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    big-league (adj.) — biogeography (n.)

    big-league (adj.)

    "prominent, important, first-rate," by 1925, a figurative use from baseball, where big league was used for "a major league" by 1891. See league (n.1).ETD big-league (adj.).2

    bigly (adv.)

    early 14c., "strongly, vehemently," from big + -ly (2). From 1530s as "haughtily, arrogantly."ETD bigly (adv.).2

    Big Mac

    trademark name (McDonald's Corp.) of a type of large hamburger sandwich; by 1968.ETD Big Mac.2

    big-mouth (n.)

    also bigmouth "person who talks too much," 1889, American English, from big + mouth (n.). Earlier as a type of fish and the name of a capable leader of the Oglala people in the 1860s.ETD big-mouth (n.).2

    bigoted (adj.)

    "obstinately and blindly devoted to a particular creed, opinion, etc.," 1640s, from bigot (q.v.).ETD bigoted (adj.).2

    bigot (n.)

    1590s, "sanctimonious person, religious hypocrite," from French bigot (12c.), which is of unknown origin. The sense was extended 1680s to opinions other than religious.ETD bigot (n.).2

    The earliest French use of the word is as the name of a people, apparently in southern Gaul, which led to the theory, now considered doubtful on phonetic grounds, that the word comes from Visigothus. The typical use in Old French seems to have been as a derogatory nickname for Normans, leading to another theory (not universally accepted) that traces it to the Normans' (alleged) frequent use of the Germanic oath bi God. OED [2nd ed. print, 1989] dismisses in a three-exclamation-mark fury one fanciful version of the "by god" theory as "absurdly incongruous with facts." At the end, not much is left standing except Spanish bigote "mustache," which also has been proposed as the origin of the word, but not explained, so the chief virtue of that theory is the lack of evidence against it.ETD bigot (n.).3

    In support of the "by God" theory the surnames Bigott, Bygott are attested in Normandy and in England from the 11c., and French name-etymology sources (such as Dauzat) explain it as a derogatory name applied by the French to the Normans and representing "by god." The English were known as goddamns 200 years later in Joan of Arc's France, and during World War I Americans serving in France were said to be known as les sommobiches (see son of a bitch) for their characteristic oaths.ETD bigot (n.).4

    But the sense development in bigot would be difficult to explain. According to Donkin, the modern meaning first appears in French in 16c. This and the earliest English sense, "religious hypocrite," especially a female one, might have been influenced by or confused with Beguine (q.v.) and the words that cluster around it.ETD bigot (n.).5

    bigotry (n.)

    "obstinate and unreasonable attachment to a creed or opinion and intolerance of others," 1670s, from French bigoterie "sanctimoniousness," from bigot (see bigot).ETD bigotry (n.).2

    big shot (n.)

    "important person," 1929, American English, from Prohibition-era gangster slang; earlier in the same sense was great shot (1861). Ultimately a reference to large type of gunshot; see shot (n.).ETD big shot (n.).2

    big-tent (adj.)

    "open to many sorts, not ideologically or theologically narrow," American English, by 1982 with reference to religion, by 1987 with reference to politics.ETD big-tent (adj.).2

    big time (n.)

    "upper reaches of a profession or pursuit," by 1909 in vaudeville slang. As an adjective by 1915. The same phrase was common in colloquial use late 19c.-early 20c. in a broad range of senses: "party, shindig, fun, frolic."ETD big time (n.).2

    bigwig (n.)

    also big-wig, "great man, person of consequence," 1781, from big + wig, in reference to the imposing wigs formerly worn by men of rank or authority.ETD bigwig (n.).2

    bijou (n.)

    "small item of ornamental jewelry," 1660s, from French bijou, which according to OED is probably from Breton bizou "(jeweled) ring," from bez "finger" (compare Cornish bisou "finger-ring," 13c.). Related: Bijouterie.ETD bijou (n.).2

    bike (n.)

    1882, American English, shortened and altered form of bicycle (n.). As a verb by 1895. Related: Biked; biking.ETD bike (n.).2

    biker (n.)

