early 15c., pictur, pictoure, pittour, pectur, "the process or art of drawing or painting," a sense now obsolete; also "a visual or graphic representation of a person, scene, object, etc.," from Latin pictura "painting," from pictus, past participle of pingere "to make pictures, to paint, to embroider," (see paint (v.)).
Picture window is from 1938. Picture post-card is recorded from 1899. Picture-book, "book illustrated with pictures or consisting mostly of pictures," especially one for children, is by 1847. Picture-frame "more or less ornamental border put around a picture to protect it" is from 1660s.
The phrase every picture tells a story is attested from 1900, in advertisements for an illustrated life of Christ. To be in (or out of) the picture in the figurative sense dates to 1900.
The expression a picture is worth a thousand words, attested from 1918, probably originated in the publication trade (the notion that a picture was worth 1,000 words is in printers' publications by 1911). The phrase was used in the form worth a million words by American newspaper editor Arthur Brisbane (1864-1936) in an editorial much-read c. 1916 titled "What is a Good Newspaper" in the "New York Evening Journal." In part it read: "After news and humor come good pictures. In this day of hurry we learn through the eye, and one picture may be worth a million words."
The phrase seems to have emerged into general use via the medium of advertising (which scaled down the number and also gave the expression its spurious origin story as "a Japanese proverb" or some such thing, by 1919). Earlier various acts or deeds (and in one case "the arrow") were said to be worth a thousand words.
1650s, powny, "a very small horse" (less than 13 hands in height), from Scottish, apparently from obsolete French poulenet "little foal" (mid-15c.), diminutive of Old French poulain "foal," from Late Latin pullanus "young of an animal," from Latin pullus "young of a horse, fowl, etc." (from PIE root *pau- (1) "few, little") [Skeat's suggestion, still accepted]. Compare, from the same source, foal, filly, Sanskrit potah "a young animal," Greek pōlos "foal," secondarily also of other young animals; Latin pullus "young animal," Lithuanian putytis "young animal, young bird."
A small horse, especially one of a small breed, as opposed to a colt or filly, words which indicate merely young horses. German, sensibly, indicates this animal by attaching a diminutive suffix to its word for "horse," which might yield Modern English *horslet. Modern French poney is a 19c. borrowing from English.
The Shetland breed of ponies are stoutly built, active and hardy, with very full mane and tail, and of gentle, docile disposition. In western parts of the United States all the small hardy horses (mustangs or broncos) used by the Indians are called ponies. [Century Dictionary, 1897]
Meaning "crib of a text as a cheating aid," especially a translation of a Greek or Latin author used unfairly in the preparation of lessons (1827) and "small liquor glass" (1849) both are from notion of "smallness" (the former also "something one rides," a translation being something that enables a student to "get along fast").
As the name of a popular dance, it dates from 1963. The U.S. Pony Express began 1860 (and operated about 18 months before being superseded by the transcontinental telegraph). The figurative one-trick pony is 1897, American English, in reference to circus acts.
c. 1200, perhaps mid-12c., "well-born man, man of good family or birth," also extended to Roman patricians and ancient Greek aristocrats, from gentle + man (n.); the compound probably is modeled on Old French gentilhomme (the English gentleman itself was borrowed into French in 18c.).
Given specific uses in late Middle English (small gentleman, gentleman-of-arms, gentleman-usher, etc.), hence in England the word often meant any man above the social rank of a yeoman, including the nobility, but it was sometimes restricted to those who bear a coat of arms but not a title; in U.S., "man of property, not engaged in business or a profession" (1789). The English word from the beginning also had a special sense "nobleman whose behavior conforms to the ideals of chivalry and Christianity," and gentleman came to be used loosely for any man of good breeding, courtesy, kindness, honor, strict regard for the feelings of others, etc.
