A handy man is so practised in the regulation of the little utilities of the house he inhabits, that by a slight touch here and there—a screw turned here and a screw loosened there, and a nail driven in time—he keeps all working smoothly, and averts those domestic catastrophes and break-downs of which Punch makes so much capital in his pictures. [Harriet Beecher Stowe, in Arthur's Home Magazine, August 1869]
early 15c., "regular, systematic treatment of disease," from Latin methodus "way of teaching or going," from Greek methodos "scientific inquiry, method of inquiry, investigation," originally "pursuit, a following after," from meta "in pursuit or quest of" (see meta-) + hodos "a method, system; a way or manner" (of doing, saying, etc.), also "a traveling, journey," literally "a path, track, road," a word of uncertain origin (see Exodus).
Meaning "any way of doing anything, orderly regulation of conduct with a view to the attainment of an end" is from 1580s; that of "orderliness, regularity" is from 1610s. Meaning "a system or complete sent of rules for attaining an end" is from 1680s. In reference to a theory of acting associated with Russian director Konstantin Stanislavski (1863-1938), it is attested from 1923.
The dye made from the tree's inner bark was yellowish-brown, and the word was used (from 1861) to describe the Southern army troops in the American Civil War, but the exact reason is debatable. Many Southern uniforms seem to have been this color; perhaps butternut dye was extensively used in homemade uniforms (but the tree's natural range is mostly in the northeastern U.S.); perhaps some of the regulation gray uniforms faded or soiled to this color; perhaps it was because butternut was a nickname for Southerners in the Midwestern states.
mid-15c. "of or pertaining to the law," from Old French légal "legal" (14c.) or directly from Latin legalis "pertaining to the law," from lex (genitive legis) "an enactment; a precept, regulation, principle, rule; formal proposition for a law, motion, bill; a contract, arrangement, contrivance." This probably is related to legere "to gather," from PIE root *leg- (1) "to collect, gather," with derivatives meaning "to speak (to 'pick out words')." Perhaps the noun is from the verb on the notion of "a collection of rules," but de Vaan seems to imply that the evolution is the reverse:
The verb legare and its compounds all have a meaning which involves a 'task, assignment,' and can therefore be interpreted as derivatives of lex 'law.' The [Proto-Italic] root noun *leg- 'law' can be interpreted as a 'collection' of rules. Whether the root noun existed already in PIE is uncertain for lack of precise cognates.
Sense of "permitted by law" is from 1640s. Related: Legally. Not etymologically related to law (n.), q.v. The usual Old French form was leial, loial (see leal, loyal). Legal tender "money which the creditor is bound by law to accept" is from 1740 (see tender (n.2)). A legal holiday (1867) is one established by statute or proclamation and during which government business is usually suspended.
late 12c., "one who commits robbery, one who steals, plunders, or strips unlawfully by violence," from Anglo-French robbere, Old French robeor, agent noun from rober "to rob, steal, pillage, ransack, rape" (see rob).
Robber baron in the "corrupt, greedy financier" sense is attested from 1870s, from a comparison of Gilded Age capitalists to medieval European warlords (the phrase is attested in the historical sense from 1831).
It is the attempt of the more shrewd to take advantage of the less shrewd. It is the attempt of the strong to oppress the weak. It is the old robber baron in his castle descending, after men have planted their crops, and stealing them. [Henry Ward Beecher, sermon, "Truthfulness," 1871]
Regulation by combination means that the railroad managers are feudal lords and that you are their serfs. It means that every car load of grain or other produce of your fields and shops that passes over the New York Central shall pay heavy toll for right of transit to Vanderbilt, the robber baron of our modern feudalism, who dominates that way. [W.C. Flagg, testimony to Congress, 1874]
c. 1400, reguler, "belonging to or subject to a religious or monastic rule," from Old French reguler "ecclesiastical" (Modern French régulier) and directly from Late Latin regularis "containing rules for guidance," from Latin regula "rule, straight piece of wood" (from PIE root *reg- "move in a straight line"). The classical -a- was restored 16c.
