early 15c., from Old French vipere, earlier in English as vipera (c. 1200), directly from Latin vipera "viper, snake, serpent," contraction of *vivipera, from vivus "alive, living" (from PIE root *gwei- "to live") + parire "bring forth, bear" (from PIE root *pere- (1) "to produce, bring forth"). In common with many snake species in cooler climates, in most cases the viper's eggs are kept inside the mother until hatching.
Applied to persons of spiteful character at least since 1590s. The only venomous snake found in Great Britain, but not especially dangerous. The word replaced native adder. "The flesh of the viper was formerly regarded as possessing great nutritive or restorative properties, and was frequently used medicinally" [OED]; hence viper-wine, wine medicated with some kind of extract from vipers, used 17c. by "gray-bearded gallants" in a bid "to feele new lust, and youthfull flames agin." [Massinger]
*perə-, Proto-Indo-European root meaning "to produce, procure" and yielding and derived words in diverse senses; possibly related to *pere- (2) "to grant, allot."
It forms all or part of: ante-partum; apparatus; apparel; biparous; disparate; emperor; empire; heifer; imperative; imperator; imperial; juniper; multiparous; nulliparous; oviparous; para- (2) "defense, protection against; that which protects from;" Parabellum; parachute; parade; parados; parapet; parasol; pare; parent; -parous; parry; parturient; poor; post-partum; preparation; prepare; primipara; puerperal; rampart; repair (v.1) "to mend, put back in order;" repertory; separate; sever; several; spar (v.); viper; vituperation; viviparous.
It is the hypothetical source of/evidence for its existence is provided by: Sanskrit prthukah "child, calf, young of an animal;" Greek poris "calf, bull;" Latin parare "make ready, prepare," parire "produce, bring forth, give birth to;" Czech spratek "brat, urchin, premature calf;" Lithuanian periu, perėti "to brood;" Old High German farro, German Farre "bullock," Old English fearr "bull."
It forms all or part of: abiogenesis; aerobic; amphibian; anaerobic; azo-; azoic; azotemia; bio-; biography; biology; biome; bionics; biopsy; biota; biotic; cenobite; Cenozoic; convivial; couch-grass; epizoic; epizoon; epizootic; macrobiotic; Mesozoic; microbe; Protozoa; protozoic; quick; quicken; quicksand; quicksilver; quiver (v.) "to tremble;" revive; survive; symbiosis; viable; viand; viper; vita; vital; vitamin; victuals; viva; vivace; vivacious; vivarium; vivid; vivify; viviparous; vivisection; whiskey; wyvern; zodiac; Zoe; zoetrope; zoic; zoo-; zoolatry; zoology; zoon; zoophilia; zoophobia; zooplankton.
It is the hypothetical source of/evidence for its existence is provided by: Sanskrit jivah "alive, living;" Old Persian *jivaka- "alive," Middle Persian zhiwak "alive;" Greek bios "one's life, course or way of living, lifetime," zoe "animal life, organic life;" Old English cwic, cwicu "living, alive;" Latin vivus "living, alive," vita "life;" Old Church Slavonic zivo "to live;" Lithuanian gyvas "living, alive," gyvata "(eternal) life;" Old Irish bethu "life," bith "age;" Welsh byd "world."
"very venomous snake of Egypt," 1520s, earlier aspis (mid-14c.), from Old French aspe "asp" (13c.) or directly from Latin aspidem (nominative aspis), from Greek aspis "an asp, Egyptian viper," literally "a round shield;" the serpent so called probably in reference to its neck hood. As to the etymology of the Greek word, Beekes finds that "No remotely convincing suggestions have been made." The name was subsequently applied to the common vipers and adders of Europe, which however are only slightly venomous.
Since Middle English restricted to use as the common name of the viper, the only poisonous British reptile (not generally fatal to humans), then by extension applied to venomous or similar snakes elsewhere (puff-adder, etc.). The modern form represents a faulty separation 14c.-16c. of a nadder into an adder, for which see also apron, auger, nickname, orange, humble pie, aitchbone, umpire. Nedder is still a northern English dialect form. Folklore connection with deafness is via Psalms lviii.1-5. The adder is said to stop up its ears to avoid hearing the snake charmer called in to drive it away.
Australian egg-laying hedgehog-like mammal, 1810, said to have been named by Cuvier, usually explained as from Greek ekhidna "snake, viper" (also used metaphorically of a treacherous wife or friend), from ekhis "snake," from PIE *angwhi- "snake, eel" (source also of Norwegian igle, Old High German egala, German Egel "leech," Latin anguis "serpent, snake").
But this sense is difficult to reconcile with this animal (unless it is a reference to the ant-eating tongue). The name perhaps belongs to Latin echinus, Greek ekhinos "sea-urchin," originally "hedgehog" (in Greek also "sharp points"), which Watkins explains as "snake-eater," from ekhis "snake." The 1810 Encyclopaedia Britannica gives as the animal's alternative name "porcupine ant-eater." Or, more likely, the name refers to Echidna as the name of a serpent-nymph in Greek mythology, "a beautiful woman in the upper part of her body; but instead of legs and feet, she had from the waist downward, the form of a serpent," in which case the animal was so named for its mixed characteristics (early naturalists doubted whether it was mammal or amphibian).