Etymology
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prestige (n.)

1650s, "trick, illusion, imposture" (senses now obsolete), from French prestige (16c.) "deceit, imposture, illusion" (in Modern French, "illusion, magic, glamour"), from Latin praestigium "delusion, illusion" (see prestigious).

From about 1815 it was used in the sense of "an illusion as to one's personal merit or importance, a flattering illusion," hence, positively, "a reputation for excellence, importance, or authority," senses probably introduced from French, often in reference to Napoleon:

When the same question was put to those who knew him and France best, they answered, 'that a peace dictated in France would have undone him ;'—'that his throne was founded on public opinion,' and 'that if the prestige,' for so they called it, 'of his glory were to be destroyed, the state of his affairs, and the character of the French people forbade him to expect that his power would long survive it.' ["Memoirs of Bonaparte's Deposition," Quarterly Review, Oct. 1814] 
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spondee (n.)

"metrical foot consisting of two long syllables," late 14c., from Old French spondee (14c.), from Latin spondeus, from Greek spondeios (pous), the name of the meter originally used in chants accompanying libations, from spondē  "solemn libation, a drink-offering," related to spendein "make a drink offering," from PIE root *spend- "to make an offering, perform a rite," hence "to engage oneself by a ritual act" (source also of Latin spondere "to engage oneself, promise," Hittite shipantahhi "I pour out a libation, I sacrifice"). Related: Spondaic.

And [the spondee] has the perpetual authority of correspondence with the deliberate pace of Man, and expression of his noblest animal character in erect and thoughtful motion : all the rhythmic art of poetry having thus primary regard to the great human noblesse of walking on feet ; and by no means referring itself to any other manner of progress by help either of stilts or steam. [John Ruskin, "Elements of English Prosody, for use in St. George's Schools," 1880]
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viper (n.)

early 15c., from Old French vipere, earlier in English as vipera (c. 1200), directly from Latin vipera "viper, snake, serpent," contraction of *vivipera, from vivus "alive, living" (from PIE root *gwei- "to live") + parire "bring forth, bear" (from PIE root *pere- (1) "to produce, bring forth"). In common with many snake species in cooler climates, in most cases the viper's eggs are kept inside the mother until hatching.

Applied to persons of spiteful character at least since 1590s. The only venomous snake found in Great Britain, but not especially dangerous. The word replaced native adder. "The flesh of the viper was formerly regarded as possessing great nutritive or restorative properties, and was frequently used medicinally" [OED]; hence viper-wine, wine medicated with some kind of extract from vipers, used 17c. by "gray-bearded gallants" in a bid "to feele new lust, and youthfull flames agin." [Massinger]

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O 

fifteenth letter of the alphabet, from a character that in Phoenician was called  'ain (literally "eye") and represented "a very peculiar and to us unpronounceable guttural" [Century Dictionary]. The Greeks also lacked the sound, so when they adopted the Phoenician letters they arbitrarily changed O's value to a vowel. (Thus there is no grounds for the belief that the form of the letter represents the shape of the mouth in pronouncing it.) The Greeks later added a special character for "long" O (omega), and the original became "little o" (omicron).

In Middle English and later colloquial use, o or o' can be an abbreviation of on or of, and is still literary in some words (o'clock, Jack-o'-lantern, tam-o'-shanter, cat-o'-nine-tails, will-o'-the-wisp, etc.).

O' the common prefix in Irish surnames is from Irish ó, ua (Old Irish au, ui) "descendant." 

The "connective" -o- is the usual connecting vowel in compounds taken or formed from Greek, where it often is the vowel in the stem. "[I]t is affixed, not only to terms of Greek origin, but also to those derived from Latin (Latin compounds of which would have been formed with the L. connecting or reduced thematic vowel, -i), especially when compounds are wanted with a sense that Latin composition, even if possible, would not warrant, but which would be authorized by the principles of Greek composition." [OED]

As "zero" in Arabic numerals it is attested from c. 1600, from the similarity of shape. Similarly the O blood type (1926) was originally "zero," denoting the absence of A and B agglutinogens.

As a gauge of track in model railroads, by 1905. For o as an interjection of fear, surprise, joy, etc., see oh.

The use of the colloquial or slang -o suffix in wino, ammo, combo, kiddo, the names of the Marx Brothers, etc., "is widespread in English-speaking countries but nowhere more so than in Australia" [OED].

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nature (n.)

late 13c., "restorative powers of the body, bodily processes; powers of growth;" from Old French nature "nature, being, principle of life; character, essence," from Latin natura "course of things; natural character, constitution, quality; the universe," literally "birth," from natus "born," past participle of nasci "to be born," from PIE root *gene- "give birth, beget."

By mid-14c. as "the forces or processes of the material world; that which produces living things and maintains order." From late 14c. as "creation, the universe;" also "heredity, birth, hereditary circumstance; essential qualities, inherent constitution, innate disposition" (as in human nature); also "nature personified, Mother Nature." Nature and nurture have been paired and contrasted since Shakespeare's "Tempest."

The phrase "nature and nurture" is a convenient jingle of words, for it separates under two distinct heads the innumerable elements of which personality is composed. Nature is all that a man brings with himself into the world; nurture is every influence from without that affects him after his birth. [Francis Galton, "English Men of Science: Their Nature and Nurture," 1875]

Specifically as "the material world beyond human civilization or society; an original, wild, undomesticated condition" from 1660s, especially in state of nature "the condition of man before organized society." Nature-worship "religion which deifies the phenomena of physical nature" is by 1840.

