Etymology
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buzz (v.)
late 15c. (buzzing is from late 14c.), echoic of bees and other insects. Aviation sense of "fly low and close" is by 1941 (see buzz (n.)). Related: Buzzed. To buzz off "go away quickly" (1914) originally meant "to ring off on the telephone," from the use of buzzers to signal a call or message on old systems. As a command, it originally would have been telling someone to get off the line.
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retreat (n.)

c. 1300, retrete, "a step backward;" late 14c., "act of retiring or withdrawing; military signal for retiring from action or exercise," from Old French retret, retrait, noun use of past participle of retrere "draw back," from Latin retrahere "draw back, withdraw, call back," from re- "back" (see re-) + trahere "to draw" (see tract (n.1)).

Meaning "place of seclusion" is from early 15c.; sense of "establishment for mentally ill persons" is from 1797. Meaning "period of retirement for religious self-examination" is from 1756.

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whistle (n.)
"tubular musical instrument sounded by blowing," Old English hwistle (see whistle (v.)). Meaning "sound formed by pursing the lips and blowing" is from mid-15c. To wet one's whistle "take a drink" (late 14c.) originally may have referred to pipes, or be an allusion to the throat as a sort of pipe. Phrase clean as a whistle is recorded from 1878. Railroad whistle-stop (at which trains stop only if the engineer hears a signal from the station) is recorded from 1934.
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gantry (n.)
also gauntree, 1570s, "four-footed stand for a barrel," probably from Old North French gantier (Old French chantier, 13c., "store-room, stock-room"), from Latin cantherius "rafter, frame," also "a gelding," from Greek kanthelios "pack ass," which is related to kanthelion "rafter," of unknown origin. The connecting notion in all this seems to be framework for carrying things. Meaning "frame for a crane, etc." is from 1810. Railway signal sense attested by 1889. Derivation from tree (n.) + gawn "small bucket," an obsolete 16c. contraction of gallon, might be folk-etymology.
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sign (n.)

early 13c., "gesture or motion of the hand," especially one meant to communicate something, from Old French signe "sign, mark," from Latin signum "identifying mark, token, indication, symbol; proof; military standard, ensign; a signal, an omen; sign in the heavens, constellation."

According to Watkins, literally "standard that one follows," from PIE *sekw-no-, from root *sekw- (1) "to follow." But de Vaan has it from PIE *sekh-no- "cut," from PIE root *sek- "to cut" He writes: "The etymological appurtenance to seco 'to cut' implies a semantic shift of *sek-no- 'what is cut out', 'carved out' > 'sign'." But he also also compares Hebrew sakkin, Aramaic sakkin "slaughtering-knife," and mentions a theory that "both words are probably borrowed from an unknown third source."

It has ousted native token. Meaning "a mark or device having some special importance" is recorded from late 13c.; that of "a miracle" is from c. 1300. Zodiacal sense in English is from mid-14c. Sense of "characteristic device attached to the front of an inn, shop, etc., to distinguish it from others" is first recorded mid-15c. Meaning "token or signal of some condition" (late 13c.) is behind sign of the times (1520s). In some uses, the word probably is a shortening of ensign. Sign language is recorded from 1847; earlier hand-language (1670s).

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wink (v.)
Old English wincian "to blink, wink, close one's eyes quickly," from Proto-Germanic *wink- (source also of Dutch winken, Old High German winkan "move sideways, stagger; nod," German winken "to wave, wink"), a gradational variant of the root of Old High German wankon "to stagger, totter," Old Norse vakka "to stray, hover," from PIE root *weng- "to bend, curve." The meaning "close an eye as a hint or signal" is first recorded c. 1100; that of "close one's eyes (to fault or irregularity)" first attested late 15c. Related: Winked; winking.
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tattoo (n.1)
"signal calling soldiers or sailors to quarters at night," 1680s, earlier tap-to (1640s), from Dutch taptoe, from tap "faucet of a cask" (see tap (n.1)) + toe "shut, to," from Proto-Germanic *to (see to (prep.)). "So called because police formerly visited taverns in the evening to shut off the taps of casks" [Barnhart]. In 17c. Dutch the phrase apparently was used with a transferred or figurative sense "say no more." In English, transferred sense of "drumbeat" is recorded from 1755. Hence, Devil's tattoo "action of idly drumming fingers in irritation or impatience" (1803).
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backward (adv.)
"with the face to the rear, in the direction behind," c. 1300, from abakward, from Old English on bæc (see back (adv.), and compare aback) + -weard adjectival and adverbial suffix (see -ward).

Old English had the adverb bæcling. As an adjective, from 1550s. Meaning "behindhand with regard to progress" is first attested 1690s. To ring bells backward (from lowest to highest), c. 1500, was a signal of alarm for fire or invasion, or to express dismay. Another Middle English word for "backward, wrongly" was arseward (c. 1400); Old English had earsling.
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cue (n.1)

"words spoken at the end of a speech in a play that are the signal for an answering speech," 1550s, of uncertain origin. By one theory it is a spelling out of Q, the letter, which was used 16c., 17c. in stage plays to indicate actors' entrances and was explained at the time as an abbreviation of Latin quando "when" (from PIE root *kwo-, stem of relative and interrogative pronouns) or a similar Latin adverb. Shakespeare's printed texts have it as both Q and cue. Cue as a name for "the letter Q" is attested from 1755.

Transferred to music by 1880. Figurative sense of "sign or hint to speak or act" is from 1560s. The television reader's cue-card is attested by 1948.

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reaction (n.)

"action in resistance or response to another action or power," 1640s, from re- "back, again, anew" + action (q.v.). Modeled on French réaction, older Italian reattione, from Medieval Latin reactionem (nominative reactio), a noun of action formed in Late Latin from the past-participle stem of Latin reagere "react," from re- "back" + agere "to do, perform."

Originally a word in physics and dynamics. In chemistry, "mutual or reciprocal action of chemical agents upon each other," by 1836. The general sense of "action or feeling in response" (to a statement, event, etc.) is recorded from 1914. Reaction time, "time elapsing between the action of an external stimulus and the giving of a signal in reply," attested by 1874.

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