Etymology
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lead (n.1)

heavy metal, Old English lead "lead, leaden vessel," from West Germanic *lauda- (source also of Old Frisian lad, Middle Dutch loot, Dutch lood "lead," German Lot "weight, plummet"), a word of uncertain origin. The name and the skill in using the metal seem to have been borrowed from the Celts (compare Old Irish luaide).

Figurative of heaviness at least since early 14c. American English slang lead balloon "dismal failure" attested by 1957, perhaps 1940s (as a type of something heavy that can be kept up only with effort, from 1904). Lead-footed "slow" is from 1896; opposite sense of "fast" emerged 1940s in trucker's jargon, from notion of a foot heavy on the gas pedal.

Meaning "graphite in a pencil" is from 1816 (see pencil (n.)). Black lead was an old name for "graphite," hence lead pencil (1680s) and the colloquial figurative phrase to have lead in one's pencil "be possessed of (especially male sexual) vigor," attested by 1902. White lead (1560s) was an old name for "tin."

As a name of a dull bluish-gray color, 1610s. From 1590s as figurative for "bullets." Lead oxide was much used in glazing, mirror-making, and pigments. In printing, "thin strip of type-metal (often lead but sometimes brass) used in composition to separate lines" from 1808, earlier space-line. Lead-poisoning is from 1848; earlier lead-distemper (1774).

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seal (v.)

c. 1200, selen, "to fasten (a letter, etc.) with or as with a seal, close up with a seal, press a seal on wax," also "place a seal on (a document)," also figurative, "to join together," from seal (n.1) or else from Old French seeler, sealer.

Hence "to conclude, ratify, render official or binding" by affixing seals to it (late 15c.). In reference to jars or other containers, "to close up with wax, lead, cement, etc.," attested from 1660s, from the notion of wax seals on envelopes. In reference to the actions of wood-coatings, "render impervious," by 1940. Related: Sealed; sealing.

Sealing-wax, "soft substance prepared for receiving the impression of a seal," is attested from c. 1300. To seal (one's) lips "be silent" is by 1782. To seal (one's) fate (1799) "decide irrevocably" perhaps reflects the notion of a seal on a warrant of execution.

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maple (n.)

"tree of the genus Acer," c. 1300, mapel, from Old English mapultreow "maple tree," also mapolder, mapuldre, related to Old Norse möpurr, Old Saxon mapulder, Middle Low German mapeldorn, from Proto-Germanic *maplo-. There also was a Proto-Germanic *matlo- (source also of Old High German mazzaltra, German maszholder), but the connection and origins are mysterious.

Native to northern temperate regions, some of the species are valued for their wood, some for their sugar, some as shade or ornamental trees. The forms in -le are from c. 1400. Formerly with adjectival form mapelin (early 15c.; Old English mapuldern). Maple syrup attested from 1824, American English (earlier maple molasses, 1804). The maple leaf is mentioned as the emblem of Canada from 1850 (an 1843 Canadian source says it "has been adopted as an emblem by our French Canadian brethren").

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log (n.1)
unshaped large piece of tree, early 14c., of unknown origin. Old Norse had lag "felled tree" (from stem of liggja "to lie," hence "a tree that lies prostrate"), but many etymologists deny on phonological grounds that this can be the root of English log. Instead, they suggest an independent formation meant to "express the notion of something massive by a word of appropriate sound" [OED, which compares clog (n.) in its original Middle English sense "lump of wood"].

Log cabin (1770) was the typical dwelling of the poor in antebellum U.S. history in the well-timbered region that was then the West. It has been a figure of the honest pioneer since the 1840 presidential campaign of William Henry Harrison (the original application was derisive and either way it was inaccurate). Falling off a log as a type of something easy to do is from 1839.
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wright (n.)

Old English wryhta, wrihta (Northumbrian wyrchta, Kentish werhta) "worker," variant of earlier wyhrta "maker," from wyrcan "to work" (see work (v.)). Now usually in combinations (wheelwright, playwright, etc.) or as a surname. A common West Germanic word; cognate with Old Saxon wurhito, Old Frisian wrichta, Old High German wurhto.

The metathesis of an -r- and a vowel in words from Old English also can be seen in thrash, thresh, third, thirty, bird, wrought, and nostril.

Smith was the general term for a worker in metals, and wright for one who worked in wood, and other materials. Hence, in the later English period, smith (which, in Anglo-Saxon, when used without any characteristic addition, was understood as applying more particularly to the worker in iron,) became the particular name of a blacksmith, and wright of a carpenter, as it is still in Scotland. [Thomas Wright, "Anglo-Saxon and Old English Vocabularies," 1884]
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fair (adj.)

Old English fæger "pleasing to the sight (of persons and body features, also of objects, places, etc.); beautiful, handsome, attractive," of weather, "bright, clear, pleasant; not rainy," also in late Old English "morally good," from Proto-Germanic *fagraz (source also of Old Saxon fagar, Old Norse fagr, Swedish fager, Old High German fagar "beautiful," Gothic fagrs "fit"), perhaps from PIE *pek- (1) "to make pretty" (source also of Lithuanian puošiu "I decorate").

The meaning in reference to weather preserves the oldest sense "suitable, agreeable" (opposed to foul (adj.)). Of the main modern senses of the word, that of "light of complexion or color of hair and eyes, not dusky or sallow" (of persons) is from c. 1200, faire, contrasted to browne and reflecting tastes in beauty. From early 13c. as "according with propriety; according with justice," hence "equitable, impartial, just, free from bias" (mid-14c.).

