1580s, "handy, dexterous, having special manual ability," apparently from East Anglian dialectal cliver "expert at seizing," perhaps from East Frisian klüfer "skillful," or Norwegian dialectic klover "ready, skillful," and perhaps influenced by Old English clifer "claw, hand" (early usages seem to refer to dexterity). Or perhaps akin to Old Norse kleyfr "easy to split," from Proto-Germanic *klaubri‑ from PIE root *gleubh- "to tear apart, cleave." Extension to intellect is first recorded 1704.
This is a low word, scarcely ever used but in burlesque or conversation; and applied to any thing a man likes, without a settled meaning. [Johnson, 1755]
The meaning has narrowed since, but clever also often in old use and dialect meant "well-shaped, attractive-looking" and in late 18c. and 19c. American English sometimes "good-natured, agreeable." Related: Cleverly; cleverness.
"to tear with the teeth, maul," 1838, originally of animals (a bull, here "to gore with the horns"), from savage (adj.) or savage (n.). In late 19c. especially of horses, in reference to attacks on a person or other horse or animal.
He was up a second or so before me, and rushed at me open-mouthed ; but, on my getting on my legs, he stopped. No doubt, had I remained prostrate, he would have savaged me. I never liked a bad countenance before this, but I then resolved I would never buy another ; and I have kept my word. ["Harry Hieover," "Things Worth Knowing about Horses," London, 1859]
Earlier in a now-obsolete sense of "to act the savage, indulge in barbarism or cruelty" (1560s), also "to make savage" (1610s). Related: Savaged; savaging.
1580s, "a slight wound or laceration, slight tear in a skin or surface produced by something sharp or rough," from scratch (v.). Meaning "mark or slight furrow in metal, etc." is from 1660s.
The American English slang sense of "(paper) money" is from 1914, of uncertain signification. Many figurative senses (such as up to scratch, originally "ready to meet one's opponent") are from sporting use for "line or mark drawn as a starting place for contestants," attested from 1778 (but the earliest use is figurative). The meaning "nothing" (as in from scratch) is by 1918, generalized from specific 19c. sporting sense of "starting point of a competitor who receives no odds in a handicap match."
The use of the word in billiards is from 1850, originally "a stroke which is successful but not in the intended way." The meaning "pocket the cue ball" is by 1914. Scratch-pad, for hurried writing or drawing, is attested from 1883.
"torn or worn scrap of cloth," early 14c., probably from a Scandinavian source (compare Old Norse rögg "shaggy tuft, rough hair," earlier raggw-; Old Danish rag; see rug), or else a back-formation from ragged. It also may represent an unrecorded Old English cognate of Old Norse rögg. In any case, from Proto-Germanic *rawwa-, from PIE root *reue- (2) "to smash, knock down, tear up, uproot" (see rough (adj.)).
Also in Middle English "a hard, rough piece of stone" (late 13c.). As an insulting term for "newspaper, magazine" it dates from 1734; slang for "tampon, sanitary napkin" is attested from 1930s (on the rag "menstruating" is from 1948). Rags "tattered clothing" is from mid-14c.; in the jocular sense of "personal clothing" it is attested by 1855 (singular), American English. Rags-to-riches as a description of a tale of a rise from poverty to wealth is attested by 1896. Rag-picker is from 1860; rag-shop, one selling old clothes, is from 1829.
Old English flæsc "flesh, meat, muscular parts of animal bodies; body (as opposed to soul)," also "living creatures," also "near kindred" (a sense now obsolete except in phrase flesh and blood), from Proto-Germanic *flaiska-/*fleiski- (source also of Old Frisian flesk, Middle Low German vlees, German Fleisch "flesh," Old Norse flesk "pork, bacon"), which is of uncertain origin; according to Watkins, originally "piece of meat torn off," from PIE *pleik- "to tear," but Boutkan suspects a northern European substratum word.
