Middle English quik, from Old English cwic "living, alive, animate, characterized by the presence of life" (now archaic), and figuratively, of mental qualities, "rapid, ready," from Proto-Germanic *kwikwaz (source also of Old Saxon and Old Frisian quik, Old Norse kvikr "living, alive," Dutch kwik "lively, bright, sprightly," Old High German quec "lively," German keck "bold"), from PIE root *gwei- "to live." Sense of "lively, active, swift, speedy, hasty," developed by c. 1300, on notion of "full of life."
NE swift or the now more common fast may apply to rapid motion of any duration, while in quick (in accordance with its original sense of 'live, lively') there is a notion of 'sudden' or 'soon over.' We speak of a fast horse or runner in a race, a quick starter but not a quick horse. A somewhat similar feeling may distinguish NHG schnell and rasch or it may be more a matter of local preference. [Carl Darling Buck, "A Dictionary of Selected Synonyms in the Principal Indo-European Languages," 1949]
Of persons, "mentally active, prompt to perceive or respond to impressions" from late 15c. Of an action, process, etc., "done in little time," 1540s. Also in Middle English used of soft soils, gravel pits, etc. where the ground is shifting and yielding (mid-14c., compare quicksand). Also in Middle English "with child, in an advanced state of pregnancy" (when the woman can feel the child move within). Also formerly of bright flowers or colors (c. 1200).
As an adverb, "quickly, in a quick manner," from c. 1300. To be quick about something is from 1937. Quick buck is from 1946, American English. Quick-change artist (1886) originally was an actor expert in playing different roles in the same performance of a show. Quick-witted is from 1520s.
Old English stæf (plural stafas), "walking stick, strong pole used for carrying, rod used as a weapon, pastoral staff," probably originally *stæb, from Proto-Germanic *stab- (source also of Old Saxon staf, Old Norse stafr, Danish stav, Old Frisian stef, Middle Low German and Middle Dutch staf, Old High German stab, German Stab, Gothic *stafs "element;" Middle Dutch stapel "pillar, foundation").
This is reconstructed to be from PIE root *stebh- "post, stem, to support, place firmly on, fasten" (source also of Old Lithuanian stabas "idol," Lithuanian stiebas "staff, pillar;" Old Church Slavonic stoboru "pillar;" Sanskrit stabhnati "supports;" Greek stephein "to tie around, encircle, wreathe," staphyle "grapevine, bunch of grapes;" Old English stapol "post, pillar").
As "pole from which a flag is flown," 1610s. In musical notation from 1660s. Sense of "group of military officers that assists a commander" is attested from 1702, apparently from German, from the notion of the baton that is a badge of office or authority (a sense attested in English from 1530s); hence staff officer (1702), staff-sergeant (1811). The meaning "group of employees (as at an office or hospital)" is attested by 1837.
Staff of life "bread" is from the Biblical phrase break the staff of bread meaning "cut off the supply of food" (Leviticus xxvi.26), translating Hebrew matteh lekhem.
The Old English word, in plural, was the common one used for "letter of the alphabet, character," hence "writing, literature," and many compounds having to do with writing, such as stæfcræft "grammar," stæfcræftig "lettered," stæflic "literary," stæfleahtor "grammatical error," with leahtor "vice, sin, offense."
Old English horn "horn of an animal; projection, pinnacle," also "wind instrument" (originally one made from animal horns), from Proto-Germanic *hurni- (source also of German Horn, Dutch horen, Old Frisian horn, Gothic haurn), from PIE root *ker- (1) "horn; head."
Late 14c. as "one of the tips of the crescent moon." The name was retained for a class of musical instruments that developed from the hunting horn; the French horn is the true representative of the class. Of dilemmas from 1540s; of automobile warning signals from 1901. Slang meaning "erect penis" is suggested by c. 1600. Jazz slang sense of "trumpet" is by 1921. Meaning "telephone" is by 1945. Figurative senses of Latin cornu included "salient point, chief argument; wing, flank; power, courage, strength." Horn of plenty is from 1580s. To make horns at "hold up the fist with the two exterior fingers extended" as a gesture of insult is from c.1600.
