masc. proper name, 12c., from Old English Petrus (genitive Pet(e)res, dative Pet(e)re), from Latin Petrus, from Greek Petros, literally "stone, rock" (see petrous), a translation of Syriac kefa "stone" (Latinized as Cephas), the nickname Jesus gave to apostle Simon Bar-Jona (Matthew xvi.17), historically known as St. Peter, and consequently a popular name among Christians (Italian Pietro, Spanish and Portuguese Pedro, Old French Pierres, French Pierre, etc.). As slang for "penis," attested from 1902, probably from identity of first syllable.
The common form of this very common name in medieval England was Peres (Anglo-French Piers), hence surnames Pierce, Pearson, etc. Among the diminutive forms were Parkin and Perkin.
To rob Peter to pay Paul (1510s, attested in slightly different wordings from late 14c.) might be a reference to the many churches dedicated to those two saints, and have sprung from the fairly common practice of building or enriching one church with the ruins or revenues of another. But the alliterative pairing of the two names is attested from c. 1400 with no obvious connection to the saints:
Sum medicyne is for peter þat is not good for poul, for þe diuersite of complexioun. [Lanfranc's "Chirurgia Magna," English translation, c. 1400]
"to diminish gradually and then cease," 1812, colloquial, of uncertain origin. To peter out "become exhausted," is 1846 as miners' slang. Related: Petered; petering.
c. 1300 as an adverbial phrase, "completely, thoroughly, to the utmost degree," from out (adv.). Adjective usage is attested by 1813.
in Old English a common prefix with nouns, adjectives, adverbs, and verbs, "out, outward, outer; forth, away," from out (adv.). The use was even more common in Middle English, and also with the senses "outer, outside, on the outside, from without, external, externally; apart; greatly, extremely; completely, thoroughly, to completion." Other senses of out that extended into the use as a prefix include "beyond the surface or limits; to the utmost degree; to an explicit resolution."
In composition out has either its ordinary adverbial sense, as in outcast, outcome, outlook, etc., or a prepositional force, as in outdoors, or forms transitive verbs denoting a going beyond or surpassing of the object of the verb, in doing the act expressed by the word to which it is prefixed, as in outrun, outshine, outvenom, etc. In the last use especially out may be used with almost any noun or verb. [Century Dictionary]
Old English utian "expel, put out," from the source of out (adv.). It has been used in many specific senses over the years; the meaning "disclose to public view, reveal, make known" is by mid-14c.
Eufrosyne preyde Þat god schulde not outen hire to nowiht. ["Legendary of St. Euphrosyne," c. 1350]
Meaning "to expose as a closet homosexual" is first by 1990 (as an adjective meaning "openly avowing one's homosexuality" it dates from 1970s; see closet). To come out "declare oneself publicly as homosexual" is from 1968 and probably short for come out of the closet. Related: Outed; outing. Compare outen.
late Old English, "outer," from out (adv.). From mid-13c. as "that is or lies on the outside, exterior." Of a light or candle, "extinguished, no longer burning," c. 1300. Sense of "no longer secret" is by 1713. Sense in baseball (1860) was earlier in cricket (1746). Meaning "unconscious" is attested from 1898, originally in boxing from the notion of "defeated ('out') by failing to rise within a 10-count." To be out on one's feet is from 1952. From 1966 as "unfashionable, not stylish, popular, or modern."
expressing motion or direction from within or from a central point, also removal from proper place or position, Old English ut "out, without, outside," from Proto-Germanic *ūt- (Old Norse, Old Frisian, Old Saxon, Gothic ut, Middle Dutch uut, Dutch uit, Old High German uz, German aus), from PIE root *uidh- "up, out, up away, on high" (source also of Sanskrit ut "up, out," uttarah "higher, upper, later, northern;" Avestan uz- "up, out," Old Irish ud- "out," Latin usque "all the way to, continuously, without interruption," Greek hysteros "the latter," Russian vy- "out").
Sense of "to a full end, completely, to a conclusion or finish" is from c. 1300. Meaning "so as to be no longer burning or alight; into darkness" is from c. 1400. Of position or situation, "beyond the bounds of, not within," early 15c. Meaning "into public notice" is from 1540s; that of "away from one's place of residence," c. 1600. The political sense of "not in office, removed or ejected from a position" is from c. 1600. Meaning "come into sight, become visible" (of stars, etc.) is by 1610s. In radio communication, a word indicating that the speaker has finished speaking, by 1950.
As a preposition, "out of; from, away from; outside of, beyond; except; without, lacking;" mid-13c., from the adverb.
Meaning "from harmonious relations, into quarreling" (as in to fall out) is from 1520s. Meaning "from one's normal state of mind" (as in put out) is from 1580s; out to lunch "insane" is student slang from 1955. Adjectival phrase out-of-the-way "remote, secluded" is attested from late 15c. Out-of-towner "one not from a certain place" is from 1911. Out of this world "excellent" is from 1938; out of sight "excellent, superior" is from 1891. To (verb) it out "bring to a finish" is from 1580s. Expression from here on out "henceforward" is by 1942. Out upon, expressing abhorrence or reproach, is from early 15c.
a nautical term for a blue flag having a white square in the center, hoisted at the fore royal masthead as a signal to report on board as the vessel is about to go to sea, attested by c. 1800, from blue (adj.1), but the significance of peter is uncertain and disputed. Two common guesses are that it is an abbreviation of repeater or that it stands for French partir.
name of the boy-hero in J.M. Barrie's play "Peter Pan, or The Boy Who Wouldn't Grow Up" (1904), first introduced in Barrie's "The Little White Bird" (1902). Used allusively for an immature adult man from 1914 (by G.B. Shaw, in reference to the Kaiser).
Well, Peter Pan got out by the window, which had no bars. Standing on the ledge he could see trees far away, which were doubtless the Kensington Gardens, and the moment he saw them he entirely forgot that he was now a little boy in a nightgown, and away he flew, right over the houses to the Gardens. It is wonderful that he could fly without wings, but the place itched tremendously, and, perhaps we could all fly if we were as dead-confident-sure of our capacity to do it as was bold Peter Pan that evening. [Barrie, "The Little White Bird"]