late 14c., "a communicable disease; a harmful or corrupting influence," from Old French contagion and directly from Latin contagionem (nominative contagio) "a touching, contact," often in a bad sense, "a contact with something physically or morally unclean, contagion," from contingere "to touch," from assimilated form of com "with, together" (see con-) + tangere "to touch," from PIE root *tag- "to touch, handle." Meaning "infectious contact or communication" is from 1620s.
A distinction between contagion and infection is sometimes adopted, the former being limited to the transmission of disease by actual contact of the diseased part with a healthy absorbent or abraded surface, and the latter to transmission through the atmosphere by floating germs or miasmata. There are, however, cases of transmission which do not fall under either of these divisions, and there are some which fall under both. In common use no precise discrimination of the two words is attempted. [Century Dictionary, 1897]
Old English bettra, earlier betera "of superior quality or excellence," from Proto-Germanic *batizo-, perhaps from PIE *bhad- "good," but Boutkan finds no good IE etymology. For etymology and evolution, see best. Cognate words also have become the comparative adjective of good in the older Germanic languages (Old Frisian betera, Old Saxon betiro, Old Norse betr, Danish bedre, Old High German bezziro, German besser, Gothic batiza). All are comparatives of a positive (Proto-Germanic *bat) which is not in use.
In Middle English the adverbial form commonly was bet, sometimes also was an adjective; bet was displaced by c. 1600. From late Old English as "improved in health, more healthy" (adv.); from late 12c. as "more useful or desirable." Better half "wife" is first attested 1570s.
c. 1300, qualite, "temperament, character, disposition," from Old French calite, qualite "quality, nature, characteristic" (12c., Modern French qualité), from Latin qualitatem (nominative qualitas) "a quality, property; nature, state, condition" (said [Tucker, etc.] to have been coined by Cicero to translate Greek poiotēs), from qualis "what kind of a" (from PIE root *kwo-, stem of relative and interrogative pronouns).
In early use, and for long thereafter, with awareness of the word's use in Aristotelian philosophy. From late 14c. as "an inherent attribute," also "degree of goodness or excellence." Meaning "social rank, position" is c. 1400, hence "nobility, gentry." From 1580s as "a distinguished and characteristic excellence."
Noun phrase quality time "time spent giving undivided attention to another person to build a relationship" is recorded by 1977. Quality of life "degree to which a person is healthy and able to participate in or enjoy life events" is from 1943. Quality control "maintenance of desired quality in a manufactured product" is attested from 1935.
1640s, of a volatile liquid, "to evaporate through the pores" (intransitive), a back-formation from perspiration and in part from Latin perspirare "blow or breathe constantly," from per "through" (from PIE root *per- (1) "forward," hence "through") + spirare "to breathe, blow" (see spirit (n.)). The meaning "to sweat, to give out watery substance through the pores of the skin" (intransitive) is a polite usage attested from 1725. Medical men tried to maintain a distinction between "sensible" (sweat) and "insensible" perspiration:
[I]t is sufficient for common use to observe, that perspiration is that insensible discharge of vapour from the whole surface of the body and the lungs which is constantly going on in a healthy state; that it is always natural and always salutary; that sweat, on the contrary, is an evacuation, which never appears without some uncommon effort, or some disease to the system, that it weakens and relaxes, and is so far from coinciding with perspiration, that it obstructs and checks it. [Charles White, "A Treatise on the Management of Pregnant and Lying-in Women," London, 1791]
Related: Perspired; perspiring.
1800, used by British physician Edward Jenner (1749-1823) for the technique he publicized of preventing smallpox by injecting people with the similar but much milder cowpox virus (variolae vaccinae), from vaccine (adj.) "pertaining to cows, from cows" (1798), from Latin vaccinus "from cows," from vacca "cow," a word of uncertain origin. A mild case of cowpox rendered one immune thereafter to smallpox. "The use of the term for diseases other than smallpox is due to Pasteur" [OED].
The earlier 18c. method of smallpox protection in England was by a kind of inoculation called variolation (from variola, the medical Latin word for "smallpox"). There are two forms of smallpox: a minor one that killed 2% or less of the people who got it, and a virulent form that had about a 30% mortality rate and typically left survivors with severe scarring and often blinded them. Those who got the minor form were noted to be immune thereafter to the worse. Doctors would deliberately infect healthy young patients with a local dose of the minor smallpox, usually resulting in a mild case of it at worst, to render them immune to the more deadly form. Jenner's method was safer, as it involved no smallpox exposure.
c. 1300, "having a rough, hairy, or shaggy surface" (originally of animals), a word probably of Scandinavian origin: compare Old Norse rogg "shaggy tuft" (see rug). "The precise relationship to ragged is not quite clear, but the stem is no doubt ultimately the same" [OED]. In Middle English ruggedy (late 14c.) also was used.
Of ground, "broken, stony," by 1650s. Of made things, "strongly constructed, able to withstand rough use," by 1921. By 1620s, especially of persons or their qualities, as "unsoftened by refinement or cultivation," thence "of a rough but strong or sturdy character" (by 1827). The specific meaning "vigorous, strong, robust, healthy," is American English, attested by 1847.
