"resident or native of the Caucasus," 1843; see Caucasian (adj.). Meaning "one of the 'white' race" is from 1830.
1807, of or pertaining to the Caucasus Mountains (q.v.), with -ian. Applied to the "white" race 1795 (in Latin) by German anthropologist Johann Friedrich Blumenbach (1752-1840), who in his pioneering treatise on anthropology distinguished mankind into five races: Mongolian, Ethiopian, Malay, (Native) American, and Caucasian. In the latter group he included nearly all Europeans (except Lapps and Finns), Armenians, Persians, and Hindus, as well as Arabs and Jews. His attempt at division was based on physical similarities in skulls.
Blumenbach had a solitary Georgian skull; and that skull was the finest in his collection: that of a Greek being the next. Hence it was taken as the type of the skull of the more organised divisions of our species. More than this, it gave its name to the type, and introduced term Caucasian. Never has a single head done more harm to science than was done in the way of posthumous mischief by the head of this well-shaped female from Georgia. [Robert Gordon Latham, M.D., "The Natural History of the Varieties of Man," London, 1850]
The word has long since been abandoned as a historical/anthropological term. Compare Aryan.
c. 1600, as a term in classical history, from Latin Arianus, Ariana, from Greek Aria, Areia, names applied in classical times to the eastern part of ancient Persia and to its inhabitants. Ancient Persians used the name in reference to themselves (Old Persian ariya-), hence Iran. Ultimately from Sanskrit arya- "compatriot;" in later language "noble, of good family."
Also the name Sanskrit-speaking invaders of India gave themselves in the ancient texts. Thus it was the word early 19c. European philologists (Friedrich Schlegel, 1819, who linked it with German Ehre "honor") applied to the ancient people we now call Indo-Europeans, suspecting that this is what they called themselves. This use is attested in English from 1851. In German from 1845 it was specifically contrasted to Semitic (Lassen).
German philologist Max Müller (1823-1900) popularized Aryan in his writings on comparative linguistics, recommending it as the name (replacing Indo-European, Indo-Germanic, Caucasian, Japhetic) for the group of related, inflected languages connected with these peoples, mostly found in Europe but also including Sanskrit and Persian. The spelling Arian was used in this sense from 1839 (and is more philologically correct), but it caused confusion with Arian, the term in ecclesiastical history.
The terms for God, for house, for father, mother, son, daughter, for dog and cow, for heart and tears, for axe and tree, identical in all the Indo-European idioms, are like the watchwords of soldiers. We challenge the seeming stranger; and whether he answer with the lips of a Greek, a German, or an Indian, we recognize him as one of ourselves. [Müller, "History of Ancient Sanskrit Literature," 1859]
Aryan was gradually replaced in comparative linguistics c. 1900 by Indo-European, except when used to distinguish Indo-European languages of India from non-Indo-European ones. From the 1920s Aryan began to be used in Nazi ideology to mean "member of a Caucasian Gentile race of Nordic type." As an ethnic designation, however, it is properly limited to Indo-Iranians (most justly to the latter) and has fallen from general academic use since the Nazis adopted it.
Egyptian dynasty 1254-1517, originally a military unit comprised of Caucasian slaves, from French mameluk and directly from Arabic mamluk "purchased slave," literally "possessed," from past participle of malaka "he possessed" (compare Arabic malik, Hebrew melekh "king"). It is also the source of Portuguese Mameluco (n.) "mestizo, cross-breed between a white and a native Brazilian."
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."