Etymology
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carat (n.)

also karat, late 15c., "a measure of the fineness of gold," from Old French carat "measure of the fineness of gold" (14c.), from Italian carato or Medieval Latin carratus, both from Arabic qirat "fruit of the carob tree," also "weight of 4 grains," from Greek keration "carob seed," also the name of a small weight of measure, literally "little horn" diminutive of keras "horn of an animal" (from PIE root *ker- (1) "horn; head").

Carob beans were a standard in the ancient world for weighing small quantities. The Greek measure was the equivalent of the Roman siliqua, which was one-twenty-fourth of a golden solidus of Constantine; hence karat took on a sense of "a proportion of one twenty-fourth, a twenty-fourth part," especially in expressing the fineness of gold when used as jewelry, and thus it became a measure of gold purity (1550s): 18-carat gold is eighteen parts gold, six parts alloy; 14-carat gold is 10/24ths alloy, etc.

As a measure of weight for diamonds or other precious stones, carat is attested from 1570s in English. In U.S., karat is used for "proportion of fine gold in an alloy" and carat for "measure of weight of a precious stone."

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east 

Old English east, eastan (adj., adv.) "east, easterly, eastward;" easte (n.), from Proto-Germanic *aust- "east," literally "toward the sunrise" (source also of Old Frisian ast "east," aster "eastward," Dutch oost Old Saxon ost, Old High German ostan, German Ost, Old Norse austr "from the east"), from PIE root *aus- (1) "to shine," especially of the dawn. The east is the direction in which dawn breaks. For theory of shift in the geographical sense in Latin, see austral.

As one of the four cardinal points of the compass, from c. 1200. Meaning "the eastern part of the world" (from Europe) is from c. 1300. Cold War use of East for "communist states" first recorded 1951. French est, Spanish este are borrowings from Middle English, originally nautical. The east wind in Biblical Palestine was scorching and destructive (as in Ezekiel xvii.10); in New England it is bleak, wet, unhealthful. East End of London so called by 1846; East Side of Manhattan so called from 1871; East Indies (India and Southeast Asia) so called 1590s to distinguish them from the West Indies.

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ass-kissing (adj.)

"currying favor," by 1946 (as arse-kissing), apparently from or popularized by military slang in World War II. Ass-kisser is by 1943. Grose's 1788 "Dictionary of the Vulgar Tongue" has "A kiss mine arse fellow," defined as "a sycophant." As for the verbal phrase, the Towneley Plays, c. 1460, has Cain telling off Abel with "Com kis myne ars." A 1668 book of "Songs Alamode, Composed by the most Refined Wits of this Age" has a song with the line "And thou maist kiss mine Arse," and of course the Miller's Tale.

In early 20c. American-English ass-licker may have been more common than ass-kisser, at least in print sources, perhaps from German influence. "Leck mich im Arsch" is at least 18c., the title of a Mozart party song, the phrase having been branded into the minds of German readers by Goethe in "Götz von Berlichingen" (1773), where it is the hero's dramatic reply to a call to surrender. (E.g. the reply of Tjaden to the bullying NCO in "All Quiet on the Western Front," where Remarque euphemistically describes it as "dem bekanntesten Klassikerzitat.")

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section (n.)

late 14c., seccioun, in astronomy, "the intersection of two straight lines; a division of a scale;" from Old French section and directly from Latin sectionem (nominative sectio) "a cutting, cutting off, division," noun of action from past-participle stem of secare "to cut" (from PIE root *sek- "to cut").

 The meaning "a part cut off or separated from the rest" is from early 15c. That of "a drawing representing something as if cut through" is from 1660s. From 1550s in English in the meaning "act of cutting or dividing," a sense now rare or archaic and preserved in some medical phrases, most notably Caesarian section. The meaning "a subdivision of a written work, statute, etc." is from 1570s.

Books are commonly divided into Chapters, Chapters into Sections, and Sections into Paragraphs or Breaks, as Printers call them .... [Blount, "Glossigraphia," 1656]

In music, "a group of similar instruments in a band or orchestra" (1880). In U.S. history, a square of 640 acres into which public lands were divided (1785). In World War II U.S. military slang, section eight was a reference to the passage in an Army Regulations act that referred to discharge on grounds of insanity.

