Larger font
Smaller font
Etymology dictionary - Contents
  • Results
  • Related
  • Featured
No results found for: "".
  • Weighted Relevancy
  • Content Sequence
  • Relevancy
  • Earliest First
  • Latest First
    Larger font
    Smaller font

    blandishment (n.) — blintz (n.)

    blandishment (n.)

    "flattering speech," 1590s, from blandish + -ment. The sense of "that which pleases, allurement" (often blandishments) is from 1590s.ETD blandishment (n.).2

    blandish (v.)

    mid-14c., "to flatter," from Old French blandiss-, present-participle stem of blandir "to flatter, caress," from Latin blandiri "flatter, soothe, caress, coax," from blandus "smooth-talking, flattering, alluring," perhaps from PIE root *mel- (1) "soft." OED reports it rare in 17c., 18c., and Johnson says he knows it only from Milton. Related: Blandished; blandishing.ETD blandish (v.).2

    blank (adj.)

    early 13c., "white, pale, colorless," from Old French blanc "white, shining," from Frankish *blank "white, gleaming," or some other Germanic source (compare Old Norse blakkr, Old English blanca "white horse;" Old High German blanc, blanch; German blank "shining, bright"). This is reconstructed to be from Proto-Germanic *blangkaz "to shine, dazzle," an extended form of PIE root *bhel- (1) "to shine, flash, burn," also "shining white."ETD blank (adj.).2

    The meaning "having empty spaces" is attested from c. 1400. The sense of "void of expression" (a blank look) is from 1550s. Spanish blanco, Italian bianco are said to be from Germanic. Related: Blankly, blankness.ETD blank (adj.).3

    blank (n.)

    late 14c. as the name of a small French coin; 1550s as "white space in the center of a target," from the same source as blank (adj.). The meaning "empty space" (in a document, etc.) is from c. 1570. The archaic meaning "losing lottery ticket" (1560s) is behind the figurative expression draw a blank "come up with nothing" (attested by 1822).ETD blank (n.).2

    The word has been "for decorum's sake, substituted for a word of execration" [OED] at least since 1854 (for compound words, blankety-blank), from the use of blank lines in printing to indicate where such words or the letters forming the bulk of them have been omitted. From 1896 as short for blank cartridge (itself from 1826).ETD blank (n.).3

    blank (v.)

    1540s, "nonplus, disconcert, shut up;" 1560s, "frustrate," from blank (adj.) in some sense. The sports sense of "defeat (another team) without allowing a score" is from 1870 (blank (n.) as "a score of zero in a game or contest" is from 1867). The meaning "become blank or empty" is by 1955. Colloquial sense of "forget (something) completely, go mentally blank" is by 1990s. Related: Blanked; blanking.ETD blank (v.).2

    blanket (n.)

    c. 1300, "coarse white woolen stuff," also "a large oblong piece of woolen cloth used for warmth as a bed-covering" (also as a cover for horses), from Old French blanchet "light wool or flannel cloth; an article made of this material," diminutive of blanc "white" (see blank (adj.)), which had a secondary sense of "a white cloth."ETD blanket (n.).2

    As an adjective, "providing for a number of contingencies," 1886 (blanket-clause in a contract). In U.S. history, a blanket Indian (1859) was one using the traditional garment instead of wearing Western dress.ETD blanket (n.).3

    blanket (v.)

    c. 1600, "to cover with or as with a blanket;" also "to toss in a blanket" (as punishment), from blanket (n.). Related: Blanketed; blanketing.ETD blanket (v.).2

    blankly (adv.)

    "in a blank manner; vacuously, aimlessly," 1815, from blank (adj.) + -ly (2).ETD blankly (adv.).2

    blank verse (n.)

    "unrhymed decasyllables," commonly used in English dramatic and epic poetry, generally iambic in run, 1580s; the thing itself is attested in English poetry by mid-16c. and is classical in origin.ETD blank verse (n.).2

    blare (v.)

    late 14c., bleren "to wail," possibly from an unrecorded Old English *blæren, or from Middle Dutch bleren "to bleat, cry, bawl, shout." Either way probably echoic. Related: Blared; blaring. As a noun from 1809, from the verb.ETD blare (v.).2

    blaring (adj.)

    "giving forth a loud sound like a trumpet," mid-15c., present-participle adjective from blare. Of qualities other than sound, by 1866.ETD blaring (adj.).2

    blarney (n.)

