Old English mast "greatest in number, amount, or extent; largest," earlier mæst, from Proto-Germanic *maistaz (source also of Old Saxon mest, Old Frisian mast, Old Norse mestr, Dutch meest, German meist, Gothic maists "most"), superlative form of Proto-Germanic *maiz, root of Old English ma, mara (see more). Used in Old English as superlative of micel "great, large" (see mickle), hence, in later use, superlative of much. The vowel has been influenced by more.
Original sense of "greatest" survives in phrase for the most part (mid-14c.; late Old English had þa mæste dæl). Slang the most meaning "the best, extremely good" is attested from 1953. Also used as an adverb in Old English and in late Old English as a noun, "the greatest or greater number." The sense of "greatest value or advantage" in the phrase make the most of (something) is by 1520s. Related: Mostly.
Double superlative mostest "greatest amount or degree" is by 1849 in U.S. Southern and African-American vernacular. The formula for victory in battle attributed to famously unschooled Confederate Lt. Gen. Nathan Bedford Forrest is first attested (1886) as Git thar the fastest with the mostest men.
From 15c.-17c. English also had mostwhat "for the most part," mostwhen "on most occasions," mostwhere "in most places."
"monetary unit or standard of value in the U.S. and Canada," 1550s, daler, originally in English the name of a large, silver coin of varying value in the German states, from Low German daler, from German taler (1530s, later thaler), abbreviation of Joachimstaler, literally "(gulden) of Joachimstal," coin minted 1519 from silver from mine opened 1516 near Sankt Joachimsthal, town in Erzgebirge Mountains in northwest Bohemia. German Tal is cognate with English dale. The spelling had been modified to dollar by 1600.
The thaler was from 17c. the more-or-less standardized coin of northern Germany (as opposed to the southern gulden). It also served as a currency unit in Denmark and Sweden (and later was a unit of the German monetary union of 1857-73 equal to three marks).
English colonists in America used the word dollar from 1580s in reference to Spanish peso or "piece of eight," also a large silver coin of about the same fineness as the thaler. Due to extensive trade with the Spanish Indies and the proximity of Spanish colonies along the Gulf Coast, the Spanish dollar probably was the coin most familiar in the American colonies and the closest thing to a standard in all of them.
When the Revolution came, it had the added advantage of not being British. It was used in the government's records of public debt and expenditures, and the Continental Congress in 1786 adopted dollar as a unit when it set up the modern U.S. currency system, which was based on the suggestion of Gouverneur Morris (1782) as modified by Thomas Jefferson. None were circulated until 1794.
When William M. Evarts was Secretary of State he accompanied Lord Coleridge on an excursion to Mount Vernon. Coleridge remarked that he had heard it said that Washington, standing on the lawn, could throw a dollar clear across the Potomac. Mr. Evarts explained that a dollar would go further in those days than now. [Walsh]
Phrase dollars to doughnuts "an assured thing, a certainty" (such that one would bet a dollar against a doughnut on it) is attested by 1884; dollar diplomacy "financial imperialism, foreign policy based on financial and commercial interests" is from 1910.
The dollar sign ($) is said to derive from the image of the Pillars of Hercules, stamped with a scroll, on the Spanish piece of eight. However, according to the Bureau of Engraving and Printing of the U.S. Department of the Treasury:
[T]he most widely accepted explanation is that the symbol is the result of evolution, independently in different places, of the Mexican or Spanish "P's" for pesos, or piastres, or pieces of eight. The theory, derived from a study of old manuscripts, is that the "S" gradually came to be written over the "P," developing a close equivalent of the "$" mark. It was widely used before the adoption of the United States dollar in 1785.
Proto-Indo-European root forming words meaning "to turn, bend."
It forms all or part of: adverse; anniversary; avert; awry; controversy; converge; converse (adj.) "exact opposite;" convert; diverge; divert; evert; extroversion; extrovert; gaiter; introrse; introvert; invert; inward; malversation; obverse; peevish; pervert; prose; raphe; reverberate; revert; rhabdomancy; rhapsody; rhombus; ribald; sinistrorse; stalwart; subvert; tergiversate; transverse; universe; verbena; verge (v.1) "tend, incline;" vermeil; vermicelli; vermicular; vermiform; vermin; versatile; verse (n.) "poetry;" version; verst; versus; vertebra; vertex; vertigo; vervain; vortex; -ward; warp; weird; worm; worry; worth (adj.) "significant, valuable, of value;" worth (v.) "to come to be;" wrangle; wrap; wrath; wreath; wrench; wrest; wrestle; wriggle; wring; wrinkle; wrist; writhe; wrong; wroth; wry.
