Proto-Indo-European root meaning "to cut." It forms all or part of: bisect; dissect; hacksaw; insect; intersect; resect; saw (n.1) "cutting tool;" Saxon; scythe; secant; secateurs; sect; section; sector; sedge; segment; skin; skinflint; skinny; transect.
It is the hypothetical source of/evidence for its existence is provided by: Hittite shakk- "to know, pay attention to;" Latin secare "to cut," sectio "a cutting, cutting off, division;" Old Church Slavonic seko, sešti "to cut," sečivo "ax, hatchet," Russian seč' "to cut to pieces;" Lithuanian įsėkti "to engrave, carve;" Albanian šate "mattock;" Old Saxon segasna, Old English sigðe "scythe;" Old English secg "sword," seax "knife, short sword;" Old Irish doescim "I cut."
New York City's Gramercy Park is named for the Gramercy Farm which once stood there; the first part of the name is an 18c. folk-etymology from Crommeshie Fly, the name of a former marsh or shallow pond that stood nearby, itself a mangling of New Netherlands Dutch Crommessie Vly, the first part of which represents either *Krom Moerasje "little crooked swamp" or *Krom Messje "little crooked knife," said to have been the name of a brook flowing into (or out of) the pond.
The product was used from an early date in India, Iran and northern Europe, but not in ancient Greece and Rome. Herodotus described it (along with cannabis) among the oddities of the Scythians. In old chemistry, applied to certain substances of buttery consistency. Butter-knife attested from 1818.
Old English smið "blacksmith, armorer, one who works in metal" (jewelers as well as blacksmiths), more broadly, "handicraftsman, practitioner of skilled manual arts" (also including carpenters), from Proto-Germanic *smithaz "skilled worker" (source also of Old Saxon smith, Old Norse smiðr, Danish smed, Old Frisian smith, Old High German smid, German Schmied, Gothic -smiþa, in aiza-smiþa "coppersmith"), from PIE root *smi- "to cut, work with a sharp instrument" (source also of Greek smile "knife, chisel").
Attested as a surname at least since c. 975. Other common surnames meaning "smith" in nearby languages include Ferraro (Italian), Haddad (Arabic), Kovács (Hungarian, a Slavic loan-word), Kowalski (Polish), Herrero (Spanish), Kuznets (Russian), MacGowan (Irish, "son of the blacksmith").
"edible bivalve mollusk of the family Ostreidæ," late 13c., oistre, from Old French oistre, uistre (Modern French huître) and directly from Latin ostrea, plural or fem. of ostreum "oyster," from Greek ostreon, from PIE root *ost- "bone." It is thus related to Greek ostrakon "a hard shell" and to osteon "a bone." The h- in the modern French word is a regular development; compare huile "oil" (Latin oleum), huit "eight" (Latin octo).
Why then the world's mine Oyster, which I, with sword will open. [Shakespeare, "The Merry Wives of Windsor," II.ii.2]
Oyster-bed "place where oysters breed or are bred" is from c. 1600; oyster-knife, used for opening oysters, is recorded from 1690s. Oysterman "man engaged in rearing, taking, or selling oysters" is attested from 1550s. The common statement that edible oysters are in season only in months that end in -r is recorded by 1765.
c. 1200, from Late Latin Saxonem (nominative Saxo; also source of French Saxon, Spanish Sajon, Italian Sassone), usually found in plural Saxones, probably from a West Germanic tribal name (represented by Old English Seaxe, Old High German Sahsun, German Sachse "Saxon"), traditionally regarded as meaning literally "warrior with knives" (compare Old English seax, Old Frisian, Old Norse sax "knife, short sword, dagger," Old High German Saxnot, name of a war-god), from Proto-Germanic *sahsa- "knife," from PIE root *sek- "to cut." But Watkins considers this doubtful.
The word figures in the well-known story, related by Geoffrey of Monmouth, who got it from Nennius, of the treacherous slaughter by the Anglo-Saxons of their British hosts:
Accordingly they all met at the time and place appointed, and began to treat of peace; and when a fit opportunity offered for executing his villany, Hengist cried out, "Nemet oure Saxas," and the same instant seized Vortigern, and held him by his cloak. The Saxons, upon the signal given, drew their daggers, and falling upon the princes, who little suspected any such design, assassinated them to the number of four hundred and sixty barons and consuls ....
The OED editors helpfully point out that the correct Old English (with an uninflected plural) would be nimað eowre seax. For other Germanic national names that may have derived from characteristic tribal weapons, see Frank, Lombard. As an adjective from 1560s. Still in 20c. used by Celtic speakers to mean "an Englishman" (Welsh Sais, plural Seison "an Englishman;" Seisoneg "English").
In reference to the modern German state of Saxony (German Sachsen, French Saxe) it is attested from 1630s. Saxon is the source of the -sex in Essex, Sussex, etc. (compare Middlesex, from Old English Middel-Seaxe "Middle Saxons"). Bede distinguished the Anglo-Saxons, who conquered much of southern Britain, from the Ealdesaxe "Old Saxons," who stayed in Germany.
The origin of the ethnic name is uncertain; it traditionally is said to be from the old Germanic word *frankon "javelin, lance" (compare Old English franca "lance, javelin"), their preferred weapon, but the reverse may be the case. Compare also Saxon, traditionally from root of Old English seax "knife." The adjectival sense of "free, at liberty" (see frank (adj.)) probably developed from the tribal name, not the other way round. It was noted by 1680s that, in the Levant, this was the name given to anyone of Western nationality (compare Feringhee and lingua franca).
