Etymology
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worth (adj.)

Old English weorþ "significant, valuable, of value; valued, appreciated, highly thought-of, deserving, meriting; honorable, noble, of high rank; suitable for, proper, fit, capable," from Proto-Germanic *wertha- "toward, opposite," hence "equivalent, worth" (source also of Old Frisian werth, Old Norse verðr, Dutch waard, Old High German werd, German wert, Gothic wairþs "worth, worthy"), which is of uncertain origin. Perhaps a derivative of PIE *wert- "to turn, wind," from root *wer- (2) "to turn, bend." Old Church Slavonic vredu, Lithuanian vertas "worth" are considered to be Germanic loan-words. From c. 1200 as "equivalent to, of the value of, valued at; having importance equal to; equal in power to."

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luff (n.)

also loof, in sailing, c. 1200, "contrivance for altering a ship's course," also "part of a ship's bow where the sides begin to curve," from Old French lof "spar," or some other nautical device, "point of sail," also "windward side," of uncertain origin and sense development, probably ultimately from Germanic (compare Middle Dutch lof "windward side of a ship" (Dutch loef), which might also be the direct source of the English word).

This is from Proto-Germanic *lofo (source also of Old Norse lofi, Gothic lofa "palm of the hand," Danish lab, Swedish labb "paw"), from PIE *lep- (2) "to be flat" (see glove (n.)). As a verb, "bring the head of a sailing-ship nearer the wind," from late 14c., from the noun.

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monsoon (n.)

1580s, "alternating trade wind of the Indian Ocean," from Dutch monssoen, from Portuguese monçao, from Arabic mawsim "time of year, appropriate season" (for a voyage, pilgrimage, etc.), from wasama "he marked." The Arabic word, picked up by Portuguese sailors in the Indian Ocean, was used for anything that comes round every year (such as a festival), and was extended to the season of the year when the monsoon blows from the southwest (April through October) and the winds were right for voyages to the East Indies. In India, the summer monsoon is much stronger than the winter and was popularly spoken of emphatically as "the monsoon." It also brings heavy rain, hence the meaning "heavy episode of rainfall during the rainy season" (1747). Related: Monsoonal.

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whistle (v.)

Old English hwistlian "to whistle," from Proto-Germanic *hwis-, of imitative origin (source also of Old Norse hvisla "to whisper," Danish hvisle "to hiss;" see whisper (v.)). Used also in Middle English of the hissing of serpents; in 17c. it also could mean "whisper." Transitive use from late 15c. Related: Whistled; whistling. At public events, often an expression of support or encouragement in U.S., but often derisive in Britain. To whistle for (with small prospect of getting) is perhaps from nautical whistling for a wind, an old sailor's superstition during a calm. "Such men will not whistle during a storm" [Century Dictionary]. To whistle "Dixie" is from 1940.

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lithe (adj.)

Old English liðe "soft, mild, gentle, calm, meek," also, of persons, "gracious, kind, agreeable," from Proto-Germanic *linthja- (source also of Old Saxon lithi "soft, mild, gentle," Old High German lindi, German lind, Old Norse linr "soft to the touch, gentle, mild, agreeable," with characteristic loss of "n" before "th" in English), from PIE root *lento- "flexible" (source also of Latin lentus "flexible, pliant, slow," Sanskrit lithi).

In Middle English, used of the weather. Current sense of "easily flexible" is from c. 1300. Related: Litheness. Old and Middle English had the related verb lin "to cease doing (something)," also used of the wind dying down.

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by (prep., adv.)

Old English be- (unstressed) or bi (stressed) "near, in, by, during, about," from Proto-Germanic *bi "around, about," in compounds often merely intensive (source also of Old Saxon and Old Frisian bi "by, near," Middle Dutch bie, Dutch bij, German bei "by, at, near," Gothic bi "about"), from PIE *bhi, reduced form of root *ambhi- "around."

As an adverb by c. 1300, "near, close at hand."

