type of distilled drinking alcohol, 1714, shortening of geneva, altered (by influence of the name of the Swiss city, with which it has no connection) from Dutch genever "gin," literally "juniper" (because the alcohol was flavored with its berries), from Old French genevre "the plant juniper" (12c.), from Vulgar Latin *jeniperus, from Latin juniperus "juniper" (see juniper).
[I]t was not till about 1724 that the passion for gin-drinking appears to have infected the masses of the population, and it spread with the rapidity and the violence of an epidemic. Small as is the place which this fact occupies in English history, it was probably, if we consider all the consequences that have flowed from it, the most momentous in that of the eighteenth century—incomparably more so than any event in the purely political or military annals of the country. [W.E.H. Lecky, "A History of England in the Eighteenth Century," 1878]
Gin and tonic is attested by 1873; gin-sling by 1790; gin-fizz (with lemon juice and aerated water) is from 1878. Gin-mill, U.S. slang for "low-class tavern or saloon where spirits are drunk" (1872) might be a play on the senses from gin (n.2). British gin-palace "gaudily decorated tavern or saloon where spirits are drunk" is from 1831.
The card game gin rummy first attested 1941 (described in "Life" that year as the latest Hollywood fad); OED lists it with the entries for the liquor, but the sense connection seems obscure other than as a play on rummy.
c. 1200, prēven, pruven, proven "to try by experience or by a test or standard; evaluate; demonstrate in practice," from Old French prover, pruver "show; convince; put to the test" (11c., Modern French prouver), from Latin probare "to make good; esteem, represent as good; make credible, show, demonstrate; test, inspect; judge by trial" (source also of Spanish probar, Italian probare, and English probe), from probus "worthy, good, upright, virtuous."
This is from PIE *pro-bhwo- "being in front," from *pro-, extended form of root *per- (1) "forward," hence "in front of," + root *bhu- "to be," source also of Latin fui "I have been," futurus "about to be;" Old English beon "to be;" see be.
From early 13c. as "render certain, put out of doubt," also "establish the validity or authenticity of a will, etc." By c. 1300 as "test and find worthy, virtuous, false, etc.," also "find out, discover, ascertain; prove by argument." By mid-14c. as "check the accuracy of." The meaning "be found to be (a hero, coward, etc.) by experience or trial" is by late 14c.
The word had many more senses and broader application in Middle English than Modern English: "to experience; to strive, endeavor; act, accomplish; thrive, succeed." Also in Middle English in a now-obsolete sense of "approve, sanction, praise" (c. 1300; compare approve). Related: Proved; proven; proving. Proving ground "place used for firing cannons for making ballistics tests and testing powder" is by 1837.
"a native of Germany," 1520s, from Latin Germanus (adjective and noun, plural Germani), first attested in writings of Julius Caesar, who used Germani to designate a group of tribes in northeastern Gaul, of unknown origin and considered to be neither Latin nor Germanic. Perhaps originally the name of an individual tribe, but Gaulish (Celtic) origins have been proposed, from words perhaps originally meaning "noisy" (compare Old Irish garim "to shout") or "neighbor" (compare Old Irish gair "neighbor"). Middle English had Germayns (plural, late 14c.), but only in the sense "ancient Teuton, member of the Germanic tribes." The earlier English word was Almain (early 14c., via French; see Alemanni) or Dutch. Shakespeare and Marlowe have Almain for "German; a German."
Þe empere passede from þe Grees to þe Frenschemen and to þe Germans, þat beeþ Almayns. [Ranulph Higden’s "Polychronicon," mid-14c., John Trevisa's translation, 1380s]
Their name for themselves, die Deutschen (see Dutch), dates from 12c. Roman writers also used Teutoni as a German tribal name, and writers in Latin after about 875 commonly refer to the German language as teutonicus (see Teutonic). Meaning "the German language" in English is from 1748. High German (1823 in English) and Low German as a division of dialects is geographical: High German (from 16c. established as the literary language) was the German spoken in the upland regions in southern Germany, Low German (often including Dutch, Frisian, Flemish), also called Plattdeutsch was spoken in the regions near the North Sea. In the U.S. German also was used of descendants of settlers from Germany.
According to Watkins, perhaps via Etruscan from Greek diphthera "tablet" (with change of d- to l- as in lachrymose), from a hypothetical root *deph- "to stamp." In this sense it replaced Old English bocstæf, literally "book staff" (compare German Buchstabe "letter, character," from Old High German buohstab, from Proto-Germanic *bok-staba-m).
Latin littera also meant "a writing, document, record," and in plural litteræ "a letter, epistle, missive communication in writing," a sense passed through French and attested in English letter since early 13c. (replacing Old English ærendgewrit "written message," literally "errand-writing"). The Latin plural also meant "literature, books," and figuratively "learning, liberal education, schooling" (see letters).
