Etymology
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I (pron.)

12c., a shortening of Old English ic, the first person singular nominative pronoun, from Proto-Germanic *ek (source also of Old Frisian ik, Old Norse ek, Norwegian eg, Danish jeg, Old High German ih, German ich, Gothic ik), from PIE *eg- "I," nominative form of the first person singular pronoun (source also of Sanskrit aham, Hittite uk, Latin ego (source of French Je), Greek ego, Russian ja, Lithuanian ).

Reduced to i by mid-12c. in northern England, later everywhere; the form ich or ik, especially before vowels, lingered in northern England until c. 1400 and survived in southern dialects until 18c. It began to be capitalized mid-13c. to mark it as a distinct word and avoid misreading in handwritten manuscripts.

The reason for writing I is ... the orthographic habit in the middle ages of using a 'long i' (that is, j or I) whenever the letter was isolated or formed the last letter of a group; the numeral 'one' was written j or I (and three iij, etc.), just as much as the pronoun. [Otto Jespersen, "Growth and Structure of the English Language," p.233]

The dot on the "small" letter -i- began to appear in 11c. Latin manuscripts to distinguish the letter from the stroke of another letter (such as -m- or -n-). Originally a diacritic, it was reduced to a dot with the introduction of Roman type fonts. The letter -y- also was written with a top dot in Old English and early Middle English, during the centuries when -i- tended to be written with a closed loop at the top and thus was almost indistinguishable from the lower-case thorn (þ). In names of U.S. highways (by 1966) it is short for Interstate (adj.).

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Riesling (n.)

wine variety originally best known from Alsace and the upper Rhine, 1833, from German Riesling (15c.), the name of the grape, a word of uncertain origin.

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Z 

not a native letter in Old English; in Anglo-French words it represents the "ts" sound (as in Anglo-French fiz, from Latin filius, modern Fitz); from late 13c. it began to be used for the voiced "s" sound and had fully taken that role by 1400. For letter name, see zed.

Thou whoreson Zed, thou vnnecessary Letter. ["King Lear," II.ii.69]

Series of zs to represent a buzzing sound first attested 1852; zees "spell of sleep, a nap" is slang first recorded 1963, American English student slang.

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Oneida 

Iroquois people of upper N.Y. state (they later moved in part to Wisconsin), 1660s, named for their principal settlement, the name of which is from Oneida onenyote', literally "erected stone," containing -neny- "stone" and -ot- "to stand."

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Hallstatt 

1866 in reference to an Iron Age civilization of Europe, from the name of a village in Upper Austria, where implements from this period were found. The Germanic name is literally "place of salt," in reference to ancient salt mines there, which preserved the bodies of the original miners.

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Sac 

central Algonquian people who lived near the upper Mississippi before the 1832 Black Hawk War, from French Canadian Saki, probably a shortened borrowing of Ojibwa (Algonquian) /osa:ki:/, literally "person of the outlet" (of the Saginaw River, which itself contains their name, and means literally "in the Sac country").

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H 

eighth letter of the alphabet; it comes from Phoenician, via Greek and Latin. In Phoenician it originally had a rough guttural sound like German Reich or Scottish loch. In Greek at first it had the value of Modern English -h-, and with this value it passed into the Latin alphabet via Greek colonies in Italy. Subsequently in Greek it came to be used for a long "e" sound; the "h" sound being indicated by a fragment of the letter, which later was reduced to the aspiration mark.

In Germanic it was used for the voiceless breath sound when at the beginning of words, and in the middle or at the end of words for the rough guttural sound, which later came to be written -gh.

The sound became totally silent in Vulgar Latin and in the languages that emerged from it; thus the letter was omitted in Old French and Italian, but it was restored pedantically in French and Middle English spelling, and often later in English pronunciation. Thus Modern English has words ultimately from Latin with missing -h- (able, from Latin habile); with a silent -h- (heir, hour); with a formerly silent -h- now often vocalized (humble, humor, herb); and even a few with an unetymological -h- fitted in confusion to words that never had one (hostage, hermit). Relics of the formerly unvoiced -h- persist in pedantic insistence on an historical (object) and in obsolete mine host.

The pronunciation "aitch" was in Old French (ache "name of the letter H"), and is from a presumed Late Latin *accha (compare Italian effe, elle, emme), with the central sound approximating the rough, guttural value of the letter in Germanic. In earlier Latin the letter was called ha. The use in digraphs (as in -sh-, -th-) goes back to the ancient Greek alphabet, which used it in -ph-, -th-, -kh- until -H- took on the value of a long "e" and the digraphs acquired their own characters. The letter passed into Roman use before this evolution, and thus retained there more of its original Semitic value.

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Mississippi 

originally the name of the river, from the French rendering of an Algonquian name (French missionaries first penetrated the river valley in its upper reaches) meaning "big river;" compare Ojibwa mshi- "big," ziibi "river." Organized as a U.S. territory 1798; admitted as a state 1817. Related: Mississippian (by 1775; as a geological period, by 1891).

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Seneca 

1610s, from Dutch Sennecas, collective name for the Iroquois tribes of what became upper New York, of uncertain origin, perhaps from a Mahican name for the Oneida or their village. Earlier sinnekens, senakees; the form of the English word probably was influenced by the name of the ancient Roman philosopher. The name sometimes was used by Americans for all the Iroquois.

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Waterloo (n.)

village near Brussels; the great battle there took place June 18, 1815; extended sense of "a final, crushing defeat" is first attested 1816 in letter of Lord Byron. The second element in the place name is from Flemish loo "sacred wood" (see lea (n.)).

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