Old English be- (unstressed) or bi (stressed) "near, in, by, during, about," from Proto-Germanic *bi "around, about," in compounds often merely intensive (source also of Old Saxon and Old Frisian bi "by, near," Middle Dutch bie, Dutch bij, German bei "by, at, near," Gothic bi "about"), from PIE *bhi, reduced form of root *ambhi- "around."
As an adverb by c. 1300, "near, close at hand." OED (2nd ed. print) has 38 distinct definitions of it as a preposition. Originally an adverbial particle of place, which sense survives in place names (Whitby, Grimsby, etc., also compare rudesby). Elliptical use for "secondary course" was in Old English (opposed to main, as in byway, also compare by-blow "illegitimate child," 1590s, Middle English loteby "a concubine," from obsolete lote "to lurk, lie hidden"). This also is the sense of the second by in the phrase by the by (1610s). By the way literally means "along the way" (c. 1200), hence "in passing by," used figuratively to introduce a tangential observation ("incidentally") by 1540s.
To swear by something or someone is in Old English, perhaps originally "in the presence of." Phrase by and by (early 14c.) originally meant "one by one," with by apparently denoting succession; modern sense of "before long" is from 1520s. By and large "in all its length and breadth" (1660s) originally was nautical, "sailing to the wind and off it," hence "in one direction then another;" from nautical expression large wind, one that crosses the ship's line in a favorable direction.
c. 1300, "onward movement, motion forward, a running in a prescribed direction or over a prescribed distance; path or distance prescribed for a race, a race-course" from Old French cors "course; run, running; flow of a river" (12c.), from Latin cursus "a running; a journey; direction, track navigated by a ship; flow of a stream;" from curs- past participle stem of currere "to run" (from PIE root *kers- "to run").
Also from c. 1300 as "order, sequence;" meanings "habitual or ordinary procedure" (as in course of nature) and "way of life, personal behavior or conduct" are from early 14c.
Most of the extended senses developed 14c. from notion of "line in which something moves" (as in hold one's course) or "stage through which something must pass in its progress." Thus, via the meaning "series or succession in a specified or systematized order" (mid-14c.) comes the senses of "succession of prescribed acts intended to bring about a particular result" (c. 1600, as in course of treatment) and the academic meaning "planned series of study" (c. 1600; in French from 14c.), also "that part of a meal which is served at once and separately" (late 14c.).
Meaning "the flow of a stream of water" is from mid-14c.; that of "channel in which water flows" is from 1660s. Courses was used for the flow of bodily fluids and 'humors' from late 14c.; specifically of menstrual flux from 1560s.
Adverbial phrase of course "by consequence, in regular or natural order" is attested from 1540s, literally "of the ordinary course;" earlier in the same sense was bi cours (c. 1300). Matter of course "something to be expected" is by 1739.
Middle English shot "a missile, arrow, dart" (senses now archaic or obsolete); "a swift movement, a gushing out," from Old English scot, sceot "a shot, a shooting, an act of shooting; that which is discharged in shooting, what is shot forth; darting, rapid motion."
This is from Proto-Germanic *skutan (source also of Old Norse skutr, Old Frisian skete, Middle Dutch scote, German Schuß "a shot"), from PIE root *skeud- "to shoot, chase, throw." The Old English noun is related to sceotan "to shoot." The meaning "discharge of a bow, missile," also is from related Old English gesceot.
The noun was extended to other projectiles (balls, bullets) by mid-15c. Especially "lead in small pellets, a small ball or pellet," a number of which are combined in one charge, which is attested by 1770 (shortened from earlier small shot, 1727).
The general sense of "an attempt to hit with a projectile" is by 1650s. Extended to sports (hockey, basketball, etc.) by 1772, originally in curling. It is attested by early 15c. as "range or distance of a missile in flight," hence "range" in general (c. 1600), as in earshot.
Another original meaning, "payment" (perhaps literally "money thrown down") is preserved in scot-free; also see scot (n.). The notion of "throwing down" might have led to the meaning "a drink," first attested 1670s; the more precise meaning "small drink of straight liquor" is by 1928.
