Old English cniht "boy, youth; servant, attendant," a word common to the nearby Germanic languages (Old Frisian kniucht, Dutch knecht, Middle High German kneht "boy, youth, lad," German Knecht "servant, bondman, vassal"), of unknown origin. For pronunciation, see kn-. The plural in Middle English sometimes was knighten.
Meaning "military follower of a king or other superior" is from c. 1100. It began to be used in a specific military sense in the Hundred Years War, and gradually rose in importance until it became a rank in the nobility from 16c. Hence in modern British use, a social privilege or honorary dignity conferred by a sovereign as a reward, without regard for birth or deeds at arms. In 17c.-19c. a common jocularism was to call a craftsman or tradesman a knight of the and name some object associated with his work; e.g. knight of the brush for "painter." Knight in shining armor in the figurative sense is from 1917, from the man who rescues the damsel in distress in romantic dramas (perhaps especially "Lohengrin"). For knight-errant, see errant.
The horse-headed chess piece so called from mid-15c. Knights of Columbus, society of Catholic men, founded 1882 in New Haven, Connecticut, U.S.; Knights of Labor, trade union association, founded in Philadelphia, 1869; Knights of Pythias, secret order, founded in Washington, 1864.
mid-14c., hengestman, later henshman (mid-15c.) "high-ranking servant (usually of gentle birth), attendant upon a king, nobleman, etc.," originally "groom," probably from man (n.) + Old English hengest "horse, stallion, gelding," from Proto-Germanic *hangistas (source also of Old Frisian hengst, Dutch hengest, German Hengst "stallion"), perhaps literally "best at springing," from PIE *kenku- (source also of Greek kekiein "to gush forth;" Lithuanian šokti "to jump, dance;" Breton kazek "a mare," literally "that which belongs to a stallion").
Perhaps modeled on Old Norse compound hesta-maðr "horse-boy, groom." The word became obsolete in England 17c., but it was retained in Scottish as "personal attendant of a Highland chief," in which sense Scott revived it in literary English from 1810. Sense of "obedient or unscrupulous follower" is first recorded 1839, probably somehow a misunderstanding of the word as used by Scott.
This officer is a sort of secretary, and is to be ready, upon all occasions, to venture his life in defence of his master; and at drinking-bouts he stands behind his seat, at his haunch, from whence his title is derived, and watches the conversation, to see if any one offends his patron. [Scott, notes to "Lady of the Lake," 1820; his proposed etymology is not now considered correct]
c. 1200 (late 12c. in place names and surnames), "an unmarried woman (usually young); the Virgin Mary;" shortening of maiden (n.). Like that word, used in Middle English of unmarried men as well as women (as in maiden-man, c. 1200, which was used of both sexes, reflecting also the generic use of man).
From c. 1300 as "a virgin," also as "maidservant, female attendant, lady in waiting." By c. 1500 this had yielded the humbler sense of "female servant or attendant charged with domestic duties." Often with a qualifying word (housemaid, chambermaid, etc.); maid of all work "female servant who performs general housework" is by 1790.
Her Mamma was a famous Fryer of Fishes,
Squeezer of Mops, Washer of Dishes,
From tossing of Pancakes would not Shirk,
In English plain, a Maid of all Work.
But don't mistake me, by Divinity,
When I mention Maid, I don't mean Virginity
[from "Countess of Fame and her Trumpeter," 1793]
In reference to Joan of Arc, attested from 1540s (French la Pucelle). Maid Marian, the Queen of the May in the morris dances, also one of Robin Hood's companions, is recorded by 1520s, perhaps from French, where Robin et Marian have been stock names for country lovers since 13c. Maid of Honor (1580s) originally was "unmarried lady of noble birth who attends a queen or princess;" meaning "principal bridesmaid" is attested from 1895. Maydelond (translating Latin terra feminarum) was "the land of the Amazons."
"all right, correct," 1839, only survivor of a slang fad in Boston and New York c. 1838-9 for abbreviations of common phrases with deliberate, jocular misspellings (such as K.G. for "no go," as if spelled "know go;" N.C. for "'nuff ced;" K.Y. for "know yuse"). In the case of O.K., the abbreviation is of "oll korrect."
Probably further popularized by use as an election slogan by the O.K. Club, New York boosters of Democratic president Martin Van Buren's 1840 re-election bid, in allusion to his nickname Old Kinderhook, from his birth in the N.Y. village of Kinderhook. Van Buren lost, the word stuck, in part because it filled a need for a quick way to write an approval on a document, bill, etc.
