1862, "having a delusive appearance of high quality," a Northern word from the American Civil War in reference to the quality of government supplies for the armies, from earlier noun meaning "rag-wool, kind of cloth made of woolen waste and old rags" (1832), "presumably orig. a factory word" [Century Dictionary], which is perhaps a Yorkshire provincial word, itself of uncertain origin; according to Watkins, it could be from the same Old English source as shed (v.).
Originally the material was used for padding. English manufacturers in 19c. began making coarse wearing clothes from it. When new it looked like broad-cloth but the gloss quickly wore off, giving the stuff a reputation as a commercial cheat.
The 1860 U.S. census of manufactures notes import of more than 6 million pounds of it, which was "much used in the manufacture of army and navy cloths and blankets in the United States" according to an 1865 government report. The citizen-soldier's experience with it in the war, and the fortunes made on it by contractors, thrust the word into sudden prominence.
The Days of Shoddy, as the reader will readily anticipate, are the opening months of the present war, at which time the opprobrious name first came into general use as a designation for swindling and humbug of every character; and nothing more need be said to indicate the scope of this novel. [Henry Morford, "The Days of Shoddy: A Novel of the Great Rebellion in 1861," Philadelphia, 1863]
Related: Shoddily; shoddiness.
alcoholic drink made from grain, generally barley, infused with hops and boiled and fermented, Old English beor "strong drink, beer, mead," cognate with Old Frisian biar, Middle Dutch and Dutch bier, Old High German bior, German Bier; a West Germanic word of much-disputed and ambiguous origin.
Probably a 6c. West Germanic monastic borrowing of Vulgar Latin biber "a drink, beverage" (from Latin infinitive bibere "to drink," from PIE root *po(i)- "to drink"). Another suggestion is that it comes from Proto-Germanic *beuwoz-, from *beuwo- "barley." The native Germanic word for the beverage was the one that yielded ale (q.v.). "The word occurs in OE., but its use is rare, except in poetry, and it seems to have become common only in the 16th c. as the name of a hopped malt liquor." [OED] They did have words for it, however. Greek brytos, used in reference to Thracian or Phrygian brews, was related to Old English breowan "brew;" Latin zythum is from Greek zythos, first used of Egyptian beer and treated as an Egyptian word but perhaps truly Greek and related to zymē "leaven."
Spanish cerveza is from Latin cervesia "beer." Old Church Slavonic pivo, source of the general Slavic word for "beer," is originally "a drink" (compare Old Church Slavonic piti "drink"). French bière is a 16c. borrowing from German. U.S. slang beer goggles, through which every potential romantic partner looks desirable, is from 1986.
Beer was a common drink among most of the European peoples, as well as in Egypt and Mesopotamia, but was known to the Greeks and Romans only as an exotic product. [Buck]
"air in motion," Old English wind "wind," from Proto-Germanic *winda- (source also of Old Saxon, Old Frisian, Middle Dutch, Dutch wind, Old Norse vindr, Old High German wind, German Wind, Gothic winds), from PIE *wē-nt-o‑ "blowing," suffixed (participial) form of root *we- "to blow."
Normal pronunciation evolution made this word rhyme with kind and rind (Donne rhymes it with mind and Thomas Moore with behind), but it shifted to a short vowel 18c., probably from influence of windy, where the short vowel is natural. A sad loss for poets, who now must rhyme it only with sinned and a handful of weak words. Symbolic of emptiness and vanity since late 13c.
I have forgot much, Cynara! gone with the wind. [Ernest Dowson, 1896]
Meaning "breath" is attested from late Old English; especially "breath in speaking" (early 14c.), so long-winded, also "easy or regular breathing" (early 14c.), hence second wind in the figurative sense (by 1830), an image from the sport of hunting.
Winds "wind instruments of an orchestra" is from 1876. Figurative phrase which way the wind blows for "the current state of affairs" is suggested from c. 1400. To get wind of "receive information about" is by 1809, perhaps inspired by French avoir le vent de. To take the wind out of (one's) sails in the figurative sense (by 1883) is an image from sailing, where a ship without wind can make no progress. Wind-chill index is recorded from 1939. Wind energy from 1976. Wind vane from 1725.
