Entries linking to grass roots
Old English græs, gærs "herb, plant, grass," from Proto-Germanic *grasan (source also of Old Frisian gers "grass, turf, kind of grass," Old Norse, Old Saxon, Dutch, Old High German, German, Gothic gras, Swedish gräs"grass"), which, according to Watkins, is from PIE *ghros- "young shoot, sprout," from root *ghre- "to grow, become green," thus related to grow and green, but not to Latin grāmen "grass, plant, herb." But Boutkan considers grāmen the only reliable cognate and proposes a substrate origin.
As a color name (especially grass-green, Old English græsgrene) by c. 1300. Sense of "marijuana" is recorded by 1932, American English. The grass skirt worn by people native to tropical regions is mentioned by 1874; the warning to keep off the grass by 1843 (in New York City's Central Park). Grass-fed of cattle, etc., (opposed to stall-fed) is from 1774.
"underground, downward-growing part of a plant," late Old English rōt and in part from a Scandinavian cognate akin to Old Norse rot "root," figuratively "cause, origin," from Proto-Germanic *wrot (source also of Old English wyrt "root, herb, plant," Old High German wurz, German Wurz "a plant," Gothic waurts "a root," with characteristic Scandinavian loss of -w- before -r-), from PIE root *wrād- "branch, root" (source of wort and radical). The usual Old English words for "root" were wyrttruma and wyrtwala.
Figurative use, "source of a quality or condition," is from late 12c. Of the base parts of teeth, hair, etc., from early 13c. Mathematical sense is from 1550s. Philological sense from 1520s. Slang meaning "penis" is recorded from 1846. In African-American vernacular use, "a spell effected by magical properties of roots," by 1935. The sense of "person considered as the source or offspring of a family or clan" is by early 14c., chiefly biblical.
For coveteousnes is the rote of all evylle, which whill some lusted after, they erde from the feyth, and tanglyd themselves with many sorowes. [I Timothy vi in Tyndale, 1526]
To take root is from mid-15c. as "settle in the ground," hence figurative use (by 1530s). Root beer, made from the extracts of various roots (sarsaparilla, sassafras, etc.), is recorded by 1841, American English; root doctor is from 1821. Roots "established ties with a locality or region; one's background or cultural origins" is by 1921.
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updated on April 16, 2015