also quarter-staff, 1540s (quarter-stroke "stroke with a quarterstaff" is attested from early 15c.), an old weapon formed from a stout pole, six to eight feet long (six-and-a-half sometimes is given as the standard length), tipped with iron, formerly a weapon characteristic of the English peasantry. From staff (n.); the quarter in it is of uncertain signification. According to one theory, favored by fencing manuals, etc., it likely is in reference to operation of the weapon:
It was grasped by one hand in the middle, and by the other between the middle and the end. In the attack the latter hand shifted from one quarter of the staff to the other, giving the weapon a rapid circular motion, which brought the ends on the adversary at unexpected points. [Century Dictionary]
Linguists tend to prefer an explanation from woodcutting, perhaps a reference to a cut of lumber known as a quarter, but contemporary evidence is wanting for either conjecture.
slang for "money," 1894, from Yiddish, from Mishnaic Hebrew mezumman "designated, fixed, appointed," used in Medieval Hebrew in sense of "cash" (compare slang the needful "money"), from Akkadian (Semitic) simanu "appointed time." It figured in "People v. Stokes," case argued before Supreme Court of California (1894), which cites newspaper coverage of an earlier trial mentioning "Colonel Mazuma":
It appears that the term "Colonel Mazuma" not only does not indicate some gentleman with a military title, but it does not even refer to a person at all. We fail to find the term mentioned by our lexicographers, but understand it to be a modern provincialism, probably emanating from the daily press, and used when referring to the corrupt application of money in the accomplishment of certain ends. If these jurors understood this term with the signification thus attached to it, it of itself furnished ample material to demand a retrial of the case. ["Pacific Reporter," vol. xxxvii]
Extended in Middle English to the broad, flattened bone of the shoulder (c. 1300) and the cutting part of knives and swords (early 14c.). The modern use in reference to grass may be a Middle English revival, by influence of Old French bled "corn, wheat" (11c.), which is perhaps from Germanic. The cognate in German, Blatt, is the general word for "leaf;" Laub is used collectively as "foliage." Old Norse blað was used of herbs and plants, lauf in reference to trees. This might have been the original distinction in Old English, too. Compare leaf (n.). Of men from 1590s; in later use often a reference to 18c. gallants and dashing rakes, but the original exact sense, and thus signification, is uncertain.
common termination and word-forming element of English adjectives (typically based on verbs) and generally adding a notion of "capable of; allowed; worthy of; requiring; to be ______ed," sometimes "full of, causing," from French -able and directly from Latin -abilis. It is properly -ble, from Latin -bilis (the vowel being generally from the stem ending of the verb being suffixed), and it represents PIE *-tro-, a suffix used to form nouns of instrument, cognate with the second syllables of English rudder and saddle (n.).
A living element in English, used in new formations from either Latin or native words (readable, bearable) and also with nouns (objectionable, peaceable). Sometimes with an active signification (suitable, capable), sometimes of neutral signification (durable, conformable). It has become very elastic in meaning, as in a reliable witness, a playable foul ball, perishable goods. A 17c. writer has cadaverable "mortal."
To take a single example in detail, no-one but a competent philologist can tell whether reasonable comes from the verb or the noun reason, nor whether its original sense was that can be reasoned out, or that can reason, or that can be reasoned with, or that has reason, or that listens to reason, or that is consistent with reason; the ordinary man knows only that it can now mean any of these, & justifiably bases on these & similar facts a generous view of the termination's capabilities; credible meaning for him worthy of credence, why should not reliable & dependable mean worthy of reliance & dependence? [Fowler]
In Latin, -abilis and -ibilis depended on the inflectional vowel of the verb. Hence the variant form -ible in Old French, Spanish, English. In English, -able tends to be used with native (and other non-Latin) words, -ible with words of obvious Latin origin (but there are exceptions). The Latin suffix is not etymologically connected with able, but it long has been popularly associated with it, and this probably has contributed to its vigor as a living suffix.
type of betting card game involving a hand of three cards, 1670s, short for lanterloo (1660s), from French lanturelu, originally (1620s) the refrain of a popular comic song; according to French sources the refrain expresses a mocking refusal or an evasive answer and was formed on the older word for a type of song chorus, turelure; apparently a jingling reduplication of loure "bagpipe" (which is perhaps from Latin lura "bag, purse").
