"tract of level or undulating grassland in North America," by 1773, from French prairie "meadow, grassland," from Old French praerie "meadow, pastureland" (12c.), from Vulgar Latin *prataria, from Latin pratum "meadow," originally "a hollow," a word of uncertain origin; de Vaan suggests PIE *prh-to- "allotted."
The word existed in early Middle English as prayere, praiere, but was lost and reborrowed in 18c. from Hennepin and other French writers to describe the fertile but treeless parts of the American plains.
These are the gardens of the Desert, these
The unshorn fields, boundless and beautiful,
For which the speech of England has no name—
[William Cullen Bryant, from "The Prairies"]
Prairie dog for the burrowing rodent of the American grasslands, is attested from 1774, so called for its cry, which is like the barking of a dog; prairie schooner "covered wagon used by emigrants in freighting on the prairies and Great Plains before the construction of transcontinental railroads" is from 1841. Illinois has been the Prairie State at least since 1861. In Latin, Neptunia prata was poetic for "the sea."
"salted and peppered raw egg, drunk in booze or vinegar," by 1878, American English, from prairie + oyster (in reference to the taste or the method of consuming it). Also called prairie-cocktail (1889). Prairie-oyster as "fried calf testicle," considered a delicacy, is by 1941.
PRAIRIE OYSTER. This simple but very nutritious drink may be taken by any person of the most delicate digestion, and has become one of the most popular delicacies since its introduction by me at Messrs. Spiers and Pond's. Its mode of preparation is very simple. Into a wine glass pat a new-laid egg ; add half a tea-spoonful of vinegar, dropping it gently down on the inside of the glass ; then drop on the yolk a little common salt, sufficient not to quite cover half the size of a threepenny-piece; pepper according to taste, The way to take this should be by placing the glass with the vinegar furthest from the mouth and swallow the contents. The vinegar being the last gives it more of an oyster-like flavour. [Leo Engel, "American & Other Drinks," London, 1878]
common prairie-wolf of western North America, 1759, American English, from Mexican Spanish coyote, from Nahuatl (Aztecan) coyotl. Noted for its howling at night.
1580s, of persons, "wearing a ruff;" by 1610s in animal and bird names, "having a ruff" of feathers, etc., from ruff (n.1). The American ruffed grouse is so called by 1782.