c. 1200, "a servant, a functionary;" c. 1300, "instrumental musician, singer or storyteller;" from Old French menestrel "entertainer, poet, musician; servant, workman;" also "a good-for-nothing, a rogue," from Medieval Latin ministralis "servant, jester, singer," from Late Latin ministerialem (nominative ministerialis) "imperial household officer, one having an official duty," from ministerialis (adj.) "ministerial," from Latin ministerium (see ministry). The connecting notion to entertainers is the jester, musician, etc., as a court position.
Specific sense of "musician" developed in Old French, and the Norman conquest introduced the class into England, where they assimilated with the native gleemen. But in English from late 14c. to 16c. the word was used of anyone (singers, storytellers, jugglers, buffoons) whose profession was to entertain patrons. Their social importance and reputation in England deteriorated and by Elizabethan times they were ranked as a public nuisance. Only in 18c. English was the word limited, in a historical sense, to "medieval singer of heroic or lyric poetry who accompanied himself on a stringed instrument." Compare troubadour, jongleur.
By 1843 in American English in reference to a class of singers of "Negro melodies" and delineators of "plantation life," usually white men in blackface (burnt cork). The act itself dates to c. 1830.
The characteristic feature of such a troupe or band is the middle-man or interlocutor, who leads talk and gives the cues, and the two end-men, who usually perform on the tambourine and the bones, and between whom the indispensable conundrums and jokes are exchanged. As now constituted, a negro-minstrel troupe retains but little of its original character except the black faces and the old jokes. [Century Dictionary, 1895]
"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]
late Old English cæppe "hood, head-covering, cape," a general Germanic borrowing (compare Old Frisian and Middle Dutch kappe, Old High German chappa) from Late Latin cappa "a cape, hooded cloak" (source of Spanish capa, Old North French cape, French chape), a word of uncertain origin. Possibly a shortened from capitulare "headdress," from Latin caput "head" (from PIE root *kaput- "head").
The Late Latin word apparently originally meant "a woman's head-covering," but the sense was transferred to "hood of a cloak," then to "cloak" itself, though the various senses co-existed. Old English took in two forms of the Late Latin word, one meaning "head-covering," the other "ecclesiastical dress" (see cape (n.1)). In most Romance languages, a diminutive of Late Latin cappa has become the usual word for "head-covering" (such as French chapeau).
Meaning "soft, small, close-fitted head covering" in English is from early 13c., originally for women; extended to men late 14c. Extended to cap-like coverings on the ends of anything (such as hubcap) from mid-15c. Meaning "contraceptive device" is first recorded 1916.
Meaning "cap-shaped piece of copper lined with gunpowder and used to ignite a firearm" is by 1825, hence cap-gun (1855); extended to paper version used in toy pistols, 1872 (cap-pistol is from 1879).
Figurative thinking cap is from 1839 (considering cap is 1650s). Cap and bells (1781) was the insignia of a fool; cap and gown (1732) of a scholar. To set one's cap at or for (1773) means "use measures to gain the regard or affection of," usually in reference to a woman seeking a man's courtship.
Old English ham "dwelling place, house, abode, fixed residence; estate; village; region, country," from Proto-Germanic *haimaz "home" (source also of Old Frisian hem "home, village," Old Norse heimr "residence, world," heima "home," Danish hjem, Middle Dutch heem, German heim "home," Gothic haims "village"), from PIE *(t)koimo-, suffixed form of root *tkei- "to settle, dwell, be home." As an adjective from 1550s. The old Germanic sense of "village" is preserved in place names and in hamlet.
'Home' in the full range and feeling of [Modern English] home is a conception that belongs distinctively to the word home and some of its Gmc. cognates and is not covered by any single word in most of the IE languages. [Buck]
Slang phrase make (oneself) at home "become comfortable in a place one does not live" dates from 1892 (at home "at one's ease" is from 1510s). To keep the home fires burning is a song title from 1914. To be nothing to write home about "unremarkable" is from 1907. Home movie is from 1919; home computer is from 1967. Home stretch (1841) is from horse racing (see stretch (n.)). Home economics as a school course first attested 1899; the phrase itself by 1879 (as "household management" is the original literal sense of economy, the phrase is etymologically redundant).
Home as the goal in a sport or game is from 1778. Home base in baseball attested by 1856; home plate by 1867. Home team in sports is from 1869; home field "grounds belonging to the local team" is from 1802 (the 1800 citation in OED 2nd ed. print is a date typo, as it refers to baseball in Spokane Falls). Home-field advantage attested from 1955.
