c. 1200, talken, probably a diminutive or frequentative form related to Middle English tale "story," and ultimately from the same source as tale (q.v.), with rare English formative -k (compare hark from hear, stalk from steal, smirk from smile) and replacing that word as a verb. East Frisian has talken "to talk, chatter, whisper." Related: Talked; talking.
To talk (something) up "discuss in order to promote" is from 1722. To talk shop is from 1854. To talk turkey is from 1824, supposedly from an elaborate joke about a swindled Indian.
Phrase talking head is by 1966 in the jargon of television production, "an in-tight closeup of a human head talking on television." In reference to a person who habitually appears on television in talking-head shots (usually a news anchor), by 1970. The phrase is used earlier, in reference to the well-known magic trick (such as Señor Wences's talking head-in-the-box "Pedro" on the "Ed Sullivan Show"), and to actual talking heads in mythology around the world (Orpheus, Bran).
c. 1300, fairie, "the country or home of supernatural or legendary creatures; fairyland," also "something incredible or fictitious," from Old French faerie "land of fairies, meeting of fairies; enchantment, magic, witchcraft, sorcery" (12c.), from fae "fay," from Latin fata "the Fates," plural of fatum "that which is ordained; destiny, fate," from PIE root *bha- (2) "to speak, tell, say." Also compare fate (n.), also fay.
In ordinary use an elf differs from a fairy only in generally seeming young, and being more often mischievous. [Century Dictionary]
But that was before Tolkien. As a type of supernatural being from late 14c. [contra Tolkien; for example "This maketh that ther been no fairyes" in "Wife of Bath's Tale"], perhaps via intermediate forms such as fairie knight "supernatural or legendary knight" (c. 1300), as in Spenser, where faeries are heroic and human-sized. As a name for the diminutive winged beings in children's stories from early 17c.
Yet I suspect that this flower-and-butterfly minuteness was also a product of "rationalization," which transformed the glamour of Elfland into mere finesse, and invisibility into a fragility that could hide in a cowslip or shrink behind a blade of grass. It seems to become fashionable soon after the great voyages had begun to make the world seem too narrow to hold both men and elves; when the magic land of Hy Breasail in the West had become the mere Brazils, the land of red-dye-wood. [J.R.R. Tolkien, "On Fairy-Stories," 1947]
Hence, figurative adjective use in reference to lightness, fineness, delicacy. Slang meaning "effeminate male homosexual" is recorded by 1895. Fairy ring, of certain fungi in grass fields (as we would explain it now), is from 1590s. Fairy godmother attested from 1820. Fossil Cretaceous sea urchins found on the English downlands were called fairy loaves, and a book from 1787 reports that "country people" in England called the stones of the old Roman roads fairy pavements.
1590s, in a now-obsolete meaning "mischievous, malicious;" also in 17c., "careless, incautious; unreliable, not to be trusted," from un- (1) "not" + canny (q.v.) in its old Scots and Northern English sense of "skillful, prudent, lucky" (it is a doublet of cunning).
Canny had also a sense of "superstitiously lucky; skilled in magic." In Wright's "English Dialect Dictionary" (1900) the first sense of uncanny as used in Scotland and the North is "awkward, unskilful; careless; imprudent; inconvenient." The second is "Unearthly, ghostly, dangerous from supernatural causes ; ominous, unlucky ; of a person : possessed of supernatural powers".
From 1773, uncanny appears in popular literature from the North (Robert Fergusson, Scott), with reference to persons and in a sense of "not quite safe to trust or deal with through association with the supernatural." By 1843 it had a general sense in English of "having a supernatural character, weird, mysterious, strange." (OED notes this as "Common from c 1850"; Borges considers it untranslatable but notes that German unheimlich answers to it.)
The Scottish writers also use it with the meanings "unpleasantly hard; dangerous, unsafe."
early 15c., sisamie, "annual herbaceous plant cultivated primarily for its seeds," probably from Latin sesamum (nominative sesama), from Greek sēsamon (Doric sasamon) "seed or fruit of the sesame plant," a very early borrowing via Phoenician from Late Babylonian *shawash-shammu (compare Assyrian shamash-shammu "sesame," literally "oil-seed"). Medieval Latin had it as sisaminum; Old French as sisamin.