    "motorcycle rider" (especially with reference to club affiliation), 1968, American English, from bike (n.) in its slang sense of "motorcycle" (1939). An Australian equivalent was bikie.ETD biker (n.).2

    bikini (n.)

    "low-waisted two-piece women's bathing suit," 1948, from French, coined 1947, named for the U.S. A-bomb test of June 1946 on Bikini, the Marshall Islands atoll, locally Pikinni and said to derive from pik "surface" and ni "coconut," but this is uncertain. Various explanations for the swimsuit name have been suggested, none convincingly, the best being an analogy of the explosive force of the bomb and the impact of the bathing suit style on men's libidos (compare c. 1900 British slang assassin "an ornamental bow worn on the female breast," so called because it was very "killing," also the figurative sense of bombshell).ETD bikini (n.).2

    As a style of scanty briefs, from 1960. Variant trikini (1967), with separate bra cups held on by Velcro, falsely presumes a compound in bi-.ETD bikini (n.).3

    bilabial (adj.)

    1857, "having or appearing to have two lips;" see bi- "two" + labial. In linguistics, of consonants pronounced with both lips, 1878. Alternative bilabiate is attested from 1794.ETD bilabial (adj.).2

    bilateral (adj.)

    "having two sides," 1775; see bi- "two" + lateral (adj.). Related: Bilaterally.ETD bilateral (adj.).2

    bilateralism (n.)

    "state or quality of being bilateral," 1852, from bilateral + -ism.ETD bilateralism (n.).2

    bilbo (n.)

    kind of sword esteemed for temper and elasticity, 1590s, from Bilbao (in English Bilboa), town in northern Spain where swords were made. The town name is Roman Bellum Vadum "beautiful ford" (over the Nervion River).ETD bilbo (n.).2

    Bildungsroman (n.)

    "novel set in the formative years, or the time of spiritual education, of the main character," 1910, from German Bildungsroman, from Bildung "education, formation, growth" (from Bild "picture, image, figure") + roman "novel" (see romance (n.)). German Bild is from Old High German bilade, from Proto-Germanic *biliþja or *bilaþja, the source also of Dutch beeld, Old English biliþe, but the ultimate origin is unknown.ETD Bildungsroman (n.).2

    bile (n.)

    "yellow bitter liquid secreted by the liver that aids in digestion," 1660s, from French bile (17c.) "bile," also, informally, "anger," from Latin bilis "fluid secreted by the liver," also in old medicine one of the four humors (also known as choler), thus "bitterness of feeling, peevishness," supposedly caused by excess of bile (especially as black bile, 1797).ETD bile (n.).2

    The Latin word is of uncertain origin. De Vaan notes apparent cognates for it in British Celtic (Welsh bustl, Middle Cornish bystel, Breton bestl "gall, bile") and writes, "since this word is only found in Italic and Celtic, it is possible that the word is not PIE." But, he adds, if it was borrowed from Celtic into Italic it might be from PIE root *bheid- "to split," which in Germanic has come to meaning "bite," and he notes that "'bile' is a biting substance."ETD bile (n.).3

    bilge (n.)

    1510s, "lowest internal part of a ship," also used of the foulness which collects there; variant of bulge "ship's hull," also "leather bag," from Old North French boulge "leather sack," from Late Latin bulga "leather sack," apparently from Gaulish bulga (see bulge (n.), and compare budget (n.)).ETD bilge (n.).2

    biliary (adj.)

    "pertaining to bile," 1731, from French biliaire, from bile "bile; peevishness" (see bile). The meaning "bilious in mood or temperament" is recorded from 1837.ETD biliary (adj.).2

    bilinear (adj.)

    also bi-linear, "of or having reference to two lines," 1847, from Modern Latin (in botany); see bi- "two" + linear. Related: Bilinearly; bilinearity.ETD bilinear (adj.).2

    bilingualism (n.)

    "speaking two languages or a mixture of the two," 1854, from bilingual + -ism.ETD bilingualism (n.).2

    bilingual (adj.)