The custom of giving the school letter as an achievement award in sports, attested by 1908, is said to have originated with University of Chicago football coach Amos Alonzo Stagg. Earlier in reference to colleges it meant "university degree or honor that adds initials to a name" (1888). Expression to the letter "precisely" is from 1520s (earlier after the letter, mid-14c.). Letter-quality (adj.) "suitable for (business) letters" is from 1977. For letters patent (with French word order) see patent (n.).
mid-13c., "tract of land enclosed as a preserve for beasts of the chase," from Old French parc "enclosed wood or heath land used as a game preserve" (12c.), probably ultimately from West Germanic *parruk "enclosed tract of land" (source also of Old English pearruc, root of paddock (n.2), Old High German pfarrih "fencing about, enclosure," German pferch "fold for sheep," Dutch park).
Internal evidence suggests the West Germanic word is pre-4c. and originally meant the fencing, not the place enclosed. It is found also in Medieval Latin as parricus "enclosure, park" (8c.), which likely is the direct source of the Old French word, as well as Italian parco, Spanish parque, etc. Some claim the Medieval Latin word as the source of the West Germanic, but the reverse seems more likely. Some later senses in English represent later borrowings from French. OED discounts the notion of a Celtic origin: Welsh parc, Gaelic pairc are from English.
Meaning "enclosed lot in or near a town, set aside and maintained for public recreation" is attested from 1660s, originally in reference to London; the sense evolution is via royal parks in the original, hunting sense being overrun by the growth of London and being opened to the public. It was applied to sporting fields in American English from 1867.
New York's Park Avenue as an adjective meaning "luxurious and fashionable" (1956) was preceded in the same sense by London's Park Lane (1880). As a surname, Parker "keeper of a park" is attested in English from mid-12c. As a vehicle transmission gear, park (n.) is attested from 1949.
1707 as a direct phrase, but implied much earlier, and Old Norse had bikkju-sonr. Abbreviated form SOB from 1918; form sumbitch attested in writing by 1969.
Abide þou þef malicious!
Biche-sone þou drawest amis
þou schalt abigge it ywis!
["Of Arthour & of Merlin," c. 1330]
"Probably the most common American vulgarity from about the middle of the eighteenth century to the middle of the twentieth" [Rawson].
Our maid-of-all-work in that department [indecency] is son-of-a-bitch, which seems as pale and ineffectual to a Slav or a Latin as fudge does to us. There is simply no lift in it, no shock, no sis-boom-ah. The dumbest policeman in Palermo thinks of a dozen better ones between breakfast and the noon whistle. [H.L. Mencken, "The American Language," 4th ed., 1936, p.317-8]
Elsewhere, complaining of the tepidity of the American vocabulary of profanity, Mencken writes that the toned-down form son-of-a-gun "is so lacking in punch that the Italians among us have borrowed it as a satirical name for an American: la sanemagogna is what they call him, and by it they indicate their contempt for his backwardness in the art that is one of their great glories."
It was in 1934 also that the New York Daily News, with commendable frankness, in reporting a hearing in Washington at which Senator Huey P. Long featured, forsook the old-time dashes and abbreviations and printed the complete epithet "son of a bitch." [Stanley Walker, "City Editor," 1934]
ruminant mammal, Old English sceap, scep, from West Germanic *skæpan (source also of Old Saxon scap, Old Frisian skep, Middle Low German schap, Middle Dutch scaep, Dutch schaap, Old High German scaf, German Schaf), of unknown origin. Not found in Scandinavian (Danish has faar for "sheep") or Gothic (which uses lamb), and with no known cognates outside Germanic. The more usual Indo-European word for the animal is represented in English by ewe.
The plural form was leveled with the singular in Old English, but Old Northumbrian had a plural scipo. Used since Old English as a type of timidity and figuratively of those under the guidance of God. The meaning "stupid, timid person" is attested from 1540s. The image of the wolf in sheep's clothing was in Old English (from Matthew vii.15); that of separating the sheep from the goats is from Matthew xxv.33. To count sheep in a bid to induce sleep is recorded from 1854 but seems not to have been commonly written about until 1870s. It might simply be a type of a tedious activity, but an account of shepherd life from Australia from 1849 ["Sidney's Emigrant's Journal"] describes the night-shepherd ("hut-keeper") taking a count of the sheep regularly at the end of his shift to protect against being answerable for any animals later lost or killed.
