Etymology
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mermaid (n.)

"fabled marine or amphibian creature having the upper body in the form of a woman and the lower in the form of a fish, with human attributes," "usually working harm, with or without malignant intent, to mortals with whom she might be thrown into relation" [Century Dictionary]; mid-14c., meremayde, literally "maid of the sea," from Middle English mere "sea, lake" (see mere (n.1)) + maid.

Old English had equivalent merewif "water-witch" (see wife), meremenn "mermaid, siren" (compare Middle Dutch meer-minne, Old High German meri-min), which became Middle English mere-min (c. 1200) and was shortened to mere "siren, mermaid" (early 13c.); the later mermaid might be a re-expansion of this. Tail-less in northern Europe; the fishy form is a medieval influence from the classical siren, and mermaids sometimes were said to lure sailors to destruction with song.

A favorite sign of taverns and inns at least since early 15c. (in reference to the inn on Bread Street, Cheapside, London). Mermaid pie (1660s) was "a sucking pig baked whole in a crust." Mermaid's purse for "egg-case of a skate, ray, or shark" is by 1825, perhaps originally Scottish, as it is first attested in Jamieson.

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V 
In Middle English, -u- and -v- were used interchangeably, though with a preference for v- as the initial letter (vnder, vain, etc.) and -u- elsewhere (full, euer, etc.). The distinction into consonant and vowel identities was established in English by 1630, under influence of continental printers, but into 19c. some dictionaries and other catalogues continued to list -u- and -v- words as a single series.

No native Anglo-Saxon words begin in v- except those (vane, vat, vixen) altered by the southwestern England habit of replacing initial f- with v- (and initial s- with z-). Confusion of -v- and -w- also was a characteristic of 16c. Cockney accents.

As a Roman numeral, "five." In German rocket weapons systems of World War II, it stood for Vergeltungswaffe "reprisal weapon." V-eight as a type of motor engine is recorded from 1929 (V-engine is attested from 1909), so called for the arrangement. The V for "victory" hand sign was conceived January 1941 by Belgian politician and resistance leader Victor de Laveleye, to signify French victoire and Flemish vrijheid ("freedom"). It was broadcast into Europe by Radio België/Radio Belgique and popularized by the BBC by June 1941, from which time it became a universal allied gesture.
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vaudeville (n.)

1735, "a country song," especially one for the stage, from French vaudeville (16c.), alteration (by influence of ville "town") of vaudevire, said to be from (chanson du) Vau de Vire "(song of the) valley of Vire," in the Calvados region of Normandy, first applied to the popular satirical songs of Olivier Basselin, a 15c. poet who lived in Vire. The alternative explanation is that vaudevire derives from dialectal vauder "to go" + virer "to turn." From the popularity of the songs in France grew a form of theatrical entertainment based on parodies of popular opera and drama, interspersed with songs.

The Théatre du Vaudeville is rich in parodies, which follow rapidly upon every new piece given at the Opera, or at the Théatre Français. Their parody upon Hamlet is too ludicrous for description, but irresistibly laughable; and the elegaut light ballet of La Colombe Retrouvée [The Dove found again], I saw parodied at the Vaudeville as "La Maison Retrouvée" [The House found again], with a breadth of farce quite beyond the genius of Sadler's Wells. Some of the acting here, particularly that of the men, is exquisite; and the orchestra like all the orchestras in Paris is full and excellent. ["France in 1816," by Lady Morgan]

As a sort of popular stage variety entertainment show suitable for families, from c. 1881 in U.S., displaced by movies after c. 1914, considered dead from 1932.

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this (pron.)

Old English þis, neuter demonstrative pronoun and adjective (masc. þes, fem. þeos), probably from a North Sea Germanic pronoun *tha-si-, formed by combining the base *þa- (see that) with -s, which is probably identical with Old English se "the" (representing here "a specific thing"), or with Old English seo, imperative of see (v.) "to behold." Compare Old Saxon these, Old Frisian this, Old Norse þessi, Middle Dutch dese, Dutch deze, Old High German deser, German dieser.

Once fully inflected, with 10 distinct forms; the oblique cases and other genders gradually fell away by 15c. The Old English plural was þæs (nominative and accusative), which in Northern Middle English became thas, and in Midlands and Southern England became thos. The Southern form began to be used late 13c. as the plural of that (replacing Middle English tho, from Old English þa) and acquired an -e (apparently from the influence of Middle English adjective plurals in -e; compare alle from all, summe from sum "some"), emerging early 14c. as modern those.

About 1175 thes (probably a variant of Old English þæs) began to be used as the plural of this, and by 1200 it had taken the form these, the final -e acquired via the same mechanism that gave one to those.

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iron curtain (n.)

1794, the name of a fire-protection device to be used in theaters, a literal iron curtain; see iron (n.) + curtain (n.).

The new and exquisitely beautiful theatre of Drury-lane has the peculiar contrivance of an iron-curtain to secure the audience from all danger, in case of fire on the stage. Miss Farren, in the occasional epilogue, delivered on opening this new theatre, pleasantly informs the spectators that, should flames burst out in the part appropriated to the representation, they may comfort themselves with thinking that nothing can be burnt but the scenery and the actors. [The Monthly Review, June 1794]

From 1819 in the figurative sense "impenetrable barrier." In reference to the Soviet occupation of Eastern Europe, famously coined by Winston Churchill March 5, 1946, in speech at Westminster College, Fulton, Missouri, but it had been used earlier in this context (for example by U.S. bureaucrat Allen W. Dulles at a meeting of the Council on Foreign Relations, Dec. 3, 1945). The phrase had been used in the sense of "barrier at the edge of the sphere of influence of the Soviet Union" from 1920. During World War II, Goebbels used it in German (ein eiserner Vorhang) in the same sense. But its popular use in the U.S. dates from Churchill's speech.