    1818, "speaking two languages;" 1825, "expressed in two languages;" see bi- "two" + lingual. Latin bilinguis meant literally "two-tongued," and, figuratively, "speaking a jumble of languages," also "double-tongued, hypocritical, false."ETD bilingual (adj.).2

    bilious (adj.)

    1540s, "pertaining to bile, biliary," from French bilieux, from Latin biliosus "pertaining to bile," from bilis "bile; peevishness" (see bile). The meaning "testy, peevish, ill-tempered" (as people afflicted with an excess of bile were believed to be) is attested from 1560s. This is the main modern sense in English and French; the more literal meaning being taken up by biliary. Related: Biliousness.ETD bilious (adj.).2

    bilirubin (n.)

    "reddish pigment found in bile," 1868, from German bilirubin (1864), from bili- "bile" (see bile) + Latin ruber "red" (from PIE root *reudh- "red, ruddy") + -ine (2).ETD bilirubin (n.).2

    bilk (v.)

    1650s, from or along with the noun (1630s), first used as a cribbage term; as a verb, "to spoil (someone's) score." Of obscure origin, it was believed in 17c. to be "a word signifying nothing;" some sources suggest it is a thinned form of balk "to hinder." The meaning "to defraud" is recorded from 1670s. Related: Bilked; bilking.ETD bilk (v.).2

    bill (v.1)

    "to send someone a bill of charge," 1864, from bill (n.1). Related: Billed; billing.ETD bill (v.1).2

    billing (n.2)

    "a dove-like caressing, love-making," 1580s; see bill (v.2).ETD billing (n.2).2

    bill (v.2)

    "to stroke beaks," as doves do, hence, of lovers, "caress fondly," 1590s, from bill (n.2)). Paired with coo at least since 1764; Century Dictionary [1902] defines bill and coo (by 1768) as "to kiss and caress and talk nonsense, as lovers." Related: Billed; billing.ETD bill (v.2).2

    bill (n.2)

    [bird's beak] Old English bill "bill, bird's beak," related to bill, a poetic word for a kind of sword (especially one with a hooked blade), from Proto-Germanic *bili-, a word for cutting or chopping weapons (see bill (n.3)). Used also in Middle English of beak-like projections of land (such as Portland Bill).ETD bill (n.2).2

    billing (n.1)

    1875, "announcement on a bill or poster," verbal noun from bill (v.) "post as a public notice" (see bill (n.1)); hence top billing (1928). The meaning "act of sending out a bill" is recorded from 1908.ETD billing (n.1).2

    bill (n.3)

    [ancient weapon] Old English bill "sword (especially one with a hooked blade), chopping tool," from Proto-Germanic *bili-, a word for cutting or chopping weapons (compare Old Saxon bil "sword," Middle Dutch bile, Dutch bijl, Old High German bihal, German Beil, Old Norse bilda "hatchet"), possibly from PIE root *bheie- "to cut, to strike" (source also of Armenian bir "cudgel," Greek phitos "block of wood," Old Church Slavonic biti "to strike," Old Irish biail "ax").ETD bill (n.3).2

    bill (n.1)

    [written statement] late 14c., "formal document; formal plea or charge (in a court of law); personal letter," from Anglo-French bille, Anglo-Latin billa "a writing, a list, a seal," from Medieval Latin bulla "decree, seal, sealed document," in classical Latin "bubble, boss, stud, amulet for the neck" (hence "seal"); see bull (n.2).ETD bill (n.1).2

    The sense of "written statement detailing articles sold or services rendered by one person to another" is from c. 1400; that of "order addressed to one person to pay another" is from 1570s. The meaning "paper intended to give public notice of something, exhibited in a public place" is from late 15c. The sense of "paper money, bank-note" is from 1660s. The meaning "draft of a proposed statute presented to a legislature" is from 1510s.ETD bill (n.1).3

    billable (adj.)

    "that may be billed," 1570s, from bill (v.) + -able.ETD billable (adj.).2

    billabong (n.)