"drink made from the ground and roasted seeds of a tree originally native to Arabia and Abyssinia," c. 1600, from Dutch koffie, from Turkish kahveh, from Arabic qahwah "coffee," which Arab etymologists connected with a word meaning "wine," but it is perhaps rather from the Kaffa region of Ethiopia, a home of the plant (coffee in Kaffa is called būno, which itself was borrowed into Arabic as bunn "raw coffee").
The early forms of the word in English indicate a derivation from Arabic or Turkish: chaoua (1598), cahve, kahui, etc. French café, German Kaffe are via Italian caffè.
The first coffee-house in Mecca dates to the 1510s; the beverage was in Turkey by the 1530s. It appeared in Europe c. 1515-1519 and was introduced to England by 1650. By 1675 the country had more than 3,000 coffee houses and coffee had replaced beer as a breakfast drink, but its use there declined 18c. with the introduction of cheaper tea. In the American colonies, however, the tax on tea kept coffee popular.
Meaning "a light meal at which coffee is served" is from 1774. As a shade or color resembling coffee, 1815. Coffee-bean is from 1680s. Coffee-mill is from 1690s; coffee-spoon is from 1703; coffee-pot is from 1705; coffee-cup is from 1762. Coffee-shop is from 1838. Coffee-cake is from 1850 as "cake in which coffee is an ingredient." Coffee break attested from 1952, at first often in glossy magazine advertisements by the Pan-American Coffee Bureau.
Did you drink a cup of coffee on company time this morning? Chances are that you did—for the midmorning coffee break is rapidly becoming a standard fixture in American offices and factories. [The Kiplinger Magazine, March 1952]
1570s, common name of Dianthus, a garden plant of various colors; a word of unknown origin. It is perhaps from pink (v.) via the notion of "perforated" (scalloped) petals. Or perhaps it is from Dutch pink "small, narrow" (see pinkie), itself obscure, via the term pinck oogen "half-closed eyes," literally "small eyes," which was borrowed into English (1570s) and may have been used as a name for Dianthus, which sometimes has small dots resembling eyes.
The noun meaning "pale red color, red color of low chroma but high luminosity" is recorded by 1733 (pink-coloured is recorded from 1680s), from one of the common colors of the flowers. The adjective pink is attested by 1720. As an earlier name for such a color English had incarnation "flesh-color" (mid-14c.), and as an adjective incarnate (1530s), from Latin words for "flesh" (see incarnation) but these also had other associations and tended to drift in sense from "flesh-color, blush-color" toward "crimson, blood color."
The flower meaning led (by 1590s) to a figurative use for "the flower" or highest type or example of excellence of anything (as in Mercutio's "Nay, I am the very pinck of curtesie," Rom. & Jul. II.iv.61). Compare flour (n.). The political noun sense "person perceived as left of center but not entirely radical (i.e. red)" is attested by 1927, but the image dates to at least 1837. Pink slip "discharge notice" is attested by 1915; pink slips had various connotations in employment in the first decade of the 20th century, including a paper signed by a worker to testify he would leave the labor union or else be fired. To see pink elephants "hallucinate from alcoholism" is from 1913 in Jack London's "John Barleycorn."
Old English boc "book, writing, written document," generally referred (despite phonetic difficulties) to Proto-Germanic *bōk(ō)-, from *bokiz "beech" (source also of German Buch "book" Buche "beech;" see beech), the notion being of beechwood tablets on which runes were inscribed; but it may be from the tree itself (people still carve initials in them).
Latin and Sanskrit also have words for "writing" that are based on tree names ("birch" and "ash," respectively). And compare French livre "book," from Latin librum, originally "the inner bark of trees" (see library). The Old English word originally meant any written document. The sense gradually narrowed by early Middle English to "a written work covering many pages fastened together and bound," also "a literary composition" in any form, of however many volumes. Later also "bound pages," whether written on or not. In 19c. it also could mean "a magazine;" in 20c. a telephone directory.
From c. 1200 as "a main subdivision of a larger work." Meaning "libretto of an opera" is from 1768. A betting book "record of bets made" is from 1812. Meaning "sum of criminal charges" is from 1926, hence slang phrase throw the book at (1932). Book of Life "the roll of those chosen for eternal life" is from mid-14c. Book of the month is from 1926. To do something by the book "according to the rules" is from 1590s.
