Etymology
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mate (v.1)

c. 1500, transitive, "to equal, rival," 1590s as "to match as mates, couple, join in marriage," from mate (n.1). Also, of animals, "to pair for the purpose of breeding" (c. 1600). Intransitive sense of "be joined in companionship" is from 1580s. Related: Mated; mating.

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non-combatant (n.)

also noncombatant, "one connected with a military or naval force other than as a fighter" (surgeons, surgeons mates, pursers, secretaries, chaplains, etc.), 1799, from non- + combatant. A word from the Napoleonic wars. Gradually extended by 1820s to "a civilian in time of war."

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mate (n.2)

in chess, "a condition of checkmate, the state of the king when he is in check and cannot move out of it," c. 1300, mat, from Old French mat, from mater "to checkmate" (see mate (v.2)).

Fool's mate, a mode of checkmate in which the tyro, moving first, is mated by his opponent's second move.—Scholar's mate, a simple mode of checkmate, sometimes practised on inexperienced players, in which the skilled player's queen, supported by a bishop, mates the tyro in four moves. [Century Dictionary]
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cuckold (n.)

derisive name for a man whose wife is false to him, "husband of an adulteress," early 13c., kukewald, cokewold, from Old French cucuault, from cocu (see cuckoo) + pejorative suffix -ault, of Germanic origin. So called from the female bird's alleged habit of changing mates, or her authentic habit of leaving eggs in another bird's nest.

In Modern French the identity is more obvious: Coucou for the bird and cocu for the betrayed husband. German Hahnrei (13c.), from Low German, is of obscure origin. The second element seems to be connected to words for "ardent," and suggests perhaps "sexually aggressive hen," with transferal to humans, but Kluge suggests rather a connection to words for "capon" and "castrated." The female equivalent, cuckquean, is attested by 1560s.

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Valentine (n.)

mid-15c., "sweetheart chosen on St. Valentine's Day," from Late Latin Valentinus, the name of two early Italian saints (from Latin valentia "strength, capacity;" see valence). Choosing a sweetheart on this day originated 14c. as a custom in English and French court circles. Meaning "letter or card sent to a sweetheart" first recorded 1824. The romantic association of the day is said to be from it being around the time when birds choose their mates.

For this was on seynt Volantynys day
Whan euery bryd cometh there to chese his make.
[Chaucer, "Parlement of Foules," c. 1381]

Probably the date was the informal first day of spring in whatever French region invented the custom (many surviving medieval calendars reckon the start of spring on the 7th or 22nd of February). No evidence connects it with the Roman Lupercalia (an 18c. theory) or to any romantic or avian quality in either of the saints. The custom of sending special cards or letters on this date flourished in England c. 1840-1870, declined around the turn of the 20th century, and revived 1920s.

To speak of the particular Customs of the English Britons, I shall begin with Valentine's Day, Feb. 14. when young Men and Maidens get their several Names writ down upon Scrolls of Paper rolled up, and lay 'em asunder, the Men drawing the Maidens Names, and these the Mens; upon which, the Men salute their chosen Valentines and present them with Gloves, &c. This Custom (which sometimes introduces a Match) is grounded upon the Instinct of Animals, which about this Time of the Year, feeling a new Heat by the approach of the Sun, begin to couple. ["The Present State of Great Britain and Ireland" London, 1723]
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magpie (n.)

popular name of a common bird of Europe, Asia, and America, known for its chattering, acquisitiveness, curiosity, and mimicry, c. 1600, earlier simply pie (mid-13c.).

The first element is Mag, nickname for Margaret, long used in proverbial and slang English for qualities associated generally with women, especially in this case "idle chattering" (as in Magge tales "tall tales, nonsense," early 15c.; also compare French margot "magpie," from Margot, pet form of Marguerite). The name Margaret, and its reduced forms Mag, Madge, diminutive Maggie, also has long been familiarly applied to birds. Pies were proverbial since Middle English for chattering (as were jays), hence the application of pie to a prattling gossip or tattler, also "sly person, informer" (late 14c.) and in 15c.-16c. a wily pie (or wyly pye) was "a cunning person."

The second element, pie, is the earlier name of the bird, from Old French pie, from Latin pica "magpie" (source also of Spanish pega), fem. of picus "woodpecker," from PIE root *(s)peik- "woodpecker, magpie" (source also of Umbrian peica "magpie," Sanskrit pikah "Indian cuckoo," Old Norse spætr, German Specht "woodpecker"); possibly from PIE root *pi-, denoting pointedness, of the beak. The application to pies might be because the magpie also has a long, pointed tail.

The birds are proverbial for pilfering and hoarding and for their indiscriminate appetites (see pica (n.2)); they can be taught to speak, and have been regarded since the Middle Ages as ill omens.

Whan pyes chatter vpon a house it is a sygne of ryghte euyll tydynges. [1507]

Divination by numbering magpies is attested from c. 1780 in Lincolnshire; the rhyme varies from place to place, the only consistency being that one is bad, two are good.

The councils which magpies appear to hold together, at particular seasons, commonly called "folkmotes," are associated in the minds of many with superstitious and ominous notions. The innocent objects of terror, while meeting together most probably for the purpose of choosing mates, are supposed to be conspiring and clubbing their wits, for the weal or woe of the inhabitants of the neighbouring village. If they are of an even number and carry on their cheerful, noisy chatter, it is supposed to betoken good to old and young—but if there is an odd magpie perched apart from the rest, silent, and disconsolate, the reverse of this is apprehended, and mischievous consequences are inevitably expected. [The Saturday Magazine, Jan. 23, 1841]
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