Words related to serpent
late 14c., "any inflammatory, spreading skin condition" (used of shingles, gangrene, etc.), from Latin herpes "a spreading skin eruption," from Greek herpes, the name for the disease shingles, literally "creeping," from herpein "to creep, move slowly" (cognate with Latin serpere "to creep;" see serpent). The condition was not distinguished into specific diseases until early 19c.
c. 1400, name of a plant reputed to contain antivenom, often identified as dragonwort, from Old French serpentin name of a precious stone, a noun use of adjective meaning "of a snake, snake-like; sly, deceptive," from Late Latin serpentius "of a serpent," from Latin serpentem (nominative serpens) "snake" (see serpent). Also in some instances from Medieval Latin serpentina. From mid-15c. as the name of a kind of cannon used 15c.-16c.
As the name of a greenish metamorphic rock consisting mainly of hydrous magnesium silicate, it is attested in English is by c. 1600, perhaps based on Agricola's Lapis Serpentinus (16c.). Earlier references in English are to a precious or semiprecious stone thought to have magical powers (early 15c.) but these were perhaps from the translucent ("noble") form of the mineral. The name is perhaps in reference to the rock's green color, though some sources write of "markings resembling those of serpent's skin" or "similarity of the texture of the rock to that of the skin of a snake."
An ancient name for the rock is said to be hydrinus, perhaps suggesting connection to the sea-serpent hydra. It also has been identified with classical ophitēs, a ornamental building-stone mentioned by several writers, related to ophis "serpent, a snake" (see ophio-), but this is uncertain: Pliny said it has marking like a snake, but he included it among the marbles.
"twisting, winding about, resembling the motion of a serpent," 1610s; see serpent + -ine (1). An earlier adjective meaning "having the evil qualities of a serpent" (subtle, cunning, treacherous) is recorded from late 14c., from Old French serpentin (see serpentine (n.)). The meaning "of, pertaining to, or resembling a serpent" is from c. 1500. The winding lake of that name in Hyde Park, London, was constructed in 1730.
Old English snaca, from Proto-Germanic *snakon (source also of Old Norse snakr "snake," Swedish snok, German Schnake "ring snake"), from PIE root *sneg- "to crawl, creeping thing" (source also of Old Irish snaighim "to creep," Lithuanian snakė "snail," Old High German snahhan "to creep"). In Modern English, gradually replacing serpent in popular use.
Traditionally applied to the British serpent, as distinguished from the poisonous adder. Meaning "treacherous person" first recorded 1580s (compare Old Church Slavonic gadu "reptile," gadinu "foul, hateful"). Applied from 17c. to various snake-like devices and appliances. Snakes! as an exclamation is from 1839.
Snake eyes in crap-shooting sense is from 1919. Snake-bitten "unlucky" is sports slang from 1957, from a literal sense, perhaps suggesting one doomed by being poisoned. The game of Snakes and Ladders is attested from 1907. Snake charmer is from 1813. Snake pit is from 1883, as a supposed primitive test of truth or courage; figurative sense is from 1941. Phrase snake in the grass is from Virgil's Latet anguis in herba [Ecl. III:93].