Etymology
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rule (n.)

c. 1200, "principle or maxim governing conduct, formula to which conduct must be conformed" from Old French riule, Norman reule "rule, custom, (religious) order" (in Modern French partially re-Latinized as règle), from Vulgar Latin *regula, from Latin regula "straight stick, bar, ruler;" figuratively "a pattern, a model," related to regere "to rule, straighten, guide" (from PIE root *reg- "move in a straight line," with derivatives meaning "to direct in a straight line," thus "to lead, rule").

By mid-14c. as "control, government, sway, dominion." The meaning "regulation governing play of a game, etc." is from 1690s; the phrase rules of the game is by 1787. To bend the rules "interpret leniently, overlook infringement" is by 1680s.

The meaning "strip with a straight edge used for making straight lines or measuring" is from mid-14c. Typography sense of "thin strip cut type-high and used for printing continuous lines" is attested from 1680s. Rule of law "supremacy of impartial and well-defined laws to any individual's power" is from 1883. Rule of the road in reference to the fixed customs, formerly much varying from country to country, which regulate the sides to be taken by vehicles in passing each other, is by 1805.

The rule of the road is a paradox quite,
In driving your carriage along,
If you keep to the left you are sure to go right,
If you keep to the right you go wrong.
[Horne Tooke, "Diversions of Purley," 1805]
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green (adj.)

Old English grene, Northumbrian groene "green, of the color of living plants," in reference to plants, "growing, living, vigorous," also figurative, of a plant, "freshly cut," of wood, "unseasoned" earlier groeni, from Proto-Germanic *grōni- (source also of Old Saxon grani, Old Frisian grene, Old Norse grænn, Danish grøn, Dutch groen, Old High German gruoni, German grün), from PIE root *ghre- "grow" (see grass), through sense of "color of growing plants."

From c. 1200 as "covered with grass or foliage." From early 14c. of fruit or vegetables, "unripe, immature;" and of persons, "of tender age, youthful, immature, inexperienced;" hence "gullible, immature with regard to judgment" (c. 1600). From mid-13c. in reference to the skin or complexion of one sick.

Green cheese originally was that which is new or fresh (late 14c.), later with reference to coloring; for the story told to children that the moon is made of it, see cheese (n.1). Green light in figurative sense of "permission" is from 1937 (green and red as signals on railways first attested 1883, as nighttime substitutes for semaphore flags). Green thumb for "natural for gardening" is by 1938. Green beret originally "British commando" is from 1949. Greenroom (also green room) "room for actors when not on stage" is from 1701; presumably a once-well-known one was painted green. The color of environmentalism since 1971.

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dull (adj.)

c. 1200, "stupid, slow of understanding, not quick in perception;" also, of points or edges, "blunt, not sharp;" apparently from Old English dol "dull-witted, foolish," or an unrecorded parallel word, or from Middle Low German dul "foolish, reckless," both from Proto-Germanic *dulaz (source also of Old Frisian dol "reckless," Middle Dutch dol, dul "stupid, foolish, crazy," Old Saxon dol, Old High German tol "foolish, dull," German toll "mad, wild," Gothic dwals "foolish").

This sometimes is conjectured to be from PIE *dhul-, from root *dheu- (1) "dust, vapor, smoke," which also produced words for "defective perception or wits, turbidity of the mind" (compare Greek tholos "mud dirt," Old Irish dall "blind").

Dull. Ineffective for the purpose aimed at, wanting in life. A dull edge is one that will not cut ; a dull understanding, does not readily apprehend ; a dull day is wanting in light, the element which constitutes its life ; dull of sight or of hearing is ineffective in respect of those faculties. [Wedgwood]

From late 12c. as a surname. Rare before mid-14c. Of color "not bright or clear," from early 15c.; of pain or other sensations, "not sharp or intense," from 1725. Sense of "not pleasing or enlivening, uninteresting, tedious" is from c. 1400. Related: Dullness.

dull. (8) Not exhilarating; not delightful; as to make dictionaries is dull work. [Johnson]
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science (n.)
Origin and meaning of science

mid-14c., "state or fact of knowing; what is known, knowledge (of something) acquired by study; information;" also "assurance of knowledge, certitude, certainty," from Old French science "knowledge, learning, application; corpus of human knowledge" (12c.), from Latin scientia "knowledge, a knowing; expertness," from sciens (genitive scientis) "intelligent, skilled," present participle of scire "to know."