[The Gentleman] is always truthful and sincere ; will not agree for the sake of complaisance or out of weakness ; will not pass over that of which he disapproves. He has a clear soul, and a fearless, straightforward tongue. On the other hand, he is not blunt and rude. His truth is courteous ; his courtesy, truthful ; never a humbug, yet, where he truthfully can, he prefers to say pleasant things. [The Rev. John R. Vernon, "The Grand Old Name of Gentleman," in Contemporary Review, vol. XI, May-August 1869]
Eventually, in polite use, it came to mean a man in general, regardless of social standing. Related: Gentlemen. Gentleman's agreement is first attested 1929. Gentleman farmer recorded from 1749, "A man of means who farms on a large scale, employs hands, and does little or none of the work himself" [Craigie, "Dictionary of American English"].
"fine soft thread produced by the larvae of certain types of moths, feeding on mulberry leaves;" c. 1300, silke, from Old English seoloc, sioloc "silk, silken cloth," from Latin sericum "silk," plural serica "silken garments, silks," literally "Seric stuff," neuter of Sericus, from Greek Serikos "pertaining to the Sēres," an oriental people of Asia from whom the Greeks got silks. Their region is vaguely described but seems to correspond to northern China as approached from the northwest.
Western cultivation began 552 C.E., when agents from Byzantium impersonating monks smuggled silkworms and mulberry leaves out of China. Chinese si "silk," Manchurian sirghe, Mongolian sirkek have been compared to this and the people-name Seres in Greek might be a rendering via Mongolian of the Chinese word for "silk," but this is uncertain.
Cognate with Old Norse silki but the word is not found elsewhere in Germanic. The more common Germanic form is represented by Middle English say, from Old French seie, which, with Spanish seda, Italian seta, Dutch zijde, and German Seide, is from Medieval Latin seta "silk," which is perhaps elliptical for seta serica, or else a particular use of seta "bristle, hair" (see seta (n.)).
According to some sources [Buck, OED], the use of -l- instead of -r- in the Balto-Slavic form of the word (Old Church Slavonic šelku, Lithuanian šilkai) passed into English via the Baltic trade and may reflect a Chinese dialectal form, or a Slavic alteration of the Greek word. But the Slavic linguist Vasmer dismisses that, based on the initial sh- in the Slavic words, and suggests the Slavic words are from Scandinavian rather than the reverse.
As an adjective from mid-14c. In reference to the "hair" of corn, 1660s, American English (corn-silk is from 1861). The ancient Silk Road was so called in English by 1895.
c. 1300, in chess, "a call noting one's move has placed his opponent's king (or another major piece) in immediate peril," from Old French eschequier "a check at chess" (also "chess board, chess set"), from eschec "the game of chess; chessboard; check; checkmate," from Vulgar Latin *scaccus, from Arabic shah, from Persian shah "king," the principal piece in a chess game (see shah; also compare checkmate (n.)). Also c. 1300 in a generalized sense, "harmful incident or event, hostile environment."
As "an exposure of the king to a direct attack from an opposing piece" early 15c. When his king is in check, a player's choices are severely limited. From that notion come the many extended senses: From the notion of "a sudden stoppage, hindrance, restraint" (1510s) comes that of "act or means of checking or restraining," also "means of detecting or exposing or preventing error; a check against forgery or alteration."
Hence: "a counter-register as a token of ownership used to check against, and prevent, loss or theft" (as in hat check, etc.), 1812. Hence also the financial use for "written order for money drawn on a bank, money draft" (1798, often spelled cheque), which was probably influenced by exchequer. Hence also "mark put against names or items on a list indicating they have been verified or otherwise examined" (by 1856).
From its use in chess the word has been widely transferred in French and English. In the sense-extension, the sb. and vb. have acted and reacted on each other, so that it is difficult to trace and exhibit the order in which special senses arose [OED]
The meaning "restaurant bill" is from 1869. Checking account is attested from 1897, American English. Blank check in the figurative sense is attested by 1849 (compare carte blanche). Checks and balances is from 1782, perhaps originally suggesting machinery.
mid-12c., pes, "freedom from civil disorder, internal peace of a nation," from Anglo-French pes, Old French pais "peace, reconciliation, silence, permission" (11c., Modern French paix), from Latin pacem (nominative pax) "compact, agreement, treaty of peace, tranquility, absence of war" (source of Provençal patz, Spanish paz, Italian pace), from PIE root *pag- "to fasten" (which is the source also of Latin pacisci "to covenant or agree;" see pact), on the notion of "a binding together" by treaty or agreement.
