c. 1200, diggen, "to make a ditch or other excavation," a word of uncertain origin, perhaps related to dike and ditch, either via Anglo-French diguer, from Old French digue "dike" (which is ultimately from Proto-Germanic *dīk-, from PIE root *dheigw- "to stick, fix") or directly from an unrecorded Old English verb. The older native words were deolfan (see delve), grafan (see grave (v.)).
Transitive meanings "form by excavation, make by digging," also "obtain or remove by excavation" are from late 14c.; figurative sense of "discover by effort or search" is from early 15c. Meaning "to penetrate" is from mid-15c.; transitive sense of "cause to penetrate, thrust or force in" is by 1885.
In 19c. U.S. student slang it meant "study hard, give much time to study" (1827); the 20c. slang sense of "understand" is recorded by 1934 in African-American vernacular. Both probably are based on the notion of "excavate." A slightly varied sense of "appreciate" emerged by 1939. The strong past participle dug appeared in 16c. but is not etymological.
also yegg-man, 1901, a word popular in the first decade of the 20th century and meaning vaguely "hobo burglar; safe-breaker; criminal beggar."
The great majority [of the Chicago criminal population] are what certain detectives call "Yegg-men," which is a term, by the way, that the detectives would do well to define. As far as I can discover it means tramp-thieves, but the average tramp seldom uses the word. Hoboes that break safes in country post-offices come under the Yegg-men classification. [McClure's Magazine, February 1901]
Popularized by the Pinkerton agency detectives. The 1900 "Proceedings of the 26th annual convention of the American Bankers' Association," whose members were protected by the Pinkerton's National Detective Agency, reported a letter dated Nov. 23 or 24, 1899, returning $540, taken earlier that year, to the Scandinavian-American Bank of St. Paul, Minn., noting that the thieves had been so hounded by detectives that they gave up the gains and advised the bank to advertise that it was a member of the American Bankers Association, because "the American Bankers Association is too tough for poor 'grafters.'" The letter supposedly was signed "John Yegg," but this was said to be a pseudonym and the report identified the man arrested later in the case as William Barrett.
early 15c., invencioun, "finding or discovering of something," from Old French invencion (13c.) and directly from Latin inventionem (nominative inventio) "faculty of invention," noun of action from past-participle stem of invenire "to come upon, find; find out; invent, discover, devise; ascertain; acquire, get, earn," from in- "in, on" (from PIE root *en "in") + venire "to come" (from a suffixed form of PIE root *gwa- "to go, come").
The sense of "thing invented" is first recorded 1510s; that of "act or process of finding out how to make or do" is from 1530s.
Invention is applied to the contrivance and production of something, often mechanical, that did not before exist, for the utilization of powers of nature long known or lately discovered by investigation. Discovery brings to light what existed before, but was not known. [Century Dictionary]
The earliest sense of the word in Middle English was "devised method of organization" (c. 1400), a sense now obsolete. The meaning "finding or discovery of something" is preserved in Invention of the Cross, Church festival (May 3) celebrating the reputed finding of the Cross of the Crucifixion by Helena, mother of Constantine, in 326 C.E. The related classical Latin word for "a device, contrivance" was inventum.
Old English dumb, of persons, "mute, silent, refraining from speaking or unable to speak," from Proto-Germanic *dumbaz "dumb, dull," which is perhaps from PIE *dheubh- "confusion, stupefaction, dizziness," from root *dheu- (1) "dust, mist, vapor, smoke," also expressing related notions of "defective perception or wits." The -b has probably been silent since 13c. Related: Dumbly; dumber; dumbest. Of animals, "lacking in speech," hence "without intellect" (c. 1200).
The fork in meaning probably comes via the notion of "not responding through ignorance or incomprehension." The Old English, Old Saxon (dumb), Gothic (dumbs), and Old Norse (dumbr) forms of the word meant only "mute, speechless;" in Old High German (thumb) it meant both this and "stupid," and in Modern German this latter became the only sense (the sense of "mute, speechless" being expressed by stumm). Meaning "foolish, ignorant" was occasional in Middle English, but the modern use in this sense (since 1823) seems to be from influence of German dumm, especially in Pennsylvania German.
dumb-cake ..., n. A cake made in silence on St Mark's Eve, with numerous ceremonies, by maids, to discover their future husbands. [Century Dictionary]
Applied to silent contrivances, hence dumb-waiter. Dumb ox "stupid man" is by 1756; dumb-bunny "stupid person" is college slang from 1922; dumb blonde "woman seen as incapable of comprehending anything complicated" is by 1936.
1831, "iron rolled in large, flat plates for use in making steam boilers," from boiler + plate (n.). In newspaper (and now information technology) slang, the sense of "unit of writing that can be used over and over without change" is attested by 1887. The connecting notion probably is the permanence of the prepared plate compared to set type: From the 1870s to the 1950s, publicity items were cast or stamped in metal ready for the printing press and distributed to country newspapers as filler. An early provider was the American Press Association (1882). The largest supplier later was Western Newspaper Union.
An older name for it was plate-matter "type cast in a number of stereotype plates for insertion in different newspapers" (1878). Plate (n.) is attested by 1824 in printing as "a cast of a page of composed movable types."
WITHIN the past ten years, "plate matter" has become more and more popular among out-of-town papers, and the more enterprising are discarding the ready prints and are using plate matter instead. For a long time there was a prejudice against "Boiler Plates," but editors of small, and even of prosperous papers, began to discover that better matter was going out in the plates than they could afford, individually, to pay for. It was found that the reading public did not care, so long as the reading columns were bright and newsy, whether they were set up in the local office or in New York. ["The Journalist Souvenir," 1887]
c. 1200, prēven, pruven, proven "to try by experience or by a test or standard; evaluate; demonstrate in practice," from Old French prover, pruver "show; convince; put to the test" (11c., Modern French prouver), from Latin probare "to make good; esteem, represent as good; make credible, show, demonstrate; test, inspect; judge by trial" (source also of Spanish probar, Italian probare, and English probe), from probus "worthy, good, upright, virtuous."
This is from PIE *pro-bhwo- "being in front," from *pro-, extended form of root *per- (1) "forward," hence "in front of," + root *bhu- "to be," source also of Latin fui "I have been," futurus "about to be;" Old English beon "to be;" see be.
From early 13c. as "render certain, put out of doubt," also "establish the validity or authenticity of a will, etc." By c. 1300 as "test and find worthy, virtuous, false, etc.," also "find out, discover, ascertain; prove by argument." By mid-14c. as "check the accuracy of." The meaning "be found to be (a hero, coward, etc.) by experience or trial" is by late 14c.
The word had many more senses and broader application in Middle English than Modern English: "to experience; to strive, endeavor; act, accomplish; thrive, succeed." Also in Middle English in a now-obsolete sense of "approve, sanction, praise" (c. 1300; compare approve). Related: Proved; proven; proving. Proving ground "place used for firing cannons for making ballistics tests and testing powder" is by 1837.