Etymology
Advertisement
Europe 

from Latin Europa "Europe," from Greek Europe, which is of uncertain origin; as a geographic name first recorded in the Homeric hymn to Apollo (522 B.C.E. or earlier):

"Telphusa, here I am minded to make a glorious temple, an oracle for men, and hither they will always bring perfect hecatombs, both those who live in rich Peloponnesus and those of Europe and all the wave-washed isles, coming to seek oracles."

Often explained as "broad face," from eurys "wide" (see eury-) + ops "face," literally "eye" (from PIE root *okw- "to see"). But also traditionally linked with Europa, Phoenician princess in Greek mythology. Klein (citing Heinrich Lewy) suggests a possible Semitic origin in Akkad. erebu "to go down, set" (in reference to the sun) which would parallel occident. Another suggestion along those lines is Phoenician 'ereb "evening," hence "west."

Related entries & more 
Advertisement
Huguenot (n.)

"French puritan," 1562, from French Huguenot, which according to French sources originally was a political, not a religious, term. The name was applied in 1520s to Genevan partisans opposed to the Duke of Savoy (who joined Geneva to the Swiss Confederation), and on the most likely guess probably it is an alteration of Swiss German Eidgenoss "confederate," from Middle High German eitgenoze, from eit "oath" (from Proto-Germanic *aithaz; see oath) + genoze "comrade," cognate with Old English geneat "comrade, companion," from Proto-Germanic *ga-nautaz "he with whom one shares possessions," thus "comrade," from *nautan "thing of value, possession," from PIE root *neud- "to make use of, enjoy."

Brachet's French etymology dictionary says, "No word has had more said and written about it" and lists seven "chief suggestions" for its origin, the oldest dating to 1560; Scheler's "Dictionary of French Etymology" mentions 16 proposed derivations. The form of the French word probably altered by association with a personal name, a diminutive of Hugues. Hugues Besançon was a leader of the Genevan partisans. In France, applied generally to French Protestants because Geneva was a Calvinist center.

Related entries & more 
Taurus (n.)

zodiac constellation, late Old English, from Latin taurus "bull, bullock, steer," also the name of the constellation, from PIE *tau-ro- "bull" (source also of Greek tauros, Old Church Slavonic turu "bull, steer;" Lithuanian tauras "aurochs;" Old Prussian tauris "bison"); from PIE *tauro- "bull," from root *(s)taeu- "stout, standing, strong" (source also of Sanskrit sthura- "thick, compact," Avestan staora- "big cattle," Middle Persian stor "horse, draft animal," Gothic stiur "young bull," Old English steor); extended form of root *sta- "to stand, make or be firm."

Klein proposes a Semitic origin (compare Aramaic tora "ox, bull, steer," Hebrew shor, Arabic thor, Ethiopian sor). De Vaan writes: "The earlier history of the word is uncertain: there is no cognate in [Indo-Iranian] or Tocharian, whereas there are Semitic words for 'bull' which are conspicuously similar. Hence, it may have been an early loanword of the form *tauro- into the western IE languages." Meaning "person born under the sign of the bull" is recorded from 1901. The Taurid meteors (peaking Nov. 20) so called from 1878.

At midnight revels when the gossips met,
He was the theme of their eternal chat:
This ask'd what form great Jove would next devise,
And when his godship would again Taurise?
[William Somerville, "The Wife," 1727]
Related entries & more 
Easter (n.)
Origin and meaning of Easter

Old English Easterdæg, from Eastre (Northumbrian Eostre), from Proto-Germanic *austron-, "dawn," also the name of a goddess of fertility and spring, perhaps originally of sunrise, whose feast was celebrated at the spring equinox, from *aust- "east, toward the sunrise" (compare east), from PIE root *aus- (1) "to shine," especially of the dawn.

Bede says Anglo-Saxon Christians adopted her name and many of the celebratory practices for their Mass of Christ's resurrection. Almost all neighboring languages use a variant of Latin Pascha to name this holiday (see paschal).

