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    barleycorn (n.) — bassoon (n.)

    barleycorn (n.)

    "barley," late 14c., from barley + corn (n.1). Perhaps to distinguish the barley plant or the grain from its products. In Britain and U.S., the grain is used mainly to prepare liquor, hence personification of malt liquor as John Barleycorn (1620) in popular ballads, and many now-obsolete figures of speech, such as to wear a barley cap (16c.) "to be drunk."ETD barleycorn (n.).2

    barm (n.)

    Old English beorma "yeast, leaven," also "head of a beer," from Proto-Germanic *bhermen- "yeast" (source also of Dutch berm, Middle Low German barm), from suffixed form of PIE root *bhreu- "to boil, bubble, effervesce, burn."ETD barm (n.).2

    barmaid (n.)

    "woman who tends a bar," 1650s, from bar (n.2) + maid.ETD barmaid (n.).2

    barman (n.)

    "man who tends a bar," 1837, from bar (n.2) + man (n.).ETD barman (n.).2

    barmy (adj.)

    1530s, "frothing, covered with barm;" see barm + -y (2). The figurative sense of "excited, flighty, bubbling with excitement" is from c. 1600. The meaning "foolish" (1892) probably is an alteration of balmy (q.v.).ETD barmy (adj.).2

    Bar Mitzvah

    1842, in Judaism, "male person who has completed his 13th year" and thus reached the age of religious responsibility; Hebrew, literally "son of command." As a name for the ceremony itself, by 1917.ETD Bar Mitzvah.2

    barn (n.)

    "covered building for the storage of farm produce," Middle English bern, bærn, from Old English bereærn "barn," literally "barley house," from bere "barley" (see barley) + aern "house; place for storing," metathesized from *rann, *rasn (source also of Old Norse rann "large house," Gothic razn "house," Old English rest "resting place").ETD barn (n.).2

    For the formation and the second element, compare saltern "a salt-works," from Old English sealtærn "saltworks;" Old English horsern "stable." Latin cellarium was glossed by Old English hordern, and dormitorium was slæpern.ETD barn (n.).3

    In Anglo-Saxon England, barley was a primary grain crop:ETD barn (n.).4

    Another word for "barn" in Old English was beretun, "barley enclosure" (with tun "enclosure, house"), which accounts for the many Barton place names on the English map and the common surname.ETD barn (n.).5

    It was applied from early 18c. to any large, barn-like building. Barn door has been used figuratively for "broad target" since 1670s and "great size" since 1540s. Barn-owl is attested by 1670s. Barn-raising "a collective effort by neighbors or community members to erect the frame of a barn for one of them, accompanied by a social gathering" is attested by 1849.ETD barn (n.).6


    surname of Joseph the Levite of Cyprus (Acts iv.36), literally "son of exhortation," from Aramaic (Semitic) bar "son" + nabha "prophecy, exhortation." St. Barnabas' Day (colloquially St. Barnaby), June 11, in the Old Style calendar was reckoned the longest day of the year (Barnaby the Bright).ETD Barnabas.2

    barnacle (n.)

    early 14c., bernak; earlier in Anglo-Latin, bernekke, early 13c., "species of northern European wild goose." The meaning "type of 'shellfish' found in clusters on submerged wood" is attested by 1580s. It is of unknown origin despite intense speculation.ETD barnacle (n.).2

    The earliest form looks like "bare neck," and one of the Middle English synonyms for the bird was balled cote, but this resemblance might be folk etymology. The word is often said to be from a Celtic source (compare Breton bernik, a kind of shellfish), but the application to the goose predates that to the shellfish, and the word seems to have arisen in English.ETD barnacle (n.).3

    The goose nests in the Arctic in summer and returns to Europe in the winter, hence the mystery surrounding its reproduction. It was believed in ancient superstition (and as recently as late 17c.) to hatch or develop from the barnacle's shell, possibly because the crustacean's feathery stalks resemble goose down. Some versions of the fable had the barnacles growing on trees and dropping into the sea to become geese. Compare German Entenmuschel "barnacle," literally "duck-mussel."ETD barnacle (n.).4

    The scientific name of the crustacean, Cirripedes, is from Greek cirri "curls of hair" + pedes "feet." The meaning "person holding tenaciously to an office or position, useless or incompetent jobholder" is from c. 1600.ETD barnacle (n.).5


    masc. proper name of Germanic origin, literally "Bear-bold;" see bear (n.) + hard (adj.). In Old French Bernart, in German Bernard.ETD Barnard.2

