"a busy rumour" [Rowe], 1620s (earlier "a fancy," c. 1600), figurative use from buzz (v.). Literal sense of "a humming sound" is from 1640s. A "buzz" was the characteristic sound of an airplane in early 20c.; hence verbal sense "to fly swiftly," by 1928; by 1940 especially in military use, "to fly low over a surface as a warning signal" (for example that target practice is about to begin):
The patrol aircraft shall employ the method of warning known as "buzzing" which consists of low flight by the airplane and repeated opening and closing of the throttle. [1941 Supplement to the Code of Federal Regulations of the United States of America," Chap. II, Corps of Engineers, War Department, p. 3434, etc. ]
Meaning "pleasant sense of intoxication" first recorded 1935. The children's game of counting off with 7 or multiples of it replaced by buzz is attested from 1864 and is mentioned in "Little Women" (1868). To give (someone) a buzz (by 1922) is from the buzz that announced a call on old telephone systems (1913). Buzz bomb "V1 rocket" is from 1944.
late 14c. (mid-13c. in Anglo-Latin), "a kind of laced bodice, close-fitting body garment," from Old French corset (13c.) "bodice, tunic," diminutive of cors "body," from Latin corpus "body" (from PIE root *kwrep- "body, form, appearance").
Meaning "stiff supporting and constricting undergarment for the waist, worn chiefly by women to shape the figure," is from 1795. They fell from fashion in the changing fashions after World War I. Related: Corseted, corsetted (1829); corseting; corsetry.
With the short skirt went an extraordinary change in the weight and material and amount of women's clothing. The boyishly slender figure became the aim of every woman's ambition, and the corset was so far abandoned that even in so short a period as the three years from 1924 to 1927 the combined sales of corsets and brassières in the department stores of the Cleveland Federal Reserve District fell off 11 per cent. [Frederick Lewis Allen, "Only Yesterday," 1931]
mid-14c., "act of giving or dispensing;" late 14c., "management (of a business, property, etc.), act of administering," from Latin administrationem (nominative administratio) "aid, help, cooperation; direction, management," noun of action from past-participle stem of administrare "to help, assist; manage, control, guide, superintend; rule, direct," from ad "to" (see ad-) + ministrare "to serve, attend, wait upon," from minister "inferior, servant, priest's assistant" (see minister (n.)).
Early 15c. as "management of a deceased person's estate under a commission from authority." Meaning "management of public affairs" is from 1680s; hence, "executive power in a government" (1731), though later in Britain government was used in this sense. Meaning "a U.S. president's period in office" is first recorded 1796 in writings of George Washington.
The administration of government, in its largest sense, comprehends all the operations of the body politic, whether legislative, executive, or judiciary; but in its most usual, and perhaps in its most precise, signification, it is limited to executive details, and falls peculiarly within the province of the executive department. ["The Federalist," No. 72 (Hamilton)]
Academic sense "branch of knowledge" (late 14c.) was in Old French and probably was the earliest in English (it is attested in Anglo-Latin from late 12c.), on notion of "ability in knowledge" or "body of persons on whom are conferred specific professional powers." Originally each department was a faculty; the use in reference to the whole teaching staff of an entire college dates from 1767. Related: Facultative. The Latin words facultas and facilitas "were originally different forms of the same word; the latter, owing to its more obvious relationship to the adj., retained the primary sense of 'easiness', which the former had ceased to have before the classical period." [OED]
kind of thick, soft leather, 1570s, buffe leather "leather made of buffalo hide," from French buffle "buffalo" (15c., via Italian, from Latin bufalus; see buffalo (n.)).
The color term "light brownish-yellow" (by 1788) comes from the hue of buff leather. Association of "hide" and "skin" led c. 1600 to the sense in in the buff "naked." Buff-colored uniforms of New York City volunteer firefighters since 1820s led to the meaning "enthusiast" (1903).
These men, together with a score or more of young boys who cherish ambitions to be firemen some day, make up the unofficial Fire Department of New York, and any one who imagines they are not a valuable branch of the service need only ask any firemen [sic] what he thinks of the Buffs to find out his mistake. The Buffs are men and boys whose love of fires, fire-fighting and firemen is a predominant characteristic, who simply cannot keep away from fires, no matter at what time of the day or night they occur, or how long they continue. [New York Sun, Feb. 4, 1903]
c. 1200, "medical treatment, cure, healing," also (early 14c.) "substance used in treatment of a disease, medicinal potion or plaster," also used figuratively of spiritual remedies, from Old French medecine (Modern French médicine) "medicine, art of healing, cure, treatment, potion" and directly from Latin medicina "the healing art, medicine; a remedy," also used figuratively.
This is perhaps originally ars medicina "the medical art," from fem. of medicinus (adj.) "of a doctor," from medicus "a physician" (from PIE root *med- "take appropriate measures"); though OED says evidence for this path is wanting and suggests derivation directly from medicus. The sense of "practice, theory, or study of curing, alleviating, or preventing disease in humans" is from mid-14c.
The figurative phrase take (one's) medicine "submit to something disagreeable" is recorded by 1865; that of dose of (one's) own medicine is by 1894. Medicine show "traveling show meant to attract a crowd so patent medicine can be sold to them" is American English, 1938. Medicine ball "stuffed leather ball used for exercise" is from 1889.
