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    Bali — Bangladesh


    island in the Indonesian archipelago, of unknown origin. Related: Balinese.ETD Bali.2

    balk (n.)

    also baulk, Middle English balke, from Old English balca "ridge, bank," from or influenced by Old Norse balkr "ridge of land," especially between two plowed furrows, both from Proto-Germanic *balkon- (source also of Old Saxon balko, Danish bjelke, Old Frisian balka, Old High German balcho, German Balken "beam, rafter"), from PIE root *bhelg- "beam, plank" (source also of Latin fulcire "to prop up, support," fulcrum "bedpost;" Lithuanian balžiena "cross-bar;" and possibly Greek phalanx "trunk, log, line of battle"). Italian balco "a beam" is from Germanic (see balcony).ETD balk (n.).2

    In old use especially "an unplowed strip in a field, often along and marking a boundary." The modern senses are figurative, representing the balk as a hindrance or obstruction (see balk (v.)), or else the notion of "a piece missed in plowing" as "a blunder, a failure." Hence, in baseball, "a motion made by the pitcher as if to deliver the ball, but without doing so," attested from 1845, probably from the plowing sense.ETD balk (n.).3

    balk (v.)

    late 14c., "to leave an unplowed ridge when plowing," from balk (n.). The extended meaning "omit, intentionally neglect" is from mid-15c. Most modern senses are figurative, from the notion of a balk in the fields as a hindrance or obstruction: the sense of "stop short in one's course" (as a horse confronted with an obstacle) is late 15c.; that of "to refuse" is 1580s. For baseball sense, see the noun. Related: Balked; balking.ETD balk (v.).2

    Balkanize (v.)

    1914, "to divide into small and mutually hostile groups," as was the political condition of the Balkans; it is said to have been coined by English editor James Louis Garvin, but A.J. Toynbee (1922) credited it to "German Socialists" describing the results of the treaty of Brest-Litovsk. Either way, the reference is to the political situation in the Balkans c. 1878-1913, when the European section of the Ottoman Empire melted into small, warring nations. Balkanized and Balkanization both also are from 1920.ETD Balkanize (v.).2

    Balkan (adj.)

    1835, "of or pertaining to the Balkans" (q.v.) or to the mountain range that runs across them.ETD Balkan (adj.).2


    the mountainous peninsula between the Adriatic and Black seas (including Greece), probably from Turkic.ETD Balkans.2

    Balkanise (v.)

    see Balkanize. Related: Balkanisation.ETD Balkanise (v.).2

    balky (adj.)

    "apt to stop abruptly and refuse to move," 1847, from balk (n.) + -y (2). Related: Balkily; balkiness.ETD balky (adj.).2

    balls (n.)

    "testicles," early 14c., from plural of ball (n.1). See also ballocks. Meaning "courage, nerve" is from 1928. Balls to the wall, however, probably is from World War II Air Forces slang, from the ball that topped the aircraft throttle, thrust to the bulkhead of the cockpit to attain full speed.ETD balls (n.).2

    Ball-busting "difficult" is recorded by 1944; ball-breaker "difficult job or problem" is by 1954. Ball-buster, disparaging for "dominant female, woman who destroys men's self-confidence" is from 1954; ball-breaker in this sense is by 1970 (of Bella Abzug).ETD balls (n.).3

    ball (n.1)

    "round object, compact spherical body," also "a ball used in a game," c. 1200, probably from an unrecorded Old English *beal, *beall (evidenced by the diminutive bealluc "testicle"), or from cognate Old Norse bollr "ball," from Proto-Germanic *balluz (source also of Dutch bal, Flemish bal, Old High German ballo, German Ball), from PIE root *bhel- (2) "to blow, swell."ETD ball (n.1).2

    The meaning "testicle" is from early 14c. (compare ballocks). Ball of the foot is from mid-14c. The meaning "rounded missile used in warfare" is from late 14c.ETD ball (n.1).3

    The meaning "a game played with a ball" is from mid-14c. The baseball sense of "pitch that does not cross the plate within the strike zone" is by 1889, probably short for high ball, low ball, etc.ETD ball (n.1).4

    Ball-point pen is by 1946. Ball of fire when first recorded in 1821 referred to "a glass of brandy;" as "spectacularly successful striver" it is attested from c. 1900. Many phrases are from sports: To have the ball "hold the advantage" is from c. 1400. To be on the ball is from 1912; to keep (one's) eye on the ball in the figurative sense is by 1907, probably ultimately on golf, where it was oft-repeated advice. Figurative use of ball in (someone's) court is by 1956, from tennis.ETD ball (n.1).5

    ball (n.2)

    "dancing party, social assembly for dancing," 1630s, from French, from Old French baller "to dance," from Late Latin ballare "to dance," from Greek ballizein "to dance, jump about," literally "to throw one's body" (ancient Greek dancing being highly athletic), from PIE root *gwele- "to throw, reach." The extended meaning "very enjoyable time" is American English slang from 1945, perhaps 1930s in African-American vernacular.ETD ball (n.2).2

    ball (v.)

