"impious or profane speaking of God or sacred things," early 13c., from Old French blasfemie "blasphemy," from Late Latin blasphemia, from Greek blasphemia "a speaking ill, impious speech, slander," from blasphemein "to speak evil of." Second element is phēmē "utterance" (from PIE root *bha- (2) "to speak, tell, say"); first element uncertain, perhaps related to blaptikos "hurtful," though blax "slack (in body and mind), stupid" also has been proposed; de Vaan suggests a connection with the root of Latin malus "bad, unpleasant" (from PIE root *mel- (3)). In Old Testament usage the word applied to a more specific crime, against the reverence for Jehovah as ruler of the Jews, comparable to treason.
Blasphemy cognizable by common law is described by Blackstone to be "denying the being or providence of God, contumelious reproaches of our Saviour Christ, profane scoffing at the Holy Scripture, or exposing it to contempt or ridicule"; by Kent as "maliciously reviling God or religion"; and by Chief Justice Lemuel Shaw as "speaking evil of the Deity with an impious purpose to derogate from the Divine Majesty and to alienate the minds of others from the love and reverence of God." [Century Dictionary, 1895]
often before vowels pseud-, word-forming element meaning "false; feigned; erroneous; in appearance only; resembling," from Greek pseudo-, combining form of pseudēs "false, lying; falsely; deceived," or pseudos "falsehood, untruth, a lie," both from pseudein "to tell a lie; be wrong, break (an oath)," also, in Attic, "to deceive, cheat, be false," but often regardless of intention, a word of uncertain origin. Words in Slavic and Armenian have been compared; by some scholars the Greek word is connected with *psu- "wind" (= "nonsense, idle talk"); Beekes suggests Pre-Greek origin.
Productive in compound formation in ancient Greek (such as pseudodidaskalos "false teacher," pseudokyon "a sham cynic," pseudologia "a false speech," pseudoparthenos "pretended virgin"), it began to be used with native words in later Middle English with a sense of "false, hypocritical" (pseudoclerk "deceitful clerk;" pseudocrist "false apostle;" pseudoprest "heretical priest;" pseudoprophete; pseudofrere) and has been productive since then; the list of words in it in the OED print edition runs to 13 pages. In science, indicating something deceptive in appearance or function.
"figure of speech by which a characteristic of one object is assigned to another, different but resembling it or analogous to it; comparison by transference of a descriptive word or phrase," late 15c., methaphoris (plural), from French metaphore (Old French metafore, 13c.) and directly from Latin metaphora, from Greek metaphora "a transfer," especially of the sense of one word to a different word, literally "a carrying over," from metapherein "to transfer, carry over; change, alter; to use a word in a strange sense," from meta "over, across" (see meta-) + pherein "to carry, bear" (from PIE root *bher- (1) "to carry," also "to bear children").
But a metaphor is no argument, though it be sometimes the gunpowder to drive one home and imbed it in the memory. [James Russell Lowell, "Democracy," 1884]
It is a great thing, indeed, to make a proper use of the poetical forms, as also of compounds and strange words. But the greatest thing by far is to be a master of metaphor. It is the one thing that cannot be learnt from others; and it is also a sign of genius, since a good metaphor implies an intuitive perception of the similarity in dissimilars. [Aristotle, "Poetics," 1459a 3-8]
Old English tellan "to reckon, calculate, number, compute; consider, think, esteem, account" (past tense tealde, past participle teald), from Proto-Germanic *taljan "to mention in order" (source also of Old Saxon tellian "tell," Old Norse telja "to count, number; to tell, say," Old Frisian tella "to count; to tell," Middle Dutch and Dutch tellen, Old Saxon talon "to count, reckon," Danish tale "to speak," Old High German zalon, German zählen "to count, reckon"), from PIE root *del- (2) "to count, reckon" (see tale).
