marbles (n.)

children's game, from plural of marble (n.); the game is recorded by that name by 1709 but is probably older (it was known in 13c. German as tribekugeln). It originally was played with small balls of polished marble or alabaster, later of clay. Glass marbles with the colored swirl date from the 1840s.

Meaning "mental faculties, common sense" (as in to lose or not have all one's marbles) is by 1927, American English slang, perhaps [OED] from earlier slang marbles "furniture, personal effects, 'the goods' " (1864, Hotten), a corrupt translation of French meubles (plural) "furniture" (see furniture).

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Elgin Marbles (n.)

1809, a collection of sculptures and marbles (especially from the frieze of the Parthenon) brought from Greece to England and sold to the British government by Thomas Bruce, 7th Earl of Elgin (1766-1841).

The removal of the marbles, many of which were torn violently from their original positions upon the Parthenon, to the further damage of that monument, was in itself an act of vandalism; but their transportation to England at a time when Greece was accessible with difficulty opened the eyes of the world to the preeminence of Greek work. It was one of the first steps toward securing an accurate knowledge of Hellenic ideals, and has thus influenced contemporary civilization. [Century Dictionary]

The place is in Scotland, literally "little Ireland," from Ealg, an early Gaelic name for Ireland, with diminutive suffix -in. "The name would have denoted a colony of Scots who had emigrated here from Ireland ..." [Room].

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marble (n.)

type of crystalline limestone much used in sculpture, monuments, etc., early 14c., by dissimilation from marbra (mid-12c.), from Old French marbre (which itself underwent dissimilation of 2nd -r- to -l- in 14c.; marbre persisted in English into early 15c.), from Latin marmor, from or cognate with Greek marmaros "marble, gleaming stone," of unknown origin, perhaps originally an adjective meaning "sparkling," which would connect it with marmairein "to shine."

Marblestone is attested from c. 1200, and the Latin word was taken directly into Old English as marma. German Marmor is restored Latin from Old High German marmul. Meaning "piece of sculptured or inscribed marble" (especially a marble tomb or tombstone) is from early 14c. Meaning "little ball of marble used in a children's game" is attested from 1690s; see marbles.

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taw (n.)
"a game at marbles," 1709, of unknown origin.
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knuckle (v.)
1740, from knuckle (n.), originally in the game of marbles (putting a knuckle on the ground is the hand position preliminary to shooting). To knuckle down "apply oneself earnestly" is 1864 in American English, an extended sense from marbles; to knuckle under "submit, give in" is first recorded 1740, supposedly from the former more general sense of "knuckle" and here meaning "knee," hence "to kneel."
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peewee (adj.)

1877, "small, tiny; for children," a dialect word, possibly a varied reduplication of wee. Attested earlier (1848) as a noun meaning "a small marble." (Baseball Hall-of-Famer Harold "Peewee" Reese got his nickname because he was a marbles champion before he became a Dodgers shortstop.)

As a type of bird (variously applied on different continents) it is attested from 1886, imitative of a bird cry. Earlier peeweep (1825), and compare peewit.

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niggardly (adj.)

"sordidly parsimonious, stingy," 1560s, from niggard + -ly (1).

It was while giving a speech in Washington, to a very international audience, about the British theft of the Elgin marbles from the Parthenon. I described the attitude of the current British authorities as "niggardly." Nobody said anything, but I privately resolved — having felt the word hanging in the air a bit — to say "parsimonious" from then on. [Christopher Hitchens, "The Pernicious Effects of Banning Words,", Dec. 4, 2006]

As an adverb, "parsimoniously, grudgingly," from 1520s. Related: Niggardliness.

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keep (n.)
mid-13c., "care or heed in watching," from keep (v.). Meaning "innermost stronghold or central tower of a castle" is from 1580s; OED says this is perhaps a translation of Italian tenazza, the notion being "that which keeps" (someone or something). The sense of "food required to keep a person or animal" is attested from 1801 (to earn (one's) keep is from 1885). For keeps "completely, for good" is American English colloquial, from 1861, probably from the notion of keeping one's winnings in games such as marbles.
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serpentine (n.)

c. 1400, name of a plant reputed to contain antivenom, often identified as dragonwort, from Old French serpentin name of a precious stone, a noun use of adjective meaning "of a snake, snake-like; sly, deceptive," from Late Latin serpentius "of a serpent," from Latin serpentem (nominative serpens) "snake" (see serpent). Also in some instances from Medieval Latin serpentina. From mid-15c. as the name of a kind of cannon used 15c.-16c.

As the name of a greenish metamorphic rock consisting mainly of hydrous magnesium silicate, it is attested in English is by c. 1600, perhaps based on Agricola's Lapis Serpentinus (16c.). Earlier references in English are to a precious or semiprecious stone thought to have magical powers (early 15c.) but these were perhaps from the translucent ("noble") form of the mineral. The name is perhaps in reference to the rock's green color, though some sources write of "markings resembling those of serpent's skin" or "similarity of the texture of the rock to that of the skin of a snake."

An ancient name for the rock is said to be hydrinus, perhaps suggesting connection to the sea-serpent hydra. It also has been identified with classical ophitēs, a ornamental building-stone mentioned by several writers, related to ophis "serpent, a snake" (see ophio-), but this is uncertain: Pliny said it has marking like a snake, but he included it among the marbles.

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Easter (n.)
Origin and meaning of Easter

Old English Easterdæg, from Eastre (Northumbrian Eostre), from Proto-Germanic *austron-, "dawn," also the name of a goddess of fertility and spring, perhaps originally of sunrise, whose feast was celebrated at the spring equinox, from *aust- "east, toward the sunrise" (compare east), from PIE root *aus- (1) "to shine," especially of the dawn.

Bede says Anglo-Saxon Christians adopted her name and many of the celebratory practices for their Mass of Christ's resurrection. Almost all neighboring languages use a variant of Latin Pascha to name this holiday (see paschal).

Easter egg is attested by 1825, earlier pace egg (1610s). Easter bunny is attested by 1904 in children's lessons; Easter rabbit is by 1888; the paganish customs of Easter seem to have grown popular c. 1900; before that they were limited to German immigrants.

If the children have no garden, they make nests in the wood-shed, barn, or house. They gather colored flowers for the rabbit to eat, that it may lay colored eggs. If there be a garden, the eggs are hidden singly in the green grass, box-wood, or elsewhere. On Easter Sunday morning they whistle for the rabbit, and the children imagine that they see him jump the fence. After church, on Easter Sunday morning, they hunt the eggs, and in the afternoon the boys go out in the meadows and crack eggs or play with them like marbles. Or sometimes children are invited to a neighbor's to hunt eggs. [Phebe Earle Gibbons, "Pennsylvania Dutch," Philadelphia, 1882]
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