    1650s, "make into a ball," from ball (n.1). The intransitive sense of "become like a ball, form a compact cluster" is from 1713; that of "to copulate" is attested by 1940s in jazz slang, either from the noun sense of "testicle" or "enjoyable time" (from ball (n.2)). Related: Balled; balling.ETD ball (v.).2

    ballade (n.)

    late 14c., an earlier borrowing of ballad (q.v.) with a specific metrical sense. Technically, a poem consisting of one or more triplets of seven- (later eight-) lined stanzas, each ending with the same line as the refrain, usually with an envoy. Popularized 19c. as a type of musical composition by Frédéric Chopin. Ballade royal, in which each line consists of ten syllables, is recorded from late 15c.ETD ballade (n.).2

    ballad (n.)

    late 15c., from Old French ballade "dancing song" (13c.), from Old Provençal ballada "(poem for a) dance," from balar "to dance," from Late Latin ballare "to dance" (see ball (n.2)). Originally a song intended to accompany a dance; later "a short narrative poem suitable for singing" (17c.).ETD ballad (n.).2

    balladry (n.)

    "poetry in ballads," 1590s, from ballad + -ry.ETD balladry (n.).2

    ball and chain (n.)

    a type of prisoner's restraint, 1818; used figuratively by 1883 of foolish, wasteful habits; as "one's wife," 1920.ETD ball and chain (n.).2


    surname, attested from late 12c., probably meaning "bald head;" see Wyclif's "Stye up, ballard," where Coverdale translates "Come vp here thou balde heade" [2 Kings ii:23-24].ETD Ballard.2

    ballast (n.)

    "heavy material used to steady a ship," 1520s, from Middle English bar "bare" (see bare (adj.); in this case "mere") + last "a load, burden," from Proto-Germanic *hlasta-, from PIE root *klā- "to spread out flat" (see lade). Or borrowed from identical terms in North Sea Germanic and Scandinavian (compare Old Danish barlast, 14c.). "Mere" because not carried for commercial purposes. Dutch balg-last "ballast," literally "belly-load," is a folk-etymology corruption.ETD ballast (n.).2

    ball-bearing (n.)

    1874, "method of lessening friction by surrounding a shaft with loose balls;" see ball (n.1) + bearing (n.). They "bear" the friction.ETD ball-bearing (n.).2

    ball-boy (n.)

    "boy who retrieves balls that go out of play during a game or match," 1896, in tennis, from ball (n.1) + boy. By 1955 in baseball. Ball-girl in tennis is by 1953.ETD ball-boy (n.).2

    ball-club (n.)

    also ballclub, "association of players of a ball game," 1845, from ball (n.1) + club (n.) in the "social organization" sense.ETD ball-club (n.).2

    ball-cock (n.)

    "small hollow sphere on the end of a lever which turns the stop-cock of a water-pipe," 1790, from ball (n.1) + cock (n.2).ETD ball-cock (n.).2

    ballerina (n.)

    "female ballet dancer," 1792, from Italian ballerina, literally "dancing girl," fem. of ballerino "dancer," from ballo "a dance" (see ball (n.2)). The Italian plural form ballerine sometimes also was used in English.ETD ballerina (n.).2

    ballet (n.)

    "theatrical, costumed dance and pantomime performance telling a story and representing characters and passions by gestures and groupings," 1660s, from French ballette from Italian balletto, diminutive of ballo "a dance," from Late Latin ballare "to dance," from Greek ballizein "to dance, jump about" (see ball (n.2)).ETD ballet (n.).2

    balletomane (n.)

    "ballet enthusiast," by 1930, from ballet + -mane "one who has a mania for," which is ultimately from Greek and related to mania "madness."ETD balletomane (n.).2

    ballgame (n.)

    also ball-game, "game played with a ball; one contest at such a game," 1848, from ball (n.1) + game (n.). Also later, in general figurative use, "a particular situation" (by 1968).ETD ballgame (n.).2

    bally (adj.)

    1885, British English, slang euphemism for bloody.ETD bally (adj.).2

    ballistic (adj.)

