Middle English priken, from Old English prician "to pierce with a sharp point, prick out, place a point, dot, or mark upon; sting; cause a pricking sensation," from West Germanic *prikojan (source also of Low German pricken, Dutch prikken "to prick"), of uncertain origin. Danish prikke "to mark with dots," Swedish pricka "to point, prick, mark with dots" probably are from Low German. Related: Pricked; pricking.
From c. 1200 in a figurative sense of "to cause agitation, to distress, to trouble;" late 14c. as "incite, stir to action." Pricklouse (c. 1500) was a derisive name for a tailor. To prick up (one's) ears is 1580s, originally of animals with pointed ears (prycke-eared, of foxes or horses or dogs, is from early 15c.).
thou prick-ear'd cur of Iceland!
["Henry V," ii. 1. 44.]
Prick-me-dainty (1520s) was an old term for one who is affectedly finical.
borough of New York City, named for Jonas Bronck, who settled there in 1641.
Jonas Bronck, who arrived at New Amsterdam in 1639, and whose name is perpetuated in Bronx Borough, Bronx Park, Bronxville — in New York — was a Scandinavian, in all probability a Dane and originally, as it seems, from Thorshavn, Faroe Islands, where his father was a pastor in the Lutheran Church. Faroe then belonged to Denmark-Norway and had been settled by Norwegians. The official language of the island in Bronck's days was Danish. ... Bronck may have been a Swede if we judge by the name alone for the name of Brunke is well known in Sweden. [John Oluf Evjen, "Scandinavian immigrants in New York, 1630-1674," Minneapolis, 1916]
The derisive Bronx cheer ("made by blowing through closed lips, usually with the tongue between" - OED) is attested by 1929.
"crazy, not right in the head," 1846, from earlier colloquial or slang be nuts on "be very fond of" (1785), which is possibly from nuts (plural noun) "any source of pleasure or delight" (1610s), from nut (q.v.). Nuts as a special treat or favorite foodstuff led to other figurative phrases, now obsolete. The "crazy" sense probably has been influenced by metaphoric application of nut to "head" (1846, as in to be off one's nut "be insane," 1860). Also compare nutty. Nuts as a derisive retort is attested from 1931.
Connection with the slang "testicles" sense has tended to nudge the word toward taboo territory. "On the N.B.C. network, it is forbidden to call any character a nut; you have to call him a screwball." [New Yorker, Dec. 23, 1950] "Please eliminate the expression 'nuts to you' from Egbert's speech." [Request from the Hays Office regarding the script of "The Bank Dick," 1940] This desire for avoidance probably accounts for the euphemism nerts (c. 1925).
Middle English rigge, from Old English hrycg "back of a man or beast," probably reinforced by Old Norse hryggr "back, ridge," from Proto-Germanic *hruggin (source also of Old Frisian hregg, Old Saxon hruggi, Dutch rug, Old High German hrukki, German Rücken "the back"). OED says "of uncertain relationship;" Pokorny, Boutkan, and Watkins have it from PIE *kreuk-, extended form of root *sker- (2) "to turn, bend."
The original "back" sense, predominant in Middle English, seems to have become archaic 17c. Also in Old English, "the top or crest of anything," especially when long and narrow, based on resemblance to the projecting part of the back of a quadruped, the "ridge" of the backbone. Probably also in late Old English "a long elevation of land, a long, narrow range of hills," implied in place-names. From late 14c. of the highest part of the roof of a building, also the strip of ground thrown up between two plowed furrows. The spelling with -dg- is from late 15c.
Ridge-runner, somewhat derisive term for "Southern Appalachian person, hillbilly," especially an upland white farmer of the Ozarks region, is recorded by 1917 (it later came into use in other regions). Also "person who wanders from place to place," often with a suggestion of illicit intent (1930).
1798, from French silhouette, in reference to Étienne de Silhouette (1709-1767), French minister of finance in 1759. Usually said to be so called because it was an inexpensive way of making a likeness of someone, a derisive reference to Silhouette's petty economies to finance the Seven Years' War, which were unpopular among the nobility. But other theories are that it refers to his brief tenure in office, or the story that he decorated his chateau with such portraits.
Silhouette portraits were so called simply because they came into fashion in the year (1759) in which M. de Silhouette was minister. [A. Brachet, "An Etymological Dictionary of the French Language," transl. G.W. Kitchin, 1882]
Used of any sort of dark outline or shadow in profile from 1843. The verb is recorded from 1876, from the noun. The family name is a Frenchified form of a Basque surname; Arnaud de Silhouette, the finance minister's father, was from Biarritz in the French Basque country; the southern Basque form of the name would be Zuloeta or Zulueta, which contains the suffix -eta "abundance of" and zulo "hole" (possibly here meaning "cave").
c. 1300, sute, also suete, suite, seute, "a band of followers; a retinue, company;" also "set of matching garments" worn by such persons, "matching livery or uniform;" hence " kind, sort; the same kind, a match;" also "pursuit, chase," and in law, "obligation (of a tenant) to attend court; attendance at court," from Anglo-French suit, siwete, from Old French suite, sieute "pursuit, act of following, hunt; retinue; assembly" (12c., Modern French suite), from Vulgar Latin *sequita, fem. of *sequitus, from Latin secutus, past participle of sequi "to attend, follow" (from PIE root *sekw- (1) "to follow").