It replaced Old English frið, also sibb, which also meant "happiness." The modern spelling is from 1500s, reflecting vowel shift. From mid-13c. as "friendly relations between people." The sense of "spiritual peace of the heart, soul or conscience, freedom from disturbance by the passions" (as in peace of mind) is from c. 1200. Sense of "state of quiet or tranquility" is by 1300, as in the meaning "absence or cessation of war or hostility." Specifically as "treaty or agreement made between conflicting parties to refrain from further hostilities," c. 1400.
Used in various greetings from c. 1300, from Biblical Latin pax, Greek eirēnē, which were used by translators to render Hebrew shalom, properly "safety, welfare, prosperity." As a type of hybrid tea rose (developed 1939 in France by François Meilland), so called from 1944.
The Native American peace pipe, supposedly smoked as the accompaniment of a treaty, is recorded by 1760. Peace-officer "civil officer whose duty it is to preserve public peace" is attested from 1714. Peace offering "offering that procures peace or reconciliation, satisfaction offered to an offended person" is from 1530s. Phrase peace with honor dates to 1607 (in "Coriolanus"). The U.S. Peace Corps was set up March 1, 1962. Peace sign, in reference to both the hand gesture and the graphic, is attested from 1968.
1530s, "the regulation and control of a community" (similar in sense to policy (n.1)); from Middle French police "organized government, civil administration" (late 15c.), from Latin politia "civil administration," from Greek polis "city" (see polis).
Until mid-19c. used in England for "civil administration;" application to "administration of public order, law-enforcement in a community" (1716) is from French (late 17c.), and originally in English referred to France or other foreign nations.
The sense of "an organized civil force for maintaining order, preventing and detecting crime, etc." is by 1800; the first force so-named in England was the Marine Police, set up 1798 to protect merchandise at the Port of London. Meaning "body of officers entrusted with the duty of enforcing laws, detecting crime, etc." is from 1810.
In its most common acceptation, the police signifies the administration of the municipal laws and regulations of a city or incorporated town or borough by a corps of administrative or executive officers, with the necessary magistrates for the immediate use of force in compelling obedience and punishing violation of the laws, as distinguished from judicial remedies by action, etc. The primary object of the police system is the prevention of crime and the pursuit of offenders; but it is also subservient to other purposes, such as the suppression of mendicancy, the preservation of order, the removal of obstructions and nuisances, and the enforcing of those local and general laws which relate to the public health, order, safety, and comfort. [Century Dictionary, 1895]
In constitutional law, police power is the power of a government to limit civil liberties and exercise restraint and compulsion over private rights, especially to advance or protect the public welfare. Police state "state regulated by means of national police" first recorded 1865, with reference to Austria. Police action in the international sense of "military intervention short of war, ostensibly to correct lawlessness" is from 1933. Police officer is attested from 1794, American English. Police station is from 1817. Police dog is by 1908.
Trigonocephalus contortrix, common venomous serpent of the U.S., 1775, American English, so called for the copper-colored markings between its eyes; see copper (n.1) + head (n.).
Dangerous "sneak snakes" (because unlike the rattlesnake they strike without previous movement or warning), hence the figurative use in reference to hidden danger or secret hostility.