    "exceedingly complimentary language," 1796, from the Blarney Stone (which is said to make a persuasive flatterer of any who kiss it), built high into a battlement of a medieval castle of that name near Cork, Ireland. Bartlett connects the meaning of the word to the difficulty of the attempt to get close enough to the stone to kiss it: "to have ascended it, was proof of perseverance, courage, and agility, whereof many are supposed to claim the honor who never achieved the adventure." Thus to have kissed the Blarney Stone came to mean "to tell wonderful tales" ["Dictionary of Americanisms," 1848]. The word reached wide currency through Lady Blarney, the smooth-talking flatterer in Goldsmith's "Vicar of Wakefield" (1766). As a verb from 1803.ETD blarney (n.).2

    blase (adj.)

    "bored from overindulgence, weary of the pleasures of life," 1819 [Byron], from French blasé, past participle of blaser "to satiate" (17c.), which is of unknown origin. Perhaps from Dutch blazen "to blow" (according to Watkins ultimately from PIE root *bhle- "to blow"), with a sense of "puffed up under the effects of drinking."ETD blase (adj.).2

    blaspheme (v.)

    "to speak impiously or irreverently of God and sacred things," mid-14c., blasfemen, from Old French blasfemer "to blaspheme" (14c., Modern French blasphémer), from Church Latin blasphemare (which in Late Latin also meant "revile, reproach," hence blame (v.)), from Greek blasphēmein "to speak lightly or amiss of sacred things, to slander," from blasphēmos "evil-speaking" (see blasphemy).ETD blaspheme (v.).2

    A classical reintroduction in English after the original word, taken from vernacular Old French, had been worn down and sense-shifted to blame. Related: Blasphemed; blasphemer; blaspheming.ETD blaspheme (v.).3

    blasphemous (adj.)

    "displaying blasphemy, irreverent to God or sacred things," early 15c., blasfemous, from Old French blasfemeus or directly from Late Latin blasphemus, from blasphemare "to blaspheme," from Greek blasphēmein "to speak lightly or amiss of sacred things, to slander," from blasphēmos "evil-speaking" (see blasphemy).ETD blasphemous (adj.).2

    blasphemy (n.)

    "impious or profane speaking of God or sacred things," early 13c., from Old French blasfemie "blasphemy," from Late Latin blasphemia, from Greek blasphēmia "a speaking ill, impious speech, slander," from blasphēmein "to speak evil of."ETD blasphemy (n.).2

    The second element of that is phēmē "utterance" (from PIE root *bha- (2) "to speak, tell, say"); the first element is uncertain, perhaps it is related to blaptikos "hurtful," though blax "slack (in body and mind), stupid" also has been proposed; de Vaan suggests a connection with the root of Latin malus "bad, unpleasant" (from PIE root *mel- (3)). In Old Testament usage, the word applied to a more specific crime, against the reverence for Jehovah as ruler of the Jews, comparable to treason.ETD blasphemy (n.).3

    blasted (adj.)

    "stricken by malignant forces (natural or supernatural), cursed, blighted," 1550s, from blast (v.) in its once-common sense of "balefully breathe upon, cause to wither, blight." In the sense of "cursed, damned" it is a euphemism attested from 1680s. The meaning "drunk or stoned" dates from 1972, perhaps from the condition of one so affected, but blast (v.) "smoke marijuana" is attested from 1959 and in early 17c. blast (n.) was the usual word for "a smoke of tobacco."ETD blasted (adj.).2

    blast (n.)

    Old English blæst "a blowing, a breeze, puff of wind," from Proto-Germanic *bles- (source also of Old Norse blastr, Old High German blast "a blowing, blast"), according to Watkins from PIE root *bhle- "to blow."ETD blast (n.).2

    The meaning "explosion" is from 1630s; that of "noisy party, good time" is by 1953, American English slang. The sense of "strong current of air forced into a furnace to accelerate combustion for iron-smelting" (1690s) led to blast furnace (1706) and the transferred American English sense in full blast "to or at the extreme" (1836). Blast was the usual word for "a smoke of tobacco" c. 1600.ETD blast (n.).3

    blast (v.)

    Middle English blasten, from Old English blæstan "to blow, belch forth," from Proto-Germanic *bles- (source also of German blasen, Gothic blesan "to blow"), from PIE root *bhle- "to blow." From 16c.-19c., it often meant "to breathe on balefully, cause to wither, blight, prevent from blossoming or maturing." The meaning "to blow up by explosion" is from 1758. Related: Blasted; blasting.ETD blast (v.).2

    blastema (n.)

    initial point of an organic growth, 1849, Modern Latin, from Greek blastema "offspring, offshoot," from stem of blastanein "to shoot forth," from blastos "sprout, germ," which is of unknown origin. Related: Blastemal; blastemic; blastematic.ETD blastema (n.).2


    before vowels blast-, word-forming element used in scientific compounds to mean "germ, bud," from Greek blasto-, combining form of blastos "sprout, germ," which is of unknown origin.ETD blasto-.2

    blastocyst (n.)

    a fertilized egg after about 5 or 6 days, when it is a ball of rapidly dividing cells, 1876, from blasto- + cyst.ETD blastocyst (n.).2

    blast-off (n.)

