Etymology
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chew (v.)

Old English ceowan "to bite, gnaw, chew," from West Germanic *keuwwan (source also of Middle Low German keuwen, Dutch kauwen, Old High German kiuwan, German kauen), perhaps from PIE *gyeu- "to chew" (source also of Old Church Slavonic živo "to chew," Lithuanian žiaunos "jaws," Persian javidan "to chew").

Figurative sense of "to think over" is from late 14c.; to chew the rag "discusss some matter" is from 1885, apparently originally British army slang. Related: Chewed; chewing. To chew (someone) out (1948) probably is military slang from World War II. Chewing-gum is by 1843, American English, originally hardened secretions of the spruce tree.

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scarf (v.)

"eat hastily," 1960, U.S. teen slang, originally a noun meaning "food, meal" (1932), perhaps imitative, or from nautical slang scoff "eat hastily or voraciously, devour" which is attested from 1846 (compare U.S. tramps slang scoffing "food, something to eat," 1907). This is said to be a variant of scaff (by 1797) in the same sense, and scaff (n.) "food, provisions" is attested from 1768, but the group is of obscure origin. Perhaps the word comes ultimately from some survival of Old English sceorfan "to gnaw, bite" (see scarf (n.2)). South African scoff (n.) is said to be a colloquial representation of Dutch schoft "quarter of a day," hence "each of the meals of a day." Related: Scarfed; scarfing.

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root (v.1)

"dig with the snout," 1530s, wroot, of swine, from Middle English wroten "dig with the snout," from Old English wrotan "to root up," from Proto-Germanic *wrot- (source also of Old Norse rota, Swedish rota "to dig out, root," Middle Low German wroten, Middle Dutch wroeten, Old High German ruozian "to plow up"), from PIE root *wrod- "to root, gnaw."

Altered by association with root (v.3), as if "to dig up by the roots." Extended sense of "poke about, pry" is recorded by 1831. The picturesque phrase root hog or die "work or fail" first attested 1834, American English (in works of Davy Crockett, who noted it as an "old saying").

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raze (v.)

1540s, "completely destroy," an alteration of racen "pull or knock down" (a building or town), from earlier rasen (14c.), etymologically "to scratch, slash, scrape, erase," from Old French raser "to scrape, shave," from Medieval Latin rasare, frequentative of Latin radere (past participle rasus) "to scrape, shave." This has cognates in Welsh rhathu, Breton rahein "to scrape, shave." Watkins says it is "possibly" from an extended form of the PIE root *red- "to scrape, scratch, gnaw." But de Vaan writes, "Since this word family is only found in Italo-Celtic, a PIE origin is uncertain." From 1560s as "shave off, remove by scraping," also "cut or wound slightly, graze." Related: Razed; razing.

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shrew (n.)

small insectivorous mammal, Old English screawa "shrew-mouse," unknown outside English, and "the absence of evidence for the word between the OE. period and the 16th c is remarkable" [OED]. Perhaps from Proto-Germanic *skraw-, from PIE *skreu- "to cut; cutting tool" (see shred (n.)), in reference to the shrew's pointed snout. An alternative Old English word for it was scirfemus, from sceorfan "to gnaw."

The meaning "peevish, malignant, clamorous, spiteful, vexatious, turbulent woman" [Johnson's definition] is late 14c., from earlier sense of "spiteful person" (male or female), mid-13c., traditionally said to derive from some supposed malignant influence of the animal, which was once believed to have a venomous bite and was held in superstitious dread (compare beshrew). Paired with sheep from 1560s through 17c. as the contrasting types of wives.

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rostrum (n.)

"pulpit or platform from which a speaker addresses an audience," 1540s, originally in an ancient Roman context, from Latin rostrum, the name of the platform stand for public speakers in the Forum in ancient Rome. It was decorated with the beaks of ships taken in the first naval victory of the Roman republic, over Antium, in 338 B.C.E., and the Latin word's older sense is "end of a ship's prow," literally "beak, muzzle, snout," originally "means of gnawing," an instrument noun from rodere "to gnaw" (see rodent).

The beaks were an ancient form of ram, a beam spiked with pointed iron for the purpose of sinking other vessels. For the form, compare claustrum "lock, bar," from claudere "to shut." The extended sense, in reference to any platform for public speaking, is attested by 1766.

The classical plural is rostra, though in English this is more common in the original "ship's beak" sense and -rums often is used in the secondary sense.

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bone (n.)

Old English ban "bone, tusk, hard animal tissue forming the substance of the skeleton; one of the parts which make up the skeleton," from Proto-Germanic *bainan (source also of Old Frisian and Old Saxon ben, Old Norse bein, Danish ben, German Bein). Absent in Gothic, with no cognates outside Germanic (the common PIE root is *ost-); the Norse, Dutch, and German cognates also mean "shank of the leg," and this is the main meaning in Modern German, but English seems never to have had this sense.

To work (one's) fingers to the bone is from 1809. To have a bone to pick (1560s) is an image from dogs struggling to crack or gnaw a bone (to pick a bone "strip a bone by picking or gnawing" is attested from late 15c.); bone of contention (1560s) is from two dogs fighting over a bone; the images seem to have become somewhat merged. Also compare bones.

Bone-china, which is mixed with bone-dust, is by 1854. Bone-shaker (1874) was an old name for the early type of bicycle, before the adoption of rubber tires, etc.

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rat (n.)

"a rodent of some of the larger species of the genus Mus," late Old English ræt "rat," a word of uncertain origin. Similar words are found in Celtic (Gaelic radan), Romanic (Medieval Latin ratus, Italian ratto, Spanish rata, Old French rat) and Germanic (Old Saxon ratta; Middle Dutch ratte, Dutch rat; German Ratte, dialectal Ratz; Swedish råtta, Danish rotte) languages, but their connection to one another and the ultimate source of the word are unknown. In its range and uncertain origin, it is much like cat.

Perhaps from Vulgar Latin *rattus, but Weekley thinks this is of Germanic origin, "the animal having come from the East with the race-migrations" and the word passing thence to the Romanic languages. American Heritage and Tucker connect Old English ræt to Latin rodere and thus to PIE root *red- "to scrape, scratch, gnaw," source of rodent (q.v.). Klein says there is no such connection and suggests a possible cognate in Greek rhine "file, rasp." Weekley connects the English noun and the Latin verb with a question mark and OED says it is "probable" that the rat word spread from Germanic to Romanic, but takes no position on further etymology. The common Middle English form was ratton, from augmented Old French form raton. Applied to rat-like species on other continents from 1580s.

The distinction between rat and mouse, in the application of the names to animals everywhere parasitic with man, is obvious and familiar. But these are simply larger and smaller species of the same genus, very closely related zoologically, and in the application of the two names to the many other species of the same genus all distinction between them is lost. [Century Dictionary]

Applied since 12c. (in surnames) to persons held to resemble rats or share some characteristic or quality with them. Specific sense of "one who abandons his associates for personal advantage" (1620s) is from the belief that rats leave a ship about to sink or a house about to fall, and this led to the meaning "traitor, informant" (1902).

To smell a rat "to be put on the watch by suspicion as the cat by the scent of a rat; to suspect danger" [Johnson] is from 1540s.  _____-rat, "person who frequents _____" (in earliest reference dock-rat) is from 1864.

RATS. Of these there are the following kinds: a black rat and a grey rat, a py-rat and a cu-rat. ["Dictionary of the Vulgar Tongue," Grose, 1788]  
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