    1775, "pertaining to construction and use of thrown objects," ultimately from Greek ballein "to throw" (from PIE root *gwele- "to throw, reach"). Of rockets or missiles (ones that are guided while under propulsion, but fall freely), from 1949. Ballistic missile is attested from 1954; they attain extreme heights, hence figurative expression go ballistic (1981) "become irrationally angry."ETD ballistic (adj.).2

    ballistics (n.)

    "art of throwing large missiles; science of the motion of projectiles," 1753, with -ics + Latin ballista "ancient military machine for hurling stones," from Greek ballistes, from ballein "to throw, to throw so as to hit," also in a looser sense, "to put, place, lay" (from PIE root *gwele- "to throw, reach").ETD ballistics (n.).2

    ballista (n.)

    ancient war engine used for throwing missiles, late 14c., from Latin ballista "military machine for hurling stones," from Greek ballistes, from ballein "to throw, to throw so as to hit," also in a looser sense, "to put, place, lay" (from PIE root *gwele- "to throw, reach").ETD ballista (n.).2

    ballocks (n.)

    "testicles," from Old English beallucas, plural diminutive, from Proto-Germanic *ball-, from PIE root *bhel- (2) "to blow, swell."ETD ballocks (n.).2

    ballon (n.)

    "smoothness in dancing, lightness of step," 1830, from French ballon, literally "balloon" (see balloon (n.)).ETD ballon (n.).2

    balloon (n.)

    1570s, "a game played with a large inflated leather ball tossed, batted, or kicked back and forth," also the ball itself (1590s), from Italian pallone "large ball," from palla "ball," from a Germanic source akin to Langobardic palla (from Proto-Germanic *ball-, from PIE root *bhel- (2) "to blow, swell") + -one, suffix indicating great size.ETD balloon (n.).2

    The English word is perhaps also borrowed in part from French ballon (16c.), altered (after balle) from Italian pallone. Also see -oon.ETD balloon (n.).3

    The meaning "bag or hollow vessel filled with heated air or (later) hydrogen or helium so as to rise and float in the atmosphere" is 1784, after the Montgolfier brothers' flights. As a toy air- or gas-filled inflatable bag, from 1858; as "outline containing words in a comic engraving" it dates from 1844. Balloon-frame (n.) "structure of light timber fitted together to form the skeleton of a building" is from 1853.ETD balloon (n.).4

    ballooning (n.)

    "art or process of ascending in and managing a balloon," 1784, verbal noun from balloon (v.).ETD ballooning (n.).2

    balloon (v.)

    1792, "to go up in a balloon;" 1841, "to swell, puff up;" from balloon (n.). Related: Ballooned; ballooning.ETD balloon (v.).2

    balloonist (n.)

    "one who ascends in a balloon," 1784, from balloon (n.) + -ist. In the heyday of ballooning mania, balloonacy (1858) and balloonatic (1852) also were used.ETD balloonist (n.).2

    ballot (v.)

    1540s, "to vote by secret method" (such as ballot balls), from ballot (n.). Related: Balloted; balloting.ETD ballot (v.).2

    ballot (n.)

    1540s, "small ball used in voting," also "secret vote taken by ballots," from Italian pallotte, diminutive of palla "ball," for small balls used as counters in secret voting, from a Germanic source (from PIE root *bhel- (2) "to blow, swell"). The earliest references are to Venice. By 1776 the sense of the word had been extended to tickets or sheets of paper used in secret voting. Ballot box attested from 1670s; metonymically from 1834 as "system or practice of voting by ballot."ETD ballot (n.).2

    ballpark (n.)

    also ball-park, "baseball stadium," 1893, short for baseball (or football) park; see ball (n.1) + park (n.).ETD ballpark (n.).2

    To be in the ballpark in the figurative sense of "within an acceptable range of approximation" is first recorded 1954, originally in the jargon of atomic weapons scientists, perhaps referring to the area within which a missile was expected to return to earth; the idea is broad but reasonably predictable dimensions. Hence ballpark (adj.) "approximate" (1967), of figures, etc.ETD ballpark (n.).3

    ballplayer (n.)

    also ball-player, "one who plays a ball game," mid-15c., from ball (n.1) + player.ETD ballplayer (n.).2

    ballroom (n.)

    also ball-room, "a room designed or set aside for dancing parties," 1724, from ball (n.2) + room (n.). Ballroom dancing is attested by 1872.ETD ballroom (n.).2

    ballsy (adj.)

    "courageous, masculine," 1959, first attested in Norman Mailer (writing of Truman Capote); see balls + -y (2). Related: Ballsiness.ETD ballsy (adj.).2

    ballyhoo (n.)

