"fellow, lad, man," 1550s, rhyming nickname for Rick, short for Richard, one of the commonest English names, it has long been a synonym for "fellow," and so most of the slang senses are probably very old, but naturally hard to find in the surviving records. The meaning "penis" is attested from 1891 in Farmer's slang dictionary (possibly British army slang). Meaning "detective" is recorded from 1908, perhaps as a shortened variant of detective. As a verb, "to bungle; to waste time," also "to cheat, treat badly," by 1969, American English (often with off or around).
The story of Dick Whittington's cat is an old one, told under other names throughout Europe, of a poor boy who sends a cat he had bought for a penny as his stake in a trading voyage; the captain sells it on his behalf for a fortune to a foreign king whose palace is overrun by rats. The hero devotes part of his windfall to charity, which may be why the legend in England has been attached since 16c. to Sir Richard Whittington (d. 1423), three times Lord Mayor of London, who died childless and devoted large sums in his will to churches, almshouses, and St. Bartholomew's Hospital.
Old English spillan "destroy, mutilate, kill," also in late Old English "to waste," variant of spildan "destroy," from Proto-Germanic *spilthjan (source also of Old High German spildan "to spill," Old Saxon spildian "destroy, kill," Old Norse spilla "to destroy," Danish spilde "lose, spill, waste," Middle Dutch spillen "to waste, spend"), from a probable PIE root *spel- (1) "to split, break off" (source also of Middle Dutch spalden, Old High German spaltan "to split;" Greek aspalon "skin, hide," spolas "flayed skin;" Latin spolium "skin, hide;" Lithuanian spaliai "shives of flax;" Old Church Slavonic rasplatiti "to cleave, split;" Middle Low German spalden, Old High German spaltan "to split;" Sanskrit sphatayati "splits").
Sense of "let (liquid) fall or run out" developed mid-14c. from use of the word in reference to shedding blood (early 14c.). Intransitive sense "to run out and become wasted" is from 1650s. Spill the beans recorded by 1910 in a sense of "spoil the situation;" 1919 as "reveal a secret." To cry for spilt milk (usually with negative) is attested from 1738. Related: Spilled; spilt; spilling.
a fusion of Old English hon "suspend" (transitive, class VII strong verb; past tense heng, past participle hangen), and Old English hangian "be suspended" (intransitive, weak, past tense hangode); also probably influenced by Old Norse hengja "suspend," and hanga "be suspended." All from Proto-Germanic *hanhan (transitive), *hanganan (intransitive) "to hang" (source also of Old Frisian hangia, Dutch hangen, German hängen), from PIE *konk- "to hang" (source also of Gothic hahan, Hittite gang- "to hang," Sanskrit sankate "wavers," Latin cunctari "to delay;" see also second element in Stonehenge).
As a method of execution, in late Old English (but originally specifically of crucifixion). Meaning "to come to a standstill" (especially in hung jury) is from 1848, American English. Hung emerged as past participle 16c. in northern England dialect, and hanged endured only in legal language (which tends to be conservative) in reference to capital punishment and in metaphors extended from it (I'll be hanged).
Teen slang sense of "spend time" first recorded 1951; hang around "idle, loiter" is from 1828, American English; also compare hang out. To hang back "be reluctant to proceed" is from 1580s; phrase hang an arse "hesitate, hold back" is from 1590s. Verbal phrase hang fire (1781) originally was used of guns that were slow in communicating the fire through the vent to the charge. To let it all hang out "be relaxed and uninhibited" is from 1967.
c. 1200, literally "wind eye," from Old Norse vindauga, from vindr "wind" (see wind (n.1)) + auga "eye" (from PIE root *okw- "to see"). Replaced Old English eagþyrl, literally "eye-hole," and eagduru, literally "eye-door." Compare Old Frisian andern "window," literally "breath-door."
Originally an unglazed hole in a roof. Most Germanic languages later adopted a version of Latin fenestra to describe the glass version (such as German Fenster, Swedish fönster), and English used fenester as a parallel word till mid-16c.
Window dressing in reference to shop windows is recorded from 1853; figurative sense is by 1898. Window seat is attested from 1778. Window of opportunity (1979) is from earlier figurative use in U.S. space program, such as launch window (1963). Window-shopping is recorded from 1904.
