Old English steorfan "to die" (past tense stearf, past participle storfen), literally "become stiff," from Proto-Germanic *sterbanan "be stiff, starve" (source also of Old Frisian sterva, Old Saxon sterban, Dutch sterven, Old High German sterban "to die," Old Norse stjarfi "tetanus"), from extended form of PIE root *ster- (1) "stiff."
The conjugation became weak in English by 16c. The sense narrowed to "die of cold" (14c.); transitive meaning "to kill with hunger" is first recorded 1520s (earlier to starve of hunger, early 12c.). Intransitive sense of "to die of hunger" dates from 1570s. German cognate sterben retains the original sense of the word, but the English has come so far from its origins that starve to death (1910) is now common.
c. 1400, "faint with heat," frequentative of swelten "be faint (especially with heat)," late 14c., from Old English sweltan "to die, perish," from Proto-Germanic *swiltan- (source also of Old Saxon sweltan "to die," Old Norse svelta "to put to death, starve," Gothic sviltan "to die"), perhaps originally "to burn slowly," hence "to be overcome with heat or fever," from PIE root *swel- (2) "to shine, beam" (see Selene). From the same ancient root comes Old English swelan "to burn." For specialization of words meaning "to die," compare starve. Related: Sweltered; sweltering.
1778, hybrid noun of action from starve. Famously (but not certainly) introduced in English by Henry Dundas during debate in the House of Commons in 1775 on American affairs. It earned him the nickname "Starvation Dundas," though sources disagree on whether this was given in objection to the harshness of his suggestion of starving the rebels into submission or in derision at the barbarous formation of the word. It is one of the earliest instances of -ation used with a native Germanic word (flirtation is earlier), based on a false analogy with vex/vexation, etc.
As to Lord Chatham, the victories, conquests, extension of our empire within these last five years, will annihilate his fame of course, and he may be replaced by Starvation Dundas, whose pious policy suggested that the devil of rebellion could be expelled only by fasting, though that never drove him out of Scotland. [Horace Walpole, letter to the Rev. William Mason, April 25, 1781]
Proto-Indo-European root meaning "stiff."
It is the hypothetical source of/evidence for its existence is provided by: Greek stereos "solid," sterizein "to support," sterphnios "stiff, rigid," sterphos "hide, skin;" Sanskrit sthirah "hard, firm," Persian suturg "strong;" Lithuanian storas "thick," strėgti "to become frozen;" Old Church Slavonic trupeti, Lithuanian tirpstu, tirpti "to become rigid;" Old Church Slavonic strublu "strong, hard," staru "old" (hence Russian stary "old"); Old English starian "to stare," stearc "stiff, strong, rigid," steorfan "to die," literally "become stiff," styrne "severe, strict."
mid-12c., dien, deighen, of sentient beings, "to cease to live," possibly from Old Danish døja or Old Norse deyja "to die, pass away," both from Proto-Germanic *dawjan (source also of Old Frisian deja "to kill," Old Saxon doian, Old High German touwen, Gothic diwans "mortal"), from PIE root *dheu- (3) "to pass away, die, become senseless" (source also of Old Irish dith "end, death," Old Church Slavonic daviti, Russian davit' "to choke, suffer").
It has been speculated that Old English had *diegan, from the same source, but it is not in any of the surviving texts and the preferred words were steorfan (see starve), sweltan (see swelter), wesan dead ("become dead"), also forðgan and other euphemisms.
Languages usually don't borrow words from abroad for central life experiences, but "die" words are an exception; they often are hidden or changed euphemistically out of superstitious dread. A Dutch euphemism translates as "to give the pipe to Maarten."
Regularly spelled dege through 15c., and still pronounced "dee" by some in Lancashire and Scotland. Of plants, "become devitalized, wither," late 14c.; in a general sense of "come to an end" from mid-13c. Meaning "be consumed with a great longing or yearning" (as in dying to go) is colloquial, from 1709. Used figuratively (of sounds, etc.) from 1580s; to die away "diminish gradually" is from 1670s. To die down "subside" is by 1834. Related: Died; dies.
To die out "become extinct" is from 1865. To die game "preserve a bold, resolute, and defiant spirit to the end" (especially of one facing the gallows) is from 1793. Phrase never say die "don't give up or in" is by 1822; the earliest contexts are in sailors' jargon.
"Never look so cloudy about it messmate," the latter continued in an unmoved tone—"Cheer up man, the rope is not twisted for your neck yet. Jack's alive; who's for a row? Never say die while there's a shot in the locker. Whup;" [Gerald Griffin, "Card Drawing," 1842]
Middle English pinen "cause to starve" (c. 1300), from Old English pinian "to torture, torment, afflict, cause to suffer," from *pīn (n.) "pain, torture, punishment," from a general Germanic word (compare Middle Dutch pinen, Old High German pinon, German Pein, Old Norse pina), all possibly ultimately from Latin poena "punishment, penalty" (see penal). If so, the Latin word probably came into Germanic with Christianity.
The intransitive sense of "to languish, waste away, be consumed with grief or longing," the main modern meaning, is recorded from early 14c., via the Middle English intransitive senses of "endure penance, torment oneself; endure pain, suffer." Related: Pined; pining.
umbelliferous European plant long cultivated as food, 1660s, sellery, from French céleri (17c., originally sceleri d'Italie), said by French sources to be from Italian (Lombard dialect) seleri (singular selero), from Late Latin selinon, from Greek selinon "parsley" (in Medieval Greek "celery"), a word of uncertain origin. The c- spelling, attested by 1719 in English, is from French. Middle English words for "wild celery" were acheand selinum.
[O]ne day, in a weak and hungry moment, my roommate and I succumbed to a bit of larceny. A greengrocer's truck had parked down the street and was left unattended. We grabbed the first crate we could off the back. It turned out to be celery. For two days we ate nothing but celery and used up more calories chewing than we realized in energy. "Damn it," I said to my roommate, "What're we going to do? We can't starve." "That's funny," he replied. "I thought we could." [Chuck Jones, "Chuck Amuck," 1989]