c. 1300, dance, daunce, "succession of steps and movements, commonly guided by musical accompaniment," also "a dancing party," from dance (v.). From late 14c. as "a tune to be danced to."
With many figurative senses: in Middle English the olde daunce was "the whole business," and the daunce is don was exactly equivalent to modern slang phrase the jig is up. To lead (someone) a dance "lead in a wearying, perplexing, or disappointing course" is from 1520s. Dance-band is from 1908; dance-floor from 1863; dance-hall from 1823.
c. 1300, dauncen, "move the body or feet rhythmically to music," from Old French dancier (12c., Modern French danser), which is of unknown origin, perhaps from Low Frankish *dintjan and akin to Old Frisian dintje "tremble, quiver." Through French influence in arts and society, it has become the primary word for this activity from Spain to Russia (Italian danzare, Spanish danzar, Romanian dansa, Swedish dansa, German tanzen, modern Russian tancevat').
In part the loanword from French is used mainly with reference to fashionable dancing while the older native word persists in use with reference to folk-dancing, as definitively Russ. pljasat' vs. tancovat' [Carl Darling Buck, "A Dictionary of Selected Synonyms in the Principal Indo-European Languages," 1949].
In English it replaced Old English sealtian, itself a borrowing from Latin saltare "to dance," frequentative of salire "to leap" (see salient (adj.); "dance" words frequently are derived from words meaning "jump, leap"). Native words used for the activity in Old English included tumbian (see tumble (v.)), hoppian(see hop (v.1)). Related: Danced; dancing.
Meaning "to leap or spring with regular or irregular steps as an expression of some emotion" is from late 14c. Of inanimate things, "move nimbly or quickly with irregular motion," 1560s. Transitive sense of "give a dancing motion to" is from c. 1500. To dance attendance "strive to please and gain favor by obsequiousness" is from late 15c.
also bellydance, 1883, in a British account of travels in Persia, from belly (n.) + dance (n.). In early use sometimes referred to by the French danse du ventre, which is attested by 1872 in French accounts from the Middle East. It appears as a French term in English by 1883, and its use got a boost from the performances of it at the Paris Exposition of 1889.
We agreed, and made our way to the mimic street called Grand Cairo, where we witnessed the lady contortionist who performs a series of movements, designated with charming frankness on the affiches as "La Danse du Ventre." It might with equal candor be called the Lumbar Wriggle [or] the Pectoral Squirm, for this curious Arab almeh possesses the power of moving any one of her principal sets of muscles quite independently of all the others, and can make any prominent part of her person waggle or surge, while its neighboring lines or curves preserve a statuesque rigidity. [Table Talk, September 1889]
The number of women [in the audience] was ludicrously disproportionate, and the number of American women was noticeable. Some of them seemed slightly pensive, but all were interested. Their large eyes grew larger still. They almost forgot decorum in crowding for a better view, in leaning over the backs of chairs in concentrated absorbed attention. [Scribner's Magazine, January 1890]
The English noun is perhaps a direct translation of the French. As a verb from 1963. Related: Belly-dancer (1922); belly-dancing (n.), 1921.
"one who dances or takes part in a dance," mid-15c., agent noun from dance (v.). As a surname from early 12c. (Godwinus Dancere).
"dance by four couples placed opposite to each other and making the same steps and figures," 1803, from French contre-danse, altered from English country dance by folk etymology from French contra "against," suggested by the arrangement of the partners in the dance. The dances and the name were taken up in France c. 1720s and from there passed to Spain and Italy (Spanish, Italian contra danza) then back to English.
traditional English dance of persons in costume, mid-15c., moreys daunce "Moorish dance," from Flemish mooriske dans, from Old French morois "Moorish, Arab, black," from More "Moor" (see Moor). It is unknown why the English dance (which typically is based on the Robin Hood stories) was called this, unless it is in reference to fantastic dancing or costumes (compare Italian Moresco, a related dance, literally "Moorish;" German moriskentanz, French moresque).
"female dancer," especially a ballet-dancer," 1828, from French, fem. of danseur, agent noun from danser (see dance (v.)). The earlier word in English was danceress (Middle English daunceresse, late 14c.).