Entries linking to greenback
Old English grene, Northumbrian groene "green, of the color of living plants," in reference to plants, "growing, living, vigorous," also figurative, of a plant, "freshly cut," of wood, "unseasoned" earlier groeni, from Proto-Germanic *grōni- (source also of Old Saxon grani, Old Frisian grene, Old Norse grænn, Danish grøn, Dutch groen, Old High German gruoni, German grün), from PIE root *ghre- "grow" (see grass), through sense of "color of growing plants."
From c. 1200 as "covered with grass or foliage." From early 14c. of fruit or vegetables, "unripe, immature;" and of persons, "of tender age, youthful, immature, inexperienced;" hence "gullible, immature with regard to judgment" (c. 1600). From mid-13c. in reference to the skin or complexion of one sick.
Green cheese originally was that which is new or fresh (late 14c.), later with reference to coloring; for the story told to children that the moon is made of it, see cheese (n.1). Green light in figurative sense of "permission" is from 1937 (green and red as signals on railways first attested 1883, as nighttime substitutes for semaphore flags). Green thumb for "natural for gardening" is by 1938. Green beret originally "British commando" is from 1949. Greenroom (also green room) "room for actors when not on stage" is from 1701; presumably a once-well-known one was painted green. The color of environmentalism since 1971.
Old English bæc "back," from Proto-Germanic *bakam (cognates: Old Saxon and Middle Dutch bak, Old Frisian bek), with no known connections outside Germanic. In other modern Germanic languages the cognates mostly have been ousted in this sense by words akin to Modern English ridge (such as Danish ryg, German Rücken).
Many Indo-European languages show signs of once having distinguished the horizontal back of an animal (or a mountain range) from the upright back of a human. In other cases, a modern word for "back" may come from a word related to "spine" (Italian schiena, Russian spina) or "shoulder, shoulder blade" (Spanish espalda, Polish plecy).
By synecdoche, "the whole body," especially with reference to clothing. Meaning "upright part of a chair" is from 1520s. To turn (one's) back on (someone or something) "ignore" is from early 14c. As a U.S. football position by 1876, so called from being behind the line of rushers; further distinguished according to relative position as quarterback, halfback, fullback.
To know (something) like the back of one's hand, implying familiarity, is first attested 1893 in a dismissive speech made to a character in Robert Louis Stevenson's "Catriona":
If I durst speak to herself, you may be certain I would never dream of trusting it to you; because I know you like the back of my hand, and all your blustering talk is that much wind to me.
The story, a sequel to "Kidnapped," has a Scottish setting and context, and the back of my hand to you was noted in the late 19th century as a Scottish expression meaning "I will have nothing to do with you" [see Longmuir's edition of Jamieson's Scottish dictionary]. In English generally, the back of (one's) hand has been used to imply contempt and rejection at least since 1300. Perhaps the connection of a menacing dismissal is what made Stevenson choose that particular anatomical reference.
updated on November 17, 2012