"stem of a plant," early 14c., probably a diminutive (with -k suffix) of stale "one of the uprights of a ladder, handle, stalk," from Old English stalu "wooden part" (of a tool or instrument), from Proto-Germanic *stalla- (source also of Old English steala "stalk, support," steall "place"), from PIE *stol-no-, suffixed form of *stol-, variant of root *stel- "to put, stand, put in order," with derivatives referring to a standing object or place. Of similar structures in animals from 1826.
masc. proper name; Old Testament patriarch, son of Isaac and Rebecca and father of the founders of the twelve tribes, from Late Latin Iacobus, from Greek Iakobos, from Hebrew Ya'aqobh, literally "one that takes by the heel; a supplanter" (Genesis xxv.26), a derivative of 'aqebh "heel." The most popular name for boys born in the U.S. from 1999 through 2008. Jacob's ladder, in various transferred uses from 1733, is from Genesis xxviii.12. In Spanish as Jago, Iago, also Diego; with alterations as Italian Giacomo, James, and (contracted) Spanish Jaime.
parasitic insect infesting human hair and skin, Old English lus, from Proto-Germanic *lus (source also of Old Norse lus, Middle Dutch luus, Dutch luis, Old High German lus, German Laus), from PIE *lus- "louse" (source also of Welsh lleuen "louse").
The meaning "obnoxious person" is from 1630s. The plural lice (Old English lys) shows effects of i-mutation. Grose ["Dictionary of the Vulgar Tongue," 1785] has louse ladder "A stitch fallen in a stocking."
"the galaxy as seen in the night sky," late 14c., loan-translation of Latin via lactea; see galaxy. Formerly in Middle English also Milken-Way and Milky Cercle. The ancients speculated on what it was; some guessed it was a vast assemblage of stars (Democrates, Pythagoras, even Ovid); the question was settled when Galileo, using his telescope, reported that the whole of it was resolvable into stars. Old native names for it include Jacob's Ladder, the Way to St. James's, and Watling Street (late 14c.).
also schlimazel, etc., "born loser, unlucky person," 1948, from Yiddish phrase shlim mazel "rotten luck," from Middle High German slim "crooked" (see slim (adj.)) + Hebrew mazzal "luck" (as in mazel tov). British slang shemozzle "an unhappy plight" (1889) probably is from the same source. Compare schlemiel.
A shlemiel is the fellow who climbs to the top of a ladder with a bucket of paint and then drops it. A shimazl is the fellow on whose head the bucket falls. [Rep. Stephen J. Solarz, D.-N.Y., quoted 1986; there are many and older versions of the quip]
twelfth letter, Roman form of Greek lambda, which is from the Semitic lamed. The shape of the Roman letter is an early one in Greek, adopted in Italic before it was superseded in Greek by the inverted form which became the Greek lambda. In some words (ladder, lady, laughter, leap, listen, lid) it represents Old English hl-. As "building or extension in the shape of an L" from 1843. As an "alphabetic abbreviation" [OED] of elevated railway, from 1881 (compare el). The Three Ls in nautical navigation were "lead" (for sounding), "latitude" and "lookout."
"optical illusion of objects reflected in a sheet of water in hot, sandy deserts," 1800, in translations of French works, from French mirage (1753), from se mirer "to be reflected," from Latin mirare (see mirror (n.)). Or the French word is from Latin mirus "wonderful" (see miracle). The similarity to Arabic mi'raj has been noted, but the usual sense of that word is "ladder, stairs; climb, ascent," and the resemblance appears to be coincidental. The standard Arabic for "a desert mirage" is sarāb. The figurative sense of "deceptiveness of appearance, a delusive seeming" is by 1812. The phenomenon is produced by excessive bending of light rays through layers of air of different densities, producing distorted, displaced, or inverted images.
"morbid fear of heights," 1887, medical Latin, from Greek akros "at the end, topmost" (from PIE root *ak- "be sharp, rise (out) to a point, pierce") + -phobia "fear." Coined by Italian physician Dr. Andrea Verga in a paper describing the condition, from which Verga himself suffered.
In this paper, read somewhat over a year ago at the congress of alienists at Pavia, the author makes confession of his own extreme dread of high places. Though fearless of the contagion of cholera, he has palpitations on mounting a step-ladder, finds it unpleasant to ride on the top of a coach or to look out of even a first-story window, and has never used an elevator. [abstract of Verga's report in American Journal of Psychology, November 1888]
1879 as colloquial shortening of Metropolitan (n.) "member of the New York Metropolitan Base-Ball Club."
THE baseball season has opened, and along with the twittering of the birds, the budding of the trees, and the clattering of the truck, comes the news that the "Mets were beaten yesterday 17 to 5." It is an infallible sign of spring when the Mets are beaten 17 to 5, and we invariably put on our thinner clothing when we read that refreshing, though perennial news in the papers. [Life magazine, May 12, 1887]
Used variously to abbreviate other proper names beginning with Metropolitan, such as "Metropolitan Museum of Art" (N.Y.), by 1919; "Metropolitan Railway" (stock), by 1890; "Metropolitan Opera Company (N.Y.), by 1922. Related: Mets.
Proto-Indo-European root meaning "to lean."
It forms all or part of: acclivity; anticline; clemency; client; climate; climax; cline; clinic; clinical; clino-; clitellum; clitoris; decline; declivity; enclitic; heteroclite; incline; ladder; lean (v.); lid; low (n.2) "small hill, eminence;" matroclinous; patroclinous; polyclinic; proclitic; proclivity; recline; synclinal; thermocline.
It is the hypothetical source of/evidence for its existence is provided by: Sanskrit srayati "leans," sritah "leaning;" Old Persian cay "to lean;" Lithuanian šlyti "to slope," šlieti "to lean;" Latin clinare "to lean, bend," clivus "declivity," inclinare "cause to bend," declinare "bend down, turn aside;" Greek klinein "to cause to slope, slant, incline;" Old Irish cloin "crooked, wrong;" Middle Irish cle, Welsh cledd "left," literally "slanting").