Etymology
Advertisement
modern (adj.)

c. 1500, "now existing;" 1580s, "of or pertaining to present or recent times;" from French moderne (15c.) and directly from Late Latin modernus "modern" (Priscian, Cassiodorus), from Latin modo "just now, in a (certain) manner," from modo (adv.) "to the measure," ablative of modus "manner, measure" (from PIE root *med- "take appropriate measures"). Extended form modern-day attested from 1872.

In history, in the broadest sense, opposed to ancient and medieval, but often in more limited use. In Shakespeare, often with a sense of "every-day, ordinary, commonplace." Meaning "not antiquated or obsolete, in harmony with present ways" is by 1808.

Of languages, indicating the current form of Greek, etc., 1690s; modern languages as a department of study (1821) comprised those now living (i.e. not Latin or Greek) that were held to have literary or historical importance. The use of modern English is at least from c. 1600 (in Cowell's "Interpreter," explaining an Anglo-Saxon word). The scientific linguistic division of historical languages into old, middle, and modern is from 19c.

Slang abbreviation mod is attested from 1960. Modern art is from 1807 (in contrast to ancient; in contrast to traditional, representing departure or repudiation of accepted styles, by 1895); modern dance is attested by 1912; modern jazz by 1954. Modern conveniences is recorded by 1926.

Related entries & more 
Advertisement
suicide (n.)

"deliberate killing of oneself," 1650s, from Modern Latin suicidium "suicide," from Latin sui "of oneself" (genitive of se "self"), from PIE *s(u)w-o- "one's own," from root *s(w)e- (see idiom) + -cidium "a killing," from caedere "to slay" (from PIE root *kae-id- "to strike").

Probably an English coinage; much maligned by Latin purists because it "may as well seem to participate of sus, a sow, as of the pronoun sui" [Phillips]. The meaning "person who kills himself deliberately" is from 1728. In Anglo-Latin, the term for "one who commits suicide" was felo-de-se, literally "one guilty concerning himself."

Even in 1749, in the full blaze of the philosophic movement, we find a suicide named Portier dragged through the streets of Paris with his face to the ground, hung from a gallows by his feet, and then thrown into the sewers; and the laws were not abrogated till the Revolution, which, having founded so many other forms of freedom, accorded the liberty of death. [W.E.H. Lecky, "History of European Morals," 1869]

In England, suicides were legally criminal if of age and sane, but not if judged to have been mentally deranged. The criminal ones were mutilated by stake and given degrading burial in highways until 1823. Suicide blonde (one who has "dyed by her own hand") first attested 1921. Baseball suicide squeeze is attested from 1937.

Related entries & more 
missing (adj.)

"not present or found, absent," 1520s, present-participle adjective from miss (v.). Military sense of "not present after a battle but not known to have been killed or captured" is from 1845. As a noun by 1855.

Missing link was used in various figurative senses before is attested 1846 in reference to forms of plant and animal life [Chambers, "Vestiges of the Natural History of Creation"]; in reference to a hypothetical creature between man and the apes, as a component of Darwin's theory of evolution, by 1860.

But then, where are the missing links in the chain of intellectual and moral being? What has become of the aspirants to the dignity of manhood whose development was unhappily arrested at intermediate points between the man and the monkey? It will not be doubted, we presume, that there exists at present an enormous gap between the intellectual capabilities of the lowest race of men and those of the highest race of apes; and if so, we ask again, why should the creatures intermediate to them—exalted apes or degraded men—have been totally exterminated, while their less worthy ancestors have successfully struggled through the battle of life? [William Hopkins, "Physical Theories of the Phenomena of Life," Fraser's Magazine, July, 1860]

In a popular religious tract of the late 1850s, "The Missing Link of the London Poor," the missing link was the Bible. Missing person, one who has disappeared and whose condition, whether alive or dead, is unknown, is by 1820.

Related entries & more 
right (adj.2)

"opposite of left," early 12c., riht, from Old English riht, which did not have this sense but meant "good, proper, fitting, straight" (see right (adj.1)). It is a specialized development of the adjective that apparently began in late Old English on the notion of the right hand as normally the stronger of the two, or perhaps the "correct," hand. By c. 1200 this was extended to that side of the body, then to its limbs, clothing, etc., and then transferred to other objects.

The usual Old English word for the opposite of left was swiþra, literally "stronger." "The history of words for 'right' and 'left' shows that they were used primarily with reference to the hands" [Buck]. Similar sense evolution in Dutch recht, German recht "right (not left)," from Old High German reht, which meant only "straight, just." Compare Latin rectus "straight; right," also from the same PIE root.

