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    W — waltz (v.)


    not in the Roman alphabet, but the Modern English sound it represents is close to the devocalized consonant expressed by Roman -U- or -V-. In Old English, this originally was written -uu-, but by 8c. began to be expressed by the runic character wyn (Kentish wen), which looked like this: ƿ (the character is a late addition to the online font set and doesn't display properly on many computers, so it's something like a combination of lower-case -p- and a reversed -y-).ETD W.2

    In 11c., Norman scribes introduced -w-, a ligatured doubling of Roman -u- which had been used on the continent for the Germanic "w" sound, and wyn disappeared c. 1300. -W- is not properly a letter in the modern French alphabet, and it is used there only in borrowed foreign words, such as wagon, weekend, Western, whisky, wombat. Charles Mackay ("Extraordinary Popular delusions and the Madness of Crowds") reports that the Scotsman John Law, author of the Mississippi stock swindle of 1720, was known in France as Monsieur Lass "to avoid the ungallic sound, aw."ETD W.3

    was (v.)

    Old English wesan, wæs, wæron 1st and 3rd person singular of wesan "to remain," from Proto-Germanic *wesanan (source also of Old Saxon wesan, Old Norse vesa, Old Frisian wesa, Middle Dutch wesen, Dutch wezen, Old High German wesen "being, existence," Gothic wisan "to be"), from PIE root *wes- (3) "remain, abide, live, dwell" (cognates Sanskrit vasati "he dwells, stays;" compare vestal). Wesan was a distinct verb in Old English, but it came to supply the past tense of am. This probably began to develop in Proto-Germanic, because it is also the case in Gothic and Old Norse. See be.ETD was (v.).2


    1943, American English, acronym from Women's Army Corps, formed 1943.ETD WAC.2

    wacke (n.)

    rock resembling sandstone, 1803, from German Wacke, from Middle High German wacke "large stone, rock projecting from the surface of the ground," from Old High German wacko, waggo "gravel, pebble, rock rolling in a riverbed," which probably is from Old High German wegan "to move" (from Proto-Germanic *wag- "to move about," from PIE root *wegh- "to go, move"). A miner's word, brought into geology by German geologist Abraham Gottlob Werner (1750-1817).ETD wacke (n.).2

    wack (n.)

    "crazy person," 1938, back-formation from wacky. Adjective in slang sense of "worthless, stupid," is attested from late 1990s.ETD wack (n.).2

    wacky (adj.)

    "crazy, eccentric," 1935, variant of whacky (n.) "fool," late 1800s British slang, probably ultimately from whack "a blow, stroke," from the notion of being whacked on the head one too many times.ETD wacky (adj.).2

    wacko (n.)

    extended form of wack, by 1971.ETD wacko (n.).2

    wadding (n.)

    "stuffing," 1620s, verbal noun from wad (v.).ETD wadding (n.).2

    wad (n.)

    early 15c., wadde, "small bunch of fibrous, soft material for padding or stuffing," of uncertain origin, perhaps from Medieval Latin wadda (14c., source also of French ouate, Italian ovate), or Dutch watten (source of German Watte), or Middle English wadmal (c. 1300) "coarse woolen cloth," which seems to be from Old Norse vaðmal "a woolen fabric of Scandinavia," probably from vað "cloth" + mal "measure."ETD wad (n.).2

    The meaning "something bundled up tightly" (especially paper currency) is from 1778. To shoot (one's) wad "do all one can do" is recorded by 1860. The immediate source of the expression probably is the sense of "disk of cloth used to hold powder and shot in place in a gun." Wad in slang sense of "a load of semen" is attested from 1920s, and the expression now often is felt in this sense. As a suffix, -wad in 1980s joined -bag, -ball, -head in combinations meaning "disgusting or unpleasant person."ETD wad (n.).3

    wad (v.)

    1570s, "put a wad into," from wad (n.). From 1670s as "form into a wad;" 1759 as "pad or stuff with wadding." Related: Wadded; wadding.ETD wad (v.).2

    waddle (v.)

    "to walk with short steps, swaying from side to side; to walk as a duck does," 1590s, frequentative of wade. Related: Waddled; waddling. The noun is recorded from 1690s.ETD waddle (v.).2

    wade (v.)

    Old English wadan "to go forward, proceed, move, stride, advance" (the modern sense perhaps represented in oferwaden "wade across"), from Proto-Germanic *wadanan (source also of Old Norse vaða, Danish vade, Old Frisian wada, Dutch waden, Old High German watan, German waten "to wade"), from PIE root *wadh- (2) "to go," found only in Germanic and Latin (source also of Latin vadere "to go," vadum "shoal, ford," vadare "to wade"). Italian guado, French gué "ford" are Germanic loan-words.ETD wade (v.).2

    Specifically "walk into or through water" (or any substance which impedes the free motion of limbs) c. 1200. Originally a strong verb (past tense wod, past participle wad); weak since 16c. Figurative sense of "to go into" (action, battle, etc.) is recorded from late 14c. Related: Waded; wading.ETD wade (v.).3

    waders (n.)

    "waterproof high boots," 1841, plural agent noun from wade.ETD waders (n.).2

    wadi (n.)

