Etymology
Advertisement
Mesopotamia 

ancient name for the land that lies between the Tigris and Euphrates rivers north of Babylon (in modern Iraq), from Greek mesopotamia (khōra), literally "a country between two rivers," from fem. of mesopotamos, from mesos "middle" (from PIE root *medhyo- "middle") + potamos "river" (see potamo-).

In 19c. the word sometimes was used in the sense of "anything which gives irrational or inexplicable comfort to the hearer," based on the story of the old woman who told her pastor that she "found great support in that comfortable word Mesopotamia" ["Brewer's Dictionary of Phrase & Fable," 1870]. The place was Mespot (1917) to British soldiers serving there in World War I. Related: Mesopotamian.

Related entries & more 
Advertisement
Iraq 
country name, 1920, from an Arabic name attested since 6c. for the region known in Greek as Mesopotamia; often said to be from Arabic `araqa, covering notions such as "perspiring, deeply rooted, well-watered," which may reflect the desert Arabs' impression of the lush river-land. But the name might be from, or influenced by, Sumerian Uruk (Biblical Erech), anciently a prominent city in what is now southern Iraq (from Sumerian uru "city"). Related: Iraqi (attested in English from 1777, in reference to regional Mesopotamian music or dialects).
Related entries & more 
*medhyo- 
Proto-Indo-European root meaning "middle." Perhaps related to PIE root *me- (2) "to measure."

It forms all or part of: amid; intermediate; mean (adj.2) "occupying a middle or intermediate place;" medal; medial; median; mediate; medieval; mediocre; Mediterranean; medium; meridian; mesic; mesial; meso-; meson; Mesopotamia; Mesozoic; mezzanine; mezzo; mezzotint; mid (prep., adj.); middle; Midgard; midriff; midst; midwife; milieu; minge; mizzen; moiety; mullion.

It is the hypothetical source of/evidence for its existence is provided by: Sanskrit madhyah, Avestan madiya- "middle," Greek mesos, Latin medius "in the middle, between; from the middle," Gothic midjis, Old English midd "middle," Old Church Slavonic medzu "between," Armenian mej "middle."
Related entries & more 
interamnian (adj.)
"between two rivers" (usually, if not exclusively, with reference to Mesopotamia), 1774, from Late Latin interamnius, from inter "between" (see inter-) + amnis "a river," a word perhaps of Celtic origin (see afanc).
Related entries & more 
muslin (n.)
c. 1600, "delicately woven cotton fabric," from French mousseline (17c.), from Italian mussolina, from Mussolo, Italian name of Mosul, city in northern Mesopotamia (modern Iraq) where muslin was made. Like many fabric names, it has changed meaning over the years, in this case from luxurious to commonplace. In 13c. French, mosulin meant "cloth of silk and gold." The meaning "everyday cotton fabric for shirts, bedding, etc." is first attested 1872 in American English.
Related entries & more 
Advertisement
Manichaeism (n.)

1550s, "the religion of the Manichees" (late 14c.) a Gnostic Christian sect named for its founder, Mani (Latin Manichæus), c. 215-275, Syriac-speaking apostle from a Jesus cult in Mesopotamia in 240s, who taught a universal religion. Vegetarian and visionary, they saw "particles of light and goodness" trapped in evil matter and regarded Satan as co-eternal with God. The universe was a scene of struggle between good and evil.

The sect was characterized by dualism and a double-standard of perfectionist "elects" and a larger group of fellow travelers who would require several reincarnations before their particles of light would be liberated. It spread through the Roman Empire and survived at late as 7c.; its doctrines were revived or redeveloped by the Albigenses and Catharists.

Related entries & more 
beer (n.)

alcoholic drink made from grain, generally barley, infused with hops and boiled and fermented, Old English beor "strong drink, beer, mead," cognate with Old Frisian biar, Middle Dutch and Dutch bier, Old High German bior, German Bier; a West Germanic word of much-disputed and ambiguous origin.

Probably a 6c. West Germanic monastic borrowing of Vulgar Latin biber "a drink, beverage" (from Latin infinitive bibere "to drink," from PIE root *po(i)- "to drink"). Another suggestion is that it comes from Proto-Germanic *beuwoz-, from *beuwo- "barley." The native Germanic word for the beverage was the one that yielded ale (q.v.). "The word occurs in OE., but its use is rare, except in poetry, and it seems to have become common only in the 16th c. as the name of a hopped malt liquor." [OED] They did have words for it, however. Greek brytos, used in reference to Thracian or Phrygian brews, was related to Old English breowan "brew;" Latin zythum is from Greek zythos, first used of Egyptian beer and treated as an Egyptian word but perhaps truly Greek and related to zymē "leaven."

Spanish cerveza is from Latin cervesia "beer." Old Church Slavonic pivo, source of the general Slavic word for "beer," is originally "a drink" (compare Old Church Slavonic piti "drink"). French bière is a 16c. borrowing from German. U.S. slang beer goggles, through which every potential romantic partner looks desirable, is from 1986.

Beer was a common drink among most of the European peoples, as well as in Egypt and Mesopotamia, but was known to the Greeks and Romans only as an exotic product. [Buck]
Related entries & more 
constellation (n.)

early 14c., constellacioun, "position of a planet in the zodiac;" late 14c., "one of the recognized star patterns handed down from antiquity" (in the zodiac or not), from Old French constellacion "constellation, conjuncture (of planets)" and directly from Late Latin constellationem (nominative constellatio) "a collection of stars," especially as supposed to exert influence on human affairs," from constellatus "set with stars," from assimilated form of Latin com "with, together" (see con-) + past participle of stellare "to shine," from stella "star" (from PIE root *ster- (2) "star").

The oldest sense is astrological, of the position of planets ("stars") relative to the zodiac signs on a given day, usually the day of one's birth, as a determiner of one's character. "I folwed ay myn inclinacioun/By vertu of my constillacioun" (Chaucer, "Wife's Prologue," c. 1386). In modern use "a group of fixed stars to which a definite name has been given but does not form part of another named group (compare asterism). Figuratively, "any assemblage of a brilliant or distinguished character"(1630s).

The classical northern constellations probably were formed in prehistoric Mesopotamia; the Greeks likely picked them up c. 500 B.C.E., and Claudius Ptolemy (c. 90-c. 168) of Alexandria codified 48 of them, all still current, in his "Almagest" (2c.). The canonical list was expanded from 16c. as Europeans explored southern regions whose stars were invisible from Alexandria and as astronomers filled in the dimmer regions between the established figures, so that by the late 19c. as many as 109 constellations were shown on maps. The modern roster was set at 88 by the International Astronomical Union in 1922.

Related entries & more