In earliest use, the opposite of secular. Extended from late 16c. to shapes, verbs, etc., that followed predictable, proper, or uniform patterns. From 1590s as "marked or distinguished by steadiness or uniformity in action or practice;" hence, of persons, "pursuing a definite course, observing a universal principle in action or conduct" (c. 1600).
The sense of "normal, conformed or conforming to established customs" is from 1630s. The meaning "orderly, well-behaved" is from 1705. By 1756 as "recurring at repeated or fixed times," especially at short, uniform intervals. The military sense of "properly and permanently organized, constituting part of a standing army" is by 1706. The colloquial meaning "real, genuine, thorough" is from 1821.
Old English borrowed Latin regula and nativized it as regol "rule, regulation, canon, law, standard, pattern;" hence regolsticca "ruler" (instrument); regollic (adj.) "canonical, regular."
c. 1200, "principle or maxim governing conduct, formula to which conduct must be conformed" from Old French riule, Norman reule "rule, custom, (religious) order" (in Modern French partially re-Latinized as règle), from Vulgar Latin *regula, from Latin regula "straight stick, bar, ruler;" figuratively "a pattern, a model," related to regere "to rule, straighten, guide" (from PIE root *reg- "move in a straight line," with derivatives meaning "to direct in a straight line," thus "to lead, rule").
By mid-14c. as "control, government, sway, dominion." The meaning "regulation governing play of a game, etc." is from 1690s; the phrase rules of the game is by 1787. To bend the rules "interpret leniently, overlook infringement" is by 1680s.
The meaning "strip with a straight edge used for making straight lines or measuring" is from mid-14c. Typography sense of "thin strip cut type-high and used for printing continuous lines" is attested from 1680s. Rule of law "supremacy of impartial and well-defined laws to any individual's power" is from 1883. Rule of the road in reference to the fixed customs, formerly much varying from country to country, which regulate the sides to be taken by vehicles in passing each other, is by 1805.
The rule of the road is a paradox quite,
In driving your carriage along,
If you keep to the left you are sure to go right,
If you keep to the right you go wrong.
[Horne Tooke, "Diversions of Purley," 1805]
1530s, "the regulation and control of a community" (similar in sense to policy (n.1)); from Middle French police "organized government, civil administration" (late 15c.), from Latin politia "civil administration," from Greek polis "city" (see polis).
Until mid-19c. used in England for "civil administration;" application to "administration of public order, law-enforcement in a community" (1716) is from French (late 17c.), and originally in English referred to France or other foreign nations.
The sense of "an organized civil force for maintaining order, preventing and detecting crime, etc." is by 1800; the first force so-named in England was the Marine Police, set up 1798 to protect merchandise at the Port of London. Meaning "body of officers entrusted with the duty of enforcing laws, detecting crime, etc." is from 1810.
In its most common acceptation, the police signifies the administration of the municipal laws and regulations of a city or incorporated town or borough by a corps of administrative or executive officers, with the necessary magistrates for the immediate use of force in compelling obedience and punishing violation of the laws, as distinguished from judicial remedies by action, etc. The primary object of the police system is the prevention of crime and the pursuit of offenders; but it is also subservient to other purposes, such as the suppression of mendicancy, the preservation of order, the removal of obstructions and nuisances, and the enforcing of those local and general laws which relate to the public health, order, safety, and comfort. [Century Dictionary, 1895]
In constitutional law, police power is the power of a government to limit civil liberties and exercise restraint and compulsion over private rights, especially to advance or protect the public welfare. Police state "state regulated by means of national police" first recorded 1865, with reference to Austria. Police action in the international sense of "military intervention short of war, ostensibly to correct lawlessness" is from 1933. Police officer is attested from 1794, American English. Police station is from 1817. Police dog is by 1908.
c. 1200, "body of persons living under a religious discipline," from Old French ordre "position, estate; rule, regulation; religious order" (11c.), from earlier ordene, from Latin ordinem (nominative ordo) "row, line, rank; series, pattern, arrangement, routine," originally "a row of threads in a loom," from Proto-Italic *ordn- "row, order" (source also of ordiri "to begin to weave;" compare primordial), which is of uncertain origin. Watkins suggests it is a variant of PIE root *ar- "to fit together," and De Vaan finds this "semantically attractive."
