Etymology
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white (n.)

Old English hwit "whiteness, white food, white of an egg," from white (adj.). Also in late Old English "a highly luminous color devoid of chroma." Meaning "white part of the eyeball" is from c. 1400. Meaning "white man, person of a race distinguished by light complexion" is from 1670s; white man in this sense is from 1690s. White man's burden is from Kipling's 1899 poem:

Take up the White Man's burden—
The savage wars of peace—
Fill full the mouth of Famine
And bid the sickness cease;
And when your goal is nearest
The end for others sought,
Watch sloth and heathen Folly
Bring all your hopes to nought.
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nebula (n.)

mid-15c., nebule "a cloud, mist," from Latin nebula, plural nebulae, "mist, vapor, fog, smoke, exhalation," figuratively "darkness, obscurity," from PIE root *nebh- "cloud."

Re-borrowed from Latin 1660s in sense of "cataracts in the eye;" astronomical meaning "luminous cloud-like patch in the heavens" is from c. 1730. As early as Herschel (1802) astronomers realized that some nebulae were star clusters, but the certain distinction of relatively nearby cosmic gas clouds from distant galaxies (as these are now properly called) was not made until the 1920s, when the latter were resolved into individual stars (and nebulae) using the new 100-inch Mt. Wilson telescope.

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ray (n.1)

"beam of light, light emitted in a given direction from a luminous body," early 14c., rai, from Old French rai (nominative rais) "ray (of the sun), spoke (of a wheel); gush, spurt," from Latin radius "ray, spoke, staff, rod" (see radius). Not common before 17c. [OED]; of the sun, usually in reference to heat (beam being preferred for light).

Ray is usually distinguished from beam, as indicating a smaller amount of light; in scientific use a beam is a collection of parallel rays. In ordinary language ray is the word usually employed when the reference is to the heat rather than the light of the sun .... [OED]

Science fiction's ray-gun is recorded by 1931 (in Amazing Stories; electric ray gun as an imaginary weapon is from 1924; death-ray gun from 1926 as a prop in a vaudeville act), but the Martians had a Heat-Ray weapon in "War of the Worlds" (1898).

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meteor (n.)

late 15c., "any atmospheric phenomenon," from Old French meteore (13c.) and directly from Medieval Latin meteorum (nominative meteora), from Greek ta meteōra "the celestial phenomena, things in heaven above," plural of meteōron, literally "thing high up," noun use of neuter of meteōros (adj.) "high up, raised from the ground, hanging," from meta "by means of" (see meta-) + -aoros "lifted, lifted up, suspended, hovering in air," related to aeirein "to raise" (from PIE root *wer- (1) "to raise, lift, hold suspended").

Specific sense of "fireball in the sky, shooting star" is attested from 1590s. Atmospheric phenomena were formerly classified as aerial meteors (wind), aqueous meteors (rain, snow, hail), luminous meteors (aurora, rainbows), and igneous meteors (lightning, shooting stars). All the other senses have fallen away. When still in space beyond the atmosphere it is a meteoroid; when fallen to earth it is a meteorite. A periodically recurring fall of them (usually associated with a comet) is a meteor shower (by 1853).

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corona (n.)

1650s, "a crown," from Latin corona "a crown, a garland," in ancient Rome especially "a crown or garland bestowed for distinguished military service" (from a suffixed form of PIE root *sker- (2) "to turn, bend").

With many extended senses in botany, anatomy, etc. As a brand of Cuban cigar, 1876. The brand of Mexican pale lager beer dates from 1925. The astronomical sense of "luminous circle observed around the sun during total eclipses" is from 1809. The two "crown" constellations, Corona Borealis and Corona Australis, both are Ptolemaic.

Corona Borealis "certainly is much more like that for which it is named than usually is the case with our sky figures," according to Richard Hinckley Allen ("Star-Names and Their Meaning," 1899), and he adds that to the Greeks it was stephanos, a wreath, and from Roman times on typically it was Ariadne's Crown. To Arab astronomers, however, it was Al Fakkah "the dish" (sometimes "the pauper's dish" or "the broken dish" — Latinized as Discus parvus confractus — as the celestial circle is incomplete), a word wrestled into European languages as Alphaca or Alphecca, and used as the name of the constellation's none-too-bright brightest star.

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clear (adj.)

c. 1300, "giving light, shining, luminous;" also "not turbid; transparent, allowing light to pass through; free from impurities; morally pure, guiltless, innocent;" of colors, "bright, pure;" of weather or the sky or sea, "not stormy; mild, fair, not overcast, fully light, free from darkness or clouds;" of the eyes or vision, "clear, keen;" of the voice or sound, "plainly audible, distinct, resonant;" of the mind, "keen-witted, perspicacious;" of words or speech, "readily understood, manifest to the mind, lucid" (an Old English word for this was sweotol "distinct, clear, evident"); of land, "cleared, leveled;" from Old French cler "clear" (of sight and hearing), "light, bright, shining; sparse" (12c., Modern French clair), from Latin clarus "clear, loud," of sounds; figuratively "manifest, plain, evident," in transferred use, of sights, "bright, distinct;" also "illustrious, famous, glorious" (source of Italian chiaro, Spanish claro), from PIE *kle-ro-, from root *kele- (2) "to shout."

The prehistoric sense evolution to light and color involves an identification of the spreading of sound and the spreading of light (compare English loud, used of colors; German hell "clear, bright, shining," of pitch, "distinct, ringing, high").

Also in Middle English "beautiful, magnificent, excellent" (c. 1300); of possession or title, "unrestricted, unconditional, absolute," early 15c. Of complexion, from c. 1300. Sense of "free from encumbrance," later largely nautical, developed c. 1500. Meaning "obvious to the senses" is from 1835. Clear-sighted is from 1580s (clear-eyed is from 1520s); clear-headed is from 1709. For coast is clear see clear (v.).

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match (n.1)

"stick for striking fire." Late 14c., macche, "wick of a candle or lamp," a sense now obsolete, from Old French meiche "wick of a candle," from Vulgar Latin *micca/*miccia (source also of Catalan metxa, Spanish mecha, Italian miccia), which is of uncertain origin, probably ultimately from Latin myxa, from Greek myxa "lamp wick," originally "mucus," based on notion of wick dangling from the spout of a lamp like snot from a nostril, from PIE root *meug- "slimy, slippery" (see mucus). English snot also had a secondary sense from late 14c. of "snuff of a candle, burnt part of a wick," surviving at least to late 19c. in northern dialects.

The modern spelling is from mid-15c. The meaning "piece of cord or tow soaked in sulfur, used for lighting fires, lamps, candles, etc." is from 1530. It was used by 1830 for the modern type of sulfur-tipped wooden friction match, which were perfected about that time, and competed with lucifer for much of 19c. as the name for this invention. An earlier version consisted of a thin strip of wood tipped with combustible matter that required contact with phosphorous carried separately in a box or vial.

In the manufacture of matches much trouble has been occasioned by the use of phosphorous .... In some of the small and poorly-managed factories the men and children are never free from the fumes; their clothes and breath are luminous in the dark, and in the daytime white fumes may be seen escaping from them whenever they are seated by the fire. ... The danger arising from the use of matches was magnified, because they could sometimes be seen in the dark, were liable to ignite on a warm shelf, and were poisonous to such an extent that children had been killed by using them as playthings. [John A. Garver, "Matches," in The Popular Science Monthly, August 1877]
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