"to guide," Old English lædan (transitive) "cause to go with oneself; march at the head of, go before as a guide, accompany and show the way; carry on; sprout forth, bring forth; pass (one's life)," causative of liðan "to travel," from Proto-Germanic *laidjanan (source also of Old Saxon lithan, Old Norse liða "to go," Old High German ga-lidan "to travel," Gothic ga-leiþan "to go"), from PIE *leit- (2) "to go forth."
Of roads, c. 1200. Meaning "to be in first place" is from late 14c. Intransitive sense, "act the part of a leader," is from 1570s. Sense in card playing, "to commence a round or trick," is from 1670s. Meaning "take the directing part in a musical performance or prayer" is from 1849. Related: Led; leading.
To lead with one's chin "leave oneself vulnerable in a contest" (1946) is a figure from boxing. To lead on "entice to advance" is from 1590s. To figuratively lead (someone) by the nose "guide by persuasion" is from 1580s, from draught animals (earlier lead by the sleeve, early 15c.). To lead (someone) a dance "compel through a course of irksome actions" is from 1520s.
stinging insect of the genus Apis, living in societies under a queen and producing wax and honey, Old English beo "bee," from Proto-Germanic *bion (source also of Old Norse by, Old High German bia, Middle Dutch bie), from PIE root *bhei- "bee."
Used metaphorically for "busy worker" since 1530s. The sense of "meeting of neighbors to unite their labor for the benefit of one of their number" is by 1769, American English, probably is from comparison to the combined labor and social activity of the insect: Raising-bee (1814) for building construction; quilting bee (1824, see quilt (v.)); logging-bee for a log-rolling; paring-bee for preparing harvested apples; also hanging bee "a lynching"). It was extended to other situations (such as spelling bee, attested by 1809).
To have a bee in (one's) bonnet (1825), of one who is harebrained or has an intense new notion or fancy, is said in Jamieson to be Scottish, perhaps from earlier expressions such as head full of bees (1510s), denoting mad mental activity.
"The name of the machine in which the axe descends in grooves from a considerable height so that the stroke is certain and the head instantly severed from the body." [Universal Magazine of Knowledge and Pleasure, January 1793], 1791, from French guillotine, named in recognition of French physician Joseph Guillotin (1738-1814), who as a deputy to the National Assembly (1789) proposed, for humanitarian and efficiency reasons, that capital punishment be carried out by beheading quickly and cleanly on a machine, which was built in 1791 and first used the next year. Similar devices on similar principles had been used in the Middle Ages. The verb is attested by 1794. Related: Guillotined; guillotining.
This is the product of Guillotin's endeavors, ... which product popular gratitude or levity christens by a feminine derivative name, as if it were his daughter: La Guillotine! ... Unfortunate Doctor! For two-and-twenty years he, unguillotined, shall hear nothing but guillotine, see nothing but guillotine; then dying, shall through long centuries wander, as it were, a disconsolate ghost, on the wrong side of Styx and Lethe; his name like to outlive Cæsar's. [Carlyle, "French Revolution"]
also karat, late 15c., "a measure of the fineness of gold," from Old French carat "measure of the fineness of gold" (14c.), from Italian carato or Medieval Latin carratus, both from Arabic qirat "fruit of the carob tree," also "weight of 4 grains," from Greek keration "carob seed," also the name of a small weight of measure, literally "little horn" diminutive of keras "horn of an animal" (from PIE root *ker- (1) "horn; head").
Carob beans were a standard in the ancient world for weighing small quantities. The Greek measure was the equivalent of the Roman siliqua, which was one-twenty-fourth of a golden solidus of Constantine; hence karat took on a sense of "a proportion of one twenty-fourth, a twenty-fourth part," especially in expressing the fineness of gold when used as jewelry, and thus it became a measure of gold purity (1550s): 18-carat gold is eighteen parts gold, six parts alloy; 14-carat gold is 10/24ths alloy, etc.
As a measure of weight for diamonds or other precious stones, carat is attested from 1570s in English. In U.S., karat is used for "proportion of fine gold in an alloy" and carat for "measure of weight of a precious stone."
1610s, "a person's wealth," from Medieval Latin capitale "stock, property," noun use of neuter of Latin capitalis "capital, chief, first" (see capital (adj.)). From 1640s as "the wealth employed in carrying on a particular business," then, in a broader sense in political economy, "that part of the produce of industry which is available for further production" (1793).