    "initial burst of energy that launches a rocket into space," 1950, from the verbal phrase; see blast (v.) + off (adv.).ETD blast-off (n.).2

    blastula (n.)

    embryonic state, 1875, Modern Latin, from Greek blastos "sprout, germ" + diminutive ending -ula (see -ule).ETD blastula (n.).2

    blat (v.)

    "make a bleating sound," 1846, U.S. colloquial, imitative. Related: Blatted; blatting. As a noun from 1904.ETD blat (v.).2

    blatant (adj.)

    coined 1596 by Edmund Spenser in "The Faerie Queen," in blatant beast, a thousand-tongued monster representing slander; perhaps primarily an alliterative word, but perhaps suggested by Latin blatire "to babble." It entered general use by 1650s as "noisy in an offensive and vulgar way;" the sense of "obvious, glaringly conspicuous" is from 1889. Related: Blatantly; blatancy.ETD blatant (adj.).2

    blather (v.)

    "talk nonsense," 1520s, blether, Scottish, probably from a Scandinavian source such as Old Norse blaðra "mutter, wag the tongue," which is perhaps of imitative origin, or from Proto-Germanic *blodram "something inflated" (the source of bladder). Related: Blathered; blathering.ETD blather (v.).2

    blather (n.)

    "nonsense, foolish talk," 1787, blether, from blather (v.).ETD blather (n.).2

    blatherskite (n.)

    "one who talks blustering nonsense," c. 1650, bletherskate, in Scottish song "Maggie Lauder," which was popular with soldiers in the Continental Army in the American Revolution, hence the colloquial U.S. use for "talkative good-for-nothing fellow; foolish talk," especially in early 19c. From blather (v.) + dialectal skite "contemptible person."ETD blatherskite (n.).2

    blaxploitation (n.)

    1972, from black + exploitation.ETD blaxploitation (n.).2

    blazing (adj.)

    late 14c., "shining," also "vehement," present-participle adjective from blaze (v.1). As a mild or euphemistic epithet, attested from 1888 (no doubt suggesting damned and connected with the blazes, the euphemism for "Hell").ETD blazing (adj.).2

    blaze (v.1)

    "to burst into flame, burn brightly or vigorously," c. 1200, from blaze (n.1). To blaze away "fire (guns or cannon) continuously" is by 1776, hence "work with vigor and enthusiasm." Related: Blazed; blazing.ETD blaze (v.1).2

    blaze (v.3)

    "to mark" (a tree, a trail), usually by cutting of a piece of bark so as to leave a white spot, 1750, American English, from blaze (n.) "white mark made on a tree" (1660s), for which see blaze (n.2).ETD blaze (v.3).2

    blaze (v.2)

    "make public" (often in a bad sense, boastfully), late 14c., of uncertain origin, the verb not being found in Old English; perhaps from Middle Dutch blasen "to blow" (on a trumpet), from Proto-Germanic *blaes-an (source also of German blasen, Gothic -blesan), according to Watkins from PIE root *bhle- "to blow." Or connected to blaze (v.1) on the notion of "shine forth."ETD blaze (v.2).2

    blazes (n.)

    euphemism for Hell, 1818, plural of blaze (n.1), in reference to the flames.ETD blazes (n.).2

    blaze (n.1)

    "bright flame, fire," Middle English blase, from Old English blæse "a torch, firebrand; bright glowing flame," from Proto-Germanic *blas- "shining, white" (source also of Old Saxon blas "white, whitish," Middle High German blas "bald," originally "white, shining," Old High German blas-ros "horse with a white spot," Middle Dutch and Dutch bles, German Blesse "white spot," blass "pale, whitish"), from PIE root *bhel- (1) "to shine, flash, burn."ETD blaze (n.1).2

    blaze (n.2)

    1630s, "light-colored mark or spot" on the face of a horse, cow, etc., a word from northern English dialect, probably from Old Norse blesi "white spot on a horse's face," from Proto-Germanic *blas- "shining, white," from the same root as blaze (n.1). Middle Dutch or Low German cognates of the Norse word also have been suggested as the source.ETD blaze (n.2).2

    It was applied from 1660s in American English to marks cut on tree trunks to indicate a track; thus the verb meaning "to mark a trail" (1750). Related: Blazed; blazing.ETD blaze (n.2).3

    blazer (n.)