It is the hypothetical source of/evidence for its existence is provided by: Sanskrit vartate "turns round, rolls;" Avestan varet- "to turn;" Hittite hurki- "wheel;" Greek rhatane "stirrer, ladle;" Latin vertere (frequentative versare) "to turn, turn back, be turned; convert, transform, translate; be changed," versus "turned toward or against;" Old Church Slavonic vrŭteti "to turn, roll," Russian vreteno "spindle, distaff;" Lithuanian verčiu, versti "to turn;" German werden, Old English weorðan "to become;" Old English -weard "toward," originally "turned toward," weorthan "to befall," wyrd "fate, destiny," literally "what befalls one;" Welsh gwerthyd "spindle, distaff;" Old Irish frith "against."
Middle English above, aboven (also aboun in northern dialects, abow in southwestern dialects), from Old English abufan (adv., prep.), earlier onbufan "above, in or to a higher place, on the upper side; directly over, in or to a higher place than," a contraction or compound of on (also see a- (1)) + bufan "over."
The second element is itself a compound of be "by" (see by) + ufan "over/high" (from Proto-Germanic *ufan-, source also of Old Saxon, Old High German oban, German oben; from PIE root *upo "under," also "up from under," hence also "over").
From c. 1200 as "of higher rank or position, superior in authority or power; of higher rank than, superior to." This sense in Middle English perhaps was reinforced by a literal use of above in the sense "higher at the table than," thus "in a place of greater honor than, taking precedence over" (mid-14c.) From mid-14c. as "in addition to;" also "superior to, out of reach of, not condescending to." From late 14c. as "more" (in number, linear measurement, weight, value); "older; better than, more desirable than, superior to."
Phrase above all "before other considerations" is from late 14c. To be above (someone's) head in the figurative sense "out of range of his or her intellect" is from 1914 (above in the sense "not to be grasped or understood by" is from mid-14c.). In Middle English to be above erthe was "above ground, unburied," hence "living, among the living."
Old English under (prep.) "beneath, among, before, in the presence of, in subjection to, under the rule of, by means of," also, as an adverb, "beneath, below, underneath," expressing position with reference to that which is above, from Proto-Germanic *under- (source also of Old Frisian under, Dutch onder, Old High German untar, German unter, Old Norse undir, Gothic undar), from PIE *ndher- "under" (source also of Sanskrit adhah "below;" Avestan athara- "lower;" Latin infernus "lower," infra "below").
Productive as a prefix in Old English, as in German and Scandinavian (often forming words modeled on Latin ones in sub-). Notion of "inferior in rank, position, etc." was present in Old English. With reference to standards, "less than in age, price, value," etc., late 14c. As an adjective, "lower in position; lower in rank or degree" from 13c. Also used in Old English as a preposition meaning "between, among," as still in under these circumstances, etc. (though this may be an entirely separate root; see understand).
Under the weather "indisposed" is from 1810. Under the table is from 1913 in the sense of "very drunk," 1940s in sense of "illegal" (under-board "dishonest" is from c. 1600). To keep something under (one's) hat "secret" is from 1885; to have something under (one's) nose "in plain sight" is from 1540s; to speak under (one's) breath "in a low voice" is attested from 1832.
also jack-pot, "big prize," 1944, from slot machine sense (1932), from now-obsolete poker sense (1881) in reference to antes that begin when no player has a pair of jacks or better; from jack (n.) in the card-playing sense + pot (n.1). Earlier, in criminal slang, it meant "trouble," especially "an arrest" (1902).
The regular Draw-Poker game is usually varied by occasional Jack-Pots, which are played once in so many deals, or when all have refused to play, or when the player deals who holds the buck, a marker placed in the pool with every jack-pot. In a jack-pot each player puts up an equal stake and receives a hand. The pot must then be opened by a player holding a hand of the value of a pair of knaves (jacks) or better. If no player holds so valuable a hand the deal passes and each player adds a small sum to the pot or pool. When the pot is opened the opener does so by putting up any sum he chooses, within the limit, and his companions must pay in the same amount or "drop." They also possess the right to raise the opener. The new cards called for are then dealt and the opener starts the betting, the play proceeding as in the regular game. [Encyclopaedia Britannica, 11th ed., 1911, "Poker." The article notes "Jack-Pots were introduced about 1870."]
To hit the jackpot "be very successful" is from 1938.
Old English smæl "thin, slender, narrow; fine," from Proto-Germanic *smal- "small animal; small" (source also of Old Saxon, Danish, Swedish, Middle Dutch, Dutch, Old High German smal, Old Frisian smel, German schmal "narrow, slender," Gothic smalista "smallest," Old Norse smali "small cattle, sheep"), perhaps from a PIE root *(s)melo- "smaller animal" (source also of Greek melon, Old Irish mil "a small animal;" Old Church Slavonic malu "bad"). Original sense of "narrow" now almost obsolete, except in reference to waistline and intestines.
