Entries linking to gang-plank
"temporary passageway" to a ship, building under construction, etc., ultimately from Old English gangweg "road, passage, thoroughfare;" a compound of gang (n.) in its original sense "a going, journey, way, passage" and way (n.). Nautical use dates from 1680s in reference to a passage on the ship, from 1780 of the opening at the side whereby people enter and leave, and by 1840s of the board or bridge they use to get to and from the dock. As a command to clear way, attested by 1912, American English. In British parliamentary use, with somewhat the same sense aisle has in the U.S. Congress.
Below the g[angway], as a parliamentary phrase, is applied to members whose customary seat does not imply close association with the official policy of the party on whose side of the House they sit. [Fowler]
late 13c. (c. 1200 as a surname), "thick board used in construction," from Old North French planke, a variant of Old French planche "plank, slab, little wooden bridge" (12c.), from Late Latin planca "broad slab, board," probably from Latin plancus "flat, flat-footed," from a nasalized variant of PIE root *plak- (1) "to be flat." Planche itself was also used in Middle English.
Technically, timber sawed to measure 2 to 6 inches thick, 9 inches or more wide, and 8 feet or more long. The political sense of "article or paragraph formulating a distinct principle in a party platform" is U.S. coinage from 1848, based on the double sense of platform. To be made to walk the plank, "be forced to walk along a plank laid across the bulwarks of a ship until one reaches the end and falls into the sea," popularly supposed to have been a pirate form of execution, is attested from 1789, and most early references are to slave-ships disposing of excess human cargo in crossing the ocean.
from Old English gang "a going, journey, way, passage," and Old Norse gangr "a group of men, a set," both from Proto-Germanic *gangaz (source also of Old Saxon, Old Frisian, Danish, Dutch, Old High German, German gang, Old Norse gangr, Gothic gagg "act of going"), of uncertain origin, perhaps from PIE root *ghengh- "to step" (source also of Sanskrit jangha "shank," Avestan zanga- "ankle," Lithuanian žengiu "I stride"). Not considered to be related to go.
The sense evolution is probably via meaning "a set of articles that usually are taken together in going" (mid-14c.), especially a set of tools used on the same job. By 1620s this had been extended in nautical speech to mean "a company of workmen," and by 1630s the word was being used, with disapproving overtones, for "any band of persons traveling together," then "a criminal gang or company" (gang of thieves, gang of roughs, etc.). By 1855 gang was being used in the sense "group of criminal or mischievous boys in a city." In American English, especially of slaves working on plantations (1724). Also formerly used of animal herds or flocks (17c.-19c.). Gangway preserves the original sense of the word, as does gang-plank.
updated on October 10, 2017