Old English brecan "to divide solid matter violently into parts or fragments; to injure, violate (a promise, etc.), destroy, curtail; to break into, rush into; to burst forth, spring out; to subdue, tame" (class IV strong verb; past tense bræc, past participle brocen), from Proto-Germanic *brekanan (source also of Old Frisian breka, Dutch breken, Old High German brehhan, German brechen, Gothic brikan), from PIE root *bhreg- "to break."
Closely related to breach (n.), brake (n.1), brick (n.). The old past tense brake is obsolete or archaic; the past participle is broken, but shortened form broke is attested from 14c. and was "exceedingly common" [OED] 17c.-18c.
Of bones in Old English. Formerly also of cloth, paper, etc. The meaning "escape by breaking an enclosure" is from late 14c. The intransitive sense of "be or become separated into fragments or parts under action of some force" is from late 12c. The meaning "lessen, impair" is from late 15c. That of "make a first and partial disclosure" is from early 13c. The sense of "destroy continuity or completeness" in any way is from 1741. Of coins or bills, "to convert to smaller units of currency," by 1882.
In reference to the heart from early 13c. (intransitive); to break (someone's) heart is late 14c. Break bread "share food" (with) is from late 14c. To break ground is from 1670s as "to dig, plow," from 1709 in the figurative sense of "begin to execute a plan." To break the ice "overcome the feeling of restraint in a new acquaintanceship" is from c. 1600, in reference to the "coldness" of encounters of strangers. Break wind is attested from 1550s. To break (something) out (1890s) probably is an image from dock work, of freeing cargo before unloading it.
The ironic theatrical good luck formula break a leg (by 1948, said to be from at least 1920s) has parallels in German Hals- und Beinbruch "break your neck and leg," and Italian in bocca al lupo. Evidence of a highly superstitious craft (see Macbeth). According to Farmer & Henley, in 17c. the expression was used euphemistically, of a woman, "to have a bastard."
a late Old English contraction of cyning "king, ruler" (also used as a title), from Proto-Germanic *kuningaz (source also of Dutch koning, Old Norse konungr, Danish konge, Old Saxon and Old High German kuning, Middle High German künic, German König).
This is of uncertain origin. It is possibly related to Old English cynn "family, race" (see kin), making a king originally a "leader of the people." Or perhaps it is from a related prehistoric Germanic word meaning "noble birth," making a king etymologically "one who descended from noble birth" (or "the descendant of a divine race"). The sociological and ideological implications render this a topic of much debate. "The exact notional relation of king with kin is undetermined, but the etymological relation is hardly to be doubted" [Century Dictionary].
General Germanic, but not attested in Gothic, where þiudans (cognate with Old English þeoden "chief of a tribe, ruler, prince, king") was used. Finnish kuningas "king," Old Church Slavonic kunegu "prince" (Russian knyaz, Bohemian knez), Lithuanian kunigas "clergyman" are forms of this word taken from Germanic. Meaning "one who has superiority in a certain field or class" is from late 14c.
As leon is the king of bestes. [John Gower, "Confessio Amantis," 1390]
In Old English, used for chiefs of Anglian and Saxon tribes or clans, of the heads of states they founded, and of the British and Danish chiefs they fought. The word acquired a more imposing quality with the rise of European nation-states, but then it was applied to tribal chiefs in Africa, Asia, North America. The chess piece is so called from c. 1400; the playing card from 1560s; the use in checkers/draughts is first recorded 1820. Three Kings for the Biblical Wise Men is from c. 1200.
[I]t was [Eugene] Field who haunted the declining years of Creston Clarke with his review of that actor's Lear. ... Said he, "Mr. Clarke played the King all the evening as though under constant fear that someone else was about to play the Ace." ["Theatre Magazine," January 1922]
Old English cnawan (class VII strong verb; past tense cneow, past participle cnawen), "perceive a thing to be identical with another," also "be able to distinguish" generally (tocnawan); "perceive or understand as a fact or truth" (opposed to believe); "know how (to do something)," from Proto-Germanic *knew- (source also of Old High German bi-chnaan, ir-chnaan "to know"), from PIE root *gno- "to know."