    "watercourse," 1839, from Arabic wadi "seasonal watercourse," prop. participle of wada "it flowed." It forms the Guadal- in Spanish river names.ETD wadi (n.).2

    wae (n.)

    obsolete or dialectal Scottish form of woe.ETD wae (n.).2

    wafer (n.)

    late 14c., "thin cake of paste, generally disk-shaped," from Anglo-French wafre, Old North French waufre "honeycomb, wafer" (Old French gaufre "wafer, waffle"), probably from Frankish *wafel or another Germanic source (compare Flemish wafer, altered from Middle Dutch wafel "honeycomb;" see waffle (n.)). Eucharistic bread first so called 1550s.ETD wafer (n.).2

    waffle (n.)

    "kind of batter-cake, baked crisp in irons and served hot," 1744, from Dutch wafel "waffle," from Middle Dutch or Middle Low German wafel, from Proto-Germanic *wabila- "web, honeycomb" (source also of Old High German waba "honeycomb," German Wabe), related to Old High German weban, Old English wefan "to weave" (see weave (v.)). Sense of "honeycomb" is preserved in some combinations referring to a weave of cloth. Waffle iron is from 1794.ETD waffle (n.).2

    waffle (v.)

    1690s, "to yelp, bark," frequentative of provincial waff "to yelp, to bark like a puppy" (1610); possibly of imitative origin. Figurative sense of "talk foolishly" (c. 1700) led to that of "vacillate, equivocate" (1803), originally a Scottish and northern English usage. Late 17c. Scottish also had waff "act of waving," variant of waft, which might have influenced the sense. Related: Waffled; waffler; waffling.ETD waffle (v.).2

    waft (v.)

    c. 1500, transitive, "to move gently" (through the air), probably from Middle Dutch or Middle Low German, ultimately from wachten "to guard" (perhaps via notion of a ship that guards another as it sails), related to waken "rouse from sleep," from Proto-Germanic *waht-, from PIE root *weg- "to be strong, be lively." Possibly influenced by northern dialect waff "cause to move to and fro" (1510s), a variant of wave. Intransitive sense from 1560s. Related: Wafted; wafting.ETD waft (v.).2

    wag (v.)

    early 13c. (intransitive), "waver, vacillate, lack steadfastness," probably from a Scandinavian source (compare Old Norse vagga "a cradle," Danish vugge "rock a cradle," Old Swedish wagga "fluctuate, rock" a cradle), and in part from Old English wagian "move backwards and forwards;" all from Proto-Germanic *wag- (source also of Old High German weggen, Gothic wagjan "to wag"), probably from PIE root *wegh- "to go, move, transport in a vehicle."ETD wag (v.).2

    Transitive meaning "move (something) back and forth or up and down" is from c. 1300; of dogs and their tails from mid-15c.: "and whanne they [hounds] see the hure maystre they wol make him cheere and wagge hur tayles upon him." [Edward, Duke of York, "The Master of Game," 1456]. Related: Wagged; wagging. Wag-at-the-wall (1825) was an old name for a hanging clock with pendulum and weights exposed.ETD wag (v.).3

    wag (n.2)

    "act of wagging," 1580s, from wag (v.).ETD wag (n.2).2

    wag (n.1)

    "person fond of making jokes," 1550s, perhaps a shortening of waghalter "gallows bird," person destined to swing in a noose or halter, applied humorously to mischievous children, from wag (v.) + halter. Or possibly directly from wag (v.); compare wagger "one who stirs up or agitates" (late 14c.).ETD wag (n.1).2

    wage (n.)

    c. 1300, "a payment for services rendered, reward, just deserts;" mid-14c., "salary paid to a provider of service," from Anglo-French and Old North French wage (Old French gage) "pledge, pay, reward," from Frankish *wadja- or another Germanic source (compare Old English wedd "pledge, agreement, covenant," Gothic wadi "pledge"), from Proto-Germanic *wadi- (see wed (v.)).ETD wage (n.).2

    Also from mid-14c., "a pledge, guarantee, surety" (usually in plural), and (c. 1400) "a promise or pledge to meet in battle." The "payment for service" sense by late 14c. extended to allotments of money paid at regular intervals for continuous or repeated service. Traditionally in English wages were payment for manual or mechanical labor and somewhat distinguished from salary or fee. Modern French cognate gages (plural) means "wages of a domestic," one of a range of French "pay" words distinguished by class, such as traitement (university professor), paye, salaire (workman), solde (soldier), récompense, prix. The Old English word was lean, related to loan and representing the usual Germanic word (Gothic laun, Dutch loon, German Lohn). Wage-earner attested from 1871.ETD wage (n.).3

    wage (v.)

    c. 1300, "give (something) as surety, deposit as a pledge," from Old North French wagier "to pledge" (Old French gagier, "to pledge, guarantee, promise; bet, wager, pay," Modern French gager), from wage (see wage (n.)). Meaning "to carry on, engage in" (of war, etc.) is attested from mid-15c., probably from earlier sense of "to offer as a gage of battle, agree to engage in combat" (mid-14c.). Related: Waged; waging.ETD wage (v.).2

    wager (n.)

    c. 1300, wajour "a promise, a vow, something pledged or sworn to;" also "a bet, a wager; stakes, something laid down as a bet," from Anglo-French wageure, Old North French wagiere (Old French gagiere, Modern French gageure) "pledge, security," from wagier "to pledge" (see wage (n.)).ETD wager (n.).2

    wager (v.)

    c. 1600 (intransitive); 1610s (transitive), from wager (n.). Related: Wagered; wagering.ETD wager (v.).2

    waggish (adj.)

