1530s, "action of battering," in law, "the unlawful beating of another," from French batterie, from Old French baterie "beating, thrashing, assault" (12c.), from batre "to beat," from Latin battuere (see batter (v.)).
The meaning shifted in French from "bombardment" ("heavy blows" upon city walls or fortresses) to "unit of artillery" (a sense recorded in English from 1550s). The extension to "electrical cell" (1748, in Ben Franklin) is perhaps from the artillery sense via notion of "discharges" of electricity. In Middle English, bateri meant only "forged metal ware." In obsolete baseball jargon battery was the word for "pitcher and catcher" considered as a unit (1867, originally only the pitcher).
second letter of the Latin alphabet, corresponding to Greek beta, Phoenician beth, literally "house." It "has nothing of that variety of pronunciation shown by most English letters" [Century Dictionary]. The Germanic "b" is said to represent a "bh" sound in Proto-Indo-European, which continued as "bh" in Sanskrit, became "ph" in Greek (brother/Greek phrater; bear (v.)/Greek pherein) and "f" in Latin (frater, ferre).
Often indicating "second in order." B-movie is by 1939, usually said to be so called from being the second, or supporting, film in a double feature. Some film industry sources say it was so called for being the second of the two films major studios generally made in a year, and the one cast with less headline talent and released with less promotion. And early usage varies with grade-B movie, suggesting a perceived association with quality.
B-side of a gramophone single is by 1962 (flip-side is by 1949). B-girl, abbreviation of bar girl, U.S. slang for a woman paid to encourage customers at a bar to buy her drinks, is by 1936.
1819, Italian, literally "third rhyme." Dante's measure: a-b-a-b-c-b-c-d-c-, etc.
1839, "apparatus for reversing the currents from a battery without rearranging the conductors," agent noun from Latin commutare (see commute (v.)). From 1880 as "contrivance for varying the strength of an electric current."
"vaulted recess," 1670s, from French alcôve (17c.), from Spanish alcoba, from Arabic al-qobbah "the vaulted chamber," from Semitic base q-b-b "to be bent, crooked, vaulted." The al- is the Arabic definite article, "the."
initialism (acronym) from shit out of luck (though sometimes euphemised), 1917, World War I military slang. "Applicable to everything from death to being late for mess" [Russell Lord, "Captain Boyd's Battery, A.E.F.," c. 1920]
Greek island, the name is believed to be of Phoenician origin, from Semitic root l-b-n "white." Related: Lemnian.