Old English tord "piece of excrement," from Proto-Germanic *turdam (source also of Middle Dutch torde "piece of excrement," Old Norse tord-yfill, Dutch tort-wevel "dung beetle"), from PIE *drtom, past participle of root *der- "to split, flay, peel;" thus "that which is separated ("torn off") from the body" (compare shit (v.) from root meaning "to split;" Greek skatos from root meaning "to cut off; see scatology). As a type of something worthless and vile, it is attested from mid-13c. Meaning "despicable person" is recorded from mid-15c.
A tord ne yeue ic for eu alle ["The Owl and the Nightingale," c. 1250]
Alle thingis ... I deme as toordis, that I wynne Crist. [Wyclif, Philippians iii.8, 1382; KJV has "I count all things ... but dung, that I may win Christ"]
Old English ful occasionally meant "ugly" (as contrasted with fæger (adj.), modern fair (adj.)), and this sense became frequent in Middle English. The cognate in Swedish is the usual word for "ugly." Of weather from mid-14c. In the sporting sense of "irregular, unfair, contrary to established rule or practice" it is first attested 1797, though foul play is recorded from mid-15c. Baseball sense of "out of play" attested by 1860.
debilitating disease that affects the skin, 1560s, noun use of adjective scurvy "covered with scabs, diseased with scurvy, scorbutic" (early 15c.), a variant of scurfy. By 1560s the adjective also could mean "vile, low, mean, vulgar." Related: Scurvied.
It took on the narrower meaning of Dutch scheurbuik, French scorbut "scurvy," in reference to the disease characterized by swollen and bleeding gums, prostration, etc., perhaps from Old Norse skyrbjugr, which is perhaps literally "a swelling (bjugr) from drinking sour milk (skyr) on long sea voyages;" but OED has alternative etymology of Middle Dutch or Middle Low German origin, as "disease that lacerates the belly," from schoren "to lacerate" + Middle Low German buk, Dutch buik "belly."
Old English hecg "hedge," originally any fence, living or artificial, from West Germanic *hagjo (source also of Middle Dutch hegge, Dutch heg, Old High German hegga, German Hecke "hedge"), from a verb *hagjanan, from PIE root *kagh- "to catch, seize; wickerwork, fence" (source also of Latin caulae "a sheepfold, enclosure," Gaulish caio "circumvallation," Welsh cae "fence, hedge"). Related to Old English haga "enclosure, hedge" (see haw (n.)).
Figurative sense of "boundary, barrier" is from mid-14c. As hedges were "often used by vagabonds as places of shelter or resort" [Century Dictionary], the word, compounded, "notes something mean, vile, of the lowest class" [Johnson], from contemptuous attributive sense of "plying one's trade under a hedge" (hedge-priest, hedge-lawyer, hedge-wench, etc.), a usage attested from 1530s. The noun in the betting sense is from 1736 (see hedge (v.)).
late 14c., "open disregard or disobedience" (of authority, the law, etc.); general sense of "act of despising, scorn for what is mean, vile, or worthless" is from c. 1400; from Old French contempt, contemps, and directly Latin contemptus "scorn," from past participle of contemnere "to scorn, despise," from assimilated form of com-, here perhaps an intensive prefix (see com-), + *temnere "to slight, scorn, despise," which is of uncertain origin.
De Vaan has it from PIE *tmn(e)- "to cut," with cognates in Middle Irish tamnaid "cuts," Greek tamno (Attic temno) "to cut;" Lithuanian tinti "to whet," colloquially to beat;" archaic Russian tjat' "to beat." He adds, "The compound contemnere is the older verb, from which temnere has been backformed more recently. The etymology is disputed: the meaning 'scorn' has probably developed from a more concrete meaning ...."
Latin also had contemptrix "she who despises." Phrase contempt of court "open disregard or disrespect for the rules, orders, or process of judicial authority" is attested by 1719, but the idea is in the earliest uses of contempt.