OED (2nd ed. print) has 38 distinct definitions of it as a preposition. Originally an adverbial particle of place, which sense survives in place names (Whitby, Grimsby, etc., also compare rudesby). Elliptical use for "secondary course" was in Old English (opposed to main, as in byway, also compare by-blow "illegitimate child," 1590s, Middle English loteby "a concubine," from obsolete lote "to lurk, lie hidden"). This also is the sense of the second by in the phrase by the by (1610s).

By the way literally means "along the way" (c. 1200), hence "in passing by," used figuratively to introduce a tangential observation ("incidentally") by 1540s. To swear by something or someone is in Old English, perhaps originally "in the presence of." Phrase by and by (early 14c.) originally meant "one by one," with by apparently denoting succession; modern sense of "before long" is from 1520s.

By and large "in all its length and breadth" (1660s) originally was nautical, "sailing to the wind and off it," hence "in one direction then another;" from nautical expression large wind, one that crosses the ship's line in a favorable direction.

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vicar (n.)

early 14c., from Anglo-French vicare, Old French vicaire "deputy, second in command," also in the ecclesiastical sense (12c.), from Latin vicarius "a substitute, deputy, proxy," noun use of adjective vicarius "substituted, delegated," from vicis "change, interchange, succession; a place, position" (from PIE root *weik- (2) "to bend, to wind"). The original notion is of "earthly representative of God or Christ;" but also used in sense of "person acting as parish priest in place of a real parson" (early 14c.).

The original Vicar of Bray (in figurative use from 1660s) seems to have been Simon Allen, who held the benefice from c. 1540 to 1588, thus serving from the time of Henry VIII to Elizabeth I, being twice a Catholic and twice a Protestant but always vicar of Bray. The village is near Maidenhead in Berkshire.

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cobra (n.)

venomous hooded snake found in India and neighboring regions, 1802, short for cobra capello (1670s), from Portuguese cobra de capello, literally "serpent of the hood," from Latin colubra "a snake, female serpent" (source of French couleuvre "adder"), which is of uncertain origin. So called for the expandable loose skin about its neck. The word came to English via Portuguese colonies in India, where the native name is nag (see naga).

De Vaan suggests a possible connection of Latin colubra with colus "distaff." "A distaff is used to wind a thread or fibre around it. Hence, a preform *kolos-ro- would mean 'distaff-like' or 'of a distaff' ..., and since a snake also winds around its own axis, it might have been called 'distaff-like animal'."

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flotsam (n.)

c. 1600, from Anglo-French floteson, from Old French flotaison "a floating" (Modern French flottaison), from floter "to float, set afloat" (of Germanic origin and cognate with float) + -aison, from Latin -ation(em). Spelled flotsen in English till mid-19c. when it altered, perhaps under influence of many English words in -some. Folk-etymologized in dialect as floatsome.

In British law, flotsam are goods found floating on the sea as a consequence of a shipwreck or action of wind or waves; jetsam are things cast out of a ship in danger of being wrecked, and afterward washed ashore, or things cast ashore by the sailors. Whatever sinks is lagan. Flotsam and jetsam figuratively for "odds and ends" is attested by 1861.

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leviathan (n.)

late 14c., "sea monster, sea serpent," sometimes regarded as a form of Satan, from Late Latin leviathan, from Hebrew livyathan "dragon, serpent, huge sea animal," of unknown origin, perhaps from root l-w-h- "to wind, turn, twist," on the notion of a serpent's coils. If so, related to Hebrew liwyah "wreath," Arabic lawa "to bend, twist." Of powerful persons or things from c. 1600. Hobbes's use is from 1651.

An aquatic animal mentioned in the Old Testament. It is described in Job xli. apparently as a crocodile; in Isa. xxvii 1 it is called a piercing and a crooked serpent; and it is mentioned indefinitely in Ps. lxxiv. 14 as food and Ps. civ. 26. [Century Dictionary]
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