"a survey, a summary," 1934, American English, from over- + view (n.). In 17c. it meant "inspection, supervision," but by late 19c. this became obsolete. As a verb, 1540s as "look (something) over or through;" 1560s as "view from a superior position;" both now rare or obsolete. The modern word seems to be a new formation; it was mentioned in "American Speech" (1934) as "now being worked as hard by educationalists as 'purposeful', 'challenge', 'objective', 'motivation', et al."
early 13c., "alteration;" mid-14c., "action of substituting one thing for another;" verbal noun from change (v.). Changing-room is by 1852, originally for miners, gunpowder-factory workers, etc.
[A]lso not any fires or smoking are to be allowed ; and, under no pretense whatsoever, is any lucifer match to be permitted on board ; and, to guard against the infringement of this order, the clothes with pockets in them are to be taken off in changing room, or examined before beginning the work. [from British navy regulations for loading and storing gunpowder, Office of Ordnance, June 5, 1852]
c. 1300 (late 12c. as a surname), polle, "hair of the head; piece of fur from the head of an animal," also (early 14c.) "head of a person or animal," from or related to Middle Low German or Middle Dutch pol "head, top." The sense was extended by mid-14c. to "person, individual" (by polls "one by one," of sheep, etc., is recorded from mid-14c.)
Meaning "collection or counting of votes" is recorded by 1620s, from the notion of "counting heads;" the sense of "the voting at an election" is by 1832. The meaning "survey of public opinion" is recorded by 1902. A poll tax, literally "head tax," is from 1690s. Literal use in English tends toward the part of the head where the hair grows.
late 14c., "to fix the mind upon for careful examination, meditate upon," also "view attentively, scrutinize; not to be negligent of," from Old French considerer (13c.) "reflect on, consider, study," from Latin considerare "to look at closely, observe," probably literally "to observe the stars," from assimilated form of com "with, together" (see con-) + sidus (genitive sideris) "heavenly body, star, constellation" (see sidereal).
Perhaps a metaphor from navigation, but more likely reflecting Roman obsession with divination by astrology. Tucker doubts the connection with sidus, however, because it is "quite inapplicable to desiderare," and suggests derivation instead from the PIE root of English side meaning "stretch, extend," and a sense for the full word of "survey on all sides" or "dwell long upon."
From 1530s as "to regard in a particular light." Related: Considered; considering.
late 14c., overloken, "to examine carefully, scrutinize, inspect," from over- + look (v.). Another Middle English sense was "to peer over the top of, survey from on high, view from a high place" (c. 1400).
These two literal senses have given rise to the two main modern meanings. The meaning "to look over or beyond and thus fail to see" (hence "to pass over indulgently") is via the notion of "to choose to not notice" and is attested from 1520s. The seemingly contradictory sense of "to watch over officially, keep an eye on, superintend" is from 1530s. Related: Overlooked; overlooking. In Shakespeare's day, overlooking also was a common term for "inflicting the evil eye on" (someone or something). Middle English had oure-loker (over-looker), meaning "a timekeeper in a monastery" (early 15c.).
c. 1300, "put (someone) to question in regard to knowledge, competence, or skill, inquire into qualifications or capabilities;" mid-14c., "inspect or survey (something) carefully, scrutinize, view or observe in all aspects with the purpose of forming a correct opinion or judgment," from Old French examiner "interrogate, question, torture," from Latin examinare "to test or try; consider, ponder," literally "to weigh," from examen "a means of weighing or testing," probably ultimately from exigere "demand, require, enforce," literally "to drive or force out," also "to finish, measure," from ex "out" (see ex-) + agere "to set in motion, drive, drive forward; to do, perform" (from PIE root *ag- "to drive, draw out or forth, move"). Legal sense of "question or hear (a witness in court)" is from early 15c. Related: Examined; examining.
early 15c., "act of looking into the distance, condition of facing something else or a certain direction," from Latin prospectus "distant view, look out; sight, faculty of sight," noun use of past participle of prospicere "look out on, look forward," from pro "forward" (see pro-) + specere "look at" (from PIE root *spek- "to observe").
The meaning "extensive view of the landscape, view of things within the reach of the eye" is from 1530s; transferred sense of "mental view or survey" is from 1620s. The meaning "that which is presented to the eye, scene" is from 1630s.
The sense of "person or thing considered promising" is from 1922, from the earlier sense of "expectation, ground of expectation," especially of advantage (1660s) on the notion of "looking forward," hence "anticipation." Hence prospects "things looked forward to." The meaning "a wide, long, straight street or avenue" is by 1866, in a Russian context, and thus often spelled prospekt.
late Old English plot "small piece of ground of defined shape," a word of unknown origin. The sense of "ground plan," and thus "map, chart, survey of a field, farm, etc." is from 1550s. Plat is a Middle English collateral form. The meaning "a secret, plan, fully formulated scheme" (usually to accomplish some evil purpose) is from 1580s, probably by accidental similarity to complot, from Old French complot "combined plan" (compare the sense evolution of plan), itself a word of unknown origin, perhaps a back-formation from compeloter "to roll into a ball," from pelote "ball." OED says "The usage probably became widely known in connexion with the 'Gunpowder Plot.' "
The meaning "set of events in a story, play, novel, etc." is from 1640s. Plot-line (n.) "main features of a story" is attested by 1940; earlier, in theater, "a sentence containing matter essential to the comprehension of the play's story" (1907).
Old English smæl "thin, slender, narrow; fine," from Proto-Germanic *smal- "small animal; small" (source also of Old Saxon, Danish, Swedish, Middle Dutch, Dutch, Old High German smal, Old Frisian smel, German schmal "narrow, slender," Gothic smalista "smallest," Old Norse smali "small cattle, sheep"), perhaps from a PIE root *(s)melo- "smaller animal" (source also of Greek melon, Old Irish mil "a small animal;" Old Church Slavonic malu "bad"). Original sense of "narrow" now almost obsolete, except in reference to waistline and intestines.
My sister ... is as white as a lilly, and as small as a wand. [Shakespeare, "Two Gentlemen of Verona," 1591]
Sense of "not large, of little size" developed in Old English. Of children, "young," from mid-13c. Meaning "inferior in degree or amount" is from late 13c. Meaning "trivial, unimportant" is from mid-14c. Sense of "having little property or trade" is from 1746. That of "characterized by littleness of mind or spirit, base, low, mean" is from 1824. As an adverb by late 14c.
Small fry, first recorded 1690s of little fish, 1885 of insignificant people. Small potatoes "no great matter, something petty or insignificant" is attested by 1924; small change "something of little value" is from 1902; small talk "chit-chat, trifling conversation" (1751) first recorded in Chesterfield's "Letters." Small world as a comment upon an unexpected meeting of acquaintances is recorded from 1895. Small-arms, indicating those capable of being carried in the hand (contrasted to ordnance) is recorded from 1710.