"the mark in the middle of the belly where the umbilical cord was attached in the fetus," Middle English navele, from Old English nafela, nabula, from Proto-Germanic *nabalan (source also of Old Norse nafli, Danish and Swedish navle, Old Frisian navla, Middle Dutch and Dutch navel, Old High German nabalo, German Nabel), from PIE *(o)nobh- "navel" (source also of Sanskrit nabhila "navel, nave, relationship;" Avestan nafa "navel," naba-nazdishta "next of kin;" Persian naf; Latin umbilicus "navel;" Old Prussian nabis "navel;" Greek omphalos; Old Irish imbliu). For Romanic words, see umbilicus.
The cords of all link back, strandentwining cable of all flesh. [Joyce, "Ulysses"]
"Navel" words from other roots include Lithuanian bamba, Sanskrit bimba- (also "disk, sphere"), Greek bembix, literally "whirlpool." Old Church Slavonic papuku, Lithuanian pumpuras are originally "bud." Considered a feminine sexual center since ancient times, and still in parts of the Middle East, India, and Japan. In medieval Europe, it was averred that "[t]he seat of wantonness in women is the navel" [Cambridge bestiary, C.U.L. ii.4.26]. Words for it in most languages have a secondary sense of "center."
Meaning "center or hub of a country" is attested in English from late 14c. To contemplate (one's) navel "meditate" is from 1933; hence navel-gazer (by 1947); see also omphaloskepsis. Navel orange is attested from 1831.
Another great key I will give you is to be found by the contemplation of the Manipur Lotus, which is in the navel, or thereabouts. By contemplating this center you will be able to enter and go into another person's body, and to take possession of that person's mind, and to cause him to think and to do what you want him to do; you will obtain the power of transmuting metals, of healing the sick and afflicted, and of seership. ["Swami Brahmavidya," "Transcendent-Science or The Science of Self Knowledge," Chicago, 1922]
Old English bean "bean, pea, legume," from Proto-Germanic *bauno (source also of Old Norse baun, Middle Dutch bone, Dutch boon, Old High German bona, German Bohne), and related to Latin faba "bean;" Greek phakos "lentil;" Albanian bathë "horse-bean;" Old Prussian babo, Russian bob "bean," but the original form is obscure. Watkins suggests a PIE reduplicated root *bha-bhā- "broad bean;" de Vaan writes that the Italic, Slavic and Germanic "are probably independent loanwords from a European substratum word of the form *bab- (or similar) 'bean'."
As a metaphor for "something of small value" it is attested from c. 1300 (hill of beans as something not much to amount to is from 1863). The meaning "head" is U.S. baseball slang 1905 (in bean-ball "a pitch thrown at the head"); thus slang verb bean meaning "to hit on the head," attested from 1910. Bean-shooter as a child's weapon for mischief, a sort of small sling-shot to fire beans, is attested from 1876. Derisive slang bean-counter "accountant" is recorded by 1971.
The notion of lucky or magic beans in English folklore is from the exotic beans or large seeds, carried from the Caribbean or South America by the Gulf Stream, that wash up occasionally in Cornwall and western Scotland. They were cherished, believed to ward off the evil eye and aid in childbirth.
To not know beans "be ignorant" is attested by 1842 in American English, often said to be a New England phrase; it is perhaps from the "object of little worth" sense. Some of the earliest citations give it in a fuller form, but they do not agree: "why, I sometimes think they don't know beans when the bag is open" ["The History of the Saints," 1842]; "This feller don't know beans from porridge, no how." ["Etchings of a Whaling Cruise," 1850]. It might have a connection to the English colloquial expression know how many beans make five "be a clever fellow" (1824).
Old English wucu, wice, etc., from Proto-Germanic *wikō(n)- (source also of Old Norse vika, Old Frisian wike, Middle Dutch weke, Old High German wecha, German woche), probably originally with the sense of "a turning" or "succession" (compare Gothic wikon "in the course of," Old Norse vika "sea-mile," originally "change of oar," Old English wican "yield, give way"), from PIE root *weik- (2) "to bend, to wind." The vowel sound seems to have been uncertain in Old and Middle English and -e-, -i-, -o-, -u-, -y-, and various diphthongs are attested for it.
"Meaning primarily 'change, alteration,' the word may once have denoted some earlier time division, such as the 'change of moon, half month,' ... but there is no positive evidence of this" [Buck]. No evidence of a native Germanic week before contact with the Romans. The seven-day week is ancient, probably originating from the 28-day lunar cycle, divisible into four periods of seven day, at the end of each of which the moon enters a new phase. Reinforced during the spread of Christianity by the ancient Jewish seven-day week.
