"not in any situation or state; in no place," Old English nahwær "nowhere, not at all;" see no + where. Colloquial nowheres, with adverbial genitive, is by 1803.
As a noun, "non-existent place," 1831; "remote or inaccessible place," 1908. Hence such phrases as middle of nowhere (by 1848, seemingly originally a place you knocked someone or something into; see below), road to nowhere (by 1800 as "a way that is not a thoroughfare, a road leading to no destination;" the figurative use, "a program, course of action, etc. deemed likely to lead to no useful result," is by 1891).
Similar constructions were attempted with nowhat ("not at all," 1650s) and nowhen ("at no time, never," 1764), but they failed to take hold and remain nonce words. Middle English also had an adverb never-where (early 14c.).
THE COMET IS COMING.--The appearance of the great comet that is expected to knock all creation into the middle of nowhere about the 16th of June, has been indefinitely postponed on account of the great gift sale at 96 Third street, where every purchaser of 25 cents' worth of liniment receives a free gift as soon as the purchase is made .... [announcement in Louisville Daily Courier, Louisville, Kentucky, May 28, 1857]
Old English hit, neuter nominative and accusative of third person singular pronoun, from Proto-Germanic demonstrative base *khi- (source also of Old Frisian hit, Dutch het, Gothic hita "it"), from PIE *ko- "this" (see he). Used in place of any neuter noun, hence, as gender faded in Middle English, it took on the meaning "thing or animal spoken about before."
The h- was lost due to being in an unemphasized position, as in modern speech the h- in "give it to him," "ask her," is heard only "in the careful speech of the partially educated" [Weekley]. It "the sex act" is from 1610s; meaning "sex appeal (especially in a woman)" first attested 1904 in works of Rudyard Kipling, popularized 1927 as title of a book by Elinor Glyn, and by application of It Girl to silent-film star Clara Bow (1905-1965). In children's games, the meaning "the one who must tag or catch the others" is attested from 1842.
From Old English as nominative of an impersonal verb or statement when the thing for which it stands is implied (it rains, it pleases me). After an intransitive verb, used transitively for the action denoted, from 1540s (originally in fight it out). That's it "there is no more" is from 1966; this is it "the anticipated or dreaded moment has arrived" is from 1942.
Old English middel, "equally distant from extremes or limits; intermediate," from Proto-West Germanic *midla- (source also of Old Frisian middel, Old Saxon middil, Middle Low German, Dutch middel, Old High German mittil, German mittel), from Proto-Germanic *medj, from PIE root *medhyo- "middle."
Middle finger "the third finger" (counting the thumb as the first) so called from late Old English. Middle school is attested from 1838, originally "middle-class school, school for middle-class children;" the sense in reference to a school for grades between elementary and high school is from 1960. Middle management, the level below senior management, is by 1941.
Middle-of-the-road in the figurative sense is attested from 1894, originally political; edges of a dirt road can be washed out and thus are less safe, but the notion here probably is of the middle as "less exposed to ambush." Middle way in the figurative sense of "path of moderation" is from c. 1200. Middle ground as "place of moderation or compromise between extremes" is by 1961. Middle-sized "of medium size" is by 1620s.
In U.S. history, the Middle States (1784) were those between New England and the South (New York, New Jersey, Pennsylvania, Delaware). Middle America for "the 'silent majority,' the generally conservative middle class regarded as a homogeneous group" is by 1968.
mid-15c., "legal claim or right; a concern; a benefit, advantage, a being concerned or affected (advantageously)," from Old French interest "damage, loss, harm" (Modern French intérêt), from noun use of Latin interest "it is of importance, it makes a difference," third person singular present of interresse "to concern, make a difference, be of importance," literally "to be between," from inter "between" (see inter-) + esse "to be" (from PIE root *es- "to be"). The sense development to "profit, advantage" in French and English is not entirely clear.
