1839, a trade name for a type of woolen fabric:
MICHAEL NOWAK, alias John Mazurkiewiez, was indicted for stealing on the 15th of April 2 ¼ yards of woollen cloth, called tweed, value 12s., and 2 ¼ yards of woollen cloth, called doe skin, value 17s., the goods of George Priestley Heap. [London Central Criminal Court minutes of evidence from 1839]
This apparently developed from the "Tweed Fishing or Travelling Trousers" advertised in numerous publications from 1834-1838 by the clothing house of Doudney & Son, 49 Lombard Street.
So celebrated has amateur rod-fishing in the Tweed become, that the proper costume of the sportsman has now become an object of speculation among the London tailors, one of whom advertises among other articles of dress "Tweed Fishing Trousers." The anglers who have so long established their head-quarters at Kelso, for the purpose of enjoying the amusement of salmon fishing in the Tweed, have had excellent sport lately : some of the most skilful having caught five or six salmon a day, weighing from six to fourteen pounds each. [New Sporting Magazine, June 1837]
Thus ultimately named for the River Tweed in Scotland. The place name has not been explained, and it is perhaps pre-Celtic and non-Indo-European.
surname, later masc. proper name, attested from late 12c., from Maxwell, name of a town on the River Tweed on the Scottish borders (the name is probably "the well of Macc or Macca"). In physics, usually a reference to James Clerk Maxwell (1831-1879), as in Maxwell's demon (1879; as Maxwell's "intelligent demons" from 1874).
The definition of a "demon," according to the use of this word by Maxwell, is an intelligent being endowed with free will, and fine enough tactile and perceptive organisation to give him the faculty of observing and influencing individual molecules of matter. ["Nature," April 9, 1874]
early 15c., "eccentric circle or orbit," originally a term in Ptolemaic astronomy, "circle or orbit not having the Earth precisely at its center," from French eccentrique and directly from Medieval Latin eccentricus (noun and adjective), from Greek ekkentros "out of the center" (as opposed to concentric), from ek "out" (see ex-) + kentron "center" (see center (n.)). Meaning "odd or whimsical person" is attested by 1817 (S.W. Ryley, "The Itinerant, or Memoirs of an Actor").
June 4 .—Died in the streets in Newcastle, William Barron, an eccentric, well known for many years by the name of Billy Pea-pudding. [John Sykes, "Local Records, or Historical Register of Remarkable Events which have Occurred Exclusively in the Counties of Durham and Northumberland, Town and County of Newcastle Upon Tyne, and Berwick Upon Tweed," Newcastle, 1824]
As an adjective from c. 1300; as a noun, "one of the four cardinal points," also "southern region of a country," both late 13c. The Southern states of the U.S. have been collectively called The South since 1779 (in early use this often referred only to Georgia and South Carolina). South country in Britain means the part below the Tweed, in England the part below the Wash, and in Scotland the part below the Forth. South Sea meant "the Mediterranean" (late 14c.) and "the English Channel" (early 15c.) before it came to mean (in plural) "the South Pacific Ocean" (1520s). The nautical coat called a sou'wester (1836) protects the wearer against severe weather, such as a gale out of the southwest.
Old English norð- (in compounds) "northern, lying to the north" (adj.); norð (adv.) "northwards, to the north, in the north;" from Proto-Germanic *nurtha- (source also of Old Norse norðr, Old Saxon north, Old Frisian north, Middle Dutch nort, Dutch noord, German nord), which is probably an IE word, but of uncertain origin.
It might be ultimately from PIE *ner- (1) "left," also "below" (source also of Sanskrit narakah "hell," Greek neretos "deeper, lower down," enerthen "from beneath," Oscan-Umbrian nertrak "left"), as north is to the left when one faces the rising sun. The same notion apparently underlies Old Irish tuath "left; northern;" Arabic shamal "left hand; north." Compare Benjamin. Or perhaps the notion is that the sun is at its "lowest" point when in the north.
The usual word for "north" in the Romance languages ultimately is from English: Old French north (Modern French nord), borrowed from Old English norð; and Italian nord, Spanish norte, borrowed from French.
As a noun, "the northern cardinal point or direction," late 12c., from the adjective. From c. 1200 as "the north part of Britain, the region beyond the Humber." Generally, then "a region lying north of some other region." In U.S. history, "the states and territories north of Maryland and the Ohio River" (by 1796).
The geographical North Pole is attested from mid-15c. (earlier the Arctic pole, late 14c.; north pole in astronomy for "the fixed zenith of the celestial sphere" is from late 14c.). North American (n.) was used in 1766 by Franklin; as an adjective from 1770.
Ask where's the North? At York 'tis on the Tweed;
In Scotland at the Orcades; and there
At Greenland, Zembla, or the Lord knows where.
[Pope, "Essay on Man"]