late 14c., "originating in the root or ground;" of body parts or fluids, "vital to life," from Latin radicalis "of or having roots," from Latin radix (genitive radicis) "root" (from PIE root *wrād- "branch, root"). The basic sense of the word in all meanings is "pertaining or relating to a root or roots," hence "thoroughgoing, extreme."
The figurative meaning "going to the origin, essential" is from 1650s. The political sense of "reformist" is by 1817, of the extreme section of the British Liberal party (radical reform had been a current phrase since 1786), via the notion of "change from the roots" (see radical (n.)). The meaning "unconventional" is from 1921. U.S. youth slang use is from 1983, from 1970s surfer slang meaning "at the limits of control."
The mathematical radical sign, placed before any quantity to denote that its root is to be extracted, is from 1680s; the sign itself is a modification of the letter -r-. Radical chic is attested from 1970; popularized, if not coined, by Tom Wolfe. Radical empiricism was coined 1897 by William James (see empiricism).
Old English æfre "ever, at any time, always;" of uncertain origin, no cognates in any other Germanic language; perhaps a contraction of a in feore, literally "ever in life" (the expression a to fore is common in Old English writings). First element is almost certainly related to Old English a "always, ever," from Proto-Germanic *aiwi-, extended form of PIE root *aiw- "vital force, life; long life, eternity." Liberman suggests second element is comparative adjectival suffix -re.
Sometimes contracted to e'er in dialect and poetry. Ever began to be used in late Old English as a way to generalize or intensify when, what, where, etc. The sense evolution was from "at any time at all, in any way" to "at any particular time; at some time or another; under any circumstances." Ever so "to whatever extent" is recorded by 1680s. Expression did you ever? (implying "see/do/hear of such a thing") attested by 1840.
late 13c., "long but indefinite period in human history," from Old French aage, eage (12c., Modern French âge) "age; life, lifetime, lifespan; maturity," earlier edage (11c.), from Vulgar Latin *aetaticum (source also of Spanish edad, Italian eta, Portuguese idade "age"), extended form of Latin aetatem (nominative aetas), "period of life, age, lifetime, years," from aevum "lifetime, eternity, age," from PIE root *aiw- "vital force, life; long life, eternity"
Expelled native eld (Old English eald) "old age; an age; age as a period of life." Meaning "time something has lived, particular length or stage of life" is from early 14c. Used especially for "old age" since early 14c.; meaning "effects of old age" (feebleness, senility, etc.) is from mid-15c. In geology, in reference to great periods in the history of the earth, 1855; in archaeology, from 1865 (Stone Age, etc.) naming periods for the materials employed for weapons and tools. Sometimes in early modern English "a century" (similar to French siècle "century," literally "an age"), hence plural use in Dark Ages, Middle Ages. To act (one's) age "behave with appropriate maturity" is attested by 1927.
"not in any degree, not at all," Middle English, from Old English na, from ne "not, no" + a "ever." The first element is from Proto-Germanic *ne (source also of Old Norse, Old Frisian, Old High German ne, Gothic ni "not"), from PIE root *ne- "not." Second element is from Proto-Germanic *aiwi-, extended form of PIE root *aiw- "vital force, life, long life, eternity." Ultimately identical to nay, and the differences of use are accidental.
As an adjective, "not any, not one, none" (c. 1200) it is reduced from Old English nan (see none), the final -n omitted first before consonants and then altogether. As an interjection making a negative reply to a statement or question, "not so," early 13c., from the adverb. As a noun, 1580s as "a denial; a negative vote," 1650s as "person who casts a negative vote."
Construction no X, no Y is attested from 1530s (in no peny no pardon). No problem as an interjection of assurance is attested by 1963. No way as a colloquial expression meaning "it can't be done" is attested by 1968 (noway (adv.) "not at all, in no respect, by no means" is from c. 1300). No-knock (adj.) in reference to police raids without permission or warning is by 1970, American English. Phrase no can do "it is not possible" is attested from 1827, a locution of English-speaking Chinese noted 19c. in China, Australia, and the West Coast of the United States.
