monster of Greek mythology having a lion's (winged) body and a woman's head; she waylaid travelers around Thebes and devoured those who could not answer her questions; Oedipus solved the riddle and the Sphinx killed herself. In English from early 15c., from Latin Sphinx, from Greek Sphinx, said to mean literally "the strangler," a back-formation from sphingein "to squeeze, bind" (see sphincter).
There also was an Egyptian form (usually male and wingless); in reference to this it is attested in English from 1570s; specific reference to the colossal stone one near the pyramids at Giza is attested from 1610s. Transferred sense of "person or thing of mysterious nature" is from c. 1600. The proper plural would be sphinges. As adjectives in English, sphingal, sphingian, sphingine, sphinxian, sphinxine, and sphinx-like all have been tried.
["convincing, weighty, pithy, full of meaning"] late 14c., "cogent, convincing, compelling" (of evidence, an argument, etc.); c. 1400 as "full of meaning;" from Old French preignant "pregnant, pithy, ready capable," which is probably from Latin praegnans "with child, pregnant, full" and thus the same word as pregnant (adj.1).
All uses seem to be derivable from the sense of "with child." But in some sources this English pregnant has been referred to French prenant, present participle of prendre "to take," or to the French present participle of preindre "press, squeeze, stamp, crush," from earlier priembre, from Latin premere "to press, hold fast, cover, crowd, compress." The two English adjectives are so confused as to be practically one word, if they were not always so.
Old English hem "a border" of cloth or a garment, from Proto-Germanic *hamjam (source also of Old Norse hemja "to bridle, curb," Swedish hämma "to stop, restrain," Old Frisian hemma "to hinder," Middle Dutch, German hemmen "to hem in, stop, hinder"), from PIE *kem- "to compress" (source also of Armenian kamel "to press, squeeze," Lithuanian kamuoti "press together, stop," Russian kom "mass, clot, clod").
Apparently the same root yielded Old English hamm, common in place names (where it means "enclosure, land hemmed in by water or high ground, land in a river bend"). In Middle English, hem also was a symbol of pride or ostentation.
If þei wer þe first þat schuld puplysch þese grete myracles of her mayster, men myth sey of hem, as Crist ded of þe Pharisees, þat þei magnified her owne hemmys. [John Capgrave, "Life of Saint Gilbert of Sempringham," 1451]
It forms all or part of: archivolt; circumvolve; convoluted; convolution; devolve; elytra; evolution; evolve; Helicon; helicopter; helix; helminth; lorimer; ileus; involve; revolt; revolution; revolve; valve; vault (v.1) "jump or leap over;" vault (n.1) "arched roof or ceiling;" volte-face; voluble; volume; voluminous; volute; volvox; volvulus; vulva; wale; walk; wallet; wallow; waltz; well (v.) "to spring, rise, gush;" welter; whelk; willow.
It is the hypothetical source of/evidence for its existence is provided by: Sanskrit valate "turns round," ulvam "womb, vulva;" Lithuanian valtis "twine, net," vilnis "wave," apvalus "round;" Old Church Slavonic valiti "roll, welter," vlŭna "wave;" Greek eluein "to roll round, wind, enwrap," eilein "twist, turn, squeeze; revolve, rotate," helix "spiral object;" Latin volvere "to turn, twist;" Gothic walwjan "to roll;" Old English wealwian "roll," weoloc "whelk, spiral-shelled mollusk;" Old High German walzan "to roll, waltz;" Old Irish fulumain "rolling;" Welsh olwyn "wheel."
"deliberate killing of oneself," 1650s, from Modern Latin suicidium "suicide," from Latin sui "of oneself" (genitive of se "self"), from PIE *s(u)w-o- "one's own," from root *s(w)e- (see idiom) + -cidium "a killing," from caedere "to slay" (from PIE root *kae-id- "to strike").
Probably an English coinage; much maligned by Latin purists because it "may as well seem to participate of sus, a sow, as of the pronoun sui" [Phillips]. The meaning "person who kills himself deliberately" is from 1728. In Anglo-Latin, the term for "one who commits suicide" was felo-de-se, literally "one guilty concerning himself."
Even in 1749, in the full blaze of the philosophic movement, we find a suicide named Portier dragged through the streets of Paris with his face to the ground, hung from a gallows by his feet, and then thrown into the sewers; and the laws were not abrogated till the Revolution, which, having founded so many other forms of freedom, accorded the liberty of death. [W.E.H. Lecky, "History of European Morals," 1869]
In England, suicides were legally criminal if of age and sane, but not if judged to have been mentally deranged. The criminal ones were mutilated by stake and given degrading burial in highways until 1823. Suicide blonde (one who has "dyed by her own hand") first attested 1921. Baseball suicide squeeze is attested from 1937.
c. 1300, presse, "a crowd, throng, company; crowding and jostling of a throng; a massing together," from Old French presse (n.) "a throng, a crush, a crowd; wine or cheese press" (11c.), from Latin pressare (see press (v.1)). Late Old English had press in the sense of "clothes press," but the Middle English word probably is from French.
The general sense of "instrument or machine by which anything is subjected to pressure" is from late 14c.: "device for pressing cloth," also "device to squeeze juice from grapes, oil from olives, cider from apples, etc." The sense of "urgency, urgent demands of affairs" is from 1640s. Weightlifting sense is from 1908. The basketball defense so called from 1959 (in full-court press).
The specific sense "machine for printing" is from 1530s; this was extended to publishing houses and agencies of producing printed matter collectively by 1570s and to publishing generally (in phrases such as freedom of the press) from c. 1680. This gradually shifted c. 1800-1820 to "the sum total of periodical publishing, newspapers, journalism." The press, meaning "journalists collectively" is attested from 1921 (though superseded by media since the rise of television, etc.).
Press agent, employed to tend to newspaper advertisements and supply news editors with information, is from 1873, originally theatrical; press conference "meeting at which journalists are given the opportunity to question a politician, celebrity, etc.," is attested from 1931, though the thing itself dates to at least World War I. Press secretary is recorded from 1940; press release "official statement offered to a newspaper for publication" is by 1918.
Via the sense "crowd, throng," Middle English in press meant "in public," a coincidental parallel to the modern phrase in the press.