The usual PIE root (*deks-) is represented by Latin dexter. Other derivations on a similar pattern to English right are French droit, from Latin directus "straight;" Lithuanian labas, literally "good;" and Slavic words (Bohemian pravy, Polish prawy, Russian pravyj) from Old Church Slavonic pravu, literally "straight" (from PIE *pro-, from root *per- (1) "forward," hence "in front of, before, first, chief").

The political sense of "conservative" is recorded by 1794 (adj.), 1825 (n.), a translation of French Droit "the Right, Conservative Party" in the French National Assembly (1789; see left (adj.)).

Related entries & more 
X 

The entire entry for X in Johnson's dictionary (1756) is: "X is a letter, which, though found in Saxon words, begins no word in the English language." Most English words beginning in -x- are of Greek origin (see chi) or modern commercial coinages. East Anglian in 14c. showed a tendency to use -x- for initial sh-, sch- (such as xal for shall), which didn't catch on but seems an improvement over the current system. As a symbol of a kiss on a letter, etc., it is recorded from 1765. In malt liquor, XX denoted "double quality" and XXX "strongest quality" (1827).

Algebraic meaning "unknown quantity" (1660 in English, from French), sometimes is said to be from medieval use, originally a crossed -r-, in that case probably from Latin radix (see root (n.)). Other theories trace it to Arabic (Klein), but a more prosaic explanation says Descartes (1637) took x, y, z, the last three letters of the alphabet, for unknowns to correspond to a, b, c, used for known quantities.

Used allusively for "unknown person" from 1797, "something unknown" since 1859. As a type of chromosome, attested from 1902 (first so called in German; Henking, 1891). To designate "films deemed suitable for adults only," first used 1950 in Britain; adopted in U.S. Nov. 1, 1968. The XYZ Affair in American history (1797) involved French agents designated by those letters.

Related entries & more 
Advertisement
Goth (n.)

Old English Gota (plural Gotan) "a member of the Germanic people who lived in Eastern Europe c.100 C.E.," from Late Latin Gothus (plural Gothi), from Greek Gothos (plural Gothoi), from Gothic *Gutos, which is preserved in Gothic gutþiuda "Gothic people," the first element cognate with Old Norse gotar "men" (the second meaning "people; see Dutch). "The sense 'men' is usually taken to be the secondary one, but as the etymology of the word is unknown, this is uncertain" [Gordon]. The unetymological -th- in the modern English word is from Late Latin.

They entered history in 3c. C.E. on the lower Danube and later invaded the Roman Empire and were converted to Arian Christianity. Used in sense of "rude or uncivilized person; savage despoiler" (1660s) in reference to their fifth-century sacking of Roman cities (compare vandal, and French gothique, still with a sense of "barbarous, rude, cruel"). In 19c., in reference to living persons, it meant "a Gothicist" (1812), that is, "an admirer of the Gothic style, especially in architecture." Modern use as an adjective in reference to a subculture style (typically with lower-case g-) is from 1986, short for Gothic in this sense.

By 1982, when the legendary Batcave club opened in London, the music press had begun to use the term gothic rock to describe the music and fandom around which a new postpunk subculture was forming. [Lauren M.E. Goodlad & Michael Bibby, "Goth: Undead Subculture," 2007]
Related entries & more 
Protestant (n., adj.)

as a noun, in the broadest sense, "member or adherent of a Christian body descended from the Reformation of the 16c. and repudiating papal authority," 1539, from German or French protestant, from Latin protestantem (nominative protestans), present participle of protestari (see protest (n.)).

Originally used of German princes and free cities who declared their dissent from ("protested") the decision of the Diet of Speyer (1529), which reversed the liberal terms allowed Lutherans in 1526.

When forced to make their choice between obedience to God and obedience to the Emperor, they were compelled to choose the former. [Thomas M. Lindsay, "A History of the Reformation," New York, 1910]

The word was taken up by the Lutherans in Germany (Swiss and French preferred Reformed). It became the general word for "adherents of the Reformation in Germany," then "member of any Western church outside the Roman (or Greek) communion;" a sense attested in English by 1553.

In the 17c., 'protestant' was primarily opposed to 'papist,' and thus accepted by English Churchmen generally; in more recent times, being generally opposed to 'Roman Catholic,' or ... to 'Catholic,' ... it is viewed with disfavour by those who lay stress on the claim of the Anglican Church to be equally Catholic with the Roman. [OED]

Often contemptuous shortened form Prot is from 1725, in Irish English. Related: Protestancy. Protestant (work) ethic (1926) is taken from Max Weber's work "Die protestantische Ethik und der 'Geist' des Kapitalismus" (1904). Protestant Reformation attested by 1680s.

