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]
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.
name of the fruit of several species of a swamp-growing shrub, 1640s, apparently an American English adaptation of Low German kraanbere, from kraan "crane" (see crane (n.)) + Middle Low German bere "berry" (see berry). The reason for the name is not known; perhaps they were so called from fancied resemblance between the plants' stamens and the beaks of cranes.
Upon the Rocks and in the Moss, grew a Shrub whose fruit was very sweet, full of red juice like Currans, perhaps 'tis the same with the New England Cranberry, or Bear-Berry, (call'd so from the Bears devouring it very greedily;) with which we make Tarts. ["An Account of Several Late Voyages & Discoveries," London, 1694]
German and Dutch settlers in the New World apparently recognized the similarity between the European berries (Vaccinium oxycoccos) and the larger North American variety (V. macrocarpum) and transferred the name. In England, they were marshwort or fenberries, but according to OED the North American berries, and the name, were imported by 1680s and the name was applied to the native species in 18c. The native Algonquian name for the plant is represented by West Abenaki popokwa.
"rectangular wooden container," usually with a lid, Old English box, also the name of a type of shrub, from Late Latin buxis, from Greek pyxis "boxwood," pyxion "writing table, box," made of boxwood, from pyxos "box tree," which is of uncertain origin. Beekes suggests a loan-word from Italy, as that is where the tree is native. Dutch bus, German Büchse "box; barrel of a gun," also are Latin loan-words.
Meaning "compartment at a theater" is from c. 1600 (box seat in the theatrical sense is by 1850). Meaning "pigeon-hole at a post office" is from 1832. Meaning "television" is from 1950 (earlier "gramophone player," 1924). Meaning "station of a player in baseball" is from 1881. Graphics sense "space enclosed within borders and rules" is from 1929. Slang meaning "vulva" is attested 17c., according to "Dictionary of American Slang;" modern use seems to date from c. World War II, perhaps originally Australian, on notion of "box of tricks." Box lunch (n.) attested from 1899. The box set "multiple-album, CD or cassette issue of the work of an artist" is attested by 1955. To think or act outside the box "contrary to convention" is attested by 1994.
Originally a theory of society. As the name of a political or economic theory which rests upon the abolition of the right of private property, especially the means of production and distribution, and seeks the overthrow of capitalism by revolutions, it is attested from 1850, a translation of German Kommunismus (itself from French), in Marx and Engels' "Manifesto of the Communist Party." Compare communist.
By 1919 and through and mid-20c. it was a general a term of abuse for revolutionaries, implying anti-social criminality without regard to political theory.
Each [i.e. socialism, communism, anarchism] stands for a state of things, or a striving after it, that differs much from that which we know; & for many of us, especially those who are comfortably at home in the world as it is, they have consequently come to be the positive, comparative, & superlative, distinguished not in kind but in degree only, of the terms of abuse applicable to those who would disturb our peace. [Fowler]
c. 1200, impersonal, hit semeth (it seems), "it appears (that something is so);" also with adjectives or phrases, "to appear to be (in some condition), have or present an appearance of being," from Old Norse soema "to honor; to put up with; to conform to (the world, etc.)," a verb derived from the adjective soemr "fitting."
This is reconstructed to be from Proto-Germanic *somiz (source also of Old English som "agreement, reconciliation," seman "to conciliate," source of Middle English semen "to settle a dispute," literally "to make one;" Old Danish söme "to be proper or seemly"), from PIE *somi-, suffixed form of root *sem- (1) "one; as one, together with" (also compare same).
With other verbs (seem to be, etc.) from c. 1200. Sense of "appear to oneself, think oneself" is from 1630s. Also in Middle English "to present oneself, appear; be visible, be apparent" (late 14c.), hence, of a fact, etc., "be evident, apparent, or obvious." The sense of "be fitting or appropriate, be expedient" (c. 1300) is the etymological one, but it is obsolete except in derived seemly, unseemly. Related: Seemed; seeming.
"next in order after the second; an ordinal numeral; being one of three equal parts into which a whole is regarded as divided;" late Old English metathesis of þridda, from Proto-Germanic *thridja- (source also of Old Frisian thredda, Old Saxon thriddio, Middle Low German drudde, Dutch derde, Old High German dritto, German dritte, Old Norse þriðe, Danish tredie, Swedish tredje, Gothic þridja), from PIE *tri-tyo- (source also of Sanskrit trtiyas, Avestan thritya, Greek tritos, Latin tertius (source of Italian terzo, Spanish tercio, French tiers), Old Church Slavonic tretiji, Lithuanian trečias, Old Irish triss, Welsh tryde), suffixed form of root *trei- (see three).
