fem. proper name, Danish shortened form of Katherine. Rare before 1928; a top-10 name for girls born in the U.S. 1951-1968.
The modern pejorative use in reference to a person regarded as ignorant, meddlesome, entitled, racist, or generally negative, is attested by 2005, originally often with reference to meanness or stupidity, and exploded in popularity 2018, with more emphasis on the racism and privilege. Its use as rhetorical shorthand probably was encouraged, if not inspired by, the 2004 movie "Mean Girls" (screenplay by Tina Fey) and by comedian U.S. Dane Cook's 2005 stand-up act, both of which produced memes and Twitter references. Claims that it originated in African-American circles are unsupported.
Beth Harpaz's 2001 book "Girls in the Van," about Hillary Clinton's U.S. Senate campaign, reports that Clinton's assistants Karen Dunn and Karen Finney were known as The Karens. Finney went on to a career as a commentator, and some of the earliest abstract uses of Karen in the late 2000s are as the personification of a liberal do-gooder.
1737, "a medicine which excites vomiting;" by 1938 as "material thrown up in vomiting," from puke (v.). U.S. colloquial meaning "native of Missouri" (1835) might be a different word, of unknown origin.
It is well known, that the inhabitants of the several western States are called by certain nicknames. Those of Michigan are called wolverines; of Indiana, hooshers; of Illinois, suckers; of Ohio, buckeyes; of Kentucky, corn-crackers; of Missouri pukes, &c. To call a person by his right nickname, is always taken in good part, and gives no offence; but nothing is more offensive than to mis-nickname—that is, were you to call a hoosher a wolverine, his blood would be up in a moment, and he would immediately show fight. [A.A. Parker, "Trip to the West and Texas," Concord, N.H., 1835]
Bartlett (1859) has "A nickname for a native of Missouri" as the second sense of puke (n.), the first being "A mean, contemptible fellow." The association of the state nickname with the "vomit" word is from at least 1858, and folk etymology talks of the old state literally vomiting forth immigrants to California.
1540s, "a word," a sense now obsolete, from Late Latin dictionem (nominative dictio) "a saying, expression; a word; kind of delivery, style," noun of action from past-participle stem of Latin dicere "to say, state, proclaim, make known, allege, declare positively" (source of French dire "to say"), which is related to dicare "to talk, speak, utter, make speech; pronounce, articulate," both from PIE root *deik- "to show," also "pronounce solemnly." The meaning "manner of saying," especially in reference to the choice of words, is from 1700.
Latin dicere and dicare are presumed to have been originally the same word. De Vann writes that "the verb dicāre may well have been backformed from compounds in -dicāre." The basic sense in both is "to talk, speak, declare." They seem to have divided, imperfectly, the secondary senses between them: dicere "to say, state, proclaim, make known, allege, declare positively; plead (a case);" in religion, "to dedicate, consecrate," hence, transferred from the religion sense, "give up, set apart, appropriate;" dicare "to talk, speak, utter, make speech; pronounce, articulate; to mean, intend; describe; to call, to name; appoint, set apart."
The modern spelling is from Scottish, where early 13c. it came to mean "chief of a clan, king's baron," and it has predominated in English probably due to the influence of "Macbeth;" normal orthographic changes from Old English ðegn would have produced Modern English *thain. Some historians now use thegn to distinguish Anglo-Saxon thanes from Scottish thanes.
small city in Illinois, U.S., originally the name of a subdivision of the Miami/Illinois people (1673), from native /peewaareewa/. Their own name is said to mean "carriers." The place name also is found in Oklahoma and Iowa, but it is the Illinois city that has been proverbially regarded as the typical measure of U.S. cultural and intellectual standards at least since Ambrose Bierce (c. 1890). Also the butt of baseball player jokes (c. 1920-40, when a team there was part of the St. Louis Cardinals farm system) and popularized in the catchphrase It'll play in Peoria (often negative), meaning "the average American will approve," which was popular in the Nixon White House (1969-74) but seems to have had a vaudeville origin. Personification in little old lady in Peoria is said to be from Harold Ross of the New Yorker. Peoria's rivals as embodiment of U.S. small city values and standards include Dubuque, Iowa; Hoboken and Hackensack, N.J.; Oakland (Gertrude Stein: "When you get there, there isn't any there there") and Burbank, Calif., and the entire state of North Dakota.
c. 1200, "man ordained in the ministry, a priest, an ecclesiastic," from Old English cleric and Old French clerc "clergyman, priest; scholar, student," both from Church Latin clericus "a priest," noun use of adjective meaning "priestly, belonging to the clerus" (see cleric).