"harlot, woman who offers her body indiscriminately" (usually for money), 1610s, from Latin prostituta "prostitute," fem. of prostitutus "exposed publicly," adjectival use of past participle of prostituere "expose to prostitution; expose publicly" (see prostitute (v.)). No distinction in the use of the word was made between women who did so to gratify themselves, those who did so out of necessity, or those who were forced unwillingly to it.
It was somewhat earlier used in English as an adjective, "offered or exposed to lust" (1570s), earlier still in the figurative sense of "debased, devoted to vile or infamous purposes" (1560s).
The notion of "sex for hire" is not inherent in the etymology, which rather suggests one "exposed to lust" (by herself or another) or sex "indiscriminately offered." Descendants of the Latin word are now almost the official European term for the institution: German prostituierte, Russian prostitutka, etc.
Of men, in reference to homosexual acts, by 1886 (implied in a use of prostitution); the phrase male prostitute is attested by 1948.
"to defecate," 1846, from a cluster of older nouns, now dialectal or obsolete, applied to things cast off or discarded (such as "weeds growing among corn" (early 15c.), "residue from renderings" (late 15c.), underworld slang for "money" (18c.), and in Shropshire, "dregs of beer or ale"), all probably from Middle English crappe "grain that was trodden underfoot in a barn, chaff" (mid-15c.), from French crape "siftings," from Old French crappe, from Medieval Latin crappa, crapinum "chaff." Related: Crapped; crapping.
For connection of the idea of defecation with that of shedding or casting off from the body, compare shit (v.). Despite the etymological legend, the word is not from the name of Thomas Crapper (1837-1910) who was, however, a busy plumber and may have had some minor role in the development of modern toilets. The name Crapper is a northern form of Cropper (attested from 1221), an occupational surname, obviously, but the exact reference is unclear. Crap (v.) as a variant of crop (v.) was noted early 19c, as a peculiarity of speech in Scotland and what was then the U.S. Southwest (Arkansas, etc.).
Draw out yere sword, thou vile South'ron!
Red wat wi' blude o' my kin!
That sword it crapped the bonniest flower
E'er lifted its head to the sun!
[Allan Cunningham (1784-1842), "The Young Maxwell"]
early 12c. as an adjective, seinte, "holy, divinely inspired, worthy of worship," used before proper names (Sainte Marian Magdalene, etc.), from Old French saint, seinte "holy, pious, devout," from Latin sanctus "holy, consecrated," past participle of sancire "consecrate" (see sacred). It displaced or altered Old Englishsanct, which is directly from Latin sanctus.
From an adjective prefixed to the name of a canonized person, it came to be used in English by c. 1200 as a noun, "a specific canonized Christian," also "one of the elect, a member of the body of Christ, one consecrated or set apart to the service of God," also in an Old Testament sense "a pre-Christian prophet."
It is attested by late 13c. as "moral or virtuous person, one who is pure or upright in heart and life."
The adjectives also were used as nouns in Late Latin and Old French: "a saint; a holy relic." The Latin word also is the source of Spanish santo, santa, Italian san, etc., and also ultimately the source of the word in most Germanic languages (Old Frisian sankt, Dutch sint, German Sanct).
Perhaps you have imagined that this humility in the saints is a pious illusion at which God smiles. That is a most dangerous error. It is theoretically dangerous, because it makes you identify a virtue (i.e., a perfection) with an illusion (i.e., an imperfection), which must be nonsense. It is practically dangerous because it encourages a man to mistake his first insights into his own corruption for the first beginnings of a halo round his own silly head. No, depend upon it; when the saints say that they—even they—are vile, they are recording truth with scientific accuracy. [C.S. Lewis, "The Problem of Pain," 1940]
mid-14c., "generous," also "nobly born, noble, free;" from late 14c. as "selfless, magnanimous, admirable;" from early 15c. in a bad sense, "extravagant, unrestrained," from Old French liberal "befitting free people; noble, generous; willing, zealous" (12c.), and directly from Latin liberalis "noble, gracious, munificent, generous," literally "of freedom, pertaining to or befitting a free person," from liber "free, unrestricted, unimpeded; unbridled, unchecked, licentious."
