c. 1200, "the face, countenance," especially as expressing emotion, from Anglo-French chere "the face," Old French chiere "face, countenance, look, expression," from Late Latin cara "face" (source also of Spanish cara), possibly from Greek kara "head," from PIE root *ker- (1) "horn; head." From mid-13c. as "frame of mind, state of feeling, spirit; mood, humor."
By late 14c. the meaning had extended metaphorically to "state or temper of mind as indicated by expression." This could be in a good or bad sense ("The feend ... beguiled her with treacherye, and brought her into a dreerye cheere," "Merline," c. 1500), but a positive sense, "state of gladness or joy" (probably short for good cheer), has predominated since c. 1400.
Meaning "that which makes cheerful or promotes good spirits" is from late 14c. Meaning "shout of encouragement" is first recorded 1720, perhaps nautical slang (compare earlier verbal sense, "to encourage by words or deeds," early 15c.). The antique English greeting what cheer? (mid-15c.) was picked up by Algonquian Indians of southern New England from the Puritans and spread in Indian languages as far as Canada.
Middle English rigge, from Old English hrycg "back of a man or beast," probably reinforced by Old Norse hryggr "back, ridge," from Proto-Germanic *hruggin (source also of Old Frisian hregg, Old Saxon hruggi, Dutch rug, Old High German hrukki, German Rücken "the back"). OED says "of uncertain relationship;" Pokorny, Boutkan, and Watkins have it from PIE *kreuk-, extended form of root *sker- (2) "to turn, bend."
The original "back" sense, predominant in Middle English, seems to have become archaic 17c. Also in Old English, "the top or crest of anything," especially when long and narrow, based on resemblance to the projecting part of the back of a quadruped, the "ridge" of the backbone. Probably also in late Old English "a long elevation of land, a long, narrow range of hills," implied in place-names. From late 14c. of the highest part of the roof of a building, also the strip of ground thrown up between two plowed furrows. The spelling with -dg- is from late 15c.
Ridge-runner, somewhat derisive term for "Southern Appalachian person, hillbilly," especially an upland white farmer of the Ozarks region, is recorded by 1917 (it later came into use in other regions). Also "person who wanders from place to place," often with a suggestion of illicit intent (1930).
late Old English dung "manure, decayed matter used to fertilize soil," from Proto-Germanic *dungō (source also of Old Frisian and Old Saxon dung "manure;" Old High German tunga "manuring," tung "underground room covered with manure;" German Dung; Old Norse dyngja "heap of manure, women's apartment;" Swedish dynga "dung, muck;" Danish dynge "heap, mass, pile"), perhaps from a PIE *dhengh- "covering" (source also of Lithuanian dengti "to cover," Old Irish dingim "I press").
The word recalls the ancient Germanic custom (reported by Tacitus) of covering underground shelters with manure to keep in warmth in winter. The meaning "animal excrement," whether used as fertilizer or not, is from late 13c.
It appears that the whole body of journeymen tailors is divided into two classes, denominated Flints and Dungs: the former work by the day and receive all equal wages; the latter work generally by the piece ["The Annual Register for the Year 1824," London, 1825].
Dung beetle, common name of the beetles which roll up balls of dung," is attested by 1630s. In colloquial American English, tumble-bug. An Old English word for it was tordwifel "turd weevil."
slang for "nothing," 1933 (Hemingway), from Spanish nada "nothing," from Latin (res) nata "small, insignificant thing," literally "(thing) born," from natus, past participle of nasci "to be born" (Old Latin gnasci), from PIE root *gene- "give birth, beget."
First in Hemingway's "A Clean, Well-Lighted Place," set in a Spanish cafe, in which the word figures largely:
What did he fear? It was not fear or dread. It was nothing that he knew too well. It was all a nothing and a man was nothing too. It was only that and light was all it needed and a certain cleanness and order. Some lived it and never felt it but he knew it all was nada y pues nada y nada y pues nada. Our nada who art in nada, nada be thy name thy kingdom nada thy will be nada in nada as it is in nada. Give us this nada our daily nada and nada us our nada as we nada our nadas and nada us not into nada but deliver us from nada; pues nada. Hail nothing full of nothing, nothing is with thee.
late 14c., oblivioun, "state or fact of forgetting, forgetfulness, loss of memory," from Old French oblivion (13c.) and directly from Latin oblivionem (nominative oblivio) "forgetfulness; a being forgotten," from oblivisci (past participle oblitus) "forget," which is of uncertain origin.
Perhaps originally "even out, smooth over, efface," from ob "over" (see ob-) + root of lēvis "smooth," but de Vaan and others find that "a semantic shift from 'to be smooth' to 'to forget' is not very convincing." However no better explanation has emerged. Latin lēvis also meant "rubbed smooth, ground down," from PIE *lehiu-, from root *(s)lei- "slime, slimy, sticky" (see slime (n.)); for sense evolution, compare obliterate.
Meaning "state or condition of being forgotten or lost to memory" is from early 15c. In English history, the Acts of Oblivion use the word in the sense of "intentional overlooking" (1610s), especially of political offenses. Related: Obliviously; obliviousness.