For pronunciation, see kn-. Once widespread in Germanic, the verb is now retained there only in English, where it has widespread application, covering meanings that require two or more verbs in other languages (such as German wissen, kennen, erkennen and in part können; French connaître "perceive, understand, recognize," savoir "have a knowledge of, know how;" Latin scire "to understand, perceive," cognoscere "get to know, recognize;" Old Church Slavonic znaja, vemi). The Anglo-Saxons also used two distinct words for this, the other being witan (see wit (v.)).
From c. 1200 as "to experience, live through." Meaning "to have sexual intercourse with," also found in other modern languages, is attested from c. 1200, from the Old Testament (Genesis iv.1). Attested from 1540s in colloquial phrases suggesting cunning or savvy (but often in the negative); to not know one's ass from one's elbow is from 1930.
As far as (one) knows "to the best of (one's) knowledge" is late 14c. Expression God knows is from c. 1400. To know too much (to be allowed to live, escape, etc.) is from 1872. To know better "to have learned from experience" is from 1704.
You know as a parenthetical filler is from 1712, but it has roots in 14c. You know as a euphemism for a thing or situation unmentionable is from 1867; you-know-who for a person it is thought best not to name (but implying the hearer knows) is from 1840.
As an expression of surprise, what do you know attested by 1914. Don't I know it in the opposite sense ("you need not tell me") is by 1841. You never know as a response to something unexpected is attested from 1924.
"being but a single unit or individual; being a single person, thing, etc. of the class mentioned;" as a pronoun, "a single person or thing, an individual, somebody;" as a noun, "the first or lowest of the cardinal numerals; single in kind, the same; the first whole number, consisting of a single unit; unity; the symbol representing one or unity;" c. 1200, from Old English an (adjective, pronoun, noun) "one," from Proto-Germanic *ainaz (source also of Old Norse einn, Danish een, Old Frisian an, Dutch een, German ein, Gothic ains), from PIE root *oi-no- "one, unique."
Originally pronounced as it still is in only, atone, alone, and in dialectal good 'un, young 'un, etc.; the now-standard pronunciation "wun" began c. 14c. in southwest and west England (Tyndale, a Gloucester man, spells it won in his Bible translation), and it began to be general 18c. Its use as indefinite pronoun was influenced by unrelated French on and Latin homo.
Before the name of a person, indicating "hitherto unknown" or not known to the speaker.
One and only "sweetheart" is from 1906. Slang one-arm bandit for a type of slot machine is recorded by 1938. One-night stand is 1880 in performance sense; 1963 in sexual sense. One of the boys "ordinary amiable fellow" is from 1893. One-track mind "mind capable of only one line of thought or action" is by 1915. Drinking expression one for the road is from 1950 (as a song title). One-man band is by 1909 in a literal sense, 1914 figurative. One of those things "unpredictable occurrence" is from 1934 (Cole Porter's song is from 1935).
The conscience clause is one of the weaknesses of the Bill. It is one of those things which tend to create the bitterness. The conscience clause is one of those things which are inseparable from a Bill like this. It is one of those things which divides the sheep from the goats—members can pick them out for themselves—in the playground, in the school. ["Religious Exercises in School Bills," New Zealand Parliamentary Debates, Aug. 13, 1926]
"feathered, warm-blooded vertebrate animal of the class Aves," Old English bird, a rare collateral form of bridd, originally meaning "young bird, nestling" (the usual Old English for "bird" being fugol, for which see fowl (n.)), which is of uncertain origin with no cognates in any other Germanic language. The suggestion that it is related by umlaut to brood and breed is rejected by OED as "quite inadmissible." The metathesis of -r- and -i- was complete 15c. (compare wright).
