Etymology
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split (v.)

1580s (transitive and intransitive), not found in Middle English, probably from a Low German source such as Middle Dutch splitten, from Proto-Germanic *spleitanan (source also of Danish and Frisian splitte, Old Frisian splita, German spleißen "to split"), from PIE *(s)plei- "to split, splice" (see flint).

U.S. slang meaning "leave, depart" first recorded 1954. Of couples, "to separate, to divorce" from 1942. To split the difference is suggested from 1715; to split (one's) ticket in the U.S. political sense is attested from 1842. To split hairs "make too-nice distinctions" is from 1670s (split a hair; the figurative image itself is implied in Shakespeare). Splitting image "exact likeness" is from 1880. To split the atom is from 1909.

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split (n.)

1590s, "narrow cleft, crack, fissure," from split (v.). Meaning "piece of wood formed by splitting" is from 1610s. Meaning "an act of separation, a divorce" is from 1729. From 1861 as the name of the acrobatic feat. Meaning "a drink composed of two liquors" is from 1882; that of "sweet dish of sliced fruit with ice cream" is attested from 1920, American English. Slang meaning "share of the take" is from 1889. Meaning "a draw in a double-header" is from 1920.

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split (adj.)

1640s, past-participle adjective from split (v.). Split decision is from 1946 of court rulings, 1951 in boxing. Split shift is from 1904. Split personality first attested 1899.

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split-screen (adj.)

1949, from noun use (1946); see split (adj.) + screen (n.).

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split-level (adj.)

1951 as a type of building plan, from split (adj.) + level (n.). As a noun from 1954, short for split-level house, etc.

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split-second (n.)

1884, originally the name of a type of stopwatch with two second hands that could be stopped independently. Meaning "a fraction of a second" is from 1912, from split (adj.) + second (n.1); adjectival meaning "occurring in a fraction of a second" is from 1946.

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side-splitting (adj.)

"affecting with compulsive laughter," 1825, from side (n.) + split (v.). Related: Side-splittingly.

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rail-splitter (n.)

"one who splits logs in rails for making a rail fence," 1853, from rail (n.1) + agent noun from split (v.). Usually with reference to or suggestion of U.S. president Abraham Lincoln, as it figured in his political biography.

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lickety-split (adj.)

1852, American English; earlier lickety-cut, lickety-click, and simply licketie (1817), probably a fanciful extension of lick (n.1) in its dialectal sense of "very fast sprint in a race" (1809) on the notion of a flick of the tongue as a fast thing (compare blink, snap).

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hair-splitting (n.)

"making over-nice distinctions," by 1739, from hair + verbal noun from split (v.). To split hairs "make over-fine distinctions" is first recorded 1650s, as to cut the hair. Hair also being 18c. slang for "female pudendum," hair-splitter was noted in 1811 as slang for "penis."

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