Related entries & more 
case (n.1)

early 13c., "what befalls one; state of affairs," from Old French cas "an event, happening, situation, quarrel, trial," from Latin casus "a chance, occasion, opportunity; accident, mishap," literally "a falling," from cas-, past participle stem of cadere "to fall, sink, settle down, decline, perish" (used widely: of the setting of heavenly bodies, the fall of Troy, suicides), from PIE root *kad- "to fall."

The notion is of "that which falls" as "that which happens" (compare befall). From its general nature, the word has taken on widespread extended and transferred meanings. Meaning "instance, example" is from c. 1300. Meaning "actual state of affairs" is from c. 1400. In law, "an instance of litigation" (late 14c.); in medicine, "an instance of a disease" (late 14c.).

The grammatical sense, "one of the forms which make up the inflections of a noun" (late 14c.) also was in Latin, translating Greek ptōsis "declension," literally "a falling." "A noun in the nominative singular ..., or a verb in the present indicative ...,

is conceived as standing straight. Then it falls, or is bent, or

declines into various positions" [Gilbert Murray, "Greek Studies"]

U.S. slang meaning "person" (especially one peculiar or remarkable in any way) is from 1848. Meaning "incident or series of events requiring police investigation" is from 1838. In case "in the event" is recorded from mid-14c. Case-history is from 1879, originally medical; case-study "study of a particular case" is from 1879, originally legal; case-law "law as settled by previous court cases" is from 1861.

Related entries & more 
knave (n.)

late Old English cnafa "boy, male child; male servant," from Proto-Germanic *knabon- (source also of Old High German knabo "boy, youth, servant," German knabe "boy, lad"); it is also probably related to Old English cnapa "boy, youth, servant," Old Norse knapi "servant boy," Dutch knaap "a youth, servant," Middle High German knappe "a young squire," German Knappe "squire, shield-bearer." Original sense unknown; Klein suggests the prehistoric meaning might have been "stick, piece of wood." For pronunciation, see kn-.

Sense of "rogue, rascal" is first recorded c. 1200, presumably via sense evolution from "a menial" to "one of low birth," and the low character supposed to be characteristic of such a condition. But through Middle English it kept also its non-pejorative meaning, as in knave-child (Scottish knave-bairn) "male child." In playing cards, "the lowest court card," 1560s.

Previously, the English equivalent of the French valet was normally known as Knave, in the sense of 'serving-lad'. In the seventeenth century it came to be called Jack, from the name properly applied to the Knave of trumps at All Fours. All Fours being a low-class game, the use of 'Jack' for 'Knave' was long considered vulgar. ('He calls the Knaves Jacks!', remarks Estella contemptuously in Dickens's Great Expectations.) When indices came in, it was obviously preferable to use 'J' rather than 'Kn' to avoid confusion with 'K' for King. Jack has since become the normal title of the lowest court, though 'Knave' can still be heard. [David Parlett, "A History of Card Games," 1991]
Related entries & more 
debunk (v.)

"expose false or nonsensical claims or sentiments," 1923, from de- + bunk (n.2); apparently first used by U.S. novelist William Woodward (1874-1950), in his best-seller "Bunk;" the notion being "to take the bunk out of things." It got a boost from Harold U. Faulkner's "Colonial History Debunked" [Harper's Magazine, December 1925], which article itself quickly was debunked, and the word was in vogue in America in the mid-1920s. Related: Debunked; debunking.

Wets and Drys, Fundamentalists and Modernists, are busily engaged in debunking one another to the delight and edification of a public which divides its time between automobiling and listening-in. Is it art, or education, or religion that you prefer? You have only to get the right station and what you last heard about the matter will be cleverly debunked while you wait. [Carl Vernon Tower, "Genealogy 'Debunked," in Annual Reports of the Tower Genealogical Society, 1925]

It was, naturally, execrated in England.

The origin of to debunk is doubtless the same as that of American jargon in general — the inability of an ill-educated and unintelligent democracy to assimilate long words. Its intrusion in our own tongue is due partly to the odious novelty of the word itself, and partly to the prevailing fear that to write exact English nowadays is to be put down as a pedant and a prig. [letter to the editor, London Daily Telegraph, March 2, 1935, cited in Mencken, "The American Language"]
Related entries & more 

Page 32