    "willing to make a fool of oneself, and fond of doing so to others," 1580s, from wag (n.) + -ish. Related: Waggishly; waggishness.ETD waggish (adj.).2

    waggle (v.)

    late 15c. (implied in waggling), frequentative of wag (v.). Compare Dutch waggelen "to waggle," Old High German wagon "to move, shake," German wackeln "to totter." Transitive sense from 1590s. Related: Waggled.ETD waggle (v.).2

    wagon (n.)

    "four-wheeled vehicle to carry heavy loads," late 15c., from Middle Dutch wagen, waghen, from Proto-Germanic *wagna- (source also of Old English wægn, Modern English wain, Old Saxon and Old High German wagan, Old Norse vagn, Old Frisian wein, German Wagen), from PIE *wogh-no-, suffixed form of root *wegh- "to go, move, transport in a vehicle" (source also of Latin vehiculum). It is thus related to way.ETD wagon (n.).2

    In Dutch and German, it is the general word for "a wheel vehicle;" its use in English is a result of contact through Flemish immigration, Dutch trade, or the Continental wars. It has largely displaced the native cognate, wain. Spelling preference varied randomly between -g- and -gg- from mid-18c., until American English settled on the etymological wagon, while waggon remained common in Great Britain. Wagon-train is attested from 1810. Phrase on the wagon "abstaining from alcohol" is attested by 1904, originally on the water cart.ETD wagon (n.).3

    wagtail (n.)

    c. 1500, kind of small bird that has its tail in continuous motion (late 12c. as a surname), earlier wagstart (mid-15c.), from wag (v.) + tail (n.). From 18c. as "a harlot," but this sense seems to be implied much earlier:ETD wagtail (n.).2

    Wahabi (n.)

    1807, follower of Islamic fundamentalist Abd-el-Wahhab (1691-1787), from his name, with Arabic genitive suffix -i. Related: Wahabiism; Wahabism.ETD Wahabi (n.).2

    wahoo (n.)

    type of large marine fish caught near Key West, 1884, of unknown origin. As the name of North American trees or shrubs, 1770, from distortions of native names; especially the "burning bush," from Dakota (Siouan) wahu, from wa- "arrow" + -hu "wood." In reference to the winged elm, it is from Muskogee vhahwv.ETD wahoo (n.).2


    1926, in jazz slang, in reference to the effect on brass instruments made by manipulating the mute; of imitative origin. Later also in reference to an electric guitar effect. As an imitation of the sound of a baby crying, it is recorded from 1938. Wah-wah pedal is recorded from 1969. Compare Chinook jargon wawa "talk, speak, call, ask, sermon, language;" Cree (Algonquian) wehwew "goose," Lenape (Algonquian) wava "snow goose," all probably of imitative origin.ETD wah-wah.2

    way (n.)

    Old English weg "road, path; course of travel; room, space, freedom of movement;" also, figuratively, "course of life" especially, in plural, "habits of life" as regards moral, ethical, or spiritual choices, from Proto-Germanic *wega- "course of travel, way" (source also of Old Saxon, Dutch weg, Old Norse vegr, Old Frisian wei, Old High German weg, German Weg, Gothic wigs "way"), from PIE root *wegh- "to go, move, transport in a vehicle."ETD way (n.).2

    From c. 1300 as "manner in which something occurs." Adverbial constructions attested since Middle English include this way "in this direction," that way "in that direction," both from late 15c.; out of the way "remote" (c. 1300). In the way "so placed as to impede" is from 1560s.ETD way (n.).3

    From the "course of life" sense comes way of life (c. 1600), get (or have) one's way (1590s), have it (one's) way (1709). From the "course of travel" sense comes the figurative go separate ways (1837); one way or (the) other (1550s); have it both ways (1847); and the figurative sense of come a long way (1922).ETD way (n.).4

    Adverbial phrase all the way "completely, to conclusion" is by 1915; sexual sense implied by 1924. Make way is from c. 1200. Ways and means "resources at a person's disposal" is attested from early 15c. (with mean (n.)). Way out "means of exit" is from 1926. Encouragement phrase way to go is short for that's the way to go.ETD way (n.).5

    way (adv.)

    c. 1200, short for away (adv.). Many expressions involving this are modern and American English colloquial, such as way-out "far off;" way back "a long time ago" (1887); way off "quite wrong" (1892). Any or all of these might have led to the slang adverbial meaning "very, extremely," attested by 1984 (as in way cool).ETD way (adv.).2

    waif (n.)

    late 14c., "unclaimed property, flotsam, stray animal," from Anglo-French waif (13c., Old French guaif) "ownerless property, something lost;" as an adjective, "not claimed, outcast, abandoned," probably from a Scandinavian source akin to Old Norse veif "waving thing, flag," from Proto-Germanic *waif-, from PIE root *weip- "to turn, vacillate, tremble ecstatically." Compare Medieval Latin waivium "thing thrown away by a thief in flight." A Scottish/northern English parallel form was wavenger (late 15c.).ETD waif (n.).2

    Meaning "person (especially a child) without home or friends" first attested 1784, from legal phrase waif and stray (1620s), from the adjective in the sense "lost, strayed, homeless." Neglected children being uncommonly thin, the word tended toward this sense. Connotations of "fashionable, small, slender woman" began 1991 with application to childishly slim supermodels such as Kate Moss.ETD waif (n.).3

    waifish (adj.)

