Entries related to seashell
Old English sæ "sheet of water, sea, lake, pool," from Proto-Germanic *saiwa- (source also of Old Saxon seo, Old Frisian se, Middle Dutch see, Swedish sjö), of unknown origin, outside connections "wholly doubtful" [Buck]. Meaning "large quantity" (of anything) is from c. 1200.
Germanic languages also use the general Indo-European word (represented by English mere (n.1)), but have no firm distinction between "sea" and "lake," either by size, by inland or open, or by salt vs. fresh. This may reflect the Baltic geography where the languages are thought to have originated. The two words are used more or less interchangeably in Germanic, and exist in opposite senses (such as Gothic saiws "lake, marshland," marei "sea;" but Dutch zee "sea," meer "lake"). Compare also Old Norse sær "sea," but Danish sø, usually "lake" but "sea" in phrases. German See is "sea" (fem.) or "lake" (masc.).
Boutkan writes that the sea words in Germanic likely were originally "lake," and the older word for "sea" is represented by haff. The single Old English word sæ glosses Latin mare, aequor, pontus, pelagus, and marmor.
Meaning "dark area of the moon's surface" is attested from 1660s (see mare (n.2)). Phrase sea change "transformation," literally "a change wrought by the sea," is attested from 1610, first in Shakespeare ("The Tempest," I.ii). Sea anemone is from 1742; sea legs, humorous colloquial term implying ability to walk on a ship's deck when she is pitching or rolling is from 1712; sea level from 1806; sea urchin from 1590s. At sea in the figurative sense of "perplexed" is attested from 1768, from literal sense of "out of sight of land" (c. 1300).
Sense of "mere exterior" is from 1650s; that of "hollow framework" is from 1791. Meaning "structure for a band or orchestra" is attested from 1938. Military use (1640s) was first of hand grenades, in reference to the metal case in which the gunpowder and shot were mixed; the notion is of a "hollow object" filled with explosives. Hence shell shock, first recorded 1915. Shell game "a swindle" is from 1890, from a version of three-card monte played with a pea and walnut shells.