Etymology
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hickey (n.)

"any small gadget," 1909, American English, of unknown origin. For the "love-bite" sense, see hickie.

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nibble (n.)

1650s, "act of nibbling," from nibble (v.). As "a small bite, a morsel" from 1838.

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tongs (n.)

Old English tange, tang "tongs, pincers, foreceps, instrument for holding and lifting," from Proto-Germanic *tango (source also of Old Saxon tanga, Old Norse töng, Swedish tång, Old Frisian tange, Middle Dutch tanghe, Dutch tang, Old High German zanga, German Zange "tongs"), literally "that which bites," from PIE root *denk- "to bite" (source also of Sanskrit dasati "biter;" Greek daknein "to bite," dax "biting"). For sense evolution, compare French mordache "tongs," from mordre "to bite."

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smirch (v.)

late 15c., "to discolor, to make dirty," of uncertain origin, perhaps from Old French esmorcher "to torture," perhaps also "befoul, stain," from es- "out" (see ex-) + morcher "to bite," from Latin morsus, past participle of mordēre "to bite" (see mordant). Sense perhaps influenced by smear. Sense of "dishonor, disgrace, discredit" first attested 1820.

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snack (v.)

c. 1300, "to bite or snap" (of a dog), probably from Middle Dutch or Flemish snacken "to snatch, snap; chatter," which Watkins traces to a hypothetical Germanic imitative root *snu- forming words having to do with the nose (see snout). The meaning "have a mere bite or morsel, eat a light meal" is first attested 1807. Related: Snacked; snacking.

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mordant (adj.)

late 15c., "caustic, biting, severe" (of words, speech), from Old French mordant, literally "biting," present participle of mordre "to bite," from Latin mordēre "to bite, bite into; nip, sting;" figuratively "to pain, cause hurt," which is perhaps from an extended form of PIE root *mer- "to rub away, harm." Related: Mordantly.

The noun is first attested in a now-obsolete or archaic sense of "ornamented hooked clasp of a belt or girdle" (mid-14c.), from Old French mordant in this sense. In dyeing, "substance used in fixing colors," it is attested by 1791; as an adjective in dyeing, "having the property of fixing colors," by 1902. Related: Mordancy; mordantly.

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abet (v.)

late 14c., "urge on, incite" (implied in abetting), from Old French abeter "to bait, to harass with dogs," literally "to cause to bite," from a- "to" (see ad-) + beter "to bait." This verb is probably from Frankish or some other Germanic source (perhaps Low Franconian betan "incite," or Old Norse beita "cause to bite"); ultimately from Proto-Germanic *baitjan, from PIE root *bheid- "to split," with derivatives in Germanic referring to biting. Sense of "encourage by aid or approval" is from 1779. Related: Abetted; abetting.

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quid (n.1)

"bite-sized piece" (of tobacco, etc.), "a portion suitable to be chewed or held in the mouth," 1727, dialectal variant of Middle English cudde, from Old English cudu, cwidu (see cud).

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giblets (n.)

"edible entrails of a fowl, parts removed or trimmed from a fowl when it is prepared for roasting," mid-15c. (in singular, gybelet), earlier "unnecessary appendage" (c. 1300), from Old French gibelet "game stew," a cookery word of uncertain origin; perhaps from Frankish *gabaiti "hunting with falcons," related to Old High German beizan "to fly a falcon," literally "to cause to bite," from bizzan "to bite," from PIE root *bheid- "to split," with derivatives in Germanic referring to biting.

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bit (n.1)

"small piece," c. 1200; related Old English bite "act of biting," and bita "piece bitten off," which probably are the source of the modern words meaning "boring-piece of a drill" (the "biting" part, 1590s), "mouthpiece of a horse's bridle" (mid-14c.), and "a piece (of food) bitten off, morsel" (c. 1000). All from Proto-Germanic *biton (source also of Old Saxon biti, Old Norse bit, Old Frisian bite, Middle Dutch bete, Old High German bizzo "biting," German Bissen "a bite, morsel"), from PIE root *bheid- "to split."

The meaning "small piece, fragment" of anything is from c. 1600. The sense of "short space of time" is 1650s. Theatrical bit part is from 1909. The colloquial sense of "small coin" in two bits, etc. is originally from the U.S. South and the West Indies, in reference to silver wedges cut or stamped from Spanish dollars (later Mexican reals); transferred to "eighth of a dollar."

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