As a Roman astrological convention it was borrowed by other European peoples; the Germanic tribes substituting their own deities for those of the Romans, without regard to planets. The Coligny calendar suggests a Celtic division of the month into halves; the regular Greek division of the month was into three decades; and the Romans also had a market week of nine days. Phrase a week, as in eight days a week recorded by 1540s; see a- (1).
Greek planetary names [for the days of the week] ... are attested for the early centuries of our era, but their use was apparently restricted to certain circles; at any rate they never became popular. In Rome, on the other hand, the planetary names became the established popular terms, too strongly intrenched to be displaced by the eccl[esiastical] names, and spreading through most of western Europe. [Carl Darling Buck, "A Dictionary of Selected Synonyms in the Principal Indo-European Languages," 1949]
of hair, "of a golden or light golden-brown color," late 15c., from Old French blont "fair, blond" (12c.), from the same source as Medieval Latin blundus "yellow," but of uncertain origin. Perhaps from Frankish *blund or another Germanic source (compare Dutch, German, Danish blond).
If it is a Germanic word, it is possibly related to Old English blonden-feax "gray-haired," from blondan, blandan "to mix" (see blend (v.)). According to Littré, the original sense of the French word was "a colour midway between golden and light chestnut," which might account for the notion of "mixed." [But Century Dictionary finds this "hardly probable."]
Old English beblonden meant "dyed," so it is also possible that the root meaning of blonde, if it is Germanic, may be "dyed," as ancient Teutonic warriors were noted for dying their hair. Du Cange, however, writes that blundus was a vulgar pronunciation of Latin flavus "yellow." Another guess (discounted by German etymologists), is that it represents a Vulgar Latin *albundus, from alba "white."
The word was reintroduced into English 17c. from French, and was until recently still felt as French, hence blonde (with French feminine ending) for females. Italian biondo, Spanish blondo, Old Provençal blon are said to be ultimately of Germanic origin.
Fair hair was much esteemed by both the Greeks and Romans, and so they not only dyed and gold-dusted theirs ..., but also went so far as to gild the hair of their statues, as notably those of Venus de Medici and Apollo. In the time of Ovid (A.U.C. 711) much fair hair was imported from Germany, by the Romans, as it was considered quite the fashionable color. Those Roman ladies who did not choose to wear wigs of this hue, were accustomed to powder theirs freely with gold dust, so as to give it the fashionable yellow tint. [C. Henry Leonard, "The Hair," 1879]
1907 (from 1903 as a French word in English), "malicious damaging or destruction of an employer's property by workmen," from French sabotage, from saboter "to sabotage, bungle," literally "walk noisily," from sabot "wooden shoe" (see sabaton).
In English, "malicious mischief" would appear to be the nearest explicit definition of "sabotage," which is so much more expressive as to be likely of adoption into all languages spoken by nations suffering from this new force in industry and morals. Sabotage has a flavor which is unmistakable even to persons knowing little slang and no French .... [Century Magazine, November 1910]
In French, and at first in English, the sense of "deliberately and maliciously destroying property" was in reference to labor disputes, but the oft-repeated story (as old as the record of the word in English) that the modern meaning derives from strikers' supposed tactic of throwing shoes into machinery is not supported by the etymology. Likely it was not meant as a literal image; the word was used in French in a variety of "bungling" senses, such as "to play a piece of music badly."
This, too, was the explanation given in some early usages:
SABOTAGE [chapter heading] The title we have prefixed seems to mean "scamping work." It is a device which, we are told, has been adopted by certain French workpeople as a substitute for striking. The workman, in other words, purposes to remain on and to do his work badly, so as to annoy his employer's customers and cause loss to his employer. [The Liberty Review, January 1907]
You may believe that sabotage is murder, and so forth, but it is not so at all. Sabotage means giving back to the bosses what they give to us. Sabotage consists in going slow with the process of production when the bosses go slow with the same process in regard to wages. [Arturo M. Giovannitti, quoted in report of the Sagamore Sociological Conference, June 1907]
The military extension to damage inflicted (especially clandestinely) to disrupt an enemy is from World War I.
c. 1300, "counting," especially "reckoning of money received and paid, detailed statement of funds owed or spent or property held," from Old French acont "(financial) account, reckoning, terminal payment," from a "to" (see ad-) + cont "counting, reckoning of money to be paid," from Late Latin computus "a calculation," from Latin computare "to count, sum up, reckon together," from com "with, together" (see com-) + putare "to reckon" (originally "to prune," from PIE root *pau- (2) "to cut, strike, stamp").
From the first it was often in plural form; sometimes in late Middle English it was accompt (see account (v.)). The meaning "course of business dealings requiring records" is from 1640s; hence "arrangement to keep money in a business, bank, etc." (1833), also "customer or client having an account" (1937). Money of account (1690s), that used in reckoning but not circulating as coin or paper, preserves the "counting" sense of the word.