We were challenged with a peace-time choice between the American system of rugged individualism and a European philosophy of diametrically opposed doctrines — doctrines of paternalism and state socialism. [Herbert Hoover, speech in New York, Oct. 22, 1928]
Hoover said the phrase was not his own, and it is attested from 1897, though not in a patriotic context. Related: Ruggedly; ruggedness.
1857 as the years of someone's life between 90 and 99; from 1848 as the tenth decade of years in a given century; 1849 with reference to Fahrenheit temperature. See ninety.
Many still live who remember those days; if the old men cannot tell you the exact date, they will say: 'It were in the nineties;' (etc.) [Chambers's Journal, Nov. 1, 1856]
Related: Ninetyish "characteristic of the (eighteen-) nineties" (1909). In Britain, the naughty nineties was a popular name 1920s-30s for the 1890s, based on the notion of a relaxing of morality and mood in contrast to earlier Victorian times. In U.S., gay nineties in reference to the same decade is attested from 1927, and was the title of a regular nostalgia feature in "Life" magazine about that time.
The long, dreary blue-law Sunday afternoons were periods of the Nineties which no amount of rosy retrospect will ever be able to recall as gay, especially to a normal healthy boy to whom all activities were taboo except G. A. Henty and the bound volumes of Leslie's Weekly of the Civil War. [Life magazine, Sept. 1, 1927]
1680s, "pertaining to muscles," from Latin musculus (see muscle (n.)) + -ar. Earlier in same sense was musculous (early 15c., from Latin musculosus). Meaning "brawny, strong, having well-developed muscles" is from 1736. Muscular Christianity (1857) is originally in reference to philosophy of Anglican clergyman and novelist Charles Kingsley (1819-1875), who rejected the term. Muscular dystrophy is attested from 1877.
You have used that, to me, painful, if not offensive, term, 'Muscular Christianity.' My dear Sir, I know of no Christianity save one, which is the likeness of Christ, and the same for all men, viz., to be transformed into Christ's likeness, and to consecrate to His service, as far as may be, all the powers of body, soul, and spirit, regenerate and purified in His Spirit. All I wish to do is, to say to the strong and healthy man, even though he be not very learned, or wise, or even delicate-minded--in the aesthetic sense: 'You, too, can serve God with the powers which He has given you. He will call you to account for them, just as much as he will call the parson, or the devout lady.' [letter, Oct. 19, 1858, to a clergyman who in a review had called him a "muscular Christian"]
"of a bright, warm color resembling that of blood or of the highest part of the primery rainbow" [Century Dictionary], Middle English rēd, redde, read, reid, from Old English rēad, used of various shades of purple, crimson, scarlet, pink, etc.; also red clothes, dye, ink, wine, or paint, also "having a ruddy or reddish complexion; red-haired, red-bearded;" from Proto-Germanic *rauthan (source also of Old Norse rauðr, Danish rød, Old Saxon rod, Old Frisian rad, Middle Dutch root, Dutch rood, German rot, Gothic rauþs).
This is reconstructed to be from a PIE root *reudh- "red, ruddy," the only color for which a definite common PIE root word has been found. It also is the root of native ruddy, rust, and, via Latin, ruby, rubric, russet, etc.
Along with dead, bread (n.), lead (n.1), its long vowel shortened in or after Middle English. The surname Read, Reid, Reade, etc. represents the old form of the adjective and retains the original Old English long vowel pronunciation. It corresponds to Brown, Black, White; Red itself being rare as a surname. As the color designation of Native Americans in English from 1580s.
In fixed comparisons, red as blood (Old English), roses (mid-13c.), cherry (c. 1400). From Old English as the color characteristic of inflammation, blistering, etc. Of the complexion, lips, etc., "ruddy, rosy, red" (c. 1200); also of person with a healthy complexion or skin color; to be red in the face as a result of powerful emotion or agitation is by c. 1200; to see red "get angry" is an American English expression attested by 1898.
Red as the characteristic color of "British possessions" on a map is attested from 1885. Red-white-and-blue in reference to American patriotism, from the colors of the flag, is from 1840; in a British context, in reference to the Union flag, 1852.
Red rover, the children's game, attested from 1891. Red ball signifying "express" in railroad jargon is by 1904, originally (1899) a system of moving and tracking freight cars. Red dog, type of U.S. football pass rush, is recorded from 1959 (earlier "lowest grade of flour produced in a mill," by 1889). Red meat, that which is ordinarily served or preferred undercooked, is from 1808; the food of wild beasts, hence its figurative use for something that satisfies a basic appetite (by 1792; popular from late 20c.).
Red shift in spectography is first recorded 1923. Red carpet "sumptuous welcome" is from 1934, but the custom for dignitaries is described as far back as Aeschylus ("Agamemnon"); it also was the name of a type of English moth. Red ant is from 1660s.