The original notion in the Latin verb probably is "to separate one thing from another, to distinguish," or else "to incise." This is related to scindere "to cut, divide" (from PIE root *skei- "to cut, split;" source also of Greek skhizein "to split, rend, cleave," Gothic skaidan, Old English sceadan "to divide, separate").

OED writes that the oldest English sense of the word now is restricted to theology and philosophy. From late 14c. in English as "book-learning," also "a particular branch of knowledge or of learning, systematized knowledge regarding a particular group of objects;" also "skillfulness, cleverness; craftiness." From c. 1400 as "experiential knowledge;" also "a skill resulting from training, handicraft; a trade."

From late 14c. in the more specific sense of "collective human knowledge," especially that gained by systematic observation, experiment, and reasoning. The modern (restricted) sense of "body of regular or methodical observations or propositions concerning a particular subject or speculation" is attested by 1725; in 17c.-18c. this commonly was philosophy.

The sense of "non-arts studies" is attested from 1670s. The distinction is commonly understood as between theoretical truth (Greek epistemē) and methods for effecting practical results (tekhnē), but science sometimes is used for practical applications and art for applications of skill.

The predominant modern use, "natural and physical science," generally restricted to study of the phenomena of the material universe and its laws, is by mid-19c.

To blind (someone) with science "confuse by the use of big words or complex explanations" is attested from 1937, originally noted as a phrase from Australia and New Zealand. 

The men who founded modern science had two merits which are not necessarily found together: Immense patience in observation, and great boldness in framing hypotheses. The second of these merits had belonged to the earliest Greek philosophers; the first existed, to a considerable degree, in the later astronomers of antiquity. But no one among the ancients, except perhaps Aristarchus, possessed both merits, and no one in the Middle Ages possessed either. [Bertrand Russell, "A History of Western Philosophy," 1945] 
Science, since people must do it, is a socially embedded activity. It progresses by hunch, vision, and intuition. Much of its change through time does not record a closer approach to absolute truth, but the alteration of cultural contexts that influence it so strongly. Facts are not pure and unsullied bits of information; culture also influences what we see and how we see it. Theories, moreover, are not inexorable inductions from facts. The most creative theories are often imaginative visions imposed upon facts; the source of imagination is also strongly cultural. [Stephen Jay Gould, introduction to "The Mismeasure of Man," 1981]
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bob (n.2)

"short hair," 1680s; attested 1570s in sense of "a horse's tail cut short," from earlier bobbe "cluster" (as of leaves), mid-14c., a northern word, perhaps of Celtic origin (compare Irish baban "tassel, cluster," Gaelic babag).

The group of bob words in English is of obscure and mostly colloquial origin; some originally were perhaps vaguely imitative, but they have become more or less entangled and merged in form and sense. As a noun, it has been used over the years in various senses connected by the notion of "round, hanging mass," and of weights at the end of a fishing line (1610s), pendulum (1752) or plumb-line (1832). The hair sense was revived with a shift in women's styles starting in 1918 (when it was regarded as a sign of radicalism) and the modern noun meaning "a bobbed hair style" dates from 1920.

In the latter years of the decade [1920s] bobbed hair became almost universal among girls in their twenties, very common among women in their thirties and forties, and by no means rare among women of sixty .... Women universally adopted the small cloche hat which fitted tightly on the bobbed head, and the manufacturer of milliner's materials joined the hair-net manufacturer, the hair-pin manufacturer, and the cotton goods and woolen goods and corset manufacturers, among the ranks of depressed industries. [Frederick Lewis Allen, "Only Yesterday"]

Related words include bobby pin, bobby sox, bobsled, bobcat.

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bunk (n.2)

"nonsense," 1900, short for bunkum, phonetic spelling of Buncombe, a county in North Carolina. The usual story (attested by 1841) of its origin is this: At the close of the protracted Missouri statehood debates in the U.S. Congress, supposedly on Feb. 25, 1820, North Carolina Rep. Felix Walker (1753-1828) began what promised to be a "long, dull, irrelevant speech," and he resisted calls to cut it short by saying he was bound to say something that could appear in the newspapers in the home district and prove he was on the job. "I shall not be speaking to the House," he confessed, "but to Buncombe." Thus Bunkum has been American English slang for "nonsense" since 1841 (it is attested from 1838 as generic for "a U.S. Representative's home district").

MR. WALKER, of North Carolina, rose then to address the Committee on the question [of Missouri statehood]; but the question was called for so clamorously and so perseveringly that Mr. W. could proceed no farther than to move that the committee rise. [Annals of Congress, House of Representatives, 16th Congress, 1st Session, p. 1539]
"Well, when a critter talks for talk sake, jist to have a speech in the paper to send to home, and not for any other airthly puppus but electioneering, our folks call it Bunkum." [Thomas Chandler Haliburton, "Sam Slick in England," 1858]
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crop (n.)

