Middle English drope, from Old English dropa "a small, spherical mass of liquid," from Proto-Germanic *drupon (source also of Old Saxon dropo, Old Norse dropi, Dutch drop, Old High German tropfo, German Tropfen (n.)); see drop (v.).
Sense of "minute quantity of anything, least possible amount" is from c. 1200. Meaning "an act of dropping" is from 1630s; of immaterial things (prices, temperatures, etc.) from mid-19c. Meaning "lozenge, hard candy" is 1723, from resemblance in shape. Meaning "secret place where things can be left illicitly and picked up later" is from 1931. Theatrical meaning "painted curtain dropped between scenes to conceal the stage from the audience" is by 1779.
Drop in the bucket (late 14c.) is from Isaiah xl.15 [KJV]. At the drop of a hat "suddenly" is from 1854. To get the drop on "be prepared before one's antagonist" originally was Old West gunslinger slang (1869).
"red oxide of iron, red coating which forms on the surface of iron exposed to the air," Old English rust "rust," in late Old English also figurative, "anything tending to spiritual corrosion, a moral canker," related to rudu "redness," from Proto-Germanic *rusta- (source also of Frisian rust, Old High German and German rost, Middle Dutch ro(e)st), from PIE *reudh-s-to- (source also of Lithuanian rustas "brownish," rūdėti "to rust;" Latin robigo, Old Church Slavonic ruzda "rust"), from suffixed form of root *reudh- "red, ruddy."
As a morbid condition of plants caused by fungal growth, from mid-14c. U.S. colloquial rust-bucket for "old car or boat" is by 1945. Rust Belt "decayed urban industrial areas of mid-central U.S." (1984) was popularized in, if not coined by, Walter Mondale's presidential campaign.
early 14c., scope, "utensil for bailing out," from Middle Dutch schope "bucket for bailing water," from West Germanic *skopo (source also of Middle Low German schope "ladle"), from Proto-Germanic *skop-, from PIE *(s)kep- "to cut, to scrape, to hack" (see scabies). Perhaps to English in part from Old French escope, Old North French escoupe. Compare Dutch schop "a spade," related to German Schüppe "a shovel," also "a spade at cards."
The meaning "hand-shovel with a short handle and a deep, hollow receptacle" is from late 15c. The extended sense of "instrument for gouging out a piece" is by 1706. Meaning "action of scooping" is from 1742; that of "amount in a scoop" is from 1832. The colloquial sense of "a big haul," as if in a scoop-net, is by 1893. The journalistic sense of "the securing and publication of exclusive information in advance of a rival" is by 1874, American English, from earlier commercial slang verbal sense of "appropriate so as to exclude competitors" (c. 1850).
"shining by night," as the eyes of a cat, glow-worms, decaying wood, or certain high clouds seen in northern latitudes, 1812, from Latin noct-, stem of nox "night" (see noct-) + lucentem (nominative lucens), present participle of lucere "to shine, glow, be bright," from PIE root *leuk- "light, brightness." The word was originally used of tiny sea creatures, by contemporary observers reported to be nereids, but that identification is now considered doubtful.
These are the animals that illuminate the sea, like glow-worms, but with brighter splendor. I have at night, in rowing, seen the whole element as if on fire round me; every oar spangled with them; and the water burnt with more than ordinary brightness. I have taken up some of the water in a bucket, seen them for a short space illuminate it; but when I came to search for them their extreme smallness eluded my examination. [Thomas Pennant, "British Zoology," London, 1812]
Also noctilucous (1774). Noctilucid is rarely used, but could be valuable if it meant "only making sense at night." Related: Noctilucence.
