Etymology
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ark (n.)

Middle English arke, from Old English earc, Old Northumbrian arc, mainly meaning Noah's, but also the Ark of the Covenant (the coffer holding the tables of the law in the sanctum sanctorum), from Latin arca "large box, chest" (see arcane), the word used in the Vulgate. It also was borrowed in Old High German (arahha, Modern German Arche).

In general as "a coffer, a box" by late 12c. Also sometimes in Middle English "the breast or chest as the seat of emotions." From the Noachian sense comes the extended meaning "place of refuge" (17c.). As the name of a type of ship or boat, from late 15c. In 19c. U.S., especially a large, flat-bottomed river boat to move produce, livestock, etc. to market.

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paradisiacal (adj.)

"pertaining to or relating to paradise or a place or state resembling it," 1630s, from Latin paradisiacus (from Greek paradeisiakos, from paradeisos; see paradise) + -al (1).

paradise rivals NECTAR in the number of experiments that the desire for a satisfactory adjective has occasioned. But, whereas nectar is in the end well enough provided, no-one uses any adjective from paradise without feeling that surely some other would have been less inadequate. The variants are paradisaic*(al*), paradisal, paradisean, paradisiac(al), paradisial*, paradisian*, paradisic(al), of which the asterisked ones are badly formed. Paradisal is perhaps the least intolerable, & that perhaps because it retains the sound of the last syllable of paradise; but the wise man takes refuge with heavenly, Edenlike, or other substitute. [Fowler] 
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sycamore (n.)

mid-14c., sicamour "mulberry-leaved fig tree," from Old French sicamor, sagremore, from Latin sycomorus, from Greek sykomoros "African fig-tree," literally "fig-mulberry," from sykon "fig" (see fig) + moron (see mulberry). But according to many sources this is more likely a folk-etymology of Hebrew shiqmah "mulberry."

A Biblical word, originally used for a wide-spreading shade tree with fig-like fruit (Ficus sycomorus) common in Egypt, Palestine, Syria, etc., whose leaves somewhat resemble those of the mulberry; applied in English from 1580s to a large species of European maple (also plane-tree), perhaps because both it and the Biblical tree were notable for their shadiness (the Holy Family took refuge under a sycamore on the flight to Egypt), and from 1814 to the North American shade tree that also is called a buttonwood, which was introduced to Europe from Virginia 1637 by John Tradescant the Younger).

Spelling apparently influenced by sycamine "black mulberry tree," which is from Greek sykcaminos, which also is mentioned in the Bible (Luke xvii.6). For the sake of clarity, some writers have used the more Hellenic sycomore in reference to the Biblical tree.

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defense (n.)
Origin and meaning of defense

c. 1300, "action of guarding or shielding from attack or injury; act of defending by fighting; a fortified place of refuge," from Old French defense, from Latin defensus, past participle of defendere "ward off, protect" (see defend). It also arrived (without the final -e) from Old French defens, from Latin defensum "thing protected or forbidden," neuter past participle of defendere.

Middle English defens was assimilated into defense, but not before it inspired the alternative spelling defence, via the same tendency that produced hence (hennis), pence (penies), dunce (Duns). Webster made the -se form standard in U.S., but British has preferred defence, and compare fence (n.).

Meaning "a speech or writing intended to repel or disprove a charge or accusation" is from late 14c., as is the sense of "method adopted by one against whom a lawsuit has been brought." Meaning "science of defense against attack" (in fencing, boxing, etc.) is from c. 1600. Used by 1935 as a euphemism for "national military resources," but the notion (non-euphemistic) was in Middle English: man of defense "warrior," ship of defense "warship." Defenses "natural weapons of an animal" is by 1889. Defense mechanism in psychology is from 1913.

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den (n.1)

Old English denn "wild animal's lair, hollow place in the earth used by an animal for concealment, shelter, and security," from Proto-Germanic *danjan (source also of Middle Low German denne "lowland, wooded vale, den," Old English denu "valley," Old Frisian dene "down," Old High German tenni, German tenne "threshing floor," perhaps from a PIE word meaning "low ground").

Transferred to den-like places in human habitations in Middle English: "secret lurking place of thieves, place of retreat" (late 13c.); "apartment, private chamber" (late 14c.), but the modern use for "small room or lodging in which a man can seclude himself for work or leisure" [OED] is a modern development, originally colloquial, attested by 1771. By 1956, however, at least in U.S., the den had come to be a sort of family all-purpose room. In 19c. it also often had a bad sense, "a haunt, squalid place of retreat" (as in the set phrase den of iniquity for a brothel, etc.).

