late 14c., "a message from a god expressed by divine inspiration through a priest or priestess," in answer to a human inquiry, usually respecting some future event, from Old French oracle "temple, house of prayer; oracle" (12c.) and directly from Latin oraculum, oraclum "divine announcement, oracle; place where oracles are given," from ōrare "to pray to, plead to, beseech" (see orator), with material instrumental suffix -culo-.
In antiquity, "the agency or medium of a god," also "the place where such divine utterances were given." This last sense is attested in English from early 15c. Extended sense of "uncommonly wise person" is from 1590s.
c. 1600, from French enthousiasme (16c.) and directly from Late Latin enthusiasmus, from Greek enthousiasmos "divine inspiration, enthusiasm (produced by certain kinds of music, etc.)," from enthousiazein "be inspired or possessed by a god, be rapt, be in ecstasy," from entheos "divinely inspired, possessed by a god," from en "in" (see en- (2)) + theos "god" (from PIE root *dhes-, forming words for religious concepts). It acquired a derogatory sense of "excessive religious emotion through the conceit of special revelation from God" (1650s) under the Puritans; generalized meaning "fervor, zeal" (the main modern sense) is first recorded 1716.
1871, a nonsense word coined by Edward Lear in "The Owl & the Pussy-Cat" (runcible spoon). The phrase runcible spoon has been used since 1926 for "spoon with three short tines like a fork," but OED writes that "the illustrations provided by himself for his books of verse give no warrant for this later interpretation."
As for Lear's inspiration for the word, suspicion falls on runcival, a contemporary variant of the old word rounceval "something big and loud," which is said to be from Roncevaux (French Rouncesvalles), the pass in the Pyrenees where Roland fell in battle.
early 15c., "a prompting" (a sense now obsolete), from Old French instinct (14c.) or directly from Latin instinctus "instigation, impulse, inspiration," noun use of past participle of instinguere "to incite, impel," from in- "into, in, on, upon" (from PIE root *en "in") + stinguere "prick, goad," from PIE *steig- "to prick, stick, pierce" (see stick (v.)).
Meaning "animal faculty of intuitive perception" is from mid-15c., from notion of "natural prompting." General sense of "natural tendency" is first recorded 1560s.
Instinct is said to be blind--that is, either the end is not consciously recognized by the animal, or the connection of the means with the end is not understood. Instinct is also, in general, somewhat deficient in instant adaptability to extraordinary circumstances. [Century Dictionary]
hypothetical subatomic particle having a fractional electric charge, 1964, applied by U.S. physicist Murray Gell-Mann (1929-2019), who said in correspondence with the editors of the OED in 1978 that he took it from a word in James Joyce's "Finnegans Wake" (1939), but also that the sound of the word was in his head before he encountered the printed form in Joyce.
German Quark "curds, rubbish" has been proposed as the ultimate inspiration [Barnhart; Gell-Mann's parents were immigrants from Austria-Hungary]; it is from Old Church Slavonic tvarogu "curds, cottage cheese" (from a suffixed form of PIE root *teue- "to swell," source also of Greek tyros "cheese"). George Zweig, Gell-Mann's co-proposer of the theory, is said to have preferred the name ace for them.
1590s, from star (n.) + spangle (v.); Star-Spangled Banner "United States flag" is 1814, from Francis Scott Key's poem (printed in the "Baltimore Patriot" Sept. 20), in reference to the bombardment of Fort McHenry in Baltimore overnight Sept. 13-14.
The Stars and Stripes developed from the striped flag of Boston's Sons of Liberty, and the blue and white star-spangled standards of George Washington's army. It involved the advice of a Quaker seamstress, the prompting of an American Indian, the timely intervention by Pennsylvania politicians, the inspiration of Francis Hopkinson, and a resolution of the Continental Congress.
These Americans were part of a process of mixed enterprise that combined public effort and private initiative in a way that was typical of the new republic. An American Indian was not reluctant to instruct the rulers of the Colonies on what should be done, and they were quick to respond to his suggestion. A Philadelphia seamstress did not hesitate to criticize the commander-in-chief of the Continental Army, and he was open to her advice. The Continental Congress accepted these contributions in the spirit of the open society that America was becoming. [David Hackett Fischer, "Liberty and Freedom"]
late 14c., Pigmei, "member of a fabulous race of dwarfs," described by Homer and Herodotus and said to inhabit Egypt or Ethiopia and India, from Latin Pygmaei (singular Pygmaeus), from Greek Pygmaioi, plural of Pygmaios "a Pygmy," noun use of adjective meaning "dwarfish."
It means etymologically "of the length of a pygmē; a pygmē tall," from pygmē "a cubit" (literally "a fist"), the measure of length from the elbow to the knuckle (equal to 18 "fingers," or about 13.5 inches; related to pyx "with clenched fist" and to Latin pugnus "fist" (from PIE root *peuk- "to prick"). The Greek use of the word in reference to the people presumably represents a folk etymology adaptation of a foreign word.
