Middle English priken, from Old English prician "to pierce with a sharp point, prick out, place a point, dot, or mark upon; sting; cause a pricking sensation," from West Germanic *prikojan (source also of Low German pricken, Dutch prikken "to prick"), of uncertain origin. Danish prikke "to mark with dots," Swedish pricka "to point, prick, mark with dots" probably are from Low German. Related: Pricked; pricking.
From c. 1200 in a figurative sense of "to cause agitation, to distress, to trouble;" late 14c. as "incite, stir to action." Pricklouse (c. 1500) was a derisive name for a tailor. To prick up (one's) ears is 1580s, originally of animals with pointed ears (prycke-eared, of foxes or horses or dogs, is from early 15c.).
thou prick-ear'd cur of Iceland!
["Henry V," ii. 1. 44.]
Prick-me-dainty (1520s) was an old term for one who is affectedly finical.
Old English stician "to pierce, stab, transfix, goad," also "to remain embedded, stay fixed, be fastened," from Proto-Germanic *stik- "pierce, prick, be sharp" (source also of Old Saxon stekan, Old Frisian steka, Dutch stecken, Old High German stehhan, German stechen "to stab, prick"), from PIE *steig- "to stick; pointed" (source also of Latin instigare "to goad," instinguere "to incite, impel;" Greek stizein "to prick, puncture," stigma "mark made by a pointed instrument;" Old Persian tigra- "sharp, pointed;" Avestan tighri- "arrow;" Lithuanian stingu, stigti "to remain in place;" Russian stegati "to quilt").
Figurative sense of "to remain permanently in mind" is attested from c. 1300. Transitive sense of "to fasten (something) in place" is attested from late 13c. To stick out "project" is recorded from 1560s. Slang stick around "remain" is from 1912; stick it as a rude item of advice is first recorded 1922. Related: Stuck; sticking. Sticking point, beyond which one refuses to go, is from 1956; sticking-place, where any thing put will stay is from 1570s. Modern use generally is an echo of Shakespeare.
c. 1300, pushen, "to shove, move onward, strike with a thrusting motion, thrust forcibly against for the purpose of impelling," from Old French poulser (Modern French pousser), from Latin pulsare "to beat, strike, push," frequentative of pellere (past participle pulsus) "to push, drive, beat" (from PIE root *pel- (5) "to thrust, strike, drive").
Transitive meaning "urge, incite, press" is by 1570s; that of "promote, advance or extend by persistence or diligent effort" is from 1714; intransitive sense of "make one's way with force and persistence (against obstacles, etc.)" is by 1718. The meaning "approach a certain age" is from 1937. For palatization of -s-, OED compares brush (n.1); quash. Related: Pushed; pushing.
To push up daisies "be dead and buried" is from World War I, but variants with the same meaning date back to 1842.
"Pushing up the daisies now," said a soldier of his dead comrade. [The American Florist, vol. xlviii, March 31, 1917]
To push (someone) around "bully, browbeat, domineer" is by 1923. To push (one's) luck is from 1754. To push the envelope in the figurative sense is by late 1980s.
Old English drifan "to compel or urge to move, impel in some direction or manner; to hunt (deer), pursue; to rush against" (class I strong verb; past tense draf, past participle drifen), from Proto-Germanic *dreibanan (source also of Old Frisian driva"I lead, impel, drive (away)," Old Saxon driban, Dutch drijven, Old High German triban, German treiben, Old Norse drifa, Gothic dreiban "to drive"), perhaps from PIE root *dhreibh- "to drive, push," but it may be a Germanic isolated word.
Used in Old English of nails, ships, plows, vehicles, cattle; in Middle English of bargains. Meaning "compel or incite to action or condition of any kind" (drive mad) is by late 12c. Sense of "work with energy, labor actively" is c. 1200; that of "aim a blow" is by early 14c.. Transitive meaning "convey (someone) in a carriage," later an automobile, is from 1660s. The original sense of "pushing from behind" was altered in Modern English by application to automobiles. Related: Driving.
