mid-14c., occupien, "to take possession of and retain or keep," also "to take up space or room or time; employ (someone)," irregularly borrowed from Old French ocuper, occuper "occupy (a person or place), hold, seize" (13c.) or directly from Latin occupare "take over, seize, take into possession, possess, occupy," from ob "over" (see ob-) + intensive form of capere "to grasp, seize," from PIE root *kap- "to grasp."
The final syllable of the English word is difficult to explain, but it is as old as the record; perhaps it is from a modification made in Anglo-French. During 16c.-17c. the word was a common euphemism for "have sexual intercourse with" (a sense attested from early 15c.), which caused it to fall from polite usage.
"A captaine? Gods light these villaines wil make the word as odious as the word occupy, which was an excellent good worde before it was il sorted." [Doll Tearsheet in "2 Henry IV"]
During the same time occupant could mean "prostitute." Related: Occupied; occupying.
Meaning "of great quality or number" is from 1811; hence the colloquial sense of "exceedingly, extremely" (adv.) is from 1822. Thornton ("American Glossary") notes powerful, along with monstrous, as "Much used by common people in the sense of very," and cites curious expressions such as devilish good, monstrous pretty (1799), dreadful polite, cruel pretty, abominable fine (1803), "or when a young lady admires a lap dog for being so vastly small and declares him prodigious handsome" (1799).
This gross perversion is common in several of the Western counties of Pennsylvania, to which region I had supposed it was limited. A gentleman informs me, however that it is not unfrequent in the South, and that he has even heard it yoked with weak, as, A powerful weak man. [Seth T. Hurd, "A Grammatical Corrector; or, Vocabulary of the Common Errors of Speech," 1847]
Related: Powerfully; powerfulness.
"impressed with fear, fearful," early 14c., originally the past participle of the now-obsolete Middle English verb afray "frighten," from Anglo-French afrayer, Old French affrai, effrei, esfrei "disturbance, fright," from esfreer (v.) "to worry, concern, trouble, disturb," from Vulgar Latin *exfridare, a hybrid word meaning literally "to take out of peace."
The first element is from Latin ex "out of" (see ex-). The second is Frankish *frithu "peace," from Proto-Germanic *frithuz "peace, consideration, forbearance" (source also of Old Saxon frithu, Old English friu, Old High German fridu "peace, truce," German Freide "peace"), from a suffixed form of PIE root *pri- "to be friendly, to love."
A rare case of an English adjective that never stands before a noun. Because it was used in the King James Bible, it acquired independent standing and thrived while affray faded, and it chased off the once more common afeared. Colloquial sense in I'm afraid "I regret to say, I suspect" (without implication of fear, as a polite introduction to a correction, admission, etc.) is first recorded 1590s.
Her blue affrayed eyes wide open shone [Keats, "The Eve of St. Agnes," 1820]
Old English deore (Anglian diore, West Saxon dyre), "precious, valuable; costly, expensive; glorious, noble; loved, beloved, regarded with affection" from Proto-Germanic *deurja- (source also of Old Saxon diuri "precious, dear, expensive," Old Norse dyrr, Old Frisian diore "expensive, costly," Middle Dutch diere "precious, expensive, scarce, important," Dutch duur, Old High German tiuri, German teuer), a word of unknown etymology. Finnish tiuris, tyyris is from Germanic.
The old sense of "precious, valuable" has become obsolete, but that of "characterized by a high price in consideration of scarcity, absolutely or relatively costly" lingers, though it is perhaps archaic. Used interjectorily (oh, dear; dear me, etc.) indicating pity, surprise, or some other emotion since 1690s, but the intended sense is not clear. As an affectionate address (my dear, father dear), mid-13c. As a polite introductory word to letters, it is attested from mid-15c. The military man's dreaded Dear John letter is attested from 1945. As a noun, from late 14c., perhaps short for dear one, etc.