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"]
late 14c., "Latin grammar, rules of Latin," from Old French gramaire "grammar; learning," especially Latin and philology, also "(magic) incantation, spells, mumbo-jumbo" (12c., Modern French grammaire), an "irregular semi-popular adoption" [OED] of Latin grammatica "grammar, philology," perhaps via an unrecorded Medieval Latin form *grammaria. The classical Latin word is from Greek grammatike (tekhnē) "(art) of letters," referring both to philology and to literature in the broadest sense, fem. of grammatikos (adj.) "pertaining to or versed in letters or learning," from gramma "letter" (see -gram). An Old English gloss of it was stæfcræft (see staff (n.)).
A much broader word in Latin and Greek; restriction of the meaning to "systematic account of the rules and usages of language" is a post-classical development. Until 16c. limited to Latin; in reference to English usage by late 16c., thence "rules of a language to which speakers and writers must conform" (1580s). Meaning "a treatise on grammar" is from 1520s. For the "magic" sense, compare gramary. The sense evolution is characteristic of the Dark Ages: "learning in general, knowledge peculiar to the learned classes," which included astrology and magic; hence the secondary meaning of "occult knowledge" (late 15c. in English), which evolved in Scottish into glamour (q.v.).
A grammar-school (late 14c.) originally was a school for learning Latin, which was begun by memorizing the grammar. In U.S. (1842) the term was put to use in the graded system for a school between primary and secondary where English grammar is one of the subjects taught. The word is attested earlier in surnames (late 12c.) such as Robertus Gramaticus, Richard le Gramarie, whence the modern surname Grammer.
1815, "small pellets made of lime or soft plaster, used in Italy during carnival by the revelers for pelting one another in the streets," from Italian plural of confetto "sweetmeat," via Old French, from Latin confectum, confectus (see confection).
The little balls (which left white marks) were substitutes for the small sugar-plum candies that traditionally were thrown during Italian carnivals; the custom was adopted in England by early 19c. for weddings and other occasions, with symbolic tossing of little bits of paper (which are called confetti by 1846).
The chief amusement of the Carnival consists in throwing the confetti—a very ancient practice, and which, with a little research, may be traced up through the Italian Chronicles to the time of the Romans. The confetti were originally of sugar, and the nobility still pique themselves on adhering to so costly a material. The people have degraded them to small balls of lime, which allows more sport, and takes in a much greater number of combatants. [Dr. Abraham Eldon, "The Continental Traveller's Oracle; or, Maxims for Foreign Locomotion," London, 1828]
[The Roman ladies] are generally provided with a small basket of confetti, and as their acquaintance and admirers pass in review, they must be prepared to receive a volley of them. It is thought quite the supreme bon ton for a Roman beau, to mark how many distinguished beauties he is in favour with, by having both his coat and hat covered as white as a miller with the flour of these confetti. [John Bramsen, "Letters of a Prussian Traveller," 1818]
"inhabit of India or South Asia; pertaining to India," c. 1300 (noun and adjective), from Late Latin indianus, from India (see India). Applied to the aboriginal native inhabitants of the Americas from at least 1553 as a noun (1610s as an adjective), reflecting Spanish and Portuguese use, on the mistaken notion that America was the eastern end of Asia (it was also used occasionally 18c.-19c. of inhabitants of the Philippines and indigenous peoples of Australia and New Zealand). The Old English adjective was Indisc, and Indish (adj.) was common in 16c.
Red Indian, to distinguish the native Americans from inhabitants of India, is first attested 1831 in British English (Carlyle) but was not commonly used in North America. Hugh Rawson ("Wicked Words") writes that "Indian is unusual among ethnic terms for not having much pejorative value until comparatively recently." A few phrases, most of them U.S., impugn honesty or intelligence, such as Indian gift:
An Indian gift is a proverbial expression, signifying a present for which an equivalent return is expected. [Thomas Hutchinson, "History of Massachusetts Bay," 1765]
Hence Indian giver "one who gives a gift and then asks for it back" (1848). Also compare Indian summer. Indian elephant is from c. 1600; Indian corn is from 1620s; to walk Indian file is from 1758. Indian club is from 1824 as a weapon, 1825 as exercise equipment (clubs were noted in Lewis & Clark, etc., as characteristic weapons of native warriors in the American West). Indian-head (adj.) in reference to U.S. copper pennies with a portrait of an Indian in profile, from 1862.
