"A word, app. of U.S. coinage, used to express the ideas of bewilderment or confusion, rapid stir and bustle, riotous jollity or intoxication, etc. Also, deception, fraud; extravagant publicity" [OED], 1886, American English slang, varied reduplication of dazzle (q.v.).
My confrère, The Chevalier, last month gave a new name to the scarfs of disjointed pattern when he called them the razzle-dazzle. The name was evidently a hit of the most patent character, for in several avenue and Broadway stores the clerks have thrown out a display of broken figures before me and explained that the ruling style at present was the razzle-dazzle, and the word seems to have been equally effective with the public, for when it is quoted by the live salesman, the customer, I am told is at once interested and caught by it. [Clothier and Furnisher magazine, January 1889]
Meaning "state of confusion" is from 1889.
long-necked ruminant animal of Africa, 1590s, giraffa, from Italian giraffa, from Arabic zarafa, probably from an African language. Earlier Middle English spellings varied wildly, depending on the foreign source, and included jarraf, ziraph, and gerfauntz, some apparently directly from Arabic, the last reflecting some confusion with olifaunt "elephant."
In Arabye, þei ben clept Gerfauntz; þat is a best pomelee or spotted .. but a lityll more high þan is a stede, But he hath the necke a xxti cubytes long. [Mandeville's Travels, c. 1425]
The modern form of the English word is attested by c. 1600 and is via French girafe (13c.). Replaced earlier camelopard (from Latin camelopardalis), which was the basis form the name of the "giraffe" constellation Camelopardalis, among those added to the map 1590s by Flemish cartographer Petrus Plancius.
mid-13c., "a throw, an act of throwing," from cast (v.). In early use especially of dice, hence figurative uses relating to fortune or fate. Meaning "that which is cast" is from mid-15c. Meaning "dash or shade of color" is from c. 1600.
The sense of "a throw" carried an idea of "the form the thing takes after it has been thrown," which led to widespread and varied meanings, such as "group of actors in a play" (1630s). OED finds 42 distinct noun meaning and 83 verbal ones, with many sub-definitions. Many of the figurative senses converged in a general meaning "sort, kind, style" (mid-17c.). Meaning "model made from taking an impression of an object" is from c. 1500. A cast in the eye "slight squint" (early 14c.) preserves the older verbal sense of "warp, turn," via the notion of "permanent motion or turn." As "plaster molded around an injured or diseased part," by 1883.
Previous to 1883 the methods of measuring time in the United States were so varied and so numerous as to be ludicrous. There were 50 different standards used in the United States, and on one road between New York and Boston, whose actual difference is 12 minutes, there were three distinct standards of time. Even small towns had two different standards one known as "town" or local time and the other "railroad" time.
... At noon on November 18, 1883, there was a general resetting of watches and clocks all over the United States and Canada, and the four great time zones, one hour apart, into which the country was divided came into being. So smoothly did the plan work that the general readjustment was accomplished without great difficulty and it has worked satisfactorily ever since. [Railroad Trainman, September 1909]
"four-wheeled vehicle to carry heavy loads," late 15c., from Middle Dutch wagen, waghen, from Proto-Germanic *wagna- (source also of Old English wægn, Modern English wain, Old Saxon and Old High German wagan, Old Norse vagn, Old Frisian wein, German Wagen), from PIE *wogh-no-, suffixed form of root *wegh- "to go, move, transport in a vehicle" (source also of Latin vehiculum). It is thus related to way.
In Dutch and German, it is the general word for "a wheel vehicle;" its use in English is a result of contact through Flemish immigration, Dutch trade, or the Continental wars. It has largely displaced the native cognate, wain. Spelling preference varied randomly between -g- and -gg- from mid-18c., until American English settled on the etymological wagon, while waggon remained common in Great Britain. Wagon-train is attested from 1810. Phrase on the wagon "abstaining from alcohol" is attested by 1904, originally on the water cart.
1882, from Spanish flamenco, first used of Gypsy dancing in Andalusia. The word in Spanish meant "a Fleming, native of Flanders" (Dutch Vlaming) and also "flamingo." Speculations are varied and colorful about the connection between the bird, the people, and the gypsy dance of Andalusia.
Spain ruled Flanders for many years in 16c., and King Carlos I brought with him to Madrid an entire Flemish court. One etymology suggests the dance was so called from the bright costumes and energetic movements, which the Spanish associated with Flanders; another is that Spaniards, especially Andalusians, like to name things by their opposites, and because the Flemish were tall and blond and the gypsies short and dark, the gypsies were called "Flemish;" others hold that flamenco was the general Spanish word for all foreigners, gypsies included; or that Flemish noblemen, bored with court life, took to slumming among the gypsies. Compare Gypsy.
Originally in photography studios.
Let me not forget the receptionist — generally and preferably, a woman of refined and gentle manners, well informed and specially gifted in handling people of varied dispositions. A woman especially who knows how to handle other women, and who can make herself beloved by the children who may visit the studio. A woman, also, who in a thoroughly suave and dignified way, knows just how to handle the young man of the period so that the photographer may be glad to have his business. What a power the receptionist is when properly chosen and trained. It is not too much to say that she can both make and destroy a business, if she has the amount of discretionary power given to her in some galleries. [John A. Tennant, "Business Methods Applied in Photography," Wilson's Photographic Magazine, October 1900]
Earlier as an adjective in theology and law (1867).
c. 1200, diggen, "to make a ditch or other excavation," a word of uncertain origin, perhaps related to dike and ditch, either via Anglo-French diguer, from Old French digue "dike" (which is ultimately from Proto-Germanic *dīk-, from PIE root *dheigw- "to stick, fix") or directly from an unrecorded Old English verb. The older native words were deolfan (see delve), grafan (see grave (v.)).
Transitive meanings "form by excavation, make by digging," also "obtain or remove by excavation" are from late 14c.; figurative sense of "discover by effort or search" is from early 15c. Meaning "to penetrate" is from mid-15c.; transitive sense of "cause to penetrate, thrust or force in" is by 1885.
In 19c. U.S. student slang it meant "study hard, give much time to study" (1827); the 20c. slang sense of "understand" is recorded by 1934 in African-American vernacular. Both probably are based on the notion of "excavate." A slightly varied sense of "appreciate" emerged by 1939. The strong past participle dug appeared in 16c. but is not etymological.
magical formula used in conjuring, 1630s, earlier Hocas Pocas, common name of a magician or juggler (1620s); a sham-Latin invocation used by jugglers, perhaps based on a perversion of the sacramental blessing from the Mass, Hoc est corpus meum "This is my body." The first to make this speculation on its origin apparently was English prelate John Tillotson (1630-1694).
I will speak of one man ... that went about in King James his time ... who called himself, the Kings Majesties most excellent Hocus Pocus, and so was called, because that at the playing of every Trick, he used to say, Hocus pocus, tontus tabantus, vade celeriter jubeo, a dark composure of words, to blinde the eyes of the beholders, to make his Trick pass the more currantly without discovery. [Thomas Ady, "A Candle in the Dark," 1655]
Compare hiccus doccius or hiccus doctius, "formula used by jugglers in performing their feats" (1670s), also a common name for a juggler, which OED says is "conjectured to be a corruption of" Latin hicce es doctus "here is the learned man," "if not merely a nonsense formula simulating Latin." Also compare holus-bolus (adv.) "all at a gulp, all at once," which Century Dictionary calls "A varied redupl. of whole, in sham-Latin form." As a noun meaning "juggler's tricks," hocus-pocus is recorded from 1640s.