    1870, from waif + -ish. Related: Waifishly; waifishness.ETD waifish (adj.).2

    wail (v.)

    c. 1300 (intransitive); mid-14c. (transitive), from Old Norse væla "to lament," from "woe" (see woe). Of jazz musicians, "to play very well," attested from 1955, American English slang (wailing "excellent" is attested from 1954). Related: Wailed; wailer.ETD wail (v.).2

    wail (n.)

    c. 1300; see wail (v.).ETD wail (n.).2

    wain (n.)

    Old English wægn "wheeled vehicle, wagon, cart," from Proto-Germanic *wagna, from PIE *wogh-no-, suffixed form of root *wegh- "to go, move, transport in a vehicle" (source also of Latin vehiculum). A doublet of wagon. Largely fallen from use by c. 1600, but kept alive by poets, who found it easier to rhyme on than wagon. As a name for the Big Dipper/Plough, it is from Old English (see Charles's Wain).ETD wain (n.).2

    wainscot (n.)

    mid-14c., "imported oak of superior quality" (well-grained and without knots), probably from Middle Dutch or Middle Flemish waghenscote "superior quality oak wood, board used for paneling" (though neither of these is attested as early as the English word), related to Middle Low German wagenschot (late 14c.), from waghen (see wagon) + scote "partition, crossbar" (from PIE root *skeud- "to shoot, chase, throw").ETD wainscot (n.).2

    So called perhaps because the wood originally was used for wagon building and coachwork, but the sense evolution is not entirely clear. Meaning "panels lining the walls of rooms" is recorded from 1540s. Wainscoting is from 1570s.ETD wainscot (n.).3

    wainwright (n.)

    "wagon-builder," Old English wægn-wyrhta; see wain + wright.ETD wainwright (n.).2

    waisted (adj.)

    c. 1400, "fitted with a (specified type of) waist," from waist.ETD waisted (adj.).2

    waist (n.)

    late 14c., "middle part of the body," also "part of a garment fitted for the waist, portion of a garment that covers the waist" (but, due to fashion styles, often above or below it), probably from Old English *wæst "growth," hence, "where the body grows," from Proto-Germanic *wahs-tu- (source also of Old English wæstm, Old Norse vöxtr, Swedish växt, Old High German wahst "growth, increase," Gothic wahstus "stature," Old English weaxan "to grow" see wax (v.)), from PIE *wegs-, extended form of root *aug- (1) "to increase."ETD waist (n.).2

    waistband (n.)

    1580s, from waist + band (n.1).ETD waistband (n.).2

    waistcoat (n.)

    1510s, from waist + coat (n.).ETD waistcoat (n.).2

    waistline (n.)

    also waist-line, 1867, from waist + line (n.).ETD waistline (n.).2

    wait (n.)

    early 13c., "a watcher, onlooker," from Old North French wait (Old French gait "look-out, watch, sentry"), from Old North French waitier (Old French gaitier; see wait (v.)). Compare Old High German wahta, German Wacht "a watchman." From late 14c. as "an ambush, a trap" (as in lie in wait). From 1855 as "time occupied in waiting;" 1873 as "an act of waiting." From the sense "civic employee responsible for signaling the hour or an alarm by sounding on a trumpet, etc." comes the old sense "town musicians" (mid-15c.).ETD wait (n.).2

    wait (v.)

    c. 1200, "to watch with hostile intent, lie in wait for, plot against," from Anglo-French and Old North French waitier "to watch" (Old French gaitier "defend, watch out, be on one's guard; lie in wait for;" Modern French guetter), from Frankish *wahton or another Germanic source, from Proto-Germanic *waht- (source also of Dutch wacht "a watching," Old High German wahten, German wachten "to watch, to guard;" Old High German wahhon "to watch, be awake," Old English wacian "to be awake"), from PIE root *weg- "to be strong, be lively." General sense of "remain in some place" is from late 14c.; that of "to see to it that something occurs" is late 14c. Meaning "to stand by in attendance on" is late 14c.; specific sense of "serve as an attendant at a table" is from 1560s. Related: Waited; waiting.ETD wait (v.).2

    To wait (something) out "endure a period of waiting" is recorded from 1849. Waiting room is attested from 1680s. Waiting list is recorded from 1841; the verb wait-list "to put (someone) on a waiting list" is recorded from 1960. Waiting game is recorded from 1835, originally in horse-racing.ETD wait (v.).3

    waiter (n.)

    late 14c., "attendant, watchman," agent noun from wait (v.). Sense of "attendant at a meal, servant who waits at tables" is from late 15c., originally in reference to household servants; in reference to inns, eating houses, etc., it is attested from 1660s.ETD waiter (n.).2

    waitress (n.)

