle of fairies belonging to it. And there was scarcely a shepherd to be met with who had not seen a spirit!

[Emphasis added] It is curious that the name occurs nowhere else in folklore, and there is no evidence that Tolkien ever saw this. The word also was recorded from 1835 as "a term generally used in Wales to express a quantity made up of four Welsh pecks" [in English court records for Hughes vs. Humphreys, a weights-and-measures case from Wales]. Hobbitry attested from 1947.

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