c. 1300, "giving light, shining, luminous;" also "not turbid; transparent, allowing light to pass through; free from impurities; morally pure, guiltless, innocent;" of colors, "bright, pure;" of weather or the sky or sea, "not stormy; mild, fair, not overcast, fully light, free from darkness or clouds;" of the eyes or vision, "clear, keen;" of the voice or sound, "plainly audible, distinct, resonant;" of the mind, "keen-witted, perspicacious;" of words or speech, "readily understood, manifest to the mind, lucid" (an Old English word for this was sweotol "distinct, clear, evident"); of land, "cleared, leveled;" from Old French cler "clear" (of sight and hearing), "light, bright, shining; sparse" (12c., Modern French clair), from Latin clarus "clear, loud," of sounds; figuratively "manifest, plain, evident," in transferred use, of sights, "bright, distinct;" also "illustrious, famous, glorious" (source of Italian chiaro, Spanish claro), from PIE *kle-ro-, from root *kele- (2) "to shout."
The prehistoric sense evolution to light and color involves an identification of the spreading of sound and the spreading of light (compare English loud, used of colors; German hell "clear, bright, shining," of pitch, "distinct, ringing, high").
Also in Middle English "beautiful, magnificent, excellent" (c. 1300); of possession or title, "unrestricted, unconditional, absolute," early 15c. Of complexion, from c. 1300. Sense of "free from encumbrance," later largely nautical, developed c. 1500. Meaning "obvious to the senses" is from 1835. Clear-sighted is from 1580s (clear-eyed is from 1520s); clear-headed is from 1709. For coast is clear see clear (v.).
early 14c., originally a legal term meaning "formally laid down, decreed or legislated by authority" (opposed to natural), from Old French positif (13c.) and directly from Latin positivus "settled by agreement, positive" (opposed to naturalis "natural"), from positus, past participle of ponere "put, place" (see position (n.)).
The sense of "absolute" is from mid-15c. Meaning in philosophy of "dealing only with facts" is from 1590s. Sense broadened to "expressed without qualification" (1590s), then, of persons, "confident in opinion" (1660s). The meaning "possessing definite characters of its own" is by 1610s. The mathematical use for "greater than zero" is by 1704. Psychological sense of "concentrating on what is constructive and good" is recorded from 1916. Positive thinking is attested from 1953. The sense in electricity is from 1755.
There are probably no two bodies differing in nature which are not capable of exhibiting electrical phaenomena, either by contact, pressure, or friction ; but the first substances in which the property was observed, were vitreous and resinous bodies ; and hence the different states were called states of resinous and vitreous electricity ; and resinous bodies bear the same relation to flint glass, as silk. The terms, negative and positive electricity, have been likewise adopted, on the idea, that the phaenomena depend upon a peculiar subtile fluid, which becomes in excess in the vitreous, and deficient in the resinous bodies ; and which is conceived by its motion and transfer, to produce the electrical phaenomena. [Sir Humphry Davy, "Elements of Chemical Philosophy," London, 1812]
c. 1500, "times gone by, the time that has preceded the present," from past (adj.). Meaning "a past life, career, or history" is attested by 1836.
The past is the only dead thing that smells sweet,
The only sweet thing that is not also fleet.
[Edward Thomas, from "Early one morning"]
AMERICA does not repel the past, or what it has produced under its forms or amid other politics or the idea of castes or the old religions .... accepts the lesson with calmness ... is not so impatient as has been supposed that the slough still sticks to opinions and manners and literature while the life which served its requirements has passed into the new life of the new forms ... perceives that the corpse is slowly borne from the eating and sleeping rooms of the house ... perceives that it waits a little while in the door ... that it was fittest for its days ... that its action has descended to the stalwart and wellshaped heir who approaches ... and that he shall be fittest for his days. [Whitman, opening of the preface to "Leaves of Grass," 1855]
Progress, far from consisting in change, depends on retentiveness. When change is absolute there remains no being to improve and no direction is set for possible improvement: and when experience is not retained, as among savages, infancy is perpetual. Those who cannot remember the past are condemned to repeat it. [George Santayana, "The Life of Reason," 1905]
The past is never dead. It's not even past. [Faulkner, "Requiem for a Nun," 1950]
late 12c., bileave, "confidence reposed in a person or thing; faith in a religion," replacing Old English geleafa "belief, faith," from West Germanic *ga-laubon "to hold dear, esteem, trust" (source also of Old Saxon gilobo, Middle Dutch gelove, Old High German giloubo, German Glaube), from *galaub- "dear, esteemed," from intensive prefix *ga- + PIE root *leubh- "to care, desire, love." The prefix was altered on analogy of the verb believe. The distinction of the final consonant from that of believe developed 15c.
The be-, which is not a natural prefix of nouns, was prefixed on the analogy of the vb. (where it is naturally an intensive) .... [OED]
Meaning "conviction of the truth of a proposition or alleged fact without knowledge" is by 1530s; it is also "sometimes used to include the absolute conviction or certainty which accompanies knowledge" [Century Dictionary]. From c. 1200 as "a creed, essential doctrines of a religion or church, things held to be true as a matter of religious doctrine;" the general sense of "That which is believed" is by 1714. Related: Beliefs.
Belief meant "trust in God," while faith meant "loyalty to a person based on promise or duty" (a sense preserved in keep one's faith, in good (or bad) faith, and in common usage of faithful, faithless, which contain no notion of divinity). But faith, as cognate of Latin fides, took on the religious sense beginning in 14c. translations, and belief had by 16c. become limited to "mental acceptance of something as true," from the religious use in the sense of "things held to be true as a matter of religious doctrine."
