Proto-Indo-European root forming words meaning "to turn, bend."
It forms all or part of: adverse; anniversary; avert; awry; controversy; converge; converse (adj.) "exact opposite;" convert; diverge; divert; evert; extroversion; extrovert; gaiter; introrse; introvert; invert; inward; malversation; obverse; peevish; pervert; prose; raphe; reverberate; revert; rhabdomancy; rhapsody; rhombus; ribald; sinistrorse; stalwart; subvert; tergiversate; transverse; universe; verbena; verge (v.1) "tend, incline;" vermeil; vermicelli; vermicular; vermiform; vermin; versatile; verse (n.) "poetry;" version; verst; versus; vertebra; vertex; vertigo; vervain; vortex; -ward; warp; weird; worm; worry; worth (adj.) "significant, valuable, of value;" worth (v.) "to come to be;" wrangle; wrap; wrath; wreath; wrench; wrest; wrestle; wriggle; wring; wrinkle; wrist; writhe; wrong; wroth; wry.
It is the hypothetical source of/evidence for its existence is provided by: Sanskrit vartate "turns round, rolls;" Avestan varet- "to turn;" Hittite hurki- "wheel;" Greek rhatane "stirrer, ladle;" Latin vertere (frequentative versare) "to turn, turn back, be turned; convert, transform, translate; be changed," versus "turned toward or against;" Old Church Slavonic vrŭteti "to turn, roll," Russian vreteno "spindle, distaff;" Lithuanian verčiu, versti "to turn;" German werden, Old English weorðan "to become;" Old English -weard "toward," originally "turned toward," weorthan "to befall," wyrd "fate, destiny," literally "what befalls one;" Welsh gwerthyd "spindle, distaff;" Old Irish frith "against."
also catawampous, cattywampus, catiwampus, etc. (see "Dictionary of American Slang" for more), American colloquial. The first element perhaps is from obsolete cater "to set or move diagonally" (see catty-cornered); the second element perhaps is related to Scottish wampish "to wriggle, twist, or swerve about." Or perhaps the whole is simply the sort of jocular pseudo-classical formation popular in the slang of the times, with the first element suggesting cata-.
Earliest use seems to be in adverbial form, catawampusly (1834), expressing no certain meaning but adding intensity to the action: "utterly, completely; with avidity, fiercely, eagerly." It appears as a noun from 1843, as a name for an imaginary hobgoblin or fright, perhaps from influence of catamount. The adjective is attested from the 1840s as an intensive, but this is only in British lampoons of American speech and might not be authentic. It was used in the U.S. by 1864 in a sense of "askew, awry, wrong" and by 1873 (noted as a peculiarity of North Carolina speech) as "in a diagonal position, on a bias, crooked."
also bellydance, 1883, in a British account of travels in Persia, from belly (n.) + dance (n.). In early use sometimes referred to by the French danse du ventre, which is attested by 1872 in French accounts from the Middle East. It appears as a French term in English by 1883, and its use got a boost from the performances of it at the Paris Exposition of 1889.
We agreed, and made our way to the mimic street called Grand Cairo, where we witnessed the lady contortionist who performs a series of movements, designated with charming frankness on the affiches as "La Danse du Ventre." It might with equal candor be called the Lumbar Wriggle [or] the Pectoral Squirm, for this curious Arab almeh possesses the power of moving any one of her principal sets of muscles quite independently of all the others, and can make any prominent part of her person waggle or surge, while its neighboring lines or curves preserve a statuesque rigidity. [Table Talk, September 1889]
The number of women [in the audience] was ludicrously disproportionate, and the number of American women was noticeable. Some of them seemed slightly pensive, but all were interested. Their large eyes grew larger still. They almost forgot decorum in crowding for a better view, in leaning over the backs of chairs in concentrated absorbed attention. [Scribner's Magazine, January 1890]
The English noun is perhaps a direct translation of the French. As a verb from 1963. Related: Belly-dancer (1922); belly-dancing (n.), 1921.