Etymology
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thimble (n.)
Old English þymel "sheath or covering for the thumb," from thuma (see thumb (n.)) + instrumental suffix -el (1), used in forming names of tools (compare handle (n.)). The unetymological -b- appears mid-15c. (compare humble, nimble, etc.). Originally of leather, metal ones came into use 17c. Related: Thimbleful. Thimblerig, con game played with three thimbles and a pea or button, is attested from 1825 by this name, though references to thimble cheats, probably the same swindle, date back to 1716 (see rig (v.)).
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spindle (n.)
early 13c., with unetymological -d-, from Old English spinel "small wooden bar used in hand-spinning," properly "an instrument for spinning," from stem of spinnan (see spin (v.)) + instrumental suffix -el (1). Compare handle, thimble, etc.

Related to Old Saxon spinnila, Old Frisian spindel, Old High German spinnila, German Spindel. As a type of something slender, it is attested from 1570s. As with distaff, sometimes formerly used as a metonym for "the female sex," as in Old English spinelhealf "female line of descent," distinguished from sperehealf "male line of descent."
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handle (n.)
Old English handle "a handle" (plural handla), formed from hand (n.) with instrumental suffix -el (1) indicating a tool in the way thimble was formed from thumb, spindle from spin, spindle from spin, ladle from lade, etc. The slang sense of "nickname" is first recorded 1870, originally U.S., from earlier expressions about adding a handle to (one's) name (1833), that is, a title such as Mister or Sir. To fly off the handle (1833) is a figurative reference to an ax head (to be off the handle "be excited" is recorded from 1825, American English). To get a handle on "get control of" is recorded by 1919.
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foxglove (n.)
Old English foxes glofa, literally "fox's glove." The flower shape is that of the finger of a glove (compare German Fingerhut "foxglove," literally "thimble," the source of digitalis). The reason for fox is lost in the mute past of English herb-lore. Compare Old English plant names foxesfot ("fox's foot") "xiphion;" foxesclate ("fox's bur") "burdock."
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jeep (n.)
early 1941, American English military slang, acronym from G.P., abbreviation of General Purpose (car), but certainly influenced by Eugene the Jeep (who had extraordinary powers but said only "jeep"), from E.C. Segar's comic strip "Thimble Theater" (home of Popeye the Sailor). Eugene the Jeep first appeared in the strip March 13, 1936. The vehicle was in development from 1940, and the Army planners' initial term for it was light reconnaissance and command car.
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digitalis (n.)

species of tall herbs native to Europe and western Asia, 1660s, a Modern Latin translation of German fingerhut, the German name of the plant, a transferred use of the German word for "thimble," literally "finger-hat," the plant so called for the bell-shape of the flowers. Compare the English name, foxglove. The Latin name was given by Fuchs (1542). The medicine (originally extracted from the plant) is so called from 1799.

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pencil (n.)
Origin and meaning of pencil

mid-14c., pencel, "an artist's small, fine brush of camel hair," used for painting, manuscript illustration, etc., from Old French pincel "artist's paintbrush" (13c., Modern French pinceau) and directly from Medieval Latin pincellus, from Latin penicillus "painter's brush, hair-pencil," literally "little tail," diminutive of peniculus "brush," itself a diminutive of penis "tail" (see penis).

Small brushes formerly were used for writing before modern lead or chalk pencils. Sticks of pure graphite (commonly known as black lead) were used for marking things in England from the mid-16c., and the wooden enclosure for them was developed in the same century on the Continent. This seems to have been the time the word pencil was transferred from a type of brush to "graphite writing implement." The modern clay-graphite mix was developed early 19c., and pencils of this sort were mass-produced from mid-19c. Hymen L. Lipman of Philadelphia obtained a patent for the pencil with an attached eraser in 1858.

Derogatory slang pencil-pusher "office worker" is from 1881 (pen-driver, jocular for "clerk, writer," is from 1820); pencil neck "weak person" first recorded 1973. Pencil-sharpener as a mechanical device for putting the point on a lead pencil is by 1854.

And here is a new and serviceable invention—a pencil sharpener. It is just the thing to carry in the pocket, being no larger than a lady's thimble. It sharpens a lead pencil neatly and splendidly, by means of a small blade fitted in a cap, which is turned upon the end of a pencil. A patent has been applied for. Made by Mr. W. K. Foster, of Bangor. ["The Portland Transcript," Portland, Maine, Sept. 30, 1854]
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goon (n.)

1921, in U.S. humorist Frederick J. Allen's piece "The Goon and His Style" (Harper's Monthly Magazine, December 1921), which defines it as "a person with a heavy touch," one who lacks "a playful mind;" perhaps a made-up word, or from gony "simpleton" (1580s), which was applied by sailors to the albatross and similar big, clumsy birds. Goons were contrasted with jiggers, and the columns about them had some currency in U.S. newspapers c. 1921-25.

A goon is a person with a heavy touch as distinguished from a jigger, who has a light touch. ... Most Germans are goons; most French jiggers. ["A 'Goon' and His Style," in Lincoln State Journal, Dec. 9, 1921]

The word turns up in various places early 20c.: As a mythical monster in a children's serialized story in the U.S. from 1904, as the name of a professional wrestler in North Carolina in 1935. The goons were characters in the "Thimble Theater" comic strip (starring Popeye) by U.S. cartoonist E.C. Segar (1894-1938); they appeared in Segar's strips from mid-1930s and, though they reportedly gave children nightmares, enjoyed a burst of popularity when they appeared in animated cartoons in 1938.

The most famous was Alice the Goon, slow-witted and muscular (but gentle-natured) character who began as the Sea Hag's assistant. Segar might have got the word directly from sailors' jargon.

Later 20c. senses of the word all probably stem from this: Sense of "hired thug" is first recorded 1938 (in reference to union "beef squads" used to cow strikers in the Pacific Northwest). She also was the inspiration for British comedian Spike Milligan's "The Goon Show." Also used among American and British POWs in World War II in reference to their German guards. What are now "juvenile delinquents" were in the 1940s sometimes called goonlets.

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