The sense of "hypodermic injection" is attested from 1904; the figurative phrase shot in the arm "stimulant" is by 1922. The broad meaning "a try, an attempt" is by 1756; the sense of "remark meant to wound" is by 1841. The meaning "an expert in shooting with a firearm" is from 1780; the sense of "a rocket flight" is by 1934. The camera-view sense is by 1958.
To call the shots "control events, make decisions" is American English, 1922, perhaps from sport shooting. Shot in the dark "uninformed guess, random attempt" is by 1885. Big shot "important person" is from 1861.
By the rude bridge that arched the flood,
Their flag to April’s breeze unfurled,
Here once the embattled farmers stood
And fired the shot heard round the world.
[Emerson, from "Concord Hymn"]
"bent or angled piece of metal or other substance used to catch or hold something," Old English hoc "hook, angle," perhaps related to Old English haca "bolt," from Proto-Germanic *hokaz/*hakan (source also of Old Frisian hok, Middle Dutch hoek "a hook;" Dutch haak "a hook, angle, corner, cape," German Haken "hook"), from PIE root *keg- "hook, tooth." For spelling, see hood (n.1).
Also the name of a fireman's tool for tearing into buildings, hence hook-and-ladder (1821). Meaning "holder for a telephone receiver" is from 1885 and continued in use after the mechanism evolved. Boxing sense of "short, swinging blow with the elbow bent" is from 1898. Figurative sense "that which catches, a snare, trap" is from early 15c. Meaning "projecting point of land" is from 1670s; in U.S. use probably reinforced by the Dutch word.
This name is given in New York to several angular points in the North and East rivers; as Corlear's Hook, Sandy Hook, Powles's Hook. [Bartlett, "Dictionary of Americanisms," 1848]
Off the hooks meant "disordered" (16c.), "unhinged" (1610s) and "dead" (1840). By hook or by crook (late 14c.) probably alludes to tools of professional thieves. Hook, line, and sinker "completely" is 1838, a metaphor from angling. Hook-nose (n.) is from 1680s; hook-nosed (adj.) from 1510s. Hook-and-eye as a method of garment fastening is from 1620s.
Hook and eye, a metallic fastening for garments, consisting of a hook, commonly of flattened wire bent to the required shape, and an eye, usually of the same material, into which the hook fits. Under the name of crochet and loop, this form of fastening was in use as early as the fourteenth century. [Century Dictionary]
1520s, "oblique or diagonal line," from French biais "a slant, a slope, an oblique," also figuratively, "an expedient, means" (13c., originally in Old French a past-participle adjective, "sideways, askance, against the grain"), a word of unknown origin. Probably it came to French from Old Provençal biais, which has cognates in Old Catalan and Sardinian, and is possibly via Vulgar Latin *(e)bigassius from Greek epikarsios "athwart, crosswise, at an angle," from epi "upon" (see epi-) + karsios "oblique" (from PIE *krs-yo-, suffixed form of root *sker- (1) "to cut").
In the old game of bowls, it was a technical term used in reference to balls made with a greater weight on one side (1560s), causing them to curve toward one side; hence the figurative use "a one-sided tendency of the mind" (1570s), and, at first especially in law, "undue propensity or prejudice."
The bias of education, the bias of class-relationships, the bias of nationality, the political bias, the theological bias—these, added to the constitutional sympathies and antipathies, have much more influence in determining beliefs on social questions than has the small amount of evidence collected. [Herbert Spencer, "The Study of Sociology," 1873]
For what a man had rather were true he more readily believes. Therefore he rejects difficult things from impatience of research; sober things, because they narrow hope; the deeper things of nature, from superstition; the light of experience, from arrogance and pride, lest his mind should seem to be occupied with things mean and transitory; things not commonly believed, out of deference to the opinion of the vulgar. Numberless in short are the ways, and sometimes imperceptible, in which the affections colour and infect the understanding. [Francis Bacon, "Novum Organum," 1620]
Middle English kēpen, from late Old English cepan (past tense cepte) "to seize, hold; seek after, desire," also "to observe or carry out in practice; look out for, regard, pay attention to," from Proto-Germanic *kopjan, which is of uncertain origin. Old English cepan was used c. 1000 to render Latin observare, so perhaps it is related to Old English capian "to look" (from Proto-Germanic *kap-), which would make the basic sense "to keep an eye on, see to it."