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daisy (n.)

common wildflower of Europe, growing in pastures and on mountainsides and cultivated in gardens, c. 1300, daiseie, from Old English dægesege, from dæges eage "day's eye;" see day (n.) + eye (n.). So called because the petals open at dawn and close at dusk. In Medieval Latin it was solis oculus "sun's eye." The use of dais eye for "the sun" is attested from early 15c.

Applied to similar plants in America, Australia, New Zealand. As a female proper name said to have been originally a pet form of Margaret (q.v.). Slang sense of "anything pretty, charming, or excellent" is by 1757.

Daisy-cutter first attested 1791, originally "a trotting horse," especially one that trots with low steps; later of cricket (1889) and baseball hits that skim along the ground. Daisy-chain is used in various figurative senses from 1856; the "group sex" sense is attested by 1941. Daisy-wheel for a removable printing unit in the form of a flat wheel is attested by 1974. Pushing up daisies "dead" is World War I soldier's slang from 1917 (see push (v.)), but variants with the same meaning go back to 1842.

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cucumber (n.)

"common running garden plant," cultivated from earliest times in many Old World countries, also the long, fleshy fruit of the plant, late 14c., cucomer, from Old French cocombre (13c., Modern French concombre), from Latin cucumerem (nominative cucumis), perhaps from a pre-Italic Mediterranean language. The Latin word also is the source of Italian cocomero, Spanish cohombro, Portuguese cogombro. Replaced Old English eorþæppla (plural), literally "earth-apples."

Cowcumber was the common form of the word in 17c.-18c., in good literary use and representing the modern evolution of the Middle English form. Cucumber is an attempted reversion to Latin. In 1790s the pronunciation "cowcumber" was standard except in western England dialects and "coocumber" was considered pedantic, but 30 years later, with the spread of literacy and education "cowcumber" was limited to the ignorant and old-fashioned.

It was planted as a garden vegetable by 1609 by Jamestown colonists. Short form cuke is attested by 1977. Phrase cool as a cucumber (c. 1732) embodies ancient folk knowledge confirmed by science in 1970: inside of a field cucumber on a warm day is 20 degrees cooler than the air temperature. The sea-cucumber (1841) is so called for the shape of some species.

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pontifex (n.)

member of the supreme college of priests in ancient Rome, 1570s, from Latin pontifex "high priest, chief of the priests," probably from pont-, stem of pons "bridge" (see pons) + -fex "maker," from facere "to do, make" (from PIE root *dhe- "to set, put").

If so, the word originally meant "bridge-maker," or "path-maker." It was felt as such; the sense of "bridge-builder" was in the Medieval Latin word, and Milton uses pontifical (adj.) in this sense. Sense was extended in Church Latin to "a bishop," in Medieval Latin to "the Pope." In Old English, pontifex is glossed in the Durham Ritual (Old Northumbrian dialect) as brycgwyrcende "bridge-maker." 

Weekley points out that, "bridge-building has always been regarded as a pious work of divine inspiration." Century Dictionary speculates it had its origins as "having charge of the making or maintenance of a bridge — it is said of the Sublician bridge built over the Tiber by Ancus Marcius." Or the term may be metaphoric of bridging the earthly world and the realm of the gods. Other suggestions trace it to Oscan-Umbrian puntis "propitiary offering," or to a lost Etruscan word; in either case it would have been altered by folk etymology to resemble the Latin for "bridge-maker."

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superior (adj.)

late 14c., "higher in position," from Old French superior "higher, upper" (Modern French superieur), from Latin superiorem (nominative superior) "higher," comparative of superus "situated above, upper," from super "above, over" (from PIE root *uper "over").

Meaning "higher in rank or dignity" is attested from late 15c.; sense of "of a higher nature or character" is attested from 1530s. Original sense was preserved more strongly in French (as in les étages supérieur "the upper stories"), and in Lake Superior, a loan-translation of French Lac Supérieur, literally "upper lake" (at 600 feet above sea-level it has the highest surface elevation of the five Great Lakes and is the furthest north).