Of fruits from 1570s. Figurative use for "carnal nature, animal or physical nature of man" (Old English) is from the Bible, especially Paul's use of Greek sarx, and this led to sense of "sensual appetites" (c. 1200).
Flesh-wound is from 1670s; flesh-color, the hue of "Caucasian" skin, is first recorded 1610s, described as a tint composed of "a light pink with a little yellow" [O'Neill, "Dyeing," 1862]. In the flesh "in a bodily form" (1650s) originally was of Jesus (Wyclif has up the flesh, Tindale after the flesh). An Old English poetry-word for "body" was flæsc-hama, literally "flesh-home." A religious tract from 1548 has fleshling "a sensual person." Flesh-company (1520s) was an old term for "sexual intercourse."
Old English feohtan "to combat, contend with weapons, strive; attack; gain by fighting, win" (intransitive; class III strong verb; past tense feaht, past participle fohten), from Proto-Germanic *fe(u)hta (source also of Old High German fehtan, German fechten, Middle Dutch and Dutch vechten, Old Frisian fiuhta "to fight"), probably from PIE *pek- (2) "to comb, to pluck out" wool or hair (source also of Lithuanian pėšti"to pluck," Greek pekein "to comb, shear," pekos "fleece, wool;" Persian pashm "wool, down," Latin pectere "to comb," Sanskrit paksman- "eyebrows, hair"). Apparently the notion is "pulling roughly," or "to tear out one another's hair." But perhaps it is from the source of Latin pugnus "fist."
Spelling substitution of -gh- for a "hard H" sound was a Middle English scribal habit, especially before -t-. In some late Old English examples, the middle consonant was represented by a yogh. Among provincial early Modern English spellings, Wright lists faight, fate, fecht, feeght, feight, feit, feyght, feyt, feort, foight.
From c. 1200 as "offer resistance, struggle;" also "to quarrel, wrangle, create a disturbance." From late 14c. as "be in conflict." Transitive use from 1690s. To fight for "contest on behalf of" is from early 14c. To fight back "resist" is recorded from 1890. Well figt þat wel fligt ("he fights well that flies fast") was a Middle English proverb.
c. 1200, "animal hide" (usually dressed and tanned), from Old Norse skinn "animal hide, fur," from Proto-Germanic *skinth- (source also of rare Old English scinn, Old High German scinten, German schinden "to flay, skin;" German dialectal schind "skin of a fruit," Flemish schinde "bark"), from PIE *sken- "to peel off, flay" (source also of Breton scant "scale of a fish," Irish scainim "I tear, I burst"), extended form of root *sek- "to cut."
The usual Anglo-Saxon word is hide (n.1). The meaning "epidermis of a living animal or person" is attested from early 14c.; extended to fruits, vegetables, etc. late 14c. Jazz slang sense of "drum" is from 1927. As short for skinhead from 1970. As an adjective, it formerly had a slang sense of "cheating" (1868, compare the verb); that of "pornographic" is attested from 1968. Skin deep "superficial, not deeper than the thickness of the skin" (also literally, of wounds, etc.) is attested by 1610s:
All the carnall beauty of my wife, Is but skin-deep.
[Sir Thomas Overbury, "A Wife," 1613; the poem was a main motive for his murder]
The skin of one's teeth as the narrowest of margins is attested from 1550s in the Geneva Bible, a literal translation of the Hebrew text in Job xix.20. To get under (someone's) skin "annoy" is from 1896. Skin graft is from 1871. Skin merchant "recruiting officer" is from 1792 (the older sense is "dealer in hides"). Skin and bone as a description of emaciation or extreme leanness is in Middle English:
Ful of fleissche Y was to fele, Now ... Me is lefte But skyn & boon. [hymn, c. 1430]
mid-15c. (earlier ren, late 14c.), "a spell of running, the act of running," from run (v.).