    Australian, "backwater, stagnant pool," 1865, from Billibang, Aboriginal name of Bell River, from billa "water" + bang, which is of uncertain meaning.ETD billabong (n.).2

    billboard (n.)

    also bill-board, "any sort of board where bills were meant to be posted," 1845, American English, from bill (n.1) "written public notice" + board (n.1). Billboard magazine, founded 1894, originally was a trade paper for the bill-posting industry; its music sales charts date from the 1930s.ETD billboard (n.).2

    billet (n.2)

    "small paper, short document, note," mid-15c., earlier "an official register, roll, or record" (late 13c.), from Anglo-French billette "list, schedule," diminutive of bille "written statement" (see bill (n.1)) with -let.ETD billet (n.2).2

    billet (v.)

    1590s, "to assign quarters to, to direct (a soldier) by note to a lodging place," from a noun meaning "a ticket given by a military officer directing a person to whom it is addressed to provide board and lodging for the soldier carrying it" (1640s). This was a specific use of the word, which earlier meant merely "official record or register" (late 13c.), from Anglo-French billette "list, schedule," diminutive of bille "written statement" (see bill (n.1)) with -let.ETD billet (v.).2

    It is attested from 1830 in the sense of "place where a soldier is lodged." Also compare billet (n.2). Related: Billeted; billeting.ETD billet (v.).3

    billet (n.1)

    "short, thick stick of wood used for fuel," mid-15c., from Old French billette, diminutive of bille "stick of wood," from Medieval Latin billia "tree, trunk," which is possibly from Gaulish (compare Irish bile "tree trunk").ETD billet (n.1).2

    billet-doux (n.)

    also billet doux, 1670s, "short love letter," French, literally "sweet note," from billet "document, note" (14c., diminutive of bille "a writing, a list, a seal;" see bill (n.1)) + doux "sweet," from Latin dulcis (see dulcet).ETD billet-doux (n.).2

    billfold (n.)

    "folding pocketbook for paper money," 1879, from bill (n.1) + fold, here perhaps short for folder.ETD billfold (n.).2

    billy (n.)

    "club," 1848, American English, originally burglars' slang for "crowbar." The meaning "policeman's club" is recorded by 1856, probably from nickname of William, applied to various objects (compare jack, jimmy, jenny). But compare French bille "a short, stout stick" (see billet (n.1)).ETD billy (n.).2

    billiards (n.)

    game played on as rectangular table with ivory balls and wooden sticks, 1590s, from French billiard, originally the word for the wooden cue stick, a diminutive of Old French bille "stick of wood," from Medieval Latin billia "tree, trunk," which is possibly from Gaulish (compare Irish bile "tree trunk").ETD billiards (n.).2


    singular of billiards, used only in combinations (such as billiard-ball, 1630s, billiard-table 1640s).ETD billiard.2

    billingsgate (n.)

    1670s, coarse, abusive language of the sort once used by women in the Billingsgate market on the River Thames below London Bridge.ETD billingsgate (n.).2

    The place name is Old English Billingesgate, "gate of (a man called) Billing;" the "gate" probably being a gap in the Roman river wall. The market there is from mid-13c.; it was not exclusively a fish market until late 17c.ETD billingsgate (n.).3

    billion (n.)

    1680s, from French billion (originally byllion in Chuquet's unpublished "Le Triparty en la Science des Nombres," 1484; copied by De la Roche, 1520); see bi- "two" + million. A million million in Britain and Germany (numeration by groups of sixes), which was the original sense; subsequently altered in French to "a thousand million" (numeration by groups of threes) and picked up in that form in U.S., "due in part to French influence after the Revolutionary War" [David E. Smith, "History of Mathematics," 1925]. France reverted to the original meaning in 1948. British usage is truer to the etymology, but U.S. sense is said to be increasingly common there in technical writing.ETD billion (n.).2

    For a time in Britain gillion (1961), based on giga-, was tried as "a thousand million" to avoid ambiguity. Compare milliard.ETD billion (n.).3

    billionaire (n.)

