Old English stan, used of common rocks, precious gems, concretions in the body, memorial stones, from Proto-Germanic *stainaz (source also of Old Norse steinn, Danish steen, Old Saxon sten, Old Frisian sten, Dutch steen, Old High German stein, German Stein, Gothic stains), from PIE *stoi-no-, suffixed form of root *stai- "stone," also "to thicken, stiffen" (source also of Sanskrit styayate "curdles, becomes hard;" Avestan stay- "heap;" Greek stear "fat, tallow," stia, stion "pebble;" Old Church Slavonic stena, Russian stiena "wall").
Sense of "testicle" is from late Old English. The British measure of weight (usually equal to 14 pounds) is from late 14c., originally a specific stone. Stone-fruit, one with a pit, is from 1520s. Stone's throw for "a short distance" is attested from 1580s. Stone Age is from 1864. To kill two birds with one stone is first attested 1650s. To leave no stone unturned is from 1540s.
"made of stone," Old English (which also had stænan "stonen"); see stone (n.). As an intensifying adjective recorded from 1935, first recorded in African-American vernacular, probably from earlier use in phrases like stone blind (late 14c., literally "blind as a stone"), stone deaf, stone-cold (1590s), etc. Stone cold sober dates from 1937.
"lewd, indecent" recorded from 1840 (in the form blueness, in an essay of Carlyle's); the sense connection with the color name (see blue (adj.1)) is unclear, and is opposite to that in blue laws (q.v.). John Mactaggart's "Scottish Gallovidian Encyclopedia" (1824), containing odd words he had learned while growing up in Galloway and elsewhere in Scotland, has an entry for Thread o'Blue, "any little smutty touch in song-singing, chatting, or piece of writing." Farmer ["Slang and Its Analogues Past and Present," 1890] offers the theory that this meaning derives from the blue dress uniforms issued to harlots in houses of correction (from c. 1600), but he writes that the earlier slang authority John Camden Hotten "suggests it as coming from the French Bibliothèque Bleu, a series of books of very questionable character," and adds, from Hotten, that, "Books or conversation of an entirely opposite nature are said to be Brown or Quakerish, i.e., serious, grave, decent."
"the color of the clear sky," c. 1300, from blue (adj.1). From late 15c. as "blue clothing." The blue is from 1640s as "the sky" (hence bolt from the blue "lightning," 1837); from 1821 as "the sea." In reference to a particular party which has chosen blue for its color, by 1835. "In most parts of England the Conservative party" [OED], but in 17c. it often was the Whig color (opposed to royal red).
Blue was by c. 1600 the distinctive color of the dress of servants, which may be the reason police uniforms are blue, a tradition Farmer dates to Elizabethan times. Blue as the color of police uniforms in U.S. is by 1853, when New York City professionalized its force. They previously had had no regular uniforms, only badges.
An outburst of indignation followed [the order to wear uniforms]. The men declared the order was a violation of their rights as free men ; that no respecting American would wear livery, and raised a fund of five hundred dollars to test in the courts the authority of the Commissioners to compel them to wear uniforms. But the order was enforced when the day came. [John Bach McMaster, "A History of the People of the United States," vol. viii, 1913]
"of the color of the clear sky," c. 1300, bleu, blwe, etc., "sky-colored," also "livid, lead-colored," from Old French blo, bleu "pale, pallid, wan, light-colored; blond; discolored; blue, blue-gray," from Frankish *blao or some other Germanic source, from Proto-Germanic *blæwaz (source also of Old English blaw, Old Saxon and Old High German blao, Danish blaa, Swedish blå, Old Frisian blau, Middle Dutch bla, Dutch blauw, German blau "blue").
This is from PIE *bhle-was "light-colored, blue, blond, yellow," from root *bhel- (1) "to shine, flash, burn," also "shining white" and forming words for bright colors. The same PIE root yielded Latin flavus "yellow," Old Spanish blavo "yellowish-gray," Greek phalos "white," Welsh blawr "gray," showing the slipperiness of definition in Indo-European color-words. Many Indo-European languages seem to have had a word to describe the color of the sea, encompassing blue and green and gray; such as Irish glass (from PIE root *ghel- (2) "to shine,"); Old English hæwen "blue, gray," related to har (see hoar); Serbo-Croatian sinji "gray-blue, sea-green;" Lithuanian šyvas, Russian sivyj "gray."
The exact color to which the Gmc. term applies varies in the older dialects; M.H.G. bla is also 'yellow,' whereas the Scandinavian words may refer esp. to a deep, swarthy black, e.g. O.N. blamaðr, N.Icel. blamaður 'Negro' [Buck]
The present spelling in English is since 16c., common from c. 1700. The sense "lead-colored, blackish-blue, darkened as if by bruising" is perhaps by way of the Old Norse cognate bla "livid, lead-colored." It is the meaning in black and blue, and blue in the face "livid with effort" (1864, earlier black and blue in the face, 1829).
The color of constancy since Chaucer at least, but apparently for no deeper reason than the rhyme in true blue (c. 1500). The figurative meaning "sad, sorrowful, afflicted with low spirits" is from c. 1400, perhaps from the "livid" sense and implying a bruised heart or feelings. Of women, "learned, pedantic," by 1788 (see bluestocking). In some phrases, such as blue murder, it appears to be merely intensive.
Few words enter more largely into the composition of slang, and colloquialisms bordering on slang, than does the word BLUE. Expressive alike of the utmost contempt, as of all that men hold dearest and love best, its manifold combinations, in ever varying shades of meaning, greet the philologist at every turn. [John S. Farmer, "Slang and Its Analogues Past and Present," 1890, p.252]
Blue pencil as an editor's characteristic tool to mark corrections in copy is from 1885; also as a verb from 1885. The fabulous story of Blue-beard, who kept his murdered wives in a locked room, is in English from 1798. For blue ribbon see cordon bleu under cordon. Blue whale is attested from 1851, so called for its color. Blue cheese is from 1862. Blue water "the open ocean" is from 1822. Blue streak, of something resembling a bolt of lightning (for quickness, intensity, etc.) is from 1830, Kentucky slang. Delaware has been the Blue Hen State at least since 1830, supposedly from a nickname of its regiments in the Revolutionary War.
discovered 1798 at Rosetta, Egypt; now in British Museum. Dating to 2c. B.C.E., its trilingual inscription helped Jean-François Champollion decipher Egyptian demotic and hieroglyphics in 1822, which opened the way to the study of all early Egyptian records. Hence, figurative use of the term to mean "something which provides the key to previously unattainable understanding" (1902). The place name is a Europeanization of Rashid, a name given because it was founded c.800 C.E. by Caliph Harun ar-Rashid.
a nautical term for a blue flag having a white square in the center, hoisted at the fore royal masthead as a signal to report on board as the vessel is about to go to sea, attested by c. 1800, from blue (adj.1), but the significance of peter is uncertain and disputed. Two common guesses are that it is an abbreviation of repeater or that it stands for French partir.