Window shopping, according to the women, is the king of outdoor sports. Whenever a woman gets down town and has 2 or 3 hours and no money to spend, she goes window shopping. She gives the Poiret gowns and the thousand dollar furs the double O and then kids herself into believing she'd look like Lillian Russell or Beverly Bayne if she had 'em on. It's great for developing the imagination and one of the great secrets of conserving the bankroll. ... [Motor Age, Jan. 27, 1916]
Proto-Indo-European root meaning "to draw, stretch, spin."
It forms all or part of: append; appendix; avoirdupois; compendium; compensate; compensation; counterpoise; depend; dispense; equipoise; expend; expense; expensive; hydroponics; impend; painter (n.2) "rope or chain that holds an anchor to a ship's side;" pansy; penchant; pend; pendant; pendentive; pending; pendular; pendulous; pendulum; pension; pensive; penthouse; perpendicular; peso; poise; ponder; ponderous; pound (n.1) "measure of weight;" prepend; prepense; preponderate; propensity; recompense; span (n.1) "distance between two objects;" span (n.2) "two animals driven together;" spangle; spanner; spend; spider; spin; spindle; spinner; spinster; stipend; suspend; suspension.
It is the hypothetical source of/evidence for its existence is provided by: Latin pendere "to hang, to cause to hang," pondus "weight" (perhaps the notion is the weight of a thing measured by how much it stretches a cord), pensare "to weigh, consider;" Greek ponos "toil," ponein "to toil;" Lithuanian spendžiu, spęsti "lay a snare;" Old Church Slavonic peti "stretch, strain," pato "fetter," pina "I span;" Old English spinnan "to spin," spannan "to join, fasten; stretch, span;" Armenian henum "I weave;" Greek patos "garment," literally "that which is spun;" Lithuanian pinu "I plait, braid," spandau "I spin;" Middle Welsh cy-ffiniden "spider;" Old English spinnan "draw out and twist fibers into thread," spiðra "spider," literally "spinner."
c. 1200, of areas, "great in expanse," of persons, "bountiful, inclined to give or spend freely," from Old French large "broad, wide; generous, bounteous" (12c.), from Latin largus "abundant, copious, plentiful; bountiful, liberal in giving, generous" (source also of Spanish largo "long," Italian largo "wide"), a word of unknown origin.
The modern English meanings "extensive; big in overall size; great in number" emerged 14c. Adjective phrase larger-than-life first attested 1840 (bigger than life is from 1640s). Large-handed has meant both "grasping, greedy" (c. 1600) and "generous, liberal" (1620s); also "having large hands" (1896). Living large is a modern colloquial expression (1994 in African-American vernacular), but large in the sense of "prodigal, lavish" is from late 14c. and, of circumstances, "comfortable, easy" from 1738, and in more recent use Farmer and Henley ("Slang and Its Analogues") have it as "impressively, to excess" from 1852.
In mod.Eng., a general designation for considerable magnitude, used instead of great when it is not intended to convey the emotional implication now belonging to that word. [OED]
An older sense of "freedom from prison or restraining influence" is preserved in at large "at (one's) liberty, free from imprisonment or confinement free to move openly" (late 14c.). The phrase, with the meaning "free or at liberty in a general way (without particulars)" is from 1620s; specifically of electors from 1741, American English.
word-forming element of Latin origin meaning 1. "lack of, not" (as in dishonest); 2. "opposite of, do the opposite of" (as in disallow); 3. "apart, away" (as in discard), from Old French des- or directly from Latin dis- "apart, asunder, in a different direction, between," figuratively "not, un-," also "exceedingly, utterly." Assimilated as dif- before -f- and to di- before most voiced consonants.
The Latin prefix is from PIE *dis- "apart, asunder" (source also of Old English te-, Old Saxon ti-, Old High German ze-, German zer-). The PIE root is a secondary form of *dwis- and thus is related to Latin bis "twice" (originally *dvis) and to duo, on notion of "two ways, in twain" (hence "apart, asunder").
In classical Latin, dis- paralleled de- and had much the same meaning, but in Late Latin dis- came to be the favored form and this passed into Old French as des-, the form used for compound words formed in Old French, where it increasingly had a privative sense ("not"). In English, many of these words eventually were altered back to dis-, while in French many have been altered back to de-. The usual confusion prevails.
As a living prefix in English, it reverses or negatives what it is affixed to. Sometimes, as in Italian, it is reduced to s- (as in spend, splay, sport, sdain for disdain, and the surnames Spencer and Spence).
