"air in motion," Old English wind "wind," from Proto-Germanic *winda- (source also of Old Saxon, Old Frisian, Middle Dutch, Dutch wind, Old Norse vindr, Old High German wind, German Wind, Gothic winds), from PIE *wē-nt-o‑ "blowing," suffixed (participial) form of root *we- "to blow."
Normal pronunciation evolution made this word rhyme with kind and rind (Donne rhymes it with mind and Thomas Moore with behind), but it shifted to a short vowel 18c., probably from influence of windy, where the short vowel is natural. A sad loss for poets, who now must rhyme it only with sinned and a handful of weak words. Symbolic of emptiness and vanity since late 13c.
I have forgot much, Cynara! gone with the wind. [Ernest Dowson, 1896]
Meaning "breath" is attested from late Old English; especially "breath in speaking" (early 14c.), so long-winded, also "easy or regular breathing" (early 14c.), hence second wind in the figurative sense (by 1830), an image from the sport of hunting.
Winds "wind instruments of an orchestra" is from 1876. Figurative phrase which way the wind blows for "the current state of affairs" is suggested from c. 1400. To get wind of "receive information about" is by 1809, perhaps inspired by French avoir le vent de. To take the wind out of (one's) sails in the figurative sense (by 1883) is an image from sailing, where a ship without wind can make no progress. Wind-chill index is recorded from 1939. Wind energy from 1976. Wind vane from 1725.
[sleep, repose, slumber] Old English ræste, reste "rest; a bed or couch; intermission of labor; mental peace, state of quiet or repose," from Proto-Germanic *rasto- (source also of Old Saxon resta "resting place, burial-place," Dutch rust, Old High German rasta, German Rast "rest, peace, repose"), a word of uncertain origin.
The original prehistoric signification of the Germanic noun was perhaps a measure of distance; compare Old High German rasta, which in addition to "rest" meant "league of miles," Old Norse rost "league, distance after which one rests," Gothic rasta "mile, stage of a journey." If so, perhaps a word from the nomadic period. But if the original sense was "repose," the sense was extended secondarily to "distance between two resting places."
Sense of "absence or cessation of motion" is from late 15c. The meaning "that on which anything leans for support, thing upon which something rests" is attested from 1580s, with specific senses developing later. In music, "an interval of silence," also the mark or sign denoting this, 1570s.
At rest "dead" is from mid-14c., on the notion of "last rest, the big sleep, the grave." The roadside rest stop for drivers on busy highways is by 1970. The colloquial expression give (something) a rest "stop talking about it" is by 1927, American English.
[R]est and repose apply especially to the suspended activity of the body ; ease and quiet to freedom from occupation or demands for activity, especially of the body ; tranquility and peace to the freedom of the mind from harassing cares or demands. [Century Dictionary]
Meaning "inhabited place larger than a village" (mid-12c.) arose after the Norman conquest from the use of this word to correspond to French ville. The modern word is partially a generic term, applicable to cities of great size as well as places intermediate between a city and a village; such use is unusual, the only parallel is perhaps Latin oppidium, which occasionally was applied even to Rome or Athens (each of which was more properly an urbs).
First record of town hall is from late 15c. Town ball, version of baseball, is recorded from 1852. Town car (1907) originally was a motor car with an enclosed passenger compartment and open driver's seat. On the town "living the high life" is from 1712. Go to town "do (something) energetically" is first recorded 1933. Man about town "one constantly seen at public and private functions" is attested from 1734.
Sense extended by c. 1200 to "the forehead," especially with reference to movements and expressions that showed emotion or attitude, hence "general expression of the face" (1590s). From c. 1400 as "the slope of a steep place."
Words for "eyelid," "eyelash," and "eyebrow" changed about maddeningly in Old and Middle English (and in all the West Germanic languages). The extension of Old English bru to "eyelash," and later "eyelid" presumably was by association of the hair of the eyebrow with the hair of the eyelid. The eyebrows then became Old English oferbrua "overbrows" (early Middle English uvere breyhes or briges aboue þe eiges). The general word for "eyebrow" in Middle English was brew, breowen (c. 1200), from Old English bræw (West Saxon), *brew (Anglian), from Proto-Germanic *bræwi- "blinker, twinkler" (source also of Old Frisian bre, Old Saxon brawa, Middle Dutch brauwe "eyelid," Old High German brawa "eyebrow," Old Norse bra "eyebrow," Gothic brahw "twinkle, blink," in phrase in brahwa augins "in the twinkling of an eye").