    "woman who waits tables at a restaurant," 1834, from waiter + -ess.ETD waitress (n.).2

    waitstaff (n.)

    1981, American English; see waiter + staff (n.).ETD waitstaff (n.).2

    waive (v.)

    c. 1300, "deprive of legal protection," from Anglo-French weyver "to abandon, waive" (Old French guever "to abandon, give back"), probably from a Scandinavian source akin to Old Norse veifa "to swing about," from Proto-Germanic *waif-, from PIE root *weip- "to turn, vacillate, tremble ecstatically." In Middle English legal language, used of rights, goods, or women.ETD waive (v.).2

    By 17c. as "to relinquish, forbear to insist on or claim, defer for the present." Related: Waived; waiving.ETD waive (v.).3

    waiver (n.)

    "act of waiving," 1620s (modern use is often short for waiver clause); from Anglo-French legal usage of infinitive as a noun (see waive). Baseball waivers is recorded from 1907. Other survivals of noun use of infinitives in Anglo-French legalese include disclaimer, merger, rejoinder, misnomer, ouster, retainer, attainder.ETD waiver (n.).2

    wake (v.)

    "to become awake," a Middle English merger of Old English wacan "to become awake, arise, be born, originate," and Old English wacian "to be or remain awake," both from Proto-Germanic *wakjanan (source also of Old Saxon wakon, Old Norse vaka, Danish vaage, Old Frisian waka, Dutch waken, Old High German wahhen, German wachen "to be awake," Gothic wakan "to watch"), from PIE root *weg- "to be strong, be lively."ETD wake (v.).2

    Causative sense "to rouse from sleep" is attested from c. 1300. It has past tense woke, rarely waked (and that usually in the transitive sense) and past participle waked, rarely woke or woken. Related: Waking.ETD wake (v.).3

    These usage guides for awake, awaken, wake, waken are distilled from those in Fowler and Century Dictionary:ETD wake (v.).4

    1. Wake is the ordinary working verb; it alone has the sense "be or remain awake" (chiefly in waking).ETD wake (v.).5

    2. Awake and awaken are chiefly used in figurative or transferred applications (A rude awakening).ETD wake (v.).6

    3. Waken and awaken tend to be restricted to the transitive sense, awake being preferred in the senses related to arousing from actual sleep.ETD wake (v.).7

    4. In the passive, awaken and waken are preferred, perhaps owing to uncertainty about the past participle of forms of awake and wake. (The colloquial 2010s use of woke in relation to political and social awareness is an exception.)ETD wake (v.).8

    5. Up is commonly used with wake, but rarely with the others.ETD wake (v.).9

    wake (n.2)

    "state of wakefulness," Old English -wacu (in nihtwacu "night watch"), related to watch (n.); and partly from Old Norse vaka "vigil, eve before a feast" (which is related to vaka "be awake" and cognate with Old High German wahta "watch, vigil," Middle Dutch wachten "to watch, guard"), from PIE root *weg- "to be strong, be lively." Meaning "a sitting up at night with a corpse" is attested from early 15c. (the verb in this sense is recorded from mid-13c.; as a noun lichwake is from late 14c.). The custom largely survived as an Irish activity. Wakeman (c. 1200), which survives as a surname, was Middle English for "watchman."ETD wake (n.2).2

    wakeful (adj.)

    c. 1400, "diligent," from wake (n.2) + -ful. Related: Wakefully; wakefulness.ETD wakeful (adj.).2

    wake (n.1)

    "track left by a moving ship," 1540s, perhaps from Middle Low German or Middle Dutch wake "hole in the ice," from Old Norse vök, vaka "hole in the ice," from Proto-Germanic *wakwo. The sense perhaps evolved via "track made by a vessel through ice." Perhaps the English word is directly from Scandinavian. Figurative use (such as in the wake of "following close behind") is recorded from 1806.ETD wake (n.1).2

    waken (v.)

    "to become awake, cease to sleep," Old English wæcnan, wæcnian "to rise, awake; spring from, come into being," from Proto-Germanic *waknanan, from a suffixed form of PIE root *weg- "to be strong, be lively." OED regards the ending as the -n- "suffix of inchoative verbs of state," but Barnhart rejects this and says it is simply -en (1).ETD waken (v.).2

    The figurative sense was in Old English. Transitive sense of "to rouse (someone or something) from sleep" is recorded from c. 1200. For distinctions of usage, see wake (v.). Related: Wakened; wakening.ETD waken (v.).3

    wake-up (n.)

    something that brings one to alertness or out of sleep, 1965, often in the 1960s in reference to a shot of heroin in the morning. Phrase wake-up call is attested from 1968, originally a call one received from the hotel desk in the morning. Verbal phrase wake up is from 1530s; earlier the adverb was out (late 14c.)ETD wake-up (n.).2


