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miss (v.)

Old English missan "fail to hit, miss (a mark); fail in what was aimed at; escape (someone's notice)," from Proto-Germanic *missjan "to go wrong" (source also of Old Frisian missa, Middle Dutch, Dutch missen, German missen "to miss, fail"), from *missa- "in a changed manner," hence "abnormally, wrongly," from PIE root *mei- (1) "to change, go, move." Reinforced or influenced by cognate Old Norse missa "to miss, to lack." Related: Missed; missing.

Sense of "fail to find" (someone or something) is by late 12c. Meaning "fail to note, perceive, or observe" is from early 13c. Meaning "fail to reach or attain what one wants" is from mid-13c. Sense of "perceive with regret the absence or loss of (something or someone)" is from c. 1300. Meaning "omit, leave out, skip" is by mid-14c. Sense of "to escape, avoid" is from 1520s.

Sense of "to not be on time for" is from 1823; to miss the boat in the figurative sense of "be too late for" is from 1929, originally nautical slang. To miss out (on) "fail to get" is by 1929.

miss (n.1)

late 12c., "loss, lack; " c. 1200, "regret occasioned by loss or absence," from Old English miss "absence, loss," from source of missan "to miss" (see miss (v.)). Meaning "an act or fact of missing; a being without" is from late 15c.; meaning "a failure to hit or attain" is 1550s.

Phrase a miss is as good as a mile (1761) was originally an inch, in a miss, is as good as an ell (1610s; see ell). To give (something) a miss "to abstain from, avoid" is attested by 1919, perhaps from earlier use of the term in billiards, "to avoid hitting the object ball" (1807).

There are few of the niceties of the game that require more care than that of "giving a miss," and particularly when the player wishes to mask the ball. I recollect a game I played with Mr. Burke, of Cheltenham. He went off, and doubled, as was his custom, the red ball nearly over the baulk corner pocket. Not feeling disposed, against so skilful an antagonist, to run the risk of playing for a canon off his ball, I gave a miss, thinking I had masked the ball. His eye, keen and penetrating, discovered at a glance that I had just left him room to pass. He played at the red ball and holed his own ball off it by a fine cut, and scored forty points from the break. [Edward Russell Mardon, "Billiards," London, 1849]

miss (n.2)

"the term of honour to a young girl" [Johnson], originally (17c.) a shortened form of mistress (compare Mrs., pronounced mis-ez). By 1640s as "prostitute, concubine." By 1700 as "a young, unmarried woman."

Misses as a trade term (originally in the mail order business) for sizes or styles of clothes for girls from about 10 to 17 years old is by 1880. Miss America is from 1922 as the title bestowed on the winner of an annual nationwide U.S. beauty/talent contest. Earlier it meant "young American women generally" or "the United States personified as a young woman," and it also was the name of a fast motor boat. In the 1811 reprint of the slang dictionary, Miss Laycock is given as an underworld euphemism for "the monosyllable."

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