ball game of eastern origin resembling field hockey played on horseback, 1872, Anglo-Indian polo, from Balti (Tibetan language of the Indus valley) polo "ball," related to Tibetan pulu "ball." An ancient game in south Asia, first played in England at Aldershot, 1871. Water polo is from 1876 (in early versions players sometimes paddled about on barrels or in canoes). Polo shirt (1892) originally was a kind worn by polo players.
"bottom of a sleeve," mid-14c., cuffe "hand covering, mitten, glove," perhaps from Medieval Latin cuffia, cuphia "head covering," which is of uncertain origin, perhaps ultimately from Greek.
Sense of "band around the sleeve" is first attested 1520s; sense of "turned-up hem of trousers" is by 1896. Meaning "a fetter for the wrist" is from 1660s. Adverbial phrase off the cuff "extemporaneously" is attested by 1938, American English colloquial, suggesting an actor or speaker reading from notes jotted on his shirt sleeves rather than reciting learned lines. Cuff-links (also cufflinks) is from 1887.
late Old English, "act of giving way and falling down" (a sense now obsolete), from Latin ruina "a collapse, a rushing down, a tumbling down" (source also of Old French ruine "a collapse," Spanish ruina, Italian rovina), which is a derivative of ruere "to rush, fall violently, collapse" (from PIE *reue- (2) "to smash, knock down, tear out, dig up;" see rough (adj.)).
The sense of "descent from a state of prosperity, degradation, downfall or decay of a person or society" is from late 14c. The general meaning "violent or complete destruction" (of anything), "a profound change so as to unfit a thing for use" (of one's principles, one's shirt, etc.) is by 1670s; the sense of "that which causes destruction or downfall" is from early 15c. The meaning "dishonor," of a woman, is from 1620s. Ruins "remains of a decayed building or town" is from mid-15c.; the same sense was in the Latin plural noun.
by c. 1200 as an emphatic form of Old English of (see of), employed in the adverbial use of that word. The prepositional meaning "away from" and the adjectival sense of "farther" were not firmly fixed in this variant until 17c., but once they were they left the original of with the transferred and weakened senses of the word. Meaning "not working" is from 1861.
Off the cuff "extemporaneously, without preparation" (1938) is from the notion of speaking from notes written in haste on one's shirt cuffs. In reference to clothing, off the rack (adj.) "not tailored, not made to individual requirements, ready-made" is by 1963, on the notion of buying it from the rack of a clothing store; off the record "not to be publicly disclosed" is from 1933; off the wall "crazy" is 1968, probably from the notion of a lunatic "bouncing off the walls" or else in reference to carom shots in squash, handball, etc.
"poor and poorly educated Southern U.S. white person, cracker," attested 1830 in a specialized sense ("This may be ascribed to the Red Necks, a name bestowed upon the Presbyterians in Fayetteville" — Ann Royall, "Southern Tour I," p.148), from red (adj.1) + neck (n.).
According to various theories, red perhaps from anger, or from pellagra, but most likely from mule farmers' outdoors labor in the sun, wearing a shirt and straw hat, with the neck exposed. Compare redshanks, old derogatory name for Scots Highlanders and Celtic Irish (1540s), from their going bare-legged.
It turns up again in an American context in 1904, again from Fayetteville, in a list of dialect words, meaning this time "an uncouth countryman" ["Dialect Notes," American Dialect Society, vol. ii, part vi, 1904], but seems not to have been in widespread use in the U.S. before c. 1915. In the meantime, it was used from c. 1894 in South Africa (translating Dutch Roinek) as an insulting Boer name for "an Englishman."
Another common Boer name for an Englishman is "redneck," drawn from the fact that the back of an Englishman's neck is often burnt red by the sun. This does not happen to the Boer, who always wears a broad-brimmed hat. [James Bryce, "Impressions of South Africa," London, 1899]
Old English læppa (plural læppan) "skirt or flap of a garment," from Proto-Germanic *lapp- (source also of Old Frisian lappa, Old Saxon lappo, Middle Dutch lappe, Dutch lap, Old High German lappa, German Lappen "rag, shred," Old Norse leppr "patch, rag"), of uncertain origin.
Sense of "lower front part of a shirt or skirt" led to that of "upper legs of seated person" (c. 1300). Used figuratively ("bosom, breast, place where someone or something is held and cherished") from late 14c., as in lap of luxury (which is first recorded 1802). To drop or dump something in someone's lap "shift a burden" is from 1962. From 15c.-17c. the word (often in plural) was a euphemism for "female pudendum," but this is not the source of lap dance, which is first recorded 1993.
To lap dance, you undress, sit your client down, order him to stay still and fully clothed, then hover over him, making a motion that you have perfected by watching Mister Softee ice cream dispensers. [Anthony Lane, review of "Showgirls," New Yorker, Oct. 16, 1995]
Lap-clap was old slang for "an act of coition" (c. 1600), in warning expressions to youth often paired with lip-clip "a kiss." Also compare slang Lapland "the society of women."
1844, from berserk (n.) "Norse warrior" (by 1835), an alternative form of berserker, a word which was introduced (as berserkar) by Sir Walter Scott in "The Pirate" (1822), from Old Norse berserkr (n.) "raging warrior of superhuman strength." It is probably from *ber- "bear" + serkr "shirt," thus literally "a warrior clothed in bearskin" (see bear (n.) + sark). Thus not, as Scott evidently believed, from Old Norse berr "bare, naked" and meaning "warrior who fights without armor."