The earlier Middle English word was interesse (late 14c.), from Anglo-French interesse "what one has a legal concern in," from Medieval Latin interesse "compensation for loss," noun use of Latin interresse (compare German Interesse, from the same Medieval Latin source).
Financial sense of "money paid for the use of money lent" (1520s) earlier was distinguished from usury (illegal under Church law) by being in reference to "compensation due from a defaulting debtor." Sense of "personal or selfish consideration" is from 1620s. Meaning "business in which several people are interested" is from 1670s. Meaning "curiosity, feeling that something concerns one, appreciative or sympathetic regard" is first attested 1771. Interest group is attested from 1907; interest rate by 1868.
1580s, "form of speech peculiar to a people or place;" meaning "phrase or expression peculiar to a language" is from 1620s; from French idiome (16c.) and directly from Late Latin idioma "a peculiarity in language," from Greek idioma "peculiarity, peculiar phraseology" (Fowler writes that "A manifestation of the peculiar" is "the closest possible translation of the Greek word"), from idioumai "to appropriate to oneself," from idios "personal, private," properly "particular to oneself."
This is from PIE *swed-yo-, suffixed form of root *s(w)e-, pronoun of the third person and reflexive (referring back to the subject of a sentence), also used in forms denoting the speaker's social group, "(we our-)selves" (source also of Sanskrit svah, Avestan hva-, Old Persian huva "one's own," khva-data "lord," literally "created from oneself;" Greek hos "he, she, it;" Latin suescere "to accustom, get accustomed," sodalis "companion;" Old Church Slavonic svoji "his, her, its," svojaku "relative, kinsman;" Gothic swes "one's own;" Old Norse sik "oneself;" German Sein; Old Irish fein "self, himself").
[G]rammar & idiom are independent categories; being applicable to the same material, they sometimes agree & sometimes disagree about particular specimens of it; the most can be said is that what is idiomatic is far more often grammatical than ungrammatical, but that is worth saying, because grammar & idiom are sometimes treated as incompatibles .... [Fowler]
1530s, "to break wind without noise," probably altered from obsolete fist, from Middle English fisten "break wind" (see feisty) + frequentative suffix -le. Related: Fizzled; fizzling.
Meaning "make a noise as of a liquid or gas forced out a narrow aperture" is from 1859, "usually with special reference to the weakness and sudden diminution or cessation of such sound" [Century Dictionary], hence the figurative sense "prove a failure, stop abruptly after a more-or-less brilliant start." But this sense is earlier and dates to at least 1847 in American English college slang, along with the noun sense of "failure, fiasco" (1846), also originally U.S. college slang, "a failure in answering an examination by a professor." Barnhart says it is "not considered as derived from the verb." Halliwell ("Archaic and Provincial Words," 1846) has fizzle (v.) as "To do anything without noise," which might connect the college slang with the older word via some notion of mumbled and stifled performance:
In many colleges in the United States, this word is applied to a bad recitation, probably from the want of distinct articulation, which usually attends such performances. It is further explained in the Yale Banger, November 10, 1846: "This figure of a wounded snake is intended to represent what in technical language is termed a fizzle. The best judges have decided that to get just one third of the meaning right constitutes a perfect fizzle." [John Bartlett, "A Collection of College Words and Customs," Cambridge, 1851]
"a vertebrate which has gills and fins adapting it for living in the water," Old English fisc "fish," from Proto-Germanic *fiskaz (source also of Old Saxon, Old Frisian, Old High German fisc, Old Norse fiskr, Middle Dutch visc, Dutch vis, German Fisch, Gothic fisks), perhaps from PIE root *pisk- "a fish." But Boutkan on phonetic grounds thinks it might be a northwestern Europe substratum word.
Popularly, since Old English, "any animal that lives entirely in the water," hence shellfish, starfish (an early 15c. manuscript has fishes bestiales for "water animals other than fishes"). The plural is fishes, but in a collective sense, or in reference to fish meat as food, the singular fish generally serves for a plural. In reference to the constellation Pisces from late 14c.
