Etymology
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tops (n.)

"the best," 1935, American English colloquial, from top (n.1).

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luau (n.)

Hawaiian party or feast, 1853, from Hawaiian lu'au, literally "young taro tops," which were served at outdoor feasts.

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skylark (v.)

also sky-lark, "to frolic or play, engage in boisterous fun," 1809, originally nautical, in reference to "wanton play about the rigging, and tops," probably from skylark (n.), and influenced by lark (n.2). The source and the influence might be the reverse. Related: Skylarked; skylarking.

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halter (n.)

Old English hælfter "rope for leading a horse," from Proto-Germanic *halftra- "that by which something is held" (source also of Old Saxon haliftra "halter," Old High German halftra, Middle Dutch halfter), from suffixed form of PIE *kelp- "to hold, grasp" (see helve). Also "hangman's noose" (mid-15c.). In women's clothing sense, originally "strap attached to the top of a backless bodice and looped around the neck," 1935, later extended to the tops themselves.

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bop (n.)

1948, shortening of bebop or rebop. The musical movement had its own lingo, which was in vogue in U.S. early 1950s. "Life" magazine [Sept. 29, 1952] listed examples of bop talk: crazy "new, wonderful, wildly exciting;" gone (adj.) "the tops—superlative of crazy;" cool (adj.) "tasty, pretty;" goof "to blow a wrong note or make a mistake;" hipster "modern version of hepcat;" dig "to understand, appreciate the subtleties of;" stoned "drunk, captivated, ecstatic, sent out of this world;" flip (v.) "to react enthusiastically."

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reefer (n.)

"marijuana cigarette," 1920s, perhaps an alteration of Mexican Spanish grifo "marijuana, drug addict" [OED]; or perhaps from reef (v.), on resemblance to a rolled sail. It also meant "pickpocket" in criminal slang (by 1935), and Century Dictionary also has it as "oyster that grows on reefs in the wild."

Reefer also was a nickname for the sailing navy's equivalent to a midshipman (1818) "because they attend in the tops during the operation of reefing" [Century Dictionary], which is the source of the meaning "coat of a nautical cut" (1878) worn by sailors and fishermen "but copied for general use in the fashions of 1888-90" [CD].

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topsy-turvy (adv.)

1520s, "but prob. in popular use from an earlier period" [OED]; compare top over terve "to fall over" (mid-15c.); likely from tops, plural of top (n.1) "highest point" + obsolete terve "turn upside down, topple over," from Old English tearflian "to roll over, overturn," from Proto-Germanic *terbanan (source also of Old High German zerben "to turn round"). Century Dictionary calls it "A word which, owing to its popular nature, its alliterative type, and to ignorance of its origin, leading to various perversions made to suggest some plausible origin, has undergone, besides the usual variations of spelling, extraordinary modifications of form." It lists 31 variations. As an adjective from 1610s.

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mullet (n.2)

"hairstyle short the sides and long in back," 1996, perhaps from mullet-head "stupid, dull person" (1857). Mullet-head also was a name of a type of North American freshwater fish with a large, flat head (1866) with a reputation for stupidity. The term in reference to the haircut seems to have emerged into pop culture with the Beastie Boys song "Mullet Head."

#1 on the side and don't touch the back
#6 on the top and don't cut it wack, Jack
[Beastie Boys, "Mullet Head"]

As a surname, Mullet is attested from late 13c., thought to be a diminutive of Old French mul "mule." Compare also mallet-headed, in reference to the flat tops of chisels meant to be struck with a mallet.

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deadline (n.)

"time limit," 1920, American English newspaper jargon, from dead (adj.) + line (n.). Perhaps influenced by earlier use (1864) to mean the "do-not-cross" line in Civil War prisons, which figured in the trial of Henry Wirz, commander of the notorious Confederate prison at Andersonville, Georgia.

And he, the said Wirz, still wickedly pursuing his evil purpose, did establish and cause to be designated within the prison enclosure containing said prisoners a "dead line," being a line around the inner face of the stockade or wall enclosing said prison and about twenty feet distant from and within said stockade; and so established said dead line, which was in many places an imaginary line, in many other places marked by insecure and shifting strips of [boards nailed] upon the tops of small and insecure stakes or posts, he, the said Wirz, instructed the prison guard stationed around the top of said stockade to fire upon and kill any of the prisoners aforesaid who might touch, fall upon, pass over or under [or] across the said "dead line" .... ["Trial of Henry Wirz," Report of the Secretary of War, Oct. 31, 1865]
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shirt (n.)

Middle English shirt, shirte, "garment for the upper body worn next to the skin," from Old English scyrte, from Proto-Germanic *skurtjon "a short garment" (source also of Old Norse skyrta, Swedish skjorta "skirt, kirtle;" Middle Dutch scorte, Dutch schort "apron;" Middle Low German schörte, Middle High German schurz, German Schurz "apron"), which is perhaps related to Old English scort, sceort "short," etc., from PIE root *sker- (1) "to cut," on the notion of "a cut piece."

OED notes that "the meaning of the word in OE. is obscure, as the only instance of its occurrence is a gloss in which the meaning of the Latin word was probably not understood." Lithuanian šarkas "shirt," Old Church Slavonic sraka "tunic," Russian soročka, Finnish sarkki "shirt" perhaps are from Germanic.

Formerly of the chief under-garment worn by both men and women, but in modern use it has long been only that for men; in reference to women's tops, the word was reintroduced 1896.

Bloody shirt, a blood-stained shirt exposed as a symbol of some outrage, to arouse indignation or resentment, is attested from 1580s, usually figurative. Shirt since late 14c. often has been figurative of one's goods or possessions, hence give (someone) the shirt off one's back (1771); lose one's shirt "suffer total financial loss" (1935). To keep one's shirt on "be patient" (1904) is from the notion of (not) stripping down for a fight.

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