formerly also empeach, late 14c., empechen, "to impede, hinder, prevent;" early 15c., "cause to be stuck, run (a ship) aground," also "prevent (from doing something)," from Anglo-French empecher, Old French empeechier "to hinder, stop, impede; capture, trap, ensnare" (12c., Modern French empêcher), from Late Latin impedicare "to fetter, catch, entangle," from assimilated form of in- "into, in" (from PIE root *en "in") + Latin pedica "a shackle, fetter," from pes (genitive pedis) "foot" (from PIE root *ped- "foot").
In law, at first in a broad sense, "to accuse, bring charges against" from late 14c.; more specifically, of the king or the House of Commons, "to bring formal accusation of treason or other high crime against (someone)" from mid-15c. The sense of "accuse a public officer of misconduct" had emerged from this by 1560s. The sense shift is perhaps via Medieval Latin confusion of impedicare with Latin impetere "attack, accuse" (see impetus), which is from the Latin verb petere "aim for, rush at" (from PIE root *pet- "to rush, to fly").
The Middle English verb apechen, probably from an Anglo-French variant of the source of impeach, was used from early 14c. in the sense "to accuse (someone), to charge (someone with an offense)." Related: Impeached; impeaching.
Old English sped "success, a successful course; prosperity, riches, wealth; luck; opportunity, advancement," from Proto-Germanic *spodiz (source also of Old Saxon spod "success," Dutch spoed "haste, speed," Old High German spuot "success," Old Saxon spodian "to cause to succeed," Middle Dutch spoeden, Old High German spuoten "to haste"), from PIE *spo-ti-, from root *spes- or *speh- "prosperity" (source also of Hittite išpai- "get full, be satiated;" Sanskrit sphira "fat," sphayate "increases;" Latin spes "hope," sperare "to hope;" Old Church Slavonic spechu "endeavor," spĕti "to succeed," Russian spet' "to ripen;" Lithuanian spėju, spėti "to have leisure;" Old English spōwan "to prosper").
Meaning "rapidity of movement, quickness, swiftness" emerged in late Old English (at first usually adverbially, in dative plural, as in spedum feran). Meaning "rate of motion or progress" (whether fast or slow) is from c. 1200. Meaning "gear of a machine" is attested from 1866. Meaning "methamphetamine, or a related drug," first attested 1967, from its effect on users.
Speed limit is from 1879 (originally of locomotives); speed-trap is from 1908. Speed bump is 1975; figurative sense is 1990s. Full speed is recorded from late 14c. Speed reading first attested 1965. Speedball "mix of cocaine and morphine or heroin" is recorded from 1909.
masc. proper name, typically a shortening of Samuel (q.v.).
Sam Browne in reference to a type of belt with shoulder strap is by 1915, from Sir Samuel James Browne (1824-1901), the British general who invented it. Sam Hill as an American English emphatic euphemism for "Hell!" (in exasperation) is by 1839. Sam Slick as the type of the resourceful Yankee (especially in the mind of the South) is from the character created 1835 by Nova Scotian judge Thomas Chandler Haliburton in a series of popular books.
I’ll tell you how I’d work it. I’d say, “Here’s a book they’ve namesaked arter me, Sam Slick the Clockmaker, but it tante mine, and I can’t altogether jist say rightly whose it is …. Its about the wittiest book I ever seed. Its nearly all sold off, but jist a few copies I’ve kept for my old customers. The price is just 5s. 6d. but I’ll let you have it for 5s. because you’ll not get another chance to have one.” Always ax a sixpence more than the price, and then bate it, and when Blue Nose hears that, he thinks he’s got a bargain, and bites directly. I never see one on ’em yet that didn’t fall right into the trap. [from "The Clockmaker: The Sayings and Doings of Samuel Slick of Slickville"]
Old English clæg "stiff, sticky earth; clay," from Proto-Germanic *klaijaz (source also of Old High German kliwa "bran," German Kleie, Old Frisian klai, Old Saxon klei, Middle Dutch clei, Danish klæg "clay;" also Old English clæman, Old Norse kleima, Old High German kleiman "to cover with clay").