    Proto-Indo-European root meaning "to be strong."ETD *wal-.2

    It forms all or part of: ambivalence; Arnold; avail; bivalent; convalesce; countervail; Donald; equivalent; evaluation; Gerald; Harold; invalid (adj.1) "not strong, infirm;" invalid (adj.2) "of no legal force;" Isold; multivalent; polyvalent; prevalent; prevail; Reynold; Ronald; valediction; valence; Valerie; valetudinarian; valiance; valiant; valid; valor; value; Vladimir; Walter; wield.ETD *wal-.3

    It is the hypothetical source of/evidence for its existence is provided by: Latin valere "be strong, be well, be worth;" Old Church Slavonic vlasti "to rule over;" Lithuanian valdyti "to have power;" Celtic *walos- "ruler," Old Irish flaith "dominion," Welsh gallu "to be able;" Old English wealdan "to rule," Old High German -walt, -wald "power" (in personal names), Old Norse valdr "ruler."ETD *wal-.4


    c. 1600, from Waldenses (plural), mid-15c., from Medieval Latin, apparently from Waldensis, a variant form of the surname of Peter Waldo, the preacher who originated the sect c.1170 in southern France. Excommunicated 1184, they eventually were swept into the Protestant revolt (16c.).ETD Waldensian.2

    Waldorf salad

    1911, from Waldorf-Astoria Hotel in New York, where it first was served.ETD Waldorf salad.2

    wale (n.)

    Old English walu "ridge, bank" of earth or stone, later "ridge made on flesh by a lash" (related to weal (n.2)); from Proto-Germanic *walu- (source also of Low German wale "weal," Old Frisian walu "rod," Old Norse völr "round piece of wood," Gothic walus "a staff, stick," Dutch wortel, German wurzel "root"), from PIE root *wel- (3) "to turn, revolve." The common notion perhaps is "raised line." Used in reference to the ridges of textile fabric from 1580s. Wales "horizontal planks which extend along a ship's sides" is attested from late 13c.ETD wale (n.).2


    see Welsh.ETD Wales.2

    walk (v.)

    "travel on foot," c. 1200, a merger of two verbs, 1. Old English wealcan "to toss, roll, move round" (past tense weolc, past participle wealcen), and 2. wealcian "to roll up, curl," from Proto-Germanic *welk- (source also of Old Norse valka "to drag about," Danish valke "to full" (cloth), Middle Dutch walken "to knead, press, full" (cloth), Old High German walchan "to knead," German walken "to full"), perhaps ultimately from PIE root *wel- (3) "to turn, revolve."ETD walk (v.).2

    The shift in sense is perhaps from a colloquial use of the Old English word or via the sense of "to full cloth" (by treading on it), though this sense does not appear until after the change in meaning. In 13c. it is used of snakes and the passage of time, and in 15c. of wheeled carts. "Rarely is there so specific a word as NE walk, clearly distinguished from both go and run" [Buck]. Meaning "to go away" is recorded from mid-15c. Transitive meaning "to exercise a dog (or horse)" is from late 15c.; meaning "to escort (someone) in a walk" is from 1620s. Meaning "move (a heavy object) by turning and shoving it in a manner suggesting walking" is by 1890. To walk it off, of an injury, etc., is from 1741. Related: Walked; walking.ETD walk (v.).3

    walk (n.)

    c. 1200, "a tossing, rolling;" mid-13c., "an act of walking, a going on foot;" late 14c., "a stroll," also "a path, a walkway;" from walk (v.). The meaning "broad path in a garden" is from 1530s. Meaning "particular manner of walking" is from 1650s. Meaning "manner of action, way of living" is from 1580s; hence walk of life (1733). Meaning "range or sphere of activity" is from 1759. Sports sense of "base on balls" is recorded from 1905; to win in a walk (1854) is from horse racing (see walk-over). As a type of sponsored group trek as a fund-raising event, by 1971 (walk-a-thon is from 1963).ETD walk (n.).2

    walking (adj.)

    c. 1400, present-participle adjective from walk (v.). Walking sickness, one in which the sufferer is able to get about and is not bed-ridden, is from 1846. Walking wounded is recorded from 1917. Walking bass is attested from 1939 in jazz slang. Walking stick is recorded from 1570s; the insect so called from 1760, for resemblance of shape.ETD walking (adj.).2

    walkabout (n.)

    "periodic migration by a westernized Aboriginal into the bush," 1828, Australian English, from walk (v.) + about.ETD walkabout (n.).2


    surname, early 13c., probably an agent noun from walk (v.) in the sense "to full cloth." preserves the cloth-fulling sense (walker with this meaning is attested from c. 1300). "Walker" or "Hookey Walker" was a common slang retort of incredulity in early and mid-19c. London, for which "Various problematic explanations have been offered" [Century Dictionary].ETD Walker.2

    walkie-talkie (n.)

    1939, popularized in World War II army slang, from walk (v.) + talk (v.).ETD walkie-talkie (n.).2

    walk-in (adj.)

    1928, "without appointment," from the verbal phrase, from walk (v.) + in (adv.). As a noun, meaning "walk-in closet," by 1946.ETD walk-in (adj.).2

    walk-on (n.)

    "minor non-speaking role," 1902, theatrical slang, from the verbal phrase walk on, attested in theater jargon by 1897 with a sense "appear in crowd scenes," from walk (v.) + on (adv.). Meaning "actor who has such a part" is attested from 1946. The sports team sense is recorded from 1974.ETD walk-on (n.).2

    walk-out (n.)

