past tense and past participle of have, from Old English gehæfd. Assimilation of -f- to a following consonant is typical (as also in woman, lord, lady, head (n.), leman). Used since late Old English as an auxiliary to make pluperfect tense-phrases. You never had it so good (1946) was said to be the stock answer to any complaints about U.S. Army life.
Entries linking to had
Old English habban "to own, possess; be subject to, experience," from Proto-Germanic *habejanan (source also of Old Norse hafa, Old Saxon hebbjan, Old Frisian habba, German haben, Gothic haban "to have"), from PIE root *kap- "to grasp." Not related to Latin habere, despite similarity in form and sense; the Latin cognate is capere "seize.
Sense of "possess, have at one's disposal" (I have a book) is a shift from older languages, where the thing possessed was made the subject and the possessor took the dative case (as in Latin est mihi liber "I have a book," literally "there is to me a book"). Used as an auxiliary in Old English, too (especially to form present perfect tense); the word has taken on more functions over time; Modern English he had better would have been Old English him (dative) wære betere.
To have to for "must" (1570s) is from sense of "possess as a duty or thing to be done" (Old English). Phrase have a nice day as a salutation after a commercial transaction attested by 1970, American English. Phrase have (noun), will (verb) is from 1954, originally from comedian Bob Hope, in the form Have tux, will travel; Hope described this as typical of vaudevillians' ads in Variety, indicating a willingness and readiness to perform anywhere.
"adult female human," late Old English wimman, wiman (plural wimmen), literally "woman-man," alteration of wifman (plural wifmen) "woman, female servant" (8c.), a compound of wif "woman" (see wife) + man "human being" (in Old English used in reference to both sexes; see man (n.)). Compare Dutch vrouwmens "wife," literally "woman-man."
It is notable that it was thought necessary to join wif, a neuter noun, representing a female person, to man, a masc. noun representing either a male or female person, to form a word denoting a female person exclusively. [Century Dictionary]
The formation is peculiar to English and Dutch. Replaced older Old English wif and quean as the word for "female human being," as in Jesus's answer to his mother, in Anglo-Saxon gospels la, wif, hwæt is me and þe? (John ii:4 "Woman, what have I to do with thee?").
The pronunciation of the singular altered in Middle English by the rounding influence of -w-; the plural retains the original vowel. Meaning "wife," now largely restricted to U.S. dialectal use, is attested from mid-15c.
In American English, lady is "In loose and especially polite usage, a woman" [Craigie, "Dictionary of American English"]. This peculiarity was much commented upon by English travelers; in the U.S. the custom was considered especially Southern, but the English didn't bother with nice distinctions and regarded it simply as American. "This noble word [woman], spirit-stirring as it passes over English ears, is in America banished, and 'ladies' and 'females' substituted; the one to English taste mawkish and vulgar; the other indistinctive and gross. The effect is odd." [Harriet Martineau, 1837]
Woman-hater "misogynist" is from c. 1600. Women's work, that considered appropriate to women, is from 1660s. Women's liberation is attested from 1966; women's rights is from 1840, with an isolated example in 1630s.
updated on June 10, 2016