1550s, "of or pertaining to a polity, civil affairs, or government;" from Latin politicus "of citizens or the state" (see politic (adj.)) + -al (1). Meaning "taking sides in party politics" (usually pejorative) is from 1749. Political prisoner first recorded 1860; political science is from 1779 (first attested in Hume). Political animal translates Greek politikon zōon (Aristotle, "Politics," I.ii.9) "an animal intended to live in a city; a social animal."
"execution by electricity," 1889, American English; noun of action from electrocute. Meaning "any death by electricity" is from 1897.
Electrocution, unless better performed than in the first instance, is a retrograde step rather than the contrary. The preliminary arrangements: the shaving of the head, the cutting of the clothing, the strapping in a chair, add much to the horror of the occasion. It is safe to say that electrocution is not the coming method of execution. [The Medical Era, vol. vii, no. 9, Sept. 1890]
early 13c., name given to the rite of Vespers of the Office of the Dead, so called from the opening of the first antiphon, "I will please the Lord in the land of the living" (Psalms cxvi.9, in Vulgate Placebo Domino in regione vivorum), from Latin placebo "I shall please," future indicative of placere "to please" (see please).
Medical sense is recorded by 1785, "a medicine given more to please than to benefit the patient." Placebo effect is attested from 1900.
Decorative amphorae were used as ornaments and given as prizes at some public games. Also a liquid measure in the ancient world, in Greece equal to 9 gallons, in Rome to 6 gallons, 7 pints. Related: Amphoral; amphoric.
"masturbation," also "coitus interruptus," 1727, from Onan, name of the son of Judah (Genesis xxxviii.9), who spilled his seed on the ground rather than impregnate his dead brother's wife: "And Onan knew that the seed should not be his; and it came to pass, when he went in unto his brother's wife, that he spilled it on the ground, lest that he should give seed to his brother." The moral point of the verse was redirected by those who sought to suppress masturbation. Related: Onanist; onanistic.
surname, later masc. proper name, attested from late 12c., from Maxwell, name of a town on the River Tweed on the Scottish borders (the name is probably "the well of Macc or Macca"). In physics, usually a reference to James Clerk Maxwell (1831-1879), as in Maxwell's demon (1879; as Maxwell's "intelligent demons" from 1874).
The definition of a "demon," according to the use of this word by Maxwell, is an intelligent being endowed with free will, and fine enough tactile and perceptive organisation to give him the faculty of observing and influencing individual molecules of matter. ["Nature," April 9, 1874]
c. 1200, dirige (the contracted form is from c. 1400), "that part of the Office for the Dead beginning with the antiphon for the first psalm of the first nocturn of matins," from Latin dirige "direct!" imperative of dirigere "to direct" (see direct (v.)). The antiphon begins, Dirige, Domine, Deus meus, in conspectu tuo viam meam ("Direct, O Lord, my God, my way in thy sight"), from Psalms v.9.
Hence, broadly, "the funeral service as sung." Transferred sense of "any funeral song or hymn, a song or tune expressing grief" is from c. 1500.