mid-12c., dien, deighen, of sentient beings, "to cease to live," possibly from Old Danish døja or Old Norse deyja "to die, pass away," both from Proto-Germanic *dawjan (source also of Old Frisian deja "to kill," Old Saxon doian, Old High German touwen, Gothic diwans "mortal"), from PIE root *dheu- (3) "to pass away, die, become senseless" (source also of Old Irish dith "end, death," Old Church Slavonic daviti, Russian davit' "to choke, suffer").
It has been speculated that Old English had *diegan, from the same source, but it is not in any of the surviving texts and the preferred words were steorfan (see starve), sweltan (see swelter), wesan dead ("become dead"), also forðgan and other euphemisms.
Languages usually don't borrow words from abroad for central life experiences, but "die" words are an exception; they often are hidden or changed euphemistically out of superstitious dread. A Dutch euphemism translates as "to give the pipe to Maarten."
Regularly spelled dege through 15c., and still pronounced "dee" by some in Lancashire and Scotland. Of plants, "become devitalized, wither," late 14c.; in a general sense of "come to an end" from mid-13c. Meaning "be consumed with a great longing or yearning" (as in dying to go) is colloquial, from 1709. Used figuratively (of sounds, etc.) from 1580s; to die away "diminish gradually" is from 1670s. To die down "subside" is by 1834. Related: Died; dies.
To die out "become extinct" is from 1865. To die game "preserve a bold, resolute, and defiant spirit to the end" (especially of one facing the gallows) is from 1793. Phrase never say die "don't give up or in" is by 1822; the earliest contexts are in sailors' jargon.
"Never look so cloudy about it messmate," the latter continued in an unmoved tone—"Cheer up man, the rope is not twisted for your neck yet. Jack's alive; who's for a row? Never say die while there's a shot in the locker. Whup;" [Gerald Griffin, "Card Drawing," 1842]
"small cube marked on each face with spots numbering from one to six, used in gaming," early 14c. (as a plural, late 14c. as a singular), from Old French de "die, dice," which is of uncertain origin. Common Romanic (cognates: Spanish, Portuguese, Italian dado, Provençal dat, Catalan dau), perhaps from Latin datum "given," past participle of dare "to give" (from PIE root *do- "to give"), which, in addition to "give," had a secondary sense of "to play" (as a chess piece); or else the notion is "what is given" (by chance or Fortune).
The numbers on the opposite sides always add up to seven; otherwise there is no uniformity to their arrangement. Sense of "engraved stamping block or tool used for stamping a softer material" is from 1690s. Perhaps so called because they often were used in pairs (to impress on both sides, as of a coin).
Figurative phrase the die is cast "the decisive stem is taken" is from 1630s, in reference to the throw of the dice. The expression translates Latin alea iacta est (or iacta alea est), famously uttered by Caesar when he crossed the Rubicon.
updated on April 28, 2022