c. 1200, piler, "a column or columnar mass, narrow in proportion to height, either weight-bearing or free-standing," from Old French piler "pillar, column, pier" (12c., Modern French pilier) and directly from Medieval Latin pilare, from Latin pila "pillar, stone barrier," a word of unknown etymology. The figurative sense of "prop or support of an institution or community" is recorded from early 14c. Related: Pillared.
In medieval architecture often made so as to give the appearance of several shafts around a central core; "by architects often distinguished from column, inasmuch as it may be of any shape in section, and is not subordinated to the rules of classic architecture" [Century Dictionary].
Phrase pillar to post "from one thing to another without apparent or definite purpose" is attested from c. 1600, late 15c. as post to pillar, mid-15c. as pillar and post; but the exact meaning is obscure. Earliest references seem to allude to tennis, but post and pillar is recorded as the name of a game of some sort c. 1450. The theory that the expression is from pillar as the raised ground at the center of a manège ring around which a horse turns is unlikely because that sense seem to date only to 18c.
The Pillars of Hercules are the two hills on opposite sides of the Straits of Gibraltar, Abyla in Africa and Calpe in Europe, said to have been torn asunder by Hercules.
late 13c., sugre, from Old French sucre "sugar" (12c.), from Medieval Latin succarum, from Arabic sukkar, from Persian shakar, from Sanskrit sharkara "ground or candied sugar," originally "grit, gravel" (cognate with Greek kroke "pebble"). The Arabic word also was borrowed in Italian (zucchero), Spanish (azucar, with the Arabic article), and German (Old High German zucura, German Zucker), and its forms are represented in most European languages (such as Serbian cukar, Polish cukier, Russian sakhar).
Its Old World home was India (Alexander the Great's companions marveled at the "honey without bees") and it remained exotic in Europe until the Arabs began to cultivate it in Sicily and Spain; not until after the Crusades did it begin to rival honey as the West's sweetener. The Spaniards in the West Indies began raising sugar cane in 1506; first grown in Cuba 1523; first cultivated in Brazil 1532. The reason for the -g- in the English word is obscure (OED compares flagon, from French flacon). The pronunciation shift from s- to sh- is probably from the initial long vowel sound syu- (as in sure).
As a type of chemical compound from 1826. Slang "euphemistic substitute for an imprecation" [OED] is attested from 1891. As a term of endearment, first recorded 1930. Sugar-cane is from 1560s. Sugar-maple is from 1731. Sugar loaf was originally a moulded conical mass of refined sugar (early 15c.); now obsolete, but sense extended 17c. to hills, hats, etc. of that shape.
Old English dweorh, dweorg (West Saxon), duerg (Mercian), "very short human being, person much below ordinary stature, whether of proportionate parts or not," also "supernatural being of subhuman size," from Proto-Germanic *dweraz (source also of Old Frisian dwerch, Old Saxon dwerg, Old High German twerg, German Zwerg, Old Norse dvergr), perhaps from PIE *dhwergwhos "something tiny," but with no established cognates outside Germanic.
Also used by c. 1200 of an animal or plant much below the ordinary size of its species." The use of dwarf in the Germanic mythological sense, "a diminished and generally deformed being, dwelling in rocks and hills and skilled in working metals," seems to have faded after Middle English and been revived after c. 1770 from German.
Whilst in this and other ways the dwarfs do at times have dealings with mankind, yet on the whole they seem to shrink from man; they give the impression of a downtrodden afflicted race, which is on the point of abandoning its ancient home to new and more powerful invaders. There is stamped on their character something shy and something heathenish, which estranges them from intercourse with christians. They chafe at human faithlessness, which no doubt would primarily mean the apostacy from heathenism. In the poems of the Mid. Ages, Laurin is expressly set before us as a heathen. It goes sorely against the dwarfs to see churches built, bell-ringing ... disturbs their ancient privacy; they also hate the clearing of forests, agriculture, new fangled pounding-machinery for ore. ["Teutonic Mythology," Jakob Grimm, transl. Stallybrass, 1883]
The shift of the Old English guttural at the end of the word to modern -f is typical (compare enough, draft) and begins to appear early 14c. In Middle English it also was dwerþ, dwerke. Old English plural dweorgas became Middle English dwarrows, later leveled down to dwarfs. The use of dwarves for the legendary race was popularized by J.R.R. Tolkien. As an adjective, from 1590s.
The use of giant and dwarf in reference to stars of the highest and lowest luminosity is attested by 1914, said to have been suggested by Danish astronomer Ejnar Hertzsprung, (1873-1967); hence red dwarf (attested by 1922), white dwarf, black dwarf "dead and lightless star" (1966).