Etymology
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character (n.)
Origin and meaning of character

mid-14c., carecter, "symbol marked or branded on the body;" mid-15c., "symbol or drawing used in sorcery;" late 15c., "alphabetic letter, graphic symbol standing for a sound or syllable;" from Old French caratere "feature, character" (13c., Modern French caractère), from Latin character, from Greek kharaktēr "engraved mark," also "symbol or imprint on the soul," properly "instrument for marking," from kharassein "to engrave," from kharax "pointed stake," a word of uncertain etymology which Beekes considers "most probably Pre-Greek." In English the Latin ch- spelling was restored from 1500s.

The meaning of Greek kharaktēr was extended in Hellenistic times by metaphor to "a defining quality, individual feature." In English, the meaning "sum of qualities that define a person or thing and distinguish it from another" is from 1640s. That of "moral qualities assigned to a person by repute" is from 1712.

You remember Eponina, who kept her husband alive in an underground cavern so devotedly and heroically? The force of character she showed in keeping up his spirits would have been used to hide a lover from her husband if they had been living quietly in Rome. Strong characters need strong nourishment. [Stendhal "de l'Amour," 1822] 

The sense of "person in a play or novel" is first attested 1660s, in reference to the "defining qualities" he or she is given by the author. The meaning "a person" in the abstract is from 1749; especially "eccentric person" (1773). The colloquial sense of "chap, fellow" is from 1931. Character-actor, one who specializes in characters with marked peculiarities, is attested from 1861; character assassination is so called from 1888; character building (n.) from 1886.

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octopus (n.)

1758, genus name of a type of eight-armed cephalopod mollusks, from Latinized form of Greek oktōpous, literally "eight-foot," from oktō "eight" (see eight) + pous "foot," from PIE root *ped- "foot."

The more usual Greek word seems to have been polypous (also pōlyps), from polys "many" + pous, but for this word Thompson ["Glossary of Greek Fishes," 1947] suggests folk-etymology and a non-Hellenic origin.

The classically correct Greek plural (had the word been used in this sense in ancient Greek) would be octopodes. Octopi (1817) regards the -us in this word as the Latin noun ending that takes -i in plural. Like many modern scientific names of creatures, it was formed in Modern Latin from Greek elements, so it might be allowed to partake of Latin grammar in forming the plural. But it probably is best to let such words follow the grammar of the language that uses them, and octopuses probably works best in English (unless one wishes also to sanction diplodoci for the dinosaurs).

Used figuratively since at least 1882 of powers having far-reaching influence (usually as considered harmful and destructive). To the ancients, the octopus was crafty and dangerous, thrifty (stores food in its nest), and proverbial of clever and adaptable men, based on the animal's instinct of changing color when frightened or for disguise.

It also was thought to be amphibious and to climb trees near shores to steal grapes and olives (the giant ones were said to raid whole warehouses). Thompson writes that "the eggs look remarkably like ripe olives; hence the story." 

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decadent (adj.)

"in a state of decline or decay (from a former condition of excellence)," 1837 (Carlyle), from French décadent, back-formation from décadence (see decadence). In reference to literary (later, other artistic) schools that believed, or affected to believe, they lived in an age of artistic decadence, 1885 in French, 1888 in English. Usually in a bad sense:

Bread, supposedly the staff of life, has become one of our most decadent foods — doughy, gummy, and without the aroma, flavor, texture, taste and appearance that is typical of good bread. ["College and University Business" 1960]

Beckoning sense of "desirable and satisfying to self-indulgence" begins c. 1970 in commercial publications in reference to desserts.

As a noun, "one whose artistic or literary work is supposed to show marks of decadence," 1889 (from 1887 as a French word in English), originally in a French context.

On the subject of poetry I am bound to signalize one of those grotesque, unexpected apparitions which would appear to be constitutional to our country [i.e. France] .... I refer to the recent appearance of a literary clique of madmen or idlers, the self-named décadents. I own I am almost ashamed to occupy your time with this unworthy subject, which I should not have thought fit to introduce had not our newspapers and even our reviews taken the décadents to task, and were it not that they have furnished chroniqueurs short of copy with matter for articles, and that the serious Temps itself has taken up their trashy nonsense. [The Athenaeum, Jan. 1, 1887]
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Newgate 

1596, in reference to the famous London prison, on the site of one of the seven gates in the old London wall (the main gate to the west); this one having been used as a lock-up since the 1100s. So called because it was thought to be more recent than the others (but it apparently dated to Roman times) or because it had been rebuilt at some point. The gate was demolished in the 18c.; the last prison of that name was torn down 1902-3.