Meaning "to narrate, announce, relate" in English is from c. 1000; that of "to make known by speech or writing, announce" is from early 12c. Sense of "to reveal or disclose" is from c. 1400; that of "to act as an informer, to 'peach' " is recorded from 1901. Meaning "to order (someone to do something)" is from 1590s. To tell (someone) off "reprimand" is from 1919.
Original sense in teller and phrase tell time. For sense evolution, compare French conter "to count," raconter "to recount;" Italian contare, Spanish contar "to count, recount, narrate;" German zählen "to count," erzählen "to recount, narrate." Klein also compares Hebrew saphar "he counted," sipper "he told."
"insect, beetle," 1620s (earliest reference is to bedbugs), of unknown origin, probably (but not certainly) from or influenced by Middle English bugge "something frightening, scarecrow" (late 14c.), a meaning obsolete since the "insect" sense arose except in bugbear (1570s) and bugaboo (q.v.).
Probably connected with Scottish bogill "goblin, bugbear," or obsolete Welsh bwg "ghost, goblin" (compare Welsh bwgwl "threat," earlier "fear," Middle Irish bocanách "supernatural being"). Some speculate that these words are from a root meaning "goat" (see buck (n.1)) and represent originally a goat-like spectre. Compare also bogey (n.1) and Puck. Middle English Compendium compares Low German bögge, böggel-mann "goblin." Perhaps influenced in meaning by Old English -budda used in compounds for "beetle" (compare Low German budde "louse, grub," Middle Low German buddech "thick, swollen").
The name of bug is given in a secondary sense to insects considered as an object of disgust and horror, and in modern English is appropriated to the noisome inhabitants of our beds, but in America is used as the general appellation of the beetle tribe .... A similar application of the word signifying an object dread to creeping things is very common. [Hensleigh Wedgwood, "A Dictionary of English Etymology," 1859]
Meaning "defect in a machine" (1889) may have been coined c. 1878 by Thomas Edison (perhaps with the notion of an insect getting into the works). Meaning "person obsessed by an idea" (as in firebug "arsonist") is from 1841, perhaps from notion of persistence. Sense of "microbe, germ" is from 1919. Bugs "crazy" is from c. 1900. Bug juice as a slang name for drink is from 1869, originally "bad whiskey." The 1811 slang dictionary has bug-hunter "an upholsterer." Bug-word "word or words meant to irritate and vex" is from 1560s.
Old English hwæt, referring to things in abstraction; also "why, wherefore; indeed, surely, truly," from Proto-Germanic pronoun *hwat (source also of Old Saxon hwat, Old Norse hvat, Danish hvad, Old Frisian hwet, Dutch wat, Old High German hwaz, German was, Gothic hva "what"), from PIE *kwod, neuter singular of *kwos "who," from PIE root *kwo-, stem of relative and interrogative pronouns. Corresponding to Latin quid.
Meaning "what did you say?" is recorded from c. 1300. As an adjective and adverb, in Old English. As a conjunction in late Old English. Exclamatory use was in Old English. What the _____ (devil, etc.) as an exclamation of surprise is from late 14c. As an interrogative expletive at the end of sentences from 1891; common in affected British speech. Or what as an alternative end to a question is first attested 1766. What have you "anything else one can think of" is from 1925. What's up? "what is happening?" first recorded 1881.
"To give one what for is to respond to his remonstrant what for? by further assault" [Weekley]. The phrase is attested from 1873; what for? as introducing a question is from 1760. To know what is what is from c. 1400; I'll tell you what to emphasize what is about to be said is in Shakespeare.
contemptuous nickname in U.S. politics for Northern Democrats who worked in the interest of the South before the Civil War, by 1833. It was taken to mean "man who allows himself to be molded," but that probably was not the original image. The source is an 1820 speech by John Randolph of Roanoke, in the wake of the Missouri Compromise.
