Etymology
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flinch (v.)
1570s, apparently a nasalized form of obsolete Middle English flecche "to bend, flinch," which probably is from Old French flechir "to bend" (Modern French fléchir), also flechier "to bend, turn aside, flinch," which probably are from Frankish *hlankjan or some other Germanic source, from Proto-Germanic *hlinc- (source also of Middle High German linken, German lenken "to bend, turn, lead"), from PIE root *kleng- "to bend, turn" (see link (n.)). There were nasalized form of the word in Old French as well (flenchir "to bend; give ground, retreat"). Related: Flinched; flinching. As a noun, "the action of flinching," from 1817.
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unflinching (adj.)
1728, from un- (1) "not" + present-participle adjective of flinch (v.). Related: Unflinchingly.
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link (n.)
early 15c., "one of a series of rings or loops which form a chain; section of a cord," probably from Old Norse *hlenkr or a similar Scandinavian source (compare Old Norse hlekkr "link," in plural, "chain;" Old Swedish lænker "chain, link," Norwegian lenke "a link," Danish lænke "a chain," German Gelenk "articulation, a joint of the body; a link, ring"), from Proto-Germanic *khlink- (source also of German lenken "to bend, turn, lead"), from PIE root *kleng- "to bend, turn." Related to lank, flank, flinch.

The noun is not found in Old English, where it is represented by lank "the hip" ("turn of the body"), hlencan (plural) "armor." Meaning "a division of a sausage made in a continuous chain" is from mid-15c. Meaning "anything serving to connect one thing or part with another" is from 1540s. Sense of "means of telecommunication between two points" is from 1911. Missing link between man and apes dates to 1880.
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blench (v.)

"shrink, start back, give way; flinch, wince, dodge," c. 1200, extended sense from Old English blencan "deceive, cheat" (obsolete in the original sense), from Proto-Germanic *blenk- "to shine, dazzle, blind" (source also of Old Norse blekkja "delude"), from PIE root *bhel- (1) "to shine, flash, burn," also "shining white." Related: Blenched; blenching.

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start (v.)

Old English *steortian, *stiertan, Kentish variants of styrtan "to leap up" (attested only in Northumbrian past participle sturtende), from Proto-Germanic *stert- (source also of Old Frisian stirta "to fall, tumble," Middle Dutch sterten, Dutch storten "to rush, fall," Old High German sturzen, German stürzen "to hurl, throw, plunge"). According to Watkins, the notion is "move briskly, move swiftly," and the Proto-Germanic word is from PIE root *ster- (1) "stiff."

From "move or spring suddenly," sense evolved by c. 1300 to "awaken suddenly, flinch or recoil in alarm," and by 1660s to "cause to begin acting or operating." Meaning "begin to move, leave, depart" (without implication of suddenness) is from 1821. The connection probably is from sporting senses ("to force an animal from its lair," late 14c.). Transitive sense of "set in motion or action" is from 1670s; specifically as "to set (machinery) in action" from 1841.

Related: Started; starting. To start something "cause trouble" is 1915, American English colloquial. To start over "begin again" is from 1912. Starting-line in running is from 1855; starting-block in running first recorded 1937.

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shrink (v.)

Middle English shrinken, from Old English scrincan "to draw in the limbs, contract spontaneously, shrivel up; wither (through death, age, disease, etc.), pine away" (class III strong verb; past tense scranc, past participle scruncen), from Proto-Germanic *skrink- (source also of Middle Dutch schrinken, Swedish skrynka "to wrinkle"), probably from PIE root *sker- (2) "to turn, bend."

Originally it had a causal form, shrench (compare drink/drench). The sense of "become reduced in size" is recorded from late 13c. The meaning "draw back, recoil" (early 14c.) often was in reference to the behavior of snails; the meaning "flinch, wince, draw back from fear or shame" is by mid-14c. The transitive sense of "cause to shrink, make to appear smaller" is from late 14c.

Shrink-wrap "clingy thin plastic film" used in food packaging is attested from 1961 (shrinking-wrap is by 1959). Shrinking violet "shy person" is attested by 1882.

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