1838, American English, apparently originally the name of some kind of alcoholic drink, of unknown origin. It has joined that class of words (such as dingus, doohickey, gadget, gizmo, thingumabob) which are conjured up to supply names for items whose proper names are unknown or not recollected. Used at various periods for "money," "a professional tramp," "a muffin," "male genitalia," "a Chinese," "an Italian," "a woman who is neither your sister nor your mother," and "a foolish person in authority." Popularized in sense of "foolish person" by U.S. TV show "All in the Family" (1971-79), though this usage dates from 1905. In typography, by 1912 as a printer's term for ornament used in headline or with illustrations.
About 10:30 o'clock there was a snap of breaking metal, and the machine was stopped. It was discovered that the gilderfluke had come into contact with the dudad which operates the dingus on the diaphason, thereby letting the Johnson bar oscillate as it were between Alpha and Omega, thus preventing the dingbat from percolating the perihelion of the gazabo, and causing the dofunny on the parallelogram to drop into oblivion. [from an Illinois newspaper's account of a production delay caused by a Linotype machine breakdown, reprinted in Inland Printer, Chicago, February 1903]
one of the Dinosauria, a class of extinct Mesozoic reptiles often of enormous size, 1841, coined in Modern Latin by Sir Richard Owen, from Greek deinos "terrible" (see dire) + sauros "lizard" (see -saurus). Figurative sense of "person or institution not adapting to change" is from 1952. Related: Dinosaurian.
c. 1300, dinen, "eat the chief meal of the day, take dinner;" also in a general sense "to eat," from Old French disner "to dine, eat, have a meal" (Modern French dîner), originally "take the first meal of the day," from stem of Gallo-Roman *desjunare "to break one's fast," from Vulgar Latin *disjejunare, from dis- "undo, do the opposite of" (see dis-) + Late Latin jejunare "to fast," from Latin iejunus "fasting, hungry, not partaking of food" (see jejune).
Transitive sense of "give a dinner to" is from late 14c. To dine out "take dinner away from home" is by 1758.
name for various native boats in the East Indies, 1810, from Hindi dingi "small boat," perhaps from Sanskrit drona-m "wooden trough," related to dru-s "wood, tree," from PIE root *deru- "be firm, solid, steadfast," with specialized senses "wood, tree" and derivatives referring to objects made of wood. The spelling with -h- is to indicate a hard -g-.
"deep dell or secluded hollow, usually wooded," c. 1200, of unknown origin; a dialectal word until it entered literary use 17c. The Middle English Compendium compares Old English ding "dungeon," Old High German tunc "cellar," Old Norse dyngja "lady's bower."
"any unspecified or unspecifiable object; something one does not know the name of or does not wish to name," by 1874, U.S. slang, from Dutch dinges, literally "thing" (see thing).
1788, dinkie, "neat, trim, dainty, small," from Scottish dialectal dink "finely dressed, trim" (c. 1500), which is of unknown origin. Modern sense of "small, tiny" is by 1859. Related: Dinkiness.
"trivial, old-fashioned, worthless," 1913 (from 1912 as a noun, "antiquated or worthless object"), said to be carnival slang and imitative of the sound of banjo music at parades [Barnhart]; compare ricky-tick "old-fashioned jazz" (1938). But early records suggest otherwise unless there are two words. The earliest senses seem to be as a noun, "maltreatment," especially robbery:
So I felt and saw that I was robbed and I went to look after an officer. I found an officer on the corner of Twenty-fifth street and Sixth avenue. I said, "Officer, I have got the rinky-dink." He knew what it meant all right. He said, "Where? Down at that wench house?" I said, "I guess that is right." [testimony dated New York August 9, 1899, published 1900]
And this chorus from the "Yale Literary Magazine," Feb. 1896:
Rinky dinky, rinky dink,
Stand him up for another drink.
derogatory for "Vietnamese," 1969, U.S. military slang, of uncertain origin.