"chaste, pure, virgin," 1590s, originally (early 15c.) "belonging to or dedicated to Vesta," Roman goddess of hearth and home, from Latin vestalis. The noun is recorded from 1570s, short for Vestal virgin, one of four (later six) priestesses (Latin virgines Vestales) in charge of the sacred fire in the temple of Vesta in Rome. From 1580s in reference to any virgin or chaste woman.
They entered the service of the goddess at from six to ten years of age, their term of service lasting thirty years. They were then permitted to retire and to marry, but few did so, for, as vestals, they were treated with great honor, and had important public privileges. Their persons were inviolable, any offense against them being punished with death, and they were treated in all their relations with the highest distinction and reverence. A vestal who broke her vow of chastity was immured alive in an underground vault amid public mourning. There were very few such instances; in one of them, under Domitian, the chief of the vestals was put to death under a false charge trumped up by the emperor. [Century Dictionary]
"1 more than six; the cardinal number which is one more than six; a symbol representing this number;" Old English seofon, from Proto-Germanic *sebun (source also of Old Saxon sibun, Old Norse sjau, Swedish sju, Danish syv, Old Frisian sowen, siugun, Middle Dutch seven, Dutch zeven, Old High German sibun, German sieben, Gothic sibun), from PIE *septm "seven" (source also of Sanskrit sapta, Avestan hapta, Hittite shipta, Greek hepta, Latin septem, Old Church Slavonic sedmi, Lithuanian septyni, Old Irish secht, Welsh saith).
Long regarded as a number of perfection (seven wonders; seven sleepers, the latter translating Latin septem dormientes; seven against Thebes, etc.), but that notion is late in Old English and in German a nasty, troublesome woman could be eine böse Sieben "an evil seven" (1662). Magical power or healing skill associated since 16c. with the seventh son ["The seuenth Male Chyld by iust order (neuer a Gyrle or Wench being borne betweene)," Thomas Lupton, "A Thousand Notable Things," 1579]. The typical number for "very great, strong," as in seven-league boots in the fairy story of Hop o'my Thumb. Also, formerly, in combination with days, years, etc., indicating merely a very long time.
By early 15c. as "the hour of 7 o'clock." As a high-stakes number for a throw in dice, late 14c. The Seven Years' War (1756-63) is also the Third Silesian War. The Seven Stars (Old English sibunsterri), usually refers to the Pleiades, though in 15c. and after this name occasionally was given to the Big Dipper (which also has seven stars), or the seven planets of classical astronomy. Popular as a tavern sign, it might also (with six in a circle, one in the center) be a Masonic symbol.
FOOL: ... The reason why the seven stars are no more than seven is a pretty reason.
LEAR: Because they are not eight?
FOOL: Yes, indeed: thou wouldst make a good fool.
["King Lear," I.v.]
late 14c., from Latin Æthiops "Ethiopian, negro," from Greek Aithiops, long supposed in popular etymology to be from aithein "to burn" + ōps "face" (compare aithops "fiery-looking," later "sunburned").
Who the Homeric Æthiopians were is a matter of doubt. The poet elsewhere speaks of two divisions of them, one dwelling near the rising, the other near the setting of the sun, both having imbrowned visages from their proximity to that luminary, and both leading a blissful existence, because living amid a flood of light; and, as a natural concomitant of a blissful existence, blameless, and pure, and free from every kind of moral defilement. [Charles Anthon, note to "The First Six Books of Homer's Iliad," 1878]
late 14c., "act of reserving or keeping back," from Old French reservation (14c.) and directly from Late Latin reservationem (nominative reservatio), noun of action from past-participle stem of Latin reservare "keep back, save up; retain, preserve," from re- "back" (see re-) + servare "to keep, save, preserve, protect" (from PIE root *ser- (1) "to protect").
The mental sense of "qualification of a statement, etc., not expressed openly" is from c. 1600. The U.S. sense of "tract of public land set aside for some special use," especially exclusive use by native peoples, is from 1789, in reference to the Six Nations in New York State. The meaning "act or fact of engaging a room, a seat, etc." is from 1904, also originally American English.
"ancient Greek water-clock," 1640s, from Latinized form of Greek klepsydra, from stem of kleptein "to steal, to hide" (see kleptomania) + hydor "water," from suffixed form of PIE root *wed- (1) "water; wet."
