late 14c., name for the god of dreams in Ovid, son of Sleep, literally "the maker of shapes," from Greek morphē "form, shape, figure," especially "a fine figure, a beautiful form; beauty, fashion, outward appearance," a word of uncertain etymology. Related: Morphean. Morphō was an epithet of Aphrodite at Sparta, literally "shapely."
symbol of the United States of America, 1813, coined during the war with Britain as a contrast to John Bull, and no doubt suggested by the initials U.S. in abbreviations. "[L]ater statements connecting it with different government officials of the name of Samuel appear to be unfounded" [OED]. The common figure of Uncle Sam began to appear in political cartoons c. 1850. Only gradually superseded earlier Brother Jonathan (1776), largely through the popularization of the figure by cartoonist Thomas Nast. British in World War I sometimes called U.S. soldiers Sammies.
fem. proper name, from French, a variant of Marian; sometimes Englished as Mary Anne. It was the name of a republican secret society formed in France in 1851, when it became the designation of the female figure of "liberty" popular since the days of the Revolution; hence "personification of the French Republic" (1870).
typeface, 1837, from Aldus Manutius (1450-1515), Venetian printer who used it in his popular editions of Greek and Roman classics. His name is a Latinized form of Italian Aldo Manuzio; the first name is short for Teobaldo (see Theobald), and, like many Italian masc. given names, of Germanic origin. The device characteristic of Aldine books is a figure of a dolphin on an anchor.
ancient country of Asia Minor bordering the Aegean. It was an empire under Croesus, famous for his wealth. The name is from a supposed ancestor Ludos. The people also figure, as Ludim, in the Old Testament (Genesis x.13), which seems to have sometimes confused them with the Libyans. Related: Lydian, attested from 1540s as a noun, 1580s as an adjective, and 1570s as a musical mode.
Latin name of Britain, preserved in poetry and as the proper name of the female figure who personifies the place on coinage, etc.
When Britain first, at Heaven's command
Arose from out the azure main;
This was the charter of the land,
And guardian angels sang this strain:
"Rule, Britannia! rule the waves:
"Britons never will be slaves."
[James Thomson, 1740]
fem. proper name, originally (late 14c.), a name of Artemis as the goddess of the moon, also the moon itself (mid-15c.); from Latin Phoebe, from Greek Phoebē, from phoibos "bright, pure," a word of unknown origin. The fem. form of Phoebus, an epithet of Apollo as sun-god. Phoebe, a notable figure in the early Church, is mentioned in Romans 16:1-2. Most popular as a given name for girls born in the U.S. in the 1880s and 2010s.
name for a person with bright yellow hair, 1540s, from goldy (adj.) "of a golden color" (mid-15c., from gold (n.)) + plural of lock (n.2). The story of the Three Bears first was printed in Robert Southey's miscellany "The Doctor" (1837), but the central figure there was a bad-tempered old woman. Southey did not claim to have invented the story, and older versions have been traced, either involving an old woman or a "silver-haired" girl (though in at least one version it is a fox who enters the house). The identification of the girl as Goldilocks is attested from c. 1875. Goldylocks also is attested from 1570s as a name for the buttercup.
name of a North American native people of upper New York and adjacent Canada, and their (Iroquoian) language, 1630s, Mohowawogs (plural), which is said to derive from a word in a southern New England Algonquian tongue meaning "they eat living things," perhaps a reference to cannibalism. Compare Unami Delaware /muhuwe:yck/ "cannibal monsters." The people's name for themselves is kanye'keha:ka.
In reference to the haircut style favored by punk rockers, c. 1975, from fancied resemblance to hair as worn by the native people in old movies and illustrations. The style of cut earlier was called a Mohican (1960). Mohoc, Mohock, a variant form of the word, was the name given 1711 to gangs of aristocratic London ruffians (compare Apache). As the name of turn in figure skating that involves a change of foot but not a change of edge, by 1880.
famous winged horse in Greek mythology, also the name of an ancient northern constellation, late 14c., Pegase, from Latin, from Greek Pēgasos, usually said to be from pēgē "fountain, spring; a well fed by a spring" (plural pēgai), especially in reference to the "springs of Ocean," near which Medusa was said to have been killed by Perseus (Pegasus sprang from her blood). But this may be folk etymology, and the ending of the word suggests non-Greek origin.
Advances since the 1990s in the study of the Luwians, neighbors of the Hittites in ancient Anatolia, show a notable convergence of the Greek name with Pihaššašši, the name of a Luwian weather-god: "the mythological figure of Pegasus carrying the lightning and thunderbolt of Zeus, ... is likely to represent an avatar of the Luwian Storm-God of Lightning ...." [Alice Mouton, et al., eds., "Luwian Identities," 2013]