    "publicity, hype," 1908, from circus slang, "a short sample of a sideshow" used to lure customers (1901), which is of unknown origin. The word seems to have been in use in various colloquial senses in the 1890s. To catch ballyhoo is attested from 1895 in sense "be in trouble." There is a village of Ballyhooly in County Cork, Ireland, (the Bally- is a common Irish place-name element meaning "a town, village") but there is no evident sense connection to it. In nautical lingo, ballahou or ballahoo (1867, perhaps 1836) was a sailor's contemptuous word for any vessel they disliked (from Spanish balahu "schooner"). As a verb from 1901 (implied in ballyhooer).ETD ballyhoo (n.).2

    balm (n.)

    c. 1200, basme, "oily, resinous aromatic substance exuding naturally from shrubs of the genus Commiphora," from Old French basme, baume, balme "balsam, balm" (12c., Modern French baume), from Latin balsamum, from Greek balsamon "balsam," from Hebrew (Semitic) basam "spice," which is related to Aramaic busma, Arabic basham "balsam, spice, perfume." The spelling was refashioned 15c.-16c. on the Latin model. Compare balsam.ETD balm (n.).2

    As the name of a tree which yields the substance, it is attested from late 14c.; from mid-15c. it was extended to various fragrant garden herbs. Also by extension, "any aromatic preparation used in healing wounds or soothing pain, or as a perfume or in anointing" (late 14c.). Hence the transferred sense of "healing or soothing influence" (1540s). Biblical Balm of Gilead (esteemed for its medicinal properties) is from Coverdale (Jeremiah viii.22); the Hebrew word there is tsori, which was rendered in Septuagint and Vulgate as "resin" (Greek rhētinē, Latin resina).ETD balm (n.).3

    balmy (adj.)

    c. 1500, "delicately fragrant," from balm + -y (2). Figurative use for "soft and soothing" dates from c. 1600. In reference to breezes, air, etc., "mild, fragrant" (combining both earlier senses), it is attested from 1704. The meaning "weak-minded, idiotic," 1851, is from London slang, perhaps by confusion with barmy. Related: Balmily.ETD balmy (adj.).2

    balneal (adj.)

    "pertaining to baths," 1640s, with -al (1) + Latin balneum "bath," from Greek balaneion "warm bath, bathing room," which is of unknown origin. Balneography (1841) is the description of baths and medicinal springs.ETD balneal (adj.).2

    baloney (n.)

    1894 as a spelling variant of bologna sausage (q.v.), representing the popular pronunciation. As slang for "nonsense," it is attested by 1922, American English (popularized early 1930s by Gov. Alfred E. Smith of New York; sometimes said to be one of the coinages of legendary "Variety" staffer Jack Conway). This is from an earlier sense of "idiot" (by 1915), perhaps influenced by blarney, but usually regarded as being from the sausage, as a type traditionally made from odds and ends. It also was early 20c. ring slang for an inferior fighter.ETD baloney (n.).2

    balsa (n.)

    1852 as the name of a tropical South American tree noted for its soft, light-weight wood, apparently from Spanish balsa "float," originally the name of rafts used on the Pacific coast of Latin America (attested in English in this sense from 1777, also balza), perhaps from a native word of Peru. Related: Balsa-wood (1913).ETD balsa (n.).2

    balsam (n.)

    1570s, "aromatic resin used for healing wounds and soothing pains," from Latin balsamum "gum of the balsam tree," ultimately from Semitic (see balm). There is an isolated Old English use from c. 1000, and Middle English used balsamum. Originally in reference to Balm of Gilead, later extended to various other aromatic preparations from trees and shrubs. As a type of flowering plant of the Impatiens family, it is attested from 1741.ETD balsam (n.).2

    balsamic (adj.)

    c. 1600, "health-giving," from balsam + -ic. From 1640s as "pertaining to balsam," 1670s as "yielding balsam," 1714 as "aromatic, fragrant." Balsamic vinegar is by 1849.ETD balsamic (adj.).2

    Balt (n.)

    1878, "native or inhabitant of the Baltic states" (ancient or modern), from Late Latin Balthae, from the source of Baltic (q.v.). Before World War II sometimes meaning especially an ethnic German inhabitant of those states.ETD Balt (n.).2


    masc. proper name, from French, from Latin, from Greek Baltasar, from Hebrew Belteshatztzar, Biblical king of Babylon (who "saw the writing on the wall"), from Babylonian Balat-shar-usur, literally "save the life of the king." As a type of very large wine bottle by 1935, in allusion to Daniel v.1.ETD Balthazar.2

    Baltic (adj.)

