late 14c., "depending upon circumstances, not predictable with certainty, provisionally liable to exist," from Old French contingent or directly from Latin contingentem (nominative contingens) "happening; touching," in Medieval Latin "possible, contingent," present participle of contingere "to happen to one, befall, come to pass," originally "to touch" (see contact (v.)).
Meaning "not existing or occurring through necessity, happening by chance, accidental" is from 1610s. The noun is from 1540s, "thing happening by chance or by the will of a finite free agent;" as "a group forming part of a larger group" from 1727, originally especially "share of troops to be furnished by a power in a treaty or alliance," on the notion of "that which falls to one in a division or apportionment among a number."
To be in the ballpark in the figurative sense of "within an acceptable range of approximation" is first recorded 1954, originally in the jargon of atomic weapons scientists, perhaps referring to the area within which a missile was expected to return to earth; the idea is broad but reasonably predictable dimensions. Hence ballpark (adj.) "approximate" (1967), of figures, etc.
The result, according to the author's estimate, is a stockpile equivalent to one billion tons of TNT. Assuming this estimate is "in the ball park," clearly there is valid reason for urging candor on the part of our government. [Ralph E. Lapp, "Atomic Candor," in Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists, October 1954]
c. 1400, reguler, "belonging to or subject to a religious or monastic rule," from Old French reguler "ecclesiastical" (Modern French régulier) and directly from Late Latin regularis "containing rules for guidance," from Latin regula "rule, straight piece of wood" (from PIE root *reg- "move in a straight line"). The classical -a- was restored 16c.
In earliest use, the opposite of secular. Extended from late 16c. to shapes, verbs, etc., that followed predictable, proper, or uniform patterns. From 1590s as "marked or distinguished by steadiness or uniformity in action or practice;" hence, of persons, "pursuing a definite course, observing a universal principle in action or conduct" (c. 1600).
The sense of "normal, conformed or conforming to established customs" is from 1630s. The meaning "orderly, well-behaved" is from 1705. By 1756 as "recurring at repeated or fixed times," especially at short, uniform intervals. The military sense of "properly and permanently organized, constituting part of a standing army" is by 1706. The colloquial meaning "real, genuine, thorough" is from 1821.
Old English borrowed Latin regula and nativized it as regol "rule, regulation, canon, law, standard, pattern;" hence regolsticca "ruler" (instrument); regollic (adj.) "canonical, regular."
one of the most etymologically complex of English place names, it illustrates the changes wrought in Old English words by Anglo-French scribes who could not pronounce them. Recorded 1016 as Scrobbesbyrig, it originally may have meant "the fortified place in (a district called) The Scrub." The initial consonant cluster was impossible for the scribes, who simplified it to sr-, then added a vowel (sar-) to make it easier still.
The name also changed due to Anglo-French loss or metathesis of liquids in words containing -l-, -n-, or -r- (also evident in the derivatives of Old French Berengier "bear-spear" — Old High German Beringar — name of one of the paladins in the Charlemagne romances and a common given name in England 12c. and 13c., which has come down in surnames as Berringer, Bellanger, Benger, etc.). Thus Sarop- became Salop- and in the 12c. and 13c. the overwhelming spelling in government records was Salopesberie, which accounts for the abbreviation Salop for the modern county.
During all this, the Anglo-Saxon inhabitants (as opposed to the French scribes) still pronounced it properly, and regular sound evolutions probably produced a pronunciation something like Shrobesbury (which turns up on a 1327 patent roll). After a predictable -b- to -v- (a vowel in the Middle Ages) to -u- shift, the modern spelling begins to emerge 14c. and is fully established 15c. A Shrewsbury clock (1 Hen. IV) for some reason, became proverbial for exactness, and thus, naturally, proverbial as indicating exaggeration of accuracy.