Sense evolved in English and French to "having the character or manners of one of noble rank or birth," varying according to how those were defined. From mid-13c. in English as "gracious, kind" (now obsolete), manners prescribed for Christian or chivalrous nobility. From late 13c. as "courteous, polite, well-bred, charming;" c. 1300 as "graceful, beautiful." Meaning "mild, tender; easy; not harsh" (of animals, things, persons) is from 1550s. Older sense remains in gentleman, and compare gentile (adj.), an alternative form which tends to keep the Biblical senses of the Latin word (though gentle in Middle English sometimes meant "pagan, heathen"), and genteel, which is the same word borrowed again from French. From 1823 as "pertaining to the fairies."
mid-13c., laverd, loverd, from Old English hlaford "master of a household, ruler, feudal lord, superior; husband," also "God," translating Latin dominus, Greek kyrios in the New Testament, Hebrew yahweh in the Old (though Old English dryhten was more frequent). Old English hlaford is a contraction of earlier hlafweard, literally "one who guards the loaves," from hlaf "bread, loaf" (see loaf (n.)) + weard "keeper, guardian" (from PIE root *wer- (3) "perceive, watch out for").
Compare lady (literally "bread-kneader"), and Old English hlafæta "household servant," literally "loaf-eater." For the contraction, compare Harold. The modern monosyllabic form emerged 14c. Meaning "an owner of land, houses, etc.," is from c. 1300; the sense in landlord. As the "usual polite or respectful form of address to a nobleman under the rank of a duke, and to a bishop" [OED] from 1540s. As an interjection from late 14c. Lords "peers of England," especially as represented in parliaments, is from mid-15c.
Lord's Prayer is from 1540s. Year of our Lord is from late 14c. (translating Latin anno domini) in reference to the incarnation of God in Christ. Lord knows (who, what, why, etc.), expressing a state of ignorance, is from 1711. Lord of the Flies (1907) translates Beelzebub (q.v.); William Golding's book was published in 1954. To drink like a lord is from 1620s.
c. 1300, "a gathering of persons, a group gathered for some purpose," from Old French as(s)emblee "assembly, gathering; union, marriage," noun use of fem. past participle of assembler "to assemble" (see assemble). Meaning "a gathering together" is recorded from early 15c.; that of "act of assembling parts or objects" is from 1914, as is assembly line.
Perhaps the most interesting department in the whole factory, to the visitor, is the final assembly. In this division, all the assembled units meet the assembly conveyor at the point where they are needed. At the start of the track a front axle unit, a rear axle unit and a frame unit are assembled. This assembly is then started in motion by means of a chain conveyor, and as it moves down the room at a constant speed of eight feet per minute, each man adds one part to the growing chassis or does one operation, which is assigned to him, so that when the chassis reaches the end of the line, it is ready to run on its own power. ["The Story of an Automobile Factory," in "Universal Book of Knowledge and Wonders," 1917]
School sense, "gathering of all students for a presentation" is from 1932. From mid-14c. as "a gathering for deliberation," hence it is the name of the lower house in state (earlier colonial) legislatures in America (1680s). In 17c.-18c. assemblies "dancing balls 'among polite persons of both sexes,' often paid for by subscription of the participants" were a prominent feature of social life.
"adult female human," late Old English wimman, wiman (plural wimmen), literally "woman-man," alteration of wifman (plural wifmen) "woman, female servant" (8c.), a compound of wif "woman" (see wife) + man "human being" (in Old English used in reference to both sexes; see man (n.)). Compare Dutch vrouwmens "wife," literally "woman-man."
It is notable that it was thought necessary to join wif, a neuter noun, representing a female person, to man, a masc. noun representing either a male or female person, to form a word denoting a female person exclusively. [Century Dictionary]
The formation is peculiar to English and Dutch. Replaced older Old English wif and quean as the word for "female human being." The pronunciation of the singular altered in Middle English by the rounding influence of -w-; the plural retains the original vowel. Meaning "wife," now largely restricted to U.S. dialectal use, is attested from mid-15c.
