late 12c., "board, slab, plate," from Old French table "board, square panel, plank; writing table; picture; food, fare" (11c.), and late Old English tabele "writing tablet, gaming table," from Germanic *tabal (source also of Dutch tafel, Danish tavle, Old High German zabel "board, plank," German Tafel). Both the French and Germanic words are from Latin tabula "a board, plank; writing table; list, schedule; picture, painted panel," originally "small flat slab or piece" usually for inscriptions or for games (source also of Spanish tabla, Italian tavola), of uncertain origin, related to Umbrian tafle "on the board."
The sense of "piece of furniture with the flat top and legs" first recorded c. 1300 (the usual Latin word for this was mensa (see mensa); Old English writers used bord (see board (n.1)). Especially the table at which people eat, hence "food placed upon a table" (c. 1400 in English). The meaning "arrangement of numbers or other figures on a tabular surface for convenience" is recorded from late 14c. (as in table of contents, mid-15c.).
Figurative phrase turn the tables (1630s) is from backgammon (in Old and Middle English the game was called tables). Table talk "familiar conversation around a table" is attested from 1560s, translating Latin colloquia mensalis. Table manners is from 1824. Table-hopping is recorded by 1943. The adjectival phrase under-the-table "hidden from view" is recorded from 1949; to be under the table "passed out from excess drinking" is recorded from 1913. Table tennis "ping-pong" is recorded from 1887. Table-rapping in spiritualism, supposedly an effect of supernatural powers, is from 1853.
mid-15c., "sweetheart chosen on St. Valentine's Day," from Late Latin Valentinus, the name of two early Italian saints (from Latin valentia "strength, capacity;" see valence). Choosing a sweetheart on this day originated 14c. as a custom in English and French court circles. Meaning "letter or card sent to a sweetheart" first recorded 1824. The romantic association of the day is said to be from it being around the time when birds choose their mates.
For this was on seynt Volantynys day
Whan euery bryd cometh there to chese his make.
[Chaucer, "Parlement of Foules," c. 1381]
Probably the date was the informal first day of spring in whatever French region invented the custom (many surviving medieval calendars reckon the start of spring on the 7th or 22nd of February). No evidence connects it with the Roman Lupercalia (an 18c. theory) or to any romantic or avian quality in either of the saints. The custom of sending special cards or letters on this date flourished in England c. 1840-1870, declined around the turn of the 20th century, and revived 1920s.
To speak of the particular Customs of the English Britons, I shall begin with Valentine's Day, Feb. 14. when young Men and Maidens get their several Names writ down upon Scrolls of Paper rolled up, and lay 'em asunder, the Men drawing the Maidens Names, and these the Mens; upon which, the Men salute their chosen Valentines and present them with Gloves, &c. This Custom (which sometimes introduces a Match) is grounded upon the Instinct of Animals, which about this Time of the Year, feeling a new Heat by the approach of the Sun, begin to couple. ["The Present State of Great Britain and Ireland" London, 1723]
Old English win "wine," from Proto-Germanic *winam (source also of Old Saxon, Old Frisian, Old High German win, Old Norse vin, Dutch wijn, German Wein), an early borrowing from Latin vinum "wine," from PIE *uoin-a-, related to words for "wine" in other southern European languages (Greek oinos, Albanian Ghegvênë), also Armenian (gini), Hittite (uiian(a)-), and non-Indo-European Georgian and West Semitic (Arabic wain, Hebrew yayin).
According to Watkins, probably from a lost Mediterranean language word *win-/*woin- "wine." However, Beekes argues that the word is of Indo-European origin, related to Greek itea "willow," Latin vītis "vine," and other words, and they may be derived from the root *wei- "to turn, bend."
