early 14c., polishen "make smooth or glossy" by friction or coating (of the surface of wood, stone, metal, etc.), from Old French poliss-, present participle stem of polir (12c.) "to polish, decorate, see to one's appearance," from Latin polire "to polish, make smooth; decorate, embellish;" figuratively "refine, improve," said by Watkins to be from PIE root *pel- (5) "to thrust, strike, drive," via the notion of fulling cloth, but there are other guesses.
The figurative sense of "free from coarseness, to refine" in English is recorded from mid-14c. Compare polite. Related: Polished; polishing. To polish off "finish" is by 1829 in pugilism slang, probably from the application of a coat of polish as the final step in a piece of work.
mid-15c. (late 12c. as a surname), a variation or alteration of Middle English rother, from Old English roðor "paddle, oar," from Proto-Germanic *rothru- (source also of Old Frisian roðer, Middle Low German roder, Middle Dutch roeder, Dutch roer, Old High German ruodar, German Ruder "oar"), from *ro- "steer" (from PIE root *ere- "to row") + suffix *-þra, used to form neutral names of tools.
The original sense is obsolete. The meaning "broad, flat piece of wood attached to the stern of a boat and guided by a tiller for use in steering" is from c. 1300. For shift of -th- to -d- compare burden (n.1), murder (n.); simultaneous but opposite movement turned -d- to -th- in father (n.), etc.
Figuratively, "the smallest possible quantity," from late 14c. From early 15c. in English as the smallest unit of weight (originally the weight of a plump, dry grain of wheat or barley from the middle of the ear). From late 14c as "roughness of surface; a roughness as of grains." In reference to wood, "quality due to the character or arrangement of its fibers," 1560s; hence, against the grain (1650), a metaphor from carpentry: cutting across the fibers of the wood is more difficult than cutting along them.
Earliest sense of the word in English was "scarlet dye made from insects" (early 13c.), a sense also in the Old French collateral form graine; see kermes for the evolution of this sense, which was frequent in Middle English; also compare engrain. In Middle English grain also could mean "seed of flowers; pip of an apple, grape, etc.; a berry, legume, nut." Grain alcohol attested by 1854.
The same word for the same stuff entered Portuguese and Spanish (brasil) and Italian (brasile). The South American country was named Santa Cruz by its "discoverer," Pedro Alvarez Cabral (1500), but within a decade on maps it began to be called terra de brasil "red-dyewood land" because it produced a valuable red dyewood similar to East Indian type, and that name predominated from 1550s.
Complicating matters is Hy Brasil, a name attested since early 14c. for a legendary island or rock in the North Atlantic off the west coast of Ireland. It is so-called perhaps from the "red dyewood" word by association with Pliny's Insulae Purpurariae ("Purple Islands") in the Atlantic off the coast of Morocco.
evergreen tree of temperate Europe and Asia, Old English iw, eow "yew," from Proto-Germanic *iwo- (source also of Middle Dutch iwe, Dutch ijf, Old High German iwa, German Eibe, Old Norse yr), from PIE *ei-wo- (source also of Old Irish eo, Welsh ywen "yew"), perhaps a suffixed form of root *ei- (2) "reddish, motley, yellow."
OED says French if, Spanish iva, Medieval Latin ivus are from Germanic (and says Dutch ijf is from French); others posit a Gaulish ivos as the source of these. Lithuanian ieva likewise is said to be from Germanic. The tree symbolizes both death and immortality, being poisonous as well as long-lived. Reference to its wood as well-suited to making bows dates from c. 1400.
1803, "to cut off in lumps," from junk (n.1). The meaning "to throw away as trash, to scrap" is from 1908. Related: Junked; junking.
New settlers (who should always be here as early in the spring as possible) begin to cut down the wood where they intend to erect their first house. As the trees are cut the branches are to be lopped off, and the trunks cut into lengths of 12 or 14 feet. This operation they call junking them; if they are not junked before fire is applied, they are much worse to junk afterwards. [letter dated Charlotte Town, Nov. 29, 1820, in "A Series of Letters Descriptive of Prince Edward Island," 1822]
"horizontal bar passing from one post or support to another," c. 1300, from Old French raille, reille "bolt, bar," from Vulgar Latin *regla, from Latin regula "rule, straight piece of wood," diminutive form related to regere "to straighten, guide" (from PIE root *reg- "move in a straight line").
In U.S. use, "A piece of timber, cleft, hewed, or sawed, inserted in upright posts for fencing" [Webster, 1830]. Used figuratively for thinness from 1872. By 1830s as "iron or steel bar or beam used on a railroad to support and guide the wheels." To be off the rails "out of the normal or proper condition" in a figurative sense is from 1848, an image from railroads.
First formulated as a system by Burq in 1848, and hence often called Burqism, it has been recently revived by Charcot. Simple disks of various metals are employed in contact with the external parts of the body, from which different therapeutic results are claimed. Other observers assert that all the phenomena described as following the application of metals may be produced by disks of wood, and that whatever curative results are attained are due to mental effects, rather than to any special virtues emanating from the metals themselves. [Century Dictionary, 1895]
Old English Easterdæg, from Eastre (Northumbrian Eostre), from Proto-Germanic *austron-, "dawn," also the name of a goddess of fertility and spring, perhaps originally of sunrise, whose feast was celebrated at the spring equinox, from *aust- "east, toward the sunrise" (compare east), from PIE root *aus- (1) "to shine," especially of the dawn.
Bede says Anglo-Saxon Christians adopted her name and many of the celebratory practices for their Mass of Christ's resurrection. Almost all neighboring languages use a variant of Latin Pascha to name this holiday (see paschal).
Easter egg is attested by 1825, earlier pace egg (1610s). Easter bunny is attested by 1904 in children's lessons; Easter rabbit is by 1888; the paganish customs of Easter seem to have grown popular c. 1900; before that they were limited to German immigrants.
If the children have no garden, they make nests in the wood-shed, barn, or house. They gather colored flowers for the rabbit to eat, that it may lay colored eggs. If there be a garden, the eggs are hidden singly in the green grass, box-wood, or elsewhere. On Easter Sunday morning they whistle for the rabbit, and the children imagine that they see him jump the fence. After church, on Easter Sunday morning, they hunt the eggs, and in the afternoon the boys go out in the meadows and crack eggs or play with them like marbles. Or sometimes children are invited to a neighbor's to hunt eggs. [Phebe Earle Gibbons, "Pennsylvania Dutch," Philadelphia, 1882]
device to make an air current, Old English fann (West Saxon) "a basket or shovel for winnowing grain" (by tossing it in the air), from Latin vannus, perhaps related to ventus "wind" (see wind (n.1)), or from PIE root *wet- (1) "to blow" (also "to inspire, spiritually arouse;" see wood (adj.)). Old English did not have a letter -v-, hence the change in the initial consonant.
The chaff, being lighter, would blow off. Sense of "device for moving air" first recorded late 14c.; the hand-held version is first attested 1550s. A fan-light (1819) was shaped like a lady's fan. The automobile's fan-belt is from 1909. Fan-dance is from 1872 in a Japanese context; by 1937 as a type of burlesque performance.