Etymology
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rail (v.2)

"fence in or enclose with rails," late 14c., railen, from rail (n.1). Related: Railed; railing.

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rail (n.2)

"small wading bird," mid-15c., rale, from Old French raale (13c.), related to râler "to rattle," which is of unknown origin, perhaps imitative; the bird would be so called for its cry.

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railhead (n.)

"furthest point reached by a railroad," by 1887, from rail (n.1) + head (n.).

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railing (n.)

late 14c., "the attaching (of a plant, vine, etc.) to a prop or stake;" early 15c., "construction in which rails form an important part," verbal noun from rail (v.2). Technically, railings (late 15c.) are horizontal, palings are vertical.

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raillery (n.)

"good-humored ridicule," 1650s, from rail (v.1) + -ery, or perhaps from French raillerie, from railler "to tease."

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railroad (v.)

"to convict quickly and perhaps unjustly," 1873, American English, from railroad (n.) as the then-fastest form of travel.

A person knowing more than might be desirable of the affairs, or perhaps the previous life of some powerful individual, high in authority, might some day ventilate his knowledge, possibly before a court of justice; but if his wisdom is railroaded to State's prison, his evidence becomes harmless. ["Wanderings of a Vagabond," New York, 1873]

Related: Railroaded; railroading. An earlier verb sense was "to have a mania for building railroads" (1847).

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railroad (n.)

1757, from rail (n.1) + road. Originally "road laid with rails for heavy wagons" in mining operations. The process itself (but not the word) seems to have been in use by late 17c. Application to passenger and freight trains dates from 1825, tending to be replaced in this sense in England by railway.

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railroading (n.)

1841, "business of making or running railways;" 1842, "travel by rail," from railroad (n.).

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rail-splitter (n.)

"one who splits logs in rails for making a rail fence," 1853, from rail (n.1) + agent noun from split (v.). Usually with reference to or suggestion of U.S. president Abraham Lincoln, as it figured in his political biography.

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railway (n.)

1812 in the modern sense, from rail (n.1) + way (n.). Also compare railroad (n.). Earlier used of any sort of road on which rails (originally wooden) were laid for easier transport (1776).

Rude railway-trains, with all your noise and smoke,
I love to see you wheresoe'er ye move :
Though Nature seems such trespass to reprove :
Though ye the soul of old romance provoke,
I thank you, that from misery ye unyoke
Thousands of panting horses.
[Richard Howitt, from "Railway Sonnets," Hood's Magazine, March 1845]

Railway time "standard time adopted throughout a railway system" is by 1847.

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