    "strike," 1888, from walk (v.) + out (adv.). Phrase walk out "to leave" is attested by 1840. To walk out on a person "desert, forsake" is by 1913.ETD walk-out (n.).2

    walk-over (n.)

    "easy victory," 1838, such as one that happens in the absence of competitors, when the solitary starter, being obliged to complete the event, can traverse the course at a walk. Transferred sense of "anything accomplished with great ease" is attested from 1902. To walk (all) over (someone) "treat with contempt" is from 1851.ETD walk-over (n.).2

    walk-through (n.)

    also walkthrough, 1944, "an easy part" (in a theatrical production), from walk (v.) + through. Meaning "dry run, full rehearsal" is from 1959, from the notion of "walking (someone) through" something.ETD walk-through (n.).2

    walk-up (adj.)

    in reference to an apartment not accessible by elevator, 1909, from the verbal phrase; see walk (v.) + up (adv.). As a noun from 1920 in reference to that type of apartment.ETD walk-up (adj.).2

    walkway (n.)

    1865, American English, from walk (v.) + way (n.).ETD walkway (n.).2

    wall (n.)

    Old English weall, Anglian wall "rampart, dike, earthwork" (natural as well as man-made), "dam, cliff, rocky shore," also "defensive fortification around a city, side of a building," an Anglo-Frisian and Saxon borrowing (Old Saxon, Old Frisian, Middle Low German, Middle Dutch wal) from Latin vallum "wall, rampart, row or line of stakes," apparently a collective form of vallus "stake," from PIE *walso- "a post." Swedish vall, Danish val are from Low German.ETD wall (n.).2

    Meaning "interior partition of a structure" is mid-13c. In this case, English uses one word where many languages have two, such as German Mauer "outer wall of a town, fortress, etc.," used also in reference to the former Berlin Wall, and wand "partition wall within a building" (compare the distinction, not always rigorously kept, in Italian muro/parete, Irish mur/fraig, Lithuanian mūras/siena, etc.). The Latin word for "defensive wall" was murus (see mural).ETD wall (n.).3

    Anatomical use from late 14c. To give (someone) the wall "allow him or her to walk on the (cleaner) wall side of the pavement" is from 1530s. To turn (one's) face to the wall "prepare to die" is from 1570s. Phrase up the wall "angry, crazy" is from 1951; off the wall "unorthodox, unconventional" is recorded from 1966, American English student slang. To go over the wall "escape" (originally from prison) is from 1933. Wall-to-wall (adj.) recorded 1939, of shelving, etc.; metaphoric use (usually disparaging) is from 1967.ETD wall (n.).4

    wall (v.)

    "to enclose with a wall," late Old English *weallian (implied in geweallod), from the source of wall (n.). Meaning "fill up (a doorway, etc.) with a wall" is from c. 1500. Meaning "shut up in a wall, immure" is from 1520s. Related: Walled; walling.ETD wall (v.).2

    wallaby (n.)

    kind of small kangaroo, 1826, from native Australian wolaba.ETD wallaby (n.).2

    Wallach (n.)

    also Walach, one of a Rumanian people, 1786, from German Wallache, from Old Church Slavonic Vlachu, from Old High German wahl "foreigner, one speaking a foreign language" (see Vlach). Related: Wallachia; Wallachian.ETD Wallach (n.).2

    wallah (n.)

    also walla, "person employed (in some specified business)," Anglo-Indian, from Hindi -wala, suffix forming adjectives with the sense "pertaining to, connected with;" the functional equivalent of English -er (1). Europeans took it to mean "man, fellow" and began using it as a word.ETD wallah (n.).2

    wallbanger (n.)

    cocktail made from vodka, Galliano, and orange juice, by 1969, in full Harvey wallbanger. Probably so called from its effect on the locomotive skills of the consumer.ETD wallbanger (n.).2

    wallboard (n.)

    1912, American English, from wall (n.) + board (n.1).ETD wallboard (n.).2

    wall-eyed (adj.)

    c. 1300, wawil-eghed, wolden-eiged, "having very light-colored eyes," also "having parti-colored eyes," from Old Norse vagl-eygr "having speckled eyes," from vagl "speck in the eye; beam, upper cross-beam, chicken-roost, perch," from Proto-Germanic *walgaz, from PIE *wogh-lo-, suffixed form of root *wegh- "to go, move, transport in a vehicle." The prehistoric sense evolution would be from "weigh" to "lift," to "hold, support." Meaning "having one or both eyes turned out" (and thus showing much white) is first recorded 1580s.ETD wall-eyed (adj.).2

    wallet (n.)

    late 14c., "bag, knapsack," of uncertain origin, probably from an unrecorded Old North French *walet "roll, knapsack," or similar Germanic word in Anglo-French or Old French, from Proto-Germanic *wall- "roll," from PIE root *wel- (3) "to turn, revolve." Meaning "flat case for carrying paper money" is first recorded 1834, American English.ETD wallet (n.).2

    walleye (n.)

    type of fish (pike-perch), 1876, American English, said to be so-called from the positioning of the eyes (see wall-eyed).ETD walleye (n.).2

    wallflower (n.)