Easter egg is attested by 1825, earlier pace egg (1610s). Easter bunny is attested by 1904 in children's lessons; Easter rabbit is by 1888; the paganish customs of Easter seem to have grown popular c. 1900; before that they were limited to German immigrants.

If the children have no garden, they make nests in the wood-shed, barn, or house. They gather colored flowers for the rabbit to eat, that it may lay colored eggs. If there be a garden, the eggs are hidden singly in the green grass, box-wood, or elsewhere. On Easter Sunday morning they whistle for the rabbit, and the children imagine that they see him jump the fence. After church, on Easter Sunday morning, they hunt the eggs, and in the afternoon the boys go out in the meadows and crack eggs or play with them like marbles. Or sometimes children are invited to a neighbor's to hunt eggs. [Phebe Earle Gibbons, "Pennsylvania Dutch," Philadelphia, 1882]
Related entries & more 
Shrewsbury 
one of the most etymologically complex of English place names, it illustrates the changes wrought in Old English words by Anglo-French scribes who could not pronounce them. Recorded 1016 as Scrobbesbyrig, it originally may have meant "the fortified place in (a district called) The Scrub." The initial consonant cluster was impossible for the scribes, who simplified it to sr-, then added a vowel (sar-) to make it easier still.

The name was also changed by Anglo-French loss or metathesis of liquids in words containing -l-, -n-, or -r- (also evident in the derivatives of Old French Berengier "bear-spear" -- Old High German Beringar -- name of one of the paladins in the Charlemagne romances and a common given name in England 12c. and 13c., which has come down in surnames as Berringer, Bellanger, Benger, etc.). Thus Sarop- became Salop- and in the 12c. and 13c. the overwhelming spelling in government records was Salopesberie, which accounts for the abbreviation Salop for the modern county.

During all this, the Anglo-Saxon inhabitants (as opposed to the French scribes) still pronounced it properly, and regular sound evolutions probably produced a pronunciation something like Shrobesbury (which turns up on a 1327 patent roll). After a predictable -b- to -v- (a vowel in the Middle Ages) to -u- shift, the modern spelling begins to emerge 14c. and is fully established 15c.

Shrewsbury clock, for some reason, became proverbial for exactness, and thus, naturally, proverbial as indicating exaggeration of accuracy (1590s).
Related entries & more 
Advertisement
Valentine (n.)

mid-15c., "sweetheart chosen on St. Valentine's Day," from Late Latin Valentinus, the name of two early Italian saints (from Latin valentia "strength, capacity;" see valence). Choosing a sweetheart on this day originated 14c. as a custom in English and French court circles. Meaning "letter or card sent to a sweetheart" first recorded 1824. The romantic association of the day is said to be from it being around the time when birds choose their mates.

For this was on seynt Volantynys day
Whan euery bryd cometh there to chese his make.
[Chaucer, "Parlement of Foules," c. 1381]

Probably the date was the informal first day of spring in whatever French region invented the custom (many surviving medieval calendars reckon the start of spring on the 7th or 22nd of February). No evidence connects it with the Roman Lupercalia (an 18c. theory) or to any romantic or avian quality in either of the saints. The custom of sending special cards or letters on this date flourished in England c. 1840-1870, declined around the turn of the 20th century, and revived 1920s.

To speak of the particular Customs of the English Britons, I shall begin with Valentine's Day, Feb. 14. when young Men and Maidens get their several Names writ down upon Scrolls of Paper rolled up, and lay 'em asunder, the Men drawing the Maidens Names, and these the Mens; upon which, the Men salute their chosen Valentines and present them with Gloves, &c. This Custom (which sometimes introduces a Match) is grounded upon the Instinct of Animals, which about this Time of the Year, feeling a new Heat by the approach of the Sun, begin to couple. ["The Present State of Great Britain and Ireland" London, 1723]
Related entries & more 
California 

name of an imaginary realm in "Las sergas de Esplandián" ("Exploits of Espladán"), a romance by Spanish writer Garci Ordóñez de Montalvo, published in 1510. It was a sequel to his "Amadis de Gaula," and was said to have been influential among Spanish explorers of the New World. It could have led them to misidentify Baja California as this mythical land and to mistake it for an island. The Amadis tales are the Iberian equivalent of the Arthurian romances; they are older than 1510 (traces of them have been found mid-14c.) and were wildly popular. That conquistadors and sailors would have known the story in all its imaginative detail is hardly surprising.