    1580s, "pertaining to the brackish sea between the Scandinavian peninsula and Eastern Europe," from Medieval Latin Balticus, perhaps from Lithuanian baltas "white" or Scandinavian balta "belt; strait" (in reference to its narrow entranceway). In German, it is Ostsee, literally "east sea." From 1887 as the name of a language group comprising Lithuanian, Lettish, and Old Prussian.ETD Baltic (adj.).2


    city in Maryland, U.S., founded 1729, named for Cecilius Calvert (1605-1675), 2nd baron Baltimore, who held the charter for Maryland colony; the name is from a small port town in southern Ireland where the family had its seat, from Irish Baile na Tighe Mor, literally "townland of the big house." In old baseball slang, a Baltimore chop was a hit right in front of the plate that bounced high.ETD Baltimore.2


    combining form of Baltic (q.v.).ETD Balto-.2


    historical country or region east of Persia between Afghanistan and the Arabian Sea, now forming southwestern Pakistan, from the people-name Baluchi (in English from 1610s) + -stan.ETD Baluchistan.2

    baluchitherium (n.)

    ancient mammal, 1913, Modern Latin, from Baluchi (see Baluchistan) + Greek thērion "beast" (from PIE root *ghwer- "wild beast"). So called because its fossils originally were found there.ETD baluchitherium (n.).2

    baluster (n.)

    also balluster, "support for a railing" (commonly one that swells outward at some point), c. 1600, from French balustre (16c.), from Italian balaustro "small pillar," said to be from balausta "flower of the wild pomegranate," from Greek balaustion (which is perhaps of Semitic origin; compare Aramaic balatz "flower of the wild pomegranate"). The uprights had lyre-like double curves, which resembled the half-opened pomegranate flower.ETD baluster (n.).2

    balustrade (n.)

    "row of balusters supporting a railing," 1640s, from French balustrade (17c.), from Italian balaustrata "provided with balusters," from balaustro "small pillar" (see baluster).ETD balustrade (n.).2

    bam (interj.)

    imitative of the sound of a hard hit, first recorded 1922 (from 1917 as the sound of an artillery shell bursting). Middle English had a verb bammen "to hit or strike" (late 14c.). A literary work from c. 1450 represents the sound of repeated impact with Lus, bus! las, das!, and Middle English had lushe "a stroke, blow" (c. 1400); lushen "to strike, knock, beat" (c. 1300). Bam also was an old slang shortening of bamboozle (18c.).ETD bam (interj.).2

    bambino (n.)

    1761, "image of the Christ child in swaddling clothes," especially as exhibited in Italian churches at Christmastime, from Italian bambino, "baby, little child," a diminutive of bambo "simple" (compare Latin bambalio "dolt," Greek bambainein "to stammer"), of imitative origin. In U.S. baseball lore, a nickname of George Herman "Babe" Ruth Jr. (1895-1948).ETD bambino (n.).2

    bamboo (n.)

    type of giant grass common in the tropics, 1590s, from Dutch bamboe and/or Portuguese bambu, earlier mambu (16c.), probably from Malay (Austronesian) samambu, though some suspect this is itself an imported word, perhaps from Kanarese (Dravidian). Bamboo curtain in reference to communist China (based on iron curtain) is from 1949.ETD bamboo (n.).2

    bamboozle (v.)

    "to cheat, trick, swindle," 1703, originally a slang or cant word, of unknown origin. Perhaps Scottish from bombaze, bumbaze "confound, perplex," or related to bombast, or related to French embabouiner "to make a fool (literally 'baboon') of." Wedgwood suggests Italian bambolo, bamboccio, bambocciolo "a young babe," extended by metonymy to mean "an old dotard or babish gull." Related: Bamboozled; bamboozler; bamboozling. As a noun from 1703.ETD bamboozle (v.).2

    ban (v.)

    Old English bannan "to summon, command, proclaim," from Proto-Germanic *bannan "to speak publicly" (used in reference to various sorts of proclamations), "command; summon; outlaw, forbid" (source also of Old Frisian bonna "to order, command, proclaim," Old High German bannan "to command or forbid under threat of punishment," German bannen "banish, expel, curse"), apparently a Germanic specialization from a suffixed form of PIE root *bha- (2) "to speak, tell, say" (source also of Old Irish bann "law," Armenian ban "word").ETD ban (v.).2

    From mid-12c. as "to curse, condemn, pronounce a curse upon;" from late 14c. as "to prohibit;" these senses likely are via the Old Norse cognate banna "to curse, prohibit," and probably in part from Old French banir "to summon, banish" (see banish), a borrowing from Germanic. The sense evolution in Germanic was from "speak" to "proclaim a threat" to (in Norse, German, etc.) "curse, anathematize."ETD ban (v.).3

