Etymology
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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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Cadillac (n.)
type of luxury automobile made by the Cadillac Automobile Company, established in 1902 by Detroit engine-maker Henry Martyn Leland and named for Antoine de la Mothe Cadillac (1658-1730), French minor aristocrat and colonial governor who founded Detroit in 1701. The company was purchased by General Motors in 1909.
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Caesar 

"an emperor, a ruler, a dictator," late 14c., cesar, from Cæsar, originally a surname of the Julian gens in Rome, elevated to a title after Caius Julius Caesar (100 B.C.E.-44 B.C.E.) became dictator; it was used as a title of emperors down to Hadrian (138 C.E.). The name is of uncertain origin; Pliny derives it from caesaries "head of hair," because the future dictator was born with a full one; Century Dictionary suggests Latin caesius "bluish-gray" (of the eyes), also used as a proper name. Also compare caesarian.

Old English had casere, which would have yielded modern *coser, but it was replaced in Middle English by keiser (c. 1200), from Norse or Low German, and later by the French or Latin form of the name. Cæsar also is the root of German Kaiser and Russian tsar (see czar). He competes as progenitor of words for "king" with Charlemagne (Latin Carolus), as in Lithuanian karalius, Polish krol.

The use in reference to "temporal power as the object of obedience" (contrasted with God) is from Matthew xxii.21. Caesar's wife (1570s) as the figure of a person who should be above suspicion is from Plutarch. In U.S. slang c. 1900, a sheriff was Great Seizer.

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Caesar salad (n.)
1952, said to be named not for the emperor, but for Cesar Cardini, restaurant owner in Tijuana, Mexico, who is said to have served the first one c. 1924.
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Caesarea 
Latin city name derived from Caesar, applied in honor of the emperors to some new and existing cities in the Roman Empire, including modern Kayseri, Turkey; Shaizar, Syria, and Cherchell, Algeria (representing a French spelling of an Arabic name based on a Berber garbling of the Latin word).
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Cain 
elder son of Adam and Eve, the first murderer and the first fratricide, from Hebrew Qayin, literally "created one," also "smith," from Semitic stem q-y-n "to form, to fashion." Figurative use for "murderer, fratricide" is from late 14c. The Cainites were a 2c. heretical sect who revered Cain, Judas, and other wicked characters in Scripture.

To raise Cain is first recorded 1840. Surnames McCain, McCann, etc., are a contraction of Irish Mac Cathan "son of Cathan," from Celtic cathan, literally "warrior," from cath "battle."
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Cairo 
city in Egypt, from Arabic al-Kahira "the strong," the name given 973 C.E. to the new city built north of the old one, which was Egyptian khere-ohe, said to mean "place of combat" and to be in reference to a battle between the gods Seth and Horus that took place here. Related: Cairene.
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Caitlin 
fem. proper name, alternative spelling of Kathleen (itself a variant of Catherine); not much used in U.S., then suddenly popular from c. 1985.
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Calabria 
region of southern Italy, named for a people who once lived there. Related: Calabrian; Calabrese.
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Calais 
city on the French coast of the English Channel, from Gaulish Caleti, the name of a Celtic people who once lived along the shore there.
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