a Latin phrase from Cicero. It means "to whom for a benefit," or "who profits by it?" not "to what good purpose? for what use or end?" as is sometimes said. From cui "to? for whom?," an old form preserved here in the dative form of the interrogative pronoun quis "who?" (from PIE root *kwo-, stem of relative and interrogative pronouns) + bono "good" (see bene-).
mid-15c. (late 13c. in Anglo-French), "royal writ to determine by what warrant a person holds an office or franchise," a Medieval Latin legal phrase, literally "by what warrant," from quo "from, with, or by whom or what?," ablative of the interrogative pronoun quis "who?" (from PIE root *kwo-, stem of relative and interrogative pronouns). Also see warrant (n.).
"peep show contained in a box," 1680s, so called "in imitation of the foreign way of pronouncing rare show" [Johnson]. "Johnson's statement is prob. correct; the early exhibitors of peep-shows appear to have been usually Savoyards, from whom the form was no doubt adopted" [OED]. Compare German raritäten-kabinet "cabinet of curiosities or rarities." Early peep shows were more innocent than what usually was meant later by that term.
1726, in on the qui vive "on the alert," from French être sur le qui vive "be on the alert," from the phrase qui voulez-vous qui vive? sentinel's challenge, "whom do you wish to live?" In other words "(long) live who?" meaning "whose side are you on?" (The answer might be Vive la France, Vive le roi, etc.). From qui (from Latin qui "who") + vive, third person singular present subjunctive of vivre, from Latin vivere "to live" (see viva).
symbol of artistic or intellectual aloofness, by 1889, from French tour d'ivoire, used in 1837 by critic Charles-Augustin Sainte-Beuve (1804-1869) with reference to the poet Alfred de Vigny (1797-1863), whom he accused of excessive aloofness.
Et Vigny, plus secret, comme en sa tour d'ivoire, avant midi rentrait. [Sainte-Beuve, "Pensées d'Août, à M. Villemain," 1837]
Used earlier as a type of a wonder or a symbol of "the ideal." The literal image is perhaps from Song of Solomon [vii:4]:
Thy neck is as a tower of ivory; thine eyes like the fishpools in Heshbon, by the gate of Bathrabbim: thy nose is as the tower of Lebanon which looketh toward Damascus. [KJV]
1824, originally in African-American vernacular in the South.
The slaves themselves entertain the very highest contempt for white servants, whom they designate as 'poor white trash.' [Fanny Kemble, journal, Jan. 6, 1833]
[T]he term [poor white] is rather loosely applied by Northern writers even to mountaineers and to small farmers who live on a precarious footing. But in the Southern conception, not everyone who is both poor and white is a "poor white." To the Southerner, the "poor white" in the strictest sense is a being beyond the pale of even the most generous democratic recognition; in the negro's term, "po' white trash," or so much social débris. [Robert Penn Warren, "The Briar Patch," 1930, footnote]
1824; said to have been given as a toast by Sir William Curtis (1752-1829), a beloved lord mayor of London in the 1820s, who seems to have been a figure of fun to whom many mangled phrases were attributed. Among the toasts he is alleged to have given at public dinners were "The Female Ladies of London;" "The three C's—Cox, King, and Curtis;" and "The three R's—Reading, Writing, and Rithmetic."
It has been very much the fashion amongst a class of persons to attribute to Sir W. C. ... a vulgarity and ignorance of speech which are by no means consistent with his character and conduct. The worthy and hospitable baronet has a rapid mode of speech, but it is always correct ; and although some eccentricities are mixed up in his composition, he is highly honourable, and has been a very useful member of society, particularly to his London constituents. [The Mirror, Jan. 29, 1825]
After listing some examples, the article continues:
It is, however, very certain, that at a city festival some years ago, having indulged very freely, he fell asleep, when some wag, choosing to consider him dead, wrote his epitaph, which was found next morning pinned to the baronet's dress coat:—
"Here lies the great Curtis,
Of London, Lord May'r:
He's left this here world,
And gone to that there."