Etymology
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comedy (n.)

late 14c., "narrative with a happy ending; any composition intended for amusement," from Old French comedie (14c.), "a poem" (not in the theatrical sense) and directly from Latin comoedia, from Greek kōmōidia "a comedy, amusing spectacle," probably [Beekes] from kōmōidos "actor or singer in the revels," from kōmos "revel, carousal, merry-making, festival" + aoidos "singer, poet," from aeidein "to sing," which is related to ōidē (see ode).

The passage on the nature of comedy in the Poetic of Aristotle is unfortunately lost, but if we can trust stray hints on the subject, his definition of comedy (which applied mainly to Menander) ran parallel to that of tragedy, and described the art as a purification of certain affections of our nature, not by terror and pity, but by laughter and ridicule. [Rev. J.P. Mahaffy, "A History of Classical Greek Literature," London, 1895]

The origin of Greek komos is uncertain; perhaps it is from a PIE *komso- "praise," and cognate with Sanskrit samsa "praise, judgment." Beekes suggests Pre-Greek. The old derivation from kome "village" is not now regarded.

The classical sense of the word was "amusing play or performance with a happy ending," which is similar to the modern one, but in the Middle Ages the word meant poems and stories generally (albeit ones with happy endings), such as Dante's "Commedia." The revival of learning 16c. recovered the ancient comedies and shifted the sense of the word to "branch of drama addressing primarily the humorous and ridiculous" (opposed to tragedy). In 18c. this was somewhat restricted to "humorous, but not grossly comical, drama" (opposed to farce).

Comedy aims at entertaining by the fidelity with which it presents life as we know it, farce at raising laughter by the outrageous absurdity of the situation or characters exhibited, & burlesque at tickling the fancy of the audience by caricaturing plays or actors with whose style it is familiar. [Fowler]

Meaning "comic play or drama" is from 1550s (the first modern comedy in English was said to be Nicholas Udall's "Roister Doister"). Extended sense "humorous or comic incident or events in life" is from 1560s. Generalized sense of "quality of being amusing" dates from 1877. 

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clam (n.)

bivalve mollusk, c. 1500 (in clam-shell), originally Scottish, apparently a particular use of Middle English clam "pincers, vice, clamp" (late 14c.), from Old English clamm "bond, fetter, grip, grasp," from Proto-Germanic *klam- "to press or squeeze together" (source also of Old High German klamma "cramp, fetter, constriction," German Klamm "a constriction"), possibly from a PIE *glem- or *glom- "contain, embrace" (see glebe).

If this is right then the original reference is to the shell. Clam-chowder attested from 1822. To be happy as a clam is from 1833, but the earliest uses do not elaborate on the notion behind it, unless it be self-containment.

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sing (v.)

Old English singan "to chant, sing, celebrate, or tell in song," also used of birds (class III strong verb; past tense sang, past participle sungen), from Proto-Germanic *sengwan (source also of Old Saxon singan, Old Frisian sionga, Middle Dutch singhen, Dutch zingen, Old High German singan, German singen, Gothic siggwan, Old Norse syngva, Swedish sjunga), from PIE root *sengwh-"to sing, make an incantation."

There are said to be no related forms in other languages, unless perhaps it is connected to Greek omphe "voice" (especially of a god), "oracle;" and Welsh dehongli "explain, interpret." The typical Indo-European root is represented by Latin canere (see chant (v.)). Other words meaning "sing" derive from roots meaning "cry, shout," but Irish gaibim is literally "take, seize," with sense evolution via "take up" a song or melody.

The criminal slang sense of "to confess to authorities" is attested from 1610s. 

Every child should be taught, from its youth, to govern its voice discreetly and dexterously, as it does its hands ; and not to be able to sing should be more disgraceful than not being able to read or write. For it is quite possible to lead a virtuous and happy life without books, or ink ; but not without wishing to sing, when we are happy ; nor without meeting with continual occasions when our song, if right, would be a kind service to others. [Ruskin, "Rock Honeycomb"]
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schadenfreude (n.)

"malicious joy in the misfortunes of others," 1922, German Schadenfreude, literally "damage-joy," from schaden "damage, harm, injury" (see scathe) + freude, from Old High German frewida "joy," from fro "happy," literally "hopping for joy," from Proto-Germanic *frawa- (see frolic).

What a fearful thing is it that any language should have a word expressive of the pleasure which men feel at the calamities of others; for the existence of the word bears testimony to the existence of the thing. And yet in more than one such a word is found. ... In the Greek epikhairekakia, in the German, 'Schadenfreude.' [Richard C. Trench, "On the Study of Words," 1852]
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in-law (n.)

1894, "anyone of a relationship not natural," abstracted from father-in-law, etc.