1630s, atmosphaera (modern form from 1670s), "gaseous envelop surrounding the earth," from Modern Latin atmosphaera, from Greek atmos "vapor, steam" (see atmo-) + sphaira "sphere" (see sphere). In old science, "vaporous air," which was considered a part of the earth and a contamination of the lower part of the air (n.1).
Þe ouer partye of þe eyr is pure and clene, clere, esy & softe, ffor mevynge of stormys, of wynde and of wedir may nat reche þerto; and so it perteyneþ to heuenlych kynde. And þe neþir partye is nyʒe to þe spere of watir and of erþe, and is troubly, greet and þicke, corpulent and ful of moyst erþy vapoures, as longiþ to erþy partyes. Þe eyr strecchiþ hym kyndely al aboute fro þe ouer partye of þe erþe and of watir anon to þe spere of fire. [Bartholomew Glanville, "De proprietatibus rerum," c. 1240, translated by John of Trevisa c. 1398 ]
First used in English in connection with the Moon, which, as it turns out, practically has none.
'Tis Observed, in the Solary Eclipses, that there is some times a great Trepidation about the Body of the Moon, from which we may likewise argue an Atmo-sphaera, since we cannot well conceive what so probable a cause there should be of such an appearance as this, Quod radii Solares a vaporibus Lunam ambientibus fuerint intercisi, that the Sun-beams were broken and refracted by the Vapours that encompassed the Moon. [Rev. John Wilkins, "Discovery of New World or Discourse tending to prove that it probable there may be another World in the Moon," 1638]
Figurative sense of "surrounding influence, mental or moral environment" is c. 1800.
c. 1300, olyfaunt, from Old French olifant (12c., Modern French éléphant), from Latin elephantus, from Greek elephas (genitive elephantos) "elephant; ivory," probably from a non-Indo-European language, likely via Phoenician (compare Hamitic elu "elephant," source of the word for it in many Semitic languages, or possibly from Sanskrit ibhah "elephant").
Re-spelled after 1550 on Latin model. Cognate with the common term for the animal in Romanic and Germanic; Slavic words (for example Polish slon', Russian slonu) are from a different word. Old English had it as elpend, and compare elpendban, elpentoð "ivory," but a confusion of exotic animals led to olfend "camel."
Herodotus mentions the (African) elephant, which in ancient times and until 7c. C.E. was found north of the Sahara as well. Frazer (notes to Pausanias's "Description of Greece," 1898) writes that "Ptolemy Philadelphius, king of Egypt (283-247 B.C.), was first to tame the African elephant and use it in war; his elephants were brought from Nubia," and the Carthaginians probably borrowed the idea from him; "for in the Carthaginian army which defeated Regulus in 255 B.C. there were about 100 elephants .... It was easy for the Carthaginians to procure elephants, since in antiquity the animal was found native in the regions of North Africa now known as Tripoli and Morocco (Pliny, N.H. viii.32)."
As an emblem of the Republican Party in U.S. politics, 1860. To see the elephant "be acquainted with life, gain knowledge by experience" is an American English colloquialism from 1835. The elephant joke was popular 1960s-70s.
prefix or inseparable particle, a relic of various Germanic and Latin elements.
In words derived from Old English, it commonly represents Old English an "on, in, into" (see on (prep.)), as in alive, above, asleep, aback, abroad, afoot, ashore, ahead, abed, aside, obsolete arank "in rank and file," etc., forming adjectives and adverbs from nouns, with the notion "in, at; engaged in." In this use it is identical to a (2).
It also can represent Middle English of (prep.) "off, from," as in anew, afresh, akin, abreast. Or it can be a reduced form of the Old English past participle prefix ge-, as in aware.
Or it can be the Old English intensive a-, originally ar- (cognate with German er- and probably implying originally "motion away from"), as in abide, arise, awake, ashamed, marking a verb as momentary, a single event. Such words sometimes were refashioned in early modern English as though the prefix were Latin (accursed, allay, affright are examples).
In words from Romanic languages, often it represents reduced forms of Latin ad "to, toward; for" (see ad-), or ab "from, away, off" (see ab-); both of which by about 7c. had been reduced to a in the ancestor of Old French. In a few cases it represents Latin ex.