[The term capital] made its first appearance in medieval Latin as an adjective capitalis (from caput, head) modifying the word pars, to designate the principal sum of a money loan. The principal part of a loan was contrasted with the "usury"—later called interest—the payment made to the lender in addition to the return of the sum lent. This usage, unknown to classical Latin, had become common by the thirteenth century and possibly had begun as early as 1100 A.D., in the first chartered towns of Europe. [Frank A. Fetter, "Reformulation of the Concepts of Capital and Income in Economics and Accounting," 1937, in "Capital, Interest, & Rent," 1977]
Also see cattle, and compare sense development of fee, and pecuniary. Middle English had chief money "principal fund" (mid-14c.). The noun use of the adjective in classical Latin meant "a capital crime."
Middle English reren, from Old English ræran "to raise, lift something, cause to rise;" also "to build up, create, set on end; to arouse, excite, stir up," from Proto-Germanic *raizijanau "to raise," causative of *risanan "to rise" (source of Old English risan; see rise (v.)). The second -r- is by rhotacism.
Meaning "bring into being, bring up" (as a child) is recorded by early 15c., perhaps late 14c.; at first it is not easy to distinguish the sense from simply "beget;" the meaning "bring up (animals or persons) by proper nourishment and attention, develop or train physically or mentally" had developed by late 16c.
The intransitive meaning "raise up on the hind legs" is first recorded late 14c. (compare rare (v.)). As what one does in raising or holding high the head, by 1667 ("Rear'd high thir flourisht heads" - Milton); with ugly by 1851. Related: Reared; rearing.
Other uses of rear in Middle English were "set" (fire); "draw" (blood); "wage" (war); "raise" (revenue, tithes); "gather, collect" (a flock of sheep).
early 15c., replacing forms from Old English fleogende "flying, winged;" present-participle adjective from fly (v.1). The meaning "attached so as to have freedom of movement" (1670s) is the source of the nautical use (flying jib, etc.). Meaning "designed for rapid movement" (especially in military terms, e.g. flying camp) is from 1660s; meaning "passing, hasty, temporary, rapidly constructed" is from 1763.
Flying fish is from 1510s; flying buttress "segment of an arch projecting from a solid mass and serving to stabilize a wall" is from 1660s. Flying Dutchman, ghost ship off the Cape of Good Hope, is attested since 1790 [John MacDonald "Travels in Various Parts of Europe, Asia, and Africa"]. Various accounts are given of how it came to be condemned to sail the sea, beating against head-winds, till the day of judgment. It is said that the ship sometimes hails vessels with the request that they will take letters home.
Flying colors (1706) probably is from the image of a naval vessel with the national flag bravely displayed. Flying machine is from 1736 as a theoretical device. Flying saucer first attested 1947, though the image of saucers for unidentified flying objects is from at least 1880s.
"effeminate man, male homosexual who takes the passive role," 1924, from female name Nancy (q.v.), which was in use as an adjective meaning "effeminate" (applied to men) by 1904 in prison slang, a shortening of earlier Miss Nancy, a derogatory term for a finicky, effeminate man which is attested by 1824; Nancy boy "effeminate male homosexual" is attested by 1939.
Nancy, Miss, an opprobrious epithet for an exceedingly effeminate, over-nice young man. The original Miss Nancy, however, was a Mrs. Anna Oldfield, a celebrated actress, who died in 1730 and was buried in Westminster Abbey. She was extremely vain and nice about her dress, and as she lay in state, attended by two noblemen, she was attired, as she had directed shortly before her death, in "a very fine Brussels lace head-dress, a Holland shift with a tucker and double ruffles of the same lace, a pair of new kid gloves," etc., a circumstance alluded to by Pope .... [William S. Walsh, "Handy-Book of Literary Curiosities," 1892]
Walsh's proposed origin might not be exact. Related: Nancified.
c. 1300, at first found chiefly in writings from northern England and north Midlands, with a sense of "powerful, strong;" a word of obscure origin. It is possibly from a Scandinavian source (compare Norwegian dialectal bugge "great man"). Old English used micel (see much) in many of the same senses.
Big came into general use c. 1400. The meaning "of great size" is from late 14c., as is that of "full-grown, grown up." The sense of "important, influential, powerful" is from c. 1400. The meaning "haughty, inflated with pride" is from 1570s. The sense of "generous" is U.S. colloquial by 1913.
Big band as a musical style is from 1926. Slang big head "conceit" is recorded by 1850. Big business "large commercial firms collectively" is from 1913 (before that it meant "a profitable income in business"). Big top "main tent of a circus" is from 1895. Big game "large animals hunted for sport" is from 1864. Big house "penitentiary" is U.S. underworld slang is attested by 1915 (in London, "a workhouse," 1851). In financial journalism, big ticket items were so called from 1956. Big lie is from Hitler's grosse Lüge.