female proper name, shortened form of Mollie, Molly, itself a familiar of Mary. Used from c. 1600 for "prostitute," but in low slang by early 19c. it also meant "female companion not bound by ties of marriage, but often a life-mate" [Century Dictionary]. It became a general word for "woman" in old underworld slang, for instance Moll-buzzer "pickpocket who specializes in women;" Moll-tooler "female pick-pocket." U.S. sense of "a gangster's girlfriend" is by 1923.
cited as a typical authority on card or board games, by 1755, a reference to Edmond Hoyle (1672-1769), author of several works on card-playing. The surname, according to Bardsley, represents a Northern English dialectal pronunciation of hole. "In Yorks and Lancashire hole is still dialectically hoyle. Any one who lived in a round hollow or pit would be Thomas or Ralph in the Hoyle." ["Dictionary of English and Welsh Surnames," London, 1901]
To the making of rule-books there is no end, and books on card games are no exception to the rule. Many claim to be the last word in 'Official Rules', and to this end disguise themselves under the name of HOYLE as an earnest of proof and authority. It may therefore be rather surprising to learn that Hoyle died over 200 years ago, and positively disconcerting find that most card games do not actually have official rules. What's more, the original Hoyle, an eighteenth-century Whist tutor, only described some half-dozen card games, and in not a single instance did he write any rules explaining how the game is played. [David Parlett, "A History of Card Games," 1991]
eleventh Roman letter, from Greek kappa, from Phoenician kaph or a similar Semitic source, said to mean literally "hollow of the hand" and to be so called for its shape.
Little used in classical Latin, which at an early age conformed most of its words (the exceptions had ritual importance) to a spelling using -c- (a character derived from Greek gamma). In Late Latin, pronunciation of -c- shifted (in the direction of "s"). Greek names brought into Latin also were regularized with a -c- spelling, and then underwent the Late Latin sound-shift; hence the modern pronunciation of Cyrus, Circe. To keep their pronunciation clear, the many Greek words (often Church words) that entered Latin after this shift tended to take Latin -k- for Greek kappa.
K- thus became a supplementary letter to -c- in Medieval Latin, used with Greek and foreign words. But most of the languages descended from Latin had little need of it, having evolved other solutions to the sound shifts.
K- also was scarce in Old English. After the Norman conquest, new scribal habits restricted -c- and expanded the use of -k-, which began to be common in English spelling from 13c. This probably was done because the sound value of -c- was evolving in French and the other letter was available to clearly mark the "k" sound for scribes working in English. For more, see C.
In words transliterated from Arabic, Hebrew, Turkish, Japanese, Hawaiian, etc., it represents several different sounds lumped. In modern use some of them are now with kh-; in older borrowings they often followed traditional English spelling and were written with a C- (Corea, Caaba, etc.).
As a symbol for potassium, it represents Latin kalium "potash." In CMYK as a color system for commercial printing it means "black" but seems to stand for key in a specialized printing sense. Slang meaning "one thousand dollars" is 1970s, from kilo-. K as a measure of capacity (especially in computer memory) meaning "one thousand" also is an abbreviation of kilo-.
As an indication of "strikeout" in baseball score-keeping it dates from 1874 and is said to represent the last letter of struck. The invention of the scorecard symbols is attributed to English-born U.S. newspaperman Henry Chadwick (1824-1908) principally of the old New York "Clipper," who had been writing baseball since 1858, and who explained it thus:
Smith was the first striker, and went out on three strikes, which is recorded by the figure "1" for the first out, and the letter K to indicate how put out, K being the last letter of the word "struck." The letter K is used in this instance as being easier to remember in connection with the word struck than S, the first letter, would be. [Henry Chadwick, "Chadwick's Base Ball Manual," London, 1874]