Etymology
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blow (v.1)

"move air, produce a current of air," Middle English blouen, from Old English blawan "to blow (of the wind, bellows, etc.), breathe, make an air current; kindle; inflate; sound" a wind instrument (class VII strong verb; past tense bleow, past participle blawen), from Proto-Germanic *blæ-anan (source of Old High German blaen, German blähen), from PIE root *bhle- "to blow."

The transitive sense of "carry by a wind or current of air" is from c. 1300; that of "fill with air, inflate" is from late 14c. Of noses, from 1530s; of electrical fuses, from 1902. The meaning "to squander" (money) is from 1874; that of "lose or bungle" (an opportunity, etc.) is by 1943. The sense of "depart (some place) suddenly" is from 1902.

As a colloquial imprecation by 1781, associated with sailors (as in Popeye's "well, blow me down!"); it has past participle blowed.

To blow (a candle, etc.) out "extinguish by a current of air" is from late 14c. To blow over "pass" is from 1610s, originally of storms. To blow hot and cold "vacillate" is from 1570s. To blow off steam (1837) is a figurative use from steam engines releasing pressure. Slang blow (someone or something) off "dismiss, ignore" is by 1986. To blow (someone's) mind was in use by 1967; there is a song title "Blow Your Mind" released in a 1965 Mirawood recording by a group called The Gas Company.

 For the sexual sense, see blow-job

blow (v.2)

"to bloom, blossom, put forth flowers" (intransitive), from Old English blowan "to flower, blossom, flourish," from Proto-Germanic *blæ- (source also of Old Saxon bloian, Old Frisian bloia, Middle Dutch and Dutch bloeien, Old High German bluoen, German blühen), from PIE root *bhel- (3) "to thrive, bloom." This verb is the source of the blown in full-blown. The figurative sense of "attain perfection" is from c. 1600.

blow (n.1)

"a hard hit (with a fist)," mid-15c., blaw, blowe, from northern and East Midlands dialects, perhaps from Middle Dutch blouwen "to beat," or an unrecorded Old English cognate. The ordinary Old English word for "to strike" was slean (see slay (v.)). A common Germanic word; compare German bleuen, Gothic bliggwan "to strike."

Influenced in English by blow (v.1). The figurative sense of "a sudden shock or calamity" is from 1670s. To come to blows "engage in combat" is from 1650s (fall to blows is from 1590s). In reference to descriptions or accounts, blow-by-blow is recorded from 1921, American English, originally of detailed accounts in prize-fight broadcasts.

LIKE a hungry kitten loves its saucer of warm milk, so do radio fans joyfully listen to the blow-by-blow broadcast description of a boxing bout. [The Wireless Age, December 1922]

blow (n.2)

"a blowing, a blast of wind," c. 1500, from blow (v.1).

updated on October 17, 2022

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