Amadis de Gaula ... set a fashion: all later Spanish writers of books of chivalry adopted the machinery of Amadis de Gaula. Later knights were not less brave (they could not be braver than) Amadis; heroines were not less lovely (they could not be lovelier) than Oriana; there was nothing for it but to make the dragons more appalling, the giants larger, the wizards craftier, the magic castles more inaccessible, the enchanted lakes deeper. Subsequent books of chivalry are simple variants of the types in Amadis de Gaula: Cervantes made his barber describe it as 'the best of all books of this kind.' This verdict is essentially just. Amadis de Gaula was read everywhere, especially in the French version of Herberay des Essarts. It was done into Hebrew during the sixteenth century, and attracted readers as different as St Ignatius of Loyola and Henry of Navarre. Its vogue perhaps somewhat exceeded its merit, but its merits are not inconsiderable. [James Fitzmaurice-Kelly, "Spanish Literature," 1922 edition]

Where Montalvo got the name and what it means, if anything, is a mystery. In reference to the native inhabitants, Californian is attested from 1785 as an adjective, 1789 as a noun. The element Californium (1950) was named in reference to University of California, where it was discovered.

Related entries & more 
Wicca (n.)

An Old English masc. noun meaning "male witch, wizard, soothsayer, sorcerer, astrologer, magician;" see witch. Use of the word in modern contexts traces to English folklorist Gerald Gardner (1884-1964), who is said to have joined circa 1939 an occult group in New Forest, Hampshire, England, for which he claimed an unbroken tradition to medieval times. Gardner seems to have first used it in print in 1954, in his book "Witchcraft Today" ("Witches were the Wica or wise people, with herbal

knowledge and a working occult teaching usually used for good ...."). In published and unpublished material, he apparently only ever used the word as a mass noun referring to adherents of the practice and not as the name of the practice itself. Some of his followers continue to use it in this sense. According to Gardner's book "The Meaning of Witchcraft" (1959), the word, as used in the initiation ceremony, played a key role in his experience:

I realised that I had stumbled upon something interesting; but I was half-initiated before the word, 'Wica' which they used hit me like a thunderbolt, and I knew where I was, and that the Old Religion still existed. And so I found myself in the Circle, and there took the usual oath of secrecy, which bound me not to reveal certain things.

In the late 1960s the term came into use as the title of a modern pagan movement associated with witchcraft. The first printed reference in this usage seems to be 1969, in "The Truth About Witchcraft" by freelance author Hans Holzer:

If the practice of the Old Religion, which is also called Wicca (Craft of the Wise), and thence, witchcraft, is a reputable and useful cult, then it is worthy of public interest.

And, quoting witch Alex Sanders:

"No, a witch wedding still needs a civil ceremony to make it legal. Wicca itself as a religion is not registered yet. But it is about time somebody registered it, I think. I've done all I can to call attention to our religion."

Sanders was a highly visible representative of neo-pagan Witchcraft in the late 1960s and early 1970s. During this time he appears to have popularized use of the term in this sense. Later books c. 1989 teaching modernized witchcraft using the same term account for its rise and popularity, especially in U.S.

Related entries & more 
Hobbit (n.)

1937, coined in the fantasy tales of J.R.R. Tolkien (1892-1973).

On a blank leaf I scrawled: 'In a hole in the ground there lived a hobbit.' I did not and do not know why. [Tolkien, letter to W.H. Auden, dated 1955]

The word also turns up in a very long list of folkloric supernatural creatures in the writings of Michael Aislabie Denham (d. 1859) as an aside to his explanation that those born on Christmas Eve cannot see spirits. Denham was an early folklorist who concentrated on Northumberland, Durham, Westmoreland, Cumberland, the Isle of Man, and Scotland. This was printed in volume 2 of "The Denham Tracts" [ed. James Hardy, London: Folklore Society, 1895], a compilation of Denham's scattered publications.

