"ignorant, dull," 1590s, from Boeotia, district around Thebes in ancient Greece (said to have been so called for its cattle pastures; from Greek bous "ox," from PIE root *gwou- "ox, bull, cow"), whose inhabitants were characterized as proverbially dull and countrified by their neighbors to the east, the Athenians, who thought Boeotia "a canton hopelessly behind the times, a slow canton, as the nimble Attics would say, a glorious climate for eels, but a bad air for brains" [B.L. Gildersleeve, "Pindar: The Olympian and Pythian Odes"]. The Boeotians presumably held reciprocal opinions, but their great writers, Plutarch and Pindar, though patriots, are full of praise for Athenian deeds and institutions.
Though his aim was to vindicate Boeotia, [Pindar] has probably done her a disservice, in that he has helped to immortalise the scurrilous proverb Βοιωτία ύς [Boeotian swine], which he wished to confute. ... If left to itself, the slander might have passed into oblivion long ago. [W. Rhys Roberts, "The Ancient Boeotians," 1895]
mid-14c., bede "prayer bead," from Old English gebed "prayer," with intensive or collective prefix *ge- + Proto-Germanic *bidam "entreaty" (source also of Middle Dutch bede, Old High German beta, German bitte, Gothic bida "prayer, request"), from PIE *bhedh- "to ask, pray," perhaps from a root meaning "to press, urge," hence "to pray."
Shift in meaning came via rosary beads threaded on a string to count prayers, and in verbal phrases bid one's beads, count one's beads, etc. German cognate Bitte is the usual word for conversational request "please." Compare Spanish cuentas "the beads of a rosary," from contar "to count."
The word is also related to bid (Old English biddan) and Gothic bidjan "to ask, pray." Sense in Modern English was transferred to other small globular bodies, such as "drop of liquid" (1590s), "small knob forming front sight of a gun" (1831, Kentucky slang); hence draw a bead on "take aim at," 1841, U.S. colloquial.
Old English triewe (West Saxon), treowe (Mercian) "faithful, trustworthy, honest, steady in adhering to promises, friends, etc.," from Proto-Germanic *treuwaz "having or characterized by good faith" (source also of Old Frisian triuwi, Dutch getrouw, Old High German gatriuwu, German treu, Old Norse tryggr, Danish tryg, Gothic triggws "faithful, trusty"), from PIE *drew-o-, a suffixed form of the root *deru- "be firm, solid, steadfast."
Sense of "consistent with fact" first recorded c. 1200; that of "real, genuine, not counterfeit" is from late 14c.; that of "conformable to a certain standard" (as true north) is from c. 1550. Of artifacts, "accurately fitted or shaped" it is recorded from late 15c. Of aim, etc. "straight to the target, accurate,," by 1801, probably from the notion of "sure, unerring."
True-love (n.) is Old English treowlufu. True-born (adj.) first attested 1590s. True-false (adj.) as a type of test question is recorded from 1923. To come true (of dreams, etc.) is from 1819.
mid-12c., "protect or defend from harm," from Old French covrir "to cover, protect, conceal, dissemble" (12c., Modern French couvrir), from Late Latin coperire, from Latin cooperire "to cover over, overwhelm, bury," from assimilated form of com-, here perhaps an intensive prefix (see com-), + operire "to close, cover," from PIE compound *op-wer-yo-, from *op- "over" (see epi-) + root *wer- (4) "to cover."
Sense of "to hide or screen" is from c. 1300, that of "to put something over (something else)" is from early 14c. Sense of "spread (something) over the entire extent of a surface" is from late 14c. Military sense of "aim at" is from 1680s; newspaper sense first recorded 1893; use in U.S. football dates from 1907. Betting sense "place a coin of equal value on another" is by 1857. Of a horse or other large male animal, as a euphemism for "copulate with" it dates from 1530s.
Meaning "to include, embrace, comprehend" is by 1868. Meaning "to pass or travel over, move through" is from 1818. Sense of "be equal to, be of the same extent or amount, compensate for" is by 1828. Sense of "take charge of in place of an absent colleague" is attested by 1970.