A device for measuring time by the amount of water discharged from a terra cotta vessel into another through a small hole (it works on the same principle as the hourglass). It was used in classical Athens to measure smaller segments of time (probably 30 minutes or less) than the sundial (six minutes seems to have been a typical time to drain the vessel) and especially to regulate the allowed time for speeches in tribunals.
late 14c., "a quarter of a day, six hours," from Old French quadrant, cadran, name of a Roman coin, also "a sundial," from Latin quadrantem (nominative quadrans) "a fourth part, a quarter," also the name of a coin worth a quarter of an as; noun use of the present participle of quadrare "to make square; put in order, arrange, complete; run parallel, be exact," figuratively "to fit, suit, be proper," related to quadrus "a square," quattuor "four" (from PIE root *kwetwer- "four").
From 1570s as "the quarter of a circle, the arc of a circle containing 90 degrees." The ancient surveying instrument for measuring altitudes is so called from c. 1400, because it forms a quarter circle. Related: Quadrantal.
c. 1300, "one-fourth of anything; one of four equal parts or divisions into which anything is or may be divided;" often in reference to the four parts into which a slaughtered animal is cut, from Old French quartier, cartier (12c.), from Latin quartarius "fourth part," from quartus "the fourth, fourth part" (related to quattuor "four," from PIE root *kwetwer- "four"). One of the earliest dated references in English is to "parts of the body as dismembered during execution" (c. 1300).
Used of the phases of the moon from early 15c. The phrase quarter of an hour is attested from mid-15c. In Middle English quarter also meant "one of the four divisions of a 12-hour night" (late 14c.), and the quarter of the night meant "nine o'clock p.m." (early 14c.). As a period of time in a football game, from 1911.
From late 14c. as "one of the four quadrants of the heavens;" hence, from the notion of the winds, "a side, a direction" (c. 1400). In heraldry from mid-14c. as "one of the four divisions of a shield or coat of arms."
Meaning "region, locality, area, place" is from c. 1400. Meaning "distinct portion of a town" (identified by the class or race of people who live there) is first attested 1520s. For military sense, see quarters.
The coin (one fourth of a dollar, originally silver) is peculiar to U.S. and dates to 1783. But quarter could mean "a farthing" (one quarter of a penny) in Middle English (late 14c.), and compare quadrant "a farthing" (c. 1600), and classical Latin quadrans, the name of a coin worth a quarter of an as (the basic unit of Roman currency).
Quarter horse, bred strong for racing on quarter-mile tracks, is recorded by 1834. The word's connection with "four" loosened in Middle English and by 15c. expressions such as six-quartered for "six-sided" are found.
c. 1400, "A wind instrument made of wood and provided with six finger holes" [Middle English Compendium], from Old French cornet (14c.) "a small horn," diminutive of corn "a horn," from Latin cornu "horn of an animal," also "a bugle horn," from PIE root *ker- (1) "horn; head."
Modern use in reference to a brass instrument with valves is short for cornet-à-pistons "cornet with pistons" (1836, from French).
The quality of the tone is penetrating and unsympathetic, by no means equal to that of the trumpet, for which it is commonly substituted. [Century Dictionary, 1897]
"1 more than eleven, twice six; the number which is one more than eleven; a symbol representing this number;" Old English twelf "twelve," literally "two left" (over ten), from Proto-Germanic *twa-lif-, a compound of *twa- (from PIE root *dwo- "two") + *lif- (from PIE root *leikw- "to leave"). Compare eleven. Cognate with Old Saxon twelif, Old Norse tolf, Old Frisian twelef, Middle Dutch twalef, Dutch twaalf, Old High German zwelif, German zwölf, Gothic twalif. Outside Germanic, an analogous formation is Lithuanian dvylika, with second element -lika "left over."
"a covered litter, generally for one person, used in India and elsewhere in the East, borne by means of poles on the shoulders of four or six men," 1580s, from Portuguese palanquim (early 16c.), from Malay and Javanese palangki "litter, sedan," ultimately from Sanskrit palyanka-s "couch, bed, litter," from pari "around" + ancati "it bends, curves," related to anka-s "a bend, hook, angle," and meaning, perhaps, "that which bends around the body." Some have noted the "curious coincidence" of Spanish palanca, from Latin phalanga "pole to carry a burden." "The final nasal appears to have been a Portuguese addition as in mandarin, and is often absent from the forms given by early travellers ..." [OED].