mid-12c., dien, deighen, of sentient beings, "to cease to live," possibly from Old Danish døja or Old Norse deyja "to die, pass away," both from Proto-Germanic *dawjan (source also of Old Frisian deja "to kill," Old Saxon doian, Old High German touwen, Gothic diwans "mortal"), from PIE root *dheu- (3) "to pass away, die, become senseless" (source also of Old Irish dith "end, death," Old Church Slavonic daviti, Russian davit' "to choke, suffer").
It has been speculated that Old English had *diegan, from the same source, but it is not in any of the surviving texts and the preferred words were steorfan (see starve), sweltan (see swelter), wesan dead ("become dead"), also forðgan and other euphemisms.
Languages usually don't borrow words from abroad for central life experiences, but "die" words are an exception; they often are hidden or changed euphemistically out of superstitious dread. A Dutch euphemism translates as "to give the pipe to Maarten."
Regularly spelled dege through 15c., and still pronounced "dee" by some in Lancashire and Scotland. Of plants, "become devitalized, wither," late 14c.; in a general sense of "come to an end" from mid-13c. Meaning "be consumed with a great longing or yearning" (as in dying to go) is colloquial, from 1709. Used figuratively (of sounds, etc.) from 1580s; to die away "diminish gradually" is from 1670s. To die down "subside" is by 1834. Related: Died; dies.
To die out "become extinct" is from 1865. To die game "preserve a bold, resolute, and defiant spirit to the end" (especially of one facing the gallows) is from 1793. Phrase never say die "don't give up or in" is by 1822; the earliest contexts are in sailors' jargon.
"Never look so cloudy about it messmate," the latter continued in an unmoved tone—"Cheer up man, the rope is not twisted for your neck yet. Jack's alive; who's for a row? Never say die while there's a shot in the locker. Whup;" [Gerald Griffin, "Card Drawing," 1842]
"small cube marked on each face with spots numbering from one to six, used in gaming," early 14c. (as a plural, late 14c. as a singular), from Old French de "die, dice," which is of uncertain origin. Common Romanic (cognates: Spanish, Portuguese, Italian dado, Provençal dat, Catalan dau), perhaps from Latin datum "given," past participle of dare "to give" (from PIE root *do- "to give"), which, in addition to "give," had a secondary sense of "to play" (as a chess piece); or else the notion is "what is given" (by chance or Fortune).
The numbers on the opposite sides always add up to seven; otherwise there is no uniformity to their arrangement. Sense of "engraved stamping block or tool used for stamping a softer material" is from 1690s. Perhaps so called because they often were used in pairs (to impress on both sides, as of a coin).
Figurative phrase the die is cast "the decisive stem is taken" is from 1630s, in reference to the throw of the dice. The expression translates Latin alea iacta est (or iacta alea est), famously uttered by Caesar when he crossed the Rubicon.
mid-15c., "to keep something back, hinder," from back (adv.). The meaning "cause to move back" is from 1781. The intransitive sense of "move or go back" is from late 15c. The meaning "furnish with a back or backing" is from 1728, from back (n.). The meaning "to support" (as by a bet) is attested from 1540s. Related: Backed; backing.
"being behind, away from the front, in a backward direction," Middle English, from back (n.) and back (adv.); it is often difficult to distinguish from these when the word is used in combinations. Formerly with comparative backer (c. 1400), also backermore. To be on the back burner in the figurative sense of "postponed" is by 1960, from the image of a cook keeping a pot there to simmer while at work on another concoction at the front of the stove.
"to or toward the rear or the original starting place; in the past; behind in position," literally or figuratively, late 14c., shortened from abak, from Old English on bæc "backwards, behind, aback" (see back (n.), and compare aback). To give (something) back is to give it again, to give it in the opposite direction to that in which it was formerly given. Adverbial phrase back and forth is attested by 1814.
Old English bæc "back," from Proto-Germanic *bakam (cognates: Old Saxon and Middle Dutch bak, Old Frisian bek), with no known connections outside Germanic. In other modern Germanic languages the cognates mostly have been ousted in this sense by words akin to Modern English ridge (such as Danish ryg, German Rücken).
Many Indo-European languages show signs of once having distinguished the horizontal back of an animal (or a mountain range) from the upright back of a human. In other cases, a modern word for "back" may come from a word related to "spine" (Italian schiena, Russian spina) or "shoulder, shoulder blade" (Spanish espalda, Polish plecy).
By synecdoche, "the whole body," especially with reference to clothing. The meaning "upright part of a chair" is from 1520s. As a U.S. football position by 1876, so called from being behind the line of rushers; further distinguished according to relative position as quarterback, halfback, fullback. To turn (one's) back on (someone or something) "ignore" is from early 14c.
To know (something) like the back of one's hand, implying familiarity, is first attested 1893 in a dismissive speech made to a character in Robert Louis Stevenson's "Catriona":
If I durst speak to herself, you may be certain I would never dream of trusting it to you; because I know you like the back of my hand, and all your blustering talk is that much wind to me.
The story, a sequel to "Kidnapped," has a Scottish setting and context, and the back of my hand to you was noted in the late 19th century as a Scottish expression meaning "I will have nothing to do with you" [see Longmuir's edition of Jamieson's Scottish dictionary]. In English generally, the back of (one's) hand has been used to imply contempt and rejection at least since 1300. Perhaps the connection of a menacing dismissal is what made Stevenson choose that particular anatomical reference.
also diehard, 1844, in reference to the 57th Regiment of Foot in the British Army, from the verbal phrase die hard "suffer, struggle, or resist in dying," 1784; see die (v.) + hard (adv.). As an adjective, attested from 1871. The brand of automobile battery, spelled DieHard, was introduced by Sears in 1967.