Old English drifan "to compel or urge to move, impel in some direction or manner; to hunt (deer), pursue; to rush against" (class I strong verb; past tense draf, past participle drifen), from Proto-Germanic *dreibanan (source also of Old Frisian driva"I lead, impel, drive (away)," Old Saxon driban, Dutch drijven, Old High German triban, German treiben, Old Norse drifa, Gothic dreiban "to drive"), perhaps from PIE root *dhreibh- "to drive, push," but it may be a Germanic isolated word.
Used in Old English of nails, ships, plows, vehicles, cattle; in Middle English of bargains. Meaning "compel or incite to action or condition of any kind" (drive mad) is by late 12c. Sense of "work with energy, labor actively" is c. 1200; that of "aim a blow" is by early 14c.. Transitive meaning "convey (someone) in a carriage," later an automobile, is from 1660s. The original sense of "pushing from behind" was altered in Modern English by application to automobiles. Related: Driving.
MILLER: "The more you drive, the less intelligent you are." ["Repo Man," 1984]
formerly also empeach, late 14c., empechen, "to impede, hinder, prevent;" early 15c., "cause to be stuck, run (a ship) aground," also "prevent (from doing something)," from Anglo-French empecher, Old French empeechier "to hinder, stop, impede; capture, trap, ensnare" (12c., Modern French empêcher), from Late Latin impedicare "to fetter, catch, entangle," from assimilated form of in- "into, in" (from PIE root *en "in") + Latin pedica "a shackle, fetter," from pes (genitive pedis) "foot" (from PIE root *ped- "foot").
In law, at first in a broad sense, "to accuse, bring charges against" from late 14c.; more specifically, of the king or the House of Commons, "to bring formal accusation of treason or other high crime against (someone)" from mid-15c. The sense of "accuse a public officer of misconduct" had emerged from this by 1560s. The sense shift is perhaps via Medieval Latin confusion of impedicare with Latin impetere "attack, accuse" (see impetus), which is from the Latin verb petere "aim for, rush at" (from PIE root *pet- "to rush, to fly").
The Middle English verb apechen, probably from an Anglo-French variant of the source of impeach, was used from early 14c. in the sense "to accuse (someone), to charge (someone with an offense)." Related: Impeached; impeaching.
c. 1200, "given or granted in unusual circumstances, exceptional;" also "specific" as opposed to general or common; from Old French special, especial "special, particular, unusual" (12c., Modern French spécial) and directly from Latin specialis "individual, particular" (source also of Spanish especial, Italian speziale), from species "appearance, kind, sort" (see species).
Meaning "marked off from others by some distinguishing quality; dear, favored" is recorded from c. 1300. Also from c. 1300 is the sense of "selected for an important task; specially chosen." From mid-14c. as "extraordinary, distinguished, having a distinctive character," on the notion of "used for special occasions;" hence "excellent; precious."
From late 14c. as "individual, particular; characteristic." The meaning "limited as to function, operation, or purpose" is from 14c., but developed especially in the 19c. Special effects first attested 1951. Special interest in U.S. political sense is from 1910. Special pleading is recorded by 1680s, a term that had a sound legal meaning once but now is used generally and imprecisely. Special education in reference to those whose learning is impeded by some mental or physical handicap is from 1972.
Special pleading. (a) The allegation of special or new matter, as distinguished from a direct denial of matter previously alleged on the other side. ... (c) In popular use, the specious but unsound or unfair argumentation of one whose aim is victory rather than truth. [Century Dictionary]
c. 1500, "fortune good or bad, what happens to one by chance (conceived as being favorable or not); good luck, quality of having a tendency to receive desired or beneficial outcomes," not found in Old English, probably from early Middle Dutch luc, shortening of gheluc "happiness, good fortune," a word of unknown origin. It has cognates in Modern Dutch geluk, Middle High German g(e)lücke, German Glück "fortune, good luck."