This is conjectured to be from PIE *leudh-ero-, which probably originally meant "belonging to the people," though the precise semantic development is obscure; but compare frank (adj.). This was a suffixed form of the base *leudh- (2) "people" (source also of Old Church Slavonic ljudu, Lithuanian liaudis, Old English leod, German Leute "nation, people;" Old High German liut "person, people").
Who hath indeed, most like a liberal villain,
Confess'd the vile encounters they have had
A thousand times in secret.
["Much Ado," IV.1.93]
Liberal was used 16c.-17c. as a term of reproach with the meaning "free from restraint in speech or action." The Enlightenment revived it in a positive sense "free from prejudice, tolerant, not bigoted or narrow," which emerged 1776-88. In 19c. often theological rather than political, opposed to orthodox, used of Unitarians, Universalists, etc. For educational use, see liberal arts.
Purely in reference to political opinion, "tending in favor of freedom and democracy," it dates from c. 1801, from French libéral. In English the label at first was applied by opponents (often in the French form and with suggestions of foreign lawlessness) to the party more favorable to individual political freedoms. But also (especially in U.S. politics) tending to mean "favorable to government action to effect social change," which seems at times to draw more from the religious sense of "free from prejudice in favor of traditional opinions and established institutions" (and thus open to new ideas and plans of reform), which dates from 1823.
This is the attitude of mind which has come to be known as liberal. It implies vigorous convictions, tolerance for the opinions of others, and a persistent desire for sound progress. It is a method of approach which has played a notable and constructive part in our history, and which merits a thorough trial today in the attack on our absorbingly interesting American task. [Guy Emerson, "The New Frontier," 1920]
slang for "backside," first attested 1860 in nautical slang, in popular use from 1930; chiefly U.S.; from dialectal variant pronunciation of arse (q.v.). The loss of -r- before -s- is attested in other words (burst/bust, curse/cuss, horse/hoss, barse/bass, garsh/gash, parcel/passel).
Indirect evidence of the change from arse to ass can be traced to 17c. By 1680s arse was being pronounced to rhyme with "-ass" words, as in "Sodom or the Quintessence of Debauchery": "I would advise you, sir, to make a pass/Once more at Pockenello's loyal arse." It is perhaps as early as Shakespeare's day, if Nick Bottom transformed into a donkey in "A Midsummer Night's Dream" (1594) is the word-play some think it is.
I must to the barber's, mounsieur; for me thinks I am marvellous hairy about the face; and I am such a tender ass, if my hair do but tickle me, I must scratch. [Bottom]
By 1785 polite speakers were avoiding ass in the "donkey" sense.
Meaning "woman regarded as a sexual object" is by early 1940s (piece of ass seems to be implied in 1930s Tijuana Bibles), but the image is older (compare buttock "a common strumpet," 1670s). To have (one's) head up (one's) ass "not know what one is doing" is attested by 1969. Colloquial (one's) ass "one's self, one's person" attested by 1958. To work (one's) ass off "work very much" is by 1946; to laugh (one's) ass off "laugh very much" is by 1972 (implied from 1965). The (stick it) up your ass oath is attested by 1953; apparent euphemisms suggest earlier use:
He snoighed up his nose as if th' cheese stunk, eyed me wi an air o contempt fro my shoon to my yed, un deawn ogen fro my yed to my shoon ; un then pushin th' brade un cheese into my hont ogen, he says "Take your vile bread and cheese and stick it up your coat sleeve, and be demmed to you. Do you think I want your paltry grub?" Un then, turnin on his heel, he hurried into th' perk. ["Bobby Shuttle un His Woife Sayroh's Visit to Manchester," 1857]