loess (n.)

1833 (in Lyell), "unstratified deposit of loam," a special use from 1823 by German mineralogist Karl Cäsar von Leonhard (1779-1862) of German Löss "yellowish-gray soil," of a type found in the Rhine valley, from Swiss German lösch (adj.) "loose" (compare German los, from Proto-Germanic *lausaz, from PIE root *leu- "to loosen, divide, cut apart." Related: Loessial.

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absolute (adj.)
Origin and meaning of absolute

late 14c., "unrestricted, free from limitation; complete, perfect, free from imperfection;" also "not relative to something else" (mid-15c.), from Latin absolutus, past participle of absolvere "to set free, acquit; complete, bring to an end; make separate," from ab "off, away from" (see ab-) + solvere "to loosen, untie, release, detach," from PIE *se-lu-, from reflexive pronoun *s(w)e- (see idiom) + root *leu- "to loosen, divide, cut apart."

Sense evolution probably was from "detached, disengaged" to "perfect, pure." Meaning "despotic" (1610s) is from notion of "absolute in position;" absolute monarchy is recorded from 1735 (absolute king is recorded from 1610s). Grammatical sense is from late 14c.

Absolute magnitude (1902) is the brightness a star would have at a distance of 10 parsecs (or 32.6 light years); scientific absolute value is from 1907. As a noun in metaphysics, the absolute "that which is unconditional or free from restriction; the non-relative" is from 1809.

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relaxation (n.)

late 14c., relaxacioun, "a rupture, a hernia" (a sense now obsolete); mid-15c., "remission of a burden or penalty," from Old French relaxacion (14c.) and directly from Latin relaxationem (nominative relaxatio) "an easing, mitigation, relaxation," noun of action from past-participle stem of relaxare "loosen, open, stretch out" (see relax).

Meaning "relief from hard work or ordinary cares; a state or occupation intended to give mental or bodily relief after effort or ordinary occupations and cares" is from 1540s. Sense of "remission or abatement of rigor or intensity" is from 1690s.

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dissolution (n.)

mid-14c., "frivolity, moral laxness, dissolute living;" late 14c., dissolucioun, "separation into parts, dispersal;" from Old French dissolution (12c.) and directly from Latin dissolutionem (nominative dissolutio) "a dissolving, destroying, interruption, dissolution," noun of action from past-participle stem of dissolvere "to loosen up, break apart" (see dissolve).

Sense of "act of dissolving, a changing from a solid to a liquid state" is from 1590s. From 1530s as "the breaking up of an assembly or other association." From 1520s as "death," perhaps from the notion of "separation of soul and body."

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looseness (n.)

c. 1400, "freedom from restraint," from loose (adj.) + -ness. Meaning "laxity, irregularity, want of strictness" is from 1570s.

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slake (v.)

Middle English slaken, from late Old English sleacian, slacian "become slack or remiss; relax an effort" (intransitive); "delay, retard" (transitive), from slæc "lax" (see slack (adj.), and compare Middle Dutch, Middle Low German slaken).

The transitive sense of "make slack, loosen" (ropes, a bridle, etc.) is from late 12c. The sense of "allay, diminish in force or intensity, quench, extinguish" is from late 13c. in reference to fire, c. 1300 in reference to thirst, hunger, desire, wrath, lust, etc. The notion is "make slack or inactive." Related: Slaked; slaking.

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detente (n.)

1908 as a political term, "an easing of hostility or tensions between countries," a borrowing of French détente "loosening, slackening," from Vulgar Latin *detendita, fem. past participle of Latin detendere "loosen, release," from de "from, away" (see de-) + tendere "stretch" (from PIE root *ten- "to stretch"). The reference is to a "relaxing" in a political situation.

Treated as a French word in English until mid-20c. The French word was earlier borrowed as detent (1680s) "catch which regulates the strike in a clock" (a French extended use of the word in its secondary sense "catch of a crossbow," which releases the tension in the string and discharges the bolt).

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analysis (n.)

1580s, "resolution of anything complex into simple elements" (opposite of synthesis), from Medieval Latin analysis (15c.), from Greek analysis "solution of a problem by analysis," literally "a breaking up, a loosening, releasing," noun of action from analyein "unloose, release, set free; to loose a ship from its moorings," in Aristotle, "to analyze," from ana "up, back, throughout" (see ana-) + lysis "a loosening," from lyein "to unfasten" (from PIE root *leu- "to loosen, divide, cut apart").

The meaning "statement presenting results of an analytic process" is from 1660s. The psychological sense is from 1890. English also formerly had a noun analyse (1630s), from French analyse, from Medieval Latin analysis. Phrase in the final (or last) analysis (1844), translates French en dernière analyse.

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loss (n.)

Old English los "ruin, destruction," from Proto-Germanic *lausa- (from PIE root *leu- "to loosen, divide, cut apart"), with an etymological sense of "dissolution." But this seems scarcely to have survived in Middle English, and the modern word, with a weaker sense, "failure to hold, keep, or preserve what was in one's possession; failure to gain or win," probably evolved 14c. from lost, the past participle of lose.

Phrase at a loss "confused, uncertain" (1590s) is a phrase from hunting, in reference to hounds losing the scent. To cut (one's) losses is from 1885, originally in finance. The retailer's loss-leader "advertised product sold at cost or below" (to entice customers in to buy other things as well) is from 1922.

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brake (n.1)

mid-15c., "instrument for crushing or pounding," from Middle Dutch braeke "flax brake," from breken "to break" (see break (v.)). The word was applied to many crushing implements, especially the tool for breaking up the woody part of flax to loosen the fibers. It also was applied to the ring through the nose of a draught ox. It was influenced in sense by Old French brac, a form of bras "an arm," thus the sense "a lever or handle," which was being used in English from late 14c., and "a bridle or curb" (early 15c.).

One or the other sense or a convergence of all of them yielded the main modern meaning "mechanical device for arresting the motion of a wheel," which is attested by 1772.

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