    1630s, "anything which blazes," agent noun from blaze (v.1). The meaning "bright-colored loose jacket" is by 1880 in British university slang, originally in reference to the red flannel jackets worn by the Lady Margaret, St. John College, Cambridge, boating club. Earlier the word had been used in colloquial American English in the sense of "something which attracts attention" (1845).ETD blazer (n.).2

    blazon (n.)

    "armorial bearings, coat of arms," late 13c., from Old French blason (12c.) "a shield, blazon," also "collar bone;" a common Romanic word (compare Spanish blason, Italian blasone, Portuguese brasao, Provençal blezo, the first two said to be French loan-words) but one of uncertain origin. OED doubts, on grounds of sense, the connection proposed by 19c. French etymologists to Germanic words related to English blaze (n.1).ETD blazon (n.).2

    blazon (v.)

    1560s, "to depict or paint (armorial bearings)," from blazon (n.) or else from French blasonner, from the noun in French. It was used earlier in English as "to set forth descriptively" (1510s); especially "to vaunt or boast" (1530s); in this use it is probably from or influenced by blaze (v.2).ETD blazon (v.).2

    bleach (v.)

    Middle English blechen, from Old English blæcan, of cloth or fabric, "to make white by removing color, whiten" (by exposure to chemical agents or the sun), from Proto-Germanic *blaikjan "to make white" (source also of Old Saxon blek, Old Norse bleikr, Dutch bleek, Old High German bleih, German bleich "pale;" Old Norse bleikja, Dutch bleken, German bleichen "to make white, cause to fade"), from PIE root *bhel- (1) "to shine, flash, burn," also "shining white."ETD bleach (v.).2

    The same root probably produced black (q.v.), perhaps because both black and white are colorless, or because both are associated in different ways with burning. For the contrary senses, compare Old English scimian, meaning both "to shine" and "to dim, grow dusky, grow dark," which is related to the source of shine.ETD bleach (v.).3

    The intransitive sense of "become white" is from 1610s. Related: Bleached; bleaching. The past participle in Middle English was sometimes blaught.ETD bleach (v.).4

    bleach (n.)

    1881, "a bleaching agent;" 1882, "an act of bleaching;" probably directly from bleach (v.). The Old English noun blæce meant "leprosy;" Late Old English had also blæco "paleness," and Middle English had blech "whitening or bleaching agent," but the modern words seem to be independent late 19c. formations from the verb.ETD bleach (n.).2

    bleacher (n.)

    1540s, "one who bleaches," agent noun from bleach (v.). The "bench for spectators at a sports field" sense (usually bleachers) is attested by 1889, American English; so named because the boards were bleached by the sun.ETD bleacher (n.).2

    bleak (adj.)

    c. 1300, bleik, "pale, pallid," from Old Norse bleikr "pale, whitish, blond," from Proto-Germanic *blaika- "shining, white" (source also of Old Saxon blek "pale, shining," Dutch bleek, Old High German bleih, German bleich), from PIE root *bhel- (1) "to shine, flash, burn," also "shining white."ETD bleak (adj.).2

    The original English sense is obsolete; the meaning "bare, windswept" is from 1530s; the figurative sense of "cheerless" is from c. 1719. The same Germanic root produced Middle English blake "pale" (Old English blac), but this fell from use, probably from confusion with blæc "black" (the surname Blake can mean either "one of pale complexion" or "one of dark complexion"). Bleak has survived, not in the "pale" sense, but meaning only "bare, barren." Related: Bleakly; bleakness.ETD bleak (adj.).3

    blear (adj.)

    c. 1300, blere, of the eyes, "watery, rheumy, sore or dimmed with watery discharge," from or related to blear (v.). Compare Middle High German blerre "having blurred vision," Low German bleeroged "blear-eyed."ETD blear (adj.).2

    blear (v.)

    "to dim (the vision) with tears, rheum, etc.," also "to have watery or rheumy eyes," early 14c., of uncertain origin, possibly from an unrecorded Old English *blerian, which is perhaps related to blur. Related: Bleared; blearing.ETD blear (v.).2

    bleary (adj.)

    "blurred, rheumy, dim," late 14c., from blear + -y (2). Related: Blearily; bleariness.ETD bleary (adj.).2

    bleat (v.)