    Barn-burner (n.)

    also barnburner, by 1844, American English, a member of the more progressive faction of the New York Democratic Party (opposed to the Hunkers); the nickname is an allusion to the old story of the farmer who, to rid his barn of rats, burned it down. The figurative use for "intense, exciting event" (especially a sports contest) is by 1934.ETD Barn-burner (n.).2


    masc. proper name, short for Barnaby (attested from 14c.; see Barnabas) or Barnard.ETD Barney.2

    barney (n.)

    a British slang word of uncertain origin, attested from 1859 as "a fixed or sham prize-fight," also "lark, spree, rough enjoyment;" by 1864 as "noisy dispute."ETD barney (n.).2

    "Notes and Queries," from March 21, 1863, describes Barnard Castle, the market town in Teesdale, as having "no enviable reputation. Longstaffe supposes that Sir George Bowes's refusal to fight with the rebels during the rising of the north, gave rise to the contemptuous distich:ETD barney (n.).3

    And adds that "Come, come, that's a Barna' Cassell," is "a reproof to an exaggerator, or liar."ETD barney (n.).4

    barnstorm (v.)

    1815, a theater term, in reference to performances (usually featuring short action pieces to suit vulgar tastes) in upstate New York barns; see barn + storm (v.). The notion is to 'take by storm' the barns that served as theaters in rural places where itinerant acting troupes typically performed. The term was extended by 1896 to electioneering tours, and by 1928 to itinerant pilots who performed air stunts at fairs and races. Related: Barnstormed; barnstorming; barnstormer.ETD barnstorm (v.).2


    surname taken as the type of excessive hype and promotion, by 1850s, from circus owner P.T. Barnum (1810-1891), described in OED as "a pushing American show-proprietor." The surname is from the place-name Barnham.ETD Barnum.2

    barnyard (n.)

    also barn-yard, 1510s, from barn + yard (n.1). Figurative of coarse or uncivilized behavior from 1920.ETD barnyard (n.).2

    baroness (n.)

    "wife of a baron; lady holding a baronial title," early 15c., from Old French barnesse "lady of quality, noblewoman" (also, ironically, "woman of low morals, slut") or Medieval Latin baronissa (see baron).ETD baroness (n.).2

    barometer (n.)

    "instrument for measuring the weight or pressure of the atmosphere," 1660s, from Greek baros "weight" (from suffixed form of PIE root *gwere- (1) "heavy") + -meter. The name probably was coined (and certainly popularized) by English scientist Robert Boyle (1627-1691). The instrument was invented 1643 by Italian physicist Evangelista Torricelli and was at first known as the Torricelli tube.ETD barometer (n.).2

    barometric (adj.)

    "pertaining to or indicated by a barometer," 1780, from barometer + -ic. The older word is barometrical (1660s).ETD barometric (adj.).2

    baron (n.)

    c. 1200, "a member of the nobility," also a low rank in the peerage, from Old French baron (nominative ber) "baron, nobleman, military leader, warrior, virtuous man, lord, husband," probably from or related to Late Latin baro "man" (source of Spanish varon, Italian barone), which is of uncertain origin. It is perhaps from Celtic or from Frankish *baro "freeman, man" or another Germanic source. In England the word merged with (probably) cognate Old English beorn "nobleman."ETD baron (n.).2

    baronet (n.)

    c. 1400, diminutive of baron with -et. Originally a younger or lesser baron; established 1611 as a titled hereditary order. Related: Baronetcy; baronetess.ETD baronet (n.).2

    barony (n.)

    c. 1300, "domain of a baron," from Old French baronie "assembly of barons, qualities of a baron," from Late Latin *baronia, from baro (see baron).ETD barony (n.).2

    baronial (adj.)

    "pertaining to a baron or barony," 1741; see baron + -ial.ETD baronial (adj.).2

    baroque (adj.)

