Etymology
Advertisement
sinister (adj.)
Origin and meaning of sinister
early 15c., "prompted by malice or ill-will, intending to mislead," from Old French senestre, sinistre "contrary, false; unfavorable; to the left" (14c.), from Latin sinister "left, on the left side" (opposite of dexter), of uncertain origin. Perhaps meaning properly "the slower or weaker hand" [Tucker], but Klein and Buck suggest it's a euphemism (see left (adj.)) connected with the root of Sanskrit saniyan "more useful, more advantageous." With contrastive or comparative suffix -ter, as in dexter (see dexterity).

The Latin word was used in augury in the sense of "unlucky, unfavorable" (omens, especially bird flights, seen on the left hand were regarded as portending misfortune), and thus sinister acquired a sense of "harmful, unfavorable, adverse." This was from Greek influence, reflecting the early Greek practice of facing north when observing omens. In genuine Roman auspices, the augurs faced south and left was favorable. Thus sinister also retained a secondary sense in Latin of "favorable, auspicious, fortunate, lucky."

Meaning "evil" is from late 15c. Used in heraldry from 1560s to indicate "left, to the left." Bend (not "bar") sinister in heraldry indicates illegitimacy and preserves the literal sense of "on or from the left side" (though in heraldry this is from the view of the bearer of the shield, not the observer of it; see bend (n.2)).
Related entries & more 
Advertisement
tacky (adj.2)

"in poor taste," 1888, from earlier sense of "shabby, seedy" (1862), adjectival use of tackey (n.) "ill-fed or neglected horse" (1800), later extended to persons in like condition, "hillbilly, cracker" (1888), of uncertain origin. Related: Tackiness.

The word "tacky" is a Southern colloquialism. It was coined by a wealthier or more refined and educated class for general application to those who were not sheltered by the branches of a family tree, who were "tainted." Those who were wealthy and yet had no great-grandfathers were "tackies." The word was used both in contempt and in derision. It is now nearly obsolete in both senses. There are no aristocrats in the South now, and therefore no "tackies." No man who has the instincts of a gentleman is spoken of as a "tacky," whether he can remember the name of his grandfather's uncle or not. But it has its uses. It is employed in describing persons of low ideas and vulgar manners, whether rich or poor. It may mean an absence of style. In dress, anything that is tawdry is "tacky." A ribbon on the shopkeeper's counter, a curtain in the bolt, a shawl or bonnet, a bolt of cloth fresh from the loom may be "tacky," because it is cheap and yet pretentious. In Louisiana the inferior grade of Creole ponies are known as "tackies." [Horace Ingraham, Charleston, S.C., in American Notes and Queries, Feb. 15, 1890]
Related entries & more 
straw (n.)

Old English streaw (rare) "stems or stalks of certain species of grains," apparently literally "that which is scattered or strewn," related to streowian (see strew), from Proto-Germanic *straw- "that which is scattered" (source also of Old Norse stra, Danish straa, Swedish strå, Old Saxon stro, Old Frisian stre, Old Dutch, Old High German stro, Dutch stroo, German Stroh "straw"), from PIE root *stere- "to spread." The notion perhaps is of dried grain stalks strewn on a floor as carpeting or bedding.

As a type of what is trifling or unimportant, attested from late 13c. Meaning "hollow tube through which a drink is sucked" is recorded from 1851. To draw straws as a means of deciding something is recorded from 1779 (the custom probably is older). As an adjective, "made of straw," mid-15c.; hence "false, sham." Straw poll is from 1932; earlier straw vote (1866). Straw hat first attested mid-15c. To clutch (or grasp or catch) at straws (1748) is what a drowning man proverbially would do. The last straw (1836 apart from the full phrase) is from the proverbial image: "it is the last straw that breaks the camel's back" (or, less often, the mare's, the horse's, or the elephant's), an image in use in English by 1755.

Let it not, however, be inferred that taxation cannot be pushed too far : it is, as the Oriental proverb says, the last straw that overloads the camel ; a small addition, if ill-timed, may overturn the whole. [The Scots Magazine, April 1799]
Related entries & more 
debunk (v.)

"expose false or nonsensical claims or sentiments," 1923, from de- + bunk (n.2); apparently first used by U.S. novelist William Woodward (1874-1950), in his best-seller "Bunk;" the notion being "to take the bunk out of things." It got a boost from Harold U. Faulkner's "Colonial History Debunked" [Harper's Magazine, December 1925], which article itself quickly was debunked, and the word was in vogue in America in the mid-1920s. Related: Debunked; debunking.

Wets and Drys, Fundamentalists and Modernists, are busily engaged in debunking one another to the delight and edification of a public which divides its time between automobiling and listening-in. Is it art, or education, or religion that you prefer? You have only to get the right station and what you last heard about the matter will be cleverly debunked while you wait. [Carl Vernon Tower, "Genealogy 'Debunked," in Annual Reports of the Tower Genealogical Society, 1925]

It was, naturally, execrated in England.

