Etymology
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monosyllable (n.)

"a word of one syllable," 1530s, from Latin monosyllabus "of one syllable," from Greek monosyllabos, from monos "single, alone" (from PIE root *men- (4) "small, isolated") + syllabē "syllable" (see syllable). That the oldest words in English tended to be monosyllables was noted from 16c.

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monosyllabic (adj.)

1813, of words, "consisting of one syllable;" 1816, of languages, "consisting of words of one syllable;" 1870, of persons, "uttering only monosyllables;" from monosyllable + -ic. Earlier form was monosyllabical (1680s, of words). Related: Monosyllabically.

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*men- (4)

Proto-Indo-European root meaning "small, isolated."

It forms all or part of: malmsey; manometer; monad; monarchy; monastery; monism; monist; monk; mono; mono-; monoceros; monochrome; monocle; monocular; monogamy; monogram; monolith; monologue; monomania; Monophysite; monopoly; monosyllable; monotony.

It is the hypothetical source of/evidence for its existence is provided by: Greek monos "single, alone," manos "rare, sparse;" Armenian manr "thin, slender, small."

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pubes (n.)

1560s, "pubic hair, the pubescence of the genitals; the groin," from Latin pubes "pubescent, arrived at the age of puberty, of ripe years, grown up," also, as a noun, "a sign of puberty" (such as pubic hair), also "young men of the age of puberty" (see pubis). In 19c. also "pubic bone," and earlier "part of either hip bone that forms the front of the pelvis," from Latin os pubis, from pubes "genital area."

In modern slang, monosyllable, it is a familiar shortening of pubic hairs (see pubic).

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prowess (n.)

early 13c., prouesse, "an act of bravery;" c. 1300, "military bravery combined with skill in combat," from Old French proece "prowess, courage, brave deed" (Modern French prouesse), from prou, later variant of prud "brave, valiant," from Vulgar Latin *prodem (source also of Spanish proeza, Italian prodezza; see proud (adj.)). Prow was in Middle English as a noun meaning "advantage, profit," also as a related adjective ("valiant, brave"), but it has become obsolete. "In 15-17th c. often a monosyllable" [OED].

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miss (n.2)

"the term of honour to a young girl" [Johnson], originally (17c.) a shortened form of mistress (compare Mrs., pronounced mis-ez). By 1640s as "prostitute, concubine." By 1700 as "a young, unmarried woman."

Misses as a trade term (originally in the mail order business) for sizes or styles of clothes for girls from about 10 to 17 years old is by 1880. Miss America is from 1922 as the title bestowed on the winner of an annual nationwide U.S. beauty/talent contest. Earlier it meant "young American women generally" or "the United States personified as a young woman," and it also was the name of a fast motor boat. In the 1811 reprint of the slang dictionary, Miss Laycock is given as an underworld euphemism for "the monosyllable."

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joke (n.)
1660s, joque, "a jest, something done to excite laughter," from Latin iocus "joke, jest, sport, pastime" (source also of French jeu, Spanish juego, Portuguese jogo, Italian gioco), from Proto-Italic *joko-, from PIE *iok-o- "word, utterance," from root *yek- (1) "to speak" (cognates: Welsh iaith, Breton iez "language," Middle Irish icht "people;" Old High German jehan, Old Saxon gehan "to say, express, utter;" Old High German jiht, German Beichte "confession").

Originally a colloquial or slang word. Meaning "something not real or to no purpose, someone not to be taken seriously" is from 1791. Black joke is old slang for "smutty song" (1733), from use of that phrase in the refrain of a then-popular song as a euphemism for "the monosyllable." Lithuanian juokas "laugh, laughter," in plural "joke(s)" probably is borrowed from German.
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meme (n.)

"an idea, behavior, or style that spreads from person to person within a culture," 1976, introduced by evolutionary biologist Richard Dawkins in "The Selfish Gene," coined by him from Greek sources, such as mimeisthai "to imitate" (see mime (n.)), and intended to echo gene.