Spelled out as okeh, 1919, by Woodrow Wilson, on assumption that it represented Choctaw okeh "it is so" (a theory which lacks historical documentation); this spelling was ousted quickly by okay after the appearance of that form in 1929. Greek immigrants to America who returned home early 20c. having picked up U.S. speech mannerisms were known in Greece as okay-boys, among other things.
The noun is first attested 1841, "endorsement, approval, authorization" (especially as indicated by the letters O.K.); the verb, "to approve, agree to, sanction," is by 1888. Okey-doke is student slang first attested 1932.
early 15c., trophe, "an overwhelming victory;" 1510s, "a spoil or prize of war," from Old French trophée (15c.) from Latin trophaeum "a sign of victory, monument," originally tropaeum, from Greek tropaion "monument of an enemy's defeat," noun use of neuter of adjective tropaios "of defeat, causing a rout," from trope "a rout," originally "a turning" (of the enemy); from PIE root *trep- "to turn."
In ancient Greece, spoils or arms taken in battle and set up on the field and dedicated to a god. Figurative extension to any token or memorial of victory is first recorded 1560s. As "a symbolic representation of a classical trophy" from 1630s.
Trophy wife "a second, attractive and generally younger, wife of a successful man who acquires her as a status symbol" was a trending phrase in media from 1988 ("Fortune" magazine did a cover story on it in 1989), but is older in isolated instances.
Variations on this theme ['convenience-wife'] include the HOSTESS-WIFE of a businessman who entertains extensively and seeks a higher-level, home-branch version of his secretary; the TROPHY-WIFE — the woman who was hard to get because of birth or wealth or beauty — to be kept on exhibition like a mammoth tusk or prime Picasso ... [Phyllis I. Rosenteur, excerpt from "The Single Women," published in Philadelphia Daily News, Dec. 12, 1961]
The excerpt distinguishes the trophy wife from the "showcase wife," "chosen for her pulchritude and constantly displayed in public places, dripping mink and dangling diamonds," which seems more to suit the later use of trophy wife.
"great period of revival of classical-based art and learning in Europe that began in the fourteenth century," 1840, from French renaissance des lettres, from Old French renaissance, literally "rebirth," usually in a spiritual sense, from renastre "grow anew" (of plants), "be reborn" (Modern French renaître), from Vulgar Latin *renascere, from Latin renasci "be born again, rise again, reappear, be renewed," from re- "again" (see re-) + nasci "be born" (Old Latin gnasci, from PIE root *gene- "give birth, beget").
An earlier term for it was revival of learning (1785). In general usage, with a lower-case r-, "a revival" of anything that has long been in decay or disuse (especially of learning, literature, art), it is attested by 1855.
[Renaissance] was so far established as the English word for the thing before it was latinized or anglicized into renascence that it is still the more intelligible of the two, & may well be left in possession. [Henry W. Fowler, "Modern English Usage," Oxford: 1926. He does, however, recommend pronouncing it as English, "rinā'sns."]
As an adjective, "of or pertaining to the Renaissance," by 1842. Renaissance man is attested by 1885 in the basic sense of "a man alive during the Renaissance;" by 1898 particularly with a notion of "exhibiting the virtues and characteristics of an idealized man of the Renaissance," humanism, scholarship, varied attainments, freedom of thought and personality; used by 1949 of modern or living persons, sometimes merely meaning "well-rounded."
early 14c., constellacioun, "position of a planet in the zodiac;" late 14c., "one of the recognized star patterns handed down from antiquity" (in the zodiac or not), from Old French constellacion "constellation, conjuncture (of planets)" and directly from Late Latin constellationem (nominative constellatio) "a collection of stars," especially as supposed to exert influence on human affairs," from constellatus "set with stars," from assimilated form of Latin com "with, together" (see con-) + past participle of stellare "to shine," from stella "star" (from PIE root *ster- (2) "star").
The oldest sense is astrological, of the position of planets ("stars") relative to the zodiac signs on a given day, usually the day of one's birth, as a determiner of one's character. "I folwed ay myn inclinacioun/By vertu of my constillacioun" (Chaucer, "Wife's Prologue," c. 1386). In modern use "a group of fixed stars to which a definite name has been given but does not form part of another named group (compare asterism). Figuratively, "any assemblage of a brilliant or distinguished character"(1630s).
The classical northern constellations probably were formed in prehistoric Mesopotamia; the Greeks likely picked them up c. 500 B.C.E., and Claudius Ptolemy (c. 90-c. 168) of Alexandria codified 48 of them, all still current, in his "Almagest" (2c.). The canonical list was expanded from 16c. as Europeans explored southern regions whose stars were invisible from Alexandria and as astronomers filled in the dimmer regions between the established figures, so that by the late 19c. as many as 109 constellations were shown on maps. The modern roster was set at 88 by the International Astronomical Union in 1922.
