"aware, up-to-date," first recorded 1908 in "Saturday Evening Post," but said to be underworld slang, of unknown origin. Variously said to have been the name of "a fabulous detective who operated in Cincinnati" [Louis E. Jackson and C.R. Hellyer, "A Vocabulary of Criminal Slang," 1914] or a saloonkeeper in Chicago who "never quite understood what was going on ... (but) thought he did" [American Speech, XVI, 154/1]. Taken up by jazz musicians by 1915. With the rise of hip (adj.) by the 1950s, the use of hep ironically became a clue that the speaker was unaware and not up-to-date.
c. 1600, "a dictionary, a word-book," from French lexicon or directly from Modern Latin lexicon, from Greek lexikon (biblion) "word (book)," from neuter of lexikos "pertaining to words," from lexis "a word, a phrase; reason; way of speech, diction, style," from legein "to say" (from PIE root *leg- (1) "to collect, gather," with derivatives meaning "to speak (to 'pick out words')").
Especially of dictionaries of Greek, Syriac, Hebrew, or Arabic, because these typically were written in Latin, and in Modern Latin lexicon (not dictionarius) was the preferred name for a word-book. The modern sense of "vocabulary proper to some sphere of activity" (1640s) is a figurative extension.
"to discredit a candidate for some position by savaging his or her career and beliefs," 1987, from name of U.S. jurist Robert H. Bork, whose Supreme Court nomination in 1987 was rejected after an intense counter-campaign. Similar instances had happened before:
[John Quincy Adams's] printed assault upon Jonathan Russell—who had been so ill-advised as to cast doubts upon the patriotism of Adams's conduct at Ghent—was so deadly that for many years afterwards the vocabulary of America was increased, though not enriched, by the transitive verb "to Jonathan-Russell," meaning to pulverize an opponent. [George Dangerfield, "The Era of Good Feeling," 1953]
mid-15c., "capable of being considered, conceivable," from Medieval Latin considerabilis "worthy to be considered," from Latin considerare "to look at closely, observe," probably literally "to observe the stars," from assimilated form of com "with, together" (see con-) + sidus (genitive sideris) "heavenly body, star, constellation" (see sidereal).
Meaning "pretty large" is from 1650s (implied in considerably), from now-archaic earlier sense of "Worthy of regard or attention" (1610s).
CONSIDERABLE. This word is still frequently used in the manner pointed out by Dr. Witherspoon in the following remark: "He is considerable of a surveyor; considerable of it may be found in the country. This manner of speaking prevails in the northern parts." [Pickering, "A Vocabulary, or Collection of Words and Phrases Which Have Been Supposed to be Peculiar to the United States of America," 1816]
The very speeches in which Jefferson and Lincoln spoke of their hope for the future are incomprehensible to most of the voters of that future, since the vocabulary and syntax of the speeches are more difficult—more obscure—than anything the voters have read or heard. For when you defeat me in an election simply because you were, as I was not, born and bred in a log cabin, it is only a question of time until you are beaten by someone whom the pigs brought up out in the yard. The truth that all men are politically equal, the recognition of the injustice of fictitious differences, becomes a belief in the fictitiousness of differences, a conviction that it is reaction or snobbishness or Fascism to believe that any individual differences of real importance can exist. [Randall Jarrell, "The Obscurity of Poetry," 1953]
late Old English hrung "rod, cross-bar; stout, rounded stick," from Proto-Germanic *khrungo (source also of Middle Low German runge, Old High German runga "stake, stud, stave," German Runge "stake, stud, stave," Middle Dutch ronghe, Dutch rong "rung," Gothic hrugga "staff"), a word of unknown origin with no connections outside Germanic if as is supposed the Celtic words are from English.
The sense in English narrowed to mean usually "round or stave of a ladder" (attested from late 13c.), but usage of cognate words remains more general in other Germanic languages.
This [rungs] has generally been considered as a mere corruption of rounds; and people of education use only this latter word. [John Pickering, "A Vocabulary or Collection of Words and Phrases which have been Supposed to be Peculiar to the United States of America," Boston, 1816]
This word has been very common among us, both in writing and in the language of conversation; but it has been so much ridiculed by Americans as well as Englishmen, that in writing it is now generally avoided. Mr. Webster has admitted it into his dictionary; but as need hardly be remarked it is not in any of the English ones. It is applied by us, as Mr. Webster justly observes, chiefly to writings or discourses. Thus we say, a lengthy pamphlet, a lengthy sermon, &c. The English would say, a long or (in the more familiar style) a longish sermon. [John Pickering, "A Vocabulary, or Collection of Words and Phrases Which Have Been Supposed to be Peculiar to the United States of America," Boston, 1816]
Related: Lengthily; lengthiness.
1520s, the earliest recorded sense is "mistress;" the allusion to grass is not clear, but it commonly was believed to refer to casual bedding (compare bastard and German Strohwitwe, literally "straw-widow," and compare the expression give (a woman) a grass gown "roll her playfully on the grass" (1580s), also euphemistic for the loss of virginity). Revived late 18c. as "one that pretends to have been married, but never was, yet has children;" in early 19c. use it could mean "married woman whose husband is absent" (and often presumed, but not certainly known to be, dead), also often applied to a divorced or discarded wife or an unmarried woman who has had a child. Both euphemistic and suggestive.
[G]rasse wydowes ... be yet as seuerall as a barbours chayre and neuer take but one at onys. [More, 1528]
GRASS WIDOW, s. a forsaken fair one, whose nuptials, not celebrated in a church, were consummated, in all pastoral simplicity, on the green turf. [Rev. Robert Forby, "Vocabulary of East Anglia," London, 1830]
late 14c., "infant, young child of either sex," short for baban (early 13c.), which probably is imitative of baby talk (see babble (v.)). In many languages the word means "old woman" (compare Russian babushka "grandmother," from baba "peasant woman"), and it is also sometimes a child's variant of papa "father."
The simplest articulations, and those which are readiest caught by the infant mouth, are the syllables formed by the vowel a with the primary consonants of the labial and dental classes, especially the former ; ma, ba, pa, na, da, ta. Out of these, therefore, is very generally formed the limited vocabulary required at the earliest period of infant life comprising the names for father, mother, infant, breast, food. [Hensleigh Wedgwood, "A Dictionary of English Etymology," 1859]
Crist crid in cradil, "moder, baba!" [John Audelay, c. 1426]
Now mostly superseded by its diminutive form baby. Used figuratively for "a childish person" from 1520s. Meaning "attractive young woman" is 1915, college slang (baby as "girl, young woman, girlfriend" is attested by 1839; see babe). Babe in arms is one so young it has to be carried; babe in the woods "an innocent among perils" is from 1795.
Meaning "of great quality or number" is from 1811; hence the colloquial sense of "exceedingly, extremely" (adv.) is from 1822. Thornton ("American Glossary") notes powerful, along with monstrous, as "Much used by common people in the sense of very," and cites curious expressions such as devilish good, monstrous pretty (1799), dreadful polite, cruel pretty, abominable fine (1803), "or when a young lady admires a lap dog for being so vastly small and declares him prodigious handsome" (1799).
This gross perversion is common in several of the Western counties of Pennsylvania, to which region I had supposed it was limited. A gentleman informs me, however that it is not unfrequent in the South, and that he has even heard it yoked with weak, as, A powerful weak man. [Seth T. Hurd, "A Grammatical Corrector; or, Vocabulary of the Common Errors of Speech," 1847]
Related: Powerfully; powerfulness.