Newgate frill, "a beard shaved so as to grow only under the chin and jaw," so called in allusion to the position of the hangman's noose, is by 1851. The author of "The Habits of Good Society" (1859) calls it "a kind of compromise between the beard and the razor."

Both Coleridge and Ruskin praised Thomas Hood's Newgatory.

Hood was addressing the admirable Mrs. Fry, who, as every one knows, set up a school in Newgate to teach the poor neglected outcasts what they had never heard from Christian lips before. One of the chief points made by Hood is this,—how much better, kinder, wiser, more politic even, it would be to multiply these schools outside, not inside the Prison walls, so that prevention might take the place of cure. [Alfred Ainger, preface to "Humorous Poems by Thomas Hood"]
As a literary study, this exquisite pun of Hood's ... deserves the most careful memory, as showing what a noble and instructive lesson even a pun may become, when it is deep in its purpose, and founded on a truth which is perfectly illustrated by the seeming equivocation. [Ruskin, "Fors Clavigera"]
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evil (adj.)

Old English yfel (Kentish evel) "bad, vicious, ill, wicked," from Proto-Germanic *ubilaz (source also of Old Saxon ubil, Old Frisian and Middle Dutch evel, Dutch euvel, Old High German ubil, German übel, Gothic ubils), from PIE *upelo-, from root *wap- "bad, evil" (source also of Hittite huwapp- "evil").

In Old English and other older Germanic languages other than Scandinavian, "this word is the most comprehensive adjectival expression of disapproval, dislike or disparagement" [OED]. Evil was the word the Anglo-Saxons used where we would use bad, cruel, unskillful, defective (adj.), or harm (n.), crime, misfortune, disease (n.). In Middle English, bad took the wider range of senses and evil began to focus on moral badness. Both words have good as their opposite. Evil-favored (1520s) meant "ugly." Evilchild is attested as an English surname from 13c.

The adverb is Old English yfele, originally of words or speech. Also as a noun in Old English, "what is bad; sin, wickedness; anything that causes injury, morally or physically." Especially of a malady or disease from c. 1200. The meaning "extreme moral wickedness" was one of the senses of the Old English noun, but it did not become established as the main sense of the modern word until 18c.

As a noun, Middle English also had evilty. Related: Evilly. Evil eye (Latin oculus malus) was Old English eage yfel. The jocular notion of an evil twin as an excuse for regrettable deeds is by 1986, American English, from an old motif in mythology.

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genitive (adj.)

late 14c., in reference to the grammatical case, from Old French genitif or directly from Latin (casus) genitivus "case expressing possession, source, or origin," from genitivus "of or belonging to birth," from genitus, past participle of gignere "to beget, produce" (from PIE root *gene- "give birth, beget," with derivatives referring to procreation and familial and tribal groups).

This word was misused by Latin grammarians to render Greek genikē (ptōsis) "the general or generic (case)," expressing race or kind (Greek genikos "belonging to the family"), from genos "family, race, birth, descent," from the same PIE root as the Latin word. As the genitive also is the case of the possessor, and the Romans "were not strong in abstract matters" [Gilbert Murray], the result was some confusion.

The Latin genitivus is a mere blunder, for the Greek word genike could never mean genitivus. Genitivus, if it is meant to express the case of origin or birth, would in Greek have been called gennetike, not genike. Nor does the genitive express the relation of son to father. For though we may say, "the son of the father," we may likewise say, "the father of the son." Genike, in Greek, had a much wider, a much more philosophical meaning. It meant casus generalis, the general case, or rather the case which expresses the genus or kind. This is the real power of the genitive. If I say, "a bird of the water," "of the water" defines the genus to which a certain bird belongs; it refers to the genus of water-birds. [Max Müller, "Lectures on the Science of Language," 1861]

 The noun meaning "the genitive case in grammar" is from 1610s.

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conspicuous (adj.)

1540s, "open to view, catching the eye," from Latin conspicuus "visible, open to view; attracting attention, striking," from conspicere "to look at, observe, see, notice," from assimilated form of com-, here perhaps an intensive prefix (see com-), + specere "to look at" (from PIE root *spek- "to observe").

Meaning "obvious to the mind, forcing itself upon the attention" is from 1610s; hence "eminent, notable, distinguished." Related: Conspicuously; conspicuousness. Phrase conspicuous by its absence (1859) is said to be from Tacitus ("Annals" iii.76), in a passage about certain images: "sed præfulgebant ... eo ipso quod effigies eorum non visebantur."

Conspicuous consumption "expenditure on a lavish scale to enhance prestige" is attested by 1895 in published writing of Norwegian-American economist and sociologist Thorstein Vebeln, made famous in his "The Theory of the Leisure Class" (1899).