From its primary signification — a kind of bagpipe inflated from the mouth — the word 'loure' came to mean an old dance, in slower rhythm than the gigue, generally in 6-4 time. As this was danced to the nasal tones of the 'loure,' the term 'loure' was gradually applied to any passage meant to be played in the style of the old bagpipe airs. ["Grove's Dictionary of Music and Musicians," London, 1906]
The refrain sometimes is met in English as turra-lurra. In the game, also the name of the pool or kitty of chips deposited by players before seeing their hands, or of the deposit made in it by a player.
late Old English curs "a prayer that evil or harm befall one; consignment of a person to an evil fate," of uncertain origin. No similar word exists in Germanic, Romance, or Celtic. Middle English Compendium says probably from Latin cursus "course" (see course (n.)) in the Christian sense "set of daily liturgical prayers" extended to "set of imprecations" as in the sentence of the great curse, "the formula read in churches four times a year, setting forth the various offenses which entailed automatic excommunication of the offender; also, the excommunication so imposed." Connection with cross is unlikely. Another suggested source is Old French curuz "anger."
Meaning "the evil which has been invoked upon one, that which causes severe trouble" is from early 14c. Curses as a histrionic exclamation ("curses upon him/her/it") is by 1680s. The curse in 19c. was the sentence imposed upon Adam and Eve in Genesis iii.16-19. The slang sense "menstruation" is from 1930. Curse of Scotland, the 9 of diamonds in cards, is attested from 1791, but the signification is obscure.
mid-14c., administracioun, "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.)).
It is attested by early 15c. as "management of a deceased person's estate under a commission from authority." The sense of "management of public affairs" is from 1680s; hence, "executive power in a government" (1731), though in Britain later government was used in this sense. The meaning "a U.S. president's period in office" is recorded by 1796 in the 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)]
twentieth letter of the English alphabet; in the Phoenician alphabet the corresponding sign was the 22nd and last; everything after T in the modern alphabet represents European alterations or additions. The sound has been consistent throughout its history.
In Late Latin and Old French, -t- before -e- and -i- acquired the "s" value of -c- and words appeared in both spellings (nationem/nacionem) and often passed into Middle English with a -c- (nacioun). In most of these the spelling was restored to a -t- by or in the period of early Modern English, but sorting them out took time (Edmund Coote's "English Schoole-maister" (1596) noted malicious/malitious) and a few (space, place, coercion, suspicion) resisted the restoration.
To cross one's t's(and dot one's i's) "to be exact" is attested from 1849. Phrase to a T "exactly, with utmost exactness" is recorded from 1690s, though the exact signification remains uncertain despite much speculation. The measuring tool called a T-square (sometimes suggested as the source of this) is recorded by that name only from 1785. The T-cell (1970) so called because they are derived from the thymus. As a medieval numeral, T represented 160. A T was formerly branded on the hand of a convicted thief.
late 13c., from Old French oncle, from Latin avunculus "mother's brother" ("father's brother" was patruus), literally "little grandfather," diminutive of avus "grandfather," from PIE root *awo- "grandfather, adult male relative other than one's father" (source also of Armenian hav "grandfather," Hittite huhhas "grandfather," Lithuanian avynas "maternal uncle," Old Church Slavonic uji "uncle," Welsh ewythr "uncle"). Boutkan, however, says "the root probably denoted members of the family of the mother."
Replaced Old English eam (usually maternal; paternal uncle was fædera), which represents the Germanic form of the same root (source also of Dutch oom "uncle, grandfather, brother-in-law," Old High German oheim "maternal uncle, son of a sister" German Ohm "uncle," Old Norse afi "grandfather").
Also from French are German, Danish, Swedish onkel. As a familiar title of address to an old man, attested by 1793; in the U.S. South, especially "a kindly title for a worthy old negro" [Century Dictionary]. First record of Dutch uncle (and his blunt, stern, benevolent advice) is from 1838; Welsh uncle (1747) was the male first cousin of one's parent. To say uncle as a sign of submission in a fight is North American, attested from 1909, of uncertain signification.