The original English word reflects a medieval notion: "a system of parts subject to certain uniform, established ranks or proportions," and was used of everything from architecture to angels. Old English expressed many of the same ideas with endebyrdnes. From the notion of "formal disposition or array, methodical or harmonious arrangement" comes the meaning "fit or consistent collocation of parts" (late 14c.).
Meaning "a rank in the (secular) community" is first recorded c. 1300. Sense of "a regular sequence or succession" is from late 14c. The meaning "command, directive" is first recorded 1540s, from the notion of "that which keep things in order." Military and honorary orders grew out of the fraternities of Crusader knights.
The business and commerce sense of "a written direction to pay money or deliver property" is attested by 1837; as "a request for food or drink in a restaurant" from 1836. In natural history, as a classification of living things next below class and next above family, it is recorded from 1760. Meaning "condition of a community which is under the rule of law" is from late 15c.
In order "in proper sequence or arrangement" is from c. 1400; out of order "not in proper sequence or orderly arrangement" is from 1540s; since 20c. principally mechanical, but not originally so ("and so home, and there find my wife mightily out of order, and reproaching of Mrs. Pierce and Knipp as wenches, and I know not what," - Pepys, diary, Aug. 6, 1666).
Phrase in order to "for the purpose of" (1650s) preserves etymological notion of "sequence." In short order "without delay" is from 1834, American English; order of battle "arrangement and disposition of an army or fleet for the purposes of engagement" is from 1769. The scientific/mathematical order of magnitude is attested from 1723.
Old English lagu (plural laga, combining form lah-) "ordinance, rule prescribed by authority, regulation; district governed by the same laws;" also sometimes "right, legal privilege," from Old Norse *lagu "law," collective plural of lag "layer, measure, stroke," literally "something laid down, that which is fixed or set."
Rare in Old English, it ousted the more usual ae and also gesetnes, which also were etymologically "something placed or set."
In physics, "a proposition which expresses the regular order of things," from 1660s. Law and order have been coupled since 1796. To lay down the law (1752) is pleonastic (the "law" in the figure is biblical law, laid down from the pulpit). Poor laws provided for the support of paupers at public expense; sumptuary laws restrained excesses in apparel, food, or luxuries.
It is more common for Indo-European languages to use different words for "a specific law" and for "law" in the general sense of "institution or body of laws," for example Latin lex "a law," ius "a right," especially "legal right, law."
Indo-European words for "a law" are most commonly from verbs for "to put, place, set, lay," such as Greek thesmos (from tithemi "to put, place"), Old English dom (from PIE *dhe- "to put, place, set"), Lithuanian įstatymas (from statyti "cause to stand, set up, establish"), Polish ustawa (from stać "stand"). Also compare Old English gesetnes (above), statute, from Latin statuere; German Gesetz "a law, statute," from Old High German gisatzida "a fixing, determination, assessment," with sezzen (modern German setzen) "to make sit, set, put."
Words for "law" in the general sense mostly mean etymologically "what is right" and often are connected with adjectives for "right" (themselves often figurative uses of words for "straight," "upright," "true," "fitting," or "usage, custom." Such are Greek nomos (as in numismatic); French droit, Spanish derecho, from Latin directus; Polish prawo, Russian pravo (from Old Church Slavonic pravŭ "straight," in the daughter languages "right"); also Old Norse rettr, Old English riht, Dutch recht, German Recht (see right (adj.1)).
[L]earn to obey good laws before you seek to alter bad ones [Ruskin, "Fors Clavigera"]