Oblivion is the state into which a thing passes when it is thoroughly and finally forgotten. ... Forgetfulness is a quality of a person: as a man remarkable for his forgetfulness. ... Obliviousness stands for a sort of negative act, a complete failure to remember: as a person's obliviousness of the proprieties of an occasion. [Century Dictionary]
1807, of or pertaining to the Caucasus Mountains (q.v.), with -ian. Applied to the "white" race 1795 (in Latin) by German anthropologist Johann Friedrich Blumenbach (1752-1840), who in his pioneering treatise on anthropology distinguished mankind into five races: Mongolian, Ethiopian, Malay, (Native) American, and Caucasian. In the latter group he included nearly all Europeans (except Lapps and Finns), Armenians, Persians, and Hindus, as well as Arabs and Jews. His attempt at division was based on physical similarities in skulls.
Blumenbach had a solitary Georgian skull; and that skull was the finest in his collection: that of a Greek being the next. Hence it was taken as the type of the skull of the more organised divisions of our species. More than this, it gave its name to the type, and introduced term Caucasian. Never has a single head done more harm to science than was done in the way of posthumous mischief by the head of this well-shaped female from Georgia. [Robert Gordon Latham, M.D., "The Natural History of the Varieties of Man," London, 1850]
The word has long since been abandoned as a historical/anthropological term. Compare Aryan.
"type of neck-cloth worn usually by men," 1650s, from French cravate (17c.), from Cravate, literally "Croatian," from German Krabate, from Serbo-Croatian Hrvat "a Croat" (see Croat). Cravats came into fashion 1650s in imitation of linen scarves worn by the Croats or Crabats, 17th-century light cavalry forces who fought on the side of the Catholic League in the Thirty Years' War. The name in this context was not an ethnic label as much as a generic designation for light cavalry from the Hapsburg Military Frontier, which included Croats, Hungarians, Serbs, Wallachians, Poles, Cossacks and Tatars.
When first introduced, it was commonly of lace, or of linen edged with lace. ... The modern cravat is rather a necktie, passed once round the neck, and tied in front in a bow, or, as about 1840 and earlier (when the cravat consisted of a triangular silk kerchief, usually black), twice round the neck, in imitation of the stock. Formerly, when starched linen cravats were worn, perfection in the art of tying them was one of the great accomplishments of a dandy. The cravat differs properly from the scarf, which, whether tied, or passed through a ring, or held by a pin, hangs down over the shirt front. [Century Dictionary, 1897]
twentieth letter of the English alphabet; in the Phoenician alphabet the corresponding sign was the 22nd and last; everything after T in the modern alphabet represents European alterations or additions. The sound has been consistent throughout its history.
In Late Latin and Old French, -t- before -e- and -i- acquired the "s" value of -c- and words appeared in both spellings (nationem/nacionem) and often passed into Middle English with a -c- (nacioun). In most of these the spelling was restored to a -t- by or in the period of early Modern English, but sorting them out took time (Edmund Coote's "English Schoole-maister" (1596) noted malicious/malitious) and a few (space, place, coercion, suspicion) resisted the restoration.
To cross one's t's(and dot one's i's) "to be exact" is attested from 1849. Phrase to a T "exactly, with utmost exactness" is recorded from 1690s, though the exact signification remains uncertain despite much speculation. The measuring tool called a T-square (sometimes suggested as the source of this) is recorded by that name only from 1785. The T-cell (1970) so called because they are derived from the thymus. As a medieval numeral, T represented 160. A T was formerly branded on the hand of a convicted thief.
also clearinghouse, 1805, from clearing + house (n.). The original was established 1775 in London by the bankers for the adjustment of their mutual claims for checks and bills; later the word was extended to similar institutions.
CLEARING, is a method adopted by city bankers, for exchanging the drafts on each others houses, and settling the differences.—Thus at a stated hour in the afternoon, a clerk from each attends at the Clearing House, where he brings all the drafts on the other bankers, which have been paid into his house during the course of the day; and, having debited their different accounts with the articles which he has against them, he deposits them in their proper drawers, (a drawer being here allotted to each banker:) he then credits their accounts respectively, with the articles which they have against him, as found in his drawer. Balances are then struck on all the accounts, and the differences are transferred from one to another, until they are so wound up, that each clerk has only to settle with two or three others, which is done in cash, or Bank of England notes. [P. Kelly, "The Elements of Book-Keeping," London, 1805]
1814, "a cross," from Latin crux "cross," a word of uncertain origin. Sometimes said to be cognate with Irish cruach "heap, hill," Gaulish *krouka "summit," Old Norse hryggr "backbone," Old English hrycg "back." But de Vaan is suspicious:
The Celtic and Gm. forms are often reconstructed as *kr(e)u-k-, but we find vacillating vocalism within Gm.; also, the meanings 'backbone' and 'heap' are not necessarily connected. Even if the words in *kruk- from Latin and Italo-Celtic belong together, the root structure does not look PIE (and a root enlargement k is unknown), and might be interpreted as a non-IE substratum word borrowed into Italo-Celtic. But Latin may also just have borrowed the word from a contemporary language.
The figurative use for "a central difficulty" (1718) is older in English than the literal sense; perhaps it is from Latin crux interpretum "a point in a text that is impossible to interpret," the literal meaning of which is something like "crossroads of interpreters." But Century Dictionary ascribes it to "the cross as an instrument of torture; hence anything that puzzles or vexes in a high degree ...." Extended sense of "central point" is attested by 1888.