c. 1300, majour, "greater, more important or effective, leading, principal," from Latin maior (earlier *magios), irregular comparative of magnus "large, great" (from PIE root *meg- "great"). From 1590s as "greater in quantity, number, or extent." Used in music (of modes, scales, or chords) since 1690s, on notion of an interval a half-tone "greater" than the minor; of modern modes, "characterized by the use of major tonality throughout," by 1811. Major league, in baseball, is attested by 1892.
Old English fæste "firmly, securely; strictly;" also, perhaps, "speedily," from Proto-Germanic *fasto (source also of Old Saxon fasto, Old Frisian feste, Dutch vast, Old High German fasto, German fast "almost," but in earlier use "firmly, immovably, strongly, very"), from *fastu- (adj.) "firm, fast" (see fast (adj.)).
The meaning "quickly, swiftly, rapidly" was perhaps in Old English, certainly by c. 1200, probably from or developed under influence of Old Norse fast "firmly, fast." This sense developed, apparently in Scandinavian, from that of "firmly, strongly, vigorously" (to run hard means the same as to run fast; also compare fast asleep, also compare Old Norse drekka fast "to drink hard," telja fast "to give (someone) a severe lesson"). Or perhaps from the notion of a runner who "sticks" close to whatever he is chasing (compare Old Danish fast "much, swiftly, at once, near to, almost," and sense evolution of German fix "fast, fixed; fast, quick, nimble," from Latin fixus). The expression fast by "near, close, beside" also is said to be from Scandinavian. To fast talk someone (v.) is recorded by 1946.
military rank above captain and below lieutenant colonel, 1640s, from French major, short for sergent-major, originally a higher rank than at present, from Medieval Latin major "chief officer, magnate, superior person," from Latin maior "an elder, adult," noun use of the adjective (see major (adj.)).
His chief duties consist in superintending the exercises of his regiment or battalion, and in putting in execution the commands of his superior officer. His ordinary position in the line is behind the left wing. [Century Dictionary, 1897]
The musical sense is attested by 1797.
of a college or university student, "focus (one's) studies," 1910, American English, from major (n.) in sense of "subject of specialization" (by 1890). Related: Majored; majoring. Earlier as a verb, in Scottish, "to prance about, or walk backwards and forwards with a military air and step" [Jamieson, 1825] a sense derived from the military major.
Old English fæst "firmly fixed, steadfast, constant; secure; enclosed, watertight; strong, fortified," probably from Proto-Germanic *fastu- "firm, fast" (source also of Old Frisian fest, Old Norse fastr, Dutch vast, German fest), from PIE root *past- "firm, solid" (source of Sanskrit pastyam "dwelling place").
Meaning "rapid, quick" is from 1550s, from fast (adv.) , in which entry the attempt is made to explain how a root meaning "firm, solid" came variously to yield words for "refrain from eating" (fast (v.)) and "rapid, quick." Of colors, from 1650s; of clocks, from 1840. The sense of "living an unrestrained life, eager in pursuit of pleasure" (usually of women) is from 1746 (fast living is from 1745).
Fast buck recorded from 1947; fast food is first attested 1951. Fast lane is by 1966; the fast track originally was in horse-racing (1934), one that permits maximum speed; figurative sense by 1960s. Fast-forward is by 1948, originally of audio tape.
"abstain from food," Old English fæstan "to fast" (as a religious duty), also "to make firm; establish, confirm, pledge," from Proto-Germanic *fastanan "to hold, guard," extended to the religious act "observe abstinence" (source also of Old Frisian festia, Old High German fasten, German fasten, Old Norse fasta "abstain from food"), from the same root as fast (adj.).
The original meaning in prehistoric Germanic was "hold firmly," and the sense evolved via "have firm control of oneself," to "hold oneself to observance" (compare Gothic fastan "to keep, observe," also "to fast"). Perhaps the Germanic sense shifted through use of the native words to translate Medieval Latin observare in its sense "to fast," or it might have been a loan-translation of a Greek expression brought to the Goths by Arian missionaries and spread from them to other Germanic peoples. The verb in the sense "to make fast" continued in Middle English, but was superseded by fasten. Related: Fasted; fasting.
"act of fasting," late Old English fæsten "voluntary abstinence from food and drink or from certain kinds of food," especially, but not necessarily, as a religious duty; either from the verb in Old English or from Old Norse fasta "a fast, fasting, season for fasting," from a Proto-Germanic noun formed from the verbal root of fast (v.). In earlier Old English fæsten meant "fortress, cloister, enclosure, prison."
Old English dæg "period during which the sun is above the horizon," also "lifetime, definite time of existence," from Proto-Germanic *dages- "day" (source also of Old Saxon, Middle Dutch, Dutch dag, Old Frisian di, dei, Old High German tag, German Tag, Old Norse dagr, Gothic dags), according to Watkins, from PIE root *agh- "a day." He adds that the Germanic initial d- is "of obscure origin." But Boutkan says it is from PIE root *dhegh- "to burn" (see fever). Not considered to be related to Latin dies (which is from PIE root *dyeu- "to shine").
Meaning originally, in English, "the daylight hours;" it expanded to mean "the 24-hour period" in late Anglo-Saxon times. The day formerly began at sunset, hence Old English Wodnesniht was what we would call "Tuesday night." Names of the weekdays were not regularly capitalized in English until 17c.
From late 12c. as "a time period as distinguished from other time periods." Day-by-day "daily" is from late 14c.; all day "all the time" is from late 14c. Day off "day away from work" is attested from 1883; day-tripper first recorded 1897. The days in nowadays, etc. is a relic of the Old English and Middle English use of the adverbial genitive.
All in a day's work "something unusual taken as routine" is by 1820. The nostalgic those were the days is attested by 1907. That'll be the day, expressing mild doubt following some boast or claim, is by 1941. To call it a day "stop working" is by 1919; earlier call it a half-day (1838). One of these days "at some day in the near future" is from late 15c. One of those days "a day of misfortune" is by 1936.