also epigramme, "short poem or verse which has only one subject and finishes by a witty or ingenious turn of thought," mid-15c., from Old French épigramme, from Latin epigramma "an inscription," from Greek epigramma "inscription (especially in verse) on a tomb, public monument, etc.; a written estimate," from epigraphein "to write on, inscribe" (see epigraph). "The term was afterward extended to any little piece of verse expressing with precision a delicate or ingenious thought" [Century Dictionary]. Related: Epigrammatist.
c. 1300 (mid-13c. as a surname), sotil, "penetrating; ingenious; refined" (of the mind); "sophisticated, intricate, abstruse" (of arguments), from Old French sotil, soutil, subtil "adept, adroit; cunning, wise; detailed; well-crafted" (12c., Modern French subtil), from Latin subtilis "fine, thin, delicate, finely woven;" figuratively "precise, exact, accurate," in taste or judgment, "fine, keen," of style, "plain, simple, direct," from sub "under" (see sub-) + -tilis, from tela "web, net, warp of a fabric," from PIE root *teks- "to weave," also "to fabricate." According to Watkins, the notion is of the "thread passing under the warp" as the finest thread.
From early 14c. in reference to things, "of thin consistency;" in reference to craftsmen, "cunning, skilled, clever;" Depreciative sense "insidious, treacherously cunning; deceitful" is from mid-14c. Material senses of "not dense or viscous, light; pure; delicate, thin, slender; fine, consisting of small particles" are from late 14c. sotil wares were goods sold in powdered form or finely ground. Partially re-Latinized in spelling, and also by confusion with subtile.
Old English clæne "free from dirt or filth, unmixed with foreign or extraneous matter; morally pure, chaste, innocent; open, in the open," of beasts, "not forbidden by ceremonial law to eat," from West Germanic *klainja- "clear, pure" (source also of Old Saxon kleni "dainty, delicate," Old Frisian klene "small," Old High German kleini "delicate, fine, small," German klein "small;" English preserves the original Germanic sense), perhaps from PIE root *gel- "bright, gleaming" (source also of Greek glene "eyeball," Old Irish gel "bright"). But Boutkan doubts the IE etymology and that the "clean" word and the "small" word are the same.
"Largely replaced by clear, pure in the higher senses" [Weekley], but as a verb (mid-15c.) it has largely usurped what once belonged to cleanse. Meaning "whole, entire" is from c. 1300 (clean sweep in the figurative sense is from 1821). Sense of "not lewd" (as in good, clean fun) is from 1867; that of "not carrying anything forbidden" is from 1938; that of "free of drug addiction" is from 1950s. To come clean "confess" is from 1919, American English.
"long and loose-jointed," by 1812, from Scottish and Northern English gang (v.) "to walk, go," which is a survival of Old English gangan, which is related to gang (n.). The form of the word is that of a present-participle adjective from a frequentative verb (as in fondling, trampling), but no intermediate forms are known. The sense extension would seem to be via some notion involving looseness in walking.
GANGLING. Tall, slender, delicate, generally applied to plants. Warw. [James O. Halliwell, "A Dictionary of Archaic and Provincial Words," 1846]
mid-15c., melwe, of fruit, "soft, sweet, juicy" (especially from ripeness), perhaps a variant of merow "soft, tender," from Old English mearu "soft, tender." General sense of "of ripe age or quality, perfected by maturing," from 1590s. Of color by 1560s; of sound, "soft, rich, or delicate to the perception," by 1660s. Meaning "slightly drunk, rendered good-humored or genial by intoxication" is from 1680s. Modern slang sense of "feeling good after smoking marijuana" is by 1946. Mellow yellow "banana peel smoked in an effort to get high" is from 1967. Related: Mellowly; mellowness.
"having or showing delicate gradations in tone, etc.," 1896, past-participle adjective from the verb nuance (q.v.).
The new co-operative history of English literature which the University of Cambridge is now publishing prints "genre" without italics. And it even permits one contributor—and a contributor who is discussing Shakespeare!—to say that something is delicately "nuanced." Is there now an English verb "to nuance"? It is terrible to think of the bad language the scholars of the venerable English university might have used if "nuanced" had been first discovered in the text of an American author. [Scribner's Magazine," January 1911]
"slight or delicate degree of difference in expression, feeling, opinion, etc.," 1781, from French nuance "slight difference, shade of color" (17c.), from nuer "to shade," from nue "cloud," from Gallo-Roman *nuba, from Latin nubes "a cloud, mist, vapor," from PIE *sneudh- "fog" (source also of Avestan snaoda "clouds," Latin obnubere "to veil," Welsh nudd "fog," Greek nython, in Hesychius "dark, dusky").
According to Klein, the French secondary sense is a reference to "the different colors of the clouds." In reference to color or tone, "a slight variation in shade," by 1852; of music, by 1841 as a French term in English.
late 14c., twiteren, in reference to birds, of imitative origin (compare Old High German zwizziron, German zwitschern, Danish kvidre, Old Swedish kvitra). The noun meaning "condition of tremulous excitement" is attested from 1670s. The microblogging service with the 140-character limit was introduced in 2006. The following is considered an unrelated word of obscure origin:
TWITTER. 1. "That part of a thread that is spun too small." Yarn is said to be twined to twitters, when twined too small, S. Hence, to twitter yarn, to spin it unequally, A. Bor. Ray.
2. It is transferred to any person or thing that is slender or feeble. It is said of a lank delicate girl: "She is a mere twitter," S. [Jamieson, "Etymological Dictionary of the Scottish Language," Edinburgh, 1808]