word-forming element meaning "lacking, cannot be, does not," from Old English -leas, from leas "free (from), devoid (of), false, feigned," from Proto-Germanic *lausaz (cognates: Dutch -loos, German -los "-less," Old Norse lauss "loose, free, vacant, dissolute," Middle Dutch los, German los "loose, free," Gothic laus "empty, vain"), from PIE root *leu- "to loosen, divide, cut apart." Related to loose and lease.

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dissolution (n.)

mid-14c., "frivolity, moral laxness, dissolute living;" late 14c., dissolucioun, "separation into parts, dispersal;" from Old French dissolution (12c.) and directly from Latin dissolutionem (nominative dissolutio) "a dissolving, destroying, interruption, dissolution," noun of action from past-participle stem of dissolvere "to loosen up, break apart" (see dissolve).

Sense of "act of dissolving, a changing from a solid to a liquid state" is from 1590s. From 1530s as "the breaking up of an assembly or other association." From 1520s as "death," perhaps from the notion of "separation of soul and body."

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looseness (n.)

c. 1400, "freedom from restraint," from loose (adj.) + -ness. Meaning "laxity, irregularity, want of strictness" is from 1570s.

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slake (v.)

Middle English slaken, from late Old English sleacian, slacian "become slack or remiss; relax an effort" (intransitive); "delay, retard" (transitive), from slæc "lax" (see slack (adj.), and compare Middle Dutch, Middle Low German slaken).

The transitive sense of "make slack, loosen" (ropes, a bridle, etc.) is from late 12c. The sense of "allay, diminish in force or intensity, quench, extinguish" is from late 13c. in reference to fire, c. 1300 in reference to thirst, hunger, desire, wrath, lust, etc. The notion is "make slack or inactive." Related: Slaked; slaking.

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detente (n.)

1908 as a political term, "an easing of hostility or tensions between countries," a borrowing of French détente "loosening, slackening," from Vulgar Latin *detendita, fem. past participle of Latin detendere "loosen, release," from de "from, away" (see de-) + tendere "stretch" (from PIE root *ten- "to stretch"). The reference is to a "relaxing" in a political situation.

Treated as a French word in English until mid-20c. The French word was earlier borrowed as detent (1680s) "catch which regulates the strike in a clock" (a French extended use of the word in its secondary sense "catch of a crossbow," which releases the tension in the string and discharges the bolt).

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analysis (n.)

1580s, "resolution of anything complex into simple elements" (opposite of synthesis), from Medieval Latin analysis (15c.), from Greek analysis "solution of a problem by analysis," literally "a breaking up, a loosening, releasing," noun of action from analyein "unloose, release, set free; to loose a ship from its moorings," in Aristotle, "to analyze," from ana "up, back, throughout" (see ana-) + lysis "a loosening," from lyein "to unfasten" (from PIE root *leu- "to loosen, divide, cut apart").

The meaning "statement presenting results of an analytic process" is from 1660s. The psychological sense is from 1890. English also formerly had a noun analyse (1630s), from French analyse, from Medieval Latin analysis. Phrase in the final (or last) analysis (1844), translates French en dernière analyse.

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loss (n.)

Old English los "ruin, destruction," from Proto-Germanic *lausa- (from PIE root *leu- "to loosen, divide, cut apart"), with an etymological sense of "dissolution." But this seems scarcely to have survived in Middle English, and the modern word, with a weaker sense, "failure to hold, keep, or preserve what was in one's possession; failure to gain or win," probably evolved 14c. from lost, the past participle of lose.

Phrase at a loss "confused, uncertain" (1590s) is a phrase from hunting, in reference to hounds losing the scent. To cut (one's) losses is from 1885, originally in finance. The retailer's loss-leader "advertised product sold at cost or below" (to entice customers in to buy other things as well) is from 1922.

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brake (n.1)

mid-15c., "instrument for crushing or pounding," from Middle Dutch braeke "flax brake," from breken "to break" (see break (v.)). The word was applied to many crushing implements, especially the tool for breaking up the woody part of flax to loosen the fibers. It also was applied to the ring through the nose of a draught ox. It was influenced in sense by Old French brac, a form of bras "an arm," thus the sense "a lever or handle," which was being used in English from late 14c., and "a bridle or curb" (early 15c.).

One or the other sense or a convergence of all of them yielded the main modern meaning "mechanical device for arresting the motion of a wheel," which is attested by 1772.

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resolute (adj.)

early 15c., "dissolved, of loose structure," also "morally lax" (senses all obsolete), from Latin resolutus, past participle of resolvere "untie, unfasten, loose, loosen" (see resolve (v.)).

It emerged c. 1500 in the sense of "determined, decided, absolute, final," especially in the phrase resolute answer, which was "common in 16th c." [OED]. The notion is of "breaking (something) into parts" as the way to arrive at the truth of it and thus make the final determination (compare resolution).

The word has been used from 1530s of persons, "determined in mind, having a fixed resolve." Related: Resolutely; resoluteness. In Middle English a resolutif was a medicine to dissolve and disperse hardened matter (c. 1400).

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humanist (n.)

1580s, "student of the classical humanities, one accomplished in literature and classical culture," from French humaniste (16c.), formed on model of Italian umanista "student of human affairs or human nature," coined by Italian poet Lodovicio Ariosto (1474-1533), from Latin humanus "human" (see human (adj.).

In this use, the original notion appears to be "human" as opposed to "divine," that is, a student of the human achievements of the pre-Christian authors and philosophers, as opposed to the theological studies of the divines. As "this new-old learning had, or was credited with, a tendency to loosen the hold of the Church upon men's beliefs," humanist also gradually came to mean "free-thinker" [Fowler]. Philosophical sense is from 1903, from Comte's Religion of Humanity (compare humanism), unconnected to the two earlier meanings, "though accidentally near one of them in effect" [Fowler].

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