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reck (v.)

Middle English recchen "to care, heed, have a mind, be concerned about" (later usually with of), from Old English reccan (2) "take care of, be interested in, care for; have regard to, take heed of; to care, heed; desire (to do something)" (strong verb, past tense rohte, past participle rought), from West Germanic *rokjan, from Proto-Germanic *rokja- (source also of Old Saxon rokjan, Middle Dutch roeken, Old Norse rækja "to care for," Old High German giruochan "to care for, have regard to," German geruhen "to deign," which is influenced by ruhen "to rest").

This is reconstructed to be from PIE root *reg- "move in a straight line," with derivatives meaning "to direct in a straight line," thus "to lead, rule." The -k- sound is probably a northern influence from Norse. No known cognates outside Germanic. "From its earliest appearance in Eng., reck is almost exclusively employed in negative or interrogative clauses" [OED]. Related: Recked; recking. Also compare reckless.

And in that very moment, away behind in some courtyard of the City, a cock crowed. Shrill and clear he crowed, recking nothing of wizardry or war, welcoming only the morning that in the sky far above the shadows of death was coming with the dawn. [J.R.R. Tolkien, "Return of the King," 1955]
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part (n.)

mid-13c., "division, portion of a whole, element or constituent (of something)," from Old French part "share, portion; character; power, dominion; side, way, path," from Latin partem (nominative pars) "a part, piece, a share, a division; a party or faction; a part of the body; a fraction; a function, office," related to portio "share, portion," from PIE root *pere- (2) "to grant, allot."

It has replaced native deal (n.) in most senses. Meaning "an allotted portion, a share" is from c. 1300; that of "a share of action or influence in activity or affairs, role, duty" is by late 14c. The theatrical sense (late 15c.) is from an actor's "share" in a performance (The Latin plural partis was used in the same sense). In music, "one of the voices or instruments in a concerted piece" (1520s). Sense of "separate piece of a machine" is by 1813.

Meaning "the division of the hair on the head when dressing it; the separation of the hair on the top of the head, from which it spread down on either side" is by 1890, American English; the earlier word for this was parting (1690s). The common Middle English word for it was shede, schede, from Old English scead, scad.

As an adjective from 1590s. Late Old English part "part of speech" did not survive and the modern word is considered a separate borrowing. Phrase for the most part "most, the greatest part" is from late 14c. To take part "participate" is from late 14c.

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sinister (adj.)
Origin and meaning of sinister
early 15c., "prompted by malice or ill-will, intending to mislead," from Old French senestre, sinistre "contrary, false; unfavorable; to the left" (14c.), from Latin sinister "left, on the left side" (opposite of dexter), of uncertain origin. Perhaps meaning properly "the slower or weaker hand" [Tucker], but Klein and Buck suggest it's a euphemism (see left (adj.)) connected with the root of Sanskrit saniyan "more useful, more advantageous." With contrastive or comparative suffix -ter, as in dexter (see dexterity).

The Latin word was used in augury in the sense of "unlucky, unfavorable" (omens, especially bird flights, seen on the left hand were regarded as portending misfortune), and thus sinister acquired a sense of "harmful, unfavorable, adverse." This was from Greek influence, reflecting the early Greek practice of facing north when observing omens. In genuine Roman auspices, the augurs faced south and left was favorable. Thus sinister also retained a secondary sense in Latin of "favorable, auspicious, fortunate, lucky."

Meaning "evil" is from late 15c. Used in heraldry from 1560s to indicate "left, to the left." Bend (not "bar") sinister in heraldry indicates illegitimacy and preserves the literal sense of "on or from the left side" (though in heraldry this is from the view of the bearer of the shield, not the observer of it; see bend (n.2)).
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fifth (adj., n.)

"next in order after the fourth; an ordinal numeral; being one of five equal parts into which a whole is regarded as divided;" c. 1200, fift, from Old English fifta "fifth," from Proto-Germanic *finftan- (source also of Old Frisian fifta, Old Saxon fifto, Old Norse fimmti, Dutch vijfde, Old High German fimfto, German fünfte, Gothic fimfta),from *fimfe "five" (from PIE root *penkwe- "five") + *-tha, the word-forming element used to make ordinal numbers (see -th (1)). Normal development would have yielded fift; altered 14c. by influence of fourth.

Noun meaning "fifth part of a gallon of liquor" is first recorded 1938, American English; the noun in the music sense is from 1590s. Fifth Avenue (in New York City) has been used figuratively for "elegance, taste" at least since 1858. Fifth wheel "superfluous person or thing" attested from 1630s. It also was the name of a useful device, "wheel-plate or circle iron of a carriage" placed on the forward axle for support and to facilitate turning (1825). And the phrase sometimes is turned on its head and given a positive sense of "that which a prudent driver ought to take with him in case one of the others should break" (1817). Fifth-monarchy-man, 17c. for "anarchist zealot," is a reference to Daniel ii.44.

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