In American English, lady is "In loose and especially polite usage, a woman" [Craigie, "Dictionary of American English"]. This peculiarity was much commented upon by English travelers; in the U.S. the custom was considered especially Southern, but the English didn't bother with nice distinctions and regarded it simply as American. "This noble word [woman], spirit-stirring as it passes over English ears, is in America banished, and 'ladies' and 'females' substituted; the one to English taste mawkish and vulgar; the other indistinctive and gross. The effect is odd." [Harriet Martineau, 1837]
Woman-hater "misogynist" is from c. 1600. Women's work, that considered appropriate to women, is from 1660s. Women's liberation is attested from 1966; women's rights is from 1840, with an isolated example in 1630s.
"penis," 1610s, but certainly older and suggested in word-play from at least 15c.; also compare pillicock "penis," attested from early 14c. (as pilkoc, found in an Anglo-Irish manuscript known as "The Kildare Lyrics," in a poem beginning "Elde makiþ me," complaining of the effects of old age: Y ne mai no more of loue done; Mi pilkoc pisseþ on mi schone), also attested from 12c. as a surname (Johanne Pilecoc, 1199: Hugonem Pillok, 1256; there is also an Agnes Pillock). Also compare Middle English fide-cok "penis" (late 15c.), from fid "a peg or plug."
The male of the domestic fowl (along with the bull) has been associated in many lands since ancient times with male vigor and especially the membrum virile, but the exact connection is not clear (the cock actually has no penis) unless it be his role as fertilizer of the domestic hens, and there may be some influence from cock (n.2) in the "tap" sense.
The slang word has led to an avoidance of cock in the literal sense via the euphemistic rooster. Murray, in the original OED entry (1893) called it "The current name among the people, but, pudoris causa, not admissible in polite speech or literature; in scientific language the Latin is used" (the Latin word is penis). Avoidance of it also may have helped haystack replace haycock and vane displace weather-cock. Louisa May Alcott's father, the reformer and educator Amos Bronson Alcott, was born Alcox, but changed his name.
Cock-teaser, cock-sucker emerge into print in 1891 in Farmer and Henley ("Slang and Its Analogues").
c. 1200, perhaps mid-12c., "well-born man, man of good family or birth," also extended to Roman patricians and ancient Greek aristocrats, from gentle + man (n.); the compound probably is modeled on Old French gentilhomme (the English gentleman itself was borrowed into French in 18c.).
Given specific uses in late Middle English (small gentleman, gentleman-of-arms, gentleman-usher, etc.), hence in England the word often meant any man above the social rank of a yeoman, including the nobility, but it was sometimes restricted to those who bear a coat of arms but not a title; in U.S., "man of property, not engaged in business or a profession" (1789). The English word from the beginning also had a special sense "nobleman whose behavior conforms to the ideals of chivalry and Christianity," and gentleman came to be used loosely for any man of good breeding, courtesy, kindness, honor, strict regard for the feelings of others, etc.
[The Gentleman] is always truthful and sincere ; will not agree for the sake of complaisance or out of weakness ; will not pass over that of which he disapproves. He has a clear soul, and a fearless, straightforward tongue. On the other hand, he is not blunt and rude. His truth is courteous ; his courtesy, truthful ; never a humbug, yet, where he truthfully can, he prefers to say pleasant things. [The Rev. John R. Vernon, "The Grand Old Name of Gentleman," in Contemporary Review, vol. XI, May-August 1869]
Eventually, in polite use, it came to mean a man in general, regardless of social standing. Related: Gentlemen. Gentleman's agreement is first attested 1929. Gentleman farmer recorded from 1749, "A man of means who farms on a large scale, employs hands, and does little or none of the work himself" [Craigie, "Dictionary of American English"].