Modern bureaucratic usage is a reminder of the time when clergy alone could read and write and were employed as scribes and account-keepers by secular authorities. In late Old English the word also can mean "king's scribe; keeper of accounts." And by c. 1200 clerk took on a secondary sense in Middle English (as the cognate word did in Old French) of "man of letters, anyone who can read or write."
This led to the senses "assistant in a public or private business" (c. 1500), originally a keeper of accounts, also "officer of a court, municipality, etc. whose duty it is to keep its records and perform its routine business" (1520s), and later, especially in American English, "a retail salesman" (1790). Meaning "an employee who registers guests in a hotel" is by 1879.
Old English ban "bone, tusk, hard animal tissue forming the substance of the skeleton; one of the parts which make up the skeleton," from Proto-Germanic *bainan (source also of Old Frisian and Old Saxon ben, Old Norse bein, Danish ben, German Bein). Absent in Gothic, with no cognates outside Germanic (the common PIE root is *ost-); the Norse, Dutch, and German cognates also mean "shank of the leg," and this is the main meaning in Modern German, but English seems never to have had this sense.
To work (one's) fingers to the bone is from 1809. To have a bone to pick (1560s) is an image from dogs struggling to crack or gnaw a bone (to pick a bone "strip a bone by picking or gnawing" is attested from late 15c.); bone of contention (1560s) is from two dogs fighting over a bone; the images seem to have become somewhat merged. Also compare bones.
Bone-china, which is mixed with bone-dust, is by 1854. Bone-shaker (1874) was an old name for the early type of bicycle, before the adoption of rubber tires, etc.
1782, "peasant dance popular in Italy," originally "hysterical malady characterized by extreme impulse to dance" (1630s), epidemic in Apulia and adjacent parts of southern Italy 15c.-17c., popularly attributed to (or believed to be a cure for) the bite of the tarantula. This is likely folk-etymology, however, and the names of the dance and the spider more probably share an origin in Taranto, the name of a city in southern Italy (see tarantula). Used from 1833 to mean the style of music that accompanies this dance, usually in 6/8 time, with whirling triplets and abrupt major-minor modulations. Related: Tarantism.
Those who were bitten generally fell into a state of melancholy, and appeared to be stupified, and scarcely in possession of their senses. This condition was, in many cases, united with so great a sensibility to music, that at the very first tones of their favourite melodies, they sprang up, shouting for joy, and danced on without intermission, until they sank to the ground exhausted and almost lifeless. [Babington's translation of J.F.C. Hecker, "The Epidemics of the Middle Ages," London, 1859]
That others might have found the New World before Columbus was popular knowledge: Irving's "History of New York" (1809) lists Noah along with Phoenician, Carthaginian, Tyrean, Chinese, German, and Welsh candidates, along with "the Norwegians, in 1002, under Biorn." Evidence in the old sagas of a Norse discovery of North America had been noticed from time to time by those who could read them. In early 19c. the notion was seriously debated by von Humboldt and other European scholars before winning their general acceptance by the 1830s. The case for the identification of Vinland with North America began to be laid out in English-language publications in 1840. Lowell wrote a poem about it ("Hakon's Lay," 1855). Thoreau knew of it ("Ktaadn," 1864). Physical evidence of the Norse discovery was uncovered by the excavations at L'Anse aux Meadows in 1960.
"pretentious or insincere talk, ostentatious conventionality in speech," 1709. The earliest use is as a slang word for "the whining speech of beggars asking for alms" (1640s), from the verb in this sense (1560s), from Old North French canter (Old French chanter) "to sing, chant," from Latin cantare, frequentative of canere "to sing" (from PIE root *kan- "to sing").
Century Dictionary notes the ecclesiastical use of cantus in Medieval Latin, and writes, "The word cant may thus have become associated with beggars; but there may have been also an allusion to a perfunctory performance of divine service and hence a hypocritical use of religious phrases." The sense in English expanded after 1680 to mean "the jargon of criminals and vagabonds," and from thence the word was applied contemptuously by any sect or school to the phraseology of its rival.
... Slang is universal, whilst Cant is restricted in usage to certain classes of the community: thieves, vagrom men, and — well, their associates. ... Slang boasts a quasi-respectability denied to Cant, though Cant is frequently more enduring, its use continuing without variation of meaning for many generations. [John S. Farmer, Forewords to "Musa Pedestris," 1896]