Symbolic of cuckoldry since mid-15c. (the victim was fancied to grow one on his head). The image is widespread in Europe and perhaps as old as ancient Greece. The German linguist Hermann Dunger ('Hörner Aufsetzen' und 'Hahnrei', "Germania" 29, 1884) ascribes it to a custom surviving into 19c., "the old practice of engrafting the spurs of a castrated cock on the root of the excised comb, which caused them to grow like horns" [James Hastings, "Encyclopedia of Religion and Ethics"] but the image could have grown as well from a general gesture of contempt or insult made to wronged husbands, "who have been the subject of popular jest in all ages" [Hastings].
late 14c., nerve, nerf, "sinew, tendon, hard cord of the body" (a sense now obsolete), also "fiber or bundle of fibers that convey the capacity to feel or move from the brain or spinal cord to the body," from Old French nerf and directly from Medieval Latin nervus "a nerve," from Latin nervus "sinew, tendon; cord, bowstring, string of a musical instrument," metathesis of pre-Latin *neuros, from PIE *(s)neu- "tendon, sinew" (source also of Sanskrit snavan- "band, sinew," Armenian neard "sinew," Greek neuron "sinew, tendon," in Galen "nerve").
The late medieval surgeons understood the nature and function of the nerves and often used nervus to denote a `nerve' in the modern sense, as well as to denote a `tendon'. There appears to have been some confusion, however, between nerves and tendons; hence, a number of instances in which nervus may be interpreted in either way or in both ways simultaneously. [Middle English Compendium]
The secondary senses developed from meaning "strength, vigor; force, energy" (c. 1600), from the "sinew" sense. Hence the non-scientific sense with reference to feeling or courage, first attested c. 1600 (as in nerves of steel, 1869) and that of "coolness in the face of danger, fortitude under trying or critical circumstances" is by 1809. The bad sense "impudence, boldness, cheek" (originally slang) is by 1887. Latin nervus also had a figurative sense of "vigor, force, power, strength," as did Greek neuron. From the neurological sense come Nerves "condition of hysterical nervousness," attested by 1890, perhaps from 1792. To get on (someone's) nerves is from 1895. War of nerves "psychological warfare" is from 1915.
Middle English reden, ireden, "to counsel, advise," also "to read," from Old English rædan, gerædan (West Saxon), redan, geredan (Anglian) "to advise, counsel, persuade; discuss, deliberate; rule, guide; arrange, equip; forebode; to read (observe and apprehend the meaning of something written), utter aloud (words, letters, etc.); to explain; to learn through reading; to put in order."
This is reconstructed to be from Proto-Germanic *redan, source also of Old Norse raða, Old Frisian reda, Dutch raden, Old High German ratan, German raten "to advise, counsel, interpret, guess," from PIE root *re- "to reason, count."
Cognate words in most modern Germanic languages still mean "counsel, advise" (compare rede). Old English also had a related noun ræd, red "advice," and read is connected to riddle (n.1) via the notion of "interpret." Century Dictionary notes that the past participle should be written red, as it formerly was, and as in lead/led. Middle English past participle variants include eradde, irad, ired, iræd, irudde.
The sense-transference to "interpret and understand the meaning of written symbols" is said to be unique to English and (perhaps under Old English influence) Old Norse raða. Most languages use a word rooted in the idea of "gather up" as their word for "read" (such as French lire, from Latin legere).
Sense of "make out the character of (a person)" is attested from 1610s. Musical sense of "perform (at first sight) from the notes" is by 1792. To read up "systematically study" is from 1842; read out (v.) "expel by proclamation" (Society of Friends) is from 1788. Read-only in computer jargon is recorded from 1961.