    The Germanic root, borrowed in Latin and French, has been productive: banal, bandit, contraband, etc. Related: Banned; banning. Banned in Boston dates from 1920s, in allusion to the excessive zeal and power of that city's Watch and Ward Society. Ban the bomb as a slogan of the nuclear disarmament movement is from 1955.ETD ban (v.).4

    ban (n.1)

    c. 1300, "proclamation or edict of an overlord," from Old English (ge)bann "proclamation, summons, command" and cognate Old French ban "decree, announcement," which is from a Germanic language, from Proto-Germanic *bannaz (source also of Old Frisian bon "order, commandment; jurisdiction, penalty; eternal damnation, excommunication," Old Saxon bann "commandment, prohibition"), from *bannan "to speak publicly" (used in reference to various sorts of proclamations), "command; summon; outlaw, forbid" (see ban (v.)).ETD ban (n.1).2

    The meaning "an authoritative prohibition" is from 1660s. There are noun forms in most of the Germanic languages, from the verbs. Compare banns.ETD ban (n.1).3

    ban (n.2)

    1610s, "Croatian military chief," a title given to those who governed and guarded the southern marches of Hungary, later to the Austrian-appointed governors of Croatia and Slovenia, from Serbo-Croatian ban "lord, master, ruler," from Persian ban "prince, lord, chief, governor," which is cognate with Sanskrit pati "guards, protects." Hence banat "district governed by a ban," with Latinate suffix -atus. The Persian word is said to have gotten into Slavic via the Avars.ETD ban (n.2).2

    banality (n.)

    1857, "anything common or trite;" 1878, "triteness, triviality," from French banalité (17c.), from banal "hackneyed, commonplace" (see banal). Earlier in reference to restrictions on grain-milling, etc., in feudal tenure in France and French Canada.ETD banality (n.).2

    banal (adj.)

    "trite, commonplace," 1840, from French banal, "belonging to a manor; common, hackneyed, commonplace," from Old French banel "communal" (13c.), from ban "decree; legal control; announcement; authorization; payment for use of a communal oven, mill, etc.," from a Germanic source, from Proto-Germanic *bannan "to speak publicly, used of different kinds of proclamations (see ban (v.)).ETD banal (adj.).2

    The sense evolved from the word's use in designating ovens, mills, etc. that were used in common by serfs, or else in reference to compulsory feudal military service; in either case it was generalized in French through "open to everyone" to "commonplace, ordinary," to "trite, petty." The word was earlier used in English with a sense of "pertaining to compulsory feudal service" (1753). Related: Banalize; banalization.ETD banal (adj.).3

    bananas (adj.)

    "crazy," 1968; earlier it was noted as an underworld slang term for "sexually perverted" (1935).ETD bananas (adj.).2

    banana (n.)

    edible fruit of an endogenous plant of the tropics, 1590s; in reference to the plant itself, 1690s; borrowed by Spanish or Portuguese from a West African word, possibly Wolof banana. The plant seems to be native to Southeast Asia and the East Indies; it was introduced in Africa in prehistoric times and brought to the New World from Africa in 1516.ETD banana (n.).2

    Banana-skin is from 1851, banana-peel from 1874, both originally with reference to them being left carelessly on the ground and liable to cause a pratfall when trodden upon. The nuisance was a frequent complaint in cities, and there seems to have been a regular insurance scam targeting streetcar lines in the 1890s.ETD banana (n.).3

    Banana split is attested from 1905. Banana oil "nonsense" is slang from c. 1910; probably from earlier use as the name of a chemical substance (also called banana liquid and essence of banana) used by 1873, one of the earliest artificial flavorings. Top banana, second banana, etc. are 1950s, from show business slang use of banana for "comedian," especially in a burlesque show.ETD banana (n.).4

    banana republic (n.)

    "small Central American state with an economy dependent on banana production," 1901, American English.ETD banana republic (n.).2

    banausic (adj.)

    "merely mechanical," coined 1845 from Greek banausikos "pertaining to mechanics," from banausos "artisan, mere mechanical," hence (to the Greeks) "base, ignoble;" sometimes said to be literally "working by fire," from baunos "furnace, forge" (but Beekes dismisses this as folk etymology and calls it a pre-Greek word of uncertain origin).ETD banausic (adj.).2

    band (n.1)

    "a flat strip," also "something that binds," Middle English bende, from Old English bend "bond, fetter, shackle, chain, that by which someone or something is bound; ribbon, ornament, chaplet, crown," with later senses and spelling from cognate Old Norse band and technical senses from Old French bande "strip, edge, side" (12c., Old North French bende), all three ultimately from Proto-Germanic *bindan, from PIE root *bhendh- "to bind."ETD band (n.1).2