Middle English pratie "cunning, crafty, clever" (c. 1300 as a surname), from Old English prættig (West Saxon), pretti (Kentish), *prettig (Mercian) "cunning, skillful, artful, wily, astute," from prætt, *prett "a trick, wile, craft," from Proto-Germanic *pratt- (source also of Old Norse prettr "a trick," prettugr "tricky;" Frisian pret, Middle Dutch perte, Dutch pret "trick, joke," Dutch prettig "sportive, funny," Flemish pertig "brisk, clever"), a word of unknown origin.
The connection between the Old English and Middle English words "has several points of obscurity" [OED], and except in surnames there is no record of it 13c.-14c., but they generally are considered the same. The meaning had expanded by c. 1400 to "manly, gallant," also "ingeniously or cleverly made," to "fine, pleasing to the aesthetic sense," to "beautiful in a slight way" (mid-15c.). Also used of bees (c. 1400). For sense evolution, compare nice, silly, neat (adj.), fair (adj.).
Pretty applies to that which has symmetry and delicacy, a diminutive beauty, without the higher qualities of gracefulness, dignity, feeling, purpose, etc. A thing not small of its kind may be called pretty if it is of little dignity or consequence: as a pretty dress or shade of color; but pretty is not used of men or their belongings, except in contempt. [Century Dictionary, 1897]
Of things, "fine, pleasing" 1560s. Ironical use is from 1530s (compare ironical use of fine (adj.)). The meaning "not a few, considerable, moderately large in quantity, number, extent, or duration" is from late 15c. Pretty please as an emphatic plea is attested from 1902. A pretty penny "lot of money" is recorded from 1703.
early 12c., brennen, "be on fire, be consumed by fire; be inflamed with passion or desire, be ardent; destroy (something) with fire, expose to the action of fire, roast, broil, toast; burn (something) in cooking," of objects, "to shine, glitter, sparkle, glow like fire;" chiefly from Old Norse brenna "to burn, light," and also from two originally distinct Old English verbs: bærnan "to kindle" (transitive) and beornan "be on fire" (intransitive).
All these are from Proto-Germanic *brennanan (causative *brannjanan),source also of Middle Dutch bernen, Dutch branden, Old High German brinnan, German brennen, Gothic -brannjan "to set on fire;" but the ultimate etymology is uncertain. Related: Burned/burnt (see -ed); burning.
Figurative use (of passions, battle, etc.) was in Old English. Meaning "be hot, radiate heat" is from late 13c. Meaning "produce a burning sensation, sting" is from late 14c. Meaning "cheat, swindle, victimize" is first attested 1650s. In late 18c, slang, burned meant "infected with venereal disease."
To burn one's bridges(behind one) "behave so as to destroy any chance of returning to a status quo" (attested by 1892 in Mark Twain), perhaps ultimately is from reckless cavalry raids in the American Civil War. Of money, to burn a hole in (one's) pocket "affect a person with a desire to spend" from 1850.
Slavic languages have historically used different and unrelated words for the transitive and intransitive senses of "set fire to"/"be on fire:" for example Polish palić/gorzeć, Russian žeč'/gorel.
c. 1300, "one-fourth of anything; one of four equal parts or divisions into which anything is or may be divided;" often in reference to the four parts into which a slaughtered animal is cut, from Old French quartier, cartier (12c.), from Latin quartarius "fourth part," from quartus "the fourth, fourth part" (related to quattuor "four," from PIE root *kwetwer- "four"). One of the earliest dated references in English is to "parts of the body as dismembered during execution" (c. 1300).
Used of the phases of the moon from early 15c. The phrase quarter of an hour is attested from mid-15c. In Middle English quarter also meant "one of the four divisions of a 12-hour night" (late 14c.), and the quarter of the night meant "nine o'clock p.m." (early 14c.). As a period of time in a football game, from 1911.
From late 14c. as "one of the four quadrants of the heavens;" hence, from the notion of the winds, "a side, a direction" (c. 1400). In heraldry from mid-14c. as "one of the four divisions of a shield or coat of arms."
Meaning "region, locality, area, place" is from c. 1400. Meaning "distinct portion of a town" (identified by the class or race of people who live there) is first attested 1520s. For military sense, see quarters.
The coin (one fourth of a dollar, originally silver) is peculiar to U.S. and dates to 1783. But quarter could mean "a farthing" (one quarter of a penny) in Middle English (late 14c.), and compare quadrant "a farthing" (c. 1600), and classical Latin quadrans, the name of a coin worth a quarter of an as (the basic unit of Roman currency).
Quarter horse, bred strong for racing on quarter-mile tracks, is recorded by 1834. The word's connection with "four" loosened in Middle English and by 15c. expressions such as six-quartered for "six-sided" are found.