Some sources see these as being from a common PIE root meaning "slime; glue" also forming words for "clay" and verbs for "stick together." Compared words include Latin gluten "glue, beeswax;" Greek gloios "sticky matter;" Lithuanian glitus "sticky," glitas "mucus;" Old Church Slavonic glina "clay," glenu "slime, mucus;" Old Irish glenim "I cleave, adhere;" Old English cliða "plaster." But Beekes writes that "Not all comparisons are convincing," and notes that most words cited are from Balto-Slavic or Germanic, "which suggests European substrate origin."
In Scripture, the stuff from which the body of the first man was formed; hence "human body" (especially when dead). As an adjective, "formed of clay," 1520s. Clay-pigeon "saucer of baked clay used as a flying target in trap-shooting," in place of live birds, is from 1881. Feet of clay "fundamental weakness" is from Daniel ii.33.
"one of a class of celestial bodies which move about the sun in great, elliptical orbits," c. 1200, from Old French comete (12c., Modern French comète), from Latin cometa, from Greek (aster) komētēs, literally "long-haired (star)," from komē "hair of the head" (compare koman "let the hair grow long"), which is of unknown origin. So called from resemblance of a comet's tail to streaming hair.
Visible only when near the sun, they were anciently regarded as omens of ruin, pestilence, and the overthrow of kingdoms. Halley in 1682 established the fact that many were periodic. Comet-wine (1833), that made in any year in which notable comets have been seen, was reputed to have a superior flavor (the original reference is to the Great Comet of 1811). Related: Cometary; cometic; cometical.
Their sudden appearance in the heavens, and the imposing and astonishing aspect which they present, have, even in recent times, inspired alarm and terror. One however—the splendid comet of 1811—escaped somewhat of the general odium; for as it was supposed to be an agent concerned in the remarkably beautiful autumn of that year, and was also associated with the abundant and superior yield of the continental vineyards, the wine of that season was called the comet wine. [The Leisure Hour, April 15, 1852]
Beware of wine named after noted vintages long passed, which is generally a clap-trap, the genuine wines being all before secured for years in private stocks. If "comet wine," or any other noted vintage, be offered, decline it, and nine times out of ten you escape an imposition. [Cyrus Redding, "Every Man His Own Butler," London, 1852]
1610s, "pool or lake for irrigation or drinking water," a word originally brought by the Portuguese from India, from a Hindi source, such as Gujarati tankh "cistern, underground reservoir for water," Marathi tanken, or tanka "reservoir of water, tank." Perhaps ultimately from Sanskrit tadaga-m "pond, lake pool," and reinforced in later sense of "large artificial container for liquid" (1680s) by Portuguese tanque "reservoir," from estancar "hold back a current of water," from Vulgar Latin *stanticare (see stanch). But other sources say the Portuguese word is the source of the Indian ones.
Meaning "fuel container" is recorded from 1902. Slang meaning "detention cell" is from 1912. Railroad tank-car is from 1874.
In military use, "armored, gun-mounted vehicle moving on continuous articulated tracks," the word originated late 1915. In "Tanks in the Great War" , Brevet Col. J.F.C. Fuller quotes a memorandum of the Committee of Imperial Defence dated Dec. 24, 1915, recommending the proposed "caterpillar machine-gun destroyer" machines be entrusted to an organization "which, for secrecy, shall be called the 'Tank Supply Committee,' ..." In a footnote, Fuller writes, "This is the first appearance of the word 'tank' in the history of the machine." He writes that "cistern" and "reservoir" also were put forth as possible cover names, "all of which were applicable to the steel-like structure of the machines in the early stages of manufacture. Because it was less clumsy and monosyllabic, the name 'tank' was decided on." They were first used in action at Pozieres ridge, on the Western Front, Sept. 15, 1916, and the name was quickly picked up by the soldiers. Tank-trap attested from 1920.