From the notion of "rendering an account" comes the sense "statement answering for conduct" (mid-14c.) and the general sense "narration, recital of facts," attested by 1610s. From the notion of "statement of reasons" comes on no account "under no circumstances" (1704). Also from c. 1300 in reference to answering for one's conduct, especially at the Last Judgment. The meaning "estimation, consideration," especially in the eyes of others, is from late 14c.
On account in the financial sense "as an item to be accounted for at the final settlement" is from 1610s, hence on account of in the general sense "for the sake of, in regard to, in consideration of" (1640s, originally upon account of). Also on (my, your, etc.) account "on (one's) behalf." To give accounts "prepare or present a statement of funds and property" is from mid-15c; the older term was cast accounts (mid-14c.); to take account of originally was to make an inventory; take into account "take account of" is from 1680s. The phrase by all accounts is attested from 1798.
The spellings accompt, accomptable, etc. are artificial forms used, not prevailingly, in the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries. They are now obsolete, or nearly so, though accompt and accomptant may still be used in the formal or legal style. The pronunciation has always conformed to the regular spelling, account, accountable, etc. [Century Dictionary]
early 15c., "servants of a household," from Latin familia "family servants, domestics collectively, the servants in a household," thus also "members of a household, the estate, property; the household, including relatives and servants," abstract noun formed from famulus "servant, slave," which is of unknown origin.
The Latin word rarely appears in the sense "parents with their children," for which domus (see domestic (adj.)) was used. Derivatives of famulus include famula "serving woman, maid," famulanter "in the manner of a servant," famulitas "servitude," familiaris "of one's household, private," familiaricus "of household slaves," familiaritas "close friendship."
In English, sense of "collective body of persons who form one household under one head and one domestic government, including parents, children, and servants, and as sometimes used even lodgers or boarders" [Century Dictionary] is from 1540s. From 1660s as "parents with their children, whether they dwell together or not," also in a more general sense, "persons closely related by blood, including aunts, uncles, cousins;" earlier "those who descend from a common progenitor, a house, a lineage" (1580s). Hence, "any group of things classed as kindred based on common distinguishing characteristics" (1620s); as a scientific classification, between genus and order, from 1753.
Latin familia often was glossed in Old English by hired, hyred "household, family, retinue" (for which see hide (n.2), and also by hiwscipe, hiwræden, hiwan "members of a family, household, or religious house," which is cognate with Old Norse hjon "one of the household; married couple, man and wife; domestic servant," and with Old High German hiwo "husband," hiwa "wife," also with Lithuanian šeimyna "family," Gothic haims "village," Old English ham "village, home" (see home (n.)). A 15c. glossary has, for Latin familia, Middle English a menge, from Anglo-French maisnie "the household, the whole attendance upon the personal establishment of the feudal lord."
As an adjective from c. 1600; with the meaning "suitable for a family," by 1807. Family values is recorded by 1966. Phrase in a family way "pregnant" is from 1796. Family circle is 1809; family man "man devoted to wife and children, man inclined to lead a domestic life" is 1856 (earlier it meant "thief," 1788, from family in a slang sense of "the fraternity of thieves"). Family tree "graph of ancestral relations" attested from 1752.
He was dressed in his best Coat, which had served him in the same Capacity before my Birth, and possibly, might be but little short in Antiquity, to the Root of his third Family Tree; and indeed, he made a venerable Figure in it. ["A Genuine Account of the Life and Transactions of Howell ap David Price, Gentleman of Wales," London, 1752]
Old English gast "breath; good or bad spirit, angel, demon; person, man, human being," in Biblical use "soul, spirit, life," from Proto-West Germanic *gaistaz (source also of Old Saxon gest, Old Frisian jest, Middle Dutch gheest, Dutch geest, German Geist "spirit, ghost"). This is conjectured to be from a PIE root *gheis-, used in forming words involving the notions of excitement, amazement, or fear (source also of Sanskrit hedah "wrath;" Avestan zaesha- "horrible, frightful;" Gothic usgaisjan, Old English gæstan "to frighten").
Ghost is the English representative of the usual West Germanic word for "supernatural being." In Christian writing in Old English it is used to render Latin spiritus (see spirit (n.)), a sense preserved in Holy Ghost. Sense of "disembodied spirit of a dead person," especially imagined as wandering among the living or haunting them, is attested from late 14c. and returns the word toward its likely prehistoric sense.
Most Indo-European words for "soul, spirit" also double with reference to supernatural spirits. Many have a base sense of "appearance" (such as Greek phantasma; French spectre; Polish widmo, from Old Church Slavonic videti "to see;" Old English scin, Old High German giskin, originally "appearance, apparition," related to Old English scinan, Old High German skinan "to shine"). Other concepts are in French revenant, literally "returning" (from the other world), Old Norse aptr-ganga, literally "back-comer." Breton bugelnoz is literally "night-child." Latin manes probably is a euphemism.
