late 13c., "a step in walking," also "rate of motion; the space traveled by the foot in one completed movement in walking," from Old French pas "a step, pace, trace," and directly from Latin passus, passum "a step, pace, stride," noun use of past participle of pandere "to stretch (the leg), spread out," probably from PIE *pat-no-, nasalized variant form of root *pete- "to spread."
It also was, from late 14c., a lineal measurement of vague and variable extent, representing the space naturally traversed by the adult human foot in walking. In some places and situations it was reckoned as the distance from the place where either foot is taken up, in walking, to that where the same foot is set down again (a great pace), usually 5 feet or a little less. The pace of a single step (military pace) is about 2.5 feet.
To keep pace (with) "maintain the same speed, advance at an equal rate" is from 1580s. Pace-setter "one who establishes trends in fashion," is by 1895; it also had literal meanings.
It is customary for the contractor to employ some expert as a pace setter. A man who can thin an acre of beets a day commands as high as $2.00 per day as a pace setter. The other employees are paid in the proportion their work bears to that of the pace setter. The weak, lazy and unskillful get the smallest wage. Besides that the contractor runs a commissary department and feeds the gang. They sleep in tents or in the shade of trees near where they work. [report on Oxnard, Calif., beet harvesting in "The Louisiana Planter and Sugar Manufacturer," May 13, 1899]
1831, "iron rolled in large, flat plates for use in making steam boilers," from boiler + plate (n.). In newspaper (and now information technology) slang, the sense of "unit of writing that can be used over and over without change" is attested by 1887. The connecting notion probably is the permanence of the prepared plate compared to set type: From the 1870s to the 1950s, publicity items were cast or stamped in metal ready for the printing press and distributed to country newspapers as filler. An early provider was the American Press Association (1882). The largest supplier later was Western Newspaper Union.
An older name for it was plate-matter "type cast in a number of stereotype plates for insertion in different newspapers" (1878). Plate (n.) is attested by 1824 in printing as "a cast of a page of composed movable types."
WITHIN the past ten years, "plate matter" has become more and more popular among out-of-town papers, and the more enterprising are discarding the ready prints and are using plate matter instead. For a long time there was a prejudice against "Boiler Plates," but editors of small, and even of prosperous papers, began to discover that better matter was going out in the plates than they could afford, individually, to pay for. It was found that the reading public did not care, so long as the reading columns were bright and newsy, whether they were set up in the local office or in New York. ["The Journalist Souvenir," 1887]
1540s, "open to view, catching the eye," from Latin conspicuus "visible, open to view; attracting attention, striking," from conspicere "to look at, observe, see, notice," from assimilated form of com-, here perhaps an intensive prefix (see com-), + specere "to look at" (from PIE root *spek- "to observe").
Meaning "obvious to the mind, forcing itself upon the attention" is from 1610s; hence "eminent, notable, distinguished." Related: Conspicuously; conspicuousness. Phrase conspicuous by its absence (1859) is said to be from Tacitus ("Annals" iii.76), in a passage about certain images: "sed præfulgebant ... eo ipso quod effigies eorum non visebantur."
Conspicuous consumption "expenditure on a lavish scale to enhance prestige" is attested by 1895 in published writing of Norwegian-American economist and sociologist Thorstein Vebeln, made famous in his "The Theory of the Leisure Class" (1899).
Not only must wealth be possessed, but there must be a show of its possession. It must be made obvious to all that there is an inexhaustible reserve. Hence leisure must be made conspicuous by "conspicuous consumption" and "conspicuous waste." If only enough persons and the right persons could see it and know it, it would be highly honorific to light a cigar occasionally with a thousand-dollar bill. A man must not limit his consumption to himself and his family. He must live in a palace many times larger than he can possibly fill, and have a large retinue of servants and retainers, ostensibly to minister to his wants, but really to make clear his ability to pay. [Lester F. Ward, review of "Theory of the Leisure Class" in The American Journal of Sociology, May 1900]
1781, "to make small, reduce in proportion," from be- + little (v.); first recorded in writings of Thomas Jefferson (and probably coined by him), Jefferson used it in "Notes on the State of Virginia" to characterize the view promoted as scientific by French naturalist Georges-Louis Leclerc Buffon that American species (including humans) were naturally smaller than and inferior to European ones, which Jefferson was at pains to refute. ("So far the Count de Buffon has carried this new theory of the tendency of nature to belittle her productions on this side of the Atlantic.") The word was roundly execrated in England, as be- is properly to be used only with verbs:
Belittle! What an expression! It may be an elegant one in Virginia, and even perfectly intelligible; but for our part, all we can do is to guess at its meaning. For shame, Mr. Jefferson! [European Magazine and London Review, August 1787; to guess was considered another Yankee barbarism]
Jefferson also sent Buffon a stuffed moose. The figurative sense of "depreciate, scorn as worthless" (as the reviewers did to this word) is from 1797 and is now almost the only sense. Related: Belittled; belittling.