    "style of architecture and decoration prevailing in Europe from late 17c. through much of 18c.," later derided as clumsy in form and extravagant in contorted ornamentation, 1765, from French baroque "irregular" (15c.), said to be from Portuguese barroco "imperfect pearl," which is of uncertain origin, perhaps related to Spanish berruca "a wart."ETD baroque (adj.).2

    The Spanish word is perhaps from Latin verruca "a steep place, a height," hence "a wart," also "an excrescence on a precious stone" (see verruca). But Klein suggests the name may be from Italian painter Federico Barocci (1528-1612), whose work influenced the style.ETD baroque (adj.).3

    How to tell baroque from rococo, according to Fowler: "The characteristics of baroque are grandeur, pomposity, and weight; those of rococo are inconsequence, grace, and lightness." But the two terms have been used without distinction for styles featuring odd and excessive ornamentation.ETD baroque (adj.).4

    barouche (n.)

    type of large, four-wheeled carriage, 1801, from dialectal German barutsche, from Italian baroccio "chariot," originally "two-wheeled car," from Latin birotus "two-wheeled," from bi- "two" (from PIE root *dwo- "two") + rotus "wheel," from rotare "go around" (see rotary). Frenchified in English, but the word is not French.ETD barouche (n.).2

    barque (n.)

    variant of bark (n.2).ETD barque (n.).2

    barre (adj.)

    1876, in reference to chords played on a guitar, etc., with the forefinger pressed across all strings to raise the pitch, from French barré "bar" (see bar (n.1)).ETD barre (adj.).2

    barracks (n.)

    plural, and usual, form of barrack (q.v.).ETD barracks (n.).2

    barrack (n.)

    1680s, "temporary hut for soldiers during a siege," from French barraque, from Spanish barraca (mid-13c. in Medieval Latin) "soldier's tent," literally "cabin, hut," a word of unknown origin. Perhaps from Celt-Iberian or Arabic. The meaning "permanent building for housing troops" (usually in plural) is attested from 1690s.ETD barrack (n.).2

    barracuda (n.)

    large voracious fish of the West Indies and Florida, 1670s, barracoutha, from American Spanish barracuda, which is perhaps from a Carib word.ETD barracuda (n.).2

    barrage (n.)

    1859, "action of barring; man-made barrier in a stream" (for irrigation, etc.), from French barrer "to stop," from barre "bar," from Old French barre (see bar (n.1)).ETD barrage (n.).2

    The artillery sense is attested by 1916, from World War I French phrase tir de barrage "barrier fire" intended to isolate the objective. As a verb by 1917. Related: Barraged; barraging.ETD barrage (n.).3

    barratry (n.)

    early 15c., "sale of ecclesiastical or state offices," from Old French baraterie "deceit, guile, trickery," from barat "malpractice, fraud, deceit, trickery," which is of unknown origin, perhaps from a Celtic source.ETD barratry (n.).2

    In marine law, "wrongful conduct by a ship's crew or officer, resulting in loss to owners," it is attested from 1620s. The meaning "offense of habitually starting legal suits" is from 1640s. The sense of the word has been somewhat confused with that of Middle English baratri "combat, fighting" (c. 1400), from Old Norse baratta "fight, contest strife."ETD barratry (n.).3

    This was an active word in Middle English, with forms such as baraten "to disturb the peace" (mid-15c.); baratour "inciter to riot, bully" (late 14c., mid-13c. as a surname). Barataria Bay, Louisiana, U.S., is from Spanish baratear "to cheat, deceive," cognate of the French word; the bay so called in reference to the difficulty of its entry passages.ETD barratry (n.).4

    barrel (n.)

    "cylindrical vessel or cask, generally bulging in the middle and made of wooden staves bound by hoops," c. 1300, from Old French baril "barrel, cask, vat" (12c.), with cognates in all Romance languages (Italian barile, Spanish barril, etc.), but of unknown origin. Also a measure of capacity of varying quantity.ETD barrel (n.).2

    The meaning "metal tube of a gun" is from 1640s. Barrel-roll (n.) in aeronautics is from 1920. To be over a barrel figuratively, "in a helpless or vulnerable condition," is by 1914 and might suggest corporal punishment.ETD barrel (n.).3

    barrelful (n.)

    "as much as a barrel will hold," late 14c., from barrel (n.) + -ful.ETD barrelful (n.).2

    barrel (v.)

    mid-15c., "put in barrels," from barrel (n.). The meaning "move quickly" is 1930, American English slang, perhaps suggestive of a rolling barrel. Related: Barreled; barreling.ETD barrel (v.).2

    barrelhouse (n.)

