"tough, uncompromising," 1961, from hard (adj.) + ass (n.2). Probably originally military. As a noun, "tough, uncompromising person," from 1967. Old Hard Ass is said to have been a nickname of Gen. George A. Custer (1839-1876) among his cavalry troops because of his seeming tirelessness in the saddle.
early 14c., "hard, resinous mineral pitch found originally in Biblical lands," from Late Latin asphaltum, from Greek asphaltos "asphalt, bitumen," often said to be from Greek a- "not" + *sphaltos "able to be thrown down," taken as verbal adjective of sphallein "to throw down," according to Beekes "under the assumption that it denoted the material that protects walls from tumbling down," but he finds this proposed etymology "weak." Perhaps from Semitic [Klein, citing Lewy, 1895] or another non-Greek source.
The meaning "paving composition of tar and gravel" dates from 1847 and its popular use in this sense established the modern form of the English word, displacing in most senses asphaltum, asphaltos. As a verb meaning "to cover with asphalt," from 1872. Related: Asphaltic.
early 15c., "to arrogate, take upon oneself," from Latin assumere, adsumere "to take up, take to oneself, take besides, obtain in addition," from ad "to, toward, up to" (see ad-) + sumere "to take," from sub "under" (see sub-) + emere "to take" (from PIE root *em- "to take, distribute").
The meaning "to suppose, to take for granted without proof as the basis of argument" is recorded by 1590s; that of "to take or put on fictitiously" (an appearance, etc.) is from c. 1600. Related: Assumed; assuming.
The early past participle was assumpt. In rhetorical usage, assume expresses what the assumer postulates, often as a confessed hypothesis; presume expresses what the presumer really believes. Middle English also had assumpten "to receive up into heaven" (especially of the Virgin Mary), from the Latin past participle.
Middle English asken, from Old English ascian "ask, call for an answer; make a request," earlier ahsian, from Proto-Germanic *aiskojanan (source also of Old Saxon escon, Old Frisian askia "request, demand, ask," Middle Dutch eiscen, Dutch eisen "to ask, demand," Old High German eiscon "to ask (a question)," German heischen "to ask, demand"), from PIE *ais- "to wish, desire" (source also of Sanskrit icchati "seeks, desires," Armenian aic "investigation," Old Church Slavonic iskati "to seek," Lithuanian ieškau, ieškoti "to seek").
The form in English was influenced by a Scandinavian cognate (such as Danish æske); the Old English would have evolved by normal sound changes into ash, esh, which was a Midlands and southwestern England dialect form. Modern dialectal ax is as old as Old English acsian and was an accepted literary variant until c. 1600. Related: Asked; asking.
Old English also had fregnan/frignan which carried more directly the sense of "question, inquire," and is from PIE root *prek-, the common source of words for "ask" in most Indo-European languages (see pray). If you ask me "in my opinion" is attested from 1910.
"act of binding close or constricting," especially contraction by applications, 1560s, from Latin astrictionem (nominative astrictio) "a power of contracting," noun of action from past-participle stem of astringere "to bind fast, tighten, contract," from assimilated form of ad "to" (see ad-) + stringere "draw tight" (see strain (v.)). Related: Astrictive (1550s). As verbs, astrict is from 1510s; astringe from 1520s.
"backside," attested by 1860 in nautical slang, in popular use from 1930; chiefly U.S.; from dialectal variant pronunciation of arse (q.v.). The loss of -r- before -s- is not uncommon (burst/bust, curse/cuss, horse/hoss, barse/bass, garsh/gash, parcel/passel).
Indirect evidence of the change from arse to ass can be traced to 17c. By 1680s arse was being pronounced to rhyme with "-ass" words, as in "Sodom or the Quintessence of Debauchery": "I would advise you, sir, to make a pass/Once more at Pockenello's loyal arse." It is perhaps as early as Shakespeare's day, if Nick Bottom transformed into a donkey in "A Midsummer Night's Dream" (1594) is the word-play some think it is.
I must to the barber's, mounsieur; for me thinks I am marvellous hairy about the face; and I am such a tender ass, if my hair do but tickle me, I must scratch. [Bottom]
By 1785 polite speakers were avoiding ass in the "donkey" sense.
The meaning "woman regarded as a sexual object" is by early 1940s (piece of ass seems to be implied in 1930s Tijuana Bibles), but the image is older (compare buttock "a common strumpet," 1670s). To have (one's) head up (one's) ass "not know what one is doing" is attested by 1969. Colloquial (one's) ass "one's self, one's person" attested by 1958. To work (one's) ass off "work very much" is by 1946; to laugh (one's) ass off "laugh very much" is by 1972 (implied from 1965). The (stick it) up your ass oath is attested by 1953; apparent euphemisms suggest earlier use:
He snoighed up his nose as if th' cheese stunk, eyed me wi an air o contempt fro my shoon to my yed, un deawn ogen fro my yed to my shoon ; un then pushin th' brade un cheese into my hont ogen, he says "Take your vile bread and cheese and stick it up your coat sleeve, and be demmed to you. Do you think I want your paltry grub?" Un then, turnin on his heel, he hurried into th' perk. ["Bobby Shuttle un His Woife Sayroh's Visit to Manchester," 1857]
late 14c., from Latin asphodelus, from Greek asphodelos, also sphodelos, spodelos, "asphodel, king's spear, plant of the lily kind," which is of unknown origin; "A substrate word, as is shown by the variants" [Beekes]. Compare daffodil. It was the peculiar plant of the dead; and in Greek mythology and English poetic use it overspreads the Elysian meadows.
To embathe In nectared lavers strewed with asphodel. [Milton, "Comus," 1634]