c. 1300, "coldness of an object to the touch, relative absence of heat," from cold (adj.). Meaning "sensation produced by loss of heat from the body or some part of it" is from c. 1200.
Sense of "indisposition involving catarrhal inflammation of the mucous membranes of the nose or throat" is from 1530s, so called because the symptoms resemble those of exposure to cold; compare cold (n.) in earlier senses "indisposition or disease caused by excessive exposure to cold" (early 14c.), "chills of intermittent fever" (late 14c.). To be left out in the cold in the figurative sense is from 1861.
late 14c., reume, "watery fluid or humid matter in the eyes, nose, or mouth" (including tears, saliva, mucous discharge from the nostrils), from Old French reume "a head-cold" (13c., Modern French rhume) and directly from Latin rheuma, reuma, from Greek rheuma "discharge from the body, flux; a stream, current, flood, a flowing," literally "that which flows," from rhein "to flow" (from PIE root *sreu- "to flow").
In old medicine it was conceived as draining from the higher to lower parts of the body and causing ailments if out of balance. Also from late 14c. as "a head-cold, catarrh." The -h- was restored in early Modern English.
late 14c., fleem, fleume, "viscid mucus, discharge from a mucous membrane of the body," also the name of one of the four bodily humors, from Old French fleume (13c., Modern French flegme), from Late Latin phlegma, one of the four humors of the body, from Greek phlegma "morbid, clammy bodily humor caused by heat;" literally "inflammation, flame, fire, heat," from phlegein "to burn," related to phlox (genitive phlogos) "flame, blaze," from PIE *bhleg- "to shine, flash," from root *bhel- (1) "to shine, flash, burn."
The modern form of the word is attested by c. 1660. In old physiology it was the "cold, moist" humor of the body and a predominance of it was believed to cause dullness, lethargy, and apathy, hence phlegmatic.
mid-14c., ambre grice "ambergris; perfume made from ambergris," from the phrase in Old French (13c.) and Medieval Latin, from Arabic 'anbar "ambergris, morbid secretion of sperm-whale intestines used in perfumes and cookery" (see ambergris), which was introduced in the West at the time of the Crusades. Arabic -nb- often is pronounced "-mb-."
In Europe, the word amber was extended to fossil resins from the Baltic (late 13c. in Anglo-Latin; c. 1400 in English), and this has become the main sense as the use of ambergris has waned. Perhaps the perceived connection is that both were found washed up on seashores. Or perhaps it is a different word entirely, of unknown origin. Formerly they were distinguished as white or yellow amber for the Baltic fossil resin and ambergris "gray amber;" French distinguished the two substances as ambre gris and ambre jaune.
Remarkable for its static electricity properties, Baltic amber was known to the Romans as electrum (compare electric). Amber as an adjective in English is from c. 1500; as a color name 1735. In the Old Testament it translates Hebrew chashmal, a shining metal.
early 15c., from Old French ambre gris "gray amber," "a wax-like substance of ashy colour, found floating in tropical seas, a morbid secretion from the intestines of the sperm-whale. Used in perfumery, and formerly in cookery" [OED], via Medieval Latin from Arabic 'anbar (see amber).
Its origin was known to Constantinus Africanus (obit c. 1087), but it was a mystery in Samuel Johnson's day, and he records nine different theories; "What sort of thing is Ambergrease?" was a type of a puzzling question beyond conjecture. King Charles II's favorite dish was said to be eggs and ambergris [Macauley, "History of England"].
PUT on your silks ; and piece by piece
Give them the scent of Amber-Greece :
[Herrick, "To His Mistresses"]
Praise is like ambergris; a little whiff of it, by snatches, is very agreeable; but when a man holds a whole lump of it to his nose, it is a stink and strikes you down. [Pope, c. 1720]
French gris is from Frankish *gris or some other Germanic source (cognates: Dutch grijs, Old High German gris; see gray (adj.)).
late 14c., "a beaver," from Old French castor (13c.), from Latin castor "beaver," from Greek kastor "beaver," perhaps literally "he who excels," and thus identical with the name of one of the divine twins (with Pollux), worshipped by women in ancient Greece as a healer and preserver from disease (see Castor).
It has been assumed that the hero's name was given to the animal because he was a noted healer and the odorous reddish-brown secretions of the inguinal sacs of the animal (Latin castoreum), were used medicinally in ancient times, especially for women's diseases. But the animal did not live in Greece in classical times (the closest beavers were north of the Black Sea), and the name probably was borrowed from another language, perhaps influenced by the hero's name. The Greek word replaced the native Latin word for "beaver" (fiber).
In English, castor is attested in the secretion sense from late 14c. Modern castor oil is so-called by 1746; it is made from seeds of the plant Ricinus communis but supposedly possesses the laxative qualities (and taste) of beaver juice.
c. 1300, melancolie, malencolie, "mental disorder characterized by sullenness, gloom, irritability, and propensity to causeless and violent anger," from Old French melancolie "black bile; ill disposition, anger, annoyance" (13c.), from Late Latin melancholia, from Greek melankholia "sadness," literally (excess of) "black bile," from melas (genitive melanos) "black" (see melano-) + khole "bile" (see cholera).
Old medicine attributed mental depression to unnatural or excess "black bile," a secretion of the spleen and one of the body's four "humors," which help form and nourish the body unless altered or present in excessive amounts. The word also was used in Middle English for "sorrow, gloom" (brought on by love, disappointment, etc.), by mid-14c. As belief in the old physiology of humors faded out in the 18c. the word remained with a sense of "a gloomy state of mind," particularly when habitual or prolonged.
The Latin word also is the source of Spanish melancolia, Italian melancolia, German Melancholie, Danish melankoli, etc. Old French variant malencolie (also in Middle English) is by false association with mal "sickness."
When I go musing all alone,
Thinking of divers things fore-known,
When I build castles in the air,
Void of sorrow and void of fear,
Pleasing myself with phantasms sweet,
Methinks the time runs very fleet.
All my joys to this are folly,
Naught so sweet as melancholy.
When I lie waking all alone,
Recounting what I have ill done,
My thoughts on me then tyrannise,
Fear and sorrow me surprise,
Whether I tarry still or go,
Methinks the time moves very slow.
All my griefs to this are jolly,
Naught so sad as melancholy.
[Robert Burton, from "Anatomy of Melancholy," 17c.]