It first appears in English as a magic charm in a 1722 translation of Galland's "Mille et une nuits," where it causes the door of the thieves' den in "Ali Baba and the Forty Thieves" to fly open. It began to be used in contexts outside the Tales by 1790s.
A warehouse, a shop, or more generally a stable, is under every private dwelling-house. When you ring the bell, the door is opened by a long string from above ; like the "Open Sesame," in the Arabian Tales. [Southey, "Letters Written During a Short Residence in Spain and Portugal," 1799]
late 14c., farmacie, "a medicine that rids the body of an excess of humors (except blood);" also "treatment with medicine; theory of treatment with medicine," from Old French farmacie "a purgative" (13c.) and directly from Medieval Latin pharmacia, from Greek pharmakeia "a healing or harmful medicine, a healing or poisonous herb; a drug, poisonous potion; magic (potion), dye, raw material for physical or chemical processing."
This is from pharmakeus (fem. pharmakis) "a preparer of drugs, a poisoner, a sorcerer" from pharmakon "a drug, a poison, philter, charm, spell, enchantment." Beekes writes that the original meaning cannot be clearly established, and "The word is clearly Pre-Greek." The ph- was restored 16c. in French, 17c. in English (see ph).
Buck ["Selected Indo-European Synonyms"] notes that "Words for 'poison', apart from an inherited group, are in some cases the same as those for 'drug' ...." In addition to the Greek word he has Latin venenum "poison," earlier "drug, medical potion" (source of Spanish veneno, French venin, English venom), and Old English lybb.
Meaning "the use or administration of drugs" is from c. 1400; the sense of "art or practice of preparing, preserving, and compounding medicines and dispensing them according to prescriptions" is from 1650s; that of "place where drugs are prepared and dispensed" is recorded by 1833.
The first element probably is cognate with Old English haga "enclosure, portion of woodland marked off for cutting" (see hedge (n.)). Old Norse had tunriða and Old High German zunritha, both literally "hedge-rider," used of witches and ghosts. The second element in the prehistoric compound may be connected with Norwegian tysja "fairy; crippled woman," Gaulish dusius "demon," Lithuanian dvasia "spirit," from PIE *dhewes- "to fly about, smoke, be scattered, vanish."
One of the magic words for which there is no male form, suggesting its original meaning was close to "diviner, soothsayer," which were always female in northern European paganism, and hægtesse seem at one time to have meant "woman of prophetic and oracular powers" (Ælfric uses it to render the Greek "pythoness," the voice of the Delphic oracle), a figure greatly feared and respected. Later, the word was used of village wise women.
Haga is also the haw- in hawthorn, which is an important tree in northern European pagan religion. There may be several layers of folk etymology here. Confusion or blending with heathenish is suggested by Middle English hæhtis, hægtis "hag, witch, fury, etc.," and haetnesse "goddess," used of Minerva and Diana.
If the hægtesse once was a powerful supernatural woman (in Norse it is an alternative word for Norn, any of the three weird sisters, the equivalent of the Fates), it might originally have carried the hawthorn sense. Later, when the pagan magic was reduced to local scatterings, it might have had the sense of "hedge-rider," or "she who straddles the hedge," because the hedge was the boundary between the civilized world of the village and the wild world beyond. The hægtesse would have a foot in each reality. Even later, when it meant the local healer and root collector, living in the open and moving from village to village, it may have had the mildly pejorative Middle English sense of hedge- (hedge-priest, etc.), suggesting an itinerant sleeping under bushes. The same word could have contained all three senses before being reduced to its modern one.
Old English leaf "leaf of a plant, foliage; page of a book, sheet of paper," from Proto-Germanic *lauba- (source also of Old Saxon lof, Old Norse lauf, Old Frisian laf, Dutch loof, Old High German loub, German Laub "foliage, leaves," Gothic laufs "leaf, foliage"), perhaps from PIE *leub(h)- "to peel off, strip or break off" ((source also of Old Irish luib, "herb," lub-gort "garden;" Albanian labë "rind, cork;" Lithuanian luba "plank, board;" Russian lob "forehead, brow," Czech leb "skull;" Lithuanian luobas "bast," Latvian luobas "peel," Russian lub "bast;" Old Norse lyf "medicinal herbs," Old English lybb "poison; magic").