    "make a sound like a sheep, goat, or calf," Middle English bleten, from Old English blætan, from West Germanic *bhle- (source also of Dutch blaten "to bleat"), of imitative origin (compare Greek blekhe "a bleating; the wailing of children," Old Church Slavonic blejat "to bleat," Latin flere "to weep"). Related: Bleated; bleating.ETD bleat (v.).2

    bleat (n.)

    "the cry of a sheep, goat, or calf," c. 1500, from bleat (v.).ETD bleat (n.).2

    bleb (n.)

    c. 1600, "blister or swelling," imitative. Also used for "bubble" (1640s), "protuberance on a cell surface" (1962). Compare blob. "In relation to blob, bleb expresses a smaller swelling" [OED].ETD bleb (n.).2


    past tense and past participle of bleed (v.).ETD bled.2

    bleed (v.)

    Old English bledan, "cause to lose blood, to let blood" (in Middle English and after, especially "to let blood from surgically"), also (intransitive) "emit blood," from Proto-Germanic *blodjan "emit blood" (source also of Old Norse blæða, Dutch bloeden, German bluten), from PIE *bhlo-to- "swell, gush, spurt," or "that which bursts out," from suffixed form of root *bhel- (3) "to thrive, bloom."ETD bleed (v.).2

    The meaning "extort money from" is from 1670s. Of dyes or paints, "to wash out," from 1862. Figuratively, of the heart, "suffer anguish, feel pity or sorrow," late 14c.ETD bleed (v.).3

    bleeding (n.)

    late 14c., "a flowing out of blood;" mid-15c. as "a drawing out of blood," verbal noun from bleed (v.).ETD bleeding (n.).2

    bleeding (adj.)

    early 13c., present-participle adjective from bleed (v.). Figurative use is from 1796. As a euphemism for bloody, by 1858. In U.S. history, Bleeding Kansas, in reference to the slavery disputes in that territory 1854-60, is attested from 1856, said to have been first used by the New York "Tribune." The seashell known as the bleeding tooth is attested by that name from 1849.ETD bleeding (adj.).2

    bleeder (n.)

    1756, "one who lets blood," agent noun from bleed (v.) in the transitive sense. As "one with hemophilia," from 1803, from the intransitive sense.ETD bleeder (n.).2

    bleeding heart (n.)

    name applied to several types of flowering plant, 1690s; see bleeding (adj.) + heart (n.).ETD bleeding heart (n.).2

    In the American English sense of "person liberally and excessively sympathetic" (especially toward those the speaker or writer deems not to deserve it) is attested by 1936 in the work of popular conservative newspaper columnist Westbrook Pegler (1894-1969), who first used it in reference to his own feelings about the Republican Party but by 1938 regularly deployed it against the Roosevelt administration and also as a modifier (bleeding-heart liberal) in his "Fair Enough" column:ETD bleeding heart (n.).3

    Bleeding in a figurative sense of "generous" is attested from late 16c., and the notion of one's heart bleeding as a figure of emotional anguish is from late 14c.; the exact image here may be the "bleeding heart of Jesus."ETD bleeding heart (n.).4

    bleep (n.)

    "electronic noise," 1953 (originally in reference to a Geiger counter), imitative; later associated with Sputnik. As "bleeping sound edited over a spoken word deemed unfit for broadcast" from 1968.ETD bleep (n.).2

    bleep (v.)

    1957, "make an electronic noise" (originally in reference to Sputnik), from bleep (n.); the specific sense of "edit a sound over a word deemed unfit for broadcast" is from 1964. Related: Bleeped; bleeping. Bleeper "pager consisting of a mini radio receiver that announces reception of signals by emitting a bleeping noise" is from 1964.ETD bleep (v.).2

    blemish (n.)

    "a defect, flaw, imperfection," 1520s, from blemish (v.).ETD blemish (n.).2

    blemish (v.)

    mid-14c., "to disparage, dishonor, impair morally;" late 14c., "to damage or spoil, disfigure," from Old French blemiss- "to turn pale," extended stem of blemir, blesmir "to make pale; stain, discolor," also "to injure" (13c., Modern French blêmir), probably from Frankish *blesmjan "to cause to turn pale," or some other Germanic source, from Proto-Germanic *blas "shining, white," from PIE root *bhel- (1) "to shine, flash, burn," also "shining white."ETD blemish (v.).2

    From mid-15c. as "mar the beauty or soundness of." Usually in reference to something that is well-formed or otherwise excellent. Related: Blemished; blemishing.ETD blemish (v.).3

    blench (v.)

    "shrink, start back, give way; flinch, wince, dodge," c. 1200, an extended sense from Old English blencan "deceive, cheat" (obsolete in the original sense), from Proto-Germanic *blenk- "to shine, dazzle, blind" (source also of Old