"to push or thrust against, to prod," especially with something long or pointed, c. 1300, puken, poken "to poke, nudge," a word of obscure origin, perhaps from or related to Middle Dutch poken "to poke" (Dutch beuken), or Middle Low German poken "to stick with a knife" (compare German pochen "to knock, rap"), implying a Proto-Germanic root *puk-, perhaps imitative. Related: Poked; poking.
To poke around "search" is from 1809; to poke along "advance lazily; walk at a leisurely pace" is from 1833. The sense evolution there might be via the notion of "grope, search, feel, or push one's way in or as in the dark;" poke meaning "work in a desultory, ineffective way" is attested from 1796, and poking "pottering" is by 1769. To poke fun "tease" is attested by 1811.
When I told her I had drawn the ten thousand dollar prize in the lottery, she said I wanted to poke fun into her, which you see was no such thing. [Boston Review, February 1811, quoting from a humorous pamphlet on the U.S. Bank by "Abimelech Coody, Esq., ladies' shoemaker"]
c. 1300, "to make, with an edged tool or instrument, an incision in; make incisions for the purpose of dividing into two or more parts; remove by means of a cutting instrument;" of an implement, "have a cutting edge," according to Middle English Compendium from a presumed Old English *cyttan, "since ME has the normal regional variants of the vowel." Others suggest a possible Scandinavian etymology from North Germanic *kut- (source also of Swedish dialectal kuta "to cut," kuta "knife," Old Norse kuti "knife"), or that it is from Old French couteau "knife."
From early 14c. as "to make or fashion by cutting or carving." From c. 1400 as "to intersect or cross." From early 15c. as "abridge or shorten by omitting a part."
Meaning "to wound the sensibilities of" is from 1580s (to cut the heart in the same sense is attested from early 14c.). Sense of "sever connection or relations with" is from 1630s.
Meaning "to be absent without excuse" is British university slang from 1794. Colloquial or slang sense of "move off with directness and rapidity" is from 1580s. Meaning "divide (a deck of cards) at random into parts before the deal" to prevent cheating is from 1530s.
Meaning "to dilute, adulterate" (liquor, etc.) is by 1930. Colloquial sense of "to divide or share" is by 1928, perhaps an image from meat-carving at table. As a director's call to halt recording or performing, by 1931 (in an article about Pete, the bulldog with the black-ringed eye in the Hal Roach studios shorts, who was said to know the word). The sense of "perform, execute" (c. 1600) is in cut capers "frisk about;" cut a dash "make a display."
To cut down is from late 14c. as "to fell;" by 1821 as "to slay" (as with a sword); 1857 as "to curtail." To cut (someone or something) down to size is from 1821 as "reduce to suitable dimensions;" the figurative sense, "reduce to the proper level of importance," is by 1927.
To cut in "enter suddenly and unceremoniously" is from 1610s; sense of "suddenly join in conversation, interrupt" is by 1830. To cut up "cut in pieces" is from 1570s. To cut back is from 1871 as "prune by cutting off shoots," 1913 in cinematography, "return to a previous scene by repeating a part of it," 1943 as "reduce, decrease" (of expenditures, etc.). To cut (something) short "abridge, curtail, interrupt" is from 1540s.
In nautical use to cut a feather (1620s) is to move so fast as to make water foam under the bow. To cut and run (1704) also is originally nautical, "cut cable and set sail immediately," as in an emergency, hence, generally, "to make off suddenly."
To cut the teeth "have the teeth grow through the gums" as an infant is from 1670s. To cut both ways in the figurative sense of "have a good and bad effect" is from c. 1600. To cut loose "set (something) free" is by 1828; intransitive sense "begin to act freely" is by 1909.
Cut it out "remove (something) by or as if by cutting" yielded a figurative use in the command cut it out! "Stop! That's enough!" by 1933. The evolution seems to have begun earlier. A piece attributed to the Chicago Live Stock World that made the rounds in trade publications 1901-02 begins:
When you get 'hot' about something and vow you are going to rip something or somebody up the back—cut it out.
If you feel disposed to try the plan of building yourself up by tearing some one else down—cut it out.
Playing on both senses, it ends with "Should you, after reading this preachy stuff, fear you might forget some of the good advice—cut it out."
c. 1300 (mid-12c. in surnames), "small axe with a short handle," designed to be used by one hand, from Old French hachete "small combat-axe, hatchet," diminutive of hache "axe, battle-axe, pickaxe," possibly from Frankish *happja or some other Germanic source, from Proto-Germanic *hapjo- (source also of Old High German happa "sickle, scythe").
This is perhaps from PIE root *kop- "to beat, strike" (source also of Greek kopis "knife," koptein "to strike, smite," komma "piece cut off;" Lithuanian kaplys "hatchet," kapti, kapiu "to hew, fell;" Old Church Slavonic skopiti "castrate," Russian kopat' "to hack, hew, dig;" Albanian kep "to hew").
Hatchet-face in reference to one with sharp and prominent features is from 1650s. In Middle English, hatch itself was used in a sense "battle-axe." In 14c., hang up (one's) hatchet meant "stop what one is doing." Phrase bury the hatchet "lay aside instruments of war, forget injuries and make peace" (1754) is from a Native American peacemaking custom described from 1680. Hatchet-man was originally California slang for "hired Chinese assassin" (1880), later extended figuratively to journalists who attacked the reputation of a public figure (1944).