Words related to *kaput-
early 14c., "to perform, execute, accomplish;" late 14c., "gain as a result of effort," from Old French achever (12c.) "to finish, accomplish, complete," from phrase à chef (venir) "at an end, finished," or Vulgar Latin *accapare, from Late Latin ad caput (venire); both the French and Late Latin phrases meaning literally "to come to a head," from ad "to" (see ad-) + stem of Latin caput "head" (from PIE root *kaput- "head").
The Lat. caput, towards the end of the Empire, and in Merov[ingian] times, took the sense of an end, whence the phrase ad caput venire, in the sense of to come to an end .... Venire ad caput naturally produced the Fr. phrase venir à chef = venir à bout. ... From this chief, O.Fr. form of chef (q.v.) in sense of term, end, comes the Fr. compd. achever = venir à chef, to end, finish. [Auguste Brachet, "An Etymological Dictionary of the French Language," transl. G.W. Kitchin, Oxford, 1878]
Related: Achieved; achieving.
The decline of "ch" to "j" in the unaccented final syllable parallels the common pronunciation of spinach, sandwich, Greenwich, etc. The comparison of a head of cabbage to the head of a person (usually disparaging to the latter) is at least as old as Old French cabus "(head of) cabbage; nitwit, blockhead," from Italian capocchia, diminutive of capo. The cabbage-butterfly (1816) is so called because its caterpillars feed on cabbages and other cruciferous plants.
c. 1610, "younger son or brother;" 1650s, "gentleman entering the military as a profession;" from French cadet "military student officer," noun use of adjective, "younger" (15c.), from Gascon capdet "captain, chief, youth of a noble family," from Medieval Latin capitellum, "little chief," literally "little head" (hence, "inferior head of a family"), diminutive of Latin caput "head" (from PIE root *kaput- "head").
"The eldest son being regarded as the first head of the family, the second son the cadet, or little head" [Kitchin]. Younger sons from noble families were sent to French court to serve as officers, without rising through the ranks or attending military school, after being attached to a corps without pay and enjoying certain privileges. This gave the word its military meaning "accepted candidate for a commission who is undergoing training to become an officer." Meaning "student at a military college" is from 1775.
late Old English cæppe "hood, head-covering, cape," a general Germanic borrowing (compare Old Frisian and Middle Dutch kappe, Old High German chappa) from Late Latin cappa "a cape, hooded cloak" (source of Spanish capa, Old North French cape, French chape), a word of uncertain origin. Possibly a shortened from capitulare "headdress," from Latin caput "head" (from PIE root *kaput- "head").
The Late Latin word apparently originally meant "a woman's head-covering," but the sense was transferred to "hood of a cloak," then to "cloak" itself, though the various senses co-existed. Old English took in two forms of the Late Latin word, one meaning "head-covering," the other "ecclesiastical dress" (see cape (n.1)). In most Romance languages, a diminutive of Late Latin cappa has become the usual word for "head-covering" (such as French chapeau).
Meaning "soft, small, close-fitted head covering" in English is from early 13c., originally for women; extended to men late 14c. Extended to cap-like coverings on the ends of anything (such as hubcap) from mid-15c. Meaning "contraceptive device" is first recorded 1916.
Meaning "cap-shaped piece of copper lined with gunpowder and used to ignite a firearm" is by 1825, hence cap-gun (1855); extended to paper version used in toy pistols, 1872 (cap-pistol is from 1879).
Figurative thinking cap is from 1839 (considering cap is 1650s). Cap and bells (1781) was the insignia of a fool; cap and gown (1732) of a scholar. To set one's cap at or for (1773) means "use measures to gain the regard or affection of," usually in reference to a woman seeking a man's courtship.