1520s, "oblique or diagonal line," from French biais "a slant, a slope, an oblique," also figuratively, "an expedient, means" (13c., originally in Old French a past-participle adjective, "sideways, askance, against the grain"), a word of unknown origin. Probably it came to French from Old Provençal biais, which has cognates in Old Catalan and Sardinian, and is possibly via Vulgar Latin *(e)bigassius from Greek epikarsios "athwart, crosswise, at an angle," from epi "upon" (see epi-) + karsios "oblique" (from PIE *krs-yo-, suffixed form of root *sker- (1) "to cut").
In the old game of bowls, it was a technical term used in reference to balls made with a greater weight on one side (1560s), causing them to curve toward one side; hence the figurative use "a one-sided tendency of the mind" (1570s), and, at first especially in law, "undue propensity or prejudice."
The bias of education, the bias of class-relationships, the bias of nationality, the political bias, the theological bias—these, added to the constitutional sympathies and antipathies, have much more influence in determining beliefs on social questions than has the small amount of evidence collected. [Herbert Spencer, "The Study of Sociology," 1873]
For what a man had rather were true he more readily believes. Therefore he rejects difficult things from impatience of research; sober things, because they narrow hope; the deeper things of nature, from superstition; the light of experience, from arrogance and pride, lest his mind should seem to be occupied with things mean and transitory; things not commonly believed, out of deference to the opinion of the vulgar. Numberless in short are the ways, and sometimes imperceptible, in which the affections colour and infect the understanding. [Francis Bacon, "Novum Organum," 1620]
early 13c., picken "to peck;" c. 1300, piken "to work with a pick, to dig up," probably representing a fusion of Old English *pician "to prick," (implied by picung "a piercing, pricking," an 8c. gloss on Latin stigmata) with Old Norse pikka "to prick, peck," both from a Germanic root (source also of Middle Dutch picken, German picken "to pick, peck"), perhaps imitative. Influence from Middle French piquer "to prick, sting" (see pike (n.1)) also is possible, but that French word generally is not considered a source of the English word. Related: Picked; picking.
Meaning "to pluck with the hand or fingers, gather, break off, collect" (fruit, etc.) is from early 14c.; that of "to prick or pierce with a pointed instrument" also is from early 14c. The meaning "to choose, sort through carefully in search of valuable material" emerged late 14c., from the earlier meaning "to pluck with the fingers." The sense of "to rob, plunder" (c. 1300) weakened to a milder sense of "steal petty things, filch or pilfer from" by late 14c. Meaning "to eat with small bites" is from 1580s.
Of locks, etc., "probe or penetrate with a pointed tool," early 15c. The meaning "to pluck (a banjo, etc.) with the fingers" is recorded from 1860. To pick a quarrel, fight, etc. is from mid-15c.; to pick at "annoy with repeated fault-finding" is from 1670s. To pick on "single out for adverse attention" is from late 14c. Also see pick up.
To pick off "shoot one by one" is recorded from 1810; baseball sense, of a pitcher or catcher, "to put out a runner caught off base" is by 1939. To pick and choose "select carefully" is from 1660s (choose and pick is attested from c. 1400). To pick (one's) nose is by mid-15c.
"to thrust, push; jostle;" also, "to prod, drive (cattle, etc.) by poking and prodding," late 14c., from Old French ponchonner "to punch, prick, stamp," from ponchon "pointed tool, piercing weapon" (see punch (n.1)).
Meaning "to pierce, make a hole or holes in with a punch, emboss with a tool" is from early 15c.; meaning "to stab, puncture" is from mid-15c. Related: Punched; punching.
Specialized sense "to hit with the fist, give a blow, beat with blows of the fist" is recorded by 1520s. Compare Latin pugnare "to fight with the fists," from a root meaning "to pierce, sting." In English this sense-shift evolved also probably by influence of punish: Punch or punsch for punish is found in documents from 14c.-15c.:
punchyth me, Lorde, and spare my blyssyd wyff Anne. [Coventry Mystery Plays, late 15c.]
To punch (someone) out "beat (someone) up" is from 1971. To punch a ticket, etc., "make a hole in" to indicate use of it is from mid-15c. To punch the clock "record one's arrival at or departure from the workplace using an automated timing device" is from 1900.
There are time recorders for checking the minute of arrival and departure of each office employee—machines that operate with clock attachment and which in response to worker's punch print on tabular sheets of paper his promptnesses and delinquencies. [Richard Lord, "Running an Office by Machinery," in System, September 1909]
Perhaps you are some great big chief, who has a lot to say.
Who lords it o'er the common herd who chance to come your way;
Well, here is where your arrogance gets a dreadful shock,
When you march up, like a private, salute, and PUNCH THE CLOCK.
[from "Punch the Clock," by "The Skipper," The Commercial Telegraphers' Journal, May 1912]
Middle English, representing the merger or mutual influence of two words, one from Old English, one from an Old French form of the same Germanic word, and both ultimately from a PIE root meaning "cattle."
