Etymology
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toe (v.)

"touch or reach with the toes," 1813, from toe (n.). First recorded in expression toe the mark, which seems to be nautical in origin.

The chief mate ... marked a line on the deck, brought the two boys up to it, making them "toe the mark." [Richard H. Dana, "Two Years Before the Mast," 1840]

Related: Toed; toeing.

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toe (n.)

Old English ta "toe" (plural tan), contraction of *tahe (Mercian tahæ), from Proto-Germanic *taihwō(n) (source also of Old Norse ta, Old Frisian tane, Middle Dutch te, Dutch teen (perhaps originally a plural), Old High German zecha, German Zehe "toe"). Perhaps originally meaning "fingers" as well (many PIE languages still use one word to mean both fingers and toes), and thus from PIE root *deik- "to show."

Þo stode hii I-armed fram heued to þe ton. [Robert of Gloucester, "Chronicle," c. 1300]

The old plural survived regionally into Middle English as tan, ton. To be on (one's) toes "alert, eager" is recorded from 1921. To step on (someone's) toes in the figurative sense "give offense" is from late 14c. Toe-hold "support for the toe of a boot in climbing" is from 1880.

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big (adj.)

c. 1300, at first found chiefly in writings from northern England and north Midlands, with a sense of "powerful, strong;" a word of obscure origin. It is possibly from a Scandinavian source (compare Norwegian dialectal bugge "great man"). Old English used micel (see much) in many of the same senses.

Big came into general use c. 1400. The meaning "of great size" is from late 14c., as is that of "full-grown, grown up." The sense of "important, influential, powerful" is from c. 1400. The meaning "haughty, inflated with pride" is from 1570s. The sense of "generous" is U.S. colloquial by 1913.

Big band as a musical style is from 1926. Slang big head "conceit" is recorded by 1850. Big business "large commercial firms collectively" is from 1913 (before that it meant "a profitable income in business"). Big top "main tent of a circus" is from 1895. Big game "large animals hunted for sport" is from 1864. Big house "penitentiary" is U.S. underworld slang is attested by 1915 (in London, "a workhouse," 1851). In financial journalism, big ticket items were so called from 1956. Big lie is from Hitler's grosse Lüge.

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big-tent (adj.)

"open to many sorts, not ideologically or theologically narrow," American English, by 1982 with reference to religion, by 1987 with reference to politics.

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big-mouth (n.)

also bigmouth "person who talks too much," 1889, American English, from big + mouth (n.). Earlier as a type of fish and the name of a capable leader of the Oglala people in the 1860s.

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big-league (adj.)

"prominent, important, first-rate," by 1925, a figurative use from baseball, where big league was used for "a major league" by 1891. See league (n.1).

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big-boned (adj.)

"stout," 1580s, now often considered euphemistic. See big (adj.) + bone (n.).

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tick-tack-toe (n.)

children's three-in-a-row game with Xs and Os, so called by 1892, earlier tit-tat-toe (by 1852, in reminiscences of earlier years), also called noughts and crosses (1852), also oughts and crosses. Probably from the sound of the pencil on the slate with which it originally was played by schoolboys. Also the name of a children's counting rhyme played on slate (also originally tit-tat-toe, by 1842), and compare tick-tack (1580s), a form of backgammon, possibly from French trictrac, perhaps imitative of the sound of tiles on the board.

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toenail (n.)

also toe-nail, 1690s, from toe (n.) + nail (n.).

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