river in Africa, one of the world's oldest surviving place names, from a Semitic root nahal "river." Unnamed in Old Testament, it is always merely "the river" (Hebrew yeor).
c. 1200, name of the fourth letter of the Greek alphabet (equivalent to our D), which was shaped like a triangle. The name is from Phoenician daleth "tent door." Sense of "triangular island or alluvial tract between the diverging branches of the mouth of a great river" is because Herodotus used it of the delta-shaped mouth of the Nile. It was so used in English from 1550s and applied to other river mouths, of whatever shape, by 1790. Related: Deltaic; deltification.
Strictly one of the names of Memphis, it was taken by the Greeks as the name of the whole country. The Egyptian name, Kemet, means "black country," possibly in reference to the rich delta soil. The Arabic is Misr, which is derived from Mizraim, the name of a son of Biblical Ham.
"period of dry, hot weather at the height of summer," 1530s, from Latin dies caniculares, the idea, though not the phrase, from Greek; so called because they occur around the time of the heliacal rising of Sirius, the Dog Star (kyōn seirios). Noted as the hottest and most unwholesome time of the year; often reckoned as July 3 to August 11, but variously calculated, depending on latitude and on whether the greater Dog-star (Sirius) or the lesser one (Procyon) is reckoned.
The heliacal rising of Sirius has shifted down the calendar with the precession of the equinoxes; in ancient Egypt c. 3000 B.C.E. it coincided with the summer solstice, which also was the new year and the beginning of the inundation of the Nile. The "dog" association apparently began here (the star's hieroglyph was a dog), but the reasons for it are now obscure.
"student of plants and animals," c. 1600, from French naturaliste, from natural (see natural (adj.)). Earlier "one who studies natural, rather than spiritual, things" (1580s). A Middle English word for "natural philosopher or scientist" was naturien (late 14c.).
[The naturalist on expedition, pursued by a Nile crocodile, has climbed a palm tree for safety.]
Suddenly he experienced a new shudder of terror, as he remembered an article which he had inserted in the Belfast Review, and in which he had himself declared that crocodiles climb trees like cats. He would gladly have thrown this article into the fire, but it was too late, all Belfast had read it, it had been translated into Arabic and no Oriental author had yet refuted it, not even at Crocodilopolis. [Graham's Magazine, November 1855]
late 14c., "horizontal zone of the earth's surface measured by lines parallel to the equator," from Old French climat "region, part of the earth," from Latin clima (genitive climatis) "region; slope of the earth," from Greek klima "region, zone," literally "an inclination, slope," thus "slope of the earth from equator to pole," from a suffixed form of PIE root *klei- "to lean."
Ancient geographers divided the earth into zones based on the angle of sun on the slope of the earth's surface and the length of daylight. Some reckoned 24 or 30 climates between Meroe on the upper Nile in Sudan and the mythical Riphaean Mountains which were supposed to bound the Arctic; a change of climate took place, going north, at a place where the day was a half hour longer or shorter, according to season, than the starting point. Others counted 7 (each dominated by a particular planet) or 12 (dominated by zodiac signs).
Change of temperature gradually came to be considered more important, and by late 14c. the word was being used in the sense "a distinct region of the earth's surface considered with respect to weather." The sense shift to "combined results of weather associated with a region, characteristic condition of a country or region with reference to the variation of heat, cold, rainfall, wind, etc.," is attested by c. 1600. Figuratively, of mental or moral atmosphere, from 1660s.
1540s, "senior pupil at a school charged with keeping order, etc.," from Latin monitor "one who reminds, admonishes, or checks," also "an overseer, instructor, guide, teacher," agent noun from monere "to remind, bring to (one's) recollection, tell (of); admonish, advise, warn, instruct, teach," from PIE *moneie- "to make think of, remind" (source also of Sanskrit manayati "to honor, respect," Old Avestan manaiia- "making think"), suffixed (causative) form of root *men- (1) "to think" (source also of Latin memini "I remember, I am mindful of," mens "mind") The notion is "one who or that which warns of faults or informs of duties."
The type of lizard (1826) was so called because it is fabled to give warning to man of Nile crocodiles. Meaning "squat, slow-moving type of ironclad warship" (1862) is from the name of the first vessel of this design, chosen by the inventor, Swedish-born U.S. engineer John Ericsson (1803-1889), because it was meant to "admonish" the Confederate leaders in the U.S. Civil War.
I now submit for your approbation a name for the floating battery at Green Point. The impregnable and aggressive character of this structure will admonish the leaders of the Southern Rebellion that the batteries on the banks of their rivers will no longer present barriers to the entrance of the Union forces. The iron-clad intruder will thus prove a severe monitor to those leaders. ... "Downing Street" will hardly view with indifference this last "Yankee notion," this monitor. ... On these and many similar grounds I propose to name the new battery Monitor. [Ericsson to Asst. Sec. of Navy, Jan. 20, 1862]
Broadcasting sense of "a device to continuously check on the technical quality of a transmission" (1931) led to special sense of "a TV screen displaying the picture from a particular camera."