Entries linking to drumhead
early 15c., drom, "percussive musical instrument consisting of a hollow wooden or metallic body and a tightly stretched head of membrane," probably from Middle Dutch tromme "drum," a common Germanic word (compare German Trommel, Danish tromme, Swedish trumma) and probably imitative of the sound of one.
Not common before 1570s; the slightly older, and more common at first, word was drumslade, apparently from Dutch or Low German trommelslag "drum-beat," "though it does not appear how this name of the action came to be applied to the instrument" [OED], and the English word might be a shortening of this. Other earlier words for it were tabour (c. 1300, ultimately from Persian; see tabor) and timpan (Old English; see tympanum).
In machinery, the word was applied to various contrivances resembling a drum from 1740. In anatomy, "the tympanum of the ear," 1610s. Meaning "receptacle having the form of a drum" is by 1812. Drum-major (1590s) originally was "chief or first drummer of a military regiment;" later "one who directs the evolutions of a marching corps."
Old English heafod "top of the body," also "upper end of a slope," also "chief person, leader, ruler; capital city," from Proto-Germanic *haubid (source also of Old Saxon hobid, Old Norse hofuð, Old Frisian haved, Middle Dutch hovet, Dutch hoofd, Old High German houbit, German Haupt, Gothic haubiþ "head"), from PIE root *kaput- "head."
Modern spelling is early 15c., representing what was then a long vowel (as in heat) and remained after pronunciation shifted. Of rounded tops of plants from late 14c. Meaning "origin of a river" is mid-14c. Meaning "obverse of a coin" (the side with the portrait) is from 1680s; meaning "foam on a mug of beer" is first attested 1540s; meaning "toilet" is from 1748, based on location of crew toilet in the bow (or head) of a ship.
Synechdochic use for "person" (as in head count) is first attested late 13c.; of cattle, etc., in this sense from 1510s. As a height measure of persons, from c. 1300. Meaning "drug addict" (usually in a compound with the preferred drug as the first element) is from 1911.
To be over (one's) head "beyond one's comprehension" is by 1620s. To give head "perform fellatio" is from 1950s. Phrase heads will roll "people will be punished" (1930) translates Adolf Hitler. Head case "eccentric or insane person" is from 1966. Head game "mental manipulation" attested by 1972.
updated on October 12, 2018