Etymology
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fin de siecle (adj.)

1890, from French fin de siècle "end of century," phrase used as an adjective. At the time it meant "modern;" now it means "from the 1890s." "App. first in title of a comedy, Paris fin de siècle, produced at the Gymnase, Feb. 1890" [Weekley]. French siècle "century, age" is from Latin saeculum "age, span of time, generation" (see secular).

No proof is needed of the extreme silliness of the term. Only the brain of a child or of a savage could form the clumsy idea that the century is a kind of living being, born like a beast or a man, passing through all the stages of existence, gradually ageing and declining after blooming childhood, joyous youth, and vigorous maturity, to die with the expiration of the hundredth year, after being afflicted in its last decade with all the infirmities of mournful senility. [Max Nordau, "Degeneration," English translation, 1895]
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century (n.)

1530s, "one hundred" (of anything), from Latin centuria "group of one hundred" of things of one kind (including a measure of land and a division of the Roman army, one-sixteenth of a legion, headed by a centurion), from centum "hundred" (see hundred) on analogy of decuria "a company of ten."

Used in Middle English from late 14c. as a division of land, from Roman use. The Modern English meaning "period of 100 years," reckoned from any starting point, is attested from 1650s, short for century of years (1620s). Latin centuria was not used in the sense "one hundred years," for which saeculum was the word (see secular). The older, general sense is preserved in the meaning "score of 100 points" in cricket and some other sports. The century-plant (American aloe), 1843, was believed to bloom only after a century of growth.

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secular (adj.)
Origin and meaning of secular

c. 1300, "living in the world, not belonging to a religious order," also "belonging to the state," from Old French seculer (Modern French séculier), from Late Latin saecularis "worldly, secular, pertaining to a generation or age," from Latin saecularis "of an age, occurring once in an age," from saeculum "age, span of time, lifetime, generation, breed."

This is from Proto-Italic *sai-tlo-, which, according to Watkins, is PIE instrumental element *-tlo- + *sai- "to bind, tie" (see sinew), extended metaphorically to successive human generations as links in the chain of life. De Vaan lists as a cognate Welsh hoedl "lifespan, age." An older theory connected it to words for "seed," from PIE root *se- "to sow" (see sow (v.), and compare Gothic mana-seþs "mankind, world," literally "seed of men").

Used in ecclesiastical writing like Greek aiōn "of this world" (see cosmos). It is source of French siècle. Ancient Roman ludi saeculares was a three-day, day-and-night celebration coming once in an "age" (120 years). In English, in reference to humanism and the exclusion of belief in God from matters of ethics and morality, from 1850s.

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world (n.)

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.

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