As the wild vine was indigenous in southern Russia and in certain parts of central Europe, this assumption is acceptable from a historical point of view. However, as the cultivation of the vine started in the Mediterranean region, in the Pontus area and in the south of the Caucasus, most scholars are inclined to look for the origin of the word in these countries. This would point to non-IE origin. However, if we put the homeland of viticulture in the Pontus and the northern Balkans, the word for 'wine' might come from there. [Beekes]
Also from Latin vinum (some perhaps via Germanic) are Old Church Slavonic vino, Polish wino, Russian vino, Lithuanian vynas, Welsh gwin, Old Irish fin, Gaelic fion. Essentially the same word as vine (q.v.). Wine snob is recorded from 1951. Wine cellar is from late 14c. Wine-cooler is 1815 as "vessel in which bottled wine is kept cool;" by 1977 as a type of wine-based beverage.
"bent or vertical handle for turning a revolving axis," Old English *cranc, implied in crancstæf "a weaver's instrument," crencestre "female weaver, spinster," which is related to crincan "to bend, yield," from Proto-Germanic *krank- "bend, curl up" (see cringe).
English retains the literal sense of the ancient word ("something bent or crooked"), while in other Germanic languages it tends to have only a figurative sense (German and Dutch krank "sick," formerly "weak, small"). The Continental definition entered into English crank via slang counterfeit crank "one who shams sickness to get charity" (1560s). OED notes that "the 16th c. vagabonds' cant contains words taken directly from Continental languages." It apparently lingered in the north (the 1825 supplement to Jamieson's Scottish dictionary has crank "infirm, weak, etc.") and might have influenced the development of the English word.
Meaning "twist or turn of speech, grotesquery in words" is from 1590s; that of "absurd or unreasonable act" (perhaps caused by "twisted judgment") is from 1848. The sense of "eccentric person," especially one who is irrationally fixated, is first recorded 1833; this sometimes is said to be from the crank of a barrel organ, which makes it play the same tune over and over; but more likely it is a back-formation from cranky (q.v.) and thus from the notion of one having a mental "twist."
The person who adopts "any presentiment, any extravagance as most in nature," is not commonly called a Transcendentalist, but is known colloquially as a "crank." [Oliver W. Holmes, "Ralph Waldo Emerson"]
There also was a crank (adj.) in Middle English meaning "lively, brisk, merry," but it is of uncertain origin and connection. Cranky for "merry, lively" lingered into 19c. in northern England dialects and American English. Meaning "methamphetamine" attested by 1989, from the verb.
Old English riht (West Saxon, Kentish), reht (Anglian), "that which is morally right, duty, obligation," also "rule of conduct; law of a land;" also "what someone deserves; a just claim, what is due, equitable treatment;" also "correctness, truth;" also "a legal entitlement (to possession of property, etc.), a privilege," from Proto-Germanic *rehtan (see right (adj.1)). In Middle English often contrasted to might or wrong. From early 14c. as "a right action, a good deed," hence the right "that which is just or true, righteousness."
From what has been said it will be seen that the adjective right has a much wider signification than the substantive Right. Every thing is right which is conformable to the Supreme Rule of human action ; but that only is a Right which, being conformable to the Supreme Rule, is realized in Society, and vested in a particular person. Hence the two words may often be properly opposed. We may say that a poor man has no Right to relief, but it is right he should have it. A rich man has a Right to destroy the harvest of his fields, but to do so would not be right. [William Whewell, "Elements of Morality," 1858]
The meaning "the right hand or right side" (as opposed to the left) is from mid-13c.; see right (adj.2) for sense development. As "the right wing of an army" by 1707. Political use is from 1825. Meaning "a blow with the right fist" is from 1898; the meaning "a right-hand turn" is by 1961. The phrase to rights "at once, straightway" is 1660s, from an earlier meaning "in a proper manner" (Middle English). Adjectival phrase right-to-work is attested from 1958; right-to-die by 1976. To do or something in one's own right (1610s) is from the legal use for "title or claim to something possessed by one or more" (12c.).
c. 1300, "something that takes place, what happens, an occurrence" (good or bad, but more often bad), especially one that is unexpected, unforeseen, or beyond human control, also "one's luck, lot, or fortune," good or bad; in a positive sense "opportunity, favorable contingency;" also "contingent or unexpected event, something that may or may not come about or be realized." It is from Old French cheance "accident, chance, fortune, luck, situation, the falling of dice" (12c., Modern French chance), from Vulgar Latin *cadentia "that which falls out," a term used in dice, from neuter plural of Latin cadens, present participle of cadere "to fall" (from PIE root *kad- "to fall").
