"one who or that which dampens," 1748, in the figurative sense, in reference to spirits, enthusiasm, etc., agent noun from damp (v.). In mechanical senses, "device for checking action:" 1783 in reference to a felt-covered piece of wood, etc., which deadens the string after the note is played; 1788 of a chimney, stove, etc., "metal plate in the flue used to control combustion by regulating the draft." Either or both reinforced the figurative senses. The piano damper-pedal (1848) raises the dampers of all the strings so the notes are prolonged and sympathetic vibrations produced.
early 13c., damisele, "young, unmarried woman," especially a maiden of gentle birth, also "maid in waiting, handmaiden assisting a lady," from Anglo-French damaisele and Old French dameisele "woman of noble birth" (Modern French demoiselle "young lady"), modified (by association with dame) from earlier donsele, from Gallo-Roman *domnicella, diminutive of Latin domina "lady" (see dame). Archaic until revived by romantic poets, along with 16c.-17c. variant form damozel (which was used by Spenser). Damsel-fly for "dragon-fly" is by 1815, from a sense in French demoiselle.
name of one of the 12 tribes of ancient Israel or its territory, named for its founder; literally "he who judges," related to Hebrew din "to judge." In the Old Testament, it occupied the northernmost part of Israel, hence its use proverbially for "utmost extremity," as in from Dan to Beersheba (the southernmost region), 1738. Related: Danite.
in Greek mythology, one of the 50 daughters of Danaus, king of Argos, from Greek Danaides (plural). On command of their father, all (except Hypermnestra) killed their husbands on their wedding night and consequently were condemned in Hades to draw water perpetually in bottomless buckets. Hence often in reference to endless, futile labor. Related: Danaidean.
c. 1300, dance, daunce, "succession of steps and movements, commonly guided by musical accompaniment," also "a dancing party," from dance (v.). From late 14c. as "a tune to be danced to."
With many figurative senses: in Middle English the olde daunce was "the whole business," and the daunce is don was exactly equivalent to modern slang phrase the jig is up. To lead (someone) a dance "lead in a wearying, perplexing, or disappointing course" is from 1520s. Dance-band is from 1908; dance-floor from 1863; dance-hall from 1823.
c. 1300, dauncen, "move the body or feet rhythmically to music," from Old French dancier (12c., Modern French danser), which is of unknown origin, perhaps from Low Frankish *dintjan and akin to Old Frisian dintje "tremble, quiver." Through French influence in arts and society, it has become the primary word for this activity from Spain to Russia (Italian danzare, Spanish danzar, Romanian dansa, Swedish dansa, German tanzen, modern Russian tancevat').
In part the loanword from French is used mainly with reference to fashionable dancing while the older native word persists in use with reference to folk-dancing, as definitively Russ. pljasat' vs. tancovat' [Carl Darling Buck, "A Dictionary of Selected Synonyms in the Principal Indo-European Languages," 1949].
In English it replaced Old English sealtian, itself a borrowing from Latin saltare "to dance," frequentative of salire "to leap" (see salient (adj.); "dance" words frequently are derived from words meaning "jump, leap"). Native words used for the activity in Old English included tumbian (see tumble (v.)), hoppian(see hop (v.1)). Related: Danced; dancing.
Meaning "to leap or spring with regular or irregular steps as an expression of some emotion" is from late 14c. Of inanimate things, "move nimbly or quickly with irregular motion," 1560s. Transitive sense of "give a dancing motion to" is from c. 1500. To dance attendance "strive to please and gain favor by obsequiousness" is from late 15c.