"danger, risk, hazard, jeopardy, exposure of person or property to injury, loss, or destruction," c. 1200, from Old French peril "danger, risk" (10c.), from Latin periculum "an attempt, trial, experiment; risk, danger," with instrumentive suffix -culum and first element from PIE *peri-tlo-, suffixed form of root *per- (3) "to try, risk."
"the color yellow or one of its hues," Middle English yelwe, from the adjective and from Old English geolo, geolu, "yellow" (n.), from Proto-Germanic *gelwaz (source also of Old Saxon, Old High German gelo, Middle Dutch ghele, Dutch geel, Middle High German gel, German gelb, Old Norse gulr, Swedish gul "yellow"), from PIE root *ghel- (2) "to shine," with derivatives denoting "green" and "yellow" (such as Greek khlōros "greenish-yellow," Latin helvus "yellowish, bay"). Occasionally in Middle English it was used of a color closer to blue-gray or gray, of frogs or hazel eyes, and as a translation of Latin caeruleus or glauco.
Old English geoluwian "to become yellow," from the source of yellow (adj.). Transitive sense from 1590s. Related: Yellowed; yellowing.
Middle English yelwe, from Old English geolu, geolwe, "yellow," from Proto-Germanic *gelwaz (source also of Old Saxon, Old High German gelo, Middle Dutch ghele, Dutch geel, Middle High German gel, German gelb, Old Norse gulr, Swedish gul "yellow"), from PIE root *ghel- (2) "to shine," with derivatives denoting "green" and "yellow" (such as Greek khlōros "greenish-yellow," Latin helvus "yellowish, bay").
In Middle English it also was used of a color closer to blue-gray or gray, of frogs or hazel eyes, and as a translation of Latin caeruleus or glauco. The meaning "light-skinned" (in reference to black persons) is recorded by 1808. It was applied to Asiatics by 1787, though that first reference is to Turkish words for inhabitants of India.
Yellow peril translates German die gelbe gefahr. The sense of "cowardly" is by 1856, of unknown origin; the color was traditionally associated rather with jealousy and envy (17c.). Yellow-bellied "cowardly" is from 1924, probably a semi-rhyming reduplication of yellow; earlier yellow-belly was a sailor's name for a half-caste (1867) and a Texas term for Mexican soldiers (1842, based on the color of their uniforms). Yellow dog "mongrel" is attested from c. 1770; the slang sense of "contemptible person" is recorded by 1881. Yellow fever is attested from 1748, American English (jaundice is a symptom).
The American folk custom of wearing or displaying a yellow ribbon to signify solidarity with loved ones or fellow citizens at war originated during the U.S. embassy hostage crisis in Iran in 1979. It does not have a connection to the American Civil War, beyond the use of the old British folk song "Round Her Neck She Wore A Yellow Ribbon" in the John Wayne movie of the same name, with a Civil War setting, released in 1949.
The story of a ribbon tied to a tree as a signal to a convict returning home that his loved ones have forgiven him is attested from 1959, but the ribbon in that case was white.
The ribbon color seems to have changed to yellow first in a version retold by newspaper columnist Pete Hamill in 1971. The story was dramatized in June 1972 on ABC-TV (James Earl Jones played the ex-con). Later that year, Irwin Levine and L. Russell Brown copyrighted the song "Tie a Yellow Ribbon Round the Ole Oak Tree," which became a pop hit in early 1973 and sparked a lawsuit by Hamill, later dropped.
In 1975, the wife of a Watergate conspirator put out yellow ribbons when her husband was released from jail, and news coverage of that was noted and remembered by Penne Laingen, whose husband was U.S. ambassador to Iran in 1979 and one of the Iran hostages taken in the embassy on Nov. 4. Her yellow ribbon in his honor was written up in the Dec. 10, 1979, Washington Post.
When the hostage families organized as the Family Liaison Action Group (FLAG), they took the yellow ribbon as their symbol. The ribbons revived in the 1991 Gulf War and again during the 2000s wars in Afghanistan and Iraq.
"sensational chauvinism in the media," 1898, American English, from newspaper agitation for war with Spain; originally "publicity stunt use of colored ink" (1895) in reference to the popular Yellow Kid" character (his clothes were yellow) in Richard Outcault's comic strip "Shantytown" in the "New York World."
Old English geolca, geoloca "yolk," literally "the yellow part," from geolu "yellow" (see yellow (adj.)). Formerly also spelled yelk.
"lemon-colored, yellow or greenish-yellow," late 14c., from French citrin, from Latin citrus (see citrus). From 1879 as a color name.
"deep orange-yellowish," 1650s, from Latin luteus "golden-yellow, orange-yellow," from lutum, the name of a weed used in dyeing yellow, a word of unknown origin.