1690s, "someone who supplies information," from Latin informantem (nominative informans), present participle of informare "train, instruct, educate" (see inform). Occasionally as "one who gives information to the authorities, one who dishonorably betrays knowledge gained in confidence" (1783). Informer is older in both senses and more usual in the latter. As an adjective from 1890.
1580s, "spy, informant," agent noun from intelligence. Perhaps modeled on French intelligencier or Italian intelligentiere. Meaning "bringer of news, one who conveys intelligence" is from 1630s; as a newspaper name from 1640s.
c. 1300, discoveren, "divulge, reveal, disclose, expose, lay open to view, betray (someone's secrets)," senses now obsolete, from stem of Old French descovrir "uncover, unroof, unveil, reveal, betray," from Medieval Latin discooperire, from Latin dis- "opposite of" (see dis-) + cooperire "to cover up, cover over, overwhelm, bury" (see cover (v.)).
At first with a sense of betrayal or malicious exposure (discoverer originally meant "informant"). Also in Middle English used in lteral senses, such as "to remove" (one's hat, the roof from a building). The meaning "to obtain the first knowledge or sight of what was before not known," the main modern sense, is by 1550s.
Discover, Invent, agree in signifying to find out; but we discover what already exists, though to us unknown; we invent what did not before exist: as, to discover the applicability of steam to the purposes of locomotion, and to invent the machinery necessary to use steam for these ends. ... Some things are of so mixed a character that either word may be applied to them. [Century Dictionary]
Sense of "make famous or fashionable" is by 1908. Related: Discovered; discovering.
That man is not the discoverer of any art who first says the thing; but he who says it so long, and so loud, and so clearly, that he compels mankind to hear him—the man who is so deeply impressed with the importance of the discovery that he will take no denial, but at the risk of fortune and fame, pushes through all opposition, and is determined that what he thinks he has discovered shall not perish for want of a fair trial. [Sydney Smith, in Edinburgh Review, June 1826]
"a rodent of some of the larger species of the genus Mus," late Old English ræt "rat," a word of uncertain origin. Similar words are found in Celtic (Gaelic radan), Romanic (Medieval Latin ratus, Italian ratto, Spanish rata, Old French rat) and Germanic (Old Saxon ratta; Middle Dutch ratte, Dutch rat; German Ratte, dialectal Ratz; Swedish råtta, Danish rotte) languages, but their connection to one another and the ultimate source of the word are unknown. In its range and uncertain origin, it is much like cat.
Perhaps from Vulgar Latin *rattus, but Weekley thinks this is of Germanic origin, "the animal having come from the East with the race-migrations" and the word passing thence to the Romanic languages. American Heritage and Tucker connect Old English ræt to Latin rodere and thus to PIE root *red- "to scrape, scratch, gnaw," source of rodent (q.v.). Klein says there is no such connection and suggests a possible cognate in Greek rhine "file, rasp." Weekley connects the English noun and the Latin verb with a question mark and OED says it is "probable" that the rat word spread from Germanic to Romanic, but takes no position on further etymology. The common Middle English form was ratton, from augmented Old French form raton. Applied to rat-like species on other continents from 1580s.
The distinction between rat and mouse, in the application of the names to animals everywhere parasitic with man, is obvious and familiar. But these are simply larger and smaller species of the same genus, very closely related zoologically, and in the application of the two names to the many other species of the same genus all distinction between them is lost. [Century Dictionary]
Applied since 12c. (in surnames) to persons held to resemble rats or share some characteristic or quality with them. Specific sense of "one who abandons his associates for personal advantage" (1620s) is from the belief that rats leave a ship about to sink or a house about to fall, and this led to the meaning "traitor, informant" (1902).
To smell a rat "to be put on the watch by suspicion as the cat by the scent of a rat; to suspect danger" [Johnson] is from 1540s. _____-rat, "person who frequents _____" (in earliest reference dock-rat) is from 1864.
RATS. Of these there are the following kinds: a black rat and a grey rat, a py-rat and a cu-rat. ["Dictionary of the Vulgar Tongue," Grose, 1788]