"female parent, a woman in relation to her child," Middle English moder, from Old English modor, from Proto-Germanic *mōdēr (source also of Old Saxon modar, Old Frisian moder, Old Norse moðir, Danish moder, Dutch moeder, Old High German muoter, German Mutter), from PIE *mater- "mother" (source also of Latin māter, Old Irish mathir, Lithuanian motė, Sanskrit matar-, Greek mētēr, Old Church Slavonic mati), "[b]ased ultimately on the baby-talk form *mā- (2); with the kinship term suffix *-ter-" [Watkins]. Spelling with -th- dates from early 16c., though that pronunciation is probably older (see father (n.)).
Sense of "that which has given birth to anything" is from late Old English; as a familiar term of address to an elderly woman, especially of the lower class, by c. 1200.
Mother Nature as a personification is attested from c. 1600; mother earth as an expression of the earth as the giver of life is from 1580s. Mother tongue "one's native language" is attested from late 14c. Mother country "a country in relation to its colonies" is from 1580s. Mother-love "such affection as is shown by a mother" is by 1854. Mother-wit "native wit, common sense" is from mid-15c.
Mother of all ________ (1991), is Gulf War slang, from Saddam Hussein's use in reference to the coming battle; it is an Arabic idiom (as well as an English one), for instance Ayesha, second wife of Muhammad, is known as Mother of Believers; the figure is attested in English in 19c. (Virginia is called mother of commonwealths from 1849). Mother Carey's chickens is late 18c. sailors' nickname for storm petrels, or for snowflakes.
late Old English cnafa "boy, male child; male servant," from Proto-Germanic *knabon- (source also of Old High German knabo "boy, youth, servant," German knabe "boy, lad"); it is also probably related to Old English cnapa "boy, youth, servant," Old Norse knapi "servant boy," Dutch knaap "a youth, servant," Middle High German knappe "a young squire," German Knappe "squire, shield-bearer." Original sense unknown; Klein suggests the prehistoric meaning might have been "stick, piece of wood." For pronunciation, see kn-.
Sense of "rogue, rascal" is first recorded c. 1200, presumably via sense evolution from "a menial" to "one of low birth," and the low character supposed to be characteristic of such a condition. But through Middle English it kept also its non-pejorative meaning, as in knave-child (Scottish knave-bairn) "male child." In playing cards, "the lowest court card," 1560s.
Previously, the English equivalent of the French valet was normally known as Knave, in the sense of 'serving-lad'. In the seventeenth century it came to be called Jack, from the name properly applied to the Knave of trumps at All Fours. All Fours being a low-class game, the use of 'Jack' for 'Knave' was long considered vulgar. ('He calls the Knaves Jacks!', remarks Estella contemptuously in Dickens's Great Expectations.) When indices came in, it was obviously preferable to use 'J' rather than 'Kn' to avoid confusion with 'K' for King. Jack has since become the normal title of the lowest court, though 'Knave' can still be heard. [David Parlett, "A History of Card Games," 1991]
Old English cild "fetus, infant, unborn or newly born person," from Proto-Germanic *kiltham (source also of Gothic kilþei "womb," inkilþo "pregnant;" Danish kuld "children of the same marriage;" Old Swedish kulder "litter;" Old English cildhama "womb," lit. "child-home"); no certain cognates outside Germanic. "App[arently] originally always used in relation to the mother as the 'fruit of the womb'" [Buck]. Also in late Old English, "a youth of gentle birth" (archaic, usually written childe). In 16c.-17c. especially "girl child."
The wider sense "young person before the onset of puberty" developed in late Old English. Phrase with child "pregnant" (late 12c.) retains the original sense. The sense extension from "infant" to "child" also is found in French enfant, Latin infans. Meaning "one's own child; offspring of parents" is from late 12c. (the Old English word was bearn; see bairn). Figurative use from late 14c. Most Indo-European languages use the same word for "a child" and "one's child," though there are exceptions (such as Latin liberi/pueri).
The difficulty with the plural began in Old English, where the nominative plural was at first cild, identical with the singular, then c.975 a plural form cildru (genitive cildra) arose, probably for clarity's sake, only to be re-pluraled late 12c. as children, which is thus a double plural. Middle English plural cildre survives in Lancashire dialect childer and in Childermas.
Child abuse is attested by 1963; child-molester from 1950. Child care is from 1915. Child's play, figurative of something easy, is in Chaucer (late 14c.):
I warne yow wel, it is no childes pley To take a wyf withouten auysement. ["Merchant's Tale"]