early 15c., "petroleum, rock oil, oily inflammable substance occurring naturally in certain rock beds" (mid-14c. in Anglo-French), from Medieval Latin petroleum, from Latin petra "rock" (see petrous) + oleum "oil" (see oil (n.)). Commercial production and refinement of it began in 1859 in western Pennsylvania, and for most of the late 19th century it was produced commercially almost entirely in Pennsylvania and western New York.
Petroleum was known to the Persians, Greeks, and Romans under the name of naphtha; the less-liquid varieties were called [asphaltos] by the Greeks, and bitumen was with the Romans a generic name for all the naturally occurring hydrocarbons which are now included under the names of asphaltum, maltha, and petroleum. The last name was not in use in classic times. [Century Dictionary, 1895]
c. 1400, "spiced sauce served with meat or fowl" (early 14c. as a surname), probably from Middle Dutch pekel "pickle, brine," or related words in Low German and East Frisian (Dutch pekel, East Frisian päkel, German pökel), which are of uncertain origin or original meaning. Klein suggests the name of a medieval Dutch fisherman who developed the process.
The meaning "cucumber preserved in pickle" first recorded 1707, via use of the word for the salty liquid in which meat, etc. was preserved (c. 1500). Colloquial figurative sense of "a sorry plight, a state or condition of difficulty or disorder" is recorded by 1560s, from the time when the word still meant a sauce served on meat about to be eaten. Meaning "troublesome boy" is from 1788, perhaps from the notion of being "imbued" with roguery.
late 14c., "pouring out of wine in honor of a god," from Latin libationem (nominative libatio) "a drink-offering," noun of action from past-participle stem of libare "pour out (an offering)," perhaps from PIE *lehi- "to pour out, drip" (source of Greek leibein "to pour, make a libation").
This is from an enlargement of the PIE root *lei- "to flow" (source also of Sanskrit riyati "to let run;" Greek aleison "a cup for wine, goblet;" Lithuanian lieju, lieti "to pour," lytus "rain;" Hittite lilai- "to let go;" Albanian lyse, lise "a stream;" Welsh lliant "a stream, a sea," llifo "to flow;" Old Irish lie "a flood;" Breton livad "inundation;" Gaelic lighe "a flood, overflow;" Gothic leithu "fruit wine;" Old Church Slavonic liti, lêju, Bulgarian leja "I pour;" Czech liti, leji, Old Polish lić "to pour"). Transferred sense of "liquid poured out to be drunk" is from 1751. Related: Libations.
Middle English drope, from Old English dropa "a small, spherical mass of liquid," from Proto-Germanic *drupon (source also of Old Saxon dropo, Old Norse dropi, Dutch drop, Old High German tropfo, German Tropfen (n.)); see drop (v.).
Sense of "minute quantity of anything, least possible amount" is from c. 1200. Meaning "an act of dropping" is from 1630s; of immaterial things (prices, temperatures, etc.) from mid-19c. Meaning "lozenge, hard candy" is 1723, from resemblance in shape. Meaning "secret place where things can be left illicitly and picked up later" is from 1931. Theatrical meaning "painted curtain dropped between scenes to conceal the stage from the audience" is by 1779.
Drop in the bucket (late 14c.) is from Isaiah xl.15 [KJV]. At the drop of a hat "suddenly" is from 1854. To get the drop on "be prepared before one's antagonist" originally was Old West gunslinger slang (1869).
sea-nymph, in Greek mythology, late 14c., Nereides (plural), via Latin from Greek Nēreis (genitive Nēreidos), daughter of the ancient sea-god Nēreus, son of Pontus and Gaia, husband of Doris, whose name is related to naros "flowing, liquid, I flow" (see Naiad). In zoology, "a sea-centipede" (1840).
The most famous among them were Amphitrite, Thetis, and Galatea. The Nereids were beautiful maidens helpful to voyagers, and constituted the main body of the female, as the Tritons did of the male, followers of Poseidon or Neptune. They were imagined as dancing, singing, playing musical instruments, wooed by the Tritons, and passing in long processions over the sea seated on hippocamps and other sea-monsters. Monuments of ancient art represent them lightly draped or nude, in poses characterized by undulating lines harmonizing with those the ocean, and often riding on sea-monsters of fantastic forms. [Century Dictionary]
1580s, "a middle ground, quality, or degree; that which holds a middle place or position," from Latin medium "the middle, midst, center; interval," noun use of neuter of adjective medius "in the middle, between; from the middle" (from PIE root *medhyo- "middle").
Many of the secondary senses are via the notion of "intervening substance through which a force or quality is conveyed" (1590s) and "intermediate agency, channel of communication" (c. 1600). From the former, via application to air, etc., comes the sense of "one's environment or conditions" (1865). From the latter comes the sense of "a print publication" (1795) which later grew into the meaning in media.
In spiritualism, "person who conveys spiritual messages," by 1853. In painting, in reference to oil, watercolor, etc., by 1854. The notion is "liquid with which pigments are ground or mixed to give them desired fluidity." Happy medium is the "golden mean," Horace's aurea mediocritas.
"yellow bitter liquid secreted by the liver that aids in digestion," 1660s, from French bile (17c.) "bile," also, informally, "anger," from Latin bilis "fluid secreted by the liver," also in old medicine one of the four humors (also known as choler), thus "bitterness of feeling, peevishness," supposedly caused by excess of bile (especially as black bile, 1797).
The Latin word is of uncertain origin. De Vaan notes apparent cognates for it in British Celtic (Welsh bustl, Middle Cornish bystel, Breton bestl "gall, bile") and writes, "since this word is only found in Italic and Celtic, it is possible that the word is not PIE." But, he adds, if it was borrowed from Celtic into Italic it might be from PIE root *bheid- "to split," which in Germanic has come to meaning "bite," and he notes that "'bile' is a biting substance."
Middle English droppen, from Old English dropian "to fall in drops, fall in small portions or globules, as a liquid." The word is part of a related series of verbs in Proto-Germanic that also yielded Old Saxon driopan, Old Frisian driapa, Dutch druipen, Old High German triufan, German triefen, and in English drip, droop, and obsolete dreep and dripe. Related: Dropped; dropping.
In reference to a solid object, "to fall vertically" from late 14c. The transitive sense "allow to fall" is from mid-14c. To drop in "visit casually" is from c. 1600; drop-in (n.) "a casual visit" is attested by 1819. The notion in drop (someone) a line "write a letter" (1769) is of dropping a message into a letter-box. Exclamation drop dead to express emphatic dislike or scorn is from 1934; as an adjective meaning "stunning, excellent" it is recorded by 1970 (compare killing, etc.).
late 14c., "indestructible, unable to be loosened," also figuratively, of problems, etc., "incapable of being solved or explained," from Old French insoluble or directly from Latin insolubilis "that cannot be loosened," from in- "not" (see in- (1)) + solubilis "that can be loosened" (see soluble).
It was a tacit conviction of the learned during the Middle Ages that no such thing as an insoluble question existed. There might be matters that presented serious difficulties, but if you could lay them before the right man -- some Arab in Spain, for instance, omniscient by reason of studies into the details of which it was better not to inquire -- he would give you a conclusive answer. The real trouble was only to find your man. [Gertrude Bell, "The Desert and the Sown," 1907]
Meaning "incapable of being dissolved in a liquid" is from 1713.