The Old English word is feoh "livestock, cattle; movable property; possessions in livestock, goods, or money; riches, treasure, wealth; money as a medium of exchange or payment," from Proto-Germanic *fehu (source also of Old Saxon fehu, Old High German fihu, German Vieh "cattle," Gothic faihu "money, fortune"). This is from PIE *peku- "cattle" (source also of Sanskrit pasu, Lithuanian pekus "cattle;" Latin pecu "cattle," pecunia "money, property").
The other word is Anglo-French fee, from Old French fieu, a variant of fief "possession, holding, domain; feudal duties, payment" (see fief), which apparently is a Germanic compound in which the first element is cognate with Old English feoh.
Via Anglo-French come the legal senses "estate in land or tenements held on condition of feudal homage; land, property, possession" (c. 1300). Hence fee-simple (late 14c.) "absolute ownership," as opposed to fee-tail (early 15c.) "entailed ownership," inheritance limited to some particular class of heirs (second element from Old French taillir "to cut, to limit").
The feudal sense was extended from landholdings to inheritable offices of service to a feudal lord (late 14c.; in Anglo-French late 13c.), for example forester of fe "a forester by heritable right." As these often were offices of profit, the word came to be used for "remuneration for service in office" (late 14c.), hence, "payment for (any kind of) work or services" (late 14c.). From late 14c. as "a sum paid for a privilege" (originally admission to a guild); early 15c. as "money payment or charge exacted for a licence, etc."
late 14c., "calculation and foretelling based on observation of heavenly bodies," from Latin astrologia "astronomy, the science of the heavenly bodies," from Greek astrologia "astronomy," literally "a telling of the stars," from astron "star" (from PIE root *ster- (2) "star") + -logia "treating of" (see -logy).
Originally identical with astronomy and including scientific observation and description. The special sense of "astronomy applied to prediction of events" was divided into natural astrology "the calculation and foretelling of natural phenomenon" (tides, eclipses, dates of Church festivals, etc.), and judicial astrology "the art of judging occult influences of stars and planets on human affairs."
In Latin and later Greek, astronomia tended to be more scientific than astrologia. In English, the differentiation between astrology and astronomy began late 1400s and by late 17c. this word was limited to the sense of "reading influences of the stars and their effects on human destiny."
And consequently, an Astrology in the World before Astronomy, either in Name or Science. so that (Non obstante whatever any Astronomer shall oppose to the contrary) Astrology hath the right of Primogeniture. And all the Sober and Judiciously Learned must needs acknowledge the Truth hereof.—Howbeit, it were to be wished that the Astrologer understood Astronomy, and that the Astronomer were acquainted with Astrology: Although I do in truth despair of ever finding many to be so happily Accomplished. [John Gadbury, introduction to "Ephemerides of the Celestial Motions," London, 1672]
It is ... an extremely just observation of M. Comte, that [the study of astrology] marks the first systematic effort to frame a philosophy of history by reducing the apparently capricious phenomena of human actions within the domain of law. It may, however, I think, be no less justly regarded as one of the last struggles of human egotism against the depressing sense of insignificance which the immensity of the universe must produce. [W.E.H. Lecky, "History of the Rise and Influence of the Spirit of Rationalism in Europe," 1866]
"adult female human," late Old English wimman, wiman (plural wimmen), literally "woman-man," alteration of wifman (plural wifmen) "woman, female servant" (8c.), a compound of wif "woman" (see wife) + man "human being" (in Old English used in reference to both sexes; see man (n.)). Compare Dutch vrouwmens "wife," literally "woman-man."
It is notable that it was thought necessary to join wif, a neuter noun, representing a female person, to man, a masc. noun representing either a male or female person, to form a word denoting a female person exclusively. [Century Dictionary]
The formation is peculiar to English and Dutch. Replaced older Old English wif and quean as the word for "female human being," as in Jesus's answer to his mother, in Anglo-Saxon gospels la, wif, hwæt is me and þe? (John ii:4 "Woman, what have I to do with thee?").
The pronunciation of the singular altered in Middle English by the rounding influence of -w-; the plural retains the original vowel. Meaning "wife," now largely restricted to U.S. dialectal use, is attested from mid-15c.
