Etymology
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hardscrabble (n.)
in popular use from c. 1826 as a U.S. colloquial name for any barren or impoverished place "where a livelihood may be obtained only under great hardship and difficulty" [OED]; from hard (adj.) + noun from scrabble (v.). Noted in 1813 as a place-name in New York state; first recorded in journals of Lewis and Clark (1804) as the name of a prairie. Perhaps the original notion was "vigorous effort made under great stress," though this sense is recorded slightly later (1812). As an adjective by 1845.
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polecat (n.)

"small, dark-brown, northern European predatory quadruped of the weasel family," noted as a chicken-thief and for its strong, offensive smell, early 14c., pol-cat, from cat (n.); the first element is perhaps Anglo-French pol, from Old French poule "fowl, hen" (see pullet (n.)); so called because it preys on poultry [Skeat]. The other alternative is that the first element is from Old French pulent "stinking." Originally the European Putorius foetidus; the name was extended to related North American skunks by 1680s.

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cheat (n.)

late 14c., "forfeited property, reversion of property to a lord," from cheat (v.) or from escheat (n.). Meaning "a fraud committed by deception, a deceptive act" is from 1640s; earlier, in thieves' jargon, it meant "a stolen thing" (late 16c.), and earlier still "dice" (1530s). It also was used in canting slang generally, as an affix, for any "thing" (e.g. cackling-chete "a fowl," crashing-chetes "the teeth"). Meaning "a swindler, a person who cheats" is from 1660s; from 1680s as "anything which deceives or is intended to deceive."

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parson (n.)

late 13c., person (late 12c. as a surname), "parish priest" (later often applied to a clergyman in general), from Anglo-French and Old French persone "curate, parson, holder of Church office" (12c.), from Medieval Latin persona "parson" (see person). The reason for the ecclesiastical use is obscure; it might refer to the "person" legally holding church property, or it may be an abbreviation of persona ecclesiae "person of the church." The shift to a spelling with -a- begins late 13c. in surnames. Related: Parsonic.  Parson's nose "the rump of a fowl" is attested by 1834.

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poodle (n.)

dog breed, 1808, from German Pudel, shortened form of Pudelhund "water dog," from Low German Pudel "puddle" (compare pudeln "to splash;" see puddle (n.)) + German Hund "hound" (see hound (n.)). Probably so called because the dog originally was used to hunt water fowl, but in England and America it was from the start mainly an undersized fancy or toy dog with long, curly hair. Figurative sense of "lackey" (chiefly British) is attested from 1907. Poodle-faker, British army slang for "ingratiating male," is from 1902, likely euphemistic.

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blancmange (n.)
"jelly-like preparation in cookery," late 14c., from Old French blancmengier (13c.), literally "white eating," originally a dish of fowl minced with cream, rice, almonds, sugar, eggs, etc.; from blanc "white" (also used in Old French of white foods, such as eggs, cream, also white meats such as veal and chicken; see blank (adj.)) + mangier "to eat" (see manger). Attempts were made nativize it (Chaucer has blankemangere); French pronunciation is evident in 18c. variant blomange, and "the present spelling is a half attempt at restoring the French" [OED].
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mustang (n.)

"small, half-wild horse of the American prairie and pampas," 1808, from Mexican Spanish mestengo "animal that strays" (16c.), from Spanish mestengo "wild, stray, ownerless," literally "belonging to the mesta," an association of cattle ranchers who divided stray or unclaimed animals that got "mixed" with the herds, from Latin mixta "mixed," fem. past participle of miscere "to mix" (from PIE root *meik- "to mix").

Said to be influenced by the Spanish word mostrenco "straying, wild," which is probably from mostrar, from Latin monstrare "to show." Though now feral, the animals are descended from tame horses brought to the Americas by the Spaniards. The brand of automobile was introduced by Ford in 1962.

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prey (n.)

mid-13c., preie, "animal hunted for food, that which is seized by any carnivorous animal to be devoured" (also, figuratively, of souls captured by Satan, etc.), also "goods taken in war," from Old French preie "booty, animal taken in the chase" (mid-12c., Modern French proie), from Latin praeda "booty, plunder; game hunted."

This is from earlier praeheda, literally "something seized before," from PIE *prai-heda-; for the first element see prae-; the second element is related to the second element in prehendere "to grasp, seize" (from PIE root *ghend- "to seize, to take").

The meaning "act of preying or seizing upon anything" is from early 14c.; bird of prey is from late 14c. (fowl of prey is mid-14c.).

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chick (n.)

"the young of the domestic hen," also of some other birds, mid-14c., probably originally a shortening of chicken (n.).

Extended 14c. to human offspring, "person of tender years" (often in alliterative pairing chick and child) and thence used as a term of endearment. As slang for "young woman" it is first recorded 1927 (in "Elmer Gantry"), supposedly from African-American vernacular. In British use in this sense by c. 1940; popularized by Beatniks late 1950s (chicken in this sense is by 1860). Sometimes c. 1600-1900 chicken was taken as a plural, chick as a singular (compare child/children) for the domestic fowl.

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