Old English cropp "head or top of a sprout or herb, any part of a medicinal plant except the root," also "bird's craw" (the common notion is "protuberance"), cognate with Old High German kropf, Old Norse kroppr.

"The word has a remarkable variety of special senses ..." [Century Dictionary]. OED writes that "OE. had only sense 1. 'craw of a bird' and 3. 'rounded head or top of a herb'; the latter is found also in High German dialects (Grimm, Kropf, 4c); the further developments of 'head or top' generally, and of 'produce of the field, etc.' appear to be exclusively English."

Meaning "grain and other cultivated plants grown and harvested" (especially "the grain yield of one year") is from early 14c. (in Anglo-Latin from early 13c.). Probably this sense development is via the verbal meaning "cut off the top of a plant" (c. 1200).

From the notion of "top" comes the sense "upper part of a whip," hence "handle of a whip" (1560s), hence "a kind of whip used by horsemen in the hunting field" (1857). "It is useful in opening gates, and differs from the common whip in the absence of a lash" [Century Dictionary].

General sense of "anything gathered when ready or in season" is from 1570s. Meaning "a thick, short head of hair" is from 1795. Meaning "top or highest part of anything" is from late 14c. In Middle English crop and rote "the whole plant, crop and root," was figurative of totality or perfection. Crop-circle is attested by 1974.

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shape (v.)

"create, fashion, form," Middle English shapen, from Old English scapan, past participle of scieppan "to form, create, make out of existing materials; bring into existence; destine" (past tense scop, often used of God).

This is reconstructed to be from Proto-Germanic *skapjanan "create, ordain" (source also of Old Norse skapa, Danish skabe, Old Saxon scapan, Old Frisian skeppa, Middle Dutch schappen "do, treat," Old High German scaffan, German schaffen "shape, create, produce"), from PIE root *(s)kep-, forming words meaning "to cut, scrape, hack" (see scabies), which acquired broad technical senses and in Germanic a specific sense of "to create."

Old English scieppan survived into Middle English as shippen, but shape emerged as a regular verb (with past tense shaped) by 1500s. The old past-participle form shapen survives in misshapen.

Meaning "to form in or with the mind" is from late 14c. Also by late 14c. as "prepare, get ready." The sense of "give a definite form to" is by 1580s. Specifically as "give direction and character to" (one's life, conduct, etc.) is by 1823.

The phrase shape up (v.) is literally "to give form to by stiff or solid material;" attested from 1865 as "progress;" by 1938 as "reform oneself, pull oneself up to a standard;" alliterative variant shape up or ship out is by 1951 in the newspapers, said to be Korean War U.S. military slang, with a suggestion of "do right or get shipped up to active duty."

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staff (n.)

Old English stæf (plural stafas), "walking stick, strong pole used for carrying, rod used as a weapon, pastoral staff," probably originally *stæb, from Proto-Germanic *stab- (source also of Old Saxon staf, Old Norse stafr, Danish stav, Old Frisian stef, Middle Low German and Middle Dutch staf, Old High German stab, German Stab, Gothic *stafs "element;" Middle Dutch stapel "pillar, foundation").

This is reconstructed to be from PIE root *stebh- "post, stem, to support, place firmly on, fasten" (source also of Old Lithuanian stabas "idol," Lithuanian stiebas "staff, pillar;" Old Church Slavonic stoboru "pillar;" Sanskrit stabhnati "supports;" Greek stephein "to tie around, encircle, wreathe," staphyle "grapevine, bunch of grapes;" Old English stapol "post, pillar").

As "pole from which a flag is flown," 1610s. In musical notation from 1660s. Sense of "group of military officers that assists a commander" is attested from 1702, apparently from German, from the notion of the baton that is a badge of office or authority (a sense attested in English from 1530s); hence staff officer (1702), staff-sergeant (1811). The meaning "group of employees (as at an office or hospital)" is attested by 1837.

Staff of life "bread" is from the Biblical phrase break the staff of bread meaning "cut off the supply of food" (Leviticus xxvi.26), translating Hebrew matteh lekhem.

The Old English word, in plural, was the common one used for "letter of the alphabet, character," hence "writing, literature," and many compounds having to do with writing, such as stæfcræft "grammar," stæfcræftig "lettered," stæflic "literary," stæfleahtor "grammatical error," with leahtor "vice, sin, offense."

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