Randolph, mocking the northerners intimidated by the South, referred to a children's game in which the players daubed their faces with dough and then looked in a mirror and scared themselves. [Daniel Walker Howe, "What Hath God Wrought," 2007]
Randolph had used the term dough-face in the sense "mask of dough" in Congressional debates as far back as February 1809 ("... it is something like dressing ourselves up in a dough-face and winding-sheet to frighten others ....").
However, the expression has been explained as referring to "the pale doughy faces of his frightened opponents" [Craigie], to a "person who is pliable and, as it were, made of dough" [Century Dictionary], or even "to liken them in timidity to female deer," which is frightened at her own shadow [The Port Folio, 1820]. Dough-faced in the sense "cowardly" is attested in a text from 1773, so there might be a convergence of senses.
c. 1300, "action of guarding or shielding from attack or injury; act of defending by fighting; a fortified place of refuge," from Old French defense, from Latin defensus, past participle of defendere "ward off, protect" (see defend). It also arrived (without the final -e) from Old French defens, from Latin defensum "thing protected or forbidden," neuter past participle of defendere.
Middle English defens was assimilated into defense, but not before it inspired the alternative spelling defence, via the same tendency that produced hence (hennis), pence (penies), dunce (Duns). Webster made the -se form standard in U.S., but British has preferred defence, and compare fence (n.).
Meaning "a speech or writing intended to repel or disprove a charge or accusation" is from late 14c., as is the sense of "method adopted by one against whom a lawsuit has been brought." Meaning "science of defense against attack" (in fencing, boxing, etc.) is from c. 1600. Used by 1935 as a euphemism for "national military resources," but the notion (non-euphemistic) was in Middle English: man of defense "warrior," ship of defense "warship." Defenses "natural weapons of an animal" is by 1889. Defense mechanism in psychology is from 1913.
Old English word "speech, talk, utterance, sentence, statement, news, report, word," from Proto-Germanic *wurda- (source also of Old Saxon, Old Frisian word, Dutch woord, Old High German, German wort, Old Norse orð, Gothic waurd), from PIE *were- (3) "speak, say" (see verb).
The meaning "promise" was in Old English, as was the theological sense. In the plural, the meaning "verbal altercation" (as in have words with someone) dates from mid-15c. Word-processor first recorded 1971; word-processing is from 1972; word-wrap is from 1977. A word to the wise is from Latin phrase verbum sapienti satis est "a word to the wise is enough." Word-for-word "in the exact word or terms" is late 14c. Word of mouth "spoken words, oral communication" (as distinguished from written words) is by 1550s.
It is dangerous to leave written that which is badly written. A chance word, upon paper, may destroy the world. Watch carefully and erase, while the power is still yours, I say to myself, for all that is put down, once it escapes, may rot its way into a thousand minds, the corn become a black smut, and all libraries, of necessity, be burned to the ground as a consequence. [William Carlos Williams, "Paterson"]
late Old English, sett, "appointed or prescribed beforehand;" hence "fixed, immovable, definite;" c.1300, of a task, etc., "imposed, prescribed;" past participle of setten "to set" (see set (v.)). By early 14c. as "ready." By 14c. with adverbs, "having a (specified) position, disposition, etc.;" by late 14c. as "placed, positioned;" to be set "be ready"
By 1510s as "formal, regular, in due form, deliberate;" 1530s as "placed in a setting, mounted." By c. 1600, of phrases, expression, etc., "composed, not spontaneous" (hence set speech, one planned carefully beforehand). By 1810 of the teeth, "clenched." The meaning "ready, prepared" is recorded from 1844.
By 1844 in reference to athletes poised to start a race, etc., or their muscles, "have or assume a rigid attitude or state." The exact phrase Get set! in the procedure of sprinting (after on your marks) is attested by 1890. A set piece, in theater, is "piece of free-standing scenery only moderately high, representing a single feature (such as a tree) and permitting more distant pieces to be seen over it" (by 1859); also, in the arts, "a painted or sculptured group" (1846).