Despite its early attestation, bridd is not necessarily the oldest form of bird. It is usually assumed that -ir- from -ri- arose by metathesis, but here, too, the Middle English form may go back to an ancient period. [Liberman]
Up to c. 1400 it still often was used in the specific sense "the young of a bird, fledgling, nestling, chick," and of the young of other animals (bees, fish, snakes) and human children. Compare the usual Balto-Slavic words for "bird" (Lithuanian paukštis, Old Church Slavonic pŭtica, Polish ptak, Russian ptica, etc.), said to be ultimately from the same root as Latin pullus "young of an animal."
The proper designation of the feathered creation is in E. fowl, which in course of time was specially applied to the gallinaceous tribe as the most important kind of bird for domestic use, and it was perhaps this appropriation of the word which led to the adoption of the name of the young animal as the general designation of the race. [Hensleigh Wedgwood, "A Dictionary of English Etymology," 1859]
The figurative sense of "secret source of information" is from 1540s. The colloquial meaning "man, fellow, person" is from 1799.
Bird-watching is attested from 1897. Bird's-eye view "the view as seen from above, as if by a bird in flight," is from 1762. Phrase for the birds in reference to anything undesirable is recorded from 1944, supposedly in allusion to birds eating from droppings of horses and cattle. The bird-spider (1800) of the American tropics is a large sort of tarantula that can capture and kill small birds.
A byrde yn honde ys better than three yn the wode. [c. 1530]
The form with bush is attested by 1630s.
Middle English shaken, from Old English sceacan "move (something) quickly to and fro, cause to move with quick vibrations; brandish; move the body or a part of it rapidly back and forth;" also "go, glide, hasten, flee, depart" (as in sceacdom "flight"); also intransitive, of persons or parts of the body, "to tremble" especially from fever, cold, fear (class VI strong verb; past tense scoc, past participle scacen). This is from Proto-Germanic *skakanan (source also of Old Norse, Swedish skaka, Danish skage "to shift, turn, veer"). No certain cognates outside Germanic, but some suggest possible connections to Sanskrit khaj "to agitate, churn, stir about," Old Church Slavonic skoku "a leap, bound," Welsh ysgogi "move."
Of the ground in earthquakes, c. 1300. The meaning "seize and shake" (someone or something else) is from early 14c. From late 14c. in reference to mixing ingredients, etc., by shaking a container. The meaning "weaken, impair" in any respect is from late 14c. on the notion of "make unstable." The meaning "rid oneself of by abrupt twists" is from c. 1200; the modern colloquial use for "get rid of, cast off, abandon" (by 1872, American English) is likely a new extension on the notion of "throw off by a jolting or abrupt action," perhaps with horses in mind. The verb also was used in Middle English as "evade" responsibility, etc.
To shake hands "greet or salute by grasping one another's hands" dates from 1530s. Colloquial shake a (loose) leg "hurry up" is recorded by 1904; to shake a heel (sometimes foot) is an old or provincial way to say "dance" (1660s); to shake (one's) elbow (1620s) meant "to gamble at dice." In 16c.-18c. English, shake (one's) ears was "bestir oneself," an image of animal awakenings. The phrase more _____ than you can shake a stick at "more than you can count" is attested from 1818 (Lancaster, Pa., "Journal"), American English. To shake (one's) head "move one's head from side to side as a sign of disapproval" is recorded from c. 1300.
c. 1200, "body of persons living under a religious discipline," from Old French ordre "position, estate; rule, regulation; religious order" (11c.), from earlier ordene, from Latin ordinem (nominative ordo) "row, line, rank; series, pattern, arrangement, routine," originally "a row of threads in a loom," from Proto-Italic *ordn- "row, order" (source also of ordiri "to begin to weave;" compare primordial), which is of uncertain origin. Watkins suggests it is a variant of PIE root *ar- "to fit together," and De Vaan finds this "semantically attractive."
