a word applied by Europeans to any small, light boat on the Chinese pattern, used on the coasts of East Asia, 1610s, from Chinese san pan, literally "three boards," from san "three" + pan "plank." In 16c. Spanish made it cempan; Portuguese had it as champana.
1590s, pertaining to the three Roman emperors who reigned 69-96 C.E., the dynasty of (Flavius) Vespasian; see Flavius.
1590, one of the three fundamental functions of trigonometry, from tangent (adj.). From 1650s as "a tangent line." Figurative use of on a tangent is from 1771.
in France and U.S., "1,000 to the hundredth power," 1846, from centi- "one hundred" (in reference to the 100 groups of three zeroes it has beyond the first group of three zeroes) + ending from million, etc. Compare French centillion (by 1841). Generally used indefinitely for "a very large number." Related: Centillionth.
before vowels stere-, word-forming element meaning "solid, firm; three-dimensional; stereophonic," from Greek stereos "solid" (from PIE root *ster- (1) "stiff").