"having the property of taking fire upon exposure to air," 1779, from Modern Latin pyrophorus, literally "fire-bearing," from Greek pyrophoros, from pyro- (see pyro-) + phoros "bearer," from pherein "to carry" (from PIE root *bher- (1) "to carry"). Related: Pyrophorous.
Pyrophorus is by 1778 as the name of fine, powdery substances capable of catching fire spontaneously on exposure to air; with a capital P-, as the name given to the genus of the most brilliant of the American fireflies, from 1809.
"to come up to, catch up with, catch in pursuit," early 13c., from over- + take (v.). According to OED, originally "the running down and catching of a fugitive or beast of chase"; the editors find the sense of over- in this word "not so clear." The meaning "take by surprise, come on unexpectedly" (of storms, night, misfortune) is from late 14c. Related: Overtaken; overtaking. Old English had oferniman "to take away, carry off, seize, ravish."
chronic disease caused by dietary deficiency (formerly blamed on diseased grain) and characterized by dry, red skin, 1811, from Italian (1770s); according to Watkins, a hybrid formed from Latin pellis "skin" (from PIE root *pel- (3) "skin, hide") + Greek agra "a catching, seizure," related to agrein "to take, seize." But OED suggests it might be originally Italian pelle agra "rough skin." Related: Pellagrous.
children's word to express a claim on something, 1915, originally U.S., apparently from earlier senses "a portion or share" and "money" (early 19c. colloquial), probably a contraction of dibstone "a knuckle-bone or jack in a children's game" (1690s), in which the first element is of unknown origin. The game consisted of tossing up small pebbles or the knuckle-bones of a sheep and catching them alternately with the palm and the back of the hand.
late 14c., "a taking, seizure," from Old French capcion "arrest, capture, imprisonment," or directly from Latin captionem (nominative capito) "a catching, seizing, holding, taking," noun of action from past-participle stem of capere "to take" (from PIE root *kap- "to grasp").
It was used from mid-17c. in the wording at the head of legal documents involving seizure, deposition, etc. ("Certificate of caption"). Thus the sense was extended to "the beginning of any document," and further to "heading of a chapter or section of an article" (1789), and, especially in U.S., "description or title below an illustration" (1919).
"to insist on payment of debt," 1620s, also as a noun, "agent employed to collect debts," of uncertain origin, perhaps related to Middle English dunnen "to sound, resound, make a din" (c. 1200, dialectal variant of din), or shortened from dunkirk (c. 1600) "privateer," a private vessel licensed to attack enemy ships during wartime, from Dunkirk, the French port from which they sailed. The oldest theory traces it to a Joe Dun, supposedly a London bailiff famous for catching defaulters. Related: Dunned; dunning. As a noun from 1620s.
Old English næglian "to fix or fasten (something) onto (something else) with nails," from Proto-Germanic *ganaglijan (source also of Old Saxon neglian, Old Norse negla, Old High German negilen, German nageln, Gothic ganagljan "to nail"), from the root of nail (n.). Related: Nailed; nailing. The colloquial meaning "secure, succeed in catching or getting hold of (someone or something)" is by 1760; hence "to arrest" (by 1930). Meaning "to succeed in hitting" is from 1886. To nail down "to fix down with nails" is from 1660s.
Old English fang "prey, spoils, plunder, booty; a seizing or taking," from gefangen, strong past participle of fon "seize, take, capture," from Proto-Germanic *fāhanan (source also of Old Frisian fangia, Middle Dutch and Dutch vangen, Old Norse fanga, German fangen, Gothic fahan), from nasalized form of PIE root *pag- "to fasten" (source also of Latin pax "peace").
The sense of "canine tooth" (1550s) was not in Middle English and probably developed from Old English fengtoð, literally "catching- or grasping-tooth." Compare German Fangzahn. Transferred to the venom tooth of a serpent, etc., by 1800.
Old English net "open textile fabric tied or woven with a mesh for catching fish, birds, or wild animals alive; network; spider web," also figuratively, "moral or mental snare or trap," from Proto-Germanic *natjo- (source also of Old Saxon net, Old Frisian nette, Old Norse, Dutch net, Swedish nät, Old High German nezzi, German Netz, Gothic nati "net"), perhaps originally "something knotted," from PIE root *ned- "to bind, tie." But Boutkan says it has no clear IE etymology and implies it might be a substrate word.
From late Old English as "light, open woven fabric used as protection from annoying insects." From late 15c. as "light, open mesh bag for the hair."
There is, also, by far too much of routine both in the selection of subjects, and in the mode of treating them, notwithstanding the oddity that is sometimes substituted for originality. Should this system be persevered in, there is great danger of every thing becoming forced and unnatural, and all other qualities sacrificed to a catchy, stage-like effect, both as regards subject, composition, and execution. ["The Suffolk Street Exhibit," in Fraser's Magazine, July, 1831]
It is attested earlier (1827) in medical writing with reference to breathing, and was noted by Jamieson (1818) and others as a Scottish word for "quick to learn; disposed to take advantage of another."