Jefferson, as if disposed to assail the sovereignty of the English tongue as well as the sovereignty of the English sword, never hesitated to coin a word when it suited his purposes so to do; and though many of his brood are questionable on the ground of analogy and as intermixing languages; yet they were expressive, and became familiar. [Hugh Blair Grigsby, "The Virginia Convention of 1776," 1855]
late Old English cnafa "boy, male child; male servant," from Proto-Germanic *knabon- (source also of Old High German knabo "boy, youth, servant," German knabe "boy, lad"); it is also probably related to Old English cnapa "boy, youth, servant," Old Norse knapi "servant boy," Dutch knaap "a youth, servant," Middle High German knappe "a young squire," German Knappe "squire, shield-bearer." Original sense unknown; Klein suggests the prehistoric meaning might have been "stick, piece of wood." For pronunciation, see kn-.
Sense of "rogue, rascal" is first recorded c. 1200, presumably via sense evolution from "a menial" to "one of low birth," and the low character supposed to be characteristic of such a condition. But through Middle English it kept also its non-pejorative meaning, as in knave-child (Scottish knave-bairn) "male child." In playing cards, "the lowest court card," 1560s.
Previously, the English equivalent of the French valet was normally known as Knave, in the sense of 'serving-lad'. In the seventeenth century it came to be called Jack, from the name properly applied to the Knave of trumps at All Fours. All Fours being a low-class game, the use of 'Jack' for 'Knave' was long considered vulgar. ('He calls the Knaves Jacks!', remarks Estella contemptuously in Dickens's Great Expectations.) When indices came in, it was obviously preferable to use 'J' rather than 'Kn' to avoid confusion with 'K' for King. Jack has since become the normal title of the lowest court, though 'Knave' can still be heard. [David Parlett, "A History of Card Games," 1991]
"a conceited, narrow-minded pragmatical person; a dull, precise person; one who cultivates or affects propriety and offends or bores others," 1753, originally in reference to theological scruples (1704), a word of unknown origin.
It could be related to earlier appearances of the same word meaning "a dandy, coxcomb, fop" (1670s), "thief" (c. 1600; in forms prigger, prigman recorded from 1560s). Century Dictionary speculates the modern word is "perhaps a later application (of the "thief" sense) in the general sense, among "the profession," of 'a smart fellow.' " Also compare thieves' cant prig "a tinker" (1560s). In Middle English a prig was a kind of small nail used in roofing or tiling (14c.), perhaps from prick.
A p[rig] is wise beyond his years in all the things that do not matter. A p. cracks nuts with a steam hammer: that is, calls in the first principles of morality to decide whether he may, or must, do something of as little importance as drinking a glass of beer. On the whole, one may, perhaps, say that all his different characteristics come from the combination, in varying proportions, of three things—the desire to do his duty, the belief that he knows better than other people, & blindness to the difference in value between different things. [quoted in Fowler, 1926, who writes that it can be found in "an anonymous volume of essays"]
"give motion to by the act of pulling," c. 1200, drauen, spelling alteration of Old English dragan "to drag, to draw, protract" (class VI strong verb; past tense drog, past participle dragen), from Proto-Germanic *draganan "to draw, pull" (source also of Old Norse draga "to draw, drag, pull," Old Saxon dragan "to carry," Old Frisian drega, draga, Middle Dutch draghen "to carry, bring, throw," Old High German tragan "carry, bring, lead," German tragen "to carry, bear"), from PIE root *dhregh- (see drag (v.)).
Sense of "make a line or figure" (by "drawing" a pencil across paper) is from c. 1200. Meaning "remove or extract (a weapon) by pulling" is from late 12c., originally of a sword. Sense of "to pull (a bowstring)" is from c. 1200. To draw a criminal (drag him at the tail of a horse to the place of execution) is from c. 1300.
Meaning "select one (from a number of lots, etc.)" is from c. 1300. Sense of "bring (a crowd, an audience, etc.) by inducement or attraction" is from 1580s. Of a ship or boat, "to displace (a specified amount) of water," 1550s. In card-playing, "to take or receive (a card)," by 1772; draw-poker is by 1850. To draw out "lengthen, protract" is from 1550s; to draw the line in the figurative sense of "make a limit" is by 1793. To draw blood is from c. 1400.