The origin of to debunk is doubtless the same as that of American jargon in general — the inability of an ill-educated and unintelligent democracy to assimilate long words. Its intrusion in our own tongue is due partly to the odious novelty of the word itself, and partly to the prevailing fear that to write exact English nowadays is to be put down as a pedant and a prig. [letter to the editor, London Daily Telegraph, March 2, 1935, cited in Mencken, "The American Language"]
Related entries & more 
tailor (n.)

c. 1300, from Anglo-French tailour, Old French tailleor "tailor," also "stone-mason" (13c., Modern French tailleur), literally "a cutter," from tailler "to cut," from Late Latin or old Medieval Latin taliare "to split" (compare Medieval Latin taliator vestium "a cutter of clothes"), from Latin talea "a slender stick, rod, staff; a cutting, twig."

Although historically the tailor is the cutter, in the trade the 'tailor' is the man who sews or makes up what the 'cutter' has shaped. [OED]

The post-Latin sense development would be "piece of a plant cut for grafting," hence a verb, "cut a shoot," then, generally, "to cut." Possible cognates include Sanskrit talah "wine palm," Old Lithuanian talokas "a young girl," Greek talis "a marriageable girl" (for sense, compare slip of a girl, twiggy), Etruscan Tholna, name of the goddess of youth.

Kent. ... You cowardly rascal, nature disclaims in thee; a tailor made thee.
Corn. Thou art a strange fellow: a tailor make a man?
Kent. Ay, a tailor, sir: a stone cutter, or a painter, could not have made him so ill, though they had been but two hours at the trade.
["King Lear"]

One who makes outer garments to order, as opposed to a clothier, who makes them for sale ready-made. Tailor-made first recorded 1832 (in a figurative sense); literal sense was "heavy and plain, with attention to exact fit and with little ornamentation," as of women's garments made by a tailor rather than a dress-maker.

Related entries & more 
Advertisement
music (n.)

mid-13c., musike, "a pleasing succession of sounds or combinations of sounds; the science of combining sounds in rhythmic, melodic, and (later) harmonic order," from Old French musique (12c.) and directly from Latin musica "the art of music," also including poetry (also source of Spanish musica, Italian musica, Old High German mosica, German Musik, Dutch muziek, Danish musik), from Greek mousikē (technē) "(art) of the Muses," from fem. of mousikos "pertaining to the Muses; musical; educated," from Mousa "Muse" (see muse (n.)).

The modern spelling is from 1630s. In classical Greece, any art in which the Muses presided, but especially music and lyric poetry.

Music is the sound of the universal laws promulgated. [Thoreau]

The use of letters to denote music pitch probably is at least as old as ancient Greece, as their numbering system was ill-suited to the job. Natural scales begin at C (not A) because in ancient times the minor mode was more often used than the major one, and the natural minor scale begins at A.

Meaning "the written or printed score of a composition" is from 1650s.

Music box is from 1773, originally "barrel organ," by 1845 in reference to the wind-up mechanical device; music hall is by 1842 as "interior space used for musical performances," especially "public hall licensed for musical entertainment" (1857). To face the music "accept the consequences" is from 1850; the exact image is uncertain, one theory ties it to stage performers, another to cavalry horses having to be taught to stay calm while the regimental band plays. To make (beautiful) music with someone "have sexual intercourse" is from 1967.

Related entries & more 
evil (adj.)

Old English yfel (Kentish evel) "bad, vicious, ill, wicked," from Proto-Germanic *ubilaz (source also of Old Saxon ubil, Old Frisian and Middle Dutch evel, Dutch euvel, Old High German ubil, German übel, Gothic ubils), from PIE *upelo-, from root *wap- "bad, evil" (source also of Hittite huwapp- "evil").

In Old English and other older Germanic languages other than Scandinavian, "this word is the most comprehensive adjectival expression of disapproval, dislike or disparagement" [OED]. Evil was the word the Anglo-Saxons used where we would use bad, cruel, unskillful, defective (adj.), or harm (n.), crime, misfortune, disease (n.). In Middle English, bad took the wider range of senses and evil began to focus on moral badness. Both words have good as their opposite. Evil-favored (1520s) meant "ugly." Evilchild is attested as an English surname from 13c.

The adverb is Old English yfele, originally of words or speech. Also as a noun in Old English, "what is bad; sin, wickedness; anything that causes injury, morally or physically." Especially of a malady or disease from c. 1200. The meaning "extreme moral wickedness" was one of the senses of the Old English noun, but it did not become established as the main sense of the modern word until 18c.

As a noun, Middle English also had evilty. Related: Evilly. Evil eye (Latin oculus malus) was Old English eage yfel. The jocular notion of an evil twin as an excuse for regrettable deeds is by 1986, American English, from an old motif in mythology.