    "person with assets worth a billion in the standard coin of the country," 1844, American English, from billion on model of millionaire. Marked "[Rare.]" in Century Dictionary (1902). The first in the U.S. likely was John D. Rockefeller, some time after World War I.ETD billionaire (n.).2

    billionth (adj., n.)

    "being one of a billion different parts," 1778, from billion + -th (1).ETD billionth (adj., n.).2

    billow (n.)

    "a great wave or surge of the sea," 1550s, perhaps older in dialectal use (but not recorded in Middle English), from Old Norse bylgja "a wave, a billow," from Proto-Germanic *bulgjan (source also of Swedish bölja, Danish bölge "a billow," Middle High German bulge "a billow; a bag"), from PIE *bhelgh- "to swell," extended form of root *bhel- (2) "to blow, swell."ETD billow (n.).2

    billow (v.)

    "to rise or roll in large waves," 1590s, from billow (n.). Related: Billowed; billowing.ETD billow (v.).2

    billowy (adj.)

    "swelling into large waves; having an appearance or effect as of billows," 1610s, from billow (n.) + -y (2). Related: Billowiness.ETD billowy (adj.).2

    billy-goat (n.)

    familiar name for a male goat, by 1826, from the familiar form of William; also see goat (n.), and compare billy.ETD billy-goat (n.).2

    bimbo (n.)

    a word of vague etymology, perhaps a convergence of two or more words, given wide application in late 19c. and settling into its main modern meaning "floozie" from early 1920s, with a revival in 1980s.ETD bimbo (n.).2

    Bimbo first appears as the name of an alcoholic punch, mentioned in newspapers from New York state (1837), Boston (1842), and New Orleans (1844, but as having come from Boston). It is usually made with arrack or rum or brandy, sometimes all of them. It is likely derived from earlier bumbo (1748) a synonym for punch (n.2) which may be from 17c. slang ben-bowse (strong drink) and in which case connected with rum. This sense of the word quickly fades, though it occasionally is on menus as late as 1895.ETD bimbo (n.).3

    From 1860-1910, Bimbo as a proper name is frequent: It is the name or part of the name of several race horses, dogs, and monkeys, a circus elephant (perhaps echoing jumbo), and a jester character in a play. It is in the title of a three-act musical farce ("Bimbo of Bombay"), and the name of a popular "knockabout clown"/actor in England and several other stage clowns. Also it appears as a genuine surname, and "The Bimbos" were a popular brother-sister comedy acrobatics team in vaudeville.ETD bimbo (n.).4

    A separate bimbo seems to have entered American English c. 1900, via immigration, as an Italian word for a little child or a child's doll, evidently a contraction of bambino "baby."ETD bimbo (n.).5

    By 1919 it began to be used generally of a stupid or ineffectual man, a usage Damon Runyon traced to Philadelphia prize-fight slang. He wrote, that July, in a column printed in several newspapers, of a hotel lobby fist-fight between "Yankee Schwartz, the old Philadelphia boxer," and another man, which Schwartz wins.ETD bimbo (n.).6

    The word does turn up in Philadelphia papers' accounts of prizefights (e.g. "Fitzsimmons Is No Bimbo," Evening Public Ledger, May 25, 1920). The male word bimbo continues to appear as a derogatory term for a thug or bully through the 1940s (compare bozo.)ETD bimbo (n.).7

    By 1920 the female word with a sense of "floozie" had developed, perhaps boosted by "My Little Bimbo Down on Bamboo Isle," a popular 1920 song in which the singer (imploring the audience not to alert his wife) tells of his shipwreck "on a Fiji-eeji Isle" and his "bimbo down on that bamboo isle... she's got the other bimbos beat a mile." An article in Variety from 1920, reviewing a performance by singer Margaret Young of a song simply referred to as "Bimbo" tells: "The wise crackers laughed every time the title was mentioned for the slangists know that Bimbo has a unique meaning." Other references through the 1920s suggest a sense similar to flapper or vamp, including Mae West's sexually aggressive Diamond Lil character being called a "Bowery bimbo."ETD bimbo (n.).8

