c. 1300, "story, narration," from Old French prose (13c.) and directly from Latin prosa, short for prosa oratio "straightforward or direct speech" (without the ornaments of verse), from prosa, fem. of prosus, earlier prorsus "straightforward, direct," from Old Latin provorsus "(moving) straight ahead," from pro "forward" (from PIE root *per- (1) "forward") + vorsus "turned," past participle of vertere "to turn" (from PIE root *wer- (2) "to turn, bend").
The meaning "prose writing; non-poetry" (as opposed to verse or metric composition); "the ordinary written or spoken language of people" is from mid-14c.
"Good prose, to say nothing of the original thoughts it conveys, may be infinitely varied in modulation. It is only an extension of metres, an amplification of harmonies, of which even the best and most varied poetry admits but few." [Walter Savage Landor, "Imaginary Conversations"]
The sense of "dull or commonplace expression" is from 1680s, out of the earlier sense of "plain expression" (1560s). As an adjective, "relating to or consisting of prose," by 1711. Prose-writer is attested from 1610s; those who lament the want of a single-word English agent noun to correspond to poet might try prosaist (1776), proser (1620s), or Frenchified prosateur (1880), though the first two in their day also acquired in English the secondary sense "dull writer."
mid-15c. "of or pertaining to the law," from Old French légal "legal" (14c.) or directly from Latin legalis "pertaining to the law," from lex (genitive legis) "an enactment; a precept, regulation, principle, rule; formal proposition for a law, motion, bill; a contract, arrangement, contrivance." This probably is related to legere "to gather," from PIE root *leg- (1) "to collect, gather," with derivatives meaning "to speak (to 'pick out words')." Perhaps the noun is from the verb on the notion of "a collection of rules," but de Vaan seems to imply that the evolution is the reverse:
The verb legare and its compounds all have a meaning which involves a 'task, assignment,' and can therefore be interpreted as derivatives of lex 'law.' The [Proto-Italic] root noun *leg- 'law' can be interpreted as a 'collection' of rules. Whether the root noun existed already in PIE is uncertain for lack of precise cognates.
Sense of "permitted by law" is from 1640s. Related: Legally. Not etymologically related to law (n.), q.v. The usual Old French form was leial, loial (see leal, loyal). Legal tender "money which the creditor is bound by law to accept" is from 1740 (see tender (n.2)). A legal holiday (1867) is one established by statute or proclamation and during which government business is usually suspended.
Old English specan, variant of sprecan "to speak, utter words; make a speech; hold discourse (with others)" (class V strong verb; past tense spræc, past participle sprecen), from Proto-Germanic *sprekanan (source also of Old Saxon sprecan, Old Frisian spreka, Middle Dutch spreken, Old High German sprehhan, German sprechen "to speak," Old Norse spraki "rumor, report"), from PIE root *spreg- (1) "to speak," perhaps identical with PIE root *spreg- (2) "to strew," on notion of speech as a "scattering" of words.
The -r- began to drop out in Late West Saxon and was gone by mid-12c., perhaps from influence of Danish spage "crackle," also used in a slang sense of "speak" (compare crack (v.) in slang senses having to do with speech, such as wisecrack, cracker, all it's cracked up to be). Elsewhere, rare variant forms without -r- are found in Middle Dutch (speken), Old High German (spehhan), dialectal German (spächten "speak").
Not the primary word for "to speak" in Old English (the "Beowulf" author prefers maþelian, from mæþel "assembly, council," from root of metan "to meet;" compare Greek agoreuo "to speak, explain," originally "speak in the assembly," from agora "assembly").
1702; plural of humanity (n.), which had been used in English from late 15c. in a sense "class of studies concerned with human culture" (opposed variously and at different times to divinity or sciences). Latin literae humaniores, the "more human studies" (literally "letters") are fondly believed to have been so called because they were those branches of literature (ancient classics, rhetoric, poetry) which tended to humanize or refine by their influence, but the distinction was rather of secular topics as opposed to divine ones (literae divinae).
From the late Middle Ages, the singular word humanity served to distinguish classical studies from natural sciences on one side and sacred studies (divinity) on the other side. ... The term's modern career is not well charted. But by the eighteenth century humanity in its academic sense seems to have fallen out of widespread use, except in Scottish universities (where it meant the study of Latin). Its revival as a plural in the course of the following century apparently arose from a need for a label for the multiple new 'liberal studies' or 'culture studies' entering university curricula. [James Turner, "Philology," 2014]
"that which is placed at hazard as a wager, the sum of money or other valuable consideration which is deposited as a pledge or wager to be lost or won according to the issue of a contest or contingency," 1530s, perhaps from stake (v.2), which is attested a few years earlier, but both the noun and verb are of uncertain origin. Perhaps literally "that which is fixed or put up," either from a particular use of stake (n.1) "stake, pole," or from the notion of "a post on which a gambling wager was placed" (but OED points out there is "no evidence of the existence of such a custom"). Weekley suggests "there is a tinge of the burning or baiting metaphor" in this usage.