What a happiness this must have been seventy or eighty years ago and upwards, to those chosen few who had the good luck to be born on the eve of this festival of all festivals; when the whole earth was so overrun with ghosts, boggles, bloody-bones, spirits, demons, ignis fatui, brownies, bugbears, black dogs, specters, shellycoats, scarecrows, witches, wizards, barguests, Robin-Goodfellows, hags, night-bats, scrags, breaknecks, fantasms, hobgoblins, hobhoulards, boggy-boes, dobbies, hob-thrusts, fetches, kelpies, warlocks, mock-beggars, mum-pokers, Jemmy-burties, urchins, satyrs, pans, fauns, sirens, tritons, centaurs, calcars, nymphs, imps, incubuses, spoorns, men-in-the-oak, hell-wains, fire-drakes, kit-a-can-sticks, Tom-tumblers, melch-dicks, larrs, kitty-witches, hobby-lanthorns, Dick-a-Tuesdays, Elf-fires, Gyl-burnt-tales, knockers, elves, rawheads, Meg-with-the-wads, old-shocks, ouphs, pad-foots, pixies, pictrees, giants, dwarfs, Tom-pokers, tutgots, snapdragons, sprets, spunks, conjurers, thurses, spurns, tantarrabobs, swaithes, tints, tod-lowries, Jack-in-the-Wads, mormos, changelings, redcaps, yeth-hounds, colt-pixies, Tom-thumbs, black-bugs, boggarts, scar-bugs, shag-foals, hodge-pochers, hob-thrushes, bugs, bull-beggars, bygorns, bolls, caddies, bomen, brags, wraiths, waffs, flay-boggarts, fiends, gallytrots, imps, gytrashes, patches, hob-and-lanthorns, gringes, boguests, bonelesses, Peg-powlers, pucks, fays, kidnappers, gallybeggars, hudskins, nickers, madcaps, trolls, robinets, friars' lanthorns, silkies, cauld-lads, death-hearses, goblins, hob-headlesses, bugaboos, kows, or cowes, nickies, nacks necks, waiths, miffies, buckies, ghouls, sylphs, guests, swarths, freiths, freits, gy-carlins Gyre-carling, pigmies, chittifaces, nixies, Jinny-burnt-tails, dudmen, hell-hounds, dopple-gangers, boggleboes, bogies, redmen, portunes, grants, hobbits, hobgoblins, brown-men, cowies, dunnies, wirrikows, alholdes, mannikins, follets, korreds, lubberkins, cluricauns, kobolds, leprechauns, kors, mares, korreds, puckles korigans, sylvans, succubuses, blackmen, shadows, banshees, lian-hanshees, clabbernappers, Gabriel-hounds, mawkins, doubles, corpse lights or candles, scrats, mahounds, trows, gnomes, sprites, fates, fiends, sibyls, nicknevins, whitewomen, fairies, thrummy-caps, cutties, and nisses, and apparitions of every shape, make, form, fashion, kind and description, that there was not a village in England that had not its own peculiar ghost. Nay, every lone tenement, castle, or mansion-house, which could boast of any antiquity had its bogle, its specter, or its knocker. The churches, churchyards, and crossroads were all haunted. Every green lane had its boulder-stone on which an apparition kept watch at night. Every common had its circle of fairies belonging to it. And there was scarcely a shepherd to be met with who had not seen a spirit!

[Emphasis added] It is curious that the name occurs nowhere else in folklore, and there is no evidence that Tolkien ever saw this. The word also was recorded from 1835 as "a term generally used in Wales to express a quantity made up of four Welsh pecks" [in English court records for Hughes vs. Humphreys, a weights-and-measures case from Wales]. Hobbitry attested from 1947.

Related entries & more 

Page 3