Etymology
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wahoo (n.)

type of large marine fish caught near Key West, 1884, of unknown origin. As the name of North American trees or shrubs, 1770, from distortions of native names; especially the "burning bush," from Dakota (Siouan) wahu, from wa- "arrow" + -hu "wood." In reference to the winged elm, it is from Muskogee vhahwv.

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wah-wah 

1926, in jazz slang, in reference to the effect on brass instruments made by manipulating the mute; of imitative origin. Later also in reference to an electric guitar effect. As an imitation of the sound of a baby crying, it is recorded from 1938. Wah-wah pedal is recorded from 1969. Compare Chinook jargon wawa "talk, speak, call, ask, sermon, language;" Cree (Algonquian) wehwew "goose," Lenape (Algonquian) wava "snow goose," all probably of imitative origin.

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waif (n.)

late 14c., "unclaimed property, flotsam, stray animal," from Anglo-French waif (13c., Old French guaif) "ownerless property, something lost;" as an adjective, "not claimed, outcast, abandoned," probably from a Scandinavian source akin to Old Norse veif "waving thing, flag," from Proto-Germanic *waif-, from PIE root *weip- "to turn, vacillate, tremble ecstatically." Compare Medieval Latin waivium "thing thrown away by a thief in flight." A Scottish/northern English parallel form was wavenger (late 15c.).

Meaning "person (especially a child) without home or friends" first attested 1784, from legal phrase waif and stray (1620s), from the adjective in the sense "lost, strayed, homeless." Neglected children being uncommonly thin, the word tended toward this sense. Connotations of "fashionable, small, slender woman" began 1991 with application to childishly slim supermodels such as Kate Moss.

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waifish (adj.)

1870, from waif + -ish. Related: Waifishly; waifishness.

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wail (v.)

c. 1300 (intransitive); mid-14c. (transitive), from Old Norse væla "to lament," from "woe" (see woe). Of jazz musicians, "to play very well," attested from 1955, American English slang (wailing "excellent" is attested from 1954). Related: Wailed; wailer.

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wain (n.)

Old English wægn "wheeled vehicle, wagon, cart," from Proto-Germanic *wagna, from PIE *wogh-no-, suffixed form of root *wegh- "to go, move, transport in a vehicle" (source also of Latin vehiculum). A doublet of wagon. Largely fallen from use by c. 1600, but kept alive by poets, who found it easier to rhyme on than wagon. As a name for the Big Dipper/Plough, it is from Old English (see Charles's Wain).

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wainscot (n.)

mid-14c., "imported oak of superior quality" (well-grained and without knots), probably from Middle Dutch or Middle Flemish waghenscote "superior quality oak wood, board used for paneling" (though neither of these is attested as early as the English word), related to Middle Low German wagenschot (late 14c.), from waghen (see wagon) + scote "partition, crossbar" (from PIE root *skeud- "to shoot, chase, throw").

So called perhaps because the wood originally was used for wagon building and coachwork, but the sense evolution is not entirely clear. Meaning "panels lining the walls of rooms" is recorded from 1540s. Wainscoting is from 1570s.

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wainwright (n.)

"wagon-builder," Old English wægn-wyrhta; see wain + wright.

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waist (n.)

late 14c., "middle part of the body," also "part of a garment fitted for the waist, portion of a garment that covers the waist" (but, due to fashion styles, often above or below it), probably from Old English *wæst "growth," hence, "where the body grows," from Proto-Germanic *wahs-tu- (source also of Old English wæstm, Old Norse vöxtr, Swedish växt, Old High German wahst "growth, increase," Gothic wahstus "stature," Old English weaxan "to grow" see wax (v.)), from PIE *wegs-, extended form of root *aug- (1) "to increase."

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