Entries linking to old maid
Old English ald (Anglian), eald (West Saxon, Kentish) "antique, of ancient origin, belonging to antiquity, primeval; long in existence or use; near the end of the normal span of life; elder, mature, experienced," from Proto-Germanic *althaz "grown up, adult" (source also of Old Frisian ald, Gothic alþeis, Dutch oud, German alt), originally a past-participle stem of a verb meaning "grow, nourish" (compare Gothic alan "to grow up," Old Norse ala "to nourish"), from PIE root *al- (2) "to grow, nourish." The original Old English vowel is preserved in Scots auld, also in alderman. The original comparative and superlative (elder, eldest) are retained in particular uses.
The usual PIE root is *sen- (see senior (adj.)). A few Indo-European languages distinguish words for "old" (vs. young) from words for "old" (vs. new), and some have separate words for aged persons as opposed to old things. Latin senex was used of aged living things, mostly persons, while vetus (literally "having many years") was used of inanimate things. Greek geraios was used mostly of humans; palaios was used mostly of things, of persons only in a derogatory sense. Greek also had arkhaios, literally "belonging to the beginning," which parallels French ancien, used mostly with reference to things "of former times."
Old English also had fyrn "ancient," which is related to Old English feor "far, distant" (see far, and compare Gothic fairneis, Old Norse forn "old, of old, of former times," Old High German firni "old, experienced").
Meaning "of a specified age" (three days old) is from late Old English. Sense of "pertaining to or characteristic of the earlier or earliest of two or more stages of development or periods of time" is from late Old English. As an intensive, "great, high," mid-15c., now only following another adjective (gay old time, good old Charlie Brown). As a noun, "those who are old," 12c. Of old "of old times" is from late 14c.
Old age "period of life of advanced years" is from early 14c. Old Testament is attested from mid-14c. (in late Old English it was old law). Old lady "wife, mother" is attested from c. 1775 (but compare Old English seo ealde hlæfdige "the queen dowager"). Old man "man who has lived long" is from late Old English; the sense of "husband, father, boss" is from 1854, earlier (1830) it was military slang for "commanding officer;" old boy as a familiar form of address is by c. 1600. Old days "former times" is from late Old English; good old days, "former times conceived as better than the present," sometimes ironic, is by 1670s. Old Light (adj.), in religion, "favoring the old faith or principles," is by 1819.
c. 1200 (late 12c. in place names and surnames), "an unmarried woman (usually young); the Virgin Mary;" shortening of maiden (n.). Like that word, used in Middle English of unmarried men as well as women (as in maiden-man, c. 1200, which was used of both sexes, reflecting also the generic use of man).
From c. 1300 as "a virgin," also as "maidservant, female attendant, lady in waiting." By c. 1500 this had yielded the humbler sense of "female servant or attendant charged with domestic duties." Often with a qualifying word (housemaid, chambermaid, etc.); maid of all work "female servant who performs general housework" is by 1790.
Her Mamma was a famous Fryer of Fishes,
Squeezer of Mops, Washer of Dishes,
From tossing of Pancakes would not Shirk,
In English plain, a Maid of all Work.
But don't mistake me, by Divinity,
When I mention Maid, I don't mean Virginity
[from "Countess of Fame and her Trumpeter," 1793]
In reference to Joan of Arc, attested from 1540s (French la Pucelle). Maid Marian, the Queen of the May in the morris dances, also one of Robin Hood's companions, is recorded by 1520s, perhaps from French, where Robin et Marian have been stock names for country lovers since 13c. Maid of Honor (1580s) originally was "unmarried lady of noble birth who attends a queen or princess;" meaning "principal bridesmaid" is attested from 1895. Maydelond (translating Latin terra feminarum) was "the land of the Amazons."
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updated on August 19, 2019
Dictionary entries near old maid