upper (adj.)

c. 1300, originally comparative of up (adj.). Similar formation in Middle Dutch upper, Dutch opper, Low German upper, Norwegian yppare.

Upper hand "advantage" is late 15c., perhaps from wrestling (get the over-hand in the same sense is from early 14c.); lower hand "condition of having lost or failed to win superiority" (1690s) is rare. Upperclassman is recorded from 1871. Upper crust is attested from mid-15c. in reference to the top crust of a loaf of bread, 1836 in reference to society. Upper middle class (adj.) is recorded from 1835. Upper ten thousand (1844) was common mid-19c. for "wealthier and more aristocratic part of a large community;" hence uppertendom.

upper (n.)

"part of a shoe above the sole," 1789, from upper (adj.). Sense of "stimulant drug" is from 1968, agent noun from up (v.).

updated on September 01, 2016