[I]t naturally happened that all these a- prefixes were at length confusedly lumped together in idea, and the resultant a- looked upon as vaguely intensive, rhetorical, euphonic, or even archaic, and wholly otiose. [OED]
fem. proper name, name of the faithful wife in the "Odyssey," from Greek Pēnelopē, Pēnelopeia, which is perhaps related to pēne "thread on the bobbin," from pēnos "web," cognate with Latin pannus "cloth garment" (see pane (n.)). But Beekes suggests rather a connection with pēnelops "duck or wild goose with colored neck." Used in English as the type of the virtuous wife (1580) as it was in Latin.
Penelope, the daughter of Icarus, was a rare and perfect example of chastity. For though it was generally thought that her husband Ulysses was dead, since he had been absent from her twenty years; yet, neither the desires of her parents, nor the solicitations of her lovers, could prevail on her to marry another man, and to violate the promises of constancy which she gave to her husband when he departed. And when many noblemen courted her, and even threatened her with ruin, unless she declared which of them should marry her, she desired that the choice might be deferred till she had finished the piece of needle-work about which she was then employed: but undoing by night what she had worked by day, she delayed them till Ulysses returned and killed them all. Hence came the proverb, "To weave Penelope's web;" that is, to labour in vain; when one hand destroys what the other has wrought. [Andrew Tooke, "The Pantheon, Representing the Fabulous Histories of the Heathen Gods and Most Illustrious Heroes, in a Plain and Familiar Method," London: 1824]
c. 1500, "a ceasing, an ending; a going away, act of leaving" (obsolete in this sense), from Old French departement "division, sharing out; divorce, parting" (12c.), from Late Latin departire "to divide" (transitive), from de- "from" (see de-) + partire "to part, divide," from pars (genitive partis) "a part, piece, a share, a division" (from PIE root *pere- (2) "to grant, allot").
French department came also to mean "group of people" (as well as "departure"), and from this by 1735 English had borrowed the sense of "separate division of a complex whole, separate business assigned to someone in a larger organization, distinct branch or group of activities" (science, business, manufacture, the military). The specific meaning "separate division of a government" is from 1769. As an administrative district in France, from 1792.
Department store "store that sells a variety of items, organized by department" is from 1878.
The "Department Store" is the outgrowth of the cheap counter business originated by Butler Brothers in Boston about ten years ago. The little "Five Cent Counter" then became a cornerstone from which the largest of all the world's branches of merchandising was to be reared. It was the "Cheap Counter" which proved to the progressive merchant his ability to sell all lines of wares under one roof. It was the Five Cent Counter "epidemic" of '77 and '78 which rushed like a mighty whirlwind from the Atlantic to the Pacific and all along its path transformed old time one line storekeepers into the wide-awake merchant princes of the present day. It was this same epidemic which made possible the world famed Department Stores of Houghton, of Boston; Macy, of New York; Wanamaker, of Philadelphia; and Lehman, of Chicago. [American Storekeeper, 1885]
mid-15c., "sweetheart chosen on St. Valentine's Day," from Late Latin Valentinus, the name of two early Italian saints (from Latin valentia "strength, capacity;" see valence). Choosing a sweetheart on this day originated 14c. as a custom in English and French court circles. Meaning "letter or card sent to a sweetheart" first recorded 1824. The romantic association of the day is said to be from it being around the time when birds choose their mates.
For this was on seynt Volantynys day
Whan euery bryd cometh there to chese his make.
[Chaucer, "Parlement of Foules," c. 1381]
Probably the date was the informal first day of spring in whatever French region invented the custom (many surviving medieval calendars reckon the start of spring on the 7th or 22nd of February). No evidence connects it with the Roman Lupercalia (an 18c. theory) or to any romantic or avian quality in either of the saints. The custom of sending special cards or letters on this date flourished in England c. 1840-1870, declined around the turn of the 20th century, and revived 1920s.
To speak of the particular Customs of the English Britons, I shall begin with Valentine's Day, Feb. 14. when young Men and Maidens get their several Names writ down upon Scrolls of Paper rolled up, and lay 'em asunder, the Men drawing the Maidens Names, and these the Mens; upon which, the Men salute their chosen Valentines and present them with Gloves, &c. This Custom (which sometimes introduces a Match) is grounded upon the Instinct of Animals, which about this Time of the Year, feeling a new Heat by the approach of the Sun, begin to couple. ["The Present State of Great Britain and Ireland" London, 1723]