MILLER: "The more you drive, the less intelligent you are." ["Repo Man," 1984]
1560s, "recognize as different or distinct from what is contiguous or similar; perceive, make out," from French distinguiss-, stem of distinguer, or directly from Latin distinguere "to separate between, keep separate, mark off, distinguish," perhaps literally "separate by pricking," from assimilated form of dis- "apart" (see dis-) + -stinguere "to prick" (compare extinguish and Latin instinguere "to incite, impel").
Watkins says "semantic transmission obscure;" the sense might be from "pricking out" as the old way to make punctuation in parchment or some literal image, but de Vaan derives the second element from a different PIE root meaning "to push, thrust":
The meanings of ex- and restinguere 'to extinguish' and distinguere seem quite distinct, but can be understood if the root meant 'to press' or 'push': ex-stinguere 'to put a fire out', re-stinguere 'to push back, suppress', and dis-stinguere 'to push apart [thence] distinguish, mark off ....
The suffix -ish is due to the influence of many verbs in which it is the equivalent of Old French -iss-, ultimately from Latin inchoative suffix -iscere (this is also the case in extinguish, admonish, and astonish).
Sense of "to mark or note in a way to indicate difference" is from 1570s; that of "separate from others by some mark of honor or preferment" is from c. 1600. Intransitive meaning "make a distinction, find or show difference (between)" is from 1610s. Related: Distinguishing. The Middle English form of the verb was distinguen (mid-14c.).
late 14c., "a thing done," from Latin actus "a doing; a driving, impulse, a setting in motion; a part in a play," and actum "a thing done" (originally a legal term), both from agere "to set in motion, drive, drive forward," hence "to do, perform," figuratively "incite to action; keep in movement, stir up" (from PIE root *ag- "to drive, draw out or forth, move").
The verb agere had a broad range of meaning in Latin, including "act on stage, play the part of; plead a cause at law; chase; carry off, steal." The theatrical ("part of a play," 1510s) and legislative (early 15c.) senses of the noun also were in Latin.
The meaning "one of a series of performances in a variety show" is from 1890. The meaning "display of exaggerated behavior" is from 1928, extended from the theatrical sense. In the act "in the process" is from 1590s, perhaps originally from a late 16c. sense of the act as "sexual intercourse." Act of God "uncontrollable natural force" is recorded by 1726.
An act of God is an accident which arises from a cause which operates without interference or aid from man (1 Pars. on Cont. 635); the loss arising wherefrom cannot be guarded against by the ordinary exertions of human skill and prudence so as to prevent its effect. [William Wait, "General Principles of the Law," Albany, 1879]
To get into the act "participate" is from 1947; to get (one's) act together "organize one's (disorderly) life" is by 1976, perhaps euphemistic.
Proto-Indo-European root meaning "be sharp, rise (out) to a point, pierce."
It forms all or part of: acacia; acanthus; accipiter; acer; acerbic; acerbity; acervate; acervulus; acescent; acetic; acid; acicular; acme; acne; acrid; acridity; acrimony; acro-; acrobat; acromegaly; acronym; acrophobia; acropolis; acrostic; acrylic; acuity; aculeate; acumen; acupressure; acupuncture; acute; aglet; ague; Akron; anoxic; awn; coelacanth; dioxin; deoxy-; eager; ear (n.2) "grain part of corn;" edge (n.); egg (v.) "to goad on, incite;" eglantine; epoxy; ester; exacerbation; hammer; hypoxia; mediocre; oxalic; oxide; oxy-; oxygen; oxymoron; paragon; pyracanth; paroxysm; selvage; vinegar.
It is the hypothetical source of/evidence for its existence is provided by: Greek akros "at the end, at the top, outermost; consummate, excellent," akis "sharp point," akē "point of an iron tool," akantha "thorn," akmē "summit, edge," oxys "sharp, bitter;" Sanskrit acri- "corner, edge," acani- "point of an arrow," asrih "edge;" Oscan akrid (ablative singular) "sharply;" Latin acer (fem. acris) "sharp to the senses, pungent, bitter, eager, fierce," acutus "sharp, pointed," acuere "to sharpen," acerbus "harsh, bitter," acere "be sharp, be bitter," acus "a needle, pin," ocris "jagged mountain;" Lithuanian ašmuo "sharpness," akstis "sharp stick;" Old Lithuanian aštras, Lithuanian aštrus "sharp;" Old Church Slavonic ostru, Russian óstryj "sharp;" Old Irish er "high;" Welsh ochr "edge, corner, border;" Old Norse eggja "goad;" Old English ecg "sword;" German Eck "corner."
late 13c., meven, in various senses (see below), from Anglo-French mover, Old French movoir "to move, get moving, set out; set in motion; introduce" (Modern French mouvoir), from Latin movere "move, set in motion; remove; disturb" (past participle motus, frequentative motare), from PIE root *meue- "to push away."
