late Old English, "the bony structure of the body; bones of the body collectively," plural of bone (n.). Extended sense "basic outline or framework" (of a plot, etc.) is from 1888. As a colloquial way to say "dice," it is attested from late 14c. (dice anciently were made from the knucklebones of animals). As a nickname for "a surgeon," it dates to 1887, short for sawbones. Figurative make bones about "be unable to swallow" (mid-15c.) refers to fish bones found in soup, etc. To feel something in (one's) bones "have a presentiment" is 1867, American English. From 1590s as "pieces of bone or ivory struck or rattled to accompany music," hence the nickname Bones for one of the end-men in a minstrel ensemble.