"low land covered wholly or partly by water, a marsh abounding in coarse vegetation," Old English fenn "mud, mire, dirt; fen, marsh, moor," from Proto-Germanic *fanja- "swamp, marsh" (source also of Old Saxon feni, Old Frisian fenne, Middle Dutch venne, Dutch veen, Old High German fenna, German Fenn "marsh," Old Norse fen, Gothic fani "mud"), from PIE *poino-, from root *pen- "swamp" (source also of Gaulish anam "water," Sanskrit pankah "bog, marsh, mud," Old Prussian pannean "swampland"). Italian and Spanish fango, Old French fanc, French fange "mud" are loan-words from Germanic. The native Latin word was limus or lutum.
late 14c., mudde, "moist, soft earth," cognate with and probably from Middle Low German mudde, Middle Dutch modde "thick mud," from Proto-Germanic *mud- from PIE *(s)meu-/*mu- [Buck], found in many words denoting "wet" or "dirty" (source also of Greek mydos "damp, moisture," Old Irish muad "cloud," Polish muł "slime," Sanskrit mutra- "urine," Avestan muthra- "excrement, filth"); related to German Schmutz "dirt," which also is used for "mud" in roads, etc., to avoid dreck, which originally meant "excrement." Welsh mwd is from English. The older word is fen.
Meaning "lowest or worst of anything" is from 1580s. As a word for "coffee," it is hobo slang from 1925; as a word for "opium" from 1922. Mud-puppy "salamander" is by 1855, American English; the mud-dauber wasp was so called by 1856. The children's mud-pie is attested from 1788. Mud-flat "muddy, low-lying ground near a shore" is by 1779. Mud-room "room for removing wet or muddy footwear" is by 1938.
The expression clear as mud (that is, "not clear at all") is by 1796. To throw or hurl mud "make disgraceful accusations" is from 1762. To say (one's) name is mud and mean "(one) is discredited" is recorded from 1823, from mud in obsolete sense of "a stupid twaddling fellow" (1708). Mud in your eye as a toast is recorded from 1912, American English.
"of or pertaining to a marsh or marshes," 1803, with -al (1) + stem of Latin palus "a swamp, a fen, a marsh," from PIE *pelkiz- (source also of Sanskrit palvala- "pond, pool;" Old Prussian pelky "marsh," Lithuanian pėlkė "marsh," Latvian pelce "puddle"). Alternative formations paludine (1832, from French) and paludinous (1866) are later in English.
"tract of wet, swampy ground," 1650s, from Dutch moeras "marsh, fen," from Middle Dutch marasch, from Old French marais "marsh," from Frankish, possibly from West Germanic *marisk, from Proto-Germanic *mariskaz "like a lake," from *mari "sea" (from PIE root *mori- "body of water"). The word was influenced in Dutch by moer "moor" (see moor (n.)). Figurative use is attested from 1867. Replaced earlier mareis (early 14c.; see marish).
type of toy marble, by 1905, American English, colloquial shortening of agate (q.v.).
Excited groups gather about rude circles scratched in the mud, and there is talk of "pureys," and "reals," and "aggies," and "commies," and "fen dubs!" There is a rich click about the bulging pockets of the boys, and every so often in school time something drops on the floor and rolls noisily across the room. When Miss Daniels asks: "Who did that?" the boys all look so astonished. Who did what pray tell? [McClure's magazine, May 1905]
To be figuratively on the fence "uncommitted" is from 1828, perhaps from the notion of spectators at a fight, or a simple literal image: "A man sitting on the top of a fence, can jump down on either side with equal facility." [Bartlett, "Dictionary of Americanisms," 1848].
Despite the re-enactment in 1285 of the Assize of Arms of 1181, fencing was regarded as unlawful in England. The keeping of fencing schools was forbidden in the City of London, "as fools who delight in mischief do learn to fence with buckler, and thereby are encouraged in their follies."