    "cheap saloon, often with an associated brothel," by 1875, American English, so called in reference to the barrels of beer or booze typically stacked along the wall. See barrel (n.) + house (n.).ETD barrelhouse (n.).2

    barren (adj.)

    c. 1200, "incapable of producing its kind" (of female animals, plants), from Old French baraigne, baraing "sterile, barren" (12c.), perhaps originally brahain, a word of obscure derivation, possibly from a Germanic language. Its use in reference to males is rare. Of land, "producing little or no vegetation," by late 14c.ETD barren (adj.).2

    As a noun from mid-13c., "a barren woman;" later "tract of more or less unproductive land."ETD barren (adj.).3

    barrenness (n.)

    late 14c., "incapacity for child-bearing" (of women); "unproductivity, unfruitfulness" (of land); earlier in a figurative sense ("spiritual emptiness," mid-14c.); from barren + -ness.ETD barrenness (n.).2

    barret (n.)

    type of flat cap, 1828, from French barrette, cognate with Spanish birreta, Italian beretta (see biretta).ETD barret (n.).2

    barrette (n.)

    "bar clip for women's hair," 1901, from French barrette, diminutive of barre "bar" (see bar (n.1)).ETD barrette (n.).2

    barricade (v.)

    "to obstruct with a barricade," 1590s, from barricade (n.). Related: Barricaded; barricading.ETD barricade (v.).2

    barricade (n.)

    "hastily made fortification for defense or to obstruct the progress of an enemy," 1640s, from French barricade, from Spanish barricada, literally "made of barrels," from barrica "barrel," from barril (see barrel (n.)). Earlier was barricado (1580s) with false Spanish ending (see -ado). The word's association with revolutions began during the 1588 Huguenot riots in Paris, when large barrels filled with earth and stones were set up in the streets. Related: Barricades.ETD barricade (n.).2

    barrier (n.)

    "anything meant to obstruct entrance," early 14c., barere, from Anglo-French barrere, Old French barriere "obstacle, gatekeeper," from barre "bar" (see bar (n.1)). Earliest known record of barrier reef is from 1805.ETD barrier (n.).2

    barrio (n.)

    1841, "ward of a Spanish or Spanish-speaking city," sometimes also used of rural settlements, from Spanish barrio "district, suburb," from Arabic barriya "open country" (fem.), from barr "outside" (of the city). The sense of "Spanish-speaking district in a U.S. city" (1939) originally is in reference to New York's Spanish Harlem.ETD barrio (n.).2

    barrister (n.)

    "one practicing as an advocate in English courts of law," 1540s, from bar (n.3) in the legal sense + -ster. Also see attorney. The middle element is obscure. Related: Barristerial.ETD barrister (n.).2

    bar-room (n.)

    also barroom, "room in a tavern, etc., with a bar or counter where alcoholic drinks are served," 1797, from bar (n.2) + room (n.).ETD bar-room (n.).2

    barrow (n.1)

    "flat, rectangular frame with projecting handles for carrying a load," c. 1300, barewe, probably from an unrecorded Old English *bearwe "basket, barrow," from beran "to bear, to carry" (from PIE root *bher- (1) "to carry"). The original (hand-barrow) had no wheel and required two persons to carry it.ETD barrow (n.1).2

    barrow (n.2)

    "mound, hill, grave-mound," Old English beorg (West Saxon), berg (Anglian) "barrow, mountain, hill, mound," from Proto-Germanic *bergaz (source also of Middle Dutch berch, Old Saxon, Old High German berg "mountain," Old Frisian berch, birg "mountain, mountainous area," Old Norse bjarg "rock, mountain"), from PIE root *bhergh- (2) "high," with derivatives referring to hills and hill-forts. Obsolete by c. 1400 except in place-names and southwest England dialect; it was revived by modern archaeology.ETD barrow (n.2).2

    The meaning "mound erected over a grave" was in late Old English. Barrow-wight is recorded by 1869 in Eirikr Magnusson and William Morris's translation of the Icelandic saga of Grettir the Strong.ETD barrow (n.2).3

    barstool (n.)

    also bar-stool, bar stool, "tall, padded stool for customers at a bar," 1910, from bar (n.2) + stool.ETD barstool (n.).2


    abbreviation of baronet. Attested from c. 1771.ETD bart..2


    masc. proper name, abbreviation of Bartholomew, etc.ETD Bart.2

    bartender (n.)

    also bar-tender, "bar-keeper, waiter who serves drinks and refreshments," 1836, American English, from bar (n.2) + tender (n.1).ETD bartender (n.).2

    barter (v.)

