Middle English pere, from Old English pere, peru "fruit of the pear tree," common West Germanic (Middle Dutch, Middle Low German pere, Old High German pira, bira, Dutch peer), from Vulgar Latin *pera, variant of Latin pira, plural (taken for fem. singular) of pirum "pear," a loan word from an unknown source, perhaps Semitic or a lost Mediterranean language. It likely shares an origin with Greek apion "pear," apios "pear tree." Their cultivation began as much as 3,000 years ago.
"nacreous mass formed in the shell of a bivalve mollusk as a result of irritation caused by some foreign body," early 14c., perle (mid-13c. as a surname), from Old French perle (13c.) and directly from Medieval Latin perla (mid-13c.), which is of unknown origin. Perhaps from Vulgar Latin *pernula, diminutive of Latin perna, which in Sicily meant "pearl," earlier "sea-mussel," literally "ham, haunch, gammon," so called for the shape of the mollusk shells.
Other theories connect it with the root of pear, also somehow based on shape, or Latin pilula "globule," with dissimilation. The usual Latin word for "pearl" was margarita (see margarite).
Used from 14c. of anything valuable or of the finest kind; from mid-15c. of something small, round, and glistening white. For pearls before swine, see swine. Pearl Harbor translates Hawaiian Wai Momi, literally "pearl waters," so named for the pearl oysters found there; transferred sense of "effective sudden attack" is attested from 1942 (in reference to Dec. 7, 1941).
surname attested from late 12c., literally "dweller by the pear tree."
"Jew born in Palestine" (or, after 1948, Israel), 1945, from Modern Hebrew sabrah, literally "prickly pear."
1570s, "spiny, full of sharp points, armed with prickles" (originally of holly leaves), from prickle (n.) + -y (2). Figurative sense of "irritable, quick to anger" is recorded by 1862. Prickly heat "inflammatory disorder of the sweat glands" is from 1736, so called for the sensation; prickly pear, of the fruit of a certain cactus, is from 1760 (earlier prickle pear, 1610s). Related: Prickliness.
"leading or senior woman in a group or society," 1905, from fem. of French doyen (see doyen). As a type of pear, from 1731.
type of citrus tree, also its fruit (similar to bitter orange), and the essence prepared from the oil of the rind of the fruit (formerly much used in perfumery), 1690s, from French bergamote (17c.), from Italian bergamotta, named for Bergamo, town in northern Italy. The name is Roman Bergamum, from a Celtic or Ligurian berg "mountain," cognate with the identical Germanic word.
Earlier (1610s) it was the name for a kind of pear deemed especially luscious; in this sense the word is ultimately a Romanic folk-etymologization of Turkish beg-armudi "prince's pear" or "prince of pears," influenced in form by the place-name (probably not directly from the town name, because it is on the opposite end of the peninsula from where the pear grows). Also used of garden plants of the mint order with a smell like that of oil of bergamot (1843).
U.S. name for a variety of pear, 1835, named for Enoch Bartlett, who first distributed them in the U.S. The quotation collection is named for U.S. bookstore owner John Bartlett of Cambridge, Massachusetts, who first printed his "A Collection of Familiar Quotations" in 1855.
c. 1300, transitive, "to stop the breath by preventing air from entering the windpipe;" late 14c., "to make to suffocate, deprive of the power of drawing breath," of persons as well as swallowed objects; a shortening of acheken (c. 1200), from Old English aceocian "to choke, suffocate," probably from root of ceoke "jaw, cheek" (see cheek (n.)), with intensive a-.
Intransitive sense from c. 1400. Meaning "gasp for breath" is from early 15c. Figurative use from c. 1400, in early use often with reference to weeds stifling the growth of useful plants (a Biblical image). Meaning "to fail in the clutch" is attested by 1976, American English. Related: Choked; choking.
The North American choke-cherry (1785) supposedly was so called for its astringent qualities: compare choke-apple "crab-apple" (1610s); and choke-pear (1530s) "kind of pear with an astringent taste" (also with a figurative sense, defined by Johnson as "Any aspersion or sarcasm, by which another person is put to silence)." Choked up "overcome with emotion and unable to speak" is attested by 1896. The baseball batting sense is by 1907.
edible, oily fruit of a tree common in the American tropics, 1763, from Spanish avocado, altered (by folk etymology influence of earlier Spanish avocado "lawyer," from same Latin source as advocate (n.)) from earlier aguacate, from Nahuatl (Aztecan) ahuakatl "avocado" (with a secondary meaning "testicle" probably based on resemblance), from proto-Nahuan *pawa "avocado."
As a color-name, it is attested by 1945. The English corruption alligator (pear) is 1763, from Mexican Spanish alvacata, alligato.