c. 1600, "of or in reference to Mount Olympos," the mountain in Thessaly, believed to be the home of the greater Greek gods. Also in reference to to Olympia (khōra), a town or district in Elis in ancient Greece with a famous temple of Zeus, where athletic contests in honor of Olympian Zeus were held 776 B.C.E. and every four years thereafter. It is from Greek Olympikos, from Olympos, which in both places is of unknown origin (see Olympus). The modern Olympic games are a revival, begun in 1896. Olympics, short for Olympic games, is from 1630s.
"of or belonging to Olympus," the mountain in Thessaly fabled to be the seat of the gods, c. 1600; see Olympus + -ian. The noun meaning "one of the twelve greater god of ancient Greece" is attested from 1843, from Late Latin Olympianus, from Greek Olympios "pertaining to Olympus." The sense of "one who competes in the (modern) Olympic Games" is from 1976 (see Olympic).
"period of four years" (between Olympic games), late 14c., from Old French olimpiade "period of four years," from Latin Olympiadem, from Greek olympiados, genitive of Olympias "Olympian, of or pertaining to Olympus," an epithet of the muses, as a noun, "the Olympic games; a victor at Olympia; the space of four years between the celebrations of the Olympic games"(see Olympic). Used by ancient Greeks as a unit in computing time. Revived in modern usage with revival of the games, 1896. Related: Olympiadic.
To turn an Olympiad into a year B.C, multiply by 4, add the year of the Olympiad less 1, and subtract from 780. [Century Dictionary]
modern composite Olympic event consisting of ten challenges, 1912, from deca- "ten" (from PIE root *dekm- "ten") + Greek athlon "contest, prize," which is of uncertain origin.
1823, "act of flopping; any action that produces the sound 'flop;' the sound itself," from flop (v.). Figurative sense of "a failure; that which is a failure" is by 1893, from the notion of a sudden break-down or collapse. Extended form flopperoo is attested by 1936. The Fosbury flop high-jumping technique (1968) is so called in reference to U.S. athlete Dick Fosbury (b. 1947), who used it to win the 1968 Olympic gold medal.
1896, marathon race, from story of Greek hero Pheidippides, who in 490 B.C.E. ran to Athens from the Plains of Marathon to tell of the allied Greek victory there over Persian army. The original story (Herodotus) is that he ran from Athens to Sparta to seek aid, which arrived too late to participate in the battle.
It was introduced as an athletic event in the 1896 revival of the Olympic Games, based on a later, less likely story, that Pheidippides ran to Athens from the battlefield with news of the victory. The word quickly was extended to mean "any very long event or activity." The place name is literally "fennel-field." Related: Marathoner (by 1912); Marathonian.
Old English woruld, worold "human existence, the affairs of life," also "a long period of time," also "the human race, mankind, humanity," a word peculiar to Germanic languages (cognates: Old Saxon werold, Old Frisian warld, Dutch wereld, Old Norse verold, Old High German weralt, German Welt), with a literal sense of "age of man," from Proto-Germanic *weraldi-, a compound of *wer "man" (Old English wer, still in werewolf; see virile) + *ald "age" (from PIE root *al- (2) "to grow, nourish").
Originally "life on earth, this world (as opposed to the afterlife)," sense extended to "the known world," then to "the physical world in the broadest sense, the universe" (c. 1200). In Old English gospels, the commonest word for "the physical world," was Middangeard (Old Norse Midgard), literally "the middle enclosure" (see yard (n.1)), which is rooted in Germanic cosmology. Greek kosmos in its ecclesiastical sense of "world of people" sometimes was rendered in Gothic as manaseþs, literally "seed of man." The usual Old Norse word was heimr, literally "abode" (see home). Words for "world" in some other Indo-European languages derive from the root for "bottom, foundation" (such as Irish domun, Old Church Slavonic duno, related to English deep); the Lithuanian word is pasaulis, from pa- "under" + saulė "sun."
Original sense in world without end, translating Latin saecula saeculorum, and in worldly. Latin saeculum can mean both "age" and "world," as can Greek aiōn. Meaning "a great quantity or number" is from 1580s. Out of this world "surpassing, marvelous" is from 1928; earlier it meant "dead." World Cup is by 1951; U.S. baseball World Series is by 1893 (originally often World's Series). World power in the geopolitical sense first recorded 1900. World-class is attested from 1950, originally of Olympic athletes.