imaginary city built in air, 1830, translating Aristophanes' Nephelokokkygia in "The Birds" (414 B.C.E.). Cloud-land "place above the earth or away from the practical things of life, dreamland, the realm of fancy" is attested from 1840.
c. 1600, "part of the Italian mainland ruled by Venice," from Modern Latin terra firma, literally "firm land," from Latin terra "earth, land" (from PIE root *ters- "to dry") + firma, fem. of firmus "strong, steadfast" (from suffixed form of PIE root *dher- "to hold firmly, support"). Meaning "the land" (as distinct from "the sea") is first attested 1690s. Hakluyt and Sandys also used English firm (n.) to mean "the firm land, the mainland, terra firma."
"principal street of a (U.S.) town," 1810, from main (adj.) + street. Used allusively to indicate "mediocrity, small-town materialism" from late 19c., a sense reinforced by the publication of Sinclair Lewis's novel "Main Street" (1920).
But a village in a country which is taking pains to become altogether standardized and pure, which aspires to succeed Victorian England as the chief mediocrity of the world, is no longer merely provincial, no longer downy and restful in its leaf-shadowed ignorance. It is a force seeking to dominate the earth, to drain the hills and sea of color, to set Dante at boosting Gopher Prairie, and to dress the high gods in Klassy Kollege Klothes. Sure of itself, it bullies other civilizations, as a traveling salesman in a brown derby conquers the wisdom of China and tacks advertisements of cigarettes over arches for centuries dedicate to the sayings of Confucius. ["Main Street"]
1712, "belonging to a prehistoric age," see old + world. Meaning "of or pertaining to Eurasia and Africa," as opposed to the Americas, is by 1877. The noun phrase Old World in this sense is by 1590s. The division of the earth into Old World and New World among Europeans dates to 1503 and Italian explorer Amerigo Vespucci's use of Latin Mundus Novus for the lands of the western hemisphere found by Columbus and others, indicating they were not part of Asia.
The Known World is usually divided into four Parts, Europe, Asia, Africk and America. But it is a most unequal Division, and I think it more rational to divide it thus. Viz. the Known World, first into two Parts, the Old and the New World; then the Old World into three, Europe, Asia, and Africa; and the New into two, the Northern and Southern America. [Guy Miege, "A New Cosmography, or Survey of the Whole World," London, 1682]
proverbial for "something extremely rare or non-existent" (late 14c.) is from Juvenal ["Sat." vi. 164], but the real thing turned up in Australia (Chenopsis atratus).
"Do you say no worthy wife is to be found among all these crowds?" Well, let her be handsome, charming, rich and fertile; let her have ancient ancestors ranged about her halls; let her be more chaste than all the dishevelled Sabine maidens who stopped the war—a prodigy as rare upon the earth as a black swan! yet who could endure a wife that possessed all perfections? I would rather have a Venusian wench for my wife than you, O Cornelia, mother of the Gracchi, if, with all your virtues, you bring me a haughty brow, and reckon up Triumphs as part of your marriage portion. [Juvenal]
Blue dahlia also was used 19c. for "something rare and unheard of."