Sheep's eyes "loving looks" is attested from 1520s (compare West Frisian skiepseach, Dutch schaapsoog, German Schafsauge). A sheep-biter was "a dog that worries sheep" (1540s); "a mutton-monger" (1590s); and "a whore-monger" (1610s, i.e. one who "chases mutton"); hence Shakespeare's sheep-biting "thieving, sneaky."
"close growth of hair on the chin and lower face, normally characteristic of an adult male" (that of the upper lip being distinguished in Modern English as the mustache), Old English beard "beard," from Proto-Germanic *bard (source also of Old Frisian berd, Middle Dutch baert, Old High German bart, German bart), said in Pokorny to be from a PIE root *bhardhā- "beard" (source also of Old Church Slavonic brada, Russia boroda, Lithuanian barzda, Old Prussian bordus, and perhaps Latin barba "beard"), but Boutkan rejects this on phonetic grounds and suggests a non-IE substrate word. Old French berd is from Germanic.
The Greek and Roman Churches have long disputed about the beard. While the Romanists have at different times practised shaving, the Greeks, on the contrary, have strenuously defended the cause of long beards. Leo III. (795 AD) was the first shaved Pope. Pope Gregory IV., after the lapse of only 30 years, fulminated a Bull against bearded priests. In the 12th century the prescription of the beard was extended to the laity. Pope Honorius III. to disguise his disfigured lip, allowed his beard to grow. Henry I. of England was so much moved by a sermon directed against his beard that he resigned it to the barber. Frederick Barbarossa is said to have been equally tractable. [Tom Robinson, M.D., "Beards," St. James's Magazine, 1881]
Pubic hair sense is from 1600s (but neþir berd "pubic hair" is from late 14c.); in the 1811 "Dictionary of the Vulgar Tongue," the phrase beard-splitter is defined as, "A man much given to wenching" (compare beaver in the slang genital sense).
late Old English, "benevolence for the poor," also "Christian love in its highest manifestation," from Old French charité "(Christian) charity, mercy, compassion; alms; charitable foundation" (12c.), from Latin caritatem (nominative caritas) "costliness; esteem, affection," from carus "dear, valued," from PIE *karo-, from root *ka- "to like, desire."
In the Vulgate the Latin word often is used as translation of Greek agape "love" -- especially Christian love of fellow man -- perhaps to avoid the sexual suggestion of Latin amor). The Vulgate also sometimes translated agape by Latin dilectio, noun of action from diligere "to esteem highly, to love" (see diligence).
Wyclif and the Rhemish version regularly rendered the Vulgate dilectio by 'love,' caritas by 'charity.' But the 16th c. Eng. versions from Tindale to 1611, while rendering agape sometimes 'love,' sometimes 'charity,' did not follow the dilectio and caritas of the Vulgate, but used 'love' more often (about 86 times), confining 'charity' to 26 passages in the Pauline and certain of the Catholic Epistles (not in I John), and the Apocalypse .... In the Revised Version 1881, 'love' has been substituted in all these instances, so that it now stands as the uniform rendering of agape. [OED]
General sense of "affections people ought to feel for one another" is from c. 1300. From c. 1300 as "an act of kindness or philanthropy," also "alms, that which is bestowed gratuitously on a person or persons in need." Sense of "charitable foundation or institution" in English attested by 1690s. Meaning "liberality in judging others or their actions" is from late 15c. A charity-school (1680s) was one maintained by voluntary contributions or bequests.
"a talisman, charm, thing supposed to bring good luck to its possessor," also "person whose presence is supposed to be a cause of good fortune," 1881, from provincial French mascotte "sorcerer's charm, 'faerie friend,' good luck piece" (19c.), of uncertain origin, perhaps from or related to Provençal mascoto "sorcery, fetish" (a Narbonnese manuscript of 1233 has mascotto "procuress, enchantment, bewitchment in gambling"), from masco "witch," from Old Provençal masca, itself of unknown origin, perhaps from Medieval Latin masca "mask, specter, nightmare" (see mask (n.)).
Popularized by French composer Edmond Audran's 1880 comic operetta "La Mascotte," about a household "fairy" who gives luck to an Italian peasant, which was performed in a toned-down translation in England from fall 1881. In reference to animals (later costumed characters) representing sports teams, by 1889.
For the edification of readers not versed in baseball lore it should be stated that the mascot has become quite an important institution among the professional teams of America. He may be a boy possessed of some special attainment or physical peculiarity, or he may be a bull-pup with a prominent patch over his left eye. It matters not whether a mascot be brute or human, so long as his presence upon the players' bench insures a victory—in the minds of the players—to the team with which he has cast his fortunes and in whose favor he exercises the influence he is supposed to have with Dame Fortune. [Harry Clay Palmer, ed., "Athletic Sports in America, England, and Australia," New York, 1889]