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C 

third letter of the alphabet. Alphabetic writing came to Rome via the southern Etruscan "Caeretan" script, in which gamma was written as a crescent. Early Romans made little use of Greek kappa and used gamma for both the "g" and "k" sounds, the latter more frequently, so that the "k" sound came to be seen as the proper one for gamma. Classical Latin -c-, with only the value "k," passed to Celtic and, via missionary Irish monks, to the Anglo-Saxons. Also see cee.

In some Old English words, before some vowels and in certain positions, -c- had a "ts" sound that was respelled ch- in Middle English by French scribes (chest, cheese, church; see ch). In Old English -k- was known but little used.

Meanwhile, in Old French, many "k" sounds drifted to "ts" and by 13c., "s," but still were written -c-. Thus the 1066 invasion brought to the English language a flood of French and Latin words in which -c- represented "s" (as in cease, ceiling, circle) and a more vigorous use of -k- to distinguish that sound. By 15c. even native English words with -s- were being respelled with -c- for "s" (ice, mice, lice).

In some English words from Italian, the -c- has a "ch" sound (via a sound evolution somewhat like the Old French one). In German, -c- in loanwords was regularized to -k- or -z- (depending on pronunciation) in the international spelling reform of 1901, which was based on the Duden guide of 1880.

As a symbol in the Roman numeral system, "one hundred;" the symbol originally was a Greek theta, but was later reduced in form and understood to stand for centum. In music, it is the name of the keynote of the natural scale, though the exact pitch varied in time and place 18c. and 19c. from 240 vibrations per second to 275; it wasn't entirely regularized (at 261.63) until the adoption of the A440 standard in the 1930s. C-spring as a type of carriage spring is from 1794, so called for its shape.

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cab (n.)

1826, "light, two- or four-wheeled horse-drawn carriage," a colloquial London shortening of cabriolet, a type of covered horse-drawn carriage (1763), from French cabriolet (18c.), diminutive of cabriole "a leap, a caper," earlier capriole (16c.), from Italian capriola "a caper, frisk, leap," literally "a leap like that of a kid goat," from capriola "a kid, a fawn," from Latin capreolus "wild goat, roebuck," from caper, capri "he-goat, buck," from PIE *kap-ro- "he-goat, buck" (source also of Old Irish gabor, Welsh gafr, Old English hæfr, Old Norse hafr "he-goat"). The carriages were noted for their springy suspensions.

Originally a passenger-vehicle drawn by two or four horses; it was introduced into London from Paris in 1820. Extended to hansoms and other types of carriages, then extended to similar-looking parts of locomotives (1851). Applied especially to public horse carriages, then to automobiles-for-hire (1899) when these began to replace them.

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cabal (n.)
1520s, "mystical interpretation of the Old Testament," later "an intriguing society, a small group meeting privately" (1660s), from French cabal, which had both senses, from Medieval Latin cabbala (see cabbala). Popularized in English 1673 as an acronym for five intriguing ministers of Charles II (Clifford, Arlington, Buckingham, Ashley, and Lauderdale), which gave the word its sinister connotations.
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cabala (n.)
1670s, variant of cabbala. Related: Cabalist.
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caballero (n.)
1861, "a Spanish gentleman," from Spanish caballero, from Latin caballarius, from caballus "a pack-horse, nag, hack" (see cavalier (n.)). Equivalent of French chevalier, Italian cavaliere. Also a kind of stately Spanish dance.
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cabana (n.)
"a hut or shelter," 1898, western U.S., from American Spanish cognate of cabin (q.v.).
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cabaret (n.)
1650s, "tavern, bar, little inn," from French cabaret, originally "tavern" (13c.), which is of uncertain origin, perhaps from Middle Dutch cambret, from Old French (Picard dialect) camberete, diminutive of cambre "chamber" (see chamber (n.)). The word was "somewhat naturalized" in this sense [OED]. It was borrowed again from French with a meaning "a restaurant/night club" in 1912; extension of meaning to "entertainment, floor show" is by 1918.
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cabbage (n.)
type of cultivated culinary vegetable that grows a rounded head of thick leaves, mid-15c., caboge, from Old North French caboche "head" (in dialect, "cabbage"), from Old French caboce "head," a diminutive from Latin caput "head" (from PIE root *kaput- "head"). Earlier in Middle English as caboche (late 14c.). The plant was introduced to Canada 1541 by Jacques Cartier on his third voyage. First record of it in modern U.S. is 1660s.

The decline of "ch" to "j" in the unaccented final syllable parallels the common pronunciation of spinach, sandwich, Greenwich, etc. The comparison of a head of cabbage to the head of a person (usually disparaging to the latter) is at least as old as Old French cabus "(head of) cabbage; nitwit, blockhead," from Italian capocchia, diminutive of capo. The cabbage-butterfly (1816) is so called because its caterpillars feed on cabbages and other cruciferous plants.
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