The word prob. belonged primarily to the vulgar and non-literary stratum of the language; but it comes up suddenly into literary use c. 1000, and that in many senses, indicating considerable previous development. [OED]
The senses exploded in Middle English: "to guard, defend" (12c.); "restrain (someone) from doing something" (early 13c.); "take care of, look after; protect or preserve (someone or something) from harm, damage, etc." (mid-13c.); "preserve, maintain, carry on" a shop, store, etc. (mid-14c.); "prevent from entering or leaving, force to remain or stay" (late 14c.); "preserve (something) without loss or change," also "not divulge" a secret, private information, etc., also "to last without spoiling" (late 14c.); "continue on" (a course, road, etc.), "adhere to" a course of action (late 14c.); "stay or remain" (early 15c.); "to continue" (doing something) (mid-15c.). It is used to translate both Latin conservare "preserve, keep safe" and tenere "to keep, retain."
From 1540s as "maintain for ready use;" 1706 as "have habitually in stock for sale." Meaning "financially support and privately control" (usually in reference to mistresses) is from 1540s; meaning "maintain in proper order" (of books, accounts) is from 1550s.
To keep at "work persistently" is from 1825; to keep on "continue, persist" is from 1580s. To keep up is from 1630s as "continue alongside, proceed in pace with," 1660s as "maintain in good order or condition, retain, preserve," 1680s as "support, hold in an existing state." To keep it up "continue (something) vigorously" is from 1752. To keep to "restrict (oneself) to" is from 1711. To keep off (trans.) "hinder from approach or attack" is from 1540s; to keep out (trans.) "prevent from entering" is from early 15c.
"an eating-house, establishment where meals may be bought and eaten," 1821, from French restaurant "a restaurant," originally "food that restores," noun use of present participle of restaurer "to restore or refresh," from Old French restorer (see restore).
In 1765 a man by the name of Boulanger, also known as "Champ d'Oiseaux" or "Chantoiseau," opened a shop near the Louvre (on either the rue des Poulies or the rue Bailleul, depending on which authority one chooses to believe). There he sold what he called restaurants or bouillons restaurants—that is, meat-based consommés intended to "restore" a person's strength. Ever since the Middle Ages the word restaurant had been used to describe any of a variety of rich bouillons made with chicken, beef, roots of one sort or another, onions, herbs, and, according to some recipes, spices, crystallized sugar, toasted bread, barley, butter, and even exotic ingredients such as dried rose petals, Damascus grapes, and amber. In order to entice customers into his shop, Boulanger had inscribed on his window a line from the Gospels: "Venite ad me omnes qui stomacho laboratis et ego vos restaurabo." He was not content simply to serve bouillon, however. He also served leg of lamb in white sauce, thereby infringing the monopoly of the caterers' guild. The guild filed suit, which to everyone's astonishment ended in a judgment in favor of Boulanger. [Jean-Robert Pitte, "The Rise of the Restaurant," in "Food: A Culinary History from Antiquity to the Present," English editor Albert Sonnenfeld, transl. Clarissa Botsford, 1999, Columbia University Press]
Italian spelling ristorante attested in English by 1925. Middle English had similar words in legal language, such as restaurance "restitution." The railroad restaurant car (1872) was one adapted to afford meals to passengers while travelling.
Old English bæc "back," from Proto-Germanic *bakam (cognates: Old Saxon and Middle Dutch bak, Old Frisian bek), with no known connections outside Germanic. In other modern Germanic languages the cognates mostly have been ousted in this sense by words akin to Modern English ridge (such as Danish ryg, German Rücken).
Many Indo-European languages show signs of once having distinguished the horizontal back of an animal (or a mountain range) from the upright back of a human. In other cases, a modern word for "back" may come from a word related to "spine" (Italian schiena, Russian spina) or "shoulder, shoulder blade" (Spanish espalda, Polish plecy).
By synecdoche, "the whole body," especially with reference to clothing. The meaning "upright part of a chair" is from 1520s. As a U.S. football position by 1876, so called from being behind the line of rushers; further distinguished according to relative position as quarterback, halfback, fullback. To turn (one's) back on (someone or something) "ignore" is from early 14c.