    The female word fell from common use after the 1930s, and in the 1967 Dictionary of American Slang, only the shortened form bim (attested by 1924) was regarded as worthy of an entry. It began to revive circa 1975; in the R rated 1983 film Flashdance it was the misogynistic villain's insult of choice for the female dancers. Its resurrection during 1980s U.S. political sex scandals led to derivatives including diminutive bimbette (1983) and male form himbo (1988).ETD bimbo (n.).9

    bimetallic (adj.)

    also bi-metallic, "composed of two metals," 1864; see bi- "two" + metallic. In economics, "pertaining to the use of both silver and gold as standards in currency," 1876, from French bimétalique (Cornuschi).ETD bimetallic (adj.).2

    bimodal (adj.)

    also bi-modal, "involving or having two modes," 1891; see bi- "two" + modal. Related: Bimodality.ETD bimodal (adj.).2

    bimonthly (adj.)

    also bi-monthly, 1846, "happening once in two months, every two months," also "occurring twice a month," a hybrid from bi- "two" + monthly. Bimensal in the same sense is attested in 1670s.ETD bimonthly (adj.).2

    bin (n.)

    "enclosed receptacle for some commodity," Old English binne "basket, manger, crib," a word of uncertain origin. Probably from Gaulish, from Old Celtic *benna, and akin to Welsh benn "a cart," especially one with a woven wicker body. The same Celtic word seems to be preserved in Italian benna "dung cart," French benne "grape-gatherer's creel," Dutch benne "large basket," all of which are from Late Latin benna "cart," Medieval Latin benna "basket." Some linguists think there was a Germanic form parallel to the Celtic one.ETD bin (n.).2

    binary (adj.)

    "dual, twofold, double," mid-15c., from Late Latin binarius "consisting of two," from bini "twofold, two apiece, two-by-two" (used especially of matched things), from bis "double" (from PIE root *dwo- "two"). Binary code in computer terminology was in use by 1952, though the idea itself is ancient. Binary star in astronomy is from 1802.ETD binary (adj.).2

    binate (adj.)

    "double, growing in pairs," 1807, from Latin bini "two by two, twofold, two apiece" (see binary) + -ate (2). Used especially in botany.ETD binate (adj.).2

    binaural (adj.)

    "pertaining to both ears," 1857, from Latin bini "twofold, two apiece" (see binary) + aural. In reference to sound reproduction from electronic recordings, 1933.ETD binaural (adj.).2

    bind (v.)

    Old English bindan "to tie up with bonds" (literally and figuratively), also "to make captive; to cover with dressings and bandages" (class III strong verb; past tense band, past participle bunden), from Proto-Germanic *bindanan (source also of Old Saxon bindan, Old Norse and Old Frisian binda, Old High German binten "to bind," German binden, Gothic bindan), from PIE root *bhendh- "to bind." Of books, from c. 1400. Intransitive sense of "stick together, cohere" is from 1670s.ETD bind (v.).2

    binding (n.)

    mid-13c., "act or action of securing, uniting, etc.," verbal noun from bind (v.). The meaning "thing that binds" is from c. 1300; that of "state of being bound" is from late 14c. The sense of "covering of a book" is recorded from 1640s.ETD binding (n.).2

    bind (n.)

    "anything that binds," in various senses, late Old English, from bind (v.). The meaning "tight or awkward situation" is from 1851.ETD bind (n.).2

    binding (adj.)

    late 14c., "serving to bind," past-participle adjective from bind (v.). The meaning "having power to bind" is from 1610s.ETD binding (adj.).2

    binder (n.)

    Old English bindere "one who binds," agent noun from bind (v.). Of various objects or products that bind, from early 16c.ETD binder (n.).2

    bindery (n.)

    "place where books are bound," 1793, American English; see bind (v.) + -ery.ETD bindery (n.).2

    bindle (n.)

    "tramp's bundle," 1900, perhaps from bundle (n.) or Scottish dialectal bindle "cord or rope to bind things." Related: Bindlestiff "tramp who carries a bindle" (1901).ETD bindle (n.).2

    bine (n.)

