from Old English gang "a going, journey, way, passage," and Old Norse gangr "a group of men, a set," both from Proto-Germanic *gangaz (source also of Old Saxon, Old Frisian, Danish, Dutch, Old High German, German gang, Old Norse gangr, Gothic gagg "act of going"), of uncertain origin, perhaps from PIE root *ghengh- "to step" (source also of Sanskrit jangha "shank," Avestan zanga- "ankle," Lithuanian žengiu "I stride"). Not considered to be related to go.
The sense evolution is probably via meaning "a set of articles that usually are taken together in going" (mid-14c.), especially a set of tools used on the same job. By 1620s this had been extended in nautical speech to mean "a company of workmen," and by 1630s the word was being used, with disapproving overtones, for "any band of persons traveling together," then "a criminal gang or company" (gang of thieves, gang of roughs, etc.). By 1855 gang was being used in the sense "group of criminal or mischievous boys in a city." In American English, especially of slaves working on plantations (1724). Also formerly used of animal herds or flocks (17c.-19c.). Gangway preserves the original sense of the word, as does gang-plank.
c. 1300, "incantation, magic charm," from Old French charme (12c.) "magic charm, magic spell incantation; song, lamentation," from Latin carmen "song, verse, enchantment, religious formula," from canere "to sing" (from PIE root *kan- "to sing"), with dissimilation of -n- to -r- before -m- in intermediate form *canmen (for a similar evolution, see Latin germen "germ," from *genmen). The notion is of chanting or reciting verses of magical power.
A yet stronger power than that of herb or stone lies in the spoken word, and all nations use it both for blessing and cursing. But these, to be effective, must be choice, well knit, rhythmic words (verba concepta), must have lilt and tune; hence all that is strong in the speech wielded by priest, physician, magician, is allied to the forms of poetry. [Jakob Grimm, "Teutonic Mythology" (transl. Stallybrass), 1883]
Sense of "pleasing quality, irresistable power to please and attract" evolved by 17c. From 1590s as "any item worn to avert evil;" meaning "small trinket fastened to a watch-chain, etc." first recorded 1865. Quantum physics sense is from 1964. Charm-bracelet is from 1941; charm-school from 1919. To work like a charm (figuratively) is recorded by 1824.
c. 1200, "sound of a musical instrument;" mid-13c., "loud speech, outcry, clamor, shouting;" c. 1300, "a sound of any kind from any source," especially a loud and disagreeable sound, from Old French noise "din, disturbance, uproar, brawl" (11c., in modern French only in phrase chercher noise "to pick a quarrel"), also "rumor, report, news," a word of uncertain origin, replacing Replaced native gedyn (see din).
According to some, it is from Latin nausea "disgust, annoyance, discomfort," literally "seasickness" (see nausea). According to others, it is from Latin noxia "hurting, injury, damage." OED considers that "the sense of the word is against both suggestions," but nausea could have developed a sense in Vulgar Latin of "unpleasant situation, noise, quarrel" (compare Old Provençal nauza "noise, quarrel"). Confusion with annoy, noisome, and other similar words seems to have occurred.
From c. 1300 as "a disturbance; report, rumor, scandal." In Middle English sometimes also "a pleasant sound." In 16c.-17c. "a band or company of musicians." Noises off, as a stage instruction in theater, "sound effects, usually loud and confused, made off stage but to be heard by the audience as part of the play," is by 1908.
c. 1500, "without speech, silent, not speaking," from Latin silentem (nominative silens) "still, calm, quiet," present participle of silere "be quiet or still" (see silence (n.)). Meaning "free from noise or sound" is from 1580s.
Of letters, c. 1600; of films, 1914. In the looser sense "of few words," from 1840. Phrase strong, silent (type) is attested from 1905. Silent majority in the political sense of "mass of people whose moderate views are not publicly expressed and thus overlooked" is first attested 1955 in a British context and was used by John F. Kennedy but is most associated in U.S. with the rhetoric of the Nixon administration (1969-74).
It is time for America's silent majority to stand up for its rights, and let us remember the American majority includes every minority. America's silent majority is bewildered by irrational protest. [Spiro T. Agnew, May 9, 1969]
In Victorian use, the phrase meant "the dead" (1874; compare Roman use of the noun plural of "silent" to mean "the dead"). Silence is golden (1831) is Carlyle's translation ["Sartor Resartus"] of part of the "Swiss Inscription" Sprechen ist silbern, Schweigen ist golden. In one 14c. text Latin "one who is silent" is translated by a beere stille.
As a noun, "the Britons," also "the Welsh language," both from Old English. The word survives in Wales, Cornwall, Walloon, walnut, and in surnames Walsh and Wallace. Borrowed in Old Church Slavonic as vlachu, and applied to the Rumanians, hence Wallachia. Among the English, Welsh was used disparagingly of inferior or substitute things (such as Welsh cricket "louse" (1590s); Welsh comb "thumb and four fingers" (1796), and compare welch (v.)). Welsh rabbit is from 1725, also perverted by folk-etymology as Welsh rarebit (1785).
a modern spelling variant or replacement of Middle English rime, rimen, from Old French rimer, from rime "verse" (see rhyme (n.)). The Middle English word is attested from late 12c. as "poetic measure, meter," from c. 1300 as "agreement in terminal sounds of words or metrical lines; a rhyming song or ballad."
