1910, medical Latin, "one of the highest class of feeble-minded persons," from Greek (Attic) mōron, neuter of mōros "foolish, dull, sluggish, stupid," a word of uncertain origin. The former connection with Sanskrit murah "idiotic" (see moratorium) is in doubt. Latin morus "foolish" is a loan-word from Greek.
Adopted by the American Association for the Study of the Feeble-minded with a technical definition "adult with a mental age between 8 and 12;" used as an insult since 1922 and subsequently dropped from technical use. Linnæus had introduced morisis "idiocy."
The feeble-minded may be divided into: (1) Those who are totally arrested before the age of three so that they show the attainment of a two-year-old child or less; these are the idiots. (2) Those so retarded that they become permanently arrested between the ages of three and seven; these are imbeciles. (3) Those so retarded that they become arrested between the ages of seven and twelve; these were formerly called feeble-minded, the same term that is applied to the whole group. We are now proposing to call them morons, this word being the Greek for "fool." The English word "fool" as formerly used describes exactly this grade of child—one who is deficient in judgment or sense. [Henry H. Goddard, in "Journal of Proceedings and Addresses" of the National Education Association of the United States, July 1910]
in rhetoric, "a figure conjoining words or terms apparently contradictory so as to give point to the statement or expression," 1650s, from Greek oxymōron, noun use of neuter of oxymōros (adj.) "pointedly foolish," from oxys "sharp, pointed" (from PIE root *ak- "be sharp, rise (out) to a point, pierce") + mōros "stupid" (see moron). The word itself is an illustration of the thing. Now often used loosely to mean "contradiction in terms." Related: Oxymoronic.
1680s, "student in the second year of university study," literally "arguer," altered from sophumer (1650s), from sophume, an archaic variant form of sophism, ultimately from Greek sophistēs "a master of one's craft; a wise or prudent man, one clever in matters of daily life."
The modern form probably is by folk etymology derivation from Greek sophos "wise" + mōros "foolish, dull" (see moron).
The original reference of the "arguer" name might be to the dialectic exercises that formed a large part of education in the middle years. At Oxford and Cambridge, a sophister (from sophist with spurious -er as in philosopher) was a second- or third-year student (what Americans would call a "junior" might be a senior sophister).
c. 1300, "tree of the genus Morus;" mid-14c. in reference to a berry from the tree; an alteration of morberie (13c.) from or cognate with Middle High German mul-beri (alteration by dissimilation of Old High German mur-beri, Modern German Maulbeere); both from Latin morum "mulberry, blackberry" + Old English berie, Old High German beri "berry."
The Latin word probably is from Greek moron "mulberry," from PIE *moro- "blackberry, mulberry" (source also of Armenian mor "blackberry," Middle Irish merenn, Welsh merwydden "mulberry"). As a color-name by 1837. The children's singing game with a chorus beginning "Here we go round the mulberry bush" is attested by 1820s, first in Scotland.
1540s, imbecille "weak, feeble" (especially in reference to the body), from French imbecile "weak, feeble" (15c.), from Latin imbecillus "weak, feeble," a word of uncertain origin.
The Latin word traditionally is said to mean "unsupported" or "without a walking stick" (Juvenal: imbecillis: quasi sine baculo), from assimilated form of in- "not, opposite of" + baculum "a stick" (see bacillus), but Century Dictionary finds that "improbable" and de Vaan finds it "very far-fetched" and adds "it seems to me that exactly the persons who can walk without a support are the stronger ones." There also are phonological objections.
Sense shifted to "mentally weak or incapable" from mid-18c. (compare frail, which in provincial English also could mean "mentally weak"). As a noun, "feeble-minded person," it is attested from 1802. Traditionally an adult with a mental age of roughly 6 to 9 (above an idiot but beneath a moron).
A Biblical word, originally used for a wide-spreading shade tree with fig-like fruit (Ficus sycomorus) common in Egypt, Palestine, Syria, etc., whose leaves somewhat resemble those of the mulberry; applied in English from 1580s to a large species of European maple (also plane-tree), perhaps because both it and the Biblical tree were notable for their shadiness (the Holy Family took refuge under a sycamore on the flight to Egypt), and from 1814 to the North American shade tree that also is called a buttonwood, which was introduced to Europe from Virginia 1637 by John Tradescant the Younger).
Spelling apparently influenced by sycamine "black mulberry tree," which is from Greek sykcaminos, which also is mentioned in the Bible (Luke xvii.6). For the sake of clarity, some writers have used the more Hellenic sycomore in reference to the Biblical tree.