    "to traffic or trade by exchanging one commodity for another," mid-15c., apparently from Old French barater "to barter, cheat, deceive, haggle" (also, "to have sexual intercourse"), 12c., which is of uncertain origin, perhaps from a Celtic language (compare Irish brath "treachery"). The connection between "trading" and "cheating" exists in several languages. Related: Bartered; bartering.ETD barter (v.).2

    As a noun, "act of exchanging, commerce by exchange of commodities" (rather than buying and selling for money), 1590s, from the verb.ETD barter (v.).3


    masc. proper name, from Old French Barthelemieu, from Latin Bartholomæus, from Greek Bartholomaios, from Aramaic (Semitic) bar Talmay, literally "son of Talmai," from the proper name Talmai, literally "abounding in furrows." One of the twelve Apostles, his festival is Aug. 24. On this date in 1572 took place the massacre of Protestants in France. London's popular Bartholomew Fair was held annually around his day from 1133 to 1855.ETD Bartholomew.2


    U.S. name for a variety of pear, 1835, named for Enoch Bartlett, who first distributed them in the U.S. The quotation collection is named for U.S. bookstore owner John Bartlett of Cambridge, Massachusetts, who first printed his "A Collection of Familiar Quotations" in 1855.ETD Bartlett.2

    basal (adj.)

    "relating to or situated at a base," 1826, from base (n.) + -al (1).ETD basal (adj.).2

    basalt (n.)

    type of volcanic rock, c. 1600, from Late Latin basaltes, a misspelling of Latin basanites "very hard stone," from Greek basanitēs "a species of slate used to test gold," from basanos "touchstone," also "a trial, examination, test whether anything be true," from Egyptian baban "slate," a stone which was used by the Egyptians as a touchstone of gold. According to Beekes, "It came to Greece via Lydia." In Pliny, basaniten by mistake became basalten, which is the origin of basalt.ETD basalt (n.).2

    Any hard, very dark rock would do as a touchstone; the assayer compared the streak left by the alleged gold with that of real gold or baser metals. From the noun in Greek came Greek basanizein "to be put to the test, be examined closely, be cross-examined, be put to torture." The word is not connected with salt. Related: Basaltic.ETD basalt (n.).3

    base (n.)

    c. 1300, "foundation" (of a building, etc.); "pedestal" (of a statue), in general, "bottom of anything considered as its support," from Old French bas "depth" (12c.), from Latin basis "foundation," from Greek basis "a stepping, a step, that on which one steps or stands, pedestal," from bainein "to go, walk, step" (from PIE root *gwa- "to go, come").ETD base (n.).2

    The military sense of "secure ground from which operations proceed" is attested from 1860. The chemical sense of "compound substance which unites with an acid to form a salt" (1810) was introduced in French 1754 by French chemist Guillaume-François Rouelle (1703-1770). Earlier in alchemy it was "an alloy of base metals" (late 15c.).ETD base (n.).3

    The sporting sense of "starting point" is from 1690s, also "destination of a runner" (1812). As a "safe" spot in a tag-like or ball game, it is suggested from mid-15c. (as the name of the game later called prisoner's base). Hence baseball, base-runner (1867), base-hit (1874), etc. The meaning "resources on which something draws for operation" (as in power-base, data-base, etc.) is by 1959.ETD base (n.).4

    base (adj.)

    late 14c., "low, of little height," from Old French bas "low, lowly, mean," from Late Latin bassus "thick, stumpy, low" (used only as a cognomen in classical Latin, humilis being there the usual word for "low in stature or position"), which is of uncertain origin, possibly from Oscan, or Celtic, or related to Greek basson, comparative of bathys "deep."ETD base (adj.).2

    The meaning "low on the social scale" is from late 15c.; that of "low in the moral scale" is attested by 1530s in English. The meaning "befitting an inferior person or thing, unworthy" is from 1590s. Base metals (c. 1600) were worthless in contrast to noble or precious metals. Related: Basely.ETD base (adj.).3

    baseness (n.)