"yellow malleable alloy metal, harder than copper," Old English bræs "brass, bronze," originally any alloy of copper, in England usually with tin (this is now called bronze), later and in modern use an alloy of roughly two parts copper to one part zinc. A mystery word, with no known cognates beyond English. Perhaps akin to French brasser "to brew," because it is an alloy. It also has been compared to Old Swedish brasa "fire," but no sure connection can be made. Yet another theory connects it with Latin ferrum "iron," itself of obscure origin.
Words for "brass" in other languages (such as German Messing, Old English mæsling, French laiton, Italian ottone) also tend to be difficult to explain. As brass was unknown in early antiquity (it was well-known to Strabo, 1c., but not mentioned by Homer), the use of the English word in Bible translations, etc., likely means "bronze." The Romans were the first to deliberately make it.
When works of Greek and Roman antiquity in 'brass' began to be critically examined, and their material discriminated, the Italian word for 'brass' (bronzo, bronze) came into use to distinguish this 'ancient brass' from the current alloy. [OED]
Rhetorically or figuratively it was the common type of hardness, durability, or obduracy since late 14c. The meaning "effrontery, impudence, excessive assurance" is from 1620s. Slang sense of "high officials" is first recorded 1899, from their insignia. Meaning "brass musical instruments of a band" is from 1832.
common burrowing mammal, identified as a rodent, noted for prolific breeding, late 14c., rabet, "young of the coney," suspected to be from Walloon robète or a similar northern French dialect word, a diminutive of Flemish or Middle Dutch robbe "rabbit," which are of unknown origin. "A Germanic noun with a French suffix" [Liberman]. The adult was a coney (q.v.) until 18c.
Zoologically speaking, there are no native rabbits in the United States; they are all hares. But the early colonists, for some unknown reason, dropped the word hare out of their vocabulary, and it is rarely heard in American speech to this day. When it appears it is almost always applied to the so-called Belgian hare, which, curiously enough, is not a hare at all, but a true rabbit. [Mencken, "The American Language"]
Rabbit punch "chop on the back of the neck" (1915) is so called from resemblance to a gamekeeper's method of dispatching an injured rabbit. Pulling rabbits from a hat as a conjurer's trick recorded by 1843. Rabbit's foot "good luck charm" is attested by 1879 in U.S. Southern black culture. Earlier references are to its use as a tool to apply cosmetic powders.
[N]ear one of them was the dressing-room of the principal danseuse of the establishment, who was at the time of the rising of the curtain consulting a mirror in regard to the effect produced by the application of a rouge-laden rabbit's foot to her cheeks, and whose toilet we must remark, passim, was not entirely completed. [New York Musical Review and Gazette, Nov. 29, 1856]
Rabbit-hole is by 1705. Rabbit ears "dipole television antenna" is from 1950. Grose's 1785 "Dictionary of the Vulgar Tongue" has "RABBIT CATCHER. A midwife."
by 1912, American English, first attested in baseball slang; as a type of music, attested by 1915. Perhaps ultimately from slang jasm(1860) "energy, vitality, spirit," perhaps especially in a woman. This is perhaps from earlier gism in the same sense (1842).
By the end of the 1800s, "gism" meant not only "vitality" but also "virility," leading to the word being used as slang for "semen." But — and this is significant — although a similar evolution happened to the word "jazz," which became slang for the act of sex, that did not happen until 1918 at the earliest. That is, the sexual connotation was not part of the origin of the word, but something added later. [Lewis Porter, "Where Did 'Jazz,' the Word, Come From?" http://wbgo.org Feb. 26, 2018]
Meaning "rubbish, unnecessary talk or ornamentation" is from 1918. Slang all that jazz "et cetera" first recorded 1939. Further observations from Porter's summation of the research:
"Jazz" seems to have originated among white Americans, and the earliest printed uses are in California baseball writing, where it means "lively, energetic." (The word still carries this meaning, as in "Let’s jazz this up!") The earliest known usage occurs on April 2, 1912, in an article discovered by researcher George A. Thompson, and sent to me courtesy of [Professor Gerald ] Cohen.
