1610s, "a self-acting machine;" 1670s, "a living being acting mechanically," from Latin automaton (Suetonius), from noun use of Greek automaton, neuter of automatos "self-acting," from autos "self" (see auto-) + matos "thinking, animated, willing," from PIE *mn-to-, from root *men- (1) "to think."
An automaton is defined as something which can only act as it is acted on. The meaning of the word is at variance with its etymology, but this need not mislead us. [Joseph John Murphy, "Habit and Intelligence," 1879]
"simple, wanting in intelligence," also "crazy, mad," 1884, perhaps from daft (adj.), or from obsolete daffe "a halfwit" (early 14c.; mid-13c. as a surname), which survived in 19c. in dialects, itself of uncertain origin (OED finds a proposed origin in Scandinavian words for "deaf, stupid," such as Old Norse daufr, "phonetically inadmissible"). Compare late 15c. daffish "dull-witted, spiritless." With -y (2). Related: Daffily; daffiness. The Warner Bros. cartoon character Daffy Duck debuted in 1937.
also Laocoön name of a Trojan priest of Apollo, from Latin Laocoon, from Greek Laukoun, from laos "people" (see lay (adj.)) + koeo "I mark, perceive."
Laocoön, n. A famous piece of antique sculpture representing a priest of that time and his two sons in the folds of two enormous serpents. The skill and diligence with which the old man and lads support the serpents and keep them up in their work have been justly regarded as one of the noblest artistic illustrations of the mastery of human intelligence over brute inertia. [Ambrose Bierce, "Devil's Dictionary," 1911]
early 15c., "information, knowledge, intelligence," from Old French notece (14c.), and directly from Latin notitia "a being known, celebrity, fame, knowledge," from notus "known," past participle of (g)noscere "come to know, to get to know, get acquainted (with)," from PIE *gno-sko-, a suffixed form of PIE root *gno- "to know."
Sense of "formal statement conveying information or warning" is attested from 1590s. Meaning "heed, regard, cognizance" (as in take notice) is from 1590s. Meaning "a sign giving information" is from 1805. Meaning "written remarks or comments" especially on a new book or play is by 1835.
Popularized in England in children's literature from early 19c. as a name for red-capped German and Swiss folklore dwarfs. Garden figurines of them were first imported to England late 1860s from Germany; garden-gnome attested from 1933. Gnomes of Zurich for "international financiers" is from 1964.
late 14c., "tutelary or moral spirit" who guides and governs an individual through life, from Latin genius "guardian deity or spirit which watches over each person from birth; spirit, incarnation; wit, talent;" also "prophetic skill; the male spirit of a gens," originally "generative power" (or "inborn nature"), from PIE *gen(e)-yo-, from root *gene- "give birth, beget," with derivatives referring to procreation and familial and tribal groups.
The sense of "characteristic disposition" of a person is from 1580s. The meaning "person of natural intelligence or talent" and that of "exalted natural mental ability, skill in the synthesis of knowledge derived from perception" are attested by 1640s.
word forming element indicating "oneself," also "automatic," from Old English use of self (pron.) in compounds, such as selfbana "suicide," selflice "self-love, pride, vanity, egotism," selfwill "free will." Middle English had self-witte "one's own knowledge and intelligence" (early 15c.).
OED counts 13 such compounds in Old English. Middle English Compendium lists four, counting the self-will group as a whole. It re-emerges as a living word-forming element mid-16c., "probably to a great extent by imitation or reminiscence of Greek compounds in (auto-)," and formed a great many words in the pamphlet disputes of the 17c.
1670s, "one who or that which cruises," agent noun from cruise (v.), or, probably, borrowed from similar words in continental languages (such as Dutch kruiser, French croiseur). In older use, a warship built to cruise and protect commerce of the state to which it belongs or chase hostile ships (but in 18c. often applied to privateers).
Like the frigate of olden days the cruiser relies primarily on her speed; and is employed to protect the trade-routes, to glean intelligence, and to act as the 'eyes of the fleet'. [Sir Geoffrey Callender, "Sea Passages," 1943]
Meaning "one who cruises for sex partners" is from 1903, in later use mostly of homosexuals; as a boxing weight class, from 1920; meaning "police patrol car" is 1929, American English.
"theory or study of communication and control," coined 1948 by U.S. mathematician Norbert Wiener (1894-1964), with -ics + Latinized form of Greek kybernetes "steersman" (metaphorically "guide, governor"), from kybernan "to steer or pilot a ship, direct as a pilot," figuratively "to guide, govern," which is of uncertain origin. Beekes agrees that "the word has no cognates" and concludes "Foreign origin is probable." The construction is perhaps based on 1830s French cybernétique "the art of governing."
The future offers very little hope for those who expect that our new mechanical slaves will offer us a world in which we may rest from thinking. Help us they may, but at the cost of supreme demands upon our honesty and our intelligence. [Norbert Wiener, "God and Golem, Inc.," 1964]
1820 in the political sense, "local attachment as opposed to national unity," from provincial + -ism. Meaning "a certain narrowness of localism of thought or interest; lack of polish or enlightenment," reflecting manners or modes of a certain province or of provinces generally (as opposed to the big city or the capital) is by 1836. Sense of "a local word or usage or expression" is from 1770.
To me provincialism stood, and stands, for the sum-total of all false values; it is the estimation of people for what they have, or pretend to have, and not for what they are. Artificial classifications, rigid lines of demarkation that bear no relation whatsoever to intrinsic merit, seem to belong to its very essence, while contempt for intelligence, suspicion and fear of independent thought, appear to be necessary passports to provincial popularity. [Vera Brittain, "Testament of Youth"]