Of the physical meanings, the earliest in English (late 13c.) is the intransitive one of "change one's place or posture, stir, shift; move the body; move from one's place, change position. That of "to go (from one place to another), journey, travel; set out, proceed" is from c. 1300. The transitive sense of "cause to change place or position; shift; dislodge; set in motion" is from late 14c., as is that of "impart motion to, impel; set or sustain in motion." The intransitive sense of "pass from place to place; journey; travel; change position continuously or occasionally" is from c. 1300.
The emotional, figurative, and non-material senses also are mostly from Middle English: The earliest is "excite to action; influence; induce; incite; arouse; awaken" the senses or mental faculties or emotions (late 13c.); specifically "affect (someone) emotionally, rouse to pity or tenderness" by early 14c. Hence also "influence (someone, to do something), guide, prompt or impel toward some action" (late 14c.).
The sense of "propose; bring forward; offer formally; submit," as a motion for consideration by a deliberative assembly" is by early 15c. Sense of "to change one's place of residence" is from 1707. In chess, checkers, and similar games, "to change the position of a piece in the course of play," late 15c. Commercial sense of "sell, cause to be sold" is by 1900.
The policeman's order to move on is attested by 1831. To move heaven and earth "make extraordinary efforts" is by 1798. Related: Moved;moving.
Middle English setten, from Old English settan (transitive) "cause to sit; make or cause to rest as on a seat; cause to be put, placed, or seated;" also "put in a definite place," also "arrange, fix adjust; fix or appoint (a time) for some affair or transaction," and "cause (thoughts, affections) to dwell on."
This is from Proto-Germanic *(bi)satejanan "to cause to sit, set" (source also of Old Norse setja, Swedish sätta, Old Saxon settian, Old Frisian setta, Dutch zetten, German setzen, Gothic satjan), causative form of PIE *sod-, a variant of the root *sed- (1) "to sit." Also see set (n.2). It has been confused with sit (v.) at least since early 14c.
The intransitive sense of "be seated" is from c. 1200; that of "sink down, descend, decline toward and pass below the horizon" (of the sun, moon, or stars) is by mid-13c., perhaps from similar use of the cognates in Scandinavian languages; figurative use of this is from c. 1600.
Many uses are highly idiomatic, the verb, like put, its nearest equivalent, and do, make, get, etc., having become of almost universal application, and taking its distinctive color from the context. [Century Dictionary]
The sense of "make or cause to do, act, or be; start, bring (something) to a certain state" (on fire, in order, etc.) and that of "mount a gemstone" are attested by mid-13c. That of "determine upon, resolve" is from c. 1300; hence be set against "resisting" (mid-14c.).
The sense of "make a table ready for a meal" is from late 14c.; that of "regulate or adjust by a standard" (of a clock, etc.) is from late 14c. In printing, "to place (types) in the proper order for reading; put into type," 1520s. From c. 1500 as "put words to music." From 1570s as "put (a broken or dislocated bone) in position." In cookery, plastering, etc., "become firm or solid in consistency" by 1736.
To set (one's) heart on (something) is from c. 1300 as "love, be devoted to;" c. 1400 as "have a desire for." To set (one's) mind is from mid-15c.; transitive set (one's mind) to "determine to accomplish" is from late 15c. To set (something) on "incite to attack" (c. 1300) originally was in reference to hounds and game. To set an example is mid-14c. (set (v.) in the sense of "present" is from late Old English). The notion of "fix the value of" is behind old phrases such as set at naught "regard as nothing."
To set out is from c. 1300 as "display (for sale);" to set up shop "commence doing business" is from c. 1400.