1610s, "characteristic of hysteria," the nervous disease originally defined as a neurotic condition peculiar to women and thought to be caused by a dysfunction of the uterus; literally "of the womb," from Latin hystericus "of the womb," from Greek hysterikos "of the womb, suffering in the womb," from hystera "womb," from PIE *udtero-, variant of *udero- "abdomen, womb, stomach" (see uterus). Compare hysteria.
Meaning "very funny" (by 1939) is from the notion of uncontrollable fits of laughter. For "inclined to hysteria," American English formerly had the colloquial hystericky (1792). Related: Hysterically.
"inducing erotic sensation or sexual desire," 1889, from Greek eros "sexual love" (see Eros) + -genous "producing." A slightly earlier variant was erogenic (1887), from French érogénique. Both, as OED laments, are improperly formed. Erogenous zone attested by 1905.
In this connection reference may be made to the well-known fact that in some hysterical subjects there are so-called "erogenous zones" simple pressure on which suffices to evoke the complete orgasm. There is, perhaps, some significance, from our present point of view, in the fact that, as emphasized by Savill ("Hysterical Skin Symptoms," Lancet, January 30 1904) the skin is one of the very best places to study hysteria. [Havelock Ellis, "Studies in the Psychology of Sex," 1914]
"grumble, chatter aimlessly, nag," 1829, northern England dialect variant of gnatter "to chatter, grumble," earlier (18c.) "to nibble away," probably of echoic origin. Related: Nattered; nattering. As a noun, 1866, from the verb.
In the United States today, we have more than our share of the nattering nabobs of negativism. They have formed their own 4-H Club — the ‘hopeless, hysterical hypochondriacs of history.' [U.S. Vice President Spiro Agnew (in reference to the media), address to the California Republican state convention, Sept. 11, 1970 (the speech was written by then-White House speechwriter William Safire)]
1590s, "one who is the offspring of a European and a black African," from Spanish or Portuguese mulato "of mixed breed," literally "young mule," from mulo "mule," from Latin mulus (fem. mula) "mule" (see mule (n.1)); possibly in reference to hybrid origin of mules (compare Greek hēmi-onos "a mule," literally "a half-ass;" as an adjective, "one of mixed race"). As an adjective from 1670s. Fem. mulatta is attested from 1620s; mulattress from 1805.
American culture, even in its most rigidly segregated precincts, is patently and irrevocably composite. It is, regardless of all the hysterical protestations of those who would have it otherwise, incontestibly mulatto. Indeed, for all their traditional antagonisms and obvious differences, the so-called black and so-called white people of the United States resemble nobody else in the world so much as they resemble each other. [Albert Murray, "The Omni-Americans: Black Experience & American Culture," 1970]
Old English had sunderboren "born of disparate parents."
1782, "peasant dance popular in Italy," originally "hysterical malady characterized by extreme impulse to dance" (1630s), epidemic in Apulia and adjacent parts of southern Italy 15c.-17c., popularly attributed to (or believed to be a cure for) the bite of the tarantula. This is likely folk-etymology, however, and the names of the dance and the spider more probably share an origin in Taranto, the name of a city in southern Italy (see tarantula). Used from 1833 to mean the style of music that accompanies this dance, usually in 6/8 time, with whirling triplets and abrupt major-minor modulations. Related: Tarantism.
Those who were bitten generally fell into a state of melancholy, and appeared to be stupified, and scarcely in possession of their senses. This condition was, in many cases, united with so great a sensibility to music, that at the very first tones of their favourite melodies, they sprang up, shouting for joy, and danced on without intermission, until they sank to the ground exhausted and almost lifeless. [Babington's translation of J.F.C. Hecker, "The Epidemics of the Middle Ages," London, 1859]
late 14c., nerve, nerf, "sinew, tendon, hard cord of the body" (a sense now obsolete), also "fiber or bundle of fibers that convey the capacity to feel or move from the brain or spinal cord to the body," from Old French nerf and directly from Medieval Latin nervus "a nerve," from Latin nervus "sinew, tendon; cord, bowstring, string of a musical instrument," metathesis of pre-Latin *neuros, from PIE *(s)neu- "tendon, sinew" (source also of Sanskrit snavan- "band, sinew," Armenian neard "sinew," Greek neuron "sinew, tendon," in Galen "nerve").
The late medieval surgeons understood the nature and function of the nerves and often used nervus to denote a `nerve' in the modern sense, as well as to denote a `tendon'. There appears to have been some confusion, however, between nerves and tendons; hence, a number of instances in which nervus may be interpreted in either way or in both ways simultaneously. [Middle English Compendium]
The secondary senses developed from meaning "strength, vigor; force, energy" (c. 1600), from the "sinew" sense. Hence the non-scientific sense with reference to feeling or courage, first attested c. 1600 (as in nerves of steel, 1869) and that of "coolness in the face of danger, fortitude under trying or critical circumstances" is by 1809. The bad sense "impudence, boldness, cheek" (originally slang) is by 1887. Latin nervus also had a figurative sense of "vigor, force, power, strength," as did Greek neuron. From the neurological sense come Nerves "condition of hysterical nervousness," attested by 1890, perhaps from 1792. To get on (someone's) nerves is from 1895. War of nerves "psychological warfare" is from 1915.