Etymology
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dwarf (n.)

Old English dweorh, dweorg (West Saxon), duerg (Mercian), "very short human being, person much below ordinary stature, whether of proportionate parts or not," also "supernatural being of subhuman size," from Proto-Germanic *dweraz (source also of Old Frisian dwerch, Old Saxon dwerg, Old High German twerg, German Zwerg, Old Norse dvergr), perhaps from PIE *dhwergwhos "something tiny," but with no established cognates outside Germanic.

Also used by c. 1200 of an animal or plant much below the ordinary size of its species." The use of dwarf in the Germanic mythological sense, "a diminished and generally deformed being, dwelling in rocks and hills and skilled in working metals," seems to have faded after Middle English and been revived after c. 1770 from German.

Whilst in this and other ways the dwarfs do at times have dealings with mankind, yet on the whole they seem to shrink from man; they give the impression of a downtrodden afflicted race, which is on the point of abandoning its ancient home to new and more powerful invaders. There is stamped on their character something shy and something heathenish, which estranges them from intercourse with christians. They chafe at human faithlessness, which no doubt would primarily mean the apostacy from heathenism. In the poems of the Mid. Ages, Laurin is expressly set before us as a heathen. It goes sorely against the dwarfs to see churches built, bell-ringing ... disturbs their ancient privacy; they also hate the clearing of forests, agriculture, new fangled pounding-machinery for ore. ["Teutonic Mythology," Jakob Grimm, transl. Stallybrass, 1883]

The shift of the Old English guttural at the end of the word to modern -f is typical (compare enough, draft) and begins to appear early 14c. In Middle English it also was dwerþ, dwerke. Old English plural dweorgas became Middle English dwarrows, later leveled down to dwarfs. The use of dwarves for the legendary race was popularized by J.R.R. Tolkien. As an adjective, from 1590s.

The use of giant and dwarf in reference to stars of the highest and lowest luminosity is attested by 1914, said to have been suggested by Danish astronomer Ejnar Hertzsprung, (1873-1967); hence red dwarf (attested by 1922), white dwarf, black dwarf "dead and lightless star" (1966).

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dwarf (v.)

1620s, "to render dwarfish, hinder from growth to the natural size," from dwarf (n.); sense of "to cause to look or seem small by comparison" is by 1829. Related: Dwarfed; dwarfing.

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dwarfish (adj.)

"below the common stature or size," 1560s, from dwarf (n.) + -ish. Related: Dwarfishly; dwarfishness.

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corgi (n.)

"breed of short-legged dog originally bred in Wales for herding cattle," 1921, from Welsh corgi, from cor "dwarf" + ci "dog" (from PIE root *kwon- "dog").

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nano- 

introduced 1947 (at 14th conference of the Union Internationale de Chimie) as a prefix for units of one thousand-millionth part (now "one-billionth"), from Greek nanos "a dwarf." According to Watkins, this is originally "little old man," from nannos "uncle," masc. of nanna "aunt" (see nana), but Beekes calls it "An onomatopoeic word of unknown origin." Earlier nano- was used as a prefix to mean "dwarf, dwarfish," and still it is used in a non-scientific sense of "very small."

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tot (n.)

"little child," 1725, Scottish, of uncertain origin, perhaps a shortened form of totter, or related to Old Norse tottr, nickname of a dwarf (compare Swedish tutte "little child," Danish tommel-tot "little child," in which the first element means "thumb"). Tot-lot "play ground for young children" is recorded from 1944.

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palmetto (n.)

type of fan-leaf palm, 1580s, from Spanish palmito "dwarf fan palm tree," diminutive of palma "palm tree," from Latin palma (see palm (n.2)). The suffix was subsequently Italianized. The Palmetto Flag was an emblem of South Carolina after secession (1860); the state was called Palmetto State from at least 1837.

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Scratch (n.2)

in Old Scratch "the Devil," 1740, a variant of Middle English Scrat, scratte "monster, goblin" (mid-13c. in place names), which is probably from Old Norse skratte "goblin, wizard," probably originally "monster" (compare Old High German scraz, scrato "satyr, wood demon," German Schratt, Old High German screz "a goblin, imp, dwarf"). It also was borrowed from Germanic into Slavic, as in Polish skrzat "a goblin." Old English forms of it were scritta, used to gloss Latin hermaphroditus, and scrætte "adulteress, harlot."

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Aaron 

masc. proper name, in the Old Testament the brother of Moses, from Hebrew Aharon, which is said to be probably of Egyptian origin. The Arabic form is Harun. Related: Aaronic. Aaron's beard as a popular name for various plants (including St. John's wort and a kind of dwarf evergreen) deemed to look hairy in some way is from 1540s. Aaron's rod is from 1834 in botany, 1849 in ornamentation; the reference is biblical (Exodus vii.19, etc.).

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stunt (v.)

"check in growth, dwarf," 1650s, earlier "bring to an abrupt halt" (c. 1600); "provoke, anger, irritate" (1580s), from obsolete Middle English adjective stunt "foolish, stupid; obstinate," from Old English stunt "stupid, foolish" (as in stuntspræc "foolish talk"), from Proto-Germanic *stuntaz "short, truncated" (source also of Middle High German stunz "short, blunt, stumpy," Old Norse stuttr (*stuntr) "scanty, short"), an adjective which stands in gradational relationship to stint (v.).

The modern sense of the English word is from influence of the Old Norse word. The Middle English adjective is attested from mid-15c. in the sense "of short duration." Related: Stunted; stunting.

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