In American English, lady is "In loose and especially polite usage, a woman" [Craigie, "Dictionary of American English"]. This peculiarity was much commented upon by English travelers; in the U.S. the custom was considered especially Southern, but the English didn't bother with nice distinctions and regarded it simply as American. "This noble word [woman], spirit-stirring as it passes over English ears, is in America banished, and 'ladies' and 'females' substituted; the one to English taste mawkish and vulgar; the other indistinctive and gross. The effect is odd." [Harriet Martineau, 1837]
Woman-hater "misogynist" is from c. 1600. Women's work, that considered appropriate to women, is from 1660s. Women's liberation is attested from 1966; women's rights is from 1840, with an isolated example in 1630s.
c. 1200, materie, "the subject of a mental act or a course of thought, speech, or expression," from Anglo-French matere, Old French matere "subject, theme, topic; substance, content; character, education" (12c., Modern French matière) and directly from Latin materia "substance from which something is made," also "hard inner wood of a tree." According to de Vaan and Watkins, this is from mater "origin, source, mother" (see mother (n.1)). The sense developed and expanded in Latin in philosophy by influence of Greek hylē (see hylo-) "wood, firewood," in a general sense "material," used by Aristotle for "matter" in the philosophical sense.
The Latin word also is the source of Spanish, Portuguese, and Italian materia, Dutch, German, and Danish materie, vernacular Spanish madera, Portuguese madeira "wood" (compare Madeira). The Middle English word also sometimes was used specifically as "piece of wood."
From c. 1200 as "a subject of a literary work, content of what is written, main theme;" sense of "narrative, tale, story" is from c. 1300. Meaning "physical substance generally" is from mid-14c.; that of "substance of which some specific object is or may be composed" is attested from late 14c. Meaning "piece of business, affair, activity, situation; subject of debate or controversy, question under discussion" is from late 14c. In law, "something which is to be tried or proved," 1530s.
Matter of course "something expected" attested from 1739 (adjectival phrase matter-of-course "proceeding as a natural consequence" is by 1840). For that matter "as far as that goes, as far as that is concerned" is attested from 1670s. What is the matter "what concerns (someone), what is the cause of the difficulty" is attested from mid-15c., from matter in the sense of "circumstance or condition as affecting persons and things." To make no matter to "be no difference to" also is mid-15c., with matter in the meaning "importance, consequence."
digraph used in Old French for the "tsh" sound. In some French dialects, including that of Paris (but not that of Picardy), Latin ca- became French "tsha." This was introduced to English after the Norman Conquest, in words borrowed from Old French such as chaste, charity, chief (adj.). Under French influence, -ch- also was inserted into Anglo-Saxon words that had the same sound (such as bleach, chest, church) which in Old English still was written with a simple -c-, and into those that had formerly been spelled with a -c- and pronounced "k" such as chin and much.
It turns up as well in words from classical languages (chaos, echo, etc.). Most uses of -ch- in Roman Latin were in words from Greek, which in Greek would be pronounced correctly as /k/ + /h/, as in modern blockhead, but most Romans would have said merely /k/, and this was the regular pronunciation in English. Before c. 1500 such words were regularly spelled with a -c- (Crist, cronicle, scoole), but Modern English has preserved or restored the etymological spelling in most of them (chemical, chorus, monarch).
Sometimes ch- is written to keep -c- hard before a front vowel, as still in modern Italian. In some languages (Welsh, Spanish, Czech) ch- can be treated as a separate letter and words in it are alphabetized after -c- (or, in Czech and Slovak, after -h-). The sound also is heard in words from more distant languages (as in cheetah, chintz), and the digraph also is used to represent the sound in Scottish loch.
large, long-tailed, stalk-eyed, 10-legged marine shellfish (Homarus vulgaris), early Middle English lopster, lopister, from Old English loppestre "lobster," also "locust," a corruption of Latin locusta, lucusta "marine shellfish, lobster;" also "locust, grasshopper," which is of unknown origin. De Vaan writes that "The only word similar in form and meaning is lacerta 'lizard; mackerel', but there is no common preform in sight. ... [T]hey could be cognate words in the language from which Latin borrowed these forms."
The change of Latin -c- to English -p- (and, from late 14c., to -b-) is unexplained; perhaps it is by influence of Old English loppe, lobbe "spider." The ending seems to have been altered by the old fem. agent noun suffix (preserved in Baxter, Webster, etc.; see -ster), which approximated the sound of Latin -sta.
OED says the Latin word originally meant "lobster or some similar crustacean, the application to the locust being suggested by the resemblance in shape." Trilobite fossils in Worcestershire limestone quarries were known colloquially as locusts, which seems to have been the generic word for "unidentified arthropod" (as apple was for "foreign fruit"). Locusta in the sense "lobster" also appears in Old Cornish legast and French langouste (12c.), now "crawfish, crayfish," but in Old French both "lobster" and "locust" (a 13c. psalter has God giving over the crops of Egypt to the langoustes).
As slang for "a British soldier" since 1640s, originally in reference to the jointed armor of the Roundhead cuirassiers, later (1660) to the red coat, the color of a boiled lobster.
Sir William Waller having received from London [in June 1643] a fresh regiment of five hundred horse, under the command of sir Arthur Haslerigge, which were so prodigiously armed that they were called by the other side the regiment of lobsters, because of their bright iron shells with which they were covered, being perfect curasseers. [Lord Clarendon, "History of the Rebellion," 1647]