"A coward; a nidgit; a scoundrel" [Johnson, who spells it poltron], 1520s, from French poultron "rascal, coward; sluggard" (16c., Modern French poltron), from Italian poltrone "lazy fellow, coward," from poltro "lazy, cowardly," which is apparently from poltro "couch, bed" (compare Milanese polter, Venetian poltrona "couch"), perhaps from a Germanic source (compare Old High German polstar "pillow;" see bolster (n.)), or perhaps from Latin pullus "young of an animal" (from PIE root *pau- (1) "few, little"). Also see -oon. Related: Poltroonish; poltroonery.
capital of old Brabant and modern Belgium, a name of Germanic origin, from brocca "marsh" + sali "room, building," from Latin cella (see cell). It arose 6c. as a fortress on an island in a river. As a type of carpet, from 1799; as a type of lace, from 1748.
Brussels sprouts (Brassica oleracea gemmifera) is attested from 1748 (the first written description of them is from 1580s); they have long been associated with Flanders and especially Brussels (compare the French name, choux de Bruxelles).
c. 1200, Irisce, "of Irish nationality;" see Irish (n.). From 1580s as "Irish in nature or character." Irish stew is attested from 1814; Irish lace is from 1851; Irish coffee is from 1950.
Before 19c. often meaning "contradictory." In later use often in mocking or pejorative phrases, such as Irish apricot "potato," Irish daisy "common dandelion." Compare Dutch. Irish luck is by 1814, originally an ironic phrase indicating mischance or something done by means other than luck.
"effeminate man, male homosexual who takes the passive role," 1924, from female name Nancy (q.v.), which was in use as an adjective meaning "effeminate" (applied to men) by 1904 in prison slang, a shortening of earlier Miss Nancy, a derogatory term for a finicky, effeminate man which is attested by 1824; Nancy boy "effeminate male homosexual" is attested by 1939.
Nancy, Miss, an opprobrious epithet for an exceedingly effeminate, over-nice young man. The original Miss Nancy, however, was a Mrs. Anna Oldfield, a celebrated actress, who died in 1730 and was buried in Westminster Abbey. She was extremely vain and nice about her dress, and as she lay in state, attended by two noblemen, she was attired, as she had directed shortly before her death, in "a very fine Brussels lace head-dress, a Holland shift with a tucker and double ruffles of the same lace, a pair of new kid gloves," etc., a circumstance alluded to by Pope .... [William S. Walsh, "Handy-Book of Literary Curiosities," 1892]
Walsh's proposed origin might not be exact. Related: Nancified.
Old English fetor "chain or shackle by which a person or animal is bound by the feet," figuratively "check, restraint," from Proto-Germanic *fetero (source also of Old Saxon feteros (plural), Middle Dutch veter "fetter," in modern Dutch "lace, string," Old High German fezzera, Old Norse fiöturr, Swedish fjätter "fetter"), from PIE root *ped- "foot." The generalized sense of "anything that shackles" had evolved in Old English. Related Fetters.
mid-15c., "cord, lace, or ribbon of fine material worn as an ornament or token of victory," from Old French cordon "ribbon, cord," diminutive of corde "cord" (see cord). Military sense of "a line of troops or military posts guarding a place" is by 1758.
The original sense is preserved in cordon bleu (1727) "the highest distinction," literally "blue ribbon," for the sky-blue ribbon worn by the old French order of Knights-grand-cross of the Holy Ghost (the highest order of chivalry under the Bourbons). Extended figuratively to other persons of distinction, especially, in jocular use, to a first-rate cook.
Cordon sanitaire (1857) is French, a line of troops or military posts set around an infected district to keep the disease from spreading.
1620s, "to fasten with spikes," from spike (n.1). Meaning "to rise in a spike" is from 1958. Military sense (1680s) means "to disable guns by driving a large nail into the touch-hole." Figurative use of this sense is from 1823. Meaning "to lace (a drink) with liquor" is from 1889. Journalism sense of "to kill a story before publication" (1908) is from the metal spindle in which old-time editors filed hard copy of stories after they were set in type, or especially when rejected for publication. Related: Spiked; spiking.
"type of neck-cloth worn usually by men," 1650s, from French cravate (17c.), from Cravate, literally "Croatian," from German Krabate, from Serbo-Croatian Hrvat "a Croat" (see Croat). Cravats came into fashion 1650s in imitation of linen scarves worn by the Croats or Crabats, 17th-century light cavalry forces who fought on the side of the Catholic League in the Thirty Years' War. The name in this context was not an ethnic label as much as a generic designation for light cavalry from the Hapsburg Military Frontier, which included Croats, Hungarians, Serbs, Wallachians, Poles, Cossacks and Tatars.
When first introduced, it was commonly of lace, or of linen edged with lace. ... The modern cravat is rather a necktie, passed once round the neck, and tied in front in a bow, or, as about 1840 and earlier (when the cravat consisted of a triangular silk kerchief, usually black), twice round the neck, in imitation of the stock. Formerly, when starched linen cravats were worn, perfection in the art of tying them was one of the great accomplishments of a dandy. The cravat differs properly from the scarf, which, whether tied, or passed through a ring, or held by a pin, hangs down over the shirt front. [Century Dictionary, 1897]
1670s, "a trick put upon one, a hoax, a fraud, something that deludes or disappoints expectation," a word of uncertain origin. Along with the verb ("to cheat, trick") and the adjective ("false, pretended"), the word burst into use about 1677 according to OED. Perhaps they are from sham, a northern dialectal variant of shame (n.); a derivation suggested by 1734 and which OED finds "not impossible."
The main modern sense of "something meant to be mistaken for something else, something meant to give a false outward appearance" is from 1728 (the verb in the related sense is from 1690s); applied to persons by 1850.
The meaning "false front" in pillow-sham (1721) is from the notion of "counterfeit." Related: Shammed; shamming; shammer. Shamateur "amateur sportsman who acts like a professional" is from 1896. A song from 1716 calls the Pretender the Shamster.
mid-15c., "foolish person," of unknown origin, perhaps related to obsolete verb fop "make a fool of," from a continental source akin to German foppen "jeer at, make a fool of." Sense of "dandy, coxcomb, man ostentatiously nice in manner and appearance" is from 1670s, perhaps given in derision by those who thought such things foolish. The 18c. was their period of greatest florescense. The junior variety was a fopling (1680s).
His was the sumptuous age of powder and patches. He was especially dainty in the matters of sword-knots, shoe-buckles, and lace ruffles. He was ablaze with jewelry, took snuff with an incomparable air out of a box studded with diamonds, and excelled in the "nice conduct of a clouded cane." [Charles J. Dunphie, "Fops and Foppery," New York, 1876]