In English frequently in plural, chances. The word's notions of "opportunity" and "randomness" are as old as the record of it in English and now all but crowd out its original notion of "mere occurrence." The meaning "fortuity, absence of any cause why an event should happen or turn out as it does, variability viewed as a real agent" is from c. 1400.
Chance is equivalent to the mathematical concept of probability, which is a precisely measurable factor enabling the accurate prediction of average outcomes over long runs of random events — the longer the run, the more accurate the predictions. Luck is at best a platitude and at worst a superstition. [David Partlett, "A History of Card Games"]
Main chance "probability that offers greatest advantage," hence "thing of most importance" is from 1570s. The mathematical sense of "probability, likelihood of a certain outcome" is from 1778, hence the odds-making sense of "balanced probability of gain or loss."
To stand a chance (or not) is from 1796. To take (one's) chances "accept what happens" (early 14c.) is from the old, neutral sense; to take a chance/take chances is originally (by 1814) "participate in a raffle or lottery or game;" the extended sense of "take a risk" is by 1826.
[circular band] Old English hring "circlet of metal, especially one of a precious metal for wearing on the finger ornamentally, also a part of a mail coat; anything circular," from Proto-Germanic *hringaz "something curved, circle" (source also of Old Norse hringr, Old Frisian hring, Danish, Swedish, Dutch ring, Old High German hring, German Ring), from nasalized form of PIE root *sker- (2) "to turn, bend."
Other Old English senses were "circular group of persons" (birds, actually), also "horizon." In Old and Middle English also "a bracelet, armlet." As a token of marriage, betrothal, chastity, etc., by c. 1200. The sense of "a number of things arranged in a circle" is by 1580s.
The meaning "place for prize fight and wrestling bouts" (early 14c.) is from the space in a circle of bystanders in the midst of which such contests once were held, "... a circle formed for boxers, wrestlers, and cudgel players, by a man styled Vinegar; who, with his hat before his eyes, goes round the circle, striking at random with his whip to prevent the populace from crowding in" [Grose, 1785]. Hence the ring "boxing" (by 1770). The meaning "combination of persons interested in attaining some object" is from 1829, originally commercial or political, latter in reference to espionage or terrorism. Of the annual growth bands in trees, from 1670s.
Fairy ring is from 1620s. Ring finger, "third finger of the left hand" (in anatomy, of either hand) is Old English hringfingr, a compound also attested in other Germanic languages; it is also called ring-man (15c.). To run rings round (someone) "be superior to" is from 1891.
The nursery rhyme ring a ring a rosie is attested in an American form (with a different ending) from c. 1790. "The belief that the rhyme originated with the Great Plague is now almost universal, but has no evidence to support it and is almost certainly nonsense" ["Oxford Dictionary of English Folklore"]. This proposal of connection dates only to the late 1960s.
Old English bæc "back," from Proto-Germanic *bakam (cognates: Old Saxon and Middle Dutch bak, Old Frisian bek), with no known connections outside Germanic. In other modern Germanic languages the cognates mostly have been ousted in this sense by words akin to Modern English ridge (such as Danish ryg, German Rücken).
Many Indo-European languages show signs of once having distinguished the horizontal back of an animal (or a mountain range) from the upright back of a human. In other cases, a modern word for "back" may come from a word related to "spine" (Italian schiena, Russian spina) or "shoulder, shoulder blade" (Spanish espalda, Polish plecy).
By synecdoche, "the whole body," especially with reference to clothing. The meaning "upright part of a chair" is from 1520s. As a U.S. football position by 1876, so called from being behind the line of rushers; further distinguished according to relative position as quarterback, halfback, fullback. To turn (one's) back on (someone or something) "ignore" is from early 14c.
To know (something) like the back of one's hand, implying familiarity, is first attested 1893 in a dismissive speech made to a character in Robert Louis Stevenson's "Catriona":
If I durst speak to herself, you may be certain I would never dream of trusting it to you; because I know you like the back of my hand, and all your blustering talk is that much wind to me.