Not only must wealth be possessed, but there must be a show of its possession. It must be made obvious to all that there is an inexhaustible reserve. Hence leisure must be made conspicuous by "conspicuous consumption" and "conspicuous waste." If only enough persons and the right persons could see it and know it, it would be highly honorific to light a cigar occasionally with a thousand-dollar bill. A man must not limit his consumption to himself and his family. He must live in a palace many times larger than he can possibly fill, and have a large retinue of servants and retainers, ostensibly to minister to his wants, but really to make clear his ability to pay. [Lester F. Ward, review of "Theory of the Leisure Class" in The American Journal of Sociology, May 1900]
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Memorial Day 

"day on which a memorial is made," by 1819, of any anniversary date, especially a religious anniversary; see memorial (adj.). As a specific end-of-May holiday commemorating U.S. war dead, it began informally in the late 1860s and originally commemorated the Northern soldiers killed in the Civil War. It was officially so called by 1869 among veterans' organizations, but Decoration Day also was used. The Grand Army of the Republic, the main veterans' organization in the North, officially designated it Memorial Day by resolution in 1882:

That the Commander-in-Chief be requested to issue a General Order calling the attention of the officers and members of the Grand Army of the Republic, and of the people at large, to the fact that the proper designation of May 30th is Memorial Day and to request that it may be always so called. [Grand Army Blue Book, Philadelphia, 1884]

The South, however, had its own Confederate Memorial Day, and there was some grumbling about the apparent appropriation of the name.

The word "Memorial" was adopted by the Maryland Confederates shortly after the war, and has been generally used throughout the South. It is distinctively Confederate in its origin and use, and I would suggest to all Confederate societies to adhere to it. The Federals' annual day of observance is known as "Decoration Day," having been made so by an act of Congress, and the 30th day of May named as the date. In Maryland there is annually a Decoration Day and a Memorial Day. The two words are expressive not only of the nature of the observance, but also of the people who participate therein. [Confederate Veteran, November 1893]
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float (n.)

apparently an early Middle English merger of three related Old English nouns, flota "boat, fleet," flote "troop, flock," flot "body of water, sea;" all from the source of float (v.). The early senses were the now-mostly-obsolete ones of the Old English words: "state of floating" (early 12c.), "swimming" (mid-13c.); "a fleet of ships; a company or troop" (c. 1300); "a stream, river" (early 14c.). From c. 1300 as an attachment for buoyancy on a fishing line or net; early 14c. as "raft." Meaning "platform on wheels used for displays in parades, etc." is from 1888, probably from earlier sense of "flat-bottomed boat" (1550s). As a type of fountain drink, by 1915.

Float.—An ade upon the top of which is floated a layer of grape juice, ginger ale, or in some cases a disher of fruit sherbet or ice cream. In the latter case it would be known as a "sherbet float" or an "ice-cream float." ["The Dispenser's Formulary: Or, Soda Water Guide," New York, 1915]
Few soda water dispensers know what is meant by a "Float Ice Cream Soda." This is not strange since the term is a coined one. By a "float ice cream soda" is meant a soda with the ice cream floating on top, thus making a most inviting appearance and impressing the customer that you are liberal with your ice cream, when you are not really giving any more than the fellow that mixes his ice cream "out of sight." [The Spatula, Boston, July, 1908]
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night (n.)

late Old English niht (West Saxon neaht, Anglian næht, neht) "the dark part of a day; the night as a unit of time; darkness," also "absence of spiritual illumination, moral darkness, ignorance," from Proto-Germanic *nahts (source also of Old Saxon and Old High German naht, Old Frisian and Dutch nacht, German Nacht, Old Norse natt, Gothic nahts).

The Germanic words are from PIE *nekwt- "night" (source also of Greek nyx "a night," Latin nox, Old Irish nochd, Sanskrit naktam "at night," Lithuanian naktis "night," Old Church Slavonic nosti, Russian noch', Welsh henoid "tonight"), according to Watkins, probably from a verbal root *neg- "to be dark, be night." For spelling with -gh- see fight.  The vowel indicates that the modern English word derives from oblique cases (genitive nihte, dative niht).

The fact that the Aryans have a common name for night, but not for day (q.v.), is due to the fact that they reckoned by nights. [Weekley]

Thus in Old English combinations night was "the night before (a certain day or feast day);" compare German Weihnachten "Christmas," literally "holy night." In early times, the day was held to begin at sunset, so Old English monanniht "Monday night" was the night before Monday, or what we would call Sunday night; so saeterniht "Friday night." The Greeks, by contrast, counted their days by mornings.

To work nights preserves the Old English genitive of time. Night soil "excrement" (1770) is so called because it was removed (from cesspools, etc.) after dark. Night train is attested from 1838; night-school from 1520s; night-life "habitual nocturnal carousing" is attested from 1852.

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