c. 1200, "medical treatment, cure, healing," also (early 14c.) "substance used in treatment of a disease, medicinal potion or plaster," also used figuratively of spiritual remedies, from Old French medecine (Modern French médicine) "medicine, art of healing, cure, treatment, potion" and directly from Latin medicina "the healing art, medicine; a remedy," also used figuratively.
This is perhaps originally ars medicina "the medical art," from fem. of medicinus (adj.) "of a doctor," from medicus "a physician" (from PIE root *med- "take appropriate measures"); though OED says evidence for this path is wanting and suggests derivation directly from medicus. The sense of "practice, theory, or study of curing, alleviating, or preventing disease in humans" is from mid-14c.
The figurative phrase take (one's) medicine "submit to something disagreeable" is recorded by 1865; that of dose of (one's) own medicine is by 1894. Medicine show "traveling show meant to attract a crowd so patent medicine can be sold to them" is American English, 1938. Medicine ball "stuffed leather ball used for exercise" is from 1889.
It is called a "medicine ball" and it got that title from Prof. [Robert J.] Roberts, now of Springfield, whose fame is widespread, and whose bright and peculiar dictionary of terms for his prescription department in physical culture is taught in every first-class conducted Y.M.C.A. gymnasium in America. Prof. Roberts calls it a "medicine ball" because playful exercise with it invigorates the body, promotes digestion, and restores and preserves one's health. [Scientific American Supplement, March 16, 1889]
"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.
c. 1300, "one who deceives or commits treason; one who is wicked or evil; evil-doer," used of Lucifer and Herod, from Old French felon "evil-doer, scoundrel, traitor, rebel, oath-breaker, the Devil" (9c.), from Medieval Latin fellonem (nominative fello) "evil-doer," which is of uncertain origin, perhaps from Frankish *fillo, *filljo "person who whips or beats, scourger" (source of Old High German fillen "to whip"); or from Latin fel "gall, poison," on the notion of "one full of bitterness." Celtic origins also have been proposed.
Another theory (advanced by Professor R. Atkinson of Dublin) traces it to Latin fellare "to suck" (see fecund), which had an obscene secondary meaning in classical Latin (well-known to readers of Martial and Catullus), which would make a felon etymologically a "cock-sucker." OED inclines toward the "gall" explanation, but finds Atkinson's "most plausible" of the others.
Also by c. 1300 in English in a general legal sense "criminal; one who has committed a felony," however that was defined. Century Dictionary notes, "the term is not applicable after legal punishment has been completed." In Middle English it also was an adjective, "traitorous, wicked, malignant." Australian official James Mudie (1837), coined felonry "as the appellative of an order or class of persons in New South Wales,—an order which happily exists in no other country in the world."
"yellow malleable alloy metal, harder than copper," Old English bræs "brass, bronze," originally any alloy of copper, in England usually with tin (this is now called bronze), later and in modern use an alloy of roughly two parts copper to one part zinc. A mystery word, with no known cognates beyond English. Perhaps akin to French brasser "to brew," because it is an alloy. It also has been compared to Old Swedish brasa "fire," but no sure connection can be made. Yet another theory connects it with Latin ferrum "iron," itself of obscure origin.
Words for "brass" in other languages (such as German Messing, Old English mæsling, French laiton, Italian ottone) also tend to be difficult to explain. As brass was unknown in early antiquity (it was well-known to Strabo, 1c., but not mentioned by Homer), the use of the English word in Bible translations, etc., likely means "bronze." The Romans were the first to deliberately make it.
When works of Greek and Roman antiquity in 'brass' began to be critically examined, and their material discriminated, the Italian word for 'brass' (bronzo, bronze) came into use to distinguish this 'ancient brass' from the current alloy. [OED]
Rhetorically or figuratively it was the common type of hardness, durability, or obduracy since late 14c. The meaning "effrontery, impudence, excessive assurance" is from 1620s. Slang sense of "high officials" is first recorded 1899, from their insignia. Meaning "brass musical instruments of a band" is from 1832.
sixteenth letter of the English alphabet, descended from the Greek pi; the form of it is a pi with the second limb curved around to meet the first. A rare letter in the initial position in Germanic, in part because by Grimm's Law PIE p- became Germanic f-; even including the early Latin borrowings in Old English, "P" has only a little over 4 pages in J.R. Clark Hall's "Concise Anglo-Saxon Dictionary," compared to 31 pages for B and more than 36 for F. But it now is the third-most-common initial letter in the English vocabulary, and with C and S comprises nearly a third of the dictionary, a testimony to the flood of words that have entered the language since 1066 from Latin, Greek, and French, especially those in pre- and pro-.
Between -m- and another consonant, an unetymological -p- sometimes is inserted (Hampstead, Thompson) to indicate that the -m- is sounded as in words such as Simpson. To mind one's Ps and Qs (1779), possibly is from confusion of these letters among children learning to write. Another theory traces it to old-time tavern-keepers tracking their patrons' bar tabs in pints and quarts. But see also to be P and Q (1610s), "to be excellent," a slang or provincial phrase said to derive from prime quality.
P-wave is from 1908 in geology, the p representing primary (adj.). The U.S. Navy World War II PT boat (1942) stands for patrol torpedo.
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.
common name of any lepidopterous insect active in daylight, Old English buttorfleoge, evidently butter (n.) + fly (n.), but the name is of obscure signification. Perhaps based on the old notion that the insects (or, according to Grimm, witches disguised as butterflies) consume butter or milk that is left uncovered. Or, less creatively, simply because the pale yellow color of many species' wings suggests the color of butter. Another theory connects it to the color of the insect's excrement, based on Dutch cognate boterschijte. Also see papillon.