We need a name for the new replicator, a noun that conveys the idea of a unit of cultural transmission, or a unit of imitation. 'Mimeme' comes from a suitable Greek root, but I want a monosyllable that sounds a bit like 'gene'. I hope my classicist friends will forgive me if I abbreviate mimeme to meme. If it is any consolation, it could alternatively be thought of as being related to 'memory', or to the French word même. It should be pronounced to rhyme with 'cream'. [Richard Dawkins, "The Selfish Gene," 1976]

Digital Age sense of "an image or snippet of video or text considered witty or incisive that is spread widely and rapidly by internet users" is by 1997.

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cunt (n.)

"female intercrural foramen," or, as some 18c. writers refer to it, "the monosyllable," Middle English cunte "female genitalia," by early 14c. (in Hendyng's "Proverbs" — ʒeve þi cunte to cunni[n]g, And crave affetir wedding), akin to Old Norse kunta, Old Frisian, Middle Dutch, and Middle Low German kunte, from Proto-Germanic *kunton, which is of uncertain origin. Some suggest a link with Latin cuneus "wedge" (which is of unknown origin), others to PIE root *geu- "hollow place," still others to PIE root *gwen- "woman."

The form is similar to Latin cunnus "female pudenda" (also, vulgarly, "a woman"), which is likewise of disputed origin, perhaps literally "gash, slit" (from PIE *sker- "to cut") or "sheath" (Watkins, from PIE *(s)keu- "to conceal, hide"). De Vaan rejects this, however, and traces it to "a root *kut-meaning 'bag', 'scrotum', and metaphorically also 'female pudenda,' " source also of Greek kysthos "vagina; buttocks; pouch, small bag" (but Beekes suspects this is a Pre-Greek word), Lithuanian kutys "(money) bag," Old High German hodo "testicles."

Hec vulva: a cunt. Hic cunnus: idem est. [from Londesborough Illustrated Nominale, c. 1500, in "Anglo-Saxon and Old English Vocabularies," eds. Wright and Wülcker, vol. 1, 1884]

First known reference in English apparently is in a compound, Oxford street name Gropecuntlane cited from c. 1230 (and attested through late 14c.) in "Place-Names of Oxfordshire" (Gelling & Stenton, 1953), presumably a haunt of prostitutes. Used in medical writing c. 1400, but avoided in public speech since 15c.; considered obscene since 17c.

in Middle English also conte, counte, and sometimes queinte, queynte (for this, see Q). Chaucer used quaint and queynte in "Canterbury Tales" (late 14c.), and Andrew Marvell might be punning on quaint in "To His Coy Mistress" (1650).

"What eyleth yow to grucche thus and grone? Is it for ye wolde haue my queynte allone?" [Wife of Bath's Tale]

Under "MONOSYLLABLE" Farmer lists 552 synonyms from English slang and literature before launching into another 5 pages of them in French, German, Italian, Spanish, and Portuguese. [A sampling: Botany Bay, chum, coffee-shop, cookie, End of the Sentimental Journey, fancy bit, Fumbler's Hall, funniment, goatmilker, heaven, hell, Itching Jenny, jelly-bag, Low Countries, nature's tufted treasure, penwiper, prick-skinner, seminary, tickle-toby, undeniable, wonderful lamp, and aphrodisaical tennis court, and, in a separate listing, Naggie.] Dutch cognate de kont means "a bottom, an arse," but Dutch also has attractive poetic slang ways of expressing this part, such as liefdesgrot, literally "cave of love," and vleesroos "rose of flesh."

Alternative form cunny is attested from c. 1720 but is certainly much earlier and forced a change in the pronunciation of coney (q.v.), but it was good for a pun while coney was still the common word for "rabbit": "A pox upon your Christian cockatrices! They cry, like poulterers' wives, 'No money, no coney.' " [Philip Massinger: "The Virgin-Martyr," Act I, Scene 1, 1622]

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