The Old English noun ryne/yrn (early Middle English rine) meant "a flowing, a course, a watercourse;" the modern sense of "small stream" is recorded from 1580s, mostly in Northern English dialect and American English. The sense of "a flowing or pouring, as of liquid" is by 1814. In reference to the action of a school of fish moving together, especially upstream or in-shore, by 1820.
From 1804 as "place where anything runs or may run." The meaning "the privilege of going through or over, free access" is from 1755. In. U.S. baseball, "feat of running around the bases without being put out" by 1856; the sense in cricket is from 1746.
Meaning "continuous stretch" (of something) is from 1670s. That of "continuous use, circulation, or observance" (as in run of luck) is by 1714. The general sense of "a continuous series or succession" has yielded many specific meanings, as "three or more playing cards in consecutive order" (1870). In music, "a rapid succession of consecutive tones," by 1835.
The financial meaning "extraordinary series or rush of demands on a bank, etc." is recorded from 1690s. The market sense of "sustained demand for something" is by 1816.
From 1712 as "a spell of sailing between two ports;" hence also "an excursion trip" (1819); "single trip by a railroad train" (1857); the military aircraft attack sense (as in bombing run) is from 1916. Hence also "a regular round in a vehicle" (as in paper run, milk run, etc.).
In printing, the meaning "total number of copies done in a single period of press-work" is from 1909. In publishing, "set or series of consecutive numbers of a periodical," by 1889.
Meaning "tear in a knitted garment or stocking" is from 1922, probably on the notion of "a failure caused by looseness, weakness, or giving way;" to run had a specialized sense in reference to machinery, "to slip, go awry" (1846), and in reference to lace it meant "to unravel, come undone" (1878). Also compare running stitch "loose, open stitch" (1848).
Phrase a run for one's money "satisfaction for trouble taken" is from 1872 in a figurative sense, from horse racing, where it implied real competition (1841).
c. 1300 (mid-13c. in surnames), "to move or try to move forcibly by pulling, to drag forcibly or with effort," from Old English pullian "to pluck off (wool), to draw out," a word of unknown origin, perhaps related to Low German pulen "remove the shell or husk," Frisian pûlje "to shell, husk," Middle Dutch polen "to peel, strip," Icelandic pula "work hard." Related: Pulled; pulling.
From early 14c. as "to pick, pull off, gather by hand" (fruit, flowers, berries, leaves, petals, etc.); mid-14c. as "to extract, uproot" (of teeth, weeds, etc.).
Sense of "to draw (to oneself), attract" is from c. 1400; sense of "to pluck at with the fingers" is from c. 1400; meaning "tear to pieces" is mid-15c. By late 16c. it had replaced draw (v.) in these senses. From mid-14c. as "to deprive (someone of something)."
Common in slang terms 19c.-20c.; Bartlett (1859) has to pull foot "walk fast; run;" pull it "to run." To pull (someone's) chain in the figurative sense is from 1974, perhaps on the notion of a captive animal; the expression was also used for "to contact" (someone), on the notion of the chain that operates a signaling mechanism. To pull (someone's) leg is from 1882, perhaps on notion of "playfully tripping" (compare pull the long bow "exaggerate," 1830, and pulling someone's leg also sometimes was described as a way to awaken a sleeping person in a railway compartment, ship's berth, etc.). Thornton's "American Glossary" (1912) has pull (n.) "a jest" (to have a pull at (someone)), which it identifies as "local" and illustrates with an example from the Massachusetts Spy of May 21, 1817, which identifies it as "a Georgian phrase."
To pull (one's) punches is from 1920 in pugilism, from 1921 figuratively. To pull in "arrive" (1892) and pull out "depart" (1868) are from the railroads. To pull for someone or something, "exert influence or root for" is by 1903.
To pull (something) off "accomplish, succeed at" is originally in sporting, "to win the prize money" (1870). To pull (something) on (someone) is from 1916; to pull (something) out of one's ass is Army slang from 1970s. To pull rank is from 1919; to pull the rug from under (someone) figuratively is from 1946.