"large web-footed sea-bird of the petrel family," 1670s, probably from Spanish or Portuguese albatros, an alteration of alcatraz "web-footed sea-bird; cormorant," originally "pelican" (16c.). This name is perhaps from Arabic al-ghattas "sea eagle" [Barnhart]; or from Portuguese alcatruz "the bucket of a water wheel" [OED], from Arabic al-qadus "machine for drawing water, jar" (which is said to be from Greek kados "jar"). If the second, the name would be a reference to the pelican's pouch (compare Arabic saqqa "pelican," literally "water carrier").
The spelling was influenced by Latin albus "white." The name was extended by 17c. English sailors to a larger sea-bird (order Tubinares), which are not found in the North Atlantic. [In English the word also formerly was extended to the frigate-bird.]
These albatrosses follow ships for days without resting and were held in superstitious awe by sailors. The figurative sense of "burden" (1936) is from Coleridge's "Rime of the Ancient Mariner" (1798) about a sailor who shoots an albatross and then is forced to wear its corpse as an indication that he alone, not the crew, offended against the bird. The prison-island of Alcatraz in San Francisco Bay is named for pelicans that roosted there. In Dutch, stormvogel; in German Sturmvogel "storm-bird."
Old English fyr "fire, a fire," from Proto-Germanic *fūr- (source also of Old Saxon fiur, Old Frisian fiur, Old Norse fürr, Middle Dutch and Dutch vuur, Old High German fiur, German Feuer "fire"), from PIE *perjos, from root *paewr- "fire." Current spelling is attested as early as 1200, but did not fully displace Middle English fier (preserved in fiery) until c. 1600.
PIE apparently had two roots for fire: *paewr- and *egni- (source of Latin ignis). The former was "inanimate," referring to fire as a substance, and the latter was "animate," referring to it as a living force (compare water (n.1)).
Brend child fuir fordredeþ ["The Proverbs of Hendyng," c. 1250]
English fire was applied to "ardent, burning" passions or feelings from mid-14c. Meaning "discharge of firearms, action of guns, etc." is from 1580s. To be on fire is from c. 1500 (in fire attested from c. 1400, as is on a flame "on fire"). To play with fire in the figurative sense "risk disaster, meddle carelessly or ignorantly with a dangerous matter" is by 1861, from the common warning to children. Phrase where's the fire?, said to one in an obvious hurry, is by 1917, American English.
Fire-bell is from 1620s; fire-alarm as a self-acting, mechanical device is from 1808 as a theoretical creation; practical versions began to appear in the early 1830s. Fire-escape (n.) is from 1788 (the original so-called was a sort of rope-ladder disguised as a small settee); fire-extinguisher is from 1826. A fire-bucket (1580s) carries water to a fire. Fire-house is from 1899; fire-hall from 1867, fire-station from 1828. Fire company "men for managing a fire-engine" is from 1744, American English. Fire brigade "firefighters organized in a body in a particular place" is from 1838. Fire department, usually a branch of local government, is from 1805. Fire-chief is from 1877; fire-ranger from 1887.
Symbolic fire and the sword is by c. 1600 (translating Latin flamma ferroque absumi); earlier yron and fyre (1560s), with suerd & flawme (mid-15c.), mid fure & mid here ("with fire and armed force"), c. 1200. Fire-breathing is from 1590s. To set the river on fire, "accomplish something surprising or remarkable" (usually with a negative and said of one considered foolish or incompetent) is by 1830, often with the name of a river, varying according to locality, but the original is set the Thames on fire (1796). The hypothetical feat was mentioned as the type of something impossibly difficult by 1720; it circulated as a theoretical possibility under some current models of chemistry c. 1792-95, which may have contributed to the rise of the expression.
[A]mong other fanciful modes of demonstrating the practicability of conducting the gas wherever it might be required, he anchored a small boat in the stream about 50 yards from the shore, to which he conveyed a pipe, having the end turned up so as to rise above the water, and forcing the gas through the pipe, lighted it just above the surface, observing to his friends "that he had now set the river on fire." ["On the Origins and Progress of Gas-lighting," in "Repertory of Patent Inventions," vol. III, London, 1827]