Perhaps first borrowed in English as a gambling term. To be down on (one's) luck is from 1832; to be in luck is from 1857; to push (one's) luck is from 1911. Good luck as a salutation to one setting off to do something is from 1805. Expression no such luck, expressing disappointment that something did not or will not happen, is by 1835. Better luck next time as an expression of encouragement in the face of disappointment is from 1858, but the expression itself is older:
A gentleman was lately walking through St Giles's, where a levelling citizen attempting to pick his pocket of a handkerchief, which the gentleman caught in time, and secured, observing to the fellow, that he had missed his aim, the latter, with perfect sang-froid, answered, "better luck next time master." [Monthly Mirror, London, September 1802]
Luck of the draw (1892) is from card-playing. In expressions often ironical, as in just (my) luck (1909). To be out of luck is from 1789; to have one's luck run out is from 1966.
"a split, an opening, narrow fracture," mid-15c., earlier "a splitting sound; a fart; the sound of a trumpet" (late 14c.), probably from crack (v.).
Meaning "sharp, resounding blow" is from 1836. Meaning "rock cocaine" is first attested 1985. The superstition that it is bad luck to step on sidewalk cracks has been traced to c. 1890. Meaning "try, attempt" first attested 1830, nautical, probably a hunting metaphor, from slang sense of "fire a gun."
At their head, apart from the rest, was a black bull, who appeared to be their leader; he came roaring along, his tail straight an [sic] end, and at times tossing up the earth with his horns. I never felt such a desire to have a crack at any thing in all my life. He drew nigh the place where I was standing; I raised my beautiful Betsey to my shoulder, took deliberate aim, blazed away, and he roared, and suddenly stopped. ["A Narrative of the Life of David Crockett, Written by Himself," Philadelphia, 1834]
Adjectival meaning "top-notch, superior, excellent, first rate" (as in a crack shot) is slang from 1793, perhaps from earlier verbal sense of "do any thing with quickness or smartness" [Johnson], or from the verb in the sense of "speak boastingly" and suggesting "having qualities to be proud of" [Century Dictionary]. Grose (1796) has "THE CRACK, or ALL THE CRACK. The fashionable theme, the go." To fall or slip through the cracks figuratively, "escape notice," is by 1975. Crack-brained "demented" is attested from 1630s. The biblical crack of doom is in reference to the sound (Old English translates it as swegdynna maest).
c. 1400, "devoted to or relating to home life;" 1560s as "living with others," from French social (14c.) and directly from Latin socialis "of companionship, of allies; united, living with others; of marriage, conjugal," from socius "companion, ally," probably originally "follower," from PIE *sokw-yo-, suffixed form of root *sekw- (1) "to follow." Compare Old English secg, Old Norse seggr "companion," which seem to have been formed on the same notion). Related: Socially.
Sense of "characterized by friendliness or geniality" is from 1660s. Meaning "living or liking to live with others; companionable, disposed to friendly intercourse" is from 1720s. Meaning "of or pertaining to society as a natural condition of human life" first attested 1695, in Locke. Sense of "pertaining to fashionable society" is from 1873.
Social climber is from 1893; social work is 1890; social worker 1886. Social drinking first attested 1807. Social studies as an inclusive term for history, geography, economics, etc., is attested from 1916. Social security "system of state support for needy citizens" is attested from 1907 (the Social Security Act was passed by U.S. Congress in 1935). Social butterfly is from 1867, in figurative reference to "flitting."
Social contract (1763) is from translations of Rousseau. Social Darwinism attested from 1887. Social engineering attested from 1899. Social science is from 1785. In late 19c. newspapers, social evil is "prostitution." Social network is attested by 1971; social networking by 1984; social media by 2008. Social justice is attested by 1718.
I must introduce a parenthetical protest against the abuse of the current term 'social justice'. From meaning 'justice in relations between groups or classes' it may slip into meaning a particular assumption as to what these relations should be; and a course of action might be supported because it represented the aim of 'social justice', which from the point of view of 'justice' was not just. The term 'social justice' is in danger of losing its rational content—which would be replaced by a powerful emotional charge. I believe that I have used the term myself: it should never be employed unless the user is prepared to define clearly what social justice means to him, and why he thinks it just. [T.S. Eliot, footnote in "Notes Towards the Definition of Culture," 1948]