The spelling shifted from mid-17c. by influence of rhythm and Latin rhythmus, from the same Greek source, and the intermediate form rhime is frequent for a while (Dryden and Steele have rhime; Pope and Scott rhyme). Related: Rhymed; rhyming; rhymer (Middle English rimer, early 15c., from rime, also from Anglo-French rimour, Old French rimeur).
The poetaster's rhyming dictionary is attested from 1775 (in John Walker's introduction to his "Dictionary of the English Language, Answering at once the Purposes of Rhyming, Spelling, and Pronouncing. On a Plan Not Hitherto Attempted"). The phrase rhyming slang for the Cockney disguised speech in which a word is replaced by a phrase which rhymes with it is attested from 1859 (the thing itself described by 1851). Especially if the rhyming word is then omitted, which seals the reference from the uninitiated: Richard, in rhyming slang "a girl" (a couple of likely Richards), short for Richard the Third, chosen to rhyme with bird "girl."
c. 1300, "story, narration," from Old French prose (13c.) and directly from Latin prosa, short for prosa oratio "straightforward or direct speech" (without the ornaments of verse), from prosa, fem. of prosus, earlier prorsus "straightforward, direct," from Old Latin provorsus "(moving) straight ahead," from pro "forward" (from PIE root *per- (1) "forward") + vorsus "turned," past participle of vertere "to turn" (from PIE root *wer- (2) "to turn, bend").
The meaning "prose writing; non-poetry" (as opposed to verse or metric composition); "the ordinary written or spoken language of people" is from mid-14c.
"Good prose, to say nothing of the original thoughts it conveys, may be infinitely varied in modulation. It is only an extension of metres, an amplification of harmonies, of which even the best and most varied poetry admits but few." [Walter Savage Landor, "Imaginary Conversations"]
The sense of "dull or commonplace expression" is from 1680s, out of the earlier sense of "plain expression" (1560s). As an adjective, "relating to or consisting of prose," by 1711. Prose-writer is attested from 1610s; those who lament the want of a single-word English agent noun to correspond to poet might try prosaist (1776), proser (1620s), or Frenchified prosateur (1880), though the first two in their day also acquired in English the secondary sense "dull writer."
1540s, "epic poem," also "a book of an epic" (suitable for recitation at one time), from French rhapsodie, from Latin rhapsodia, from Greek rhapsōidia "verse composition, recitation of epic poetry; a book, a lay, a canto," from rhapsōdos "reciter of epic poems," literally "one who stitches or strings songs together," from stem of rhaptein "to stitch, sew, weave" (from PIE root *wer- (2) "to turn, bend") + ōidē "song" (see ode).
According to Beekes, the notion in the Greek word is "originally 'who sews a poem together', referring to the uninterrupted sequence of epic verses as opposed to the strophic compositions of lyrics." William Mure ["Language and Literature of Antient Greece," 1850] writes that the Homeric rhapsōidia "originally applied to the portions of the poems habitually allotted to different performers in the order of recital, afterwards transferred to the twenty-four books, or cantos, into which each work was permanently divided by the Alexandrian grammarians."
The word had various specific or extended senses 16c.-17c., mostly now obsolete or archaic. Among them was "miscellaneous collection, confused mass (of things)," thus "literary work consisting of miscellaneous or disconnected pieces, a rambling composition." This, now obsolete, might be the path of the word to the meaning "an exalted or exaggeratedly enthusiastic expression of sentiment or feeling, speech or writing with more enthusiasm than accuracy or logical connection of ideas" (1630s). The meaning "sprightly musical composition" is recorded by 1850s.
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]
"either of the two fleshy sides of the face below the eyes," Old English ceace, cece "jaw, jawbone," in late Old English also "the fleshy wall of the mouth," of uncertain origin, from Proto-Germanic *kaukon (source also of Middle Low German kake "jaw, jawbone," Middle Dutch kake "jaw," Dutch kaak), not found outside West Germanic, probably a substratum word.
Words for "cheek," "jaw," and "chin" tend to run together in IE languages (compare PIE *genw-, source of Greek genus "jaw, cheek," geneion "chin," and English chin); Aristotle considered the chin as the front of the "jaws" and the cheeks as the back of them. The other Old English word for "cheek" was ceafl (see jowl (n.1)).
A thousand men he [Samson] slow eek with his hond, And had no wepen but an asses cheek. [Chaucer, "Monk's Tale"]
In reference to the buttocks from c. 1600. Sense of "brazen insolence" is from 1840, perhaps from a notion akin to that which led to jaw "insolent speech," mouth off, etc. To turn the other cheek is an allusion to Matthew v.39 and Luke vi.29. Cheek-by-jowl "with cheeks close together," hence "in intimate contact" is from 1570s; earlier in same sense was cheek-by-cheek (early 14c.). In ballroom dancing, cheek-to-cheek is from 1919 (earlier it was a measurement of apples).