late 14c., poinaunt, "painful to physical or mental feeling" (of sauce, spice, wine as well as things that affect the feelings), from Old French poignant "sharp, pointed" (13c.), present participle of poindre "to prick, sting," from Latin pungere "to prick, pierce, sting," figuratively, "to vex, grieve, trouble, afflict" (from suffixed form of PIE root *peuk- "to prick"). Related: Poignantly.
The sense of "sharp to the taste" is now obsolete. The word contains an etymological double-reverse. Latin pungere is from the same root as Latin pugnus "fist," and represents a Latin metathesis of -n- and -g- that was reversed in French.
c. 1300, paue, "hand or foot of an animal which has nails or claws" (distinguished from a hoof), from Old French powe, poue, poe "paw, fist," a word of uncertain origin. OED points to Germanic cognates and suggests a Frankish origin for the French word. Barnhart says evidence points to the Germanic word being borrowed from a Gallo-Roman root form *pauta (source also of Provençal pauta, Catalan pota). Century Dictionary says the modern Welsh and Breton words are from English and French. Compare patten. In reference to the human hand, especially if large or coarse, c. 1600.
fist-bump greeting, in African-American popular culture by 1972, with various theories as to origin and name meaning. Probably imitative (dap was used in 19c. for the bounce of a ball or the skip of a stone on water). Dap, meanwhile, is listed in the DAS as African-American vernacular c. 1950 for "aware, up to date," also "stylish, well-dressed," in the latter case at least a shortening of dapper. Controversial during the Vietnam War when used by U.S. soldiers, as it often was regarded by whites as a ritual act of black solidarity.
"to thrust, push; jostle;" also, "to prod, drive (cattle, etc.) by poking and prodding," late 14c., from Old French ponchonner "to punch, prick, stamp," from ponchon "pointed tool, piercing weapon" (see punch (n.1)).
Meaning "to pierce, make a hole or holes in with a punch, emboss with a tool" is from early 15c.; meaning "to stab, puncture" is from mid-15c. Related: Punched; punching.
Specialized sense "to hit with the fist, give a blow, beat with blows of the fist" is recorded by 1520s. Compare Latin pugnare "to fight with the fists," from a root meaning "to pierce, sting." In English this sense-shift evolved also probably by influence of punish: Punch or punsch for punish is found in documents from 14c.-15c.:
punchyth me, Lorde, and spare my blyssyd wyff Anne. [Coventry Mystery Plays, late 15c.]
To punch (someone) out "beat (someone) up" is from 1971. To punch a ticket, etc., "make a hole in" to indicate use of it is from mid-15c. To punch the clock "record one's arrival at or departure from the workplace using an automated timing device" is from 1900.
There are time recorders for checking the minute of arrival and departure of each office employee—machines that operate with clock attachment and which in response to worker's punch print on tabular sheets of paper his promptnesses and delinquencies. [Richard Lord, "Running an Office by Machinery," in System, September 1909]
Perhaps you are some great big chief, who has a lot to say.
Who lords it o'er the common herd who chance to come your way;
Well, here is where your arrogance gets a dreadful shock,
When you march up, like a private, salute, and PUNCH THE CLOCK.
[from "Punch the Clock," by "The Skipper," The Commercial Telegraphers' Journal, May 1912]
It was on a side hill, and I observed a boy, who appeared to be about fifteen years of age, opposite the house felling a large tree; he had cut a few chips from the under side, and was then making the principal incision on the upper. ... I said to the boy, "Well Sir, I see that you make the upper cut." "That is the true cut," said the boy; "for if you will take the axe and try below, you will find that the tree will crowd down upon your chips, and you can't get it down in double the time." [Theodore Sedgwick, "Hints to My Countrymen," 1826]
"a quick blow, dig, or thrust with the fist," by 1570s, probably from punch (v.). In early use it also could refer to blows with the foot or jabs with a staff or club. Originally especially of blows that sink in to some degree ("... whom he unmercifully bruises and batters from head to foot: here a slap in the chaps, there a black eye, now a punch in the stomach, and then a kick on the breech," Monthly Review, 1763).
The figurative sense of "forceful, vigorous quality" is recorded from 1911. Punch line (also punch-line) is from 1915, originally in popular-song writing. To beat (someone) to the punch in the figurative sense is from 1915, a metaphor from boxing (attested by 1913); punch-drunk "dazed from continued punching, having taken so many punches one can no longer feel it" is from 1915 (alternative form slug-nutty is from 1933).
"a hard hit (with a fist)," mid-15c., blaw, blowe, from northern and East Midlands dialects, perhaps from Middle Dutch blouwen "to beat," or an unrecorded Old English cognate. The ordinary Old English word for "to strike" was slean (see slay. A common Germanic word; compare German bleuen, Gothic bliggwan "to strike."
Influenced in English by blow (v.1). Figurative sense of "a sudden shock or calamity" is from 1670s. To come to blows "engage in combat" is from 1650s (fall to blows is from 1590s). In reference to descriptions or accounts, blow-by-blow is recorded from 1921, American English, originally of detailed accounts in prize-fight broadcasts.
LIKE a hungry kitten loves its saucer of warm milk, so do radio fans joyfully listen to the blow-by-blow broadcast description of a boxing bout. [The Wireless Age, December 1922]
The 1811 slang dictionary defines fice as "a small windy escape backwards, more obvious to the nose than ears; frequently by old ladies charged on their lap-dogs." Compare also Danish fise "to blow, to fart," and obsolete English aske-fise, "fire-tender," literally "ash-blower" (early 15c.), from an unrecorded Norse source, used in Middle English for a kind of bellows, but originally "a term of reproach among northern nations for an unwarlike fellow who stayed at home in the chimney corner" [OED].
Old English feohtan "to combat, contend with weapons, strive; attack; gain by fighting, win" (intransitive; class III strong verb; past tense feaht, past participle fohten), from Proto-Germanic *fe(u)hta (source also of Old High German fehtan, German fechten, Middle Dutch and Dutch vechten, Old Frisian fiuhta "to fight"), probably from PIE *pek- (2) "to comb, to pluck out" wool or hair (source also of Lithuanian pėšti"to pluck," Greek pekein "to comb, shear," pekos "fleece, wool;" Persian pashm "wool, down," Latin pectere "to comb," Sanskrit paksman- "eyebrows, hair"). Apparently the notion is "pulling roughly," or "to tear out one another's hair." But perhaps it is from the source of Latin pugnus "fist."
Spelling substitution of -gh- for a "hard H" sound was a Middle English scribal habit, especially before -t-. In some late Old English examples, the middle consonant was represented by a yogh. Among provincial early Modern English spellings, Wright lists faight, fate, fecht, feeght, feight, feit, feyght, feyt, feort, foight.
From c. 1200 as "offer resistance, struggle;" also "to quarrel, wrangle, create a disturbance." From late 14c. as "be in conflict." Transitive use from 1690s. To fight for "contest on behalf of" is from early 14c. To fight back "resist" is recorded from 1890. Well figt þat wel fligt ("he fights well that flies fast") was a Middle English proverb.