It is called a "medicine ball" and it got that title from Prof. [Robert J.] Roberts, now of Springfield, whose fame is widespread, and whose bright and peculiar dictionary of terms for his prescription department in physical culture is taught in every first-class conducted Y.M.C.A. gymnasium in America. Prof. Roberts calls it a "medicine ball" because playful exercise with it invigorates the body, promotes digestion, and restores and preserves one's health. [Scientific American Supplement, March 16, 1889]
common name of any lepidopterous insect active in daylight, Old English buttorfleoge, evidently butter (n.) + fly (n.), but the name is of obscure signification. Perhaps based on the old notion that the insects (or, according to Grimm, witches disguised as butterflies) consume butter or milk that is left uncovered. Or, less creatively, simply because the pale yellow color of many species' wings suggests the color of butter. Another theory connects it to the color of the insect's excrement, based on Dutch cognate boterschijte. Also see papillon.
Applied to persons from c. 1600, originally in reference to vain and gaudy attire; by 1806 in reference to transformation from early lowly state; in reference to flitting tendencies by 1873. The swimming stroke so called from 1935. As a type of mechanical nut, 1869. Butterflies "light stomach spasms caused by anxiety" is from 1908. "Who breaks a butterfly upon a wheel?" is from Pope.
The butterfly effect is a deceptively simple insight extracted from a complex modern field. As a low-profile assistant professor in MIT's department of meteorology in 1961, [Edward] Lorenz created an early computer program to simulate weather. One day he changed one of a dozen numbers representing atmospheric conditions, from .506127 to .506. That tiny alteration utterly transformed his long-term forecast, a point Lorenz amplified in his 1972 paper, "Predictability: Does the Flap of a Butterfly's Wings in Brazil Set Off a Tornado in Texas?" [Peter Dizikes, "The Meaning of the Butterfly," The Boston Globe, June 8, 2008]
mid-13c., "a post in government or administration, an employment to which certain duties are attached, secular position of authority or responsibility," from Anglo-French and Old French ofice "place or function; divine service" (12c. in Old French) and directly from Latin officium "a service, kindness, favor; an obligatory service, official duty, function, business; ceremonial observance" (in Medieval Latin, "church service").
The Latin word was contracted from opificium, literally "work-doing," from ops (genitive opis) "power, might, abundance, means" (related to opus "work," from PIE root *op- "to work, produce in abundance") + combining form of facere "to make, to do" (from PIE root *dhe- "to set, put").
Of ecclesiastical positions from late 14c. From c. 1300 as "official employment" in general, also "ecclesiastical service or mass; the prescribed order and form of church services." Meaning "building or room for conducting business" is from late 14c. Meaning "a government or civic department" is from mid-15c. From 1727 as "a privy."
Office hours "hours of work in an office" is attested from 1841. Office furniture, the type used or commonly found in offices, is by 1839. The political office-holder is by 1818. Office-party, one held for the members of a staff, is by 1950. Middle English had office of life "state of being alive" (late 14c.), translating Latin vite officio.
c. 1500, "now existing;" 1580s, "of or pertaining to present or recent times;" from French moderne (15c.) and directly from Late Latin modernus "modern" (Priscian, Cassiodorus), from Latin modo "just now, in a (certain) manner," from modo (adv.) "to the measure," ablative of modus "manner, measure" (from PIE root *med- "take appropriate measures"). Extended form modern-day attested from 1872.
In history, in the broadest sense, opposed to ancient and medieval, but often in more limited use. In Shakespeare, often with a sense of "every-day, ordinary, commonplace." Meaning "not antiquated or obsolete, in harmony with present ways" is by 1808.
Of languages, indicating the current form of Greek, etc., 1690s; modern languages as a department of study (1821) comprised those now living (i.e. not Latin or Greek) that were held to have literary or historical importance. The use of modern English is at least from c. 1600 (in Cowell's "Interpreter," explaining an Anglo-Saxon word). The scientific linguistic division of historical languages into old, middle, and modern is from 19c.
Slang abbreviation mod is attested from 1960. Modern art is from 1807 (in contrast to ancient; in contrast to traditional, representing departure or repudiation of accepted styles, by 1895); modern dance is attested by 1912; modern jazz by 1954. Modern conveniences is recorded by 1926.
c. 1300, "a gathering of persons, a group gathered for some purpose," from Old French as(s)emblee "assembly, gathering; union, marriage," noun use of fem. past participle of assembler "to assemble" (see assemble). Meaning "a gathering together" is recorded from early 15c.; that of "act of assembling parts or objects" is from 1914, as is assembly line.
Perhaps the most interesting department in the whole factory, to the visitor, is the final assembly. In this division, all the assembled units meet the assembly conveyor at the point where they are needed. At the start of the track a front axle unit, a rear axle unit and a frame unit are assembled. This assembly is then started in motion by means of a chain conveyor, and as it moves down the room at a constant speed of eight feet per minute, each man adds one part to the growing chassis or does one operation, which is assigned to him, so that when the chassis reaches the end of the line, it is ready to run on its own power. ["The Story of an Automobile Factory," in "Universal Book of Knowledge and Wonders," 1917]
School sense, "gathering of all students for a presentation" is from 1932. From mid-14c. as "a gathering for deliberation," hence it is the name of the lower house in state (earlier colonial) legislatures in America (1680s). In 17c.-18c. assemblies "dancing balls 'among polite persons of both sexes,' often paid for by subscription of the participants" were a prominent feature of social life.