The use of books or written charters was introduced in Anglo-Saxon times by the ecclesiastics, as affording more permanent and satisfactory evidence of a grant or conveyance of land than the symbolical or actual delivery of possession before witnesses, which was the method then in vogue. [Century Dictionary]
Old English col "charcoal; live coal, piece of wood or other combustible substance, either burning or having been burned," from Proto-Germanic *kula(n) (source also of Old Frisian kole, Middle Dutch cole, Dutch kool, Old High German chol, German Kohle, Old Norse kol), from PIE root *g(e)u-lo- "live coal" (source also of Irish gual "coal").
Meaning "solid mineral consisting of fossilized carbon, combustible and used as fuel," is from mid-13c. The thing itself is mentioned 370 B.C.E. by Theophrastus in his treatise "On Stones" under the name lithos anthrakos (see anthrax). Traditionally good luck, coal was given as a New Year's gift in England, said to guarantee a warm hearth for the coming year.
The phrase drag (or rake) over the coals was a reference to the treatment meted out to heretics by Christians. To carry coals "do dirty work," also "submit to insult" is from 1520s.
To carry coals to Newcastle "add to that of which there is already an abundance, do unnecessary labor " (c. 1600) is a local variant on an ancient class of expression: Latin had in litus harenas fundere "pour sand on the beach," in silvam ligna ferre "carry wood to the woods;" Greek glauk eis Athenas "owls to Athens." Newcastle is in the midst of a great coal-producing region. The ancient view is not necessarily the modern one. A historian, noting that the medieval English exported manufactured cloth to the Low Countries, where weaving was a major industry, writes, "it is always sensible to send coals to Newcastle or owls to Athens if you can be sure of underselling the locals" [George D. Painter, "William Caxton," 1976]
"a Conceit arising from the use of two Words that agree in the Sound, but differ in the Sense" [Addison]; "An expression in which the use of a word in two different applications, or the use of two different words pronounced alike or nearly alike, presents an odd or ludicrous idea" [Century Dictionary]; 1660s (first attested in Dryden), a word of uncertain origin.
Perhaps from pundigron, meaning the same thing (though attested first a few years later), itself a word of uncertain etymology, perhaps a humorous alteration of Italian puntiglio "equivocation, trivial objection," diminutive of Latin punctum "point." This is pure speculation. Punnet was another early form.
Pun was prob. one of the clipped words, such as cit, mob, nob, snob, which came into fashionable slang at or after the Restoration. [OED]
The verb, "to make puns," also is attested from 1660s, first in Dryden. Related: Punned; punning.
At the revival of learning, and the spread of what we may term the refinement of society, punning was one of the few accomplishments at which the fine ladies and gentlemen aimed. From the twelfth to the sixteenth century, it was at its greatest height. The conversation of the witty gallants, and ladies, and even of the clowns and other inferior characters, in the comedies of Shakespeare and his contemporaries, which we may be sure was painted from the life, is full of puns and plays upon words. The unavoidable result of such an excess was a surfeit, and the consequent dégout, which lasted for more than a century. Like other diseases, it broke out again subsequently with redoubled virulence, and made great havoc in the reign of Queen Anne. [Larwood & Hotten, "The History of Signboards from the Earliest Times to the Present Day," London, 1867]
mid-14c., pencel, "an artist's small, fine brush of camel hair," used for painting, manuscript illustration, etc., from Old French pincel "artist's paintbrush" (13c., Modern French pinceau) and directly from Medieval Latin pincellus, from Latin penicillus "painter's brush, hair-pencil," literally "little tail," diminutive of peniculus "brush," itself a diminutive of penis "tail" (see penis).
Small brushes formerly were used for writing before modern lead or chalk pencils. Sticks of pure graphite (commonly known as black lead) were used for marking things in England from the mid-16c., and the wooden enclosure for them was developed in the same century on the Continent. This seems to have been the time the word pencil was transferred from a type of brush to "graphite writing implement." The modern clay-graphite mix was developed early 19c., and pencils of this sort were mass-produced from mid-19c. Hymen L. Lipman of Philadelphia obtained a patent for the pencil with an attached eraser in 1858.
Derogatory slang pencil-pusher "office worker" is from 1881 (pen-driver, jocular for "clerk, writer," is from 1820); pencil neck "weak person" first recorded 1973. Pencil-sharpener as a mechanical device for putting the point on a lead pencil is by 1854.
And here is a new and serviceable invention—a pencil sharpener. It is just the thing to carry in the pocket, being no larger than a lady's thimble. It sharpens a lead pencil neatly and splendidly, by means of a small blade fitted in a cap, which is turned upon the end of a pencil. A patent has been applied for. Made by Mr. W. K. Foster, of Bangor. ["The Portland Transcript," Portland, Maine, Sept. 30, 1854]