    The meaning "a flat strip" (late 14c.) is from French. In Middle English, this was sometimes distinguished by the spelling bande, bonde, but with loss of terminal -e the words have fully merged via the notion of "flat strip of flexible material used to wind around something."ETD band (n.1).3

    The meaning "broad stripe of color, ray of colored light" is from late 14c.; the electronics sense of "range of frequencies or wavelengths" is from 1922. Most of the figurative senses ("legal or moral commitment; captivity, imprisonment," etc.) have passed into bond (n.), which originally was a phonetic variant of this band. The Middle English form of the word is retained in heraldic bend (n.2) "broad diagonal stripe on a coat-of-arms."ETD band (n.1).4

    band (n.2)

    "an organized group," originally especially of armed men, late 15c., from French bande, which is traceable to the Proto-Germanic root of band (n.1), perhaps via a band of cloth worn as a mark of identification by a group of soldiers or others (compare Gothic bandwa "a sign"). But perhaps it is rather from Middle English band, bond in the sense "force that unites, bond, tie" (late 14c.). Also compare Old Norse band "cord that binds; act of binding," also "confederacy."ETD band (n.2).2

    The extension to "group of musicians" is c. 1660, originally musicians attached to a regiment of the army and playing instruments which may be used while marching. To beat the band (1897) is to make enough noise to drown it out, hence to exceed everything. One-man band is recorded by 1931 in the sense of "man who plays several musical instruments simultaneously;" the figurative extension is attested by 1938.ETD band (n.2).3

    band (v.)

    1520s, "to bind or fasten;" also "to join in a company," from band (n.1) and (n.2) in various senses, and partly from French bander "to bind," from bande "a strip." The meaning "affix an ID band to (a wild animal, etc.)" is attested from 1914. Related: Banded; banding.ETD band (v.).2

    bandage (n.)

    "strip of soft cloth or other material used in binding wounds, stopping bleeding, etc.," 1590s, from French bandage (16c.), from Old French bander "to bind," from bande "a strip" (see band (n.1)).ETD bandage (n.).2

    bandage (v.)

    "to dress a wound, etc., with a bandage," 1734 (implied in bandaging), from bandage (n.). Related: Bandaged.ETD bandage (v.).2

    Band-Aid (n.)

    trademark name (Johnson & Johnson) for a stick-on gauze pad or strip, by 1922. See band (n.1) + aid (n.). The British equivalent was Elastoplast. Figurative sense of "temporary or makeshift solution to a problem, pallative" (often lower case, sometimes bandaid) is attested by 1968; as an adjective in this sense, by 1970.ETD Band-Aid (n.).2

    bandalore (n.)

    "toy yo-yo," 1802, of obscure origin; see yo-yo.ETD bandalore (n.).2

    bandanna (n.)

    also often bandana, 1752, from Hindi bandhnu, a method of dyeing, from Sanskrit badhnati "binds" (because the cloth is tied in different places like modern tie-dye), from PIE root *bhendh- "to bind." Perhaps to English via Portuguese. The colors and spots are what makes it a bandanna.ETD bandanna (n.).2

    bandbox (n.)

    "light box of pasteboard or thin wood," originally made to hold the starched bands worn as collars in 17c. men's and women's dress, 1630s, from band (n.1) + box (n.1). Later used for other light articles of attire, but the name stuck. Typical of something fragile and flimsy, but it also was figurative of smallness and of neat, clean condition.ETD bandbox (n.).2

    bandeau (n.)

    1706, "headband," from French bandeau, from Old French bandel, bendel "bandage, binding" (12c.), diminutive of bande "band" (see band (n.1)). As a style of women's top or bra by 1968.ETD bandeau (n.).2

    bandersnatch (n.)

    "fabulous, dangerous creature," 1871 ("Jabberwocky"), coined by Lewis Carroll.ETD bandersnatch (n.).2

    bandy (v.)

    1570s, "to strike back and forth, throw to and fro," from French bander, from root of band (n.2). The sense apparently evolved from "join together to oppose," to opposition itself, to "exchange blows," then metaphorically, to volleying in tennis. Related: Bandied; bandying.ETD bandy (v.).2

    bandy (n.)

    Irish ball game, precursor of field hockey, 1690s, played with a curved stick, also called a bandy (1620s), from bandy (v.) "throw to and fro, strike back and forth."ETD bandy (n.).2

    bandicoot (n.)

    1789, a corruption of Telugu pandi-kokku, literally "pig-rat." Properly the Anglo-Indian name of a large and destructive type of Indian rat; applied from 1827 to a type of insectivorous Australian marsupial somewhat resembling it.ETD bandicoot (n.).2

    bandit (n.)

