Etymology
Advertisement
four (adj., n.)

"1 more than three, twice two; the number which is one more than three; a symbol representing this number;" Old English feower "four; four times," from Proto-Germanic *fedwores (source also of Old Saxon fiuwar, Old Frisian fiower, fiuwer, Frankish *fitter-, Dutch vier, Old High German fior, German vier, Old Norse fjorir, Danish fire, Swedish fyra, Gothic fidwor "four"), from PIE root *kwetwer- "four." The phonetic evolution of the Germanic forms has not been fully explained; Watkins explains the -f- as being from the following number (Modern English five).

To be on all fours is from 1719; earlier on all four (14c.). Four-letter word as a euphemism for one of the short words generally regarded as offensive or objectionable is attested from 1923; four-letter man is recorded from 1920 (apparently as a euphemism for a shit). Compare Latin homo trium litterarum, literally "three-letter man," a euphemism for fur "a thief." A four-in-hand (1793) was a carriage drawn by four horses driven by one person; in the sense of "loosely tied necktie" it is attested from 1892. To study The History of the Four Kings (1760, compare French Livres des Quatre Rois) contains an old euphemistic slang phrase for "a pack of cards," from the time when card-playing was considered a wicked pastime for students. Slang 4-1-1 "essential information" (by 1993) is from the telephone number called to get customer information. The four-color problem so called from 1879. The four-minute mile was attained 1954.

Related entries & more 
Advertisement
four-poster (n.)
bedstead with high corner posts, 1836, from four + post (n.).
Related entries & more 
four-eyes (n.)
"person who wears glasses," slang, 1874; see four + eye (n.).
Related entries & more 
four-wheeled (adj.)
Old English feowerhweolod; see four + wheel (n.).
Related entries & more 
Advertisement
four-footed (adj.)
c. 1300, fourefoted; see four + foot (n.). Replacing forms from Old English feowerfote.
Related entries & more 
four-square (adj.)
also foursquare, c. 1300, "having four equal sides," from four + square (adj.). As an adverb, in figurative use, "forthrightly, honestly" from 1845.
Related entries & more 
four-corners (n.)
old form of bowling, 1801, from four + corner (n.). So called because the four pins in it were set at the corners of a square.
Related entries & more 
four-flusher (n.)
"cheat, dishonest person," 1900, from verb four-flush "to bluff a poker hand, claim a flush (n.) while holding only four cards in the suit" (1896).
Related entries & more 
foursome (n.)
"four in company," early 14c., from four + -some (2). Specific golf sense is from 1858.
Related entries & more