Fish (n.) for "person" is from 1750 with a faintly dismissive sense; earlier it was used in reference to a person considered desirable to "catch" (1722). Figurative sense of fish out of water "person in an unfamiliar and awkward situation" attested by 1610s (a fisshe out of the see in the same sense is from mid-15c.). To drink like a fish is from 1744. To have other fish to fry "other objects which invite or require attention" is from 1650s. Fish-eye as a type of lens is from 1961. Fish-and-chips is from 1876; fish-fingers from 1962.
late 12c., "loss, lack; " c. 1200, "regret occasioned by loss or absence," from Old English miss "absence, loss," from source of missan "to miss" (see miss (v.)). Meaning "an act or fact of missing; a being without" is from late 15c.; meaning "a failure to hit or attain" is 1550s.
Phrase a miss is as good as a mile (1761) was originally an inch, in a miss, is as good as an ell (1610s; see ell). To give (something) a miss "to abstain from, avoid" is attested by 1919, perhaps from earlier use of the term in billiards, "to avoid hitting the object ball" (1807).
There are few of the niceties of the game that require more care than that of "giving a miss," and particularly when the player wishes to mask the ball. I recollect a game I played with Mr. Burke, of Cheltenham. He went off, and doubled, as was his custom, the red ball nearly over the baulk corner pocket. Not feeling disposed, against so skilful an antagonist, to run the risk of playing for a canon off his ball, I gave a miss, thinking I had masked the ball. His eye, keen and penetrating, discovered at a glance that I had just left him room to pass. He played at the red ball and holed his own ball off it by a fine cut, and scored forty points from the break. [Edward Russell Mardon, "Billiards," London, 1849]
1940, a French word brought into English by John Buchan (Baron Tweedsmuir) and picked up by philosopher C.E.M. Joad because they found no adequate word in English for one "who spreads with clarity, vividness, force and accuracy, the knowledge obtained by and the wisdom derived from others" [Joad, 1948], vulgarize already being in use in the pejorative sense; see vulgar.
It has been pre-eminently the age of the vulgarisateur in the best sense of that word. I think the tendency wholly admirable. Lord Rutherford used to say that no conclusion which he ever reached was of any use to him until he could put it into plain English, into language understood by the ordinary man. Attempts to present the history of the world as an interrelated intelligible process, or to give a bird's-eye view of the long march of the sciences, may be faulty in detail, with many arbitrary judgments, but they do furnish principles of interpretation which enable the reader to find at any rate one way in the world of thought—perhaps a little later to make his own way. In this task the vulgarisateur may be preparing the soil for a rich future harvest, just as the work of the Sophists cleared the ground for Plato. [John Buchan, "Memory Hold-the-Door," 1940]
1560s, "A solid generated by the revolution of a right-angled triangle upon one of its sides as an axis" [Century Dictionary], from French cone (16c.) or directly from Latin conus "a cone, peak of a helmet," from Greek konos "cone, spinning top, pine cone," which is perhaps from a PIE root *ko- "to sharpen" (source also of Sanskrit sanah "whetstone," Latin catus "sharp," Old English han "stone"), but Beekes considers it likely a Pre-Greek word.
There is a use from c. 1400 as "angle or corner of a quadrant," from Latin. From 1560s as "dry, cone-shaped fruit of the pine;" from 1771 as "hill surrounding the crater of a volcano; 1867 as "minute structure in the retina of the eye;" by 1909 as "a conical wafer to hold ice-cream." Cone-shell is from 1770, so called for its shape; cone-flower is from 1822, so called for its conical receptacles.
Probably the greatest "rage" of the year in the eating line has been the ice cream cone. The craze has known no section, although the Middle West has eaten more than any other section, and the South has yet to acquire the habit. As a result of this craze hundreds of cone factories have sprung up, and every one has made large profits. Thus an important side line has come to the fore in aid of the ice cream industry. [The Ice Cream Trade Journal, October 1909]