The position of the 'in-laws' (a happy phrase which is attributed ... to her Majesty, than whom no one can be better acquainted with the article) is often not very apt to promote happiness. [Blackwood's Magazine, 1894]

The earliest recorded use of the formation is in brother-in-law (13c.); the law is Canon Law, which defines degrees of relationship within which marriage is prohibited. Thus the word originally had a more narrow application; its general extension to more distant relatives of one's spouse is, according to OED "recent colloquial or journalistic phraseology." Middle English inlaue (13c.) meant "one within or restored to the protection and benefit of the law" (opposite of an outlaw), from a verb inlauen, from Old English inlagian "reverse sentence of outlawry."

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prosper (v.)

mid-14c., prosperen, "be successful, thrive, advance in any good thing," from Old French prosperer (14c.) and directly from Latin prosperare "cause to succeed, render happy," from prosperus "favorable, fortunate, prosperous" (source also of Spanish and Italian prospero).

This is perhaps etymologically "agreeable to one's wishes," traditionally regarded as from Old Latin pro spere "according to expectation, according to one's hope," from pro "for" (see pro-) + ablative of spes "hope" (from PIE root *speh- "prosperity" (see speed (n.)). Or, if the compound is older, from Proto-Italic *pro-sparo-, from PIE *pro-speh- "to thrive," with second element from PIE  *sph-ro- "thriving" (source also of Old English spōwan "to prosper;" again, see speed (n.)). The rarer transitive sense of "make to prosper, promote the success of" is from 1520s.

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medium (n.)

1580s, "a middle ground, quality, or degree; that which holds a middle place or position," from Latin medium "the middle, midst, center; interval," noun use of neuter of adjective medius "in the middle, between; from the middle" (from PIE root *medhyo- "middle").

Many of the secondary senses are via the notion of "intervening substance through which a force or quality is conveyed" (1590s) and "intermediate agency, channel of communication" (c. 1600). From the former, via application to air, etc., comes the sense of "one's environment or conditions" (1865). From the latter comes the sense of "a print publication" (1795) which later grew into the meaning in media.

In spiritualism, "person who conveys spiritual messages," by 1853. In painting, in reference to oil, watercolor, etc., by 1854. The notion is "liquid with which pigments are ground or mixed to give them desired fluidity." Happy medium is the "golden mean," Horace's aurea mediocritas.

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return (n.)

late 14c., "act of coming back" to a place or state, also "formal or official report of election results," from Anglo-French retorn, retourn, Old French retorne, retourne, verbal noun from retorner "turn back, turn round, return" (see return (v.)). Also in part from Medieval Latin returnum. Related: Returns.

The meaning "official report of the result of an election" is from mid-15c. The sense of "act of giving by way of recompense" is from 1540s. In ball games from 1833 (cricket); specifically in tennis from 1886. The meaning "a yield, a profit, gain" in some trade or occupation is recorded from 1620s. The sense of "a thing sent back" is from 1875.

To wish someone many happy returns of the day was in Addison (1716). The postal return address, to which an item is to be returned if it could not be delivered, is attested from 1879; return envelope, enclosed for the recipient's reply to a letter, is by 1886. The traveler's return ticket is by 1847.

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well (adv.)

"in a satisfactory manner," Old English wel "abundantly, very, very much; indeed, to be sure; with good reason; nearly, for the most part," from Proto-Germanic *wel- (source also of Old Saxon wela, Old Norse vel, Old Frisian wel, Dutch wel, Old High German wela, German wohl, Gothic waila "well"), from PIE root *wel- (2) "to wish, will" (source also of Sanskrit prati varam "at will," Old Church Slavonic vole "well," Welsh gwell "better," Latin velle "to wish, will," Old English willan "to wish;" see will (v.)).

Also used in Old English as an interjection and an expression of surprise. The adjective was in Old English in the sense "in good fortune, happy," from the adverb; sense of "satisfactory" is from late 14c.; "agreeable to wish or desire" is from mid-15c.; "in good health, not ailing" is from 1550s. Well-to-do "prosperous" is recorded by 1794.

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canny (adj.)

"knowing, wise," 1630s, from a Scottish and northern English formation from can (v.1) in its sense of "know how to," + -y (2). A doublet of cunning that flowered into distinct senses in Scottish English. In the glossary to Scott's "Heart of Mid-Lothian" (1818) uncanny is defined as "dangerous," while canny, as used in the tale, is defined as "skilful, prudent, lucky ; in a superstitious sense, good-conditioned, and safe to deal with ; trustworthy ; quiet." Cannily is "gently" and canny moment is "an opportune or happy time."

"Knowing," hence, from 18c., "careful, skillful, clever," also "frugal, thrifty," and, from early 19c. (perhaps via Scott's novels) "cautious, wary, shrewd." Often used superciliously of Scots by their southern neighbors (and their American cousins).

The Canny Scot is so well known as scarcely to require description. He carries caution, cunning, and selfishness to excess. Deceitful when a purpose is to be accomplished, he is not habitually deceitful. One thing he never loses sight of—his own interest. But of his own interest he is not the most enlightened judge. ["The Natural History of Scotsmen," in The Argosy, December 1865]

Related: Cannily; canniness.

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