The gh- spelling appeared early 15c. in Caxton, influenced by Flemish and Middle Dutch gheest, but was rare in English before mid-16c. Sense of "slight suggestion, mere shadow or semblance" (in ghost image, ghost of a chance, etc.) is first recorded 1610s; sense of "one who secretly does work for another" is from 1884. Ghost town is from 1908. Ghost story is by 1811. Ghost-word "apparent word or false form in a manuscript due to a blunder" is from 1886 (Skeat). Ghost in the machine was British philosopher Gilbert Ryle's term (1949) for "the mind viewed as separate from the body." The American Indian ghost dance is from 1890. To give up the ghost "die" was in Old English.
Old English dweorh, dweorg (West Saxon), duerg (Mercian), "very short human being, person much below ordinary stature, whether of proportionate parts or not," also "supernatural being of subhuman size," from Proto-Germanic *dweraz (source also of Old Frisian dwerch, Old Saxon dwerg, Old High German twerg, German Zwerg, Old Norse dvergr), perhaps from PIE *dhwergwhos "something tiny," but with no established cognates outside Germanic.
Also used by c. 1200 of an animal or plant much below the ordinary size of its species." The use of dwarf in the Germanic mythological sense, "a diminished and generally deformed being, dwelling in rocks and hills and skilled in working metals," seems to have faded after Middle English and been revived after c. 1770 from German.
Whilst in this and other ways the dwarfs do at times have dealings with mankind, yet on the whole they seem to shrink from man; they give the impression of a downtrodden afflicted race, which is on the point of abandoning its ancient home to new and more powerful invaders. There is stamped on their character something shy and something heathenish, which estranges them from intercourse with christians. They chafe at human faithlessness, which no doubt would primarily mean the apostacy from heathenism. In the poems of the Mid. Ages, Laurin is expressly set before us as a heathen. It goes sorely against the dwarfs to see churches built, bell-ringing ... disturbs their ancient privacy; they also hate the clearing of forests, agriculture, new fangled pounding-machinery for ore. ["Teutonic Mythology," Jakob Grimm, transl. Stallybrass, 1883]
The shift of the Old English guttural at the end of the word to modern -f is typical (compare enough, draft) and begins to appear early 14c. In Middle English it also was dwerþ, dwerke. Old English plural dweorgas became Middle English dwarrows, later leveled down to dwarfs. The use of dwarves for the legendary race was popularized by J.R.R. Tolkien. As an adjective, from 1590s.
The use of giant and dwarf in reference to stars of the highest and lowest luminosity is attested by 1914, said to have been suggested by Danish astronomer Ejnar Hertzsprung, (1873-1967); hence red dwarf (attested by 1922), white dwarf, black dwarf "dead and lightless star" (1966).
c. 1300, plesen, "to please or satisfy (a deity), propitiate, appease," from Old French plaisir "to please, give pleasure to, satisfy" (11c., Modern French plaire, the form of which is perhaps due to analogy of faire), from Latin placere "to be acceptable, be liked, be approved," related to placare "to soothe, quiet" (source of Spanish placer, Italian piacere), from PIE *pl(e)hk- "to agree, be pleasant," with cognates in Tocharian plak- "to agree," plaki "permission."
By mid-14c. as "satisfy (a person), be agreeable to, be satisfactory or acceptable; to be satisfied." Meaning "to delight, attract (someone), amuse, entertain, excite agreeable sensations in" in English is from late 14c. Inverted use for "to be pleased, be satisfied" parallels the evolution of like (v.).
Impersonal constructions with it, followed by an object and originally dative are common from mid-14c. Intransitive sense of "to like, choose, think fit" (do as you please) is recorded from c. 1500; imperative use (please do this), is recorded from 1620s (as please to), was probably a shortening of if it please (you) (late 14c.).
This impersonal construction with the indirect object of the person has given way in more familiar use to a personal construction, the original dative you, in if you please, for example, being now taken as the subject. The word in this sense was formerly common in polite request, may it please you, or if it please you, or, elliptically, please you : a mode of speech still common in addressing a judge or persons of rank or position : as, may it please the court ; if it please your honor ; please your worship ; etc. [Century Dictionary]
Verbs for "please" supply the stereotype polite word ("Please come in," short for may it please you to ...) in many languages (French, Italian), "But more widespread is the use of the first singular of a verb for 'ask, request' " [Buck, who cites German bitte, Polish proszę, etc.]. Spanish favor is short for hace el favor "do the favor." Danish has in this sense vær saa god, literally "be so good."