Etymology
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puny (adj.)

1570s, "inferior in rank" (1540s as a noun, "junior pupil, freshman"), senses now obsolete, from French puisné (Modern French puîné), from Old French puisne "born later, younger, youngest" (12c., contrasted with aisné "first-born").

This is from puis nez, from puis "afterward" (from Vulgar Latin *postius, from Latin postea "after this, hereafter," from post "after," see post-, + ea "there") + Old French "born," from Latin natus, past participle of nasci "be born" (Old Latin gnasci; from PIE root *gene- "give birth, beget"). Compare puisne.

The sense of "small, weak, insignificant, imperfectly developed in size or strength" is recorded from 1590s. Related: Puniness.

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puisne (adj.)

"junior, younger; inferior in rank," c. 1300 in Anglo-Latin, from Old French puisné "born later, younger, youngest" (see puny). As a noun from 1590s, "a junior, an inferior," especially "a judge of inferior rank."

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*gene- 

*genə-, also *gen-, Proto-Indo-European root meaning "give birth, beget," with derivatives referring to procreation and familial and tribal groups.

It forms all or part of: Antigone; autogenous; benign; cognate; congener; congenial; congenital; connate; cosmogony; cryogenic; degenerate; engender; engine; epigone; eugenics; -gen; gendarme; gender; gene; genealogy; general; generate; generation; generic; generous; genesis; -genesis; genial; -genic; genital; genitive; genius; genocide; genotype; genre; gens; gent; genteel; gentile; gentle; gentry; genuine; genus; -geny; germ; german (adj.) "of the same parents or grandparents;" germane; germinal; germinate; germination; gingerly; gonad; gono-; gonorrhea; heterogeneous; homogeneous; homogenize; homogenous; impregnate; indigenous; ingenious; ingenuous; innate; jaunty; kermes; kin; kindergarten; kindred; king; kind (n.) "class, sort, variety;" kind (adj.) "friendly, deliberately doing good to others;" Kriss Kringle; malign; miscegenation; nada; naive; nascent; natal; Natalie; nation; native; nature; nee; neonate; Noel; oncogene; ontogeny; photogenic; phylogeny; pregnant (adj.1) "with child;" primogenitor; primogeniture; progenitor; progeny; puisne; puny; renaissance; theogony; wunderkind.

It is the hypothetical source of/evidence for its existence is provided by: Sanskrit janati "begets, bears," janah "offspring, child, person," janman- "birth, origin," jatah "born;" Avestan zizanenti "they bear;" Greek gignesthai "to become, happen," genos "race, kind," gonos "birth, offspring, stock;" Latin gignere "to beget," gnasci "to be born," genus (genitive generis) "race, stock, kind; family, birth, descent, origin," genius "procreative divinity, inborn tutelary spirit, innate quality," ingenium "inborn character," possibly germen "shoot, bud, embryo, germ;" Lithuanian gentis "kinsmen;" Gothic kuni "race;" Old English cennan "beget, create," gecynd "kind, nature, race;" Old High German kind "child;" Old Irish ro-genar "I was born;" Welsh geni "to be born;" Armenian cnanim "I bear, I am born."

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lordling (n.)
"puny or contemptible lord," late 13c., from lord (n.) + -ling.
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shrimp (n.)
early 14c., "slender, edible marine crustacean," probably from Old Norse skreppa "thin person," from Proto-Germanic *skrimp- (see scrimp). Related to Old English scrimman "to shrink;" the connecting notion is probably "thinness" (compare Danish dialectal skrimpe "thin cattle"). The meaning "puny person" in English is attested from late 14c.; an especially puny one might be a shrimplet (1680s).
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corpuscle (n.)

1650s, "any small particle," from Latin corpusculum "a puny body; an atom, particle," diminutive of corpus "body" (from PIE root *kwrep- "body, form, appearance"); for ending see -cule. In anatomy, "a microscopic body regarded by itself" (1741); applied to blood cells by 1845 (short for blood-corpuscle). Related: Corpuscular.

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caitiff (adj.)
c. 1300, "wicked, base, cowardly," from Old North French caitive "captive, miserable" (Old French chaitif, 12c., Modern French chétif "puny, sickly, poor, weak"), from Latin captivus "caught, taken prisoner," from captus, past participle of capere "to take, hold, seize," from PIE root *kap- "to grasp." Its doublet, captive, is a later, scholarly borrowing of the same word. In most Romance languages, it has acquired a pejorative sense (Spanish cautivo, Italian cattivo).
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America 

1507, "the western hemisphere, North and South America," in Cartographer Martin Waldseemüller's treatise "Cosmographiae Introductio," from Modern Latin Americanus, after Amerigo Vespucci (1454-1512) who made two trips to the New World as a navigator and claimed to have discovered it. His published works put forward the idea that it was a new continent, and he was first to call it Novus Mundus "New World." Amerigo is more easily Latinized than Vespucci (Latin Vesputius, which might have yielded place-name Vesputia). The sense in English naturally was restricted toward the British colonies, then the United States.

The man's name Amerigo is Germanic, said to derive from Gothic Amalrich, literally "work-ruler." The Old English form of the name has come down as surnames Emmerich, Emery, etc. The Italian fem. form merged into Amelia.

Colloquial pronunciation "Ameri-kay," not uncommon 19c., goes back to at least 1643 and a poem that rhymed the word with away. Amerika "U.S. society viewed as racist, fascist, oppressive, etc." is attested from 1969; the spelling is German but may also suggest the KKK.

It is a thousand pities that the puny witticisms of a few professional objectors should have the power to prevent, even for a year, the adoption of a name for our country. At present we have, clearly, none. There should be no hesitation about "Appalachia." In the first place, it is distinctive. "America" is not, and can never be made so. We may legislate as much as we please, and assume for our country whatever name we think right — but to use it will be no name, to any purpose for which a name is needed, unless we can take it away from the regions which employ it at present. South America is "America," and will insist upon remaining so. [Edgar Allan Poe, "Marginalia," in Graham's Magazine, Philadelphia, December 1846]
FREDONIA, FREDONIAN, FREDE, FREDISH, &c. &c. These extraordinary words, which have been deservedly ridiculed here as well as in England, were proposed sometime ago, and countenanced by two or three individuals, as names for the territory and people of the United States. The general term American is now commonly understood (at least in all places where the English language is spoken,) to mean an inhabitant of the United States; and is so employed, except where unusual precision of language is required. [John Pickering, "A Vocabulary, or Collection of Words and Phrases Which Have Been Supposed to be Peculiar to the United States of America," Boston, 1816]
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