The copper-head, though smaller, was much more feared. The rattle-snake was larger, sooner seen, and a true southerner, always living up to the laws of honor. He would not bite without provocation, and by his rattles gave the challenge in an honorable way. Instead of this well-bred warfare, the copper-head is a wrathy little felon, whose ire is always up, and he will make at the hand or the foot in the leaves or grass, before he is seen, and his bite is as poisonous as that of his brother of the larger fang. The young men tested his temper, and found that in his wrath he would bite a red hot coal. [Henry Howe, "Historical Collections of Ohio," 1854]
Specifically in reference to Northerners suspected of sympathizing with the Southern rebellion, the name is said to have been first used in Greeley's New York "Tribune," July 20, 1861. Charles H. Coleman, "The Use of the Term 'Copperhead' During the Civil War" ["Mississippi Valley Historical Review" 25 (1938), p.263] traces it to an anonymous letter against Ohio anti-war Democrats in the Cincinnati "Commercial" newspaper in the summer of 1861. The Woodsfield, Ohio, "Spirit of Democracy" for Sept. 18, 1861, quotes "The last Guernsey Times" as calling Democrats "disunion copperheads." It seems not to have been in widespread use until summer 1862. Before the war it was a colloquial name for the old U.S. copper penny. Related: Copperheadism.
late 14c., originally in grammar (in reference to nouns that do not name concrete things), from Latin abstractus "drawn away," past participle of abstrahere "to drag away, detach, pull away, divert," also used figuratively; from assimilated form of ab "off, away from" (see ab-) + trahere "to draw" (from PIE root *tragh- "to draw, drag, move;" see tract (n.1)).
The meaning in philosophy, "withdrawn or separated from material objects or practical matters" (opposed to concrete) is from mid-15c. That of "difficult to understand, abstruse" is from c. 1400.
In the fine arts, "characterized by lack of representational qualities" by 1914; it had been a term at least since 1847 for music without accompanying lyrics. Abstract expressionism as an American-based uninhibited approach to art exemplified by Jackson Pollock is from 1952, but the term itself had been used in the 1920s of Kandinsky and others.
Oswald Herzog, in an article on "Der Abstrakte Expressionismus" (Sturm, heft 50, 1919) gives us a statement which with equal felicity may be applied to the artistic attitude of the Dadaists. "Abstract Expressionism is perfect Expressionism," he writes. "It is pure creation. It casts spiritual processes into a corporeal mould. It does not borrow objects from the real world; it creates its own objects .... The abstract reveals the will of the artist; it becomes expression. ..." [William A. Drake, "The Life and Deeds of Dada," 1922]
Then, that art we have called "abstract" for want of any possible descriptive term, with which we have been patient, and, even, appreciative, getting high stimulation by the new Guggenheim "non-objective" Art Museum, is reflected in our examples of "surrealism," "dadaism," and what-not, to assert our acquaintance in every art, fine or other. [Report of the Art Reference Department of Pratt Institute Free Library for year ending June 30, 1937]
Middle English quik, from Old English cwic "living, alive, animate, characterized by the presence of life" (now archaic), and figuratively, of mental qualities, "rapid, ready," from Proto-Germanic *kwikwaz (source also of Old Saxon and Old Frisian quik, Old Norse kvikr "living, alive," Dutch kwik "lively, bright, sprightly," Old High German quec "lively," German keck "bold"), from PIE root *gwei- "to live." Sense of "lively, active, swift, speedy, hasty," developed by c. 1300, on notion of "full of life."
NE swift or the now more common fast may apply to rapid motion of any duration, while in quick (in accordance with its original sense of 'live, lively') there is a notion of 'sudden' or 'soon over.' We speak of a fast horse or runner in a race, a quick starter but not a quick horse. A somewhat similar feeling may distinguish NHG schnell and rasch or it may be more a matter of local preference. [Carl Darling Buck, "A Dictionary of Selected Synonyms in the Principal Indo-European Languages," 1949]
Of persons, "mentally active, prompt to perceive or respond to impressions" from late 15c. Of an action, process, etc., "done in little time," 1540s. Also in Middle English used of soft soils, gravel pits, etc. where the ground is shifting and yielding (mid-14c., compare quicksand). Also in Middle English "with child, in an advanced state of pregnancy" (when the woman can feel the child move within). Also formerly of bright flowers or colors (c. 1200).
As an adverb, "quickly, in a quick manner," from c. 1300. To be quick about something is from 1937. Quick buck is from 1946, American English. Quick-change artist (1886) originally was an actor expert in playing different roles in the same performance of a show. Quick-witted is from 1520s.