Applied to persons from c. 1600, originally in reference to vain and gaudy attire; by 1806 in reference to transformation from early lowly state; in reference to flitting tendencies by 1873. The swimming stroke so called from 1935. As a type of mechanical nut, 1869. Butterflies "light stomach spasms caused by anxiety" is from 1908. Who breaks a butterfly upon a wheel? is from Pope.
The butterfly effect is a deceptively simple insight extracted from a complex modern field. As a low-profile assistant professor in MIT's department of meteorology in 1961, [Edward] Lorenz created an early computer program to simulate weather. One day he changed one of a dozen numbers representing atmospheric conditions, from .506127 to .506. That tiny alteration utterly transformed his long-term forecast, a point Lorenz amplified in his 1972 paper, "Predictability: Does the Flap of a Butterfly's Wings in Brazil Set Off a Tornado in Texas?" [Peter Dizikes, "The Meaning of the Butterfly," The Boston Globe, June 8, 2008]
A truth known for ages to poets and philosophers (atomists) which modern science ponders as a possible fact.
c. 1300, seculer, in reference to clergy, "living in the world, not belonging to a religious order," also generally, "belonging to the state" (as opposed to the Church), from Old French seculer, seculare (Modern French séculier) and directly from Late Latin saecularis "worldly, secular, pertaining to a generation or age," in classical Latin "of or belonging to an age, occurring once in an age," from saeculum "age, span of time, lifetime, generation, breed."
This is from Proto-Italic *sai-tlo-, which, according to Watkins, is PIE instrumental element *-tlo- + *sai- "to bind, tie" (see sinew), extended metaphorically to successive human generations as links in the chain of life. De Vaan also connects it with "bind" words and lists as a cognate Welsh hoedl "lifespan, age." An older theory connected it to words for "seed," from PIE root *se- "to sow" (see sow (v.), and compare Gothic mana-seþs "mankind, world," literally "seed of men").
The ancient Roman ludi saeculares was a three-day, day-and-night celebration coming once in an "age" (120 years). Ecclesiastical writers in Latin used it as those in Greek did aiōn "of this world" (see cosmos). It is the source of French siècle "century." The meaning "of or belonging to an age or a long period," especially occurring once in a century, was in English from 1590s.
From mid-14c. in the general sense of "of or belonging to the world, concerned in earthly more than in spiritual, life;" also of literature, music, etc., "not overtly religious." In English, in reference to humanism and the exclusion of belief in God from matters of ethics and morality, from 1850s. Related: Secularly.
1781, "to make small, reduce in proportion," from be- + little (v.); first recorded in writings of Thomas Jefferson (and probably coined by him), Jefferson used it in "Notes on the State of Virginia" to characterize the view promoted as scientific by French naturalist Georges-Louis Leclerc Buffon that American species (including humans) were naturally smaller than and inferior to European ones, which Jefferson was at pains to refute. ("So far the Count de Buffon has carried this new theory of the tendency of nature to belittle her productions on this side of the Atlantic.") The word was roundly execrated in England, as be- is properly to be used only with verbs:
Belittle! What an expression! It may be an elegant one in Virginia, and even perfectly intelligible; but for our part, all we can do is to guess at its meaning. For shame, Mr. Jefferson! [European Magazine and London Review, August 1787; to guess was considered another Yankee barbarism]
Jefferson also sent Buffon a stuffed moose. The figurative sense of "depreciate, scorn as worthless" (as the reviewers did to this word) is from 1797 and is now almost the only sense. Related: Belittled; belittling.
Jefferson, as if disposed to assail the sovereignty of the English tongue as well as the sovereignty of the English sword, never hesitated to coin a word when it suited his purposes so to do; and though many of his brood are questionable on the ground of analogy and as intermixing languages; yet they were expressive, and became familiar. [Hugh Blair Grigsby, "The Virginia Convention of 1776," 1855]
mid-15c., "sweetheart chosen on St. Valentine's Day," from Late Latin Valentinus, the name of two early Italian saints (from Latin valentia "strength, capacity;" see valence). Choosing a sweetheart on this day originated 14c. as a custom in English and French court circles. Meaning "letter or card sent to a sweetheart" first recorded 1824. The romantic association of the day is said to be from it being around the time when birds choose their mates.
For this was on seynt Volantynys day
Whan euery bryd cometh there to chese his make.
[Chaucer, "Parlement of Foules," c. 1381]
Probably the date was the informal first day of spring in whatever French region invented the custom (many surviving medieval calendars reckon the start of spring on the 7th or 22nd of February). No evidence connects it with the Roman Lupercalia (an 18c. theory) or to any romantic or avian quality in either of the saints. The custom of sending special cards or letters on this date flourished in England c. 1840-1870, declined around the turn of the 20th century, and revived 1920s.
To speak of the particular Customs of the English Britons, I shall begin with Valentine's Day, Feb. 14. when young Men and Maidens get their several Names writ down upon Scrolls of Paper rolled up, and lay 'em asunder, the Men drawing the Maidens Names, and these the Mens; upon which, the Men salute their chosen Valentines and present them with Gloves, &c. This Custom (which sometimes introduces a Match) is grounded upon the Instinct of Animals, which about this Time of the Year, feeling a new Heat by the approach of the Sun, begin to couple. ["The Present State of Great Britain and Ireland" London, 1723]