Etymology
Advertisement
rocket (n.2)

[self-propelling projectile] 1610s, "projectile consisting of a cylindrical tube of pasteboard filled with flammable or explosive matter," from Italian rocchetto "a rocket," literally "a bobbin," diminutive of rocca "a distaff," so called because of cylindrical shape. The Italian word probably is from a Germanic source (compare Old High German rocko "distaff," Middle Dutch rokke, Old Norse rokkr), from Proto-Germanic *rukkon- (from PIE root *rug- "fabric, spun yarn").

Originally of fireworks rockets, the meaning "device propelled by a rocket engine" is recorded by 1919 (Goddard); rocket-ship in the space-travel sense is attested from February 1927 ("Popular Science"); earlier as a type of naval warship firing projectiles. Rocket science in the figurative sense of "difficult, complex process or topic" is attested by 1985; rocket scientist is from 1952.

That such a feat is considered within the range of possibility is evidenced by the activities of scientists in Europe as well as in America. Two of them, Prof. Herman Oberth and Dr. Franz Hoeff, of Vienna, are constructing a five-ton rocket ship in which they hope to reach the moon in two days. [Popular Science, February 1927]
Related entries & more 
Advertisement
rocket (n.1)

garden plant of the cabbage family, c. 1500, rokette, from French roquette (16c.), perhaps via Italian rochetta, diminutive of ruca "a kind of cabbage," from Latin eruca "colewort," perhaps so called for its downy stems and related to ericus "hedgehog," also "a beam set with spikes" (from PIE *ghers- "to bristle;" see horror).

Related entries & more 
rocket (v.)

"fly straight up, spring like a rocket," 1860, from rocket (n.2). Earlier "to attack with rockets" (1799). Meaning "send up by a rocket" is from 1837. Related: Rocketed; rocketing.

Related entries & more 
step (n.)

Old English steppa (Mercian), stæpe, stepe (West Saxon) "stair, act of stepping," from the source of step (v.). Compare Old Frisian, Middle Dutch, Dutch stap, Old High German stapfo, German Stapfe "footstep"). From late Old English as "degree on a scale." Figurative meaning "action which leads toward a result" is recorded from 1540s. In dancing, from 1670s. Meaning "type of military pace" is from 1798. Warning phrase watch your step is attested from 1911 (Wyclif (late 14c.) has keep thy foot in essentially the same sense). Step by step indicating steady progression is from 1580s. To follow in (someone's) steps is from mid-13c.

Related entries & more 
step (v.)

Old English steppan (Anglian), stæppan (West Saxon) "take a step," from West Germanic *stap- "tread" (source also of Old Frisian stapa, Middle Dutch, Dutch stappen, Old High German stapfon, German stapfen "step"), from PIE root *stebh- "post, stem; to support, place firmly on" (see staff (n.); source also of Old Church Slavonic stopa "step, pace," stepeni "step, degree"). The notion is perhaps "a treading firmly on; a foothold."

Transitive sense (as in step foot in) attested from 1530s. Related: Stepped; stepping. Originally strong (past tense stop, past participle bestapen); weak forms emerged 13c., universal from 16c. To step out "leave for a short time" is from 1530s; meaning "to go out in public in style" is from 1907. Step on it "hurry up" is 1923, from notion of gas pedal.

Related entries & more 
Advertisement
step- 

Old English steop-, with connotations of "loss," in combinations like steopcild "orphan," related to astiepan, bestiepan "to bereave, to deprive of parents or children," from Proto-Germanic *steupa- "bereft" (source also of Old Frisian stiap-, Old Norse stjup-, Swedish styv-, Middle Low German stef-, Dutch stief-, Old High German stiof-, German stief-), literally "pushed out," from PIE *steup-, from root *(s)teu- (1) "to push, stick, knock," with derivatives referring to fragments (see steep (adj.)). Barnhart suggests the forms in -f- are by assimilation of the first sound in following words for "father."

Etymologically, a stepfather or stepmother is one who becomes father or mother to an orphan, but the notion of orphanage faded in 20c. and came to denote simply relation through marriage. For sense evolution, compare Latin privignus "stepson," related to privus "deprived." Compare orphan (n.).

Related entries & more 
retro-rocket (n.)

1945, "anti-submarine weapon fired backward from an airplane at the same velocity as the plane" (so it falls straight down), from retro- + rocket (n.). By 1957 as an auxiliary rocket on a spacecraft to thrust forward and oppose the forward motion.

Related entries & more 
step-ladder (n.)

also stepladder, one with flat steps instead of rungs, 1728, from step (n.) + ladder.

Related entries & more 
step-daughter (n.)

Old English stepdohtor; see step- + daughter (n.). Similar formation in German Stieftochter.

Related entries & more 
side-step (n.)

also sidestep, 1757, "a stepping to the side" (originally in military drill), from side (adj.) + step (n.). The verb is recorded from 1895, "step to one side;" the figurative sense of "evade (an issue), prevaricate" is attested from 1900.

Related entries & more