Of wind, "not excessive; favorable for a ship's passage," from late 14c. Of handwriting from 1690s. From c. 1300 as "promising good fortune, auspicious." Also from c. 1300 as "above average, considerable, sizable." From 1860 as "comparatively good."

The sporting senses (fair ball, fair catch, etc.) began to appear in 1856. Fair play is from 1590s but not originally in sports (earlier it meant "pleasant amusement," c. 1300, and foul play was "sinful amusement"). Fair-haired in the figurative sense of "darling, favorite" is from 1909. First record of fair-weather friends is from 1736 (in a letter from Pope published that year, written in 1730). The fair sex "women" is from 1660s, from the "beautiful" sense (fair as a noun meaning "a woman" is from early 15c.). Fair game "legitimate target" is from 1776, from hunting.

Others, who have not gone to such a height of audacious wickedness, have yet considered common prostitutes as fair game, which they might pursue without restraint. ["Advice from a Father to a Son, Just Entered into the Army and about to Go Abroad into Action," London, 1776]
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cleric (n.)

"a clergyman," 1620s (also in early use as an adjective), from Church Latin clericus "clergyman, priest," noun use of adjective meaning "priestly, belonging to the clerus;" from Ecclesiastical Greek klērikos "pertaining to an inheritance," but in Greek Christian jargon by 2c., "of the clergy, belonging to the clergy," as opposed to the laity; from klēros "a lot, allotment; piece of land; heritage, inheritance," originally "a shard or wood chip used in casting lots," related to klan "to break" (see clastic).

Klēros was used by early Greek Christians for matters relating to ministry, based on Deuteronomy xviii.2 reference to Levites as temple assistants: "Therefore shall they have no inheritance among their brethren: the Lord is their inheritance" (klēros being used as a translation of Hebrew nahalah "inheritance, lot"). Or else it is from the use of the word in Acts i:17. A word taken up in English after clerk (n.) shifted to its modern meaning.

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mantel (n.)

c. 1200, "short, loose, sleeveless cloak," variant of mantle (q.v.). Sense of "movable shelter for soldiers besieging a fort" is from 1520s.

The meaning "timber or stone supporting masonry above a fireplace" is attested by 1510s; it is a shortened form of Middle English mantiltre "mantle-tree" (late 15c.) "beam of oak or some other hard wood above a fireplace or oven" (with tree in the now-obsolete sense of "beam"). But the exact meaning of mantle in that had become obscure by the 19c.

In a fire-place, the mantle or mantlepiece, may have been either a covered or chimney-piece; or the part below it to which a hanging, for the sake of making a flue for the wind to draw up the fire, was attached. The details, however, of this are uncertain. [Robert Gordon Latham, "A Dictionary of the English Language," 1882]

Mantel-clock "clock intended to sit on a mantle-shelf," is by 1824.

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cell (n.)

early 12c., "small monastery, subordinate monastery" (from Medieval Latin in this sense), later "small room for a monk or a nun in a monastic establishment; a hermit's dwelling" (c. 1300), from Latin cella "small room, store room, hut," related to Latin celare "to hide, conceal," from PIE root *kel- (1) "to cover, conceal, save."

From "monastic room" the sense was extended to "prison room" (1722). The word was used in 14c., figuratively, of brain "compartments" as the abode of some faculty; it was used in biology by 17c. of various cavities (wood structure, segments of fruit, bee combs), gradually focusing to the modern sense of "basic structure of all living organisms" (which OED dates to 1845).

Electric battery sense is from 1828, based on the "compartments" in very early types. Meaning "small group of people working within a larger organization" is from 1925. Cell-body is from 1851, cell-division from 1846, cell-membrane from 1837 (but cellular membrane is 1732), cell wall from 1842.

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ass (n.1)

solid ungulate quadruped beast of burden of the horse kind, but smaller and with long ears and a short mane, native to southwest Asia, Old English assa (Old Northumbrian assal, assald) "he-ass." The English word is cognate with Old Saxon esil, Dutch ezel, Old High German esil, German Esel, Gothic asilus, and, beyond Germanic, Lithuanian asilas, Old Church Slavonic osl, Russian oselŭ, etc. All probably are ultimately from Latin asinus. De Vaan says the form of asinus suggests it was a loan-word into Latin, and adds, "Most IE words for 'ass' are loanwords."

Together with Greek onos it is conjectured to be from a language of Asia Minor (compare Sumerian ansu). The initial vowel of the English word might be by influence of Celtic forms (Irish and Gaelic asal), from Old Celtic *as(s)in "donkey." In Romanic tongues the Latin word has become Italian asino, Spanish asno, Old French asne, French âne.

In familiar use, the name ass is now to a great extent superseded by donkey (in Scotland cuddie); but ass is always used in the language of Scripture, Natural History, proverb, and fable; also, in ordinary use, in Ireland. [OED]

Sure-footed and patient in domestication, since ancient Greek times, in fables and parables, the animal has typified clumsiness and stupidity (hence ass-head, late 15c., etc.). To make an ass of oneself is from "A Midsummer Night's Dream" (1590). Asses' Bridge (c. 1780), from Latin Pons Asinorum, is fifth proposition of first book of Euclid's "Elements." In Middle English, someone uncomprehending or unappreciative would be lik an asse that listeth on a harpe. In 15c., an ass man was a donkey-driver.

For al schal deie and al schal passe, Als wel a Leoun as an asse. [John Gower, "Confessio Amantis," 1393]
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