a puzzle or riddle consisting of words or phrases represented by pictures of objects whose names resemble in sound the words or phrases intended, c. 1600, apparently from Latin rebus (and meaning literally "by means of objects"), ablative plural of res "thing, object" (see re). According to French sources (Gilles Ménage, "Les origines de la langue françoise," 1650), principally from the phrase de rebus quæ geruntur "of things which are going on," in reference to the satirical pieces composed by Picardy clerks at carnivals, subtle satires of current events using pictures to suggest words, phrases or things. Or this use of the Latin word might be from the representations being non verbis sed rebus "not by words, but by things."
c. 1200, o cros, "in the shape of a cross;" c. 1300, a-croiz, "in a crossed position;" early 14c., acros, "from one side to another;" a contraction of Anglo-French an cros, literally "on cross;" see a- (1) + cross (n.)).
Meaning "on the other side (as a result of crossing)" is from 1750. In crossword puzzle clues from 1924. Spelling acrost, representing a dialectal or vulgar pronunciation, is attested by 1759. Phrase across the board "embracing all categories" (1945) is said to be originally from horse-racing, in reference to a bet of the same amount of money on a horse to win, place, or show. To get (something) across "make (something) understood or appreciated" is by 1913, probably from earlier theater expression get (something) across the footlights, perform it so as to be received by the audience (1894).
c. 1200, "false, treacherous, deceptive, deceitful, crafty" (obsolete), probably from Old English ficol "deceitful, cunning, tricky," related to befician "deceive," and to facen "deceit, treachery; blemish, fault." Common Germanic (compare Old Saxon fekan "deceit," Old High German feihhan "deceit, fraud, treachery"), from the same source as foe.
Sense of "changeable, inconstant, unstable" is from c. 1300 (especially of Fortune and women). Related: Fickleness. Fickly (c. 1300) is rare or obsolete. Also with a verb form in Middle English, fikelen "to deceive, flatter," later "to puzzle, perplex," which survived long enough in Northern dialects to get into Scott's novels. Fikel-tonge (late 14c.) was an allegorical or character name for "one who speaks falsehoods."
Old English paþ, pæþ "narrow passageway or route across land, a track worn by the feet of people or animals treading it," from West Germanic *patha- (source also of Old Frisian path, Middle Dutch pat, Dutch pad, Old High German pfad, German Pfad "path"), a word of uncertain origin, not attested in Old Norse or Gothic.
The original initial -p- in a Germanic word is an etymological puzzle. Don Ringe ("From Proto-Indo-European to Proto-Germanic," Oxford 2006), reflecting an old theory, describes it as "An obvious loan from Iranian ..., clearly borrowed after Grimm's Law had run its course." Watkins says the word is "probably borrowed (? via Scythian) from Iranian *path-," from PIE root *pent- "to tread, go, pass" (source of Avestan patha "way;" see find (v.)), but this is too much of a stretch for OED and others. In Scotland and Northern England, commonly a steep ascent of a hill or in a road.
c. 1200, from Old Norse geta (past tense gatum, past participle getenn) "to obtain, reach; to be able to; to beget; to learn; to be pleased with," a word of very broad meaning, often used almost as an auxilliary verb, also frequently in phrases (such as geta rett "to guess right"). This is from Proto-Germanic *getan (source also of Old Swedish gissa "to guess," literally "to try to get"), from PIE root *ghend- "to seize, take."
Old English, as well as Dutch and Frisian, had the verb almost exclusively in compounds (such as begietan, "to beget;" forgietan "to forget"). Vestiges of an Old English cognate *gietan remain obliquely in modern past participle gotten and original past tense gat, also Biblical begat.
In compound phrases with have and had it is grammatically redundant, but often usefully indicates possession, obligation, or necessity, or gives emphasis. The word and phrases built on it take up 29 columns in the OED 2nd edition; Century Dictionary lists seven distinct senses for to get up.
"I GOT on Horseback within ten Minutes after I received your Letter. When I GOT to Canterbury I GOT a Chaise for Town. But I GOT wet through before I GOT to Canterbury, and I HAVE GOT such a Cold as I shall not be able to GET rid of in a Hurry. I GOT to the Treasury about Noon, but first of all I GOT shaved and drest. I soon GOT into the Secret of GETTING a Memorial before the Board, but I could not GET an Answer then, however I GOT Intelligence from the Messenger that I should most likely GET one the next Morning. As soon as I GOT back to my Inn, I GOT my Supper, and GOT to Bed, it was not long before I GOT to Sleep. When I GOT up in the Morning, I GOT my Breakfast, and then GOT myself drest, that I might GET out in Time to GET an Answer to my Memorial. As soon as I GOT it, I GOT into the Chaise, and GOT to Canterbury by three: and about Tea Time, I GOT Home. I HAVE GOT No thing particular for you, and so Adieu." [Philip Withers, "Aristarchus, or the Principles of Composition," London, 1789, illustrating the widespread use of the verb in Modern English]
As a command to "go, be off" by 1864, American English. Meaning "to seize mentally, grasp" is from 1892. Get wind of "become acquainted with" is from 1840, from earlier to get wind "to get out, become known" (1722). To get drunk is from 1660s; to get religion is from 1772; to get better "recover health" is from 1776. To get ready "prepare oneself" is from 1890; to get going "begin, start doing something" is by 1869 in American English; get busy "go into action, begin operation" is from 1904. Get lost as a command to go away is by 1947. To get ahead "make progress" is from 1807. To get to (someone) "vex, fret, obsess" is by 1961, American English (get alone as "to puzzle, trouble, annoy" is by 1867, American English). To get out of hand originally (1765) meant "to advance beyond the need for guidance;" sense of "to break free, run wild" is from 1892, from horsemanship. To get on (someone's) nerves is attested by 1970.