Old English ranc "proud, overbearing, haughty, showy," senses now obsolete, from Proto-Germanic *rankaz (source also of Danish rank "right, upright," German rank "slender," Old Norse rakkr "straight, erect"), which is of uncertain origin, possibly related to Old Norse and Old English rinc "man, warrior." Related: Rankly; rankness.
In reference to plant growth, "vigorous, luxuriant, abundant, copious" (also figurative) it is recorded from c. 1300. The sense also evolved in Middle English to "large and coarse" (c. 1300), then to "corrupt, loathsome, foul" (mid-14c.), perhaps via the notion of "excessive and unpleasant," perhaps also influenced in this by French rance "rancid." Specifically as "having an offensive, strong smell" by 1520s. In Middle English also "brave, stout-hearted; splendid, admirable." In 17c. it also could mean "lewd, lustful."
The development of the word in Eng. is, however, far from clear, as the OE. uses are not quite the primitive ones. In ME. also it chiefly occurs in alliterative verse, app. more for convenience than to express definite meanings. In the later language the chief difficulty is to decide which of the more original senses are represented in the transferred uses. [OED]
Much used 16c. as a pejorative intensive (as in rank folly). This is possibly the source of the verb meanings "to reveal another's guilt" (1929, underworld slang) and that of "to harass, insult, abuse," 1934, African-American vernacular, though this also may be so called from the role of the activity in establishing social hierarchy (and thus from rank (n.)).
Middle English derk, later dark, from Old English deorc "without light, lacking light or brightness (especially at night), obscure, gloomy;" figuratively "sad, cheerless; sinister, wicked," from Proto-Germanic *derkaz (source also of Old High German tarchanjan "to hide, conceal"), which is of uncertain etymology. For vowel change, see marsh.
Application to colors, "not radiating or reflecting much light," is from late 14c. Of complexion, "not fair," from early 14c. Figurative sense of "obscure, not easily understood" is from early 13c.; that of "sullen, sad" is from 1590s. Meaning "concealed, secret" is from late 14c. Dark Continent "Africa" (1828) combines several figurative senses (earliest references are in missionary publications). Theater slang for "closed" is from 1916.
Dark Ages "benighted time in history, period of ignorance" is attested by 1739; the specific focus on the centuries of the early Middle Ages in Europe, from the fall of Rome to the revival of secular literature, is from 1830s, from dark in a sense of "characterized by ignorance, backward in learning, void of intellectual light" (late 14c.).
Dark horse "competitor for honors or office about whom nothing certain is known, or whose identity is at first concealed," especially, in U.S., politics, "one who is unexpectedly brought forward as a candidate in a convention," 1842, is an image from horse racing, of horses whose performances or capabilities are not generally known, in which dark is used in its figurative sense of "unknown."
Moonraker is called a "dark horse"; that is neither his sire nor dam is known. ["Pierce Egan's Book of Sports," London, 1832]
Scandinavian pirate, 1801, vikingr, in "The History of the Anglo-Saxons" by English historian Sharon H. Turner; he suggested the second element might be connected to king: But this later was dismissed as incorrect. The form viking is attested in 1820, in Jamieson's notes to "The Bruce."
The name by which the pirates were at first distinguished was Vikingr, which perhaps originally meant kings of the bays. It was in bays that they ambushed, to dart upon the passing voyager. [Turner]
The word is a historians' revival; it was not used in Middle English, but it was reintroduced from Old Norse vikingr "freebooter, sea-rover, pirate, viking," which usually is explained as meaning properly "one who came from the fjords," from vik "creek, inlet, small bay" (cognate with Old English wic, Middle High German wich "bay," and second element in Reykjavik).
But Old English wicing and Old Frisian wizing are almost 300 years older than the earliest attestation of the Old Norse word, and probably derive from wic "village, camp" (large temporary camps were a feature of the Viking raids), related to Latin vicus "village, habitation" (from PIE root *weik- (1) "clan").
The connection between the Norse and Old English words is still much debated. The period of Viking activity was roughly 8c. to 11c. In the Anglo-Saxon Chronicle, the raiding armies generally were referred to as þa Deniscan "the Danes," while those who settled in England were identified by their place of settlement. Old Norse viking (n.) meant "freebooting voyage, piracy;" one would "go on a viking" (fara í viking).