introduced 1947 (at 14th conference of the Union Internationale de Chimie) as a prefix for units of one thousand-millionth part (now "one-billionth"), from Greek nanos "a dwarf." According to Watkins, this is originally "little old man," from nannos "uncle," masc. of nanna "aunt" (see nana), but Beekes calls it "An onomatopoeic word of unknown origin." Earlier nano- was used as a prefix to mean "dwarf, dwarfish," and still it is used in a non-scientific sense of "very small."
"act or custom of burning of the dead," 1620s, from Latin cremationem (nominative crematio), noun of action from past-participle stem of cremare "to burn, consume by fire" (also used of the dead), from PIE *krem-, extended form of root *ker- (3) "heat, fire."
The adoption of cremation would relieve us of a muck of threadbare burial-witticisms; but, on the other hand, it would resurrect a lot of mildewed old cremation-jokes that have had a rest for two thousand years. ["Mark Twain," "Life on the Mississippi," 1883]
"the 15th century as a period in art and architecture," 1847, from Italian quattrocento, literally "four hundred," short for mille quattrocento "one thousand four hundred," in reference to a period beginning in C.E. 1400; see four + hundred.
The Italian pattern (also in trecento, cinquecento) is a stumbling-block for those accustomed to the English pattern of naming the centuries ordinally so that each contains only one year of the number that names it. Trecento means literally "three hundred," but stands for "the 1300s," which we call the 14th century.
coined 1866 by Thoreau as the title of his essay originally published (1849) as "Resistance to Civil Government."
If the alternative is to keep all just men in prison, or give up war and slavery, the State will not hesitate which to choose. If a thousand men were not to pay their tax-bills this year, that would not be a violent and bloody measure, as it would be to pay them, and enable the State to commit violence and shed innocent blood. This is, in fact, the definition of a peaceable revolution, if any such is possible. [Thoreau]
1670s, from French quadrillion (16c.) from quadri- "four" (from PIE root *kwetwer- "four") + (m)illion. Compare billion. In Great Britain, the fourth power of a million (1 followed by 24 zeroes); in the U.S., the fifth power of a thousand (1 followed by 15 zeroes).
Thomas Hope, first of the family to possess the Deepdene, was the author of "Anastasius," a book of the same class as Beckford's "Vathek." In each case a millionaire (we shall soon have billionaires, trillionaires, quadrillionaires) fettered, imprisoned, by abject opulence, strove to reveal himself to the world through a romance. [Mortimer Collins, "A Walk Through Surrey," Temple Bar, August 1866]
"quality of being distinct or individual, individuality," 1815, from individual + -ism. As the name of a social philosophy favoring non-interference of government in lives of individuals (opposed to communism and socialism) first attested 1851 in writings of J.S. Mill.
Is it not the chief disgrace in the world, not to be an unit; not to be reckoned one character; not to yield that peculiar fruit which each man was created to bear, but to be reckoned in the gross, in the hundred, or the thousand, of the party, the section, to which we belong; and our opinion predicted geographically, as the north or the south? [Emerson, "The American Scholar," 1837]
c. 1400, "to put a cap on," from cap (n.); meaning "cover as with a cap" is from c. 1600. Figurative sense of "complete, consummate, bring to a climax" is from 1580s; that of "go one better, outdo, excel" is by 1821. Related: Capped; capping. To cap verses (1610s) was "to quote alternately verses each beginning with the same letter with which the last ended."
The capping of Latin verses is a common game in classical schools. No verse may be used twice, and no hesitation or delay is permitted; so that a moderate proficiency in the game supposes several thousand verses arranged in the memory alphabetically. [Century Dictionary, 1895]
Upper hand "advantage" is late 15c., perhaps from wrestling (get the over-hand in the same sense is from early 14c.); lower hand "condition of having lost or failed to win superiority" (1690s) is rare. Upperclassman is recorded from 1871. Upper crust is attested from mid-15c. in reference to the top crust of a loaf of bread, 1836 in reference to society. Upper middle class (adj.) is recorded from 1835. Upper ten thousand (1844) was common mid-19c. for "wealthier and more aristocratic part of a large community;" hence uppertendom.
"red resinous substance," 1550s, perhaps immediately from French lacce, displacing or absorbing earlier lacca (early 15c.), from Medieval Latin lacca. All these are from Persian lak, from Hindi lakh (Prakrit lakkha), from Sanskrit laksha "red dye," which is of uncertain origin.
According to Klein, it means literally "one hundred thousand" and is a reference to the insects that gather in great numbers on the trees and create the resin. But others say lakh is perhaps an alteration of Sanskrit rakh, from an IE root word for "color, dye" [Watkins]. Still another guess is that Sanskrit laksha is related to English lax, lox "salmon," and the substance perhaps was so called from being somewhat the color of salmon [Barnhart]. Also see shellac (n.).