Etymology
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start (v.)

Old English *steortian, *stiertan, Kentish variants of styrtan "to leap up" (attested only in Northumbrian past participle sturtende), from Proto-Germanic *stert- (source also of Old Frisian stirta "to fall, tumble," Middle Dutch sterten, Dutch storten "to rush, fall," Old High German sturzen, German stürzen "to hurl, throw, plunge"). According to Watkins, the notion is "move briskly, move swiftly," and the Proto-Germanic word is from PIE root *ster- (1) "stiff."

From "move or spring suddenly," sense evolved by c. 1300 to "awaken suddenly, flinch or recoil in alarm," and by 1660s to "cause to begin acting or operating." Meaning "begin to move, leave, depart" (without implication of suddenness) is from 1821. The connection probably is from sporting senses ("to force an animal from its lair," late 14c.). Transitive sense of "set in motion or action" is from 1670s; specifically as "to set (machinery) in action" from 1841.

Related: Started; starting. To start something "cause trouble" is 1915, American English colloquial. To start over "begin again" is from 1912. Starting-line in running is from 1855; starting-block in running first recorded 1937.

start (n.)

late 14c., "an involuntary movement of the body, a sudden jump," from start (v.). Meaning "act of beginning to move or act" is from 1560s. Meaning "act of beginning to build a house" is from 1946. That of "opportunity at the beginning of a career or course of action" is from 1849. Paired with finish (n.) from at least 1839. False start first attested 1850.

updated on October 19, 2017

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Definitions of start from WordNet
1
start (v.)
take the first step or steps in carrying out an action;
Who will start?
Synonyms: get down / begin / get / start out / set about / set out / commence
start (v.)
set in motion, cause to start;
The U.S. started a war in the Middle East
Synonyms: begin / lead off / commence
start (v.)
leave;
Synonyms: depart / part / start out / set forth / set off / set out / take off
start (v.)
have a beginning, in a temporal, spatial, or evaluative sense;
Prices for these homes start at $250,000
Synonyms: begin
start (v.)
bring into being;
Synonyms: originate / initiate
start (v.)
get off the ground;
The blood shed started when the partisans launched a surprise attack
Who started this company?
I start my day with a good breakfast
Synonyms: start up / embark on / commence
start (v.)
move or jump suddenly, as if in surprise or alarm;
Synonyms: startle / jump
start (v.)
get going or set in motion;
We simply could not start the engine
start up the computer
Synonyms: start up
start (v.)
begin or set in motion;
I start at eight in the morning
Synonyms: go / get going
start (v.)
begin work or acting in a certain capacity, office or job;
start a new job
Synonyms: take up
start (v.)
play in the starting lineup;
start (v.)
have a beginning characterized in some specified way;
Synonyms: begin
start (v.)
begin an event that is implied and limited by the nature or inherent function of the direct object;
She started the soup while it was still hot
We started physics in 10th grade
Synonyms: begin
start (v.)
bulge outward;
Synonyms: protrude / pop / pop out / bulge / bulge out / bug out / come out
2
start (n.)
the beginning of anything;
it was off to a good start
start (n.)
the time at which something is supposed to begin;
they got an early start
Synonyms: beginning / commencement / first / outset / get-go / kickoff / starting time / showtime / offset
start (n.)
a turn to be a starter (in a game at the beginning);
he got his start because one of the regular pitchers was in the hospital
his starting meant that the coach thought he was one of their best linemen
Synonyms: starting
start (n.)
a sudden involuntary movement;
he awoke with a start
Synonyms: startle / jump
start (n.)
the act of starting something;
Synonyms: beginning / commencement
start (n.)
a line indicating the location of the start of a race or a game;
Synonyms: starting line / scratch / scratch line
start (n.)
a signal to begin (as in a race);
the starting signal was a green light
the runners awaited the start
Synonyms: starting signal
start (n.)
the advantage gained by beginning early (as in a race);
with an hour's start he will be hard to catch
Synonyms: head start
From wordnet.princeton.edu, not affiliated with etymonline.