popular name of a common type of forest tree of Eurasia, North America, and North Africa, Middle English asshe, from Old English æsc "ash tree," from Proto-Germanic *askaz, *askiz (source also of Old Norse askr, Old Saxon ask, Middle Dutch esce, German Esche), from PIE root *os- "ash tree" (source also of Armenian haci "ash tree," Albanian ah "beech," Greek oxya "beech," Latin ornus "wild mountain ash," Russian jasen, Lithuanian uosis "ash").
The close-grained wood of the ash is tough and elastic, and it was the preferred wood for spear-shafts, so Old English æsc sometimes meant "spear," especially in poetry, as in æsc-here "company armed with spears," æsc-plega "war," literally "spear-play." Æsc also was the name of the Old English runic letter that begins the word.
type of volcanic rock, c. 1600, from Late Latin basaltes, a misspelling of Latin basanites "very hard stone," from Greek basanitēs "a species of slate used to test gold," from basanos "touchstone," also "a trial, examination, test whether anything be true," from Egyptian baban "slate," a stone which was used by the Egyptians as a touchstone of gold. According to Beekes, "It came to Greece via Lydia." In Pliny, basaniten by mistake became basalten, which is the origin of basalt.
Any hard, very dark rock would do as a touchstone; the assayer compared the streak left by the alleged gold with that of real gold or baser metals. From the noun in Greek came Greek basanizein "to be put to the test, be examined closely, be cross-examined, be put to torture." The word is not connected with salt. Related: Basaltic.
1902, from French garage "shelter for a vehicle," a specific use of a word meaning generally "place for storing something," from verb garer "to shelter," also "to dock ships," from Old French garir "take care of, protect; save, spare, rescue," from Frankish *waron "to guard" or some other Germanic source (compare Old High German waron "take care"), from Proto-Germanic *war- "to protect, guard," from PIE root *wer- (4) "to cover." Garage-sale (n.) first attested 1966.
Influenced no doubt by the success of the recent Club run, and by the fact that more than 100 of its members are automobile owners, the N.Y.A.C. has decided to build a "garage," the French term for an automobile stable, at Travers Island, that will be of novel design, entirely different from any station in the country. [New York Athletic Club Journal, May 1902]
[clouds driven before the wind], c. 1300, rak, "movement, rapid movement," also "rush of wind, collision, crash," originally a northern word, possibly from Old English racu "cloud, storm" (or an unrecorded Scandinavian cognate of it), reinforced by Old Norse rek, *rak "wreckage, jetsam," or Old English wræc "something driven," both of which would be from Proto-Germanic *wrakaz, from PIE root *wreg- "to push, shove, drive" (see urge (v.)).
From late 14c. as "rain cloud." Often confused with wrack (n.) "destruction," especially in the phrase rack and ruin (1590s), which perhaps is encouraged in that case by the visual alliteration. Rack is "fragments of raggy clouds;" wrack is, in its secondary sense, "seaweed cast up on shore." Both probably come, ultimately, from the same PIE root, as does wreak.
1551, from Modern Latin Utopia, literally "nowhere," coined by Thomas More (and used as title of his book, 1516, about an imaginary island enjoying the utmost perfection in legal, social, and political systems), from Greek ou "not" + topos "place" (see topos). The current (since c. 1960) explanation of Greek ou "not" is an odd one, as it derives the word from the PIE root *aiw- "vital force, life; long life, eternity." Linguists presume a pre-Greek phrase *(ne) hoiu (kwid) "(not on your) life," with ne "not" + *kwid, an "emphasizing particle" [Watkins]. The same pattern is found elsewhere.
Extended to any perfect place by 1610s. Commonly, but incorrectly, taken as from Greek eu- "good" (see eu-) an error reinforced by the introduction of dystopia (by 1844). On the same model, Bentham had cacotopia (1818).
"woman accompanying and guiding a younger, unmarried lady in public," 1720, from French chaperon "protector," especially "female companion to a young woman," earlier "head covering, hood" (c. 1400), from Old French chaperon "hood, cowl" (12c.), diminutive of chape "cape" (see cap (n.)). "... English writers often erroneously spell it chaperone, app. under the supposition that it requires a fem. termination" [OED]. The notion is of "covering" the socially vulnerable one. The word had been used in Middle English in the literal sense "hooded cloak."
"May I ask what is a chaperon?"
"A married lady; without whom no unmarried one can be seen in public. If the damsel be five and forty, she cannot appear without the matron; and if the matron be fifteen, it will do."
[Catharine Hutton, "The Welsh Mountaineer," London, 1817]
Klein suggests a Semitic source, "through the medium of the Hittites," and cites Hebrew kerubh "a winged angel," Akkadian karibu, epithet of the bull-colossus (see cherub). The same or an identical word was used in mid-19c. Louisiana to mean "mulatto" (especially one one-quarter or two-fifths white) and in British India from 1793 to mean "newly arrived European," probably via notion of "strange hybrid animal."
late 14c., perspectif, "the science of optics," from Old French perspective and directly from Medieval Latin perspectiva ars "science of optics," from fem. of perspectivus "of sight, optical" from Latin perspectus "clearly perceived," past participle of perspicere "inspect, look through, look closely at," from per "through" (from PIE root *per- (1) "forward," hence "through") + specere "look at" (from PIE root *spek- "to observe"). The English word is also attested from early 15c. as an adjective, "pertaining to the science of optics."
The sense of "the art of drawing solid objects on a flat surface so as to give appearance of distance or depth" is attested by 1590s, probably by influence of Italian prospettiva, an artists' term. The meaning "proper or just proportion, appropriate relation in the mind of the parts of a subject to one another" is recorded by c. 1600, hence the figurative meaning "mental outlook over time" (1762).
Old English tīd "point or portion of time, due time, period, season; feast-day, canonical hour," from Proto-Germanic *tīdi- "division of time" (source also of Old Saxon tid, Dutch tijd, Old High German zit, German Zeit "time"), from PIE *di-ti- "division, division of time," suffixed form of root *da- "to divide."
Meaning "rise and fall of the sea" (mid-14c.) probably is via notion of "fixed time," specifically "time of high water;" either a native evolution or from Middle Low German getide (compare Middle Dutch tijd, Dutch tij, German Gezeiten "flood tide, tide of the sea"). Old English seems to have had no specific word for this, using flod and ebba to refer to the rise and fall. Old English heahtid "high tide" meant "festival, high day."
late 14c., "arithmetical symbol for zero," from Old French cifre "nought, zero," Medieval Latin cifra, which, with Spanish and Italian cifra, ultimately is from Arabic sifr "zero," literally "empty, nothing," from safara "to be empty;" a loan-translation of Sanskrit sunya-s "empty." Klein says Modern French chiffre is from Italian cifra.
The word came to Europe with Arabic numerals. From "zero," it came to mean "any numeral" (early 15c.), then (first in French and Italian) "secret way of writing; coded message" (a sense first attested in English 1520s), because early codes often substituted numbers for letters. Meaning "the key to a cipher or secret writing" is by 1885, short for cipher key (by 1835).
Figurative sense of "something or someone of no value, consequence, or power" is from 1570s.