    1550s, "state or condition of being low in rank or scale," from base (adj.) + -ness. It is attested from 1590s as "state of being morally vile."ETD baseness (n.).2

    base (v.)

    1580s, transitive, "make or serve as a foundation for;" by 1841, of arguments, etc., "place (on or upon) a foundation," from base (n.). Related: Based; basing.ETD base (v.).2

    baseball (n.)

    in the modern sense of a game of ball for teams of nine, 1845, American English, from base (n.) + ball (n.1).ETD baseball (n.).2

    Earlier references, such as in Jane Austen's "Northanger Abbey," refer to the game of rounders, (baseball is a more elaborate variety of it). The modern game was legendarily invented 1839 by Abner Doubleday in Cooperstown, N.Y. Base was used for "start or finish line of a race" from 1690s; and the sense of "safe spot" found in modern children's game of tag can be traced to 15c. (the use in reference to the bags in modern baseball is from 1868). Baseball as "ball with which the game of baseball is played" is by 1885.ETD baseball (n.).3

    baseboard (n.)

    also base-board, "line of boarding around the interior walls of a room near the floor," 1854, from base (n.) + board (n.1). Baseboard heating is attested by 1954.ETD baseboard (n.).2


    city in northwestern Switzerland, founded 44 C.E. as Robur (from Latin roburetum "oak grove"); renamed 374 as Basilia (from Greek basilea "royal") when it became the "royal" fortress of Valentinian I.ETD Basel.2

    baseless (adj.)

    "having no foundation or support," c. 1600, from base (n.) + -less. Related: Baselessly; baselessness.ETD baseless (adj.).2

    baseline (n.)

    also base-line, "line upon which others depend," 1750, originally in surveying, from base (n.) + line (n.). In tennis, the end-line of the court (1872). The baseball diamond sense is from 1867. Baseline estimate was in use by 1983.ETD baseline (n.).2

    baseman (n.)

    in baseball, player whose defensive position is at one of the three bases, by 1857, from base (n.) + man (n.).ETD baseman (n.).2

    basement (n.)

    "lowest story of a building, wholly or partly underground," 1730, from base (v.) + -ment.ETD basement (n.).2

    bashful (adj.)

    1540s, "excessively modest, shy and sheepish," with -ful + baishen "to be filled with consternation or dismay" (mid-14c.), from Old French baissier "bring down, humiliate" (see abash). An unusual case of this suffix attached to a verbal stem in the passive sense. Related: Bashfully; bashfulness (1530s).ETD bashful (adj.).2

    bash (v.)

    "to strike violently," 1640s, perhaps of Scandinavian origin, from Old Norse *basca "to strike" (cognate with or otherwise related to Swedish basa "to baste, whip, flog, lash," Danish baske "to beat, strike, cudgel"); or the whole group might be independently derived and echoic. The figurative sense of "abuse verbally or in writing" is from 1948. Related: Bashed; bashing.ETD bash (v.).2

    bash (n.)

    "a heavy blow," 1805, from bash (v.). The meaning "an attempt" is attested by 1945. On a bash "on a drunken spree" is slang from 1901, which gave the word its sense of "a wild party."ETD bash (n.).2

    bashaw (n.)

    1530s, earlier Englishing of pasha.ETD bashaw (n.).2

    basher (n.)

    1882, agent noun from bash (v.).ETD basher (n.).2

    basis (n.)

    1570s, "bottom or foundation" (of something material), from Latin basis "foundation," from Greek basis "a going, a step; a stand, base, that whereon one stands," from bainein "to go, walk, step" (from PIE root *gwa- "to go, come"). The transferred and figurative senses (of immaterial things) are from c. 1600.ETD basis (n.).2

    basic (adj.)

    "relating to a base," 1832, originally in chemistry, from base (n.) + -ic.ETD basic (adj.).2

    basics (n.)

    "rudiments or fundamentals of anything," by 1914, from basic. Also see -ics. Phrase back-to-basics was in use by 1962.ETD basics (n.).2


    computer language, 1964, initialism (acronym) for Beginners' All-purpose Symbolic Instruction Code; invented by Hungarian-born U.S. computer scientist John G. Kemeny and U.S. computer scientist Thomas E. Kurtz.ETD BASIC.2

    basically (adv.)