"bent or angled piece of metal or other substance used to catch or hold something," Old English hoc "hook, angle," perhaps related to Old English haca "bolt," from Proto-Germanic *hokaz/*hakan (source also of Old Frisian hok, Middle Dutch hoek "a hook;" Dutch haak "a hook, angle, corner, cape," German Haken "hook"), from PIE root *keg- "hook, tooth." For spelling, see hood (n.1).
Also the name of a fireman's tool for tearing into buildings, hence hook-and-ladder (1821). Meaning "holder for a telephone receiver" is from 1885 and continued in use after the mechanism evolved. Boxing sense of "short, swinging blow with the elbow bent" is from 1898. Figurative sense "that which catches, a snare, trap" is from early 15c. Meaning "projecting point of land" is from 1670s; in U.S. use probably reinforced by the Dutch word.
This name is given in New York to several angular points in the North and East rivers; as Corlear's Hook, Sandy Hook, Powles's Hook. [Bartlett, "Dictionary of Americanisms," 1848]
Off the hooks meant "disordered" (16c.), "unhinged" (1610s) and "dead" (1840). By hook or by crook (late 14c.) probably alludes to tools of professional thieves. Hook, line, and sinker "completely" is 1838, a metaphor from angling. Hook-nose (n.) is from 1680s; hook-nosed (adj.) from 1510s. Hook-and-eye as a method of garment fastening is from 1620s.
Hook and eye, a metallic fastening for garments, consisting of a hook, commonly of flattened wire bent to the required shape, and an eye, usually of the same material, into which the hook fits. Under the name of crochet and loop, this form of fastening was in use as early as the fourteenth century. [Century Dictionary]
A sound found chiefly in words of Old English, Old Norse or Greek origin, unpronounceable by Normans and many other Europeans. In Greek, the sound corresponds etymologically to Sanskrit -dh- and English -d-; and it was represented graphically by -TH- and at first pronounced as a true aspirate (as still in English outhouse, shithead, etc.).
But by 2c. B.C.E. the Greek letter theta was in universal use and had the modern "-th-" sound. Latin had neither the letter nor the sound, however, and the Romans represented Greek theta by -TH-, which they generally pronounced, at least in Late Latin, as simple "-t-" (passed down to Romanic languages, as in Spanish termal "thermal," teoria "theory," teatro "theater").
In Germanic languages it represents PIE *-t- and was common at the start of words or after stressed vowels. To represent it, Old English and Old Norse used the characters ð "eth" (a modified form of -d-) and þ "thorn," which originally was a rune. Old English, unlike Old Norse, seems never to have standardized which of the two versions of the sound ("hard" and "soft") was represented by which of the two letters.
The digraph -th- sometimes appears in early Old English, on the Roman model, and it returned in Middle English with the French scribes, driving out eth by c. 1250, but thorn persisted, especially in demonstratives (þat, þe, þis, etc.), even as other words were being spelled with -th-. The advent of printing dealt its death-blow, however, as types were imported from continental founders, who had no thorn. For a time y was used in its place (especially in Scotland), because it had a similar shape, hence ye for the in historical tourist trap Ye Olde _______ Shoppe (it never was pronounced "ye," only spelled that way).
The awareness that some Latin words in t- were from Greek th- encouraged over-correction in English and created unetymological forms such as Thames and author, while some words borrowed from Romanic languages preserve, on the Roman model, the Greek -th- spelling but the simple Latin "t" pronunciation (as in Thomas and thyme).
1560s, "sweet potato," from Spanish patata, from a Carib language of Haiti batata "sweet potato." Sweet potatoes were first to be introduced to Europe; they were in cultivation in Spain by mid-16c. and in Virginia by 1648. Early 16c. Portuguese traders carried the crop to all their shipping ports and the sweet potato was quickly adopted from Africa to India and Java.
"This was the original application of the name, and it is in this sense that the word is generally to be understood when used by English writers down to the middle of the seventeenth century" [Century Dictionary].