Legal sense of "lawsuit; legal action" is from mid-14c. Meaning "the wooing of a woman" is from late 15c. Meaning "set of clothes to be worn together" is attested from late 14c., also "matching material or fabric," from notion of the livery or uniform of court attendants. As a derisive term for "businessman," it dates from 1979. Meaning "matched set of objects, number of objects of the same kind or pattern used together" is from late 14c., as is that of "row, series, sequence." Meaning "set of playing cards bearing the same symbol" is attested from 1520s, also ultimately from the notion of livery. To follow suit (1670s) is from card-playing: "play a card of the same suit first played," hence, figuratively, "continue the conduct of a predecessor."
"young cow that has not had a calf," Middle English heifer, from Old English heahfore (West Saxon); Northumbrian hehfaro, heffera (plural), "heifer," of unknown origin, not found outside English.
The first element seems to be heah "high," which is common in Old English compounds with a sense of "great in size." The second element might be from a fem. form of Old English fearr "bull," from Proto-Germanic *farzi-, from PIE root *pere- (1) "to produce, bring forth." Or it might be related to Old English faran "to go" (giving the whole a sense of "high-stepper"); but there are serious sense difficulties with both conjectures. Liberman offers this alternative:
Old English seems to have had the word *hægfore 'heifer.' The first element (*hæg-) presumably meant 'enclosure' (as do haw and hedge), whereas -fore was a suffix meaning 'dweller, occupant' ....
In modern use, a female that has not yet calved, as opposed to a cow (n.), which has, and a calf (n.1), which is an animal of either sex not more than a year old. As derisive slang for "a woman, girl" it dates from 1835.
1660s, "piece composed in burlesque style, derisive imitation, grotesque parody," earlier as an adjective, "odd, grotesque" (1650s), from French burlesque (16c.), from Italian burlesco "ludicrous," from burla "joke, fun, mockery," possibly ultimately from Late Latin burra "trifle, nonsense," literally "flock of wool" (a word of unknown origin). The more precise adjectival meaning "tending to excite laughter by ludicrous contrast between the subject and the manner of treating it" is attested in English by 1700.
The two great branches of ridicule in writing are comedy and burlesque. The first ridicules persons by drawing them in their proper characters; the other, by drawing them quite unlike themselves. Burlesque is therefore of two kinds; the first represents mean persons in accoutrements of heroes, the other describes great persons acting and speaking like the basest among the people. [Addison, "Spectator," Dec. 15, 1711]
By 1880s it typically meant "travesties on the classics and satires on accepted ideas" and vulgar comic opera. Modern sense of "variety show featuring striptease" is American English, evolved after 1870 and predominant from 1920s, probably from the earlier sense "sketches at the end of minstrel shows" (1857).
A BURLESQUE show, to the average person, is a rather naughty form of entertainment which men attend for the purpose of vicarious thrills and semi-obscenity. [The American Parade, 1927]
"part or member," Old English lim "limb of the body; any part of an animal body, distinct from the head and trunk;" main branch of a tree," from Proto-Germanic *limu- (source also of Old Norse limr "limb," lim "small branch of a tree"), a variant of *lithu- (source of Old English liþ, Old Frisian lith, Old Norse liðr, Gothic liþus "a limb;" and with prefix ga-, source of German Glied "limb, member").
The unetymological -b began to appear late 1500s for no etymological reason (perhaps by influence of limb (n.2)). The Old English plural was often limu; limen and other plural forms in -n lasted into Middle English. Since c. 1400 especially of a leg; in Victorian English this usage was somewhat euphemistic, "out of affected or prudish unwillingness to use the word leg" [Century Dictionary]. However in Old and Middle English, and until lately in dialects, it could mean "any visible body part":
The lymmes of generacion were shewed manyfestly. [Caxton, "The subtyl historyes and fables of Esope, Auyan, Alfonce, and Poge," 1484]
Hence, limb-lifter "fornicator" (1570s). Limb of the law was 18c. derisive slang for a lawyer or police officer. To go out on a limb in figurative sense "enter a risky situation" is from 1897. Alliterative life and limb in reference to the body inclusively is from c. 1200. Obsolete limb-meal (adv.) "limb-from-limb, piecemeal" is from late Old English lim-mælum.
a pronoun of the first person in oblique cases, Old English me (dative), me, mec (accusative); oblique cases of I, from Proto-Germanic *meke (accusative), *mes (dative), source also of Old Frisian mi/mir, Old Saxon mi, Middle Dutch mi, Dutch mij, Old High German mih/mir, German mich/mir, Old Norse mik/mer, Gothic mik/mis; from PIE root *me-, oblique form of the personal pronoun of the first person singular (nominative *eg; see I); source also of Sanskrit, Avestan mam, Greek eme, Latin me, mihi, Old Irish me, Welsh mi "me," Old Church Slavonic me, Hittite ammuk.
Erroneous or vulgar use for nominative (such as it is me) is attested from c. 1500. The dative is preserved in obsolete meseems, methinks and expressions such as sing me a song ("dative of interest"). Reflexively, "myself, for myself, to myself" from late Old English. The expression me too indicating the speaker shares another person's experience or opinion, or that the speaker wants the same as another is getting, is attested by 1745. In the 1880s it was a derisive nickname of U.S. politician Thomas C. Platt of New York, implying that he was a mere echo and puppet of fellow U.S. Senator Roscoe Conkling, and in mid-20c. it often was a derogatory term, especially in U.S. politics (me-too-ism).
The political "me-too-ism," abjectly displayed by the "conservatives" of today toward their brazenly socialistic adversaries, is only the result and the feeble reflection of the ethical "me-too-ism" displayed by the philosophers of the nineteenth and twentieth centuries, by the alleged champions of reason, toward the Witch Doctors of morality. [Ayn Rand, "For the New Intellectual," 1961]
The #MeToo movement calling attention to and opposing sexual harassment and assault, became prominent in October 2017.