Related entries & more 
hog (n.)

mid-14c., hogge, but probably in Old English (implied late 12c. in hogaster), "a swine," especially a castrated male, "swine reared for slaughter" (usually about a year old), also used by stockmen for "young sheep before the first shearing" (early 14c.) and for "horse older than one year," suggesting the original sense had to do with age, not type of animal. Possibility of British Celtic origin [Watkins, etc.] is regarded by OED as "improbable."

Extended to the wild boar by late 15c. As a term of opprobrium for a greedy or gluttonous person, c. 1400. Meaning "Harley-Davidson motorcycle" is attested from 1967. Road hog is attested from 1886, hence hog "rude person heedless of the convenience or safety of others" (1906). To go hog-wild is American English from 1904. Hog in armor "awkward or clumsy person in ill-fitting attire" is from 1650s (later used of the armadillo).

Phrase go the whole hog (1828, American English) is sometimes said to be from the butcher shop option of buying the whole slaughtered animal (at a discount) rather than just the choice bits. But it is perhaps rather from the allegorical story (recorded in English from 1779) of Muslim sophists, forbidden by their faith from eating a certain unnamed part of the hog, who debated which part was intended and in the end managed to exempt the whole of it from the prohibition.

Had he the sinful part express'd,
They might, with safety, eat the rest.
But for one piece, they thought it hard,
From the whole hog to be debarr'd
And set their wits to work, to find
What joint the prophet had in mind.
[Cowper, "The Love of the World Reproved"]
Related entries & more 
fate (n.)

late 14c., "one's lot or destiny; predetermined course of life;" also "one's guiding spirit," from Old French fate and directly from Latin fata (source also of Spanish hado, Portuguese fado, Italian fato), neuter plural of fatum "prophetic declaration of what must be, oracle, prediction," thus the Latin word's usual sense, "that which is ordained, destiny, fate," literally "thing spoken (by the gods)," from neuter past participle of fari "to speak," from PIE root *bha- (2) "to speak, tell, say." Often in a bad sense in Latin: "bad luck, ill fortune; mishap, ruin; a pest or plague."

From early 15c. as "power that rules destinies, agency which predetermines events; supernatural predetermination;" also "destiny personified." Meaning "that which must be" is from 1660s; sense of "final event" is from 1768. The Latin sense evolution is from "sentence of the Gods" (Greek theosphaton) to "lot, portion" (Greek moira, personified as a goddess in Homer).

The sense of "one of the three goddesses (Clotho, Lachesis, and Atropos) who determined the course of a human life" (or, as Blount has it, "the three Ladies of destiny") is in English by 1580s. Their Greek name was Moirai (see above), from a verb meaning "to receive one's share." Latin Parca "one of the three Fates or goddesses of fate" (source of French parque "a Fate;" Spanish parca "Death personified; the Grim Reaper") might be from parcere "act sparingly, refrain from; have mercy upon, forbear to injure or punish" (if so, probably here a euphemism) or plectere "to weave, plait." The native word in English was wyrd (see weird).

J'y suivais un serpent qui venait de me mordre
Quel repli de désirs, sa traîne!...Quel désordre
De trésors s'arrachant à mon avidité,
Et quelle sombre soif de la limpidité!
[Paul Valéry, from La Jeune Parque]
Related entries & more 
thee (pron.)

Old English þe (accusative and dative singular of þu "thou"), from Proto-Germanic *theke (source also of Old Frisian thi, Middle Dutch di, Old High German dih, German dich, Old Norse þik, Norwegian deg, Gothic þuk), from PIE *tege-, accusative of root *tu-, second person singular pronoun (see thou). The verb meaning "to use the pronoun 'thee' to someone" is recorded from 1662, in connection with the rise of Quakerism.

In Middle English, people began to use plural forms in all cases, at first as a sign of respect to superiors, then as a courtesy to equals. By the 1600s, the singular forms had come to represent familiarity and lack of status, and fell from use except in the case of a few dialects, notably in the north of England. People in Lancashire north of the Rossendale Forest and Yorkshire formerly were noted for use of the singular second person pronouns tha (nom.) and thee (acc.). For religious reasons (Christian equality of persons, but also justified as grammatically correct), the Quakers also retained the familiar forms.

Thou and Thee was a sore cut to proud flesh and them that sought self-honour, who, though they would say it to God and Christ, could not endure to have it said to themselves. So that we were often beaten and abused, and sometimes in danger of our lives, for using those words to some proud men, who would say, "What! you ill-bred clown, do you Thou me?" as though Christian breeding consisted in saying You to one; which is contrary to all their grammar and teaching books, by which they instructed their youth. [George Fox's journal, 1661]
While the Quakers originally adopted "thee" and "thou" on account of their grammatical correctness, they soon fell into the careless habit of using "thee," the objective, instead of "thou," the nominative. Common illustrations are: "How does thee do?" or "Will thee," etc. [George Fox Tucker, "A Quaker Home," Boston, 1891]
Related entries & more 

Page 25