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.
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.
"wanton destruction of trees," 1853, from Latin arbor "tree" + ending from suicide, etc. Meaning "one who wantonly cuts down trees" is from 1873. Related: Arboricidal (1865).
Arboricide is a crime, as well as homicide. The name of Gastrell, who cut down Shakspeare's mulberry tree, is justly followed by the execrations of posterity, and hangs forever on a gibbet of reproach, vainly craving the boon of oblivion. [New England Farmer, March 1853]
laurel shrub (Laurus nobilis, source of the bay-leaf), late 14c., but meaning originally only the berry, from Old French baie (12c.) "berry, seed," from Latin baca, bacca "berry, fruit of a tree or shrub, nut" (source also of Spanish baya, Old Spanish bacca, Italian bacca "a berry"), a word of uncertain origin. De Vaan writes that connection with Greek Bakhos "Bacchus" is difficult, as the Greek word probably was borrowed from an Asian language. Some linguists compare Berber *bqa "blackberry, mulberry," and suggest a common borrowing from a lost Mediterranean language.
Extension of the word to the shrub itself is from 1520s. The leaves or sprigs were woven as wreaths for conquerors or poets, hence "honorary crown or garland bestowed as a prize for victory or excellence" (1560s). Bay-leaf is from 1630s. Bay-berry (1570s) was coined after the sense of the original word had shifted to the tree.
c. 1300, from Old English seoloc, sioloc "silk, silken cloth," from Latin sericum "silk," plural serica "silken garments, silks," literally "Seric stuff," neuter of Sericus, from Greek Serikos "silken; pertaining to the Seres," an oriental people of Asia from whom the Greeks got silks. Western cultivation began 552 C.E., when agents from Byzantium impersonating monks smuggled silkworms and mulberry leaves out of China. Chinese si "silk," Manchurian sirghe, Mongolian sirkek have been compared to this and the people name in Greek might be a rendering via Mongolian of the Chinese word for "silk," but this is uncertain.
Also found in Old Norse as silki but not elsewhere in Germanic. The more common Germanic form is represented by Middle English say, from Old French seie, with Spanish seda, Italian seta, Dutch zijde, German Seide is from Medieval Latin seta "silk," perhaps elliptical for seta serica, or else a particular use of seta "bristle, hair" (see seta (n.)).
According to some sources [Buck, OED], the use of -l- instead of -r- in the Balto-Slavic form of the word (Old Church Slavonic šelku, Lithuanian šilkai) passed into English via the Baltic trade and may reflect a Chinese dialectal form, or a Slavic alteration of the Greek word. But the Slavic linguist Vasmer dismisses that, based on the initial sh- in the Slavic words, and suggests the Slavic words are from Scandinavian rather than the reverse.
As an adjective from mid-14c. In reference to the "hair" of corn, 1660s, American English (corn-silk is from 1861). Figurative use of silk-stocking (n.) is from 1590s; as an adjective meaning "wealthy" it is attested from 1798, American English (silk stockings, especially worn by men, being regarded as extravagant and reprehensible, indicative of luxurious habits). Silk-screen (n.) is first attested 1930; as a verb from 1961. Silk road so called in English from 1931.