    "in essential respects, fundamentally," 1903; see basic (adj.) + -ly (2).ETD basically (adv.).2

    basil (n.)

    aromatic shrubby plant, early 15c., from Old French basile (15c., Modern French basilic), from Medieval Latin basilicum, from Greek basilikon (phyton) "royal (plant)," from basileus "king" (see Basil). It was so called, probably, because it was believed to have been used in making royal perfumes. In Latin, the word was confused with basiliscus (see basilisk) because it was supposed to be an antidote to the basilisk's venom.ETD basil (n.).2


    masc. proper name, from Latin Basilius, from Greek Basileios "kingly, royal," from basileus "king," especially the king of Persia, "prince," possibly from a language of Asia Minor (compare Lydian battos "king"), but according to Beekes, it "is no doubt of PreGreek origin (i.e., not a loanword from another country)." The youngest of the Greek words for "king" (alongside koiranos and anax). St. Basil the Great lived 4c. and was the founder of Eastern monasticism.ETD Basil.2

    basilica (n.)

    1540s, "type of building based on the Athenian royal portico, large oblong building with double columns and a semicircular porch at the end," from Latin basilica "building of a court of justice," from Greek (stoa) basilike "royal (portal)." In Athens this was the portico of the archon basileus, the official who dispensed justice there. The word is thus from the fem. adjective of basileus "king" (see Basil).ETD basilica (n.).2

    In Rome, the style of building used for halls of justice, many of which were subsequently appropriated as churches, and so it became a standard plan for new churches. The word is applied to the seven principal Roman churches founded by Constantine. The specific reference to Christian churches in English is attested by 1560s.ETD basilica (n.).3

    basilisk (n.)

    fabulous lizard-like creature, c. 1400, earlier basiliscus (Trevisa, late 14c.), from Latin basiliscus, from Greek basiliskos name of a kind of serpent, also the golden-crested wren, literally "little king," diminutive of basileus "king" (see Basil); said by Pliny to have been so called because of a crest or spot on its head resembling a crown.ETD basilisk (n.).2

    Its breath and glance were said to be fatal. The South American lizard was so called (1813) because it, like the mythical beast, has a crest. From 1540s as a type of large cannon throwing shot of 200 lb.ETD basilisk (n.).3

    basin (n.)

    "large shallow vessel or dish used chiefly to hold water or other liquid," c. 1200, from Old French bacin (11c., Modern French bassin), from Vulgar Latin *baccinum (source also of Spanish bacin, Italian bacino), from *bacca "water vessel," perhaps originally Gaulish (but OED dismisses the proposed Celtic cognates on sense grounds). The meaning "large-scale artificial water-holding landscape feature" is from 1712. The geological sense of "tract of country drained by one river or draining into one sea" is from 1830.ETD basin (n.).2

    basinet (n.)

    "small, light, rounded steel headpiece," c. 1300, from Old French bacinet, bassinet, diminutive of bacin (see basin).ETD basinet (n.).2

    bask (v.)

    late 14c., basken "to wallow" (especially in warm water or blood, of unknown etymology. The Middle English Compendium rejects the derivation from Old Norse baðask "to bathe oneself" (with loss of middle syllable), reflexive of baða "bathe" (see bathe) + Proto-Germanic *-sik "one's self" (source also of German sich; see -sk).ETD bask (v.).2

    The meaning "soak up a flood of warmth" is apparently due to Shakespeare's use of the word in reference to sunshine in "As You Like It" (1600). Related: Basked; basking.ETD bask (v.).3

    basking (adj.)

    1742, present-participle adjective from bask (v.). The basking shark (1769) is named for frequently being seen basking on the surface of the sea.ETD basking (adj.).2


    typeface style, 1802 (the type was created in the 1750s), named for John Baskerville (1706-1775), British type-founder and printer.ETD Baskerville.2

    The surname is Norman, from Boscherville, Eure.ETD Baskerville.3

    basket (n.)

    "vessel made of thin strips of wood, or other flexible materials, interwoven in a great variety of forms, and used for many purpose," early 13c., from Anglo-French bascat; a word of obscure origin despite much speculation.ETD basket (n.).2

    On one theory, it is from Latin bascauda "kettle, table-vessel," said by the Roman poet Martial to be from Celtic British and perhaps cognate with Latin fascis "bundle, faggot," in which case it probably originally meant "wicker basket." But OED frowns on this, and there is no evidence of such a word in Celtic unless later words in Irish and Welsh, sometimes counted as borrowings from English, are original. As "a goal in the game of basketball," 1892; as "a score in basketball," by 1898.ETD basket (n.).3

    basketball (n.)

    also basket-ball, "game in which the object is to throw the ball into one of the two baskets placed at opposite ends of the court," 1892, American English, from basket + ball (n.1). The game was invented 1891 by James A. Naismith (1861-1939), physical education instructor in Springfield, Massachusetts, U.S.ETD basketball (n.).2

    basket case (n.)

    1919, American English, originally a reference to rumors of quadriplegics as a result of catastrophic wounds suffered in World War I (the U.S. military authorities vehemently denied there were any such in its hospitals), from basket (n.) + case (n.2). Probably literal, i.e., stuck in a basket, but basket had colloquial connotations of poverty (begging) and helplessness long before this. The figurative sense of "person emotionally unable to cope" is from 1921.ETD basket case (n.).2

    basmati (n.)

    superior variety of rice, 1845, from Hindi, literally "fragrant."ETD basmati (n.).2


    1811 (adj. and n.), from French, from Spanish vasco (adj.), from vascon (n.), from Latin Vascones (Vasconia was the Roman name for the up-country of the western Pyrenees), said by von Humboldt to originally mean "foresters" but more likely a Latinized version of the people's name for themselves, euskara or eskuara.ETD Basque.2

    Earlier in English was Basquish (1610s, noun and adjective); Baskles (plural noun, late 14c.; compare Old French Basclois); Baskon (n., mid-15c.). Biscayan also was used. In Middle English Basques were not always distinguished from Spaniards and Gascons.ETD Basque.3

    bas-relief (n.)

    in sculpture, "a form of relief in which the figures project very slightly from the ground," 1660s, from French bas-relief, a loan-translation of Italian basso-rilievo "low relief, raised work." See bass (adj.) + relief.ETD bas-relief (n.).2

    bass (n.1)

    freshwater fish, c. 1400 corruption of Middle English baers, from Old English bærs "a fish, perch," from Proto-Germanic base *bars- "sharp" (source also of Middle Dutch baerse, Middle High German bars, German Barsch "perch," German barsch "rough"), from PIE root *bhar- "point, bristle" (see bristle (n.)). The fish was so called for its dorsal fins. For loss of -r-, see cuss (v.).ETD bass (n.1).2

    bass (adj.)

    late 14c., bas, of things, "low, not high," from Late Latin bassus "short, low" (see base (adj.)). In Middle English it also meant "low in social scale or rank" (late 14c.). Of voices and music notes, "low in tone" from mid-15c. (technically, ranging from the E flat below the bass stave to the F above it), a sense development influenced by Italian basso.ETD bass (adj.).2

    bass (n.2)

    "lowest part of a harmonized musical composition," c.1500, from bass (adj.) or the cognate noun in Italian. The meaning "singer having a bass voice" is from 1590s. The meaning "bass-viol" is from 1702; that of "double-bass" is from 1927.ETD bass (n.2).2

    basset (n.)

    type of short-legged dog, 1610s, from French basset, from Old French bas "low" (see base (adj.)) + diminutive suffix.ETD basset (n.).2

    bassinet (n.)

    "wicker cradle," 1854, from French bassinet "a little basin," diminutive of bassin (see basin), or, as per Klein, the English word is from French bercelonette, double diminutive of berceau "cradle," altered by bassin "basin." Middle English had bacinet "hemispherical helmet" (c. 1300).ETD bassinet (n.).2

    bassist (n.)

    1909, "person who plays the double-bass" (earlier in German), from bass (n.2) + -ist. By 1958 as "person who plays the bass electric guitar."ETD bassist (n.).2


    in various musical terms borrowed from Italian, "bass, a bass voice," from Italian basso, from Late Latin bassus "short, low" (see base (adj.)).ETD basso.2

    bassoon (n.)

    "large, double-reeded woodwind bass instrument," 1727, from French basson (17c.), from Italian bassone, augmentative of basso (see bass (adj.)). Compare balloon (n.); also see -oon. Related: Bassoonist. The Italian name, fagotto, literally "bundle of sticks" (see faggot (n.2)) is because it comes apart in two or more parts for convenience in carrying.ETD bassoon (n.).2

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