The story, a sequel to "Kidnapped," has a Scottish setting and context, and the back of my hand to you was noted in the late 19th century as a Scottish expression meaning "I will have nothing to do with you" [see Longmuir's edition of Jamieson's Scottish dictionary]. In English generally, the back of (one's) hand has been used to imply contempt and rejection at least since 1300. Perhaps the connection of a menacing dismissal is what made Stevenson choose that particular anatomical reference.
Middle English wif, wyf, from Old English wif (neuter) "woman, female, lady," also, but not especially, "wife," from Proto-Germanic *wīfa- (source also of Old Saxon, Old Frisian wif, Old Norse vif, Danish and Swedish viv, Middle Dutch, Dutch wijf, Old High German wib, German Weib), of uncertain origin and disputed etymology, not found in Gothic.
Apparently felt as inadequate in its basic sense, leading to the more distinctive formation wifman (source of woman). Dutch wijf now means, in slang, "girl, babe," having softened somewhat from earlier sense of "bitch." The Modern German cognate (Weib) also tends to be slighting or derogatory; Middle High German wip in early medieval times was "woman, female person," vrouwe (Frau) being retained for "woman of gentle birth, lady;" but from c. 1200 wip "took on a common, almost vulgar tone that restricted its usage in certain circles" and largely has been displaced by Frau.
The more usual Indo-European word is represented in English by queen/quean. Words for "woman" also double for "wife" in some languages. Some proposed PIE roots for wife include *weip- "to twist, turn, wrap," perhaps with sense of "veiled person" (see vibrate); and more recently *ghwibh-, a proposed root meaning "shame," also "pudenda," but the only examples of it would be the Germanic words and Tocharian (a lost IE language of central Asia) kwipe, kip "female pudenda."
The modern sense of "female spouse" began as a specialized sense in Old English; the general sense of "woman" is preserved in midwife, old wives' tale, etc. Middle English sense of "mistress of a household" survives in housewife; and the later restricted sense of "tradeswoman of humble rank" in fishwife. By 1883 as "passive partner in a homosexual couple." Wife-swapping is attested from 1954.
a fragrant shrub noted for its beauty and its thorns, cultivated from remote antiquity, Old English rose, from Latin rosa (source of Italian and Spanish rosa, French rose; also source of Dutch roos, German Rose, Swedish ros, Serbo-Croatian ruža, Polish róża, Russian roza, Lithuanian rožė, Hungarian rózsa, Irish ros, Welsh rhosyn, etc.), probably via Italian and Greek dialects from Greek rhodon "rose" (Aeolic brodon).
Greek rhodon probably is ultimately from or related to the Iranian root *vrda-. Beekes writes that "The word is certainly borrowed from the East, probably like Arm[enian] vard 'rose' from OIran. *urda." Aramaic warda is from Old Persian; the modern Persian cognate, via the usual sound changes, is gul, source of Turkish gül "rose."
The form of the English word was influenced by the French. Used as a color name for a light crimson by 1520s (earlier rose-color, late 14c.; rose-red, early 13c.). As "person of great beauty or virtue," early 15c. A rose-bowl (by 1887) is one designed to hold cut roses.
The Wars of the Roses (by 1823; in 1807 as Wars of the Two Roses) was the English civil wars of 15c., the white rose was the badge of the House of York, the red of its rival Lancaster.
As an adjective, "of a rich red color characteristic of the rose," by 1816. Earlier adjectives were rose-red (c. 1300); rose-colored (1520s).
Roses often are figurative of favorable circumstances, hence bed of roses, attested from 1590s in the figurative sense. (In 15c. to be (or dwell) in flowers meant "be prosperous, flourish.") To come up roses "turn out perfectly" is attested by 1959; the image, though not the wording, is by 1855. To come out smelling like a rose is from 1968.
Rose of Sharon (Song of Solomon ii.1) is attested from 1610s, named for the fertile strip of coastal Palestine (see Sharon), but the flower has not been identified. The name has been used in U.S. since 1847 of the Syrian hibiscus.