Meaning "the prize in a contest of strength, skill, speed, etc." is by 1620s; plural stakes, "sum of money to be won in a (horse) race," is recorded by 1690s (compare sweepstakes). Meaning "an interest, something to gain or lose" is by 1580s; hence have a stake in "have an interest in the turn of events, have something to gain or lose" (1784). The phrase at stake "state of being laid or pledged as a wager; state of being at hazard or in peril" is from c. 1600.
c. 1300, citisein (fem. citeseine) "inhabitant of a city or town," from Anglo-French citesein, citezein "city-dweller, town-dweller, citizen" (Old French citeien, 12c., Modern French citoyen), from cite (see city) + -ain (see -ian). According to Middle English Compendium, the -s-/-z- in Anglo-French presumably replaced an earlier *-th-.Old English words were burhsittend and ceasterware.
Sense of "freeman or inhabitant of a country, member of the state or nation, not an alien" is late 14c. Meaning "private person" (as opposed to a civil officer or soldier) is from c. 1600. As a title, 1795, from French: During the French Revolution, citoyen was used as a republican alternative to Monsieur.
Citizen's arrest, one carried out by a private person, without a warrant, allowable in certain cases, is recorded from 1941; citizen's band (radio) from 1947. Citizen of the world (late 15c.) translates Latin civem totius mundi, Greek kosmopolites.
He is not a citizen who is not disposed to respect the laws and to obey the civil magistrate; and he is certainly not a good citizen who does not wish to promote, by every means in his power, the welfare of the whole society of his fellow-citizens. [Adam Smith, "Theory of Moral Sentiments"]
early 15c., "to inspect and remove the dirt and dross from (spices)," from Anglo-French garbeler "to sift" (late 14c.) and directly from Medieval Latin, Catalan, and Italian garbellare, from Arabic gharbal "to sift," related to kirbal "sieve," which perhaps is from Late Latin cribellum, diminutive of Latin cribrum "sieve" (from PIE root *krei- "to sieve"). Apparently the word was widespread among Mediterranean traders (compare Italian garbellare, Spanish garbillare "to sift grain").
In later-medieval Europe, pepper and ginger and some other spices were always imports from the Arabic-speaking Eastern Mediterranean, and the same goes for many botanical drugs, and a few expensive colorants. The spices, drugs and colorants had variable amounts of natural chaff residuals and occasionally had unnatural added chaff. ["English Words of Arabic Ancestry"]
From late 15c. in a general sense of "sort out the finer parts" of anything, "removal of what is objectionable," then "distort for some devious purpose or to give false impression;" especially "mix up, confuse or distort language" (1680s). Related: Garbled; garbling. In Middle English garbeler (Anglo-French garbelour) meant "official who garbles spices and sometimes also other dry goods" (early 15c.); it is attested from 1690s as "one who mixes up or mutilates words or language."
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]
mid-14c., "material consisting of a compacted web or felting of vegetable fibers, commonly as a thin, flexible sheet for writing, printing, etc.," from Anglo-French paper, Old French papier "paper, document," and directly from Latin papyrus "paper, paper made of papyrus stalks," from Greek papyros "any plant of the paper plant genus," a loan-word of unknown origin, often said to be Egyptian (see papyrus).
Sense of "essay, dissertation on a topic" is from 1660s. Meaning "bills of exchange, paper money" is attested by 1722. As "paper for covering the walls of interiors," 1764. As "printed sheet of news" (a shortened form of newspaper), attested by 1640s. Papers, "collection of documents which establish one's identity, standing, credentials, etc.," it is attested from 1680s.
Paper-clip is by 1875; paper-cutter as a type of machine is by 1969. Paper-hanger is by 1796. Paper-wasp " type of wasp that builds a nest out of paper-like material" is by 1805. Paper chase is by 1856 in British English for the game of hare-and-hounds, from the bits of paper scattered as "scent" by the "hares;" the slang meaning "effort to earn a diploma or college degree" is by 1932.
1839, European name for the babakoto, a lemur-like arboreal primate of Madagascar (Indris Lichanotus); the common story since late 19c. is that the name was given in error by French naturalist Pierre Sonnerat (1748-1814), c. 1780, from mistaken use of Malagasy indry! "Look! See!" this being what his native guides said when they spotted the creature and called his attention to it.
However, as Hacking (1981) pointed out, Sonnerat was far too familiar with indris — he described and figured them in detail, and apparently kept at least one in captivity — for this story to be plausible. Furthermore, endrina is actually recorded as a native name for the indri (Cousins, 1885), and indri could easily be a variant of this name. Although the word endrina is first recorded in Malagasy only in 1835, there is no evidence that it could be a back-formation from the French indri (Hacking, 1981), and it seems implausible that the Malagasy would adopt an erroneous French name for an animal they were them selves familiar with. [Dunkel, Alexander R., et al., "Giant rabbits, marmosets, and British comedies: etymology of lemur names, part 1," in "Lemur News," vol. 16, 2011-2012, p.67]