Figurative use for "person of small importance" is from 1590s. Believed in 17c. to refer to chimpanzees or orangutans, and occasionally the word was used in this sense. The ancient word was applied by Europeans to the equatorial African race, then newly discovered by them, from 1863, but the tribes probably were known to the ancients and likely were the original inspiration for the legend. As an adjective from 1590s. Related: Pygmean; Pygmaean.
mid-13c., "animating or vital principle in man and animals," from Anglo-French spirit, Old French espirit "spirit, soul" (12c., Modern French esprit) and directly from Latin spiritus "a breathing (respiration, and of the wind), breath; breath of a god," hence "inspiration; breath of life," hence "life;" also "disposition, character; high spirit, vigor, courage; pride, arrogance," related to spirare "to breathe," perhaps from PIE *(s)peis- "to blow" (source also of Old Church Slavonic pisto "to play on the flute"). But de Vaan says "Possibly an onomatopoeic formation imitating the sound of breathing. There are no direct cognates."
Meaning "supernatural immaterial creature; angel, demon; an apparition, invisible corporeal being of an airy nature" is attested from mid-14c.; from late 14c. as "a ghost" (see ghost (n.)). From c. 1500 as "a nature, character"; sense of "essential principle of something" (in a non-theological context, as in Spirit of St. Louis) is attested from 1680s, common after 1800; Spirit of '76 in reference to the qualities that sparked and sustained the American Revolution is attested by 1797 in William Cobbett's "Porcupine's Gazette and Daily Advertiser."
From late 14c. in alchemy as "volatile substance; distillate;" from c. 1500 as "substance capable of uniting the fixed and the volatile elements of the philosopher's stone." Hence spirits "volatile substance;" sense narrowed to "strong alcoholic liquor" by 1670s. This also is the sense in spirit level (1768). Also from mid-14c. as "character, disposition; way of thinking and feeling, state of mind; source of a human desire;" in Middle English freedom of spirit meant "freedom of choice." From late 14c. as "divine substance, divine mind, God;" also "Christ" or His divine nature; "the Holy Ghost; divine power;" also, "extension of divine power to man; inspiration, a charismatic state; charismatic power, especially of prophecy." Also "essential nature, essential quality." From 1580s in metaphoric sense "animation, vitality."
According to Barnhart and OED, originally in English mainly from passages in Vulgate, where the Latin word translates Greek pneuma and Hebrew ruah. Distinction between "soul" and "spirit" (as "seat of emotions") became current in Christian terminology (such as Greek psykhe vs. pneuma, Latin anima vs. spiritus) but "is without significance for earlier periods" [Buck]. Latin spiritus, usually in classical Latin "breath," replaces animus in the sense "spirit" in the imperial period and appears in Christian writings as the usual equivalent of Greek pneuma. Spirit-rapping is from 1852.
member of the supreme college of priests in ancient Rome, 1570s, from Latin pontifex "high priest, chief of the priests," probably from pont-, stem of pons "bridge" (see pons) + -fex "maker," from facere "to do, make" (from PIE root *dhe- "to set, put").
If so, the word originally meant "bridge-maker," or "path-maker." It was felt as such; the sense of "bridge-builder" was in the Medieval Latin word, and Milton uses pontifical (adj.) in this sense. Sense was extended in Church Latin to "a bishop," in Medieval Latin to "the Pope." In Old English, pontifex is glossed in the Durham Ritual (Old Northumbrian dialect) as brycgwyrcende "bridge-maker."
Weekley points out that, "bridge-building has always been regarded as a pious work of divine inspiration." Century Dictionary speculates it had its origins as "having charge of the making or maintenance of a bridge — it is said of the Sublician bridge built over the Tiber by Ancus Marcius." Or the term may be metaphoric of bridging the earthly world and the realm of the gods. Other suggestions trace it to Oscan-Umbrian puntis "propitiary offering," or to a lost Etruscan word; in either case it would have been altered by folk etymology to resemble the Latin for "bridge-maker."
1900, coined by U.S. author L. Frank Baum (1856-1919) in "The Wonderful Wizard of Oz." He never explained how he got the word.
The word most like it is perhaps mutchkin, an old Scottish measure of capacity for liquids, which was used by Scott. (It comes from Middle Dutch mutseken, originally "a little cap," from mutse "cap," earlier almutse "amice, hood, headdress," from Latin amictus "mantle, cloak," noun use of past participle of amicire "to wrap, throw around," a compound from ambi- "around" (see ambi-) + iacere "to throw" (see jet (v.)).
But some Baum scholars see a possible inspiration in Münchner Kindl, the name of the emblem of the city of Munich (German München) or in German Männchen, literally "little man," which is cognate with mannequin.
While she stood looking at the strange and beautiful sights, she noticed coming toward her a group of the queerest people she had ever seen. They were not as big as the grown folk she had always been used to; but neither were they very small. In fact, they seemed about as tall as Dorothy, who was a well-grown child for her age, although they were, so far as looks go, many years older. ["The Wonderful Wizard of Oz"]