We repeated our advice again and again, but got no answer but a loud horse-laugh, and their national maxim of No can do: Europe fashion no do in China. ["Reminiscences of a Voyage to and from China," in Paxton's Horticultural Register, London, 1836]
late 14c., "statement, belief, or practice handed down from generation to generation," especially "belief or practice based on Mosaic law," from Old French tradicion "transmission, presentation, handing over" (late 13c.) and directly from Latin traditionem (nominative traditio) "a delivering up, surrender, a handing down, a giving up" (also also "a teaching, instruction," and "a saying handed down from former times"). This is a noun of action from past-participle stem of tradere "deliver, hand over," from trans- "over" (see trans-) + dare "to give" (from PIE root *do- "to give"). The word is a doublet of treason (q.v.). Meaning "a long-established custom" is from 1590s. The notion is of customs, ways, beliefs, doctrines, etc. "handed down" from one generation to the next.
Tradition is not solely, or even primarily, the maintenance of certain dogmatic beliefs; these beliefs have come to take their living form in the course of the formation of a tradition. What I mean by tradition involves all those habitual actions, habits and customs, from the most significant religious rite to our conventional way of greeting a stranger, which represent the blood kinship of 'the same people living in the same place'. ... We become conscious of these items, or conscious of their importance, usually only after they have begun to fall into desuetude, as we are aware of the leaves of a tree when the autumn wind begins to blow them off—when they have separately ceased to be vital. Energy may be wasted at that point in a frantic endeavour to collect the leaves as they fall and gum them onto the branches: but the sound tree will put forth new leaves, and the dry tree should be put to the axe. [T.S. Eliot, "After Strange Gods"]
mid-13c., "animating or vital principle in man and animals," from Anglo-French spirit, Old French espirit "spirit, soul" (12c., Modern French esprit) and directly from Latin spiritus "a breathing (respiration, and of the wind), breath; breath of a god," hence "inspiration; breath of life," hence "life;" also "disposition, character; high spirit, vigor, courage; pride, arrogance," related to spirare "to breathe," perhaps from PIE *(s)peis- "to blow" (source also of Old Church Slavonic pisto "to play on the flute"). But de Vaan says "Possibly an onomatopoeic formation imitating the sound of breathing. There are no direct cognates."
Meaning "supernatural immaterial creature; angel, demon; an apparition, invisible corporeal being of an airy nature" is attested from mid-14c.; from late 14c. as "a ghost" (see ghost (n.)). From c. 1500 as "a nature, character"; sense of "essential principle of something" (in a non-theological context, as in Spirit of St. Louis) is attested from 1680s, common after 1800; Spirit of '76 in reference to the qualities that sparked and sustained the American Revolution is attested by 1797 in William Cobbett's "Porcupine's Gazette and Daily Advertiser."
From late 14c. in alchemy as "volatile substance; distillate;" from c. 1500 as "substance capable of uniting the fixed and the volatile elements of the philosopher's stone." Hence spirits "volatile substance;" sense narrowed to "strong alcoholic liquor" by 1670s. This also is the sense in spirit level (1768). Also from mid-14c. as "character, disposition; way of thinking and feeling, state of mind; source of a human desire;" in Middle English freedom of spirit meant "freedom of choice." From late 14c. as "divine substance, divine mind, God;" also "Christ" or His divine nature; "the Holy Ghost; divine power;" also, "extension of divine power to man; inspiration, a charismatic state; charismatic power, especially of prophecy." Also "essential nature, essential quality." From 1580s in metaphoric sense "animation, vitality."
According to Barnhart and OED, originally in English mainly from passages in Vulgate, where the Latin word translates Greek pneuma and Hebrew ruah. Distinction between "soul" and "spirit" (as "seat of emotions") became current in Christian terminology (such as Greek psykhe vs. pneuma, Latin anima vs. spiritus) but "is without significance for earlier periods" [Buck]. Latin spiritus, usually in classical Latin "breath," replaces animus in the sense "spirit" in the imperial period and appears in Christian writings as the usual equivalent of Greek pneuma. Spirit-rapping is from 1852.