Entries linking to lily-white
Old English lilie, from Latin lilia, plural of lilium "a lily," cognate with Greek leirion, both perhaps borrowed from a corrupted pronunciation of an eastern Mediterranean word (de Vaan compares Coptic hreri, hleli "lily"). Used in Old Testament to translate Hebrew shoshanna and in New Testament to translate Greek krinon. As an adjective, 1530s, "white, pure, lovely;" later "pale, colorless" (1580s).
Figurative of whiteness, fairness, purity. The Latin word has become the general word in languages across Europe: German lilie, Dutch lelie, Swedish lilja, French lis, Spanish lirio, Italian giglio, Polish lilija, Russian liliya. The French word is contracted from Latin lilius, a rare surviving nominative form in French. In Old French lilie (12c.) also existed. Related: Lilied; lilaceous.
The lily of the valley translates Latin lilium convallium (Vulgate), a literal rendition of the Hebrew term in Song of Solomon ii:1; in modern times the name was applied to a particular plant (Convallaria majalis) apparently first by 16c. German herbalists. Lily pad is from 1834, American English. For gild the lily see gilded.
Old English hwit "bright, radiant; clear, fair," also as a noun (see separate entry), from Proto-Germanic *hweit- (source also of Old Saxon and Old Frisian hwit, Old Norse hvitr, Dutch wit, Old High German hwiz, German weiß, Gothic hveits), from PIE *kweid-o-, suffixed form of root *kweit- "white; to shine" (source also of Sanskrit svetah "white;" Old Church Slavonic sviteti "to shine," svetu "light;" Lithuanian šviesti "to shine," švaityti "to brighten").
As a surname, originally with reference to fair hair or complexion, it is one of the oldest in English, being well-established before the Conquest. Meaning "morally pure" was in Old English. Association with royalist causes is late 18c. Slang sense of "honorable, fair" is 1877, American English; in Middle English it meant "gracious, friendly, favorable." The racial sense "of those races (chiefly European or of European extraction) characterized by light complexion" is recorded from c. 1600; meaning "characteristic of or pertaining to white people" is from 1852, American English. White supremacy attested from 1868, American English [John H. Van Evrie, M.D., "White Supremacy and Negro Subordination," New York, 1868]; white flight is from 1966, American English.
White way "brightly illuminated street in a big city" is from 1908. White flag of truce or surrender is from c. 1600. White lie is attested from 1741. White Christmas is attested from 1847. White House as the name of the U.S. presidential residence is recorded from 1811. White water "river rapids" is recorded from 1580s. White Russian "language of Byelorussia" is recorded from 1850; the mixed drink is from c. 1978. Astronomical white dwarf is from 1924. White witch, one who used the power for good, is from 1620s.
updated on October 10, 2017