Metathesis of thrid into third is attested from c. 950 in Northumbrian (compare wright), but overall thrid was prevalent up to 16c. The noun meaning "third part of anything" is recorded from late 14c. Third rail in electric railway sense is recorded from 1890. Third World War as a possibility first recorded 1947. Third-rate "of poor quality" is from 1814, ultimately from classification of ships (1640s); third class in railway travel is from 1839. Third Reich (1930) is a partial translation of German drittes Reich (1923). Third party in law, insurance, etc., is from 1818.
"interbreeding of races," applied originally and especially to sexual union between black and white individuals, 1863, coined irregularly by U.S. journalist David Goodman Croly from Latin miscere "to mix" (from PIE root *meik- "to mix") + genus "race," from PIE root *gene- "give birth, beget," with derivatives referring to procreation and familial and tribal groups. It first appeared in "Miscegenation: The Theory of the Blending of the Races, Applied to the American White Man and Negro," a pretended anti-Abolitionist pamphlet Croly and others published anonymously in advance of the 1864 U.S. presidential election. The old word was amalgamation.
The design of "Miscegenation" was exceedingly ambitious, and the machinery employed was probably among the most ingenious and audacious ever put into operation to procure the indorsement of absurd theories and give the subject the widest notoriety. The object was to so make use of the prevailing ideas of the extremists of the Anti-Slavery party, as to induce them to accept doctrines which would be obnoxious to the great mass of the community, and which would, of course, be used in the political canvass which was to ensue. [P.T. Barnum, "The Humbugs of the World," 1866; he also writes that, despite the pamphlet being an ingenious and impudent literary hoax, the word "has passed into the language and no future dictionary will be complete without it."]
late 14c., the Hebrew word shibboleth, meaning "flood, stream," also "ear of corn;" in Judges xii.4-6. It was the password used by the Gileadites to distinguish their own men from fleeing Ephraimites, because Ephraimites could not pronounce the -sh- sound. Hence the figurative sense of "watchword" (first recorded 1630s), which evolved by 1862 to "outmoded slogan still adhered to." A similar test-word was cicera "chick pease," used by the Italians to identify the French (who could not pronounce it correctly) during the massacre called the Sicilian Vespers (1282).
During training exercises on Pavuvu and Guadalcanal, the need to improve battlefield security is to be implemented not by a simple password, but by an identification procedure described as "sign and countersign." The ground rules are to sequentially interrogate an unknown friend or foe with the name of an automobile, preferably one with an "L" in its vocalization. The response is to be a cognomen for another automobile uttered in the same manner. This insures the "friend" entering our lines will reply with the correct countersign in a dialect distinctly American; call out "Cadiwac" or "Chryswer," and you're dead. [Perry Pollins, "Tales of a Feather Merchant: The World War II Memoir of a Marine Radioman," 2006]
coined 1958 by San Francisco newspaper columnist Herb Caen during the heyday of -nik suffixes in the wake of Sputnik. From Beat generation (1952), associated with beat (n.) in its meaning "rhythm (especially in jazz)" as well as beat (adj.) "worn out, exhausted," and Century Dictionary (1902) has slang beat (n.) "a worthless, dishonest, shiftless fellow." Originator Jack Kerouac in 1958 connected it with beatitude.
The origins of the word beat are obscure, but the meaning is only too clear to most Americans. More than the feeling of weariness, it implies the feeling of having been used, of being raw. It involves a sort of nakedness of the mind. [New York Times Magazine, Oct. 2, 1952]
"Beat" is old carny slang. According to Beat Movement legend (and it is a movement with a deep inventory of legend), Ginsberg and Kerouac picked it up from a character named Herbert Huncke, a gay street hustler and drug addict from Chicago who began hanging around Times Square in 1939 (and who introduced William Burroughs to heroin, an important cultural moment). The term has nothing to do with music; it names the condition of being beaten down, poor, exhausted, at the bottom of the world. [Louis Menand, New Yorker, Oct. 1, 2007]