Thorkelin, in the essay on the Berserkir, appended to his edition of the Kristni Saga, tells that an old name of the Berserk frenzy was hamremmi, i.e., strength acquired from another strange body, because it was anciently believed that the persons who were liable to this frenzy were mysteriously endowed, during its accesses, with a strange body of unearthly strength. If, however, the Berserk was called on by his own name, he lost his mysterious form, and his ordinary strength alone remained. [Notes and Queries, Dec. 28, 1850]
Perhaps later writers mistook the -r for an agent-noun suffix. The picture is further complicated because it has the form of the Old Norse plural, and English berserker sometimes is plural. The adjectival use probably grew from such phrases as berserk frenzy, or as a title (Arngrim the Berserk).
"type of neck-cloth worn usually by men," 1650s, from French cravate (17c.), from Cravate, literally "Croatian," from German Krabate, from Serbo-Croatian Hrvat "a Croat" (see Croat). Cravats came into fashion 1650s in imitation of linen scarves worn by the Croats or Crabats, 17th-century light cavalry forces who fought on the side of the Catholic League in the Thirty Years' War. The name in this context was not an ethnic label as much as a generic designation for light cavalry from the Hapsburg Military Frontier, which included Croats, Hungarians, Serbs, Wallachians, Poles, Cossacks and Tatars.
When first introduced, it was commonly of lace, or of linen edged with lace. ... The modern cravat is rather a necktie, passed once round the neck, and tied in front in a bow, or, as about 1840 and earlier (when the cravat consisted of a triangular silk kerchief, usually black), twice round the neck, in imitation of the stock. Formerly, when starched linen cravats were worn, perfection in the art of tying them was one of the great accomplishments of a dandy. The cravat differs properly from the scarf, which, whether tied, or passed through a ring, or held by a pin, hangs down over the shirt front. [Century Dictionary, 1897]
Klein's sources, Barnhart and the OED see this as connected to a group of Germanic sm- words having to do with creeping or pressing close, such as Old Norse smjuga "to creep (through an opening), to put on (a garment)," smuga "narrow cleft to creep through; small hole;" Old Swedish smog "a round hole for the head;" Old English smugan, smeogan "to creep," smygel "a burrow." Compare also German schmiegen "to cling to, press close, nestle;" and Schmuck "jewelry, adornments," from schmucken "to adorn," literally "to dress up."
Watkins, however, traces it to a possible Germanic base *(s)muk- "wetness," figuratively "slipperiness," from PIE root*meug- "slimy, slippery" (see mucus). Either way, the original notion, then, seems generally to have been "garment one creeps or slips into," by the same pattern that produced sleeve and slip (n.2).
Now replaced by euphemistic shift (n.2); smock was the common word down to 18c., and was emblematic of womanhood generally, as in verb smock "to render (a man) effeminate or womanish" (1610s); smocker "man who consorts with women" (18c.); smock-face "person having a pale, effeminate face" (c. 1600). A smock-race (1707) was an old country pastime, a foot-race for women and girls with a smock as a prize. Modern meaning "woman's or child's loose dress or blouse" is from 1907; sense of "loose garment worn by artists over other clothes" is from 1938.
"quadruped of the genus Canis," Old English docga, a late, rare word, used in at least one Middle English source in reference specifically to a powerful breed of canine; other early Middle English uses tend to be depreciatory or abusive. Its origin remains one of the great mysteries of English etymology.
The word forced out Old English hund (the general Germanic and Indo-European word, from root from PIE root *kwon-) by 16c. and subsequently was picked up in many continental languages (French dogue (16c.), Danish dogge, German Dogge (16c.). The common Spanish word for "dog," perro, also is a mystery word of unknown origin, perhaps from Iberian. A group of Slavic "dog" words (Old Church Slavonic pisu, Polish pies, Serbo-Croatian pas) likewise is of unknown origin.
In reference to persons, by c. 1200 in abuse or contempt as "a mean, worthless fellow, currish, sneaking scoundrel." Playfully abusive sense of "rakish man," especially if young, "a sport, a gallant" is from 1610s. Slang meaning "ugly woman" is from 1930s; that of "sexually aggressive man" is from 1950s.
Many expressions — a dog's life (c. 1600), go to the dogs (1610s), dog-cheap (1520s), etc. — reflect the earlier hard use of the animals as hunting accessories, not pets. In ancient times, "the dog" was the worst throw in dice (attested in Greek, Latin, and Sanskrit, where the word for "the lucky player" was literally "the dog-killer"), which plausibly explains the Greek word for "danger," kindynos, which appears to be "play the dog" (but Beekes is against this).
Notwithstanding, as a dog hath a day, so may I perchance have time to declare it in deeds. [Princess Elizabeth, 1550]
Meaning "something poor or mediocre, a failure" is by 1936 in U.S. slang. From late 14c. as the name for a heavy metal clamp of some kind. Dog's age "a long time" is by 1836. Adjectival phrase dog-eat-dog "ruthlessly competitive" is by 1850s. Phrase put on the dog "get dressed up" (1934) may be from comparison of dog collars to the stiff stand-up shirt collars that in the 1890s were the height of male fashion (and were known as dog-collars from at least 1883).
And Caesar's spirit, ranging for revenge,
With Ate by his side come hot from Hell,
Shall in these confines with a monarch's voice
Cry Havoc! and let slip the dogs of war;
[Shakespeare, "Julius Caesar"]