The original English word reflects a medieval notion: "a system of parts subject to certain uniform, established ranks or proportions," and was used of everything from architecture to angels. Old English expressed many of the same ideas with endebyrdnes. From the notion of "formal disposition or array, methodical or harmonious arrangement" comes the meaning "fit or consistent collocation of parts" (late 14c.).
Meaning "a rank in the (secular) community" is first recorded c. 1300. Sense of "a regular sequence or succession" is from late 14c. The meaning "command, directive" is first recorded 1540s, from the notion of "that which keep things in order." Military and honorary orders grew out of the fraternities of Crusader knights.
The business and commerce sense of "a written direction to pay money or deliver property" is attested by 1837; as "a request for food or drink in a restaurant" from 1836. In natural history, as a classification of living things next below class and next above family, it is recorded from 1760. Meaning "condition of a community which is under the rule of law" is from late 15c.
In order "in proper sequence or arrangement" is from c. 1400; out of order "not in proper sequence or orderly arrangement" is from 1540s; since 20c. principally mechanical, but not originally so ("and so home, and there find my wife mightily out of order, and reproaching of Mrs. Pierce and Knipp as wenches, and I know not what," - Pepys, diary, Aug. 6, 1666).
Phrase in order to "for the purpose of" (1650s) preserves etymological notion of "sequence." In short order "without delay" is from 1834, American English; order of battle "arrangement and disposition of an army or fleet for the purposes of engagement" is from 1769. The scientific/mathematical order of magnitude is attested from 1723.
elementary intransitive verb of motion, Old English cuman "to move with the purpose of reaching, or so as to reach, some point; to arrive by movement or progression;" also "move into view, appear, become perceptible; come to oneself, recover; arrive; assemble" (class IV strong verb; past tense cuom, com, past participle cumen), from Proto-Germanic *kwem- (source also of Old Saxon cuman, Old Frisian kuma, Middle Dutch comen, Dutch komen, Old High German queman, German kommen, Old Norse koma, Gothic qiman), from PIE root *gwa- "to go, come."
The substitution of Middle English -o- for Old English -u- was a scribal habit before minims to avoid misreading the letters in the old style handwriting, which jammed them together (see U). Modern past tense form came is Middle English, probably from Old Norse kvam, replacing Old English cuom.
Meaning "to happen, occur" is from early 12c. (come to pass "happen, occur" is from 1520s). As an invitation to action, c. 1300; as a call or appeal to a person (often in expanded forms: "come, come," "come, now"), mid-14c. Come again? as an off-hand way of asking "what did you say?" is attested by 1884. For sexual senses, see cum.
Remarkably productive with prepositions (NTC's "Dictionary of Phrasal Verbs" lists 198 combinations); consider the varied senses in come to "regain consciousness," come over "possess" (as an emotion), come at "attack," come on (interj.) "be serious," and come off "occur, have some level of success" (1864). Among other common expressions are:
To come down with "become ill with" (a disease), 1895; come in, of a radio operator, "begin speaking," 1958; come on "advance in growth or development," c. 1600; come out, of a young woman, "make a formal entry into society," 1782; come round "return to a normal state or better condition," 1841; come through "act as desired or expected," 1914; come up "arise as a subject of attention," 1844; come up with "produce, present," 1934.
To have it coming "deserve what one suffers" is from 1904. To come right down to it "get to fundamental facts" is from 1875.
1756, "special vocabulary of tramps or thieves," later "jargon of a particular profession" (1801). The sense of "very informal language characterized by vividness and novelty" is by 1818.