The difference between [Draw Poker] and Poker is, that the player can draw from the pack as many cards as he may wish,—not exceeding five,—which must be given him by the dealer; but previous to drawing he must take from his original hand the game number as he may wish to draw, and lay them in the centre of the table. ["Bohn's New Hand-Book of Games," Philadelphia, 1850]
1540s, "structure of any kind," from Middle French machine "device, contrivance," from Latin machina "machine, engine, military machine; device, trick; instrument" (source also of Spanish maquina, Italian macchina), from Greek makhana, Doric variant of Attic mēkhanē "device, tool, machine;" also "contrivance, cunning," traditionally (Watkins) from PIE *magh-ana- "that which enables," from root *magh- "to be able, have power." But Beekes, on formal grounds, objects to the connection to words in Germanic and Slavic. He finds the Greek word isolated and is convinced that it is Pre-Greek.
Main modern sense of "device made of moving parts for applying mechanical power" (1670s) probably grew out of mid-17c. senses of "apparatus, appliance" and "military siege-tower." It gradually came to be applied to an apparatus that works without the strength or skill of the workman.
From 17c.-19c. also "a vehicle; a stage- or mail-coach; a ship," and, from 1901, "a motor-car." Also in late 19c. slang the word was used for both "penis" and "vagina," one of the few so honored.
The political sense "a strict organization of the working members of a political party to secure a predominating influence for themselves and their associates" is U.S. slang, attested by 1876. Machine age, a time notable for the extensive use of mechanical devices, is attested by 1882, though there is this:
The idea of remodelling society at public meetings is one of the least reasonable which ever entered the mind of an agitator: and the notion that the relations of the sexes can be re-arranged and finally disposed of by preamble and resolution, is one of the latest, as it should have been the last, vagary of a machine age. ["The Literary World," Nov. 1, 1851]
Machine for living(in) "house" translates Le Corbusier's machine à habiter (1923).
Middle English seien, from Old English secgan "to utter, inform, speak, tell, relate," from Proto-Germanic *sagjanan "to say" (source also of Old Saxon seggian, Old Norse segja, Danish sige, Old Frisian sedsa, Middle Dutch segghen, Dutch zeggen, Old High German sagen, German sagen "to say").
Watkins has this from a PIE *sokwyo-, from a root *sekw- (3) "to say, utter" (source also of Hittite shakiya- "to declare," Lithuanian sakyti "to say," Old Church Slavonic sociti "to vindicate, show," Old Irish insce "speech," Old Latin inseque "to tell say"). Some further see this as identical to the PIE root *sekw- (1) "to follow" (with semantic development to "see" and then "speak"). But others doubt it and Boutkan gives it "No certain PIE etymology."
The past tense form said developed from Old English segde. Impersonal use (it is said) was in Old English. The notion in shall we say, etc. (1580s) is "suppose, take for granted." On that analogy, impersonal say is used as an introduction word, or parenthetically, with a clause and meaning "suppose, assume" (c. 1600). Its colloquial use as an expression of surprise, etc. is by 1830.
Not attested before 1930 in use with inanimate objects (clocks, signs, etc.) as subjects. You said it! "you're right" is attested by 1919; you can say that again as a phrase expressing agreement is by 1925, American English colloquial. You don't say(so) as an expression of astonishment (often ironic) is attested by 1779. The Society of American Florists' advertising slogan say it with flowers dates to 1918 from it grew other say it with constructions.
mid-14c., accioun, "cause or grounds for a lawsuit," from Anglo-French accioun, Old French accion, action (12c.) "action; lawsuit, case," from Latin actionem (nominative actio) "a putting in motion; a performing, a doing; public acts, official conduct; lawsuit, legal action" (source also of Spanish accion, Italian azione), noun of action from past-participle stem of agere "to do" (from PIE root *ag- "to drive, draw out or forth, move").
Spelling with the restored Latin -t- begins in 15c. Meaning "active exertion, activity" is from late 14c. Sense of "something done, an act, deed" is late 14c. Meaning "military fighting" is from 1590s. Meaning "way in which (a firearm, etc.) acts" is from 1845. As a film director's command, it is attested from 1923.
The meaning "noteworthy or important activity" in a modern sense by 1933, as in the figurative phrase a piece of the action (by 1965), perhaps from a sense of action in card-playing jargon by 1914.
No "action" can be had on a bet until the card bet upon appears. If it does not appear after a turn has been made, the player is at liberty to change his bet, or to remove it altogether. Each bet is made for the turn only, unless the player chooses to leave it until he gets some action on it. [from "Faro" in "Hoyle's Games," A.L. Burt Company, New York: 1914]
But there are uses of action as far back as c. 1600 that seem to mean "noteworthy activity." The meaning "excitement" is recorded from 1968. In action "in a condition of effective operation" is from 1650s. Phrase actions speak louder than words is attested from 1731. Action-packed is attested from 1953, originally of movies.