Nature should be avoided in such vague expressions as 'a lover of nature,' 'poems about nature.' Unless more specific statements follow, the reader cannot tell whether the poems have to do with natural scenery, rural life, the sunset, the untouched wilderness, or the habits of squirrels. [Strunk & White, "The Elements of Style," 3rd ed., 1979]
Man, her last work, who seem'd so fair,
Such splendid purpose in his eyes,
Who roll'd the psalm to wintry skies,
Who built him fanes of fruitless prayer,
Who trusted God was love indeed
And love Creation's final law—
Tho' Nature, red in tooth and claw
With ravine, shriek'd against his creed—
[Tennyson, from "In Memoriam"]
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quality (n.)

c. 1300, qualite, "temperament, character, disposition," from Old French calite, qualite "quality, nature, characteristic" (12c., Modern French qualité), from Latin qualitatem (nominative qualitas) "a quality, property; nature, state, condition" (said [Tucker, etc.] to have been coined by Cicero to translate Greek poiotēs), from qualis "what kind of a" (from PIE root *kwo-, stem of relative and interrogative pronouns).

In early use, and for long thereafter, with awareness of the word's use in Aristotelian philosophy. From late 14c. as "an inherent attribute," also "degree of goodness or excellence." Meaning "social rank, position" is c. 1400, hence "nobility, gentry." From 1580s as "a distinguished and characteristic excellence." 

Noun phrase quality time "time spent giving undivided attention to another person to build a relationship" is recorded by 1977. Quality of life "degree to which a person is healthy and able to participate in or enjoy life events" is from 1943. Quality control "maintenance of desired quality in a manufactured product" is attested from 1935.

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reference (n.)

1580s, "act of referring" (some matter, to someone for consideration), from refer + -ance, or else from French référence, from Medieval Latin *referentia, from Latin referentem (nominative referens), present participle of referre.

Meaning "direction to a book or passage" where certain information may be found is recorded from 1610s. By 1837 as "one who or that which may be referred to." The meaning "testimonial" is from 1895. Reference book , a dictionary, encyclopedia, or similar book intended to be consulted as occasion requires, dates from 1808; reference library is by 1834. Phrase in reference to is attested from 1590s. "By slipshod extension, the word is often now made to mean a person to whom r[eference] is permitted as a witness to character, & even a written testimonial" [Fowler, 1926]. The earlier word for "one who gives characters for people seeking employment" was referee (1862) but this word had a bad savor, of literate accomplices of professional beggars and thieves.

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progressive (adj.)

c. 1600, "characterized by advancement, going forward, moving onward" (in action, character, etc.), from progress (n.) + -ive, or else from French progressif, from past participle stem of Latin progredi. Specifically of taxation, from 1889. From the notion of "using one's efforts toward advancement or improvement" comes the meaning "characterized by striving for change and innovation, avant-garde, liberal" (in arts, etc.), from 1908; of jazz, from 1947.

In the socio-political sense "favoring reform; radically liberal" it emerged in various British contexts from the 1880s; in the U.S. it was given to a movement active in the 1890s and a generation thereafter, the name being taken again from time to time, most recently by some more liberal Democrats and other social activists, by c. 2000.

The noun in the sense "one who favors, promotes, or commends social and political change in the name of progress" is attested by 1865 (originally in Christianity). Earlier in a like sense were progressionist (1849, adjective; 1884, noun), progressist (1848). Related: Progressively; progressiveness.

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quintessence (n.)

early 15c., quint-essence, in ancient philosophy and medieval alchemy, "a pure essence latent in all things, and the substance of which the heavenly bodies are composed," literally "fifth essence," from Old French quinte essence (14c.) and directly from Medieval Latin quinta essentia, from Latin quinta, fem. of quintus "fifth" (from PIE root *penkwe- "five") + essentia "being, essence," abstract noun formed (to translate Greek ousia "being, essence") from essent-, present-participle stem of esse "to be" (from PIE root *es- "to be").

The Latin term is a loan-translation of Greek pempte ousia, the "ether" that was added by Aristotle (perhaps following the Pythagoreans) to the four known elements (water, earth, fire, air) and said to permeate all things. It was naturally bright, incorruptible, and endowed with circular motion. Its extraction was one of the chief goals of alchemy.

The transferred or figurative sense of "purest essence" (of a situation, character, etc.), "an extract from anything containing in a small quantity its virtues or most essential part" is by 1560s.

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nuts (adj.)

"crazy, not right in the head," 1846, from earlier colloquial or slang be nuts on "be very fond of" (1785), which is possibly from nuts (plural noun) "any source of pleasure or delight" (1610s), from nut (q.v.). Nuts as a special treat or favorite foodstuff led to other figurative phrases, now obsolete. The "crazy" sense probably has been influenced by metaphoric application of nut to "head" (1846, as in to be off one's nut "be insane," 1860). Also compare nutty. Nuts as a derisive retort is attested from 1931.

Connection with the slang "testicles" sense has tended to nudge the word toward taboo territory. "On the N.B.C. network, it is forbidden to call any character a nut; you have to call him a screwball." [New Yorker, Dec. 23, 1950] "Please eliminate the expression 'nuts to you' from Egbert's speech." [Request from the Hays Office regarding the script of "The Bank Dick," 1940] This desire for avoidance probably accounts for the euphemism nerts (c. 1925).

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