Surprise a person of the class that is supposed to keep servants cleaning his own boots, & either he will go on with the job while he talks to you, as if it were the most natural thing in the world, or else he will explain that the bootboy or scullery-maid is ill & give you to understand that he is, despite appearances, superior to boot-cleaning. If he takes the second course, you conclude that he is not superior to it; if the first, that perhaps he is. [Fowler]
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America 

1507, "the western hemisphere, North and South America," in Cartographer Martin Waldseemüller's treatise "Cosmographiae Introductio," from Modern Latin Americanus, after Amerigo Vespucci (1454-1512) who made two trips to the New World as a navigator and claimed to have discovered it. His published works put forward the idea that it was a new continent, and he was first to call it Novus Mundus "New World." Amerigo is more easily Latinized than Vespucci (Latin Vesputius, which might have yielded place-name Vesputia). The sense in English naturally was restricted toward the British colonies, then the United States.

The man's name Amerigo is Germanic, said to derive from Gothic Amalrich, literally "work-ruler." The Old English form of the name has come down as surnames Emmerich, Emery, etc. The Italian fem. form merged into Amelia.

Colloquial pronunciation "Ameri-kay," not uncommon 19c., goes back to at least 1643 and a poem that rhymed the word with away. Amerika "U.S. society viewed as racist, fascist, oppressive, etc." is attested from 1969; the spelling is German but may also suggest the KKK.

It is a thousand pities that the puny witticisms of a few professional objectors should have the power to prevent, even for a year, the adoption of a name for our country. At present we have, clearly, none. There should be no hesitation about "Appalachia." In the first place, it is distinctive. "America" is not, and can never be made so. We may legislate as much as we please, and assume for our country whatever name we think right — but to use it will be no name, to any purpose for which a name is needed, unless we can take it away from the regions which employ it at present. South America is "America," and will insist upon remaining so. [Edgar Allan Poe, "Marginalia," in Graham's Magazine, Philadelphia, December 1846]
FREDONIA, FREDONIAN, FREDE, FREDISH, &c. &c. These extraordinary words, which have been deservedly ridiculed here as well as in England, were proposed sometime ago, and countenanced by two or three individuals, as names for the territory and people of the United States. The general term American is now commonly understood (at least in all places where the English language is spoken,) to mean an inhabitant of the United States; and is so employed, except where unusual precision of language is required. [John Pickering, "A Vocabulary, or Collection of Words and Phrases Which Have Been Supposed to be Peculiar to the United States of America," Boston, 1816]
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hag (n.)
early 13c., "repulsive old woman" (rare before 16c.), probably from Old English hægtes, hægtesse "witch, sorceress, enchantress, fury," shortened on the assumption that -tes was a suffix. The Old English word is from Proto-Germanic *hagatusjon, which is of unknown origin. Dutch heks, German Hexe "witch" are similarly shortened from cognate Middle Dutch haghetisse, Old High German hagzusa.

The first element probably is cognate with Old English haga "enclosure, portion of woodland marked off for cutting" (see hedge (n.)). Old Norse had tunriða and Old High German zunritha, both literally "hedge-rider," used of witches and ghosts. The second element in the prehistoric compound may be connected with Norwegian tysja "fairy; crippled woman," Gaulish dusius "demon," Lithuanian dvasia "spirit," from PIE *dhewes- "to fly about, smoke, be scattered, vanish."

One of the magic words for which there is no male form, suggesting its original meaning was close to "diviner, soothsayer," which were always female in northern European paganism, and hægtesse seem at one time to have meant "woman of prophetic and oracular powers" (Ælfric uses it to render the Greek "pythoness," the voice of the Delphic oracle), a figure greatly feared and respected. Later, the word was used of village wise women.

Haga is also the haw- in hawthorn, which is an important tree in northern European pagan religion. There may be several layers of folk etymology here. Confusion or blending with heathenish is suggested by Middle English hæhtis, hægtis "hag, witch, fury, etc.," and haetnesse "goddess," used of Minerva and Diana.

If the hægtesse once was a powerful supernatural woman (in Norse it is an alternative word for Norn, any of the three weird sisters, the equivalent of the Fates), it might originally have carried the hawthorn sense. Later, when the pagan magic was reduced to local scatterings, it might have had the sense of "hedge-rider," or "she who straddles the hedge," because the hedge was the boundary between the civilized world of the village and the wild world beyond. The hægtesse would have a foot in each reality. Even later, when it meant the local healer and root collector, living in the open and moving from village to village, it may have had the mildly pejorative Middle English sense of hedge- (hedge-priest, etc.), suggesting an itinerant sleeping under bushes. The same word could have contained all three senses before being reduced to its modern one.
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