c. 1300, "giving light, shining, luminous;" also "not turbid; transparent, allowing light to pass through; free from impurities; morally pure, guiltless, innocent;" of colors, "bright, pure;" of weather or the sky or sea, "not stormy; mild, fair, not overcast, fully light, free from darkness or clouds;" of the eyes or vision, "clear, keen;" of the voice or sound, "plainly audible, distinct, resonant;" of the mind, "keen-witted, perspicacious;" of words or speech, "readily understood, manifest to the mind, lucid" (an Old English word for this was sweotol "distinct, clear, evident"); of land, "cleared, leveled;" from Old French cler "clear" (of sight and hearing), "light, bright, shining; sparse" (12c., Modern French clair), from Latin clarus "clear, loud," of sounds; figuratively "manifest, plain, evident," in transferred use, of sights, "bright, distinct;" also "illustrious, famous, glorious" (source of Italian chiaro, Spanish claro), from PIE *kle-ro-, from root *kele- (2) "to shout."
The prehistoric sense evolution to light and color involves an identification of the spreading of sound and the spreading of light (compare English loud, used of colors; German hell "clear, bright, shining," of pitch, "distinct, ringing, high").
Also in Middle English "beautiful, magnificent, excellent" (c. 1300); of possession or title, "unrestricted, unconditional, absolute," early 15c. Of complexion, from c. 1300. Sense of "free from encumbrance," later largely nautical, developed c. 1500. Meaning "obvious to the senses" is from 1835. Clear-sighted is from 1580s (clear-eyed is from 1520s); clear-headed is from 1709. For coast is clear see clear (v.).
"having a surface so smooth as to cause sliding," c. 1500, slipperie, with -y (2) + Middle English sliper (adj.) "not affording firm footing or hold," from Old English slipor "slippery, having a smooth surface" (see slip (v.)).
The metaphoric sense of "deceitful, untrustworthy, that cannot be depended upon or trusted" is from 1550s. Alternative slippy is attested from 1540s. Related: Slipperily; slipperiness. Middle English also had slipperness, slipornysse, (early 15c., in medical writing, "looseness of the bowels"), directly from sliper. Scott (1821) has slippiness.
In a figurative sense, slippery slope "course beginning with a small step but leading to disaster or destruction" is attested by 1844. Slippery slope as a figure of peril, or a difficult path up, is by 1825.
The slippery elm (1748) of eastern North America (also moose or red elm) is so called for its mucilaginous inner bark, used officinally as a demulcent.
"Stand back ! if you would not bring certain destruction on her and yourself. Do you not see that the chasm is opening wider?" exclaimed Rupert Wyvill, returning almost ere Rosalind had missed him, pushing Edred aside as he spoke, who, half maddened at the sight of his cousin's risk, was on the point of leaping down from the brow of the cliff on the crumbling, slippery slope—an act which would have ensured the destruction of all. [Miss Ellen Pickering, "Who Shall be Heir?" 1840]
Old English feallan (class VII strong verb; past tense feoll, past participle feallen) "to drop from a height; fail, decay, die," from Proto-Germanic *fallanan (source also of Old Frisian falla, Old Saxon fallan, Dutch vallen, Old Norse falla, Old High German fallan, German fallen, absent in Gothic).
These are from PIE root *pol- "to fall" (source also of Armenian p'ul "downfall," Lithuanian puolu, pulti "to fall," Old Prussian aupallai "finds," literally "falls upon").
The meaning "come suddenly to the ground" is from late Old English. Of darkness, night, from c. 1600; of land sloping from 1570s; of prices from 1570s. Of empires, governments, etc., from c. 1200. Of the face or countenance from late 14c. The meaning "to be reduced" (as temperature) is from 1650s. That of "die in battle" is from 1570s. The meaning "to pass casually (into some condition)" is from early 13c.
To fall in "take place or position" is from 1751. To fall in love is attested from 1520s; to fall asleep is late 14c. (Middle English also used slide asleep, etc.). To fall down is early 13c. (a-dun follon); to fall behind is from 1856. Fall through "fail, come to nothing" is from 1781. To fall for something is from 1903.
To fall out is by mid-13c. in a literal sense; military use is from 1832. The meaning "have a disagreement, begin to quarrel" is attested from 1560s (to fall out with "quarrel with" is from late 15c.).
Middle English sēn, from Old English seon (Anglian sean) "be or become aware of by means of the eye; look, behold;" also "perceive mentally, understand; experience; visit (a place); inspect" (contracted class V strong verb; past tense seah, past participle sewen), from Proto-Germanic *sehwanan (source also of Old Saxon, Old High German sehan, Middle High German, German sehen, Old Frisian sia, Middle Dutch sien, Old Norse sja, Gothic saihwan).
