Entries linking to center-field
late 14c., "middle point of a circle; point round which something revolves," from Old French centre (14c.), from Latin centrum "center," originally the fixed point of the two points of a drafting compass (hence "the center of a circle"), from Greek kentron "sharp point, goad, sting of a wasp," from kentein "stitch," from PIE root *kent- "to prick" (source also of Breton kentr "a spur," Welsh cethr "nail," Old High German hantag "sharp, pointed").
The spelling with -re was popularized in Britain by Johnson's dictionary (following Bailey's), though -er is older and was used by Shakespeare, Milton, and Pope. Meaning "the middle of anything" attested from 1590s. Figuratively, "point of concentration" (of power, etc.) is from 1680s. Political use, originally in reference to France, "representatives of moderate views" (between left and right) is from 1837. Center of gravity is recorded from 1650s. Center of attention is from 1868.
Old English feld "plain, pasture, open land, cultivated land" (as opposed to woodland), also "a parcel of land marked off and used for pasture or tillage," probably related to Old English folde "earth, land," from Proto-Germanic *felthan "flat land" (Cognates: Old Saxon and Old Frisian feld "field," Old Saxon folda "earth," Middle Dutch velt, Dutch veld Old High German felt, German Feld "field," but not found originally outside West Germanic; Swedish fält, Danish felt are borrowed from German; Finnish pelto "field" is believed to have been adapted from Proto-Germanic). This is from PIE *pel(e)-tu-, from root *pele- (2) "flat; to spread." The English spelling with -ie- probably is the work of Anglo-French scribes (compare brief, piece).
As "battle-ground," c. 1300. Meaning "sphere or range of any related things" is from mid-14c. Physics sense is from 1845. Collective use for "all engaged in a sport" (or, in horse-racing, all but the favorite) is 1742; play the field "avoid commitment" (1936) is from notion of gamblers betting on other horses than the favorite. Cricket and baseball sense of "ground on which the game is played" is from 1875. Sense of "tract of ground where something is obtained or extracted" is from 1859. As an adjective in Old English combinations, often with a sense of "rural, rustic" (feldcirice "country-church," feldlic "rural"). Of slaves, "assigned to work in the fields" (1817, in field-hand), opposed to house. A field-trial (1865) originally was of hunting dogs; the term was used earlier in reference to crops (1817).
updated on October 26, 2017