For, in truth, without a den or place of refuge, a man can achieve neither tranquility nor greatness. Jefferson wrote the Declaration of Independence in a quiet rooming house in Philadelphia. The soaring ideas that went into it evolved during hours of reading and contemplation in a secluded library. Had it been a study-TV-guest-family room, the United States might still be a colony. [The Kiplinger Magazine, September 1956]
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custom (n.)

c. 1200, custume, "habitual practice," either of an individual or a nation or community, from Old French costume "custom, habit, practice; clothes, dress" (12c., Modern French coutume), from Vulgar Latin *consuetumen, from Latin consuetudinem (nominative consuetudo) "habit, usage, way, practice, tradition, familiarity," from consuetus, past participle of consuescere "accustom," from com-, intensive prefix (see com-), + suescere "become used to, accustom oneself," related to sui, genitive of suus "oneself," from PIE *swe- "oneself" (see idiom).

Custom implies continued volition, the choice to keep doing what one has done; as compared with manner and fashion, it implies a good deal of permanence. [Century Dictionary]

A doublet of costume. An Old English word for it was þeaw. Meaning "the practice of buying goods at some particular place" is from 1590s. Sense of a "regular" toll or tax on goods is early 14c. The native word here is toll (n.).

Custom-house "government office at a point of import and export for the collection of customs" is from late 15c. Customs "area at a seaport, airport, etc., where baggage is examined" is by 1921.

Old customs! Oh! I love the sound,
  However simple they may be:
Whate'er with time has sanction found,
  Is welcome, and is dear to me.
Pride grows above simplicity,
  And spurns it from her haughty mind,
And soon the poet's song will be
  The only refuge they can find.
[from "December," John Clare, 1827]
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skate (n.2)

"an ice-skate, a contrivance for enabling a person to glide swiftly on ice," 1660s, skeates (plural), from Dutch schaats (plural schaatsen), a singular mistaken in English for plural, from Middle Dutch schaetse. The word and the custom were brought to England after the Restoration by exiled followers of Charles II who had taken refuge in Holland.

The Dutch word is perhaps from Old North French escache "a stilt, trestle," related to Old French eschace "stilt" (French échasse), from Frankish *skakkja "stilt" or a similar Germanic source (compare Frisian skatja "stilt"), perhaps literally "thing that shakes or moves fast" and related to root of Old English sceacan "to vibrate" (see shake (v.)). Or perhaps [Klein] the Dutch word is connected to Middle Low German schenke, Old English scanca "leg" (see shank). If the former, the sense alteration in Dutch from "stilt" to "skate" is not clearly traced. The latter theory perhaps is supported by evidence that the original ice skates, up to medieval times, were leg bones of horse, ox, or deer, strapped to the feet with leather strips.

The sense in English was extended to roller-skates by 1876. The meaning "an act of skating" is from 1853. A slightly older word for an ice skate was scrick-shoe (1650s), from Middle Dutch scricschoe, from schricken "to slide." 

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leprechaun (n.)

c. 1600, from Irish lupracan, metathesis of Old Irish luchorpan, which traditionally is explained as literally "a very small body," from lu "little, small" (from PIE root *legwh- "not heavy, having little weight") + corpan, diminutive of corp "body," from Latin corpus "body" (from PIE root *kwrep- "body, form, appearance"). However, Celtic linguistic scholarship has recently found a different explanation and connected the word to Latin Lupercalia:

New research by Simon Rodway, Michael Clarke and Jacopo Bisagni, published in the journal Cambrian Medieval Celtic Studies, traces them back to the Roman Luperci. The Luperci were bands of aristocratic youths who ran naked through ancient Rome in the festival of Lupercalia on the 15 February. In the fifth century A.D. St Augustine of Hippo compared the Luperci with the Greek werewolves who were believed to change from men into wolves by swimming through a lake in Arcadia. Two centuries later Irish scholars misunderstood Augustine. They thought he meant that the Luperci were an ancient non-human race. Because they could swim they were supposed to have survived Noah's Flood and taken refuge in Ireland. So in medieval Irish legends the leprechauns or 'little Luperci' still lived under water. The wolf connection was soon forgotten and eventually the 'little Lupercus' became the familiar land-dwelling leprechaun of modern Irish folklore and tourism. [Patrick Sims-Williams, Professor of Celtic Studies in Aberystwyth University, Wales, cited at Languagelog]

Commonly spelled lubrican in 17c. English; "Century Dictionary" (1902) has it under leprechawn. Variant leithbragan probably is Irish folk etymology, from leith "half" + brog "brogue," because the spirit was "supposed to be always employed in making or mending a single shoe."

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