This is reconstructed to be from PIE root *sekw- (2) "to see." That PIE root often was said to be probably identical with *sekw- (1) "to follow," which produced words for "say" in Greek and Latin, and also words for "follow" (such as Latin sequor), but "opinions differ in regard to the semantic starting-point and sequences" [Buck]. Thus see might mean, etymologically, "follow with the eyes" (and in some languages extending to "speak, say, tell"). But OED finds this "involves a hypothetical sense-development which it is not easy to accept with confidence," and Boutkan also doubts the connection and gives the word "No certain PIE etymology."
It is attested by late Old English as "be able to see with the eyes, have the faculty of sight, not be blind."
As the sense of sight affords far more complete and definite information respecting external objects than any other of the senses, mental perceptions are in many (perh. in all) languages referred to in visual terms, and often with little or no consciousness of metaphor. [OED]
English see has been used in many of these senses since early Middle English: "foresee; behold in the imagination or in a dream," also "to recognize the force of (a demonstration)," all c. 1200.
It is attested by c. 1300 as "ensure, make sure" (something is so, someone does something). To see to is by late 14c. as "be attentive to, take special care about" (also "to look at"); hence "attend to, arrange for, bring about as a result." See to it "take special care; see that it be done" is from late 15c.
The sense of "escort" (as in see you home) is attested c. 1600 in Shakespeare. The meaning "to receive as a visitor" is attested from c. 1500. The wagering sense of "equal a bet, accept by staking a similar sum" is by 1590s. Used in phrases expressing comparative and superlative (best I've ever seen) from early 14c.
Imperative use of see! "look! behold!" is by early 14c. Emphatic expression see here is attested from early 15c.; probably the notion is "see, here is ...;" but the modern use of it as "a brusque form of address used to preface an order," etc. [OED] is by 1897 in schoolboy talk. The qualifying expression as far as I can see is attested from 1560s.
Let me see as a statement expressing consideration when the speaker is trying to recall something is recorded from 1510s. See you as a casual farewell is attested by 1891 (see you soon; probably short for hope to see you soon). To see something in (someone, etc.) "perceive good or attractive qualities in" is by 1832.
"very roughly built house or cabin," 1878, American English and Canadian English, originally in reference to temporary dwellings made by homesteaders while securing a claim, a word of unknown origin. Perhaps it is from Mexican Spanish jacal (from Nahuatl (Aztecan) xacalli "wooden hut"). Or perhaps it is a back-formation from dialectal English shackly "shaky, rickety" (1843), a derivative of shack, a dialectal variant of shake (v.). Another theory derives shack from ramshackle.
Yet another derives it from the verb shack meaning "to hibernate," as a bear or other animal, which is also a variant of shake (v.) in the sense of "be shed or fall," used of grain fallen from the ear and available for food for hogs, etc. (1520s); hence "the act or right of sending pigs or poultry out to 'run shack' after a harvest." Also compare shake-down "impromptu bed made upon loose straw" (1730).
The slang meaning "house" is attested by 1910. In early radio enthusiast slang, it was the word for a room or office set aside for wireless use, 1919, perhaps from earlier U.S. Navy use (1917).
The perhaps-related verb in the "hibernate" sense by 1891 in the U.S. West was used in reference to men who "hole up" for the winter; it is attested from 1927 as "to put up for the night;" the phrase shack up "cohabit" is recorded by 1935 (Zora Neale Hurston).
Middle English reden, ireden, "to counsel, advise," also "to read," from Old English rædan, gerædan (West Saxon), redan, geredan (Anglian) "to advise, counsel, persuade; discuss, deliberate; rule, guide; arrange, equip; forebode; to read (observe and apprehend the meaning of something written), utter aloud (words, letters, etc.); to explain; to learn through reading; to put in order."
This is reconstructed to be from Proto-Germanic *redan, source also of Old Norse raða, Old Frisian reda, Dutch raden, Old High German ratan, German raten "to advise, counsel, interpret, guess," from PIE root *re- "to reason, count."
Cognate words in most modern Germanic languages still mean "counsel, advise" (compare rede). Old English also had a related noun ræd, red "advice," and read is connected to riddle (n.1) via the notion of "interpret." Century Dictionary notes that the past participle should be written red, as it formerly was, and as in lead/led. Middle English past participle variants include eradde, irad, ired, iræd, irudde.
The sense-transference to "interpret and understand the meaning of written symbols" is said to be unique to English and (perhaps under Old English influence) Old Norse raða. Most languages use a word rooted in the idea of "gather up" as their word for "read" (such as French lire, from Latin legere).
Sense of "make out the character of (a person)" is attested from 1610s. Musical sense of "perform (at first sight) from the notes" is by 1792. To read up "systematically study" is from 1842; read out (v.) "expel by proclamation" (Society of Friends) is from 1788. Read-only in computer jargon is recorded from 1961.
apparently an early Middle English merger of three related Old English nouns, flota "boat, fleet," flote "troop, flock," flot "body of water, sea;" all from the source of float (v.). The early senses were the now-mostly-obsolete ones of the Old English words: "state of floating" (early 12c.), "swimming" (mid-13c.); "a fleet of ships; a company or troop" (c. 1300); "a stream, river" (early 14c.). From c. 1300 as an attachment for buoyancy on a fishing line or net; early 14c. as "raft." Meaning "platform on wheels used for displays in parades, etc." is from 1888, probably from earlier sense of "flat-bottomed boat" (1550s). As a type of fountain drink, by 1915.
