Etymology
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pulley (n.)

simple machine consisting of a wheel with a grooved rim for carrying a rope or other line and turning in a frame, used for raising a weight, late 13c., puli, from Old French polie, pulie "pulley, windlass" (12c.) and directly from Medieval Latin poliva, puliva, which according to Barnhart and Klein is probably from Medieval Greek *polidia, plural of *polidion "little pivot," diminutive of Greek polos "pivot, axis" (see pole (n.2)). As a verb from 1590s.

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block (n.1)

"solid piece," early 14c., blok, blokke, "large solid piece of wood," usually with one or more plane faces, from Old French bloc "log, block" of wood (13c.), which is from a Germanic source such as Middle Dutch bloc "trunk of a tree," Old High German bloh (from PIE *bhlugo-, from *bhelg- "a thick plank, beam;" see balk (n.)).

The word was generalized by late 15c. to any solid piece. The meaning "solid mass of wood, the upper surface of which is used for some purpose" is from late 15c., originally the executioner's block where the condemned were beheaded. The meaning "stump where a slave stood to be sold at auction" is from 1842. The sense of "mold on which something is shaped, or placed to keep its shape," typically a hat or wig, is from 1570s; the meaning "head" (generally disparaging) is from 1630s, perhaps an extension of this. To knock (someone's) block off "thrash, beat" is by 1923.

The meaning "grooved pulley in a wooden case" (used to transmit power and change the direction of motion by means of a rope) is from c. 1400. Hence block and tackle (1825; see tackle (n.)). The meaning in city block is 1796, from the notion of a "compact mass" of buildings.

BLOCK. A term applied in America to a square mass of houses included between four streets. It is a very useful one. [Bartlett]

Later of a portion of a city enclosed by streets, whether built up or not.

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block (v.1)

"obstruct, hinder passage from or to," 1590s, from French bloquer "to block, stop up," from Old French bloc "log, block of wood" (see block (n.1)). Compare Dutch blokkeren, German blockieren "to blockade." The sense in cricket is from 1772; in U.S. football, "stop or obstruct another player," from 1889. Related: Blocked; blocking.

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block (n.2)

"obstruction," 1831, from block (v.1), also in part perhaps an extended sense of block (n.1). As a type of defensive shot in cricket, from 1825; in U.S. football, the act of obstructing another player, from 1912.

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block (v.2)

"make smooth or to give shape on a block," 1620s, from block (n.1). The meaning "form into a block" is by 1863; that of "strengthen or support by blocks" is from 1881. The theater sense "designate the position on stage of each actor in a scene" is by 1961. Related: Blocked; blocking.

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chock-a-block (adj.)

"jammed together," 1840, nautical, said of two blocks of tackle run so closely they touch; from chock + block (n.1) in the nautical sense "a pulley together with its framework."

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blockhead (n.)

also block-head, "stupid person," 1540s (implied in blockheaded), from block (n.1) + head (n.); probably originally an image of the head-shaped oaken block used by hat-makers, though the insulting sense is equally old.

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chock (n.)

1670s, "piece of wood, block" (especially one used to prevent movement), possibly from Old North French choque "a block" (Old French çoche "log," 12c.; Modern French souche "stump, stock, block"), from Gaulish *tsukka "a tree trunk, stump."

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bloc (n.)

1903, in reference to alliances in Continental politics, from French bloc "group, block," from Old French bloc "piece of wood" (see block (n.1)).

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building (n.)

c. 1300, "a structure;" late 14c., "act or process of constructing;" verbal noun from build (v.). Building-block is attested from 1846 as "one of a set of children's play blocks;" 1849 as "temporary support on which a ship's keel rests while the ship is being constructed;" 1856 as "cinder-block, concrete block, artificial stone block used in building construction." The figurative sense of "basic unit from which something is constructed" is by 1955.

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