Just as her father was thus summoned away, Lotty saw Fred in the distance, waving his arms, and looking like an animated semaphore of the pre-electric epoch. [Arthur Locker, "Tollit's Tragedy," in The Graphic, summer 1879]
"the spirit of the sea," 1751, first mentioned in Smollett's "The Adventures of Peregrin Pickle" as ("according to the mythology of sailors") an ominous and terrifying fiend who "presides over all the evil spirits of the deep, and is often seen in various shapes, perching among the rigging on the eve of hurricanes, shipwrecks and other disasters." Davy Jones's Locker "bottom of the sea," is 1803, from nautical slang, of unknown origin; second element may be from biblical Jonah, regarded as unlucky by sailors.
c. 1300, "a supply or provision of food for one meal," from Old French mes "portion of food, course at dinner," from Late Latin missus "course at dinner," literally "a placing, a putting (on a table, etc.)," from past participle of mittere "to put, place," in classical Latin "to send, let go" (see mission). For sense evolution, compare early Middle English sonde "a serving of food or drink; a meal or course of a meal," from Old English sond, sand, literally "a sending," the noun form of send (v.).
Meaning "a communal eating place" (especially a military one) is attested by 1530s, from the earlier sense of "a company of persons eating together at the same table" (early 15c.), originally a group of four. The sense of "mixed food," especially "mixed food for animals" (1738), probably is what led to the contemptuous colloquial use of mess for "a jumble, a mixed mass" (1828) and the figurative sense of "state of confusion, a situation of disorder" (1834), as well as "condition of untidiness" (1851).
General use for "a quantity" of anything is attested by 1830. Meaning "excrement" (of animals) is from 1903. Mess-hall "area where military personnel eat and socialize" is by 1832. Mess-kit "the cooking- and table-utensils of a camp, with the chest in which they are kept" is by 1829. Mess-locker "a small locker on shipboard for holding mess-gear" is by 1829.
"soft, grayish mass filling the cranial cavity of a vertebrate," in the broadest sense, "organ of consciousness and the mind," Old English brægen "brain," from Proto-Germanic *bragnan (source also of Middle Low German bregen, Old Frisian and Dutch brein), of uncertain origin, perhaps from PIE root *mregh-m(n)o- "skull, brain" (source also of Greek brekhmos "front part of the skull, top of the head"). But Liberman writes that brain "has no established cognates outside West Germanic" and is not connected to the Greek word. More probably, he writes, its etymon is PIE *bhragno "something broken."
The custom of using the plural to refer to the substance (literal or figurative), as opposed to the organ, dates from 16c. Figurative sense of "intellectual power" is from late 14c.; meaning "a clever person" is first recorded 1914. To have something on the brain "be extremely eager for or interested in" is from 1862. Brain-fart "sudden loss of memory or train of thought; sudden inability to think logically" is by 1991 (brain-squirt is from 1650s as "feeble or abortive attempt at reasoning"). An Old English word for "head" was brægnloca, which might be translated as "brain locker." In Middle English, brainsick (Old English brægenseoc) meant "mad, addled."
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]