Float.—An ade upon the top of which is floated a layer of grape juice, ginger ale, or in some cases a disher of fruit sherbet or ice cream. In the latter case it would be known as a "sherbet float" or an "ice-cream float." ["The Dispenser's Formulary: Or, Soda Water Guide," New York, 1915]
Few soda water dispensers know what is meant by a "Float Ice Cream Soda." This is not strange since the term is a coined one. By a "float ice cream soda" is meant a soda with the ice cream floating on top, thus making a most inviting appearance and impressing the customer that you are liberal with your ice cream, when you are not really giving any more than the fellow that mixes his ice cream "out of sight." [The Spatula, Boston, July, 1908]
mid-13c., "cry out; call for, summon, invoke; ask for, demand, order; give a name to, apply by way of designation," from Old Norse kalla "cry loudly, summon in a loud voice; name, call by name," from Proto-Germanic *kall- (source also of Middle Dutch kallen "speak, say, tell," Dutch kallen "to talk, chatter," Old High German kallon "speak loudly, call"), from PIE root *gal- "to call, shout." Related: Called; calling.
Old English cognate ceallian "to shout, utter in a loud voice" was rare, the usual word being clipian (source of Middle English clepe, yclept). Old English also had hropan hruofan, cognate of German rufen.
The "heads-or-tails" coin-toss sense is from 1801; the card-playing sense "demand that the hands be shown" is from 1670s; the specific poker sense of "match or raise a bet" is by 1889. The meaning "make a short stop or visit" (Middle English) was literally "stand at the door and call." The "attempt a telephone connection with" sense is from 1882.
To call for "demand, require" is from 1530s (earlier in this sense was call after, c. 1400). To call (something) back "revoke" is from 1550s. To call (something) off "cancel" is by 1888; earlier call off meant "summon away, divert" (1630s). To call (someone) names is from 1590s. To call out someone to fight (1823) corresponds to French provoquer. To call it a night "go to bed" is from 1919.
Middle English slepen, from Old English slæpan "to be or fall asleep; lie or remain dormant or inactive" (class VII strong verb; past tense slep, past participle slæpen), from Proto-Germanic *slēpanan (source also of Old Saxon slapan, Old Frisian slepa, Middle Dutch slapen, Dutch slapen, Old High German slafen, German schlafen, Gothic slepan "to sleep"), from PIE *sleb- "to be weak, sleep," which perhaps is connected to root *sleg- "be slack, be languid," the source of slack (adj.). Sleep with "do the sex act with" is in Old English:
Gif hwa fæmnan beswice unbeweddode, and hire mid slæpe ... [Laws of King Alfred, c. 900]
Related: Slept; sleeping. There is no cognate form of the verb in Scandinavian. The usual PIE root is *swep-. The meaning "to rest as in the grave" is from Old English. In reference to parts of the body, "be numb through stoppage of circulation," late Old English. The sense of "provide or afford sleeping accommodations for" is by 1848, American English.
To sleep in "remain in bed in the morning" is by 1827; to sleep out "spend the night in the open" is by 1852. To sleep (something) off "remove the effects of by sleeping" is from 1760 (sleep out in the same sense is from 1550s). To sleep on some matter "postpone decision until the following day" is from 1510s, perhaps suggesting guidance in a dream. To sleep around "have casual sex with multiple partners" is attested by 1928.
Middle English derk, later dark, from Old English deorc "without light, lacking light or brightness (especially at night), obscure, gloomy;" figuratively "sad, cheerless; sinister, wicked," from Proto-Germanic *derkaz (source also of Old High German tarchanjan "to hide, conceal"), which is of uncertain etymology. For vowel change, see marsh.
Application to colors, "not radiating or reflecting much light," is from late 14c. Of complexion, "not fair," from early 14c. Figurative sense of "obscure, not easily understood" is from early 13c.; that of "sullen, sad" is from 1590s. Meaning "concealed, secret" is from late 14c. Dark Continent "Africa" (1828) combines several figurative senses (earliest references are in missionary publications). Theater slang for "closed" is from 1916.
Dark Ages "benighted time in history, period of ignorance" is attested by 1739; the specific focus on the centuries of the early Middle Ages in Europe, from the fall of Rome to the revival of secular literature, is from 1830s, from dark in a sense of "characterized by ignorance, backward in learning, void of intellectual light" (late 14c.).
Dark horse "competitor for honors or office about whom nothing certain is known, or whose identity is at first concealed," especially, in U.S., politics, "one who is unexpectedly brought forward as a candidate in a convention," 1842, is an image from horse racing, of horses whose performances or capabilities are not generally known, in which dark is used in its figurative sense of "unknown."
Moonraker is called a "dark horse"; that is neither his sire nor dam is known. ["Pierce Egan's Book of Sports," London, 1832]