    1570s, type of flowering plant cultivated in gardens, native to southern Europe, where it grows on old walls and in rocky places, from wall (n.) + flower (n.). Colloquial sense of "woman who sits by the wall at parties, often for want of a partner" is first recorded 1820.ETD wallflower (n.).2

    wally (n.)

    term of admiration, Scottish, early 16c., of unknown origin. As a masc. proper name, a diminutive of Walter, and this might be the source of the teen slang term "unfashionable person" (1969).ETD wally (n.).2

    Walloon (adj.)

    1520s, of a people of what is now souther and southeastern Belgium, also of their language, from French Wallon, literally "foreigner," of Germanic origin (compare Old High German walh "foreigner"). The people are of Gaulish origin and speak a French dialect. The name is a form of the common appellation of Germanic peoples to Romanic-speaking neighbors. See Vlach, also Welsh. As a noun from 1560s; as a language name from 1640s.ETD Walloon (adj.).2

    wallop (v.)

    late 14c., "to gallop," possibly from Old North French *waloper (13c., Old French galoper), from Frankish compound *walalaupan "to run well" (compare Old High German wela "well," see well (adv.); and Old Low Franconian loupon "to run, leap," from Proto-Germanic *hlaupan; see leap (v.)). The meaning "to thrash" (1820) and the noun meaning "heavy blow" (1823) may be separate developments, of imitative origin. Related: Walloped; walloping.ETD wallop (v.).2

    wallow (v.)

    Old English wealwian "to roll," from West Germanic *walwon, from PIE root *wel- (3) "to turn, revolve." Figurative sense of "to plunge and remain in some state or condition" is attested from early 13c. Related: Wallowed; wallowing. The noun is recorded from 1590s as "act of rolling;" 1841 as "place where an animal wallows."ETD wallow (v.).2

    wallpaper (n.)

    also wall-paper, 1827, from wall (n.) + paper (n.).ETD wallpaper (n.).2

    Wall Street (n.)

    "U.S. financial world," 1836, from street in New York City that is home to many investment firms and stock traders, as well as NYSE. The street so called because it ran along the interior of the defensive wall of the old Dutch colonial town.ETD Wall Street (n.).2

    walnut (n.)

    Old English walhnutu "nut of the walnut tree," literally "foreign nut," from wealh "foreign" (see Welsh) + hnutu (see nut). Compare Old Norse valhnot, Middle Low German walnut, Middle Dutch walnote, Dutch walnoot, German Walnuss. So called because it was introduced from Gaul and Italy, distinguishing it from the native hazel nut. Compare the Late Latin name for it, nux Gallica, literally "Gaulish nut." Applied to the tree itself from 1600 (earlier walnut tree, c. 1400).ETD walnut (n.).2

    Walpurgis night

    1820, from German Walpurgisnacht, witches' revel, especially on the Brocken in the Harz Mountains, on May-day eve, literally "the night of (St.) Walpurgis," from Walburga, English abbess who migrated to Heidenheim, Germany, and died there c. 780; May 1 being the day of the removal of her bones from Heidenheim to Eichstädt.ETD Walpurgis night.2

    walrus (n.)

    "large pinniped carnivorous mammal" (the males are noted for their enormous tusk-like canine teeth), 1650s, from Dutch walrus, which was probably a folk-etymology alteration (by influence of Dutch walvis "whale" and ros "horse") of a Scandinavian word, such as Old Norse rosmhvalr "walrus," hrosshvalr "a kind of whale," or rostungr "walrus." Old English had horschwæl, and later morse, from Lapp morsa or Finnish mursu, which ultimately might be the source, much garbled, of the first element in Old Norse rosmhvalr.ETD walrus (n.).2


    masc. proper name, from Old North French Waltier (Old French Gualtier, Modern French Gautier), of Germanic origin and cognate with Old High German Walthari, Walthere, literally "ruler of the army," from waltan "to rule" (from Proto-Germanic *waldan, from PIE root *wal- "to be strong") + hari "host, army" (see harry). Walter Mitty (1939) is from title character in "The Secret Life of Walter Mitty" by U.S. short story writer James Thurber (1894-1961).ETD Walter.2

    waltz (n.)

    round dance performed to music in triple time, extraordinarily popular as a fashionable dance from late 18c. to late 19c., the dance itself probably of Bohemian origin, 1779 (walse, in a translation of "Die Leiden des jungen Werthers" from a French translation, which has walse), from German Waltzer, from walzen "to roll, dance," from Old High German walzan "to turn, roll," from Proto-Germanic *walt- (cognate with Old Norse velta), from PIE root *wel- (3) "to turn, revolve."ETD waltz (n.).2

    Described in 1825 as "a riotous and indecent German dance" [Walter Hamilton, "A Hand-Book or Concise Dictionary of Terms Used in the Arts and Sciences"].ETD waltz (n.).3

    waltz (v.)

    1794, from waltz (n.). Meaning "to move nimbly" (as one does in dancing a waltz) is recorded from 1862. Related: Waltzed; waltzing.ETD waltz (v.).2

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