The name later (1590s) was extended (based on general likeness, both being esculent tubers) to the common white potato, native to Peru, which was at first (mistakenly) called Virginia potato, or, because at first it was of minor importance compared to the sweet potato, bastard potato. Spanish invaders in Peru began to use white potatoes as cheap food for sailors 1530s.
The first potato from South America reached Pope Paul III in 1540; it was grown in France at first as an ornamental plant. According to popular tradition, it was introduced to Ireland 1565 by John Hawkins. It was brought to England from Colombia by Sir Thomas Herriot, 1586.
German Kartoffel (17c.) is a dissimilation from tartoffel, ultimately from Italian tartufolo (Vulgar Latin *territuberem), originally "truffle." Frederick II forced its cultivation on Prussian peasants in 1743. The French is pomme de terre, literally "earth-apple;" a Swedish dialectal word for "potato" is jordpäron, literally "earth-pear."
Colloquial pronunciation tater is attested in print from 1759. Potato salad is by 1842 as a typical German dish; by 1844 in English cookery books. For Potato chip see chip (n.1); for the British alternative potato crisp see crisp (adj.). Slang potato trap "mouth" is attested from 1785. The Potato Famine in Ireland from 1845 to 1849 was so called by 1851, mostly outside Ireland; in it it is typically the Great Famine, Great Hunger, or Great Starvation.
To drop (something) like a hot potato is from 1824. Children's counting-out rhyme that begins one potato, two potato is recorded by 1885 in Canada.
early 13c., "silly, stupid, or ignorant person," from Old French fol "madman, insane person; idiot; rogue; jester," also "blacksmith's bellows," also an adjective meaning "mad, insane" (12c., Modern French fou), from Medieval Latin follus (adj.) "foolish," from Latin follis "bellows, leather bag," from PIE root *bhel- (2) "to blow, swell."
The sense evolution probably is from Vulgar Latin use of follis in a sense of "windbag, empty-headed person." Compare also Sanskrit vatula- "insane," literally "windy, inflated with wind." But some sources suggest evolution from Latin folles "puffed cheeks" (of a buffoon), a secondary sense from plural of follis. One makes the "idiot" sense original, the other the "jester" sense.
The word has in mod.Eng. a much stronger sense than it had at an earlier period; it has now an implication of insulting contempt which does not in the same degree belong to any of its synonyms, or to the derivative foolish. [OED]
Also used in Middle English for "sinner, rascal, impious person" (late 13c.). Meaning "jester, court clown" in English is attested c. 1300, though it is not always possible to tell whether the reference is to a professional entertainer counterfeiting mental weakness or an amusing lunatic, and the notion of the fool sage whose sayings are ironically wise is also in English from c. 1300. The French word probably also got into English via its borrowing in the Scandinavian languages of the vikings (Old Norse fol, Old Danish fool, fol).
There is no foole to the olde foole ["Proverbs of John Heywood," 1546]
To make a fool of (someone) "cause to appear ridiculous" is from 1620s (make fool "to deceive, make (someone) appear a fool" is from early 15c.). Feast of Fools (early 14c., from Medieval Latin festum stultorum) was the burlesque festival celebrated in some churches on New Year's Day in medieval times. Fool's gold "iron pyrite" is from 1829. Fool's paradise "illusory state of happiness based on ignorance or erroneous judgment" is from mid-15c. (foles paradyce). Fool-trap is from 1690s. Foolosopher, a useful insult, is in a 1549 translation of Erasmus. Fool's ballocks is described in OED as "an old name" for the green-winged orchid. Fool-killer "imaginary personage invested with authority to put to death anybody notoriously guilty of great folly" is from 1851, American English.
Fool killer, a great American myth imagined by editors, who feign that his or its services are greatly needed, and frequently alluded to as being "around" or "in town" when some special act of folly calls for castigation. Whether the fool-killer be an individual or an instrument cannot always be gathered from the dark phraseology in which he or it is alluded to; but the weight of authority would sanction the impersonal interpretation. [Walsh, "Handy-Book of Literary Curiosities," 1892]