Related to lodge and lobby; for another PIE root see folio. Extended late 14c. to very thin sheets of metal (especially gold). Compare Lithuanian lapas "leaf," from a root also in Greek lepos "bark," lepein "to peel off." Also applied to flat and relatively broad surfaces, especially of flexible or mounted attachments; meaning "hinged flap on the side of a table" is from 1550s. To turn over a (new) leaf (1590s; 1570s as turn the leaf) "begin a new and better course of life" is a reference to the book sense. Among insects, leaf-hopper is from 1847; leaf-cutter from 1816.
Old English spell "story, saying, tale, history, narrative, fable; discourse, command," from Proto-Germanic *spellam (see spell (v.1)). Compare Old Saxon spel, Old Norse spjall, Old High German spel, Gothic spill "report, discourse, tale, fable, myth;" German Beispiel "example." From c. 1200 as "an utterance, something said, a statement, remark;" meaning "set of words with supposed magical or occult powers, incantation, charm" first recorded 1570s; hence any means or cause of enchantment.
The term 'spell' is generally used for magical procedures which cause harm, or force people to do something against their will — unlike charms for healing, protection, etc. ["Oxford Dictionary of English Folklore"]
In general terms, the belief underlying the use of spells is that the wish that they embody will be fulfilled, regardless of its goodness or badness, so long as the formula has been correctly pronounced. Broadly speaking, then, spell and prayer, like magic and religion to which they severally belong, can be distinguished by the nature of the intended purpose. [Enyclopaedia Britannica, 1941]
Also in Old English, "doctrine; a sermon; religious instruction or teaching; the gospel; a book of the Bible;" compare gospel. The 11c. glossaries give spel for Latin fabula.
"physician" (obsolete, poetical, or archaic), from Old English læce "leech," probably from Old Danish læke, from Proto-Germanic *lekjaz "enchanter, one who speaks magic words; healer, physician" (source also of Old Frisian letza, Old Saxon laki, Old Norse læknir, Old High German lahhi, Gothic lekeis "physician"), literally "one who counsels," perhaps connected with a root found in Celtic (compare Irish liaig "charmer, exorcist, physician") and Slavic (compare Serbo-Croatian lijekar, Polish lekarz), from PIE *lep-agi "conjurer," from root *leg- (1) "to collect, gather," with derivatives meaning "to speak (to 'pick out words')."
For sense development, compare Old Church Slavonic baliji "doctor," originally "conjurer," related to Serbo-Croatian bajati "enchant, conjure;" Old Church Slavonic vrači, Russian vrač "doctor," related to Serbo-Croatian vrač "sorcerer, fortune-teller." The form merged with leech (n.1) in Middle English, apparently by folk etymology. In early Middle English the word also was used of God and Christ; but by 17c. the sense had so deteriorated that leech typically was applied only to veterinary practitioners, and soon it was entirely archaic.
The fourth finger of the hand, in Old English, was læcfinger, translating Latin digitus medicus, Greek daktylus iatrikos, supposedly because a vein from that finger stretches straight to the heart.
mid-14c., screne, "upright piece of furniture providing protection from heat of a fire, drafts, etc.," probably from a shortened (Anglo-French? compare Anglo-Latin screna) variant of Old North French escren, Old French escran "fire-screen, tester of a bed" (early 14c.). This is of uncertain origin, though probably from a Germanic source, perhaps from Middle Dutch scherm "screen, cover, shield," or Frankish *skrank "barrier," from Proto-Germanic *skirmjanan(source also of Old High German skirm, skerm "protection," Old Frisian skirma "protect, defend;" from PIE root *sker- (1) "to cut").
The sense of "anything interposed to conceal from view" is by c. 1600. The meaning "net-wire frame used in windows and doors" is recorded from 1859. Meaning "flat vertical surface for reception of projected images" is from 1810, originally in reference to magic lantern shows; later of movies. Transferred sense of "cinema world collectively" is attested from 1914; hence screen test "filmed test of performing abilities" (1918), etc.
The meaning "small fluorescent display on a TV set" is by 1946, extended to the display on a computer monitor by 1970, hence the monitor itself. The computer screen saver is attested by 1990. The meaning "window of an automobile" is by 1904. As a type of maneuver in sports, by 1934 (U.S. football, screen-pass). Screen printing recorded from 1918. Screen-door is from 1840. Screen-time "time spent watching a computer or television screen" is by 1999.