Old English is "ice, piece of ice" (also the name of the Anglo-Saxon rune for -i-), from Proto-Germanic *is- "ice" (source also of Old Norse iss, Old Frisian is, Dutch ijs, German Eis), of uncertain origin; possible relatives are Avestan aexa- "frost, ice," isu- "frosty, icy;" Afghan asai "frost." Slang meaning "diamonds" is attested from 1906.
Modern spelling begins to appear 15c. and makes the word look French. On ice "kept out of the way until wanted" is from 1890. Thin ice in the figurative sense is from 1884. To break the ice "to make the first opening to any attempt" is from 1580s, metaphoric of making passages for boats by breaking up river ice though in modern use it usually has implications of "cold reserve." Ice-fishing is from 1869.
c. 1400, ysen, "cover with ice," from ice (n.). Related: Iced; icing.
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