Entries linking to far-off
Middle English fer, from Old English feor "to a great distance, long ago," from Proto-Germanic *ferro (source also of Old Saxon fer, Old Frisian fir, Old Norse fiarre, Old High German fer, Gothic fairra), from PIE root *per- (1), base of words for "through, forward," with extended senses such as "across, beyond" (source also of Sanskrit parah "farther, remote, ulterior," Hittite para "outside of," Greek pera "across, beyond," Latin per "through," Old Irish ire "farther"). For vowel change, see dark (adj.). Paired with wide to mean "everywhere" since 9c.
by c. 1200 as an emphatic form of Old English of (see of), employed in the adverbial use of that word. The prepositional meaning "away from" and the adjectival sense of "farther" were not firmly fixed in this variant until 17c., but once they were they left the original of with the transferred and weakened senses of the word. Meaning "not working" is from 1861.
Off the cuff "extemporaneously, without preparation" (1938) is from the notion of speaking from notes written in haste on one's shirt cuffs. In reference to clothing, off the rack (adj.) "not tailored, not made to individual requirements, ready-made" is by 1963, on the notion of buying it from the rack of a clothing store; off the record "not to be publicly disclosed" is from 1933; off the wall "crazy" is 1968, probably from the notion of a lunatic "bouncing off the walls" or else in reference to carom shots in squash, handball, etc.
updated on October 10, 2017