... By 1915, jazz was being applied to a new kind of music in Chicago. It seems to have been first applied to Tom Brown's all-white band, which hailed from New Orleans. This was followed by many printed references to jazz as a musical style.
late 14c., "narrative with a happy ending; any composition intended for amusement," from Old French comedie (14c.), "a poem" (not in the theatrical sense) and directly from Latin comoedia, from Greek kōmōidia "a comedy, amusing spectacle," probably [Beekes] from kōmōidos "actor or singer in the revels," from kōmos "revel, carousal, merry-making, festival" + aoidos "singer, poet," from aeidein "to sing," which is related to ōidē (see ode).
The passage on the nature of comedy in the Poetic of Aristotle is unfortunately lost, but if we can trust stray hints on the subject, his definition of comedy (which applied mainly to Menander) ran parallel to that of tragedy, and described the art as a purification of certain affections of our nature, not by terror and pity, but by laughter and ridicule. [Rev. J.P. Mahaffy, "A History of Classical Greek Literature," London, 1895]
The origin of Greek komos is uncertain; perhaps it is from a PIE *komso- "praise," and cognate with Sanskrit samsa "praise, judgment." Beekes suggests Pre-Greek. The old derivation from kome "village" is not now regarded.
The classical sense of the word was "amusing play or performance with a happy ending," which is similar to the modern one, but in the Middle Ages the word meant poems and stories generally (albeit ones with happy endings), such as Dante's "Commedia." The revival of learning 16c. recovered the ancient comedies and shifted the sense of the word to "branch of drama addressing primarily the humorous and ridiculous" (opposed to tragedy). In 18c. this was somewhat restricted to "humorous, but not grossly comical, drama" (opposed to farce).
Comedy aims at entertaining by the fidelity with which it presents life as we know it, farce at raising laughter by the outrageous absurdity of the situation or characters exhibited, & burlesque at tickling the fancy of the audience by caricaturing plays or actors with whose style it is familiar. [Fowler]
Meaning "comic play or drama" is from 1550s (the first modern comedy in English was said to be Nicholas Udall's "Roister Doister"). Extended sense "humorous or comic incident or events in life" is from 1560s. Generalized sense of "quality of being amusing" dates from 1877.
"being but a single unit or individual; being a single person, thing, etc. of the class mentioned;" as a pronoun, "a single person or thing, an individual, somebody;" as a noun, "the first or lowest of the cardinal numerals; single in kind, the same; the first whole number, consisting of a single unit; unity; the symbol representing one or unity;" c. 1200, from Old English an (adjective, pronoun, noun) "one," from Proto-Germanic *ainaz (source also of Old Norse einn, Danish een, Old Frisian an, Dutch een, German ein, Gothic ains), from PIE root *oi-no- "one, unique."
Originally pronounced as it still is in only, atone, alone, and in dialectal good 'un, young 'un, etc.; the now-standard pronunciation "wun" began c. 14c. in southwest and west England (Tyndale, a Gloucester man, spells it won in his Bible translation), and it began to be general 18c. Its use as indefinite pronoun was influenced by unrelated French on and Latin homo.
Before the name of a person, indicating "hitherto unknown" or not known to the speaker.
One and only "sweetheart" is from 1906. Slang one-arm bandit for a type of slot machine is recorded by 1938. One-night stand is 1880 in performance sense; 1963 in sexual sense. One of the boys "ordinary amiable fellow" is from 1893. One-track mind "mind capable of only one line of thought or action" is by 1915. Drinking expression one for the road is from 1950 (as a song title). One-man band is by 1909 in a literal sense, 1914 figurative. One of those things "unpredictable occurrence" is from 1934 (Cole Porter's song is from 1935).
The conscience clause is one of the weaknesses of the Bill. It is one of those things which tend to create the bitterness. The conscience clause is one of those things which are inseparable from a Bill like this. It is one of those things which divides the sheep from the goats—members can pick them out for themselves—in the playground, in the school. ["Religious Exercises in School Bills," New Zealand Parliamentary Debates, Aug. 13, 1926]