My sister ... is as white as a lilly, and as small as a wand. [Shakespeare, "Two Gentlemen of Verona," 1591]
Sense of "not large, of little size" developed in Old English. Of children, "young," from mid-13c. Meaning "inferior in degree or amount" is from late 13c. Meaning "trivial, unimportant" is from mid-14c. Sense of "having little property or trade" is from 1746. That of "characterized by littleness of mind or spirit, base, low, mean" is from 1824. As an adverb by late 14c.
Small fry, first recorded 1690s of little fish, 1885 of insignificant people. Small potatoes "no great matter, something petty or insignificant" is attested by 1924; small change "something of little value" is from 1902; small talk "chit-chat, trifling conversation" (1751) first recorded in Chesterfield's "Letters." Small world as a comment upon an unexpected meeting of acquaintances is recorded from 1895. Small-arms, indicating those capable of being carried in the hand (contrasted to ordnance) is recorded from 1710.
"inhabit of India or South Asia; pertaining to India," c. 1300 (noun and adjective), from Late Latin indianus, from India (see India). Applied to the aboriginal native inhabitants of the Americas from at least 1553 as a noun (1610s as an adjective), reflecting Spanish and Portuguese use, on the mistaken notion that America was the eastern end of Asia (it was also used occasionally 18c.-19c. of inhabitants of the Philippines and indigenous peoples of Australia and New Zealand). The Old English adjective was Indisc, and Indish (adj.) was common in 16c.
Red Indian, to distinguish the native Americans from inhabitants of India, is first attested 1831 in British English (Carlyle) but was not commonly used in North America. Hugh Rawson ("Wicked Words") writes that "Indian is unusual among ethnic terms for not having much pejorative value until comparatively recently." A few phrases, most of them U.S., impugn honesty or intelligence, such as Indian gift:
An Indian gift is a proverbial expression, signifying a present for which an equivalent return is expected. [Thomas Hutchinson, "History of Massachusetts Bay," 1765]
Hence Indian giver "one who gives a gift and then asks for it back" (1848). Also compare Indian summer. Indian elephant is from c. 1600; Indian corn is from 1620s; to walk Indian file is from 1758. Indian club is from 1824 as a weapon, 1825 as exercise equipment (clubs were noted in Lewis & Clark, etc., as characteristic weapons of native warriors in the American West). Indian-head (adj.) in reference to U.S. copper pennies with a portrait of an Indian in profile, from 1862.
Old English rice "strong, powerful; great, mighty; of high rank" (senses now obsolete), in later Old English "wealthy;" from Proto-Germanic *rikijaz (source also of Old Norse rikr, Swedish rik, Danish rig, Old Frisian rike "wealthy, mighty," Dutch rijk, Old High German rihhi "ruler, powerful, rich," German reich "rich," Gothic reiks "ruler, powerful, rich"), borrowed from a Celtic source akin to Gaulish *rix, Old Irish ri (genitive rig) "king," from Proto-Celtic *rix, from PIE root *reg- "move in a straight line," with derivatives meaning "to direct in a straight line," thus "to lead, rule" (compare rex).
The form of the word was influenced in Middle English by Old French riche "wealthy, magnificent, sumptuous," which is, with Spanish rico, Italian ricco, from Frankish *riki "powerful," or some other cognate Germanic word. Old English also had a noun, rice "rule, reign, power, might; authority; empire" (compare Reich). The evolution of the word reflects a connection between wealth and power in the ancient world, though the "power" sense seems to be the oldest.
In transferred and extended senses from c. 1200. The meaning "magnificent" is from c. 1200; that of "of great value or worth" is from mid-13c. Of food and colors, "having an abundance of a characteristic quality that pleases the senses," from early 14c.; of sounds, from 1590s; of soils from 1570s. Sense of "entertaining, amusing" is recorded from 1760. The noun meaning "the wealthy" was in Old English.
English once had a related verb rixle "have domination, rule," from Old English rixian "to rule."
"a conceited, narrow-minded pragmatical person; a dull, precise person; one who cultivates or affects propriety and offends or bores others," 1753, originally in reference to theological scruples (1704), a word of unknown origin.
It could be related to earlier appearances of the same word meaning "a dandy, coxcomb, fop" (1670s), "thief" (c. 1600; in forms prigger, prigman recorded from 1560s). Century Dictionary speculates the modern word is "perhaps a later application (of the "thief" sense) in the general sense, among "the profession," of 'a smart fellow.' " Also compare thieves' cant prig "a tinker" (1560s). In Middle English a prig was a kind of small nail used in roofing or tiling (14c.), perhaps from prick.
A p[rig] is wise beyond his years in all the things that do not matter. A p. cracks nuts with a steam hammer: that is, calls in the first principles of morality to decide whether he may, or must, do something of as little importance as drinking a glass of beer. On the whole, one may, perhaps, say that all his different characteristics come from the combination, in varying proportions, of three things—the desire to do his duty, the belief that he knows better than other people, & blindness to the difference in value between different things. [quoted in Fowler, 1926, who writes that it can be found in "an anonymous volume of essays"]