To know (something) like the back of one's hand, implying familiarity, is first attested 1893 in a dismissive speech made to a character in Robert Louis Stevenson's "Catriona":
If I durst speak to herself, you may be certain I would never dream of trusting it to you; because I know you like the back of my hand, and all your blustering talk is that much wind to me.
The story, a sequel to "Kidnapped," has a Scottish setting and context, and the back of my hand to you was noted in the late 19th century as a Scottish expression meaning "I will have nothing to do with you" [see Longmuir's edition of Jamieson's Scottish dictionary]. In English generally, the back of (one's) hand has been used to imply contempt and rejection at least since 1300. Perhaps the connection of a menacing dismissal is what made Stevenson choose that particular anatomical reference.
"being but a single unit or individual; being a single person, thing, etc. of the class mentioned;" as a pronoun, "a single person or thing, an individual, somebody;" as a noun, "the first or lowest of the cardinal numerals; single in kind, the same; the first whole number, consisting of a single unit; unity; the symbol representing one or unity;" c. 1200, from Old English an (adjective, pronoun, noun) "one," from Proto-Germanic *ainaz (source also of Old Norse einn, Danish een, Old Frisian an, Dutch een, German ein, Gothic ains), from PIE root *oi-no- "one, unique."
Originally pronounced as it still is in only, atone, alone, and in dialectal good 'un, young 'un, etc.; the now-standard pronunciation "wun" began c. 14c. in southwest and west England (Tyndale, a Gloucester man, spells it won in his Bible translation), and it began to be general 18c. Its use as indefinite pronoun was influenced by unrelated French on and Latin homo.
Before the name of a person, indicating "hitherto unknown" or not known to the speaker.
One and only "sweetheart" is from 1906. Slang one-arm bandit for a type of slot machine is recorded by 1938. One-night stand is 1880 in performance sense; 1963 in sexual sense. One of the boys "ordinary amiable fellow" is from 1893. One-track mind "mind capable of only one line of thought or action" is by 1915. Drinking expression one for the road is from 1950 (as a song title). One-man band is by 1909 in a literal sense, 1914 figurative. One of those things "unpredictable occurrence" is from 1934 (Cole Porter's song is from 1935).
The conscience clause is one of the weaknesses of the Bill. It is one of those things which tend to create the bitterness. The conscience clause is one of those things which are inseparable from a Bill like this. It is one of those things which divides the sheep from the goats—members can pick them out for themselves—in the playground, in the school. ["Religious Exercises in School Bills," New Zealand Parliamentary Debates, Aug. 13, 1926]
"small sack," c. 1200, bagge, probably from Old Norse baggi "pack, bundle," or a similar Scandinavian source. OED rejects connection to other Germanic words for "bellows, belly" as without evidence and finds a Celtic origin untenable. In some senses perhaps from Old French bague, which is also from Germanic.
As disparaging slang for "woman" it dates from 1924 in modern use (but various specialized senses of this are much older, and compare baggage). The meaning "person's area of interest or expertise" is by 1964, from African-American vernacular, from jazz sense of "category," probably via notion of putting something in a bag. The meaning "fold of loose skin under the eye" is by 1867. Related: bags.
To be left holding the bag (and presumably nothing else), "cheated, swindled" is attested by 1793. Many figurative senses, such as the verb meaning "to kill game" (1814) and its colloquial extension to "catch, seize, steal" (1818) are from the notion of the game bag (late 15c.) into which the product of the hunt was placed. This also probably explains modern slang in the bag "assured, certain" (1922, American English).
To let the cat out of the bag "reveal the secret" is from 1760. The source is probably the French expression Acheter chat en poche "buy a cat in a bag," which is attested in 18c. French and explained in Bailey's "Universal Etymological English Dictionary" (1736), under the entry for To buy a pig in a poke as "to buy a Thing without looking at it, or enquiring into the Value of it." (Similar expressions are found in Italian and German; and in English, Wyclif (late 14c.) has To bye a catte in þo sakke is bot litel charge). Thus to let the cat out of the bag would be to inadvertently reveal the hidden truth of a matter one is attempting to pass off as something better or different, which is in line with the earliest uses in English.
Sir Joseph letteth the cat out of the bag, and sheweth principles inimical to the cause of true philosophy, by wishing to make great men Fellows, instead of wise men ["Peter Pindar," "Peter's Prophecy," 1788]