Middle English drie "without moisture, comparatively free from water or fluid," from Old English dryge, from Proto-Germanic *draugiz (source also of Middle Low German dröge, Middle Dutch druge, Dutch droog, Old High German trucchon, German trocken, Old Norse draugr), from Germanic root *dreug- "dry."
Meaning "barren" is mid-14c. Of persons, "showing no emotion," c. 1200; of humor or jests, "without show of pleasantry, caustic, sarcastic" early 15c. (implied in dryly). Sense of "uninteresting, tedious" is from 1620s. Of wines, brandy, etc., "free from sweetness or fruity flavor," 1700. Of places prohibiting alcoholic drink, 1870 (dry feast, one at which no liquor is served, is from late 15c.); colloquial dry (n.) "prohibitionist" is by 1888, American English political slang.
Dry goods (1650s) were those dispensed in dry, not liquid, measure. Dry land (that not under the sea) is from early 13c. Dry-nurse "nurse who attends and feeds a child but does not suckle it" is from 1590s. Dry run "rehearsal" is by 1941. Dry ice "solid carbon dioxide" is by 1925.
c. 1200, "the following of a wrong scent by hounds" (a sense now obsolete but in one phrase); early 14c., "debauchery, extravagance, wanton living," from Anglo-French rioute, Old French riot, riote (12c.) "dispute, quarrel, (tedious) talk, chattering, argument, domestic strife," also a euphemism for "sexual intercourse," of uncertain origin. Compare Italian riotta (Medieval Latin riota) "quarrel, dispute, uproar, riot." Perhaps from Latin rugire "to roar."
The meaning "civil disorder, violent disturbance of the peace, public disturbance arising from wanton and disorderly conduct" is attested by late 14c. The meaning "something spectacularly successful" first recorded 1909 in theater slang. The sense of "vivid display of colors" is by 1891.
To run riot "act or move without control or restraint" is by 1520s, a figurative extension of the oldest Middle English meaning of the word, in reference to hounds following the wrong scent. The Riot Act, part of which must be read to a mob before active measures can be taken, was passed 1714 (1 Geo. I, st.2, c.5). Riot girl and alternative form riot grrl first recorded 1992.
ruminant mammal, Old English sceap, scep, from West Germanic *skæpan (source also of Old Saxon scap, Old Frisian skep, Middle Low German schap, Middle Dutch scaep, Dutch schaap, Old High German scaf, German Schaf), of unknown origin. Not found in Scandinavian (Danish has faar for "sheep") or Gothic (which uses lamb), and with no known cognates outside Germanic. The more usual Indo-European word for the animal is represented in English by ewe.
The plural form was leveled with the singular in Old English, but Old Northumbrian had a plural scipo. Used since Old English as a type of timidity and figuratively of those under the guidance of God. The meaning "stupid, timid person" is attested from 1540s. The image of the wolf in sheep's clothing was in Old English (from Matthew vii.15); that of separating the sheep from the goats is from Matthew xxv.33. To count sheep in a bid to induce sleep is recorded from 1854 but seems not to have been commonly written about until 1870s. It might simply be a type of a tedious activity, but an account of shepherd life from Australia from 1849 ["Sidney's Emigrant's Journal"] describes the night-shepherd ("hut-keeper") taking a count of the sheep regularly at the end of his shift to protect against being answerable for any animals later lost or killed.
Sheep's eyes "loving looks" is attested from 1520s (compare West Frisian skiepseach, Dutch schaapsoog, German Schafsauge). A sheep-biter was "a dog that worries sheep" (1540s); "a mutton-monger" (1590s); and "a whore-monger" (1610s, i.e. one who "chases mutton"); hence Shakespeare's sheep-biting "thieving, sneaky."
c. 1200, "stupid, slow of understanding, not quick in perception;" also, of points or edges, "blunt, not sharp;" apparently from Old English dol "dull-witted, foolish," or an unrecorded parallel word, or from Middle Low German dul "foolish, reckless," both from Proto-Germanic *dulaz (source also of Old Frisian dol "reckless," Middle Dutch dol, dul "stupid, foolish, crazy," Old Saxon dol, Old High German tol "foolish, dull," German toll "mad, wild," Gothic dwals "foolish").
This sometimes is conjectured to be from PIE *dhul-, from root *dheu- (1) "dust, vapor, smoke," which also produced words for "defective perception or wits, turbidity of the mind" (compare Greek tholos "mud dirt," Old Irish dall "blind").
Dull. Ineffective for the purpose aimed at, wanting in life. A dull edge is one that will not cut ; a dull understanding, does not readily apprehend ; a dull day is wanting in light, the element which constitutes its life ; dull of sight or of hearing is ineffective in respect of those faculties. [Wedgwood]
From late 12c. as a surname. Rare before mid-14c. Of color "not bright or clear," from early 15c.; of pain or other sensations, "not sharp or intense," from 1725. Sense of "not pleasing or enlivening, uninteresting, tedious" is from c. 1400. Related: Dullness.
dull. (8) Not exhilarating; not delightful; as to make dictionaries is dull work. [Johnson]