Anatoly Liberman writes here an extensive account of the established origin of the word from the Northern England noun slang "a narrow piece of land running up between other and larger divisions of ground" and the verb slanger "linger, go slowly," which is of Scandinavian origin (compare Norwegian slenge "hang loose, sling, sway, dangle," Danish slænge "to throw, sling"). "Their common denominator seems to be 'to move freely in any direction' " [Liberman]. Noun derivatives of these (Danish slænget, Norwegian slenget) mean "a gang, a band," and Liberman compares Old Norse slangi "tramp" and slangr "going astray" (used of sheep). He writes:
It is not uncommon to associate the place designated for a certain group and those who live there with that group’s language. John Fielding and the early writers who knew the noun slang used the phrase slang patter, as though that patter were a kind of talk belonging to some territory.
So the sense evolution would be from slang "a piece of delimited territory" to "the territory used by tramps for their wandering," to "their camping ground," and finally to "the language used there." The sense shift then passes through itinerant merchants:
Hawkers use a special vocabulary and a special intonation when advertising their wares (think of modern auctioneers), and many disparaging, derisive names characterize their speech; charlatan and quack are among them.
[Slang] is a dialectal word that reached London from the north and for a long time retained the traces of its low origin. The route was from "territory; turf" to "those who advertise and sell their wares on such a territory," to "the patter used in advertising the wares," and to "vulgar language" (later to “any colorful, informal way of expression”).
[S]lang is a conscious offence against some conventional standard of propriety. A mere vulgarism is not slang, except when it is purposely adopted, and acquires an artificial currency, among some class of persons to whom it is not native. The other distinctive feature of slang is that it is neither part of the ordinary language, nor an attempt to supply its deficiencies. The slang word is a deliberate substitute for a word of the vernacular, just as the characters of a cipher are substitutes for the letters of the alphabet, or as a nickname is a substitute for a personal name. [Henry Bradley, from "Slang," in Encyclopedia Britannica, 11th ed.]
A word that ought to have survived is slangwhanger (1807, American English) "noisy or abusive talker or writer."
"terminal part of the leg of a vertebrate animal," Old English fot "foot," from Proto-Germanic *fōts (source also of Old Frisian fot, Old Saxon fot, Old Norse fotr, Danish fod, Swedish fot, Dutch voet, Old High German fuoz, German Fuß, Gothic fotus "foot"), from PIE root *ped- "foot." Plural form feet is an instance of i-mutation.
The linear measure was in Old English (the exact length has varied over time), this being considered the length of a man's foot; a unit of measure used widely and anciently. In this sense the plural is often foot. The current inch and foot are implied from measurements in 12c. English churches (Flinders Petrie, "Inductive Metrology"), but the most usual length of a "foot" in medieval England was the foot of 13.2 inches common throughout the ancient Mediterranean. The Anglo-Saxon foot apparently was between the two. All three correspond to units used by the Romans, and possibly all three lengths were picked up by the Anglo-Saxons from the Romano-Britons. "That the Saxon units should descend to mediæval times is most probable, as the Normans were a ruling, and not a working, class." [Flinders Petrie, 1877]. The medieval Paul's Foot (late 14c.) was a measuring standard cut into the base of a column at the old St. Paul's cathedral in London. The metrical foot (late Old English, translating Latin pes, Greek pous in the same sense) is commonly taken to represent one rise and one fall of a foot: keeping time according to some, dancing according to others.
In Middle English also "a person" (c. 1200), hence non-foot "nobody." Meaning "bottom or lowest part of anything eminent or upright" is from c. 1200. Of a bed, grave, etc., from c. 1300. On foot "by walking" is from c. 1300. To get off on the wrong foot is from 1905 (the right foot is by 1907); to put one's best foot foremost first recorded 1849 (Shakespeare has the better foot before, 1596); Middle English had evil-foot (adv.) "through mischance, unluckily." To put one's foot in (one's) mouth "say something stupid" is attested by 1942; the expression put (one's) foot in something "make a mess of it" is from 1823. To have one foot in the grave "be near death" is from 1844. Colloquial exclamation my foot! expressing "contemptuous contradiction" [OED] is attested by 1923, probably euphemistic for my ass in the same sense, which dates to 1796 (also see eyewash).