Middle English ded, from Old English dead "having ceased to live," also "torpid, dull;" of water, "still, standing," from Proto-Germanic *daudaz (source also of Old Saxon dod, Danish død, Swedish död, Old Frisian dad, Middle Dutch doot, Dutch dood, Old High German tot, German tot, Old Norse dauðr, Gothic dauþs "dead"), a past-participle adjective based on *dau-, which is perhaps from PIE *dheu- (3) "to die" (see die (v.)).
Meaning "insensible, void of perception" is from early 13c. Of places, "inactive, dull," from 1580s. Of sound, "muffled," 1520s. Used from 16c. as "utter, absolute, quite" (as in dead drunk, 1590s); from 1590s as "quite certain, sure, unerring;" by 1881 as "direct, straight." To be dead-set against "wholly opposed to" (1843) is from earlier noun phrase a dead-set in reference to resolute opposition (1787). Dead heat, a race in which more than one competitor reaches the goal at the same time, is from 1796. The dead-nettle (c. 1400) resembles the nettle but does not sting.
Dead on is 1889, from marksmanship. Dead duck "person defeated or soon to be, useless person" is by 1844, originally in U.S. politics. Dead letter is from 1703, used of laws lacking force as well as uncollected mail. Dead soldier "emptied liquor bottle" is from 1913; the image is older (compare dead men "bottles emptied at a banquet," c. 1700). Dead man's hand in poker, "pair of aces and pair of eights," is supposedly what Wild Bill Hickock held when Jack McCall shot him in 1876. Expression not be (seen/found/caught) dead "have nothing to do with" is by 1915.
Old English halig "holy, consecrated, sacred; godly; ecclesiastical," from Proto-Germanic *hailaga- (source also of Old Norse heilagr, Danish hellig, Old Frisian helich "holy," Old Saxon helag, Middle Dutch helich, Old High German heilag, German heilig, Gothic hailags "holy"), from PIE *kailo- "whole, uninjured" (see health). Adopted at conversion for Latin sanctus.
The primary (pre-Christian) meaning is not possible to determine, but probably it was "that must be preserved whole or intact, that cannot be transgressed or violated," and connected with Old English hal (see health) and Old High German heil "health, happiness, good luck" (source of the German salutation Heil). Holy water was in Old English.
Holy is stronger and more absolute than any word of cognate meaning. That which is sacred may derive its sanction from man ; that which is holy has its sanctity directly from God or as connected with him. Hence we speak of the Holy Bible, and the sacred writings of the Hindus. He who is holy is absolutely or essentially free from sin; sacred is not a word of personal character. The opposite of holy is sinful or wicked; that of sacred is secular, profane, or common. [Century Dictionary, 1895]
Holy has been used as an intensifying word from 1837; in expletives since 1880s (such as holy smoke, 1883, holy mackerel, 1876, holy cow, 1914, holy moly etc.), most of them euphemisms for holy Christ or holy Moses. Holy Ghost was in Old English (in Middle English often written as one word). Holy League is used of various European alliances; the Holy Alliance was that formed personally by the sovereigns of Russia, Austria, and Prussia in 1815; it ended in 1830.
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., "to give up (something) absolutely, relinquish control, give over utterly;" also reflexively, "surrender (oneself), yield (oneself) utterly" (to religion, fornication, etc.), from Old French abandonner "surrender, release; give freely, permit," also reflexive, "devote (oneself)" (12c.).
The Old French word was formed from the adverbial phrase à bandon "at will, at discretion," from à "at, to" (from Latin ad; see ad-) + bandon "power, jurisdiction," from Latin bannum, "proclamation," which is from a Frankish or other Germanic word, from Proto-Germanic *bannan- "proclaim, summon, outlaw" (things all done by proclamation); see ban (v.).
Mettre sa forest à bandon was a feudal law phrase in the 13th cent. = mettre sa forêt à permission, i.e. to open it freely to any one for pasture or to cut wood in; hence the later sense of giving up one's rights for a time, letting go, leaving, abandoning. [Auguste Brachet, "An Etymological Dictionary of the French Language," transl. G.W. Kitchin, Oxford, 1878]
Meaning "to leave, desert, forsake (someone or something) in need" is from late 15c. Related: Abandoned; abandoning.
Etymologically, the word carries a sense of "put (something) under someone else's control," and the earliest appearance of the word in English is as an adverb (mid-13c.) with the sense "under (one's) control," hence also "unrestricted."
Again, as that which is placed at the absolute command of one party must by the same act be entirely given up by the original possessor, it was an easy step from the sense of conferring the command of a thing upon some particular person to that of renouncing all claim to authority over the subject matter, without particular reference to the party into whose hands it might come ; and thus in modern times the word has come to be used almost exclusively in the sense renunciation or desertion. [Hensleigh Wedgwood, "A Dictionary of English Etymology," 1859]
mid-14c., "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," probably originally "to separate one thing from another, to distinguish," 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").
From late 14c. in English as "book-learning," also "a particular branch of knowledge or of learning;" also "skillfulness, cleverness; craftiness." From c. 1400 as "experiential knowledge;" also "a skill, handicraft; a trade." From late 14c. as "collective human knowledge" (especially that gained by systematic observation, experiment, and reasoning). Modern (restricted) sense of "body of regular or methodical observations or propositions concerning a particular subject or speculation" is attested from 1725; in 17c.-18c. this concept commonly was called philosophy. Sense of "non-arts studies" is attested from 1670s.
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]
In science you must not talk before you know. In art you must not talk before you do. In literature you must not talk before you think. [John Ruskin, "The Eagle's Nest," 1872]
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. 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.