    "lawless robber, brigand" (especially as part of an organized band), 1590s, from Italian bandito (plural banditi) "outlaw," past participle of bandire "proscribe, banish," from Vulgar Latin *bannire "to proclaim, proscribe," from Proto-Germanic *bannan "to speak publicly" (used in reference to various sorts of proclamations), "command; summon; outlaw, forbid" (see ban (v.)).ETD bandit (n.).2

    Vulgar Latin *bannire (or its Frankish cognate *bannjan) in Old French became banir, which, with lengthened stem, became English banish.ETD bandit (n.).3

    banditry (n.)

    "the activities or practices of bandits," 1861, from bandit + -ry.ETD banditry (n.).2

    bandolier (n.)

    1570s, "shoulder belt" (for a wallet, etc.), from French bandouiliere (16c.), from Italian bandoliera or Spanish bandolera, from diminutive of banda "a scarf, sash," a Germanic loan-word related to Gothic bandwa (see banner). In some cases, directly from Spanish to English as bandoleer. The meaning "ammunition belt for a musket" is from 1590s; hence bandolero "highwayman, robber" (1832), from Spanish, literally "man who wears a bandoleer."ETD bandolier (n.).2

    band-saw (n.)

    also bandsaw, "endless band of steel with a serrated edge," 1847, from band (n.1) + saw (n.1). Said to have been invented 1809 by William Newberry of London.ETD band-saw (n.).2

    bandstand (n.)

    also band-stand, "sheltered outdoor platform, typically in a park, for a band to play from," 1852, from band (n.2) in the musical sense + stand (n.).ETD bandstand (n.).2

    bandwagon (n.)

    also band-wagon, 1849, American English, from band (n.2) + wagon, originally a large wagon used to carry the band in a circus procession; as these also figured in celebrations of successful political campaigns, being on the bandwagon came to mean "attaching oneself to anything that looks likely to succeed," a usage attested by 1899 in writings of Theodore Roosevelt.ETD bandwagon (n.).2

    bandwidth (n.)

    1930, in electronics, "range of frequencies within a given band," from band (n.1) + width.ETD bandwidth (n.).2

    bandy-legged (adj.)

    "having outward-bent or crooked legs," 1680s, a reference to the bandy, the bent stick used in the Irish field game of bandy (n.).ETD bandy-legged (adj.).2

    bane (n.)

    Middle English bane, from Old English bana "killer, slayer, murderer, a worker of death" (human, animal, or object), also "the devil," from Proto-Germanic *banon, cognate with *banja- "wound" (source also of Old Frisian bona "murderer," Old Norse bani "death; that which causes death," Old High German bana "death, destruction," Old English benn "wound," Gothic banja "stroke, wound"), a word of no certain IE etymology. The sense of "that which causes ruin or woe" is attested from 1570s. Related: Baneful.ETD bane (n.).2

    bang (n.)

    1540s, "heavy, resounding blow;" see bang (v.). Meaning "loud, sudden explosive noise" is by 1855.ETD bang (n.).2

    bang (v.)

    1540s, "to strike hard with a loud blow," an imitative formation, or else from a Scandinavian source akin to Old Norse banga "to pound, hammer" also of echoic origin.ETD bang (v.).2

    The slang meaning "have sexual intercourse with" attested by 1937. As an adverb, "suddenly, abruptly," by 1828, probably from the notion of "with a sudden or violent sound." Related: Banged; banging.ETD bang (v.).3

    Banging (adj.) in the slang sense of "large, great, surpassing in size" is attested by 1864. Bang-up (adj.) "excellent, first-rate, in fine style" (1810) probably is shortened from a phrase such as bang up to the mark. Compare slang slap-up "excellent, first-rate" (by 1823).ETD bang (v.).4

    bangs (n.)

    "hair cut straight across so as to form a fringe over the forehead," 1878 (in singular, bang), American English, attested from 1832 of horses (bang-tail), perhaps from notion of abruptness (as in bang off "immediately, without delay," though this expression is attested only from 1886). See bang.ETD bangs (n.).2

    banger (n.)

    1650s, "anything which bangs," in any sense, agent noun from bang (v.). British English slang for "a sausage," by 1919, perhaps is from a sense of "a bludgeon," though this is recorded only in U.S. slang. Bangster was a 17c. word for "muscular bully."ETD banger (n.).2

    bangle (n.)

    "ornamental ring worn upon the arm or ankle," 1787, from Hindi bangri "colored glass bracelet or anklet."ETD bangle (n.).2


    nation formed 1971 from former East Pakistan, from Bengali for "Bengali country," from Bangla "Bengali" (see Bengal) + desh "country." Related: Bangladeshi.ETD Bangladesh.2

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