    "climbing stem, flexible shoot of a shrub," 1727, from a dialectal form of bind (n.).ETD bine (n.).2

    Bing (adj.)

    in reference to a a dark red type of cherry widely grown in the U.S., 1889, said to have been developed 1870s and named for Ah Bing, Chinese orchard foreman for Oregon fruit-grower Seth Lewelling.ETD Bing (adj.).2

    binge (n.)

    1854, "drinking bout," also (v.) "drink heavily, soak up alcohol;" dialectal use of binge "soak" (a wooden vessel). Said to have been originally as a dialect word. Binge is noted in Evans' "Leicestershire Words, Phrases and Proverbs" (London, 1848) as a dialect verb for "To soak in water a wooden vessel, that would otherwise leak," to make the wood swell. He adds that it was extended locally to excessive drinking ("soaking").ETD binge (n.).2

    The sense was extended c. World War I to include eating as well as drinking. Binge-watching is from 1996. Related: Binged; bingeing.ETD binge (n.).3

    bing (n.)

    "heap or pile," 1510s, from Old Norse bingr "heap." Also used from early 14c. as a word for bin, perhaps from notion of "place where things are piled."ETD bing (n.).2

    bingo (n.)

    lotto-like game of chance, 1924; there are many theories about its origin, none satisfying; the most likely is bingo! as an exclamation of sudden realization or surprise (attested from 1923).ETD bingo (n.).2

    Uncertain connection to the slang word for "brandy" (1690s), attested as "liquor" in American English from 1861. Thomas Chandler Haliburton ("Sam Slick") in "The Americans at Home" (1854) recounts a story of a drinking game in which the children's song about the farmer's dog was sung and when it came time to spell out the name, every participant had to take a letter in turn, and anyone who missed or flubbed had to drink.ETD bingo (n.).3

    binnacle (n.)

    "wooden box for a ship's compass," 1738, corruption of bittacle (1620s), which is probably from Spanish bitacula or Portuguese bitacola, both from Latin habitaculum "little dwelling place," from habitare "to inhabit" (from PIE root *ghabh- "to give or receive").ETD binnacle (n.).2

    binocle (n.)

    "telescope or opera glass with two tubes for use by both eyes at once," 1690s, from French binocle (17c.), from Latin bini- "two by two, twofold, two apiece" (see binary) + oculus "eye" (from PIE root *okw- "to see").ETD binocle (n.).2

    binocular (adj.)

    1738, "involving both eyes," earlier "having two eyes" (1713), from French binoculaire, from Latin bini "two by two, twofold, two apiece" (see binary) + ocularis "of the eye," from oculus "eye" (from PIE root *okw- "to see"). The double-tubed telescopic instrument (1871, short for binocular glass) earlier was called a binocle. Related: Binocularity; binocularly.ETD binocular (adj.).2

    binoculars (n.)

    1866; see binocular. Earlier binocle (1690s).ETD binoculars (n.).2

    binomial (n.)

    1550s, "an algebraic expression consisting of two terms," from Late Latin binomius "having two personal names," a hybrid from bi- "two" (see bi-) + nomius, from nomen (from PIE root *no-men- "name"). In zoology and botany, "a name consisting of two terms, generic and specific."ETD binomial (n.).2

    bint (n.)

    "girlfriend," 1855, British English, from Arabic bint "daughter;" adopted by British fighting men in the Middle East. OED reports it "in common use by British servicemen in Egypt and neighbouring countries" in the world wars.ETD bint (n.).2


    word-forming element, especially in scientific compounds, meaning "life, life and," or "biology, biology and," or "biological, of or pertaining to living organisms or their constituents," from Greek bios "one's life, course or way of living, lifetime" (as opposed to zoe "animal life, organic life"), from PIE root *gwei- "to live."ETD bio-.2

    The correct usage is that in biography, but since c. 1800 in modern science it has been extended to mean "organic life," as zoo-, the better choice, is restricted in modern use to animal, as opposed to plant, life. Both are from the same PIE root. Compare biology.ETD bio-.3

    bio (n.)

    short for biography, attested from 1954. OED cites a 1925 private letter (published 1975) from Irish playwright Sean O'Casey. Earlier shortened forms were biog (1942), biograph (1865).ETD bio (n.).2

    biocentric (adj.)

    also bio-centric, "treating life as a central fact," 1889; see bio- "life" + -centric. Anti-biocentric is attested from 1882.ETD biocentric (adj.).2

    biochemical (adj.)

    also bio-chemical, "of or pertaining to the chemistry of life," 1840, after German biochemisch, from bio- "life" + chemical. Related: Biochemically.ETD biochemical (adj.).2

    biochemist (n.)

    also bio-chemist, "student of the chemistry of life," 1894; see bio- "life" + chemist.ETD biochemist (n.).2

    biochemistry (n.)

    also bio-chemistry, "the chemistry of life," 1857, from bio- "life" + chemistry.ETD biochemistry (n.).2

    biocide (n.)

    "destruction of living tissue or living species," 1947, from bio- + -cide. An older word for it was biolysis.ETD biocide (n.).2

    bioclimatology (n.)

    also bio-climatology, "study of climate in relation to living organisms," 1911; see bio- + climatology.ETD bioclimatology (n.).2

    biodegradable (adj.)

    also bio-degradable, "susceptible to decomposition by living organisms" (especially bacteria), 1962; see bio- + degrade + -able.ETD biodegradable (adj.).2

    biodiesel (n.)

    also bio-diesel, "diesel fuel derived directly from organic matter," 1992, from bio- + diesel.ETD biodiesel (n.).2

    biodiversity (n.)

    also bio-diversity, "the range of variety in the living organisms of a given area," by 1988, from bio- + diversity.ETD biodiversity (n.).2

    bioethics (n.)

    also bio-ethics, coined 1970 by U.S. biochemist Van Rensselaer Potter II, who defined it as "Biology combined with diverse humanistic knowledge forging a science that sets a system of medical and environmental priorities for acceptable survival." From bio- + ethics.ETD bioethics (n.).2

    biofeedback (n.)

    also bio-feedback, "use of electronics to monitor an automatic bodily function to train a person to control it," 1969, from bio- + feedback. Said to have been coined by U.S. psychologist and parapsychologist Gardner Murphy.ETD biofeedback (n.).2

    biofuel (n.)

    also bio-fuel, "fuel made directly from organic matter," by 1984, from bio- + fuel (n.).ETD biofuel (n.).2

    biogenic (adj.)

    1864, "produced by living organisms," from bio- + -genic "produced by." From 1904 with reference to Haeckel's recapitulation theory, from biogeny + -ic.ETD biogenic (adj.).2

    biogen (n.)

    1882, "hypothetical soul-stuff, the substance of a proposed spiritual body," coined by U.S. scientist Elliott Coues; see bio- + -gen. From 1899 as "hypothetical protoplasmic unit," from German Biogen (1895). Related: Biogenetic; biogenation.ETD biogen (n.).2

    biogenesis (n.)

    also bio-genesis, 1870, "theory that living organisms arise only from the agency of pre-existing living organisms" (as opposed to spontaneous generation), coined by English biologist T.H. Huxley from Greek bios "life" (from PIE root *gwei- "to live") + -genesis "birth, origin, creation." A word from the Darwin debates. The meaning "the theoretical evolution of living matter from complex inanimate chemicals" is from 1960. Compare also biogeny. Related: Biogenic; biogenetic; biogenetical.ETD biogenesis (n.).2

    biogenetic (adj.)

    "pertaining to biogeny and to the rule that the individual recapitulates the growth stages of the species;" 1879; see biogeny + -ic.ETD biogenetic (adj.).2

    biogeny (n.)

    1870, "science or doctrine of biogenesis; history of organic evolution;" see bio- + -geny. As "history of the evolution of organisms, genesis or evolution of matter manifesting life (including ontogeny and phylogeny)," 1879.ETD biogeny (n.).2

    biogeography (n.)

    also bio-geography, "science of the distribution of living things in different regions," 1892, from bio- + geography. Related: Biogeographical.ETD biogeography (n.).2

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