Etymology
Advertisement
Mithras 

ancient Persian god of light or the sun, eventually regarded as ruler of the material and spiritual universe, 1550s, from Latin, from Greek Mithras, from Avestan Mithra-, from Indo-Iranian *mitram "contract," whence *mitras "contractual partner, friend," conceptualized as a god, or, according to Kent, first the epithet of a divinity and eventually his name. Perhaps from PIE root *mei- (1) "to change; exchange," on the notion of "god of the contract" [Watkins].

Related to Sanskrit Mitrah, a Vedic deity associated with Varuna. "His name is one of the earliest Indic words we possess, being found in clay tablets from Anatolia dating to about 1500 B.C." [Calvert Watkins, "Dictionary of Indo-European Roots," 2000]. His worship was adopted by the Romans and enjoyed great popularity in the early empire. Related: Mithraic; Mithraism.

Related entries & more 
Advertisement
R 

eighteenth letter of the English alphabet, traceable to Phoenician and always representing more or less the same sound, which in many languages is typically so resonant and continuous as to be nearly akin to the vowels, but in English is closer to -l-.

It was aspirated at the start of words (hr-) in Old English, as in Greek, but this was abandoned in English spelling and pronunciation by the end of the Old English period, but the rh- spelling survives in many words borrowed from Greek. In many languages and some dialects (e.g. Scottish) it is pronounced with a distinct trilling vibration of the tongue-tip, which gave it its ancient nickname of "the dog letter;" in other regional dialects (e.g. Boston) it is omitted unless followed by a vowel, while in others it is introduced artificially in pronunciation ("idear," "drawring").

If all our r's that are written are pronounced, the sound is more common than any other in English utterance (over seven per cent.); the instances of occurrence before a vowel, and so of universal pronunciation, are only half as frequent. There are localities where the normal vibration of the tip of the tongue is replaced by one of the uvula, making a guttural trill, which is still more entitled to the name of "dog's letter" than is the ordinary r; such are considerable parts of France and Germany; the sound appears to occur only sporadically in English pronunciation. [Century Dictionary] 

Louise Pound ("The Humorous 'R'") notes that in British humorous writing, -ar- "popularly indicates the sound of the vowel in father" and formations like larf (for laugh) "are to be read with the broad vowel but no uttered r."

The moment we encounter the added r's of purp or dorg in our reading we know that we have to do with humor, and so with school-marm. The added consonants are supposed to be spoken, if the words are uttered, but, as a matter of fact, they are less often uttered than seen. The words are, indeed, largely visual forms; the humor is chiefly for the eye. [Louise Pound, "The Humorous 'R,'" American Mercury, October 1924]

She also quotes Henry James on the characteristic prominence of the medial -r- sound (which tends to be dropped in England and New England) in the speech of the U.S. Midwest, "under some strange impulse received toward consonantal recovery of balance, making it present even in words from which it is absent, bringing it in everywhere as with the small vulgar effect of a sort of morose grinding of the back teeth."

 In a circle, meaning "registered (trademark)," attested by 1925. R&R "rest and relaxation," is attested by 1953, American English; R&B "rhythm and blues" (type of popular music) is attested by 1949, American English. Form three Rs, see Three Rs.

Related entries & more 
Sadducee (n.)

member of a Jewish group in New Testament times, Middle English Saduce, from Old English, from Late Latin Sadducaei (plural), from Greek Zaddoukaios, an inexact transliteration of Hebrew tzedoqi, from the personal name Tzadhoq "Zadok" (II Samuel viii.17), the high priest from whom the priesthood of the captivity claimed descent. According to Josephus the sect denied the resurrection of the dead and the existence of angels and spirits, but later historians regard them as the political party of the priestly class more than a sect. The man's name sometimes was said to mean "the just one," but OED finds this "philologically untenable." Related: Sadducean; Sadduceeism; Sadducaic; Saducaical; Saduceeic.

It is not easy to define exactly the doctrine of the Sadducees, because It was a negative rather than a positive philosophy, and a speculative rather than a practical system ; and for our knowledge of it we are almost wholly dependent on the representations of its opponents. It was the doctrine of the rich, the worldly, and the compliant. [Century Dictionary]
Related entries & more 
Islam (n.)

"religious system revealed by Muhammad," 1816, from Arabic islam, literally "submission" (to the will of God), from root of aslama "he resigned, he surrendered, he submitted," causative conjunction of salima "he was safe," and related to salam "peace."

... Islam is the only major religion, along with Buddhism (if we consider the name of the religion to come from Budd, the Divine Intellect, and not the Buddha), whose name is not related to a person or ethnic group, but to the central idea of the religion. ["The Heart of Islam: Enduring Values for Humanity," Seyyed Hossein Nasr, 2002]

Earlier English names for the faith include Mahometry (late 15c.), Muhammadism (1610s), Islamism (1747), and Ismaelism (c. 1600; see Ismailite). The Ismailites were not numerous in Islam, but among them were the powerful Fatimid dynasty in Egypt and the Assassins, both of which loomed large in European imagination. This use also is in part from Ishmaelite, a name formerly given (especially by Jews) to Arabs, as descendants of Ishmael (q.v.).

Related entries & more 
Bronx 

borough of New York City, named for Jonas Bronck, who settled there in 1641.

Jonas Bronck, who arrived at New Amsterdam in 1639, and whose name is perpetuated in Bronx Borough, Bronx Park, Bronxville — in New York — was a Scandinavian, in all probability a Dane and originally, as it seems, from Thorshavn, Faroe Islands, where his father was a pastor in the Lutheran Church. Faroe then belonged to Denmark-Norway and had been settled by Norwegians. The official language of the island in Bronck's days was Danish. ... Bronck may have been a Swede if we judge by the name alone for the name of Brunke is well known in Sweden. [John Oluf Evjen, "Scandinavian immigrants in New York, 1630-1674," Minneapolis, 1916]

The derisive Bronx cheer ("made by blowing through closed lips, usually with the tongue between" - OED) is attested by 1929.

Related entries & more 
Advertisement
December (n.)

"twelfth and last (by modern reckoning) month of the calendar, the month of the winter solstice," late Old English, from Old French decembre, from Latin December, from decem "ten" (from PIE root *dekm- "ten"); tenth month of the old Roman calendar, which began with March.

The -ber in four Latin month names is probably from -bris, an adjectival suffix. Tucker thinks that the first five months were named for their positions in the agricultural cycle, and "after the gathering in of the crops, the months were merely numbered."

If the word contains an element related to mensis, we must assume a *decemo-membris (from *-mensris). October must then be by analogy from a false division Sep-tem-ber &c. Perhaps, however, from *de-cem(o)-mr-is, i.e. "forming the tenth part or division," from *mer- ..., while October = *octuo-mr-is. [T.G. Tucker, "Etymological Dictionary of Latin"]

Decembrist, in Russian history in reference to the insurrection against Nicholas I in December 1825, is by 1868 in English, translating Russian dekabrist, from dekabr' "December."

Related entries & more 
Calvinism (n.)

1560s, "religious doctrines and theology of John Calvin" (1509-1564), French Protestant reformer and theologian. With -ism. Alternative form Calvinian was in use in 1566. Later extended broadly to positions he did not hold. Generalized association with stern moral codes and predestination is attested at least since 1853. Related: Calvinist; Calvinistic.

The peculiar characteristics of his system, as derived from his "Institutes," are his doctrines of original sin, namely, that we derive from Adam "not only the punishment, but also the pollution to which the punishment is justly due"; of freedom of the will, namely, that man "in his present state is despoiled of freedom of will and subject to a miserable slavery"; of grace, or that "the Lord both begins and completes the good work in us," and gives us "both will and power"; of predestination, or "the eternal decree of God, by which he has determined in himself what he would have become of every individual of mankind"; and of perseverance, or the doctrine that all the elect will certainly be saved. [Century Dictionary]
Related entries & more 
London 

chief city and capital of England, Latin Londinium (Tacitus, c. 115), according to the "Cambridge Dictionary of English Place-Names," "unexplained." It is often said to be "place belonging to a man named *Londinos," a supposed Celtic personal name meaning "the wild one," "but this etymology is rejected in an emphatic footnote in Jackson 1953 (p. 308), and we have as yet nothing to put in its place" [Margaret Gelling, "Signposts to the Past: Place-Names and the History of England," Chichester, 1978]. Its mythical history is told in Layamon's "Brut" (c. 1200).

In late Old English often with -burg, -wic, or -ceaster. As an adjective, Old English had Lundenisc, but this seems to have fallen from use, and modern Londonish (1838) probably is a re-coinage. Also Londony (1884); Londonesque (1852); Londinensian (George Meredith); Londonian (1824, marked "rare" in OED).

London Bridge the children's singing game is attested from 1827. London broil "large flank steak broiled then cut in thin slices" attested 1930s, American English; London fog first attested 1785.

Related entries & more 
Arcturus 

late 14c., orange bright star in the constellation Bootes (also used of the whole constellation), from Latin Arcturus, from Greek Arktouros, literally "guardian of the bear" (the bright star was anciently associated with nearby Ursa Major, the "Big Dipper," which it seems to follow across the sky). For first element see arctic; second element is Greek ouros "watcher, guardian, ward," from PIE root *wer- (3) "perceive, watch out for." It is fourth-brightest of the fixed stars. The double nature of the great bear/wagon (see Big Dipper) has given two different names to the constellation that follows it: Arktouros "bear-ward" and Bootes "the wagoner" (from Greek, ultimately from PIE root *gwou- "ox, bull, cow").

Arcturus in the Bible (Job ix.9 and xxxviii.32) is a mistranslation by Jerome (continued in KJV) of Hebrew 'Ayish, which refers to what we see as the "bowl" of the Big Dipper. In Israel and Arabia, the seven stars of the Great Bear seem to have been a bier (the "bowl") followed by three mourners. In the Septuagint it was translated as Pleiada, which is equally incorrect.

Related entries & more 
Tartar 

mid-14c. (implied in Tartary, "the land of the Tartars"), from Medieval Latin Tartarus, from Persian Tatar, first used 13c. in reference to the hordes of Ghengis Khan (1202-1227), said to be ultimately from Tata, a name of the Mongols for themselves. Form in European languages probably influenced by Latin Tartarus "hell" (e.g. letter of St. Louis of France, 1270: "In the present danger of the Tartars either we shall push them back into the Tartarus whence they are come, or they will bring us all into heaven").

The historical word for what now are called in ethnological works Tatars. A Turkic people, their native region was east of the Caspian Sea. Ghengis' horde was a mix of Tatars, Mongols, Turks, etc. Used figuratively for "savage, rough, irascible person" (1660s). To catch a Tartar "get hold of what cannot be controlled" is recorded from 1660s; original sense not preserved, but probably from some military story similar to the old battlefield joke:

Irish soldier (shouting from within the brush): I've captured one of the enemy.
Captain: Excellent! Bring him here.
Soldier: He won't come.
Captain: Well, then, you come here.
Soldier: I would, but he won't let me.

Among the adjectival forms that have been used are Tartarian (16c.), Tartarous (Ben Jonson), Tartarean (17c.); Byron's Tartarly (1821) is a nonce-word (but a good one). Tartar sauce is attested by 1855, from French sauce tartare.

Related entries & more 

Page 4