c. 1300, corde, "a string or small rope composed of several strands twisted or woven together; bowstring, hangman's rope," from Old French corde "rope, string, twist, cord," from Latin chorda "string of a musical instrument, cat-gut," from Greek khorde "string, catgut, chord, cord," from PIE root *ghere- "intestine."
Also from c. 1300 as "string of a musical instrument." From c. 1400 as "a tendon or muscle." Figurative sense of "anything which binds or restrains" is from late 14c. Meaning "raised, cord-like rib on the surface of cloth" is from 1776. As a measure of wood of 128 cubic feet (eight feet long, four feet high and wide) first recorded 1610s, so called because it was measured with a cord of rope.
In the timber regions of the American West, skids laid down one after another to form a road were "a poor thing for pleasure walks, but admirably adapted for hauling logs on the ground with a minimum of friction" ["Out West" magazine, October 1903]. A skid as something used to facilitate downhill motion led to figurative phrases such as hit the skids "go into rapid decline" (1909), and see skid row.
"thick, tenacious, resinous substance obtained from tar or turpentine, wood tar," late 12c., pich, piche, from Old English pic "pitch," from a Germanic borrowing (compare Old Saxon and Old Frisian pik, Middle Dutch pik, Dutch pek, Old High German pek, German Pech, Old Norse bik) of Latin pix (genitive picis) "pitch" (source of Old French poiz), from PIE root *pik- "pitch" (source also of Greek pissa (Attic pitta), Lithuanian pikis, Old Church Slavonic piklu "pitch," Russian peklo "scorching heat, hell").
The English word was improperly applied to sap from pine bark from late 14c. As a type of blackness from c. 1300. Pitch-black "as black as pitch" is attested from 1590s; pitch-dark "as dark as pitch, very dark" from 1680s.
late 14c., "track cut through a wood," later "long, narrow ditch" (late 15c.), from Old French trenche "a slice, cut, gash, slash; defensive ditch" (13c., Modern French tranche), from trenchier "to cut, carve, slice," possibly from Vulgar Latin *trincare, from Latin truncare "to maim, mutilate, cut off," from truncus "maimed, mutilated," also "trunk of a tree, trunk of the body," of uncertain origin, probably originally "mutilated, cut off," and perhaps from PIE root *tere- (2) "cross over, pass through, overcome."
Trenches for military protection are first so called c. 1500. Trench warfare first attested 1918. Trench-coat first recorded 1916, a type of coat worn by British officers in the trenches during World War I.
1852, "a rocking chair," American English, agent noun from rock (v.1). Middle English had rokker, "nurse charged with rocking a cradle" (early 14c.). In sense of "one of the curved pieces of wood that makes a chair or cradle rock" it dates from 1787. Meaning "one who enjoys rock music" (opposed to mod (n.1)) is recorded from 1963, from rock (v.2).
Slang off (one's) rocker "crazy" is attested by 1897 according to OED; a widely reprinted 1903 newspaper column in U.S. identified it as British slang; the image is perhaps mechanical. To get (off) one's rocker seems to have been used earlier in U.S. baseball slang for "get busy, get active in a game" (1895) and does suggest the rocking-chair.
Old English col "charcoal; live coal, piece of wood or other combustible substance, either burning or having been burned," from Proto-Germanic *kula(n) (source also of Old Frisian kole, Middle Dutch cole, Dutch kool, Old High German chol, German Kohle, Old Norse kol), from PIE root *g(e)u-lo- "live coal" (source also of Irish gual "coal").
Meaning "solid mineral consisting of fossilized carbon, combustible and used as fuel," is from mid-13c. The thing itself is mentioned 370 B.C.E. by Theophrastus in his treatise "On Stones" under the name lithos anthrakos (see anthrax). Traditionally good luck, coal was given as a New Year's gift in England, said to guarantee a warm hearth for the coming year.
The phrase drag (or rake) over the coals was a reference to the treatment meted out to heretics by Christians. To carry coals "do dirty work," also "submit to insult" is from 1520s.
To carry coals to Newcastle "add to that of which there is already an abundance, do unnecessary labor " (c. 1600) is a local variant on an ancient class of expression: Latin had in litus harenas fundere "pour sand on the beach," in silvam ligna ferre "carry wood to the woods;" Greek glauk eis Athenas "owls to Athens." Newcastle is in the midst of a great coal-producing region. The ancient view is not necessarily the modern one. A historian, noting that the medieval English exported manufactured cloth to the Low Countries, where weaving was a major industry, writes, "it is always sensible to send coals to Newcastle or owls to Athens if you can be sure of underselling the locals" [George D. Painter, "William Caxton," 1976]
Spruce seems to have been a generic term for commodities brought to England by Hanseatic merchants (especially beer, boards and wooden chests, and leather), and the tree thus was believed to be particular to Prussia, which for a time was figurative in England as a land of luxuries. Compare spruce (adj.).
As a distinct species of evergreen tree from 1731. Nearly all pines have long, soft needles growing in groups of two (Scotch) to five (white); spruce and fir needles grow singly. Spruce needles are squarish and sharp; fir needles are short and flat. Cones of the fir stand upright; cones of a spruce hang before falling.
c. 1300, "an evil female spirit afflicting men (or horses) in their sleep with a feeling of suffocation," compounded from night + mare (n.3) "goblin that causes nightmares, incubus." The meaning shifted mid-16c. from the incubus to the suffocating sensation it causes. Sense of "any bad dream" is recorded by 1829; that of "very distressing experience" is from 1831.
Cognate with Middle Dutch nachtmare, German Nachtmahr. An Old English word for it was niht-genga. An 11c. gloss gives, for Latin Echo, Anglo-Saxon wudumær, a "wood-mere."
In the Anglo-Saxon superstitions, the Echo was supposed to be a spirit which dwelt in the wilds and mocked people who passed there, as the night-mare tormented people in bed. [Thomas Wright, "Anglo-Saxon and Old English Vocabularies," 1884]
"pointed pin of wood, metal, or other material," mid-15c., pegge, from Middle Dutch pegge "peg," or a similar Low German word (Low German pigge "peg," German Pegel "gauge rod, watermark," Middle Dutch pegel "little knob used as a mark," Dutch peil "gauge, watermark, standard"); of uncertain origin; perhaps from PIE *bak- "staff used as support" (see bacillus).
To be a square peg in a round hole (or the reverse) "be inappropriate for one's situation" is attested by 1836; to take someone down a peg "humble, lower the esteem of" is from 1580s, but the original literal sense is uncertain (most of the sensibly plausible candidates are not attested until centuries later). Peg leg "wooden leg of the simplest form" is attested from 1765.
Old English brand, brond "fire, flame, destruction by fire; firebrand, piece of burning wood, torch," and (poetic) "sword," from Proto-Germanic *brandaz "a burning" (source also of Old Norse brandr, Old High German brant, Old Frisian brond "firebrand; blade of a sword," German brand "fire"), from PIE root *gwher- "to heat, warm."
Meaning "iron instrument for branding" is from 1828. Meaning "mark made by a hot iron" (1550s), especially on a cask, etc., to identify the maker or quality of its contents, broadened by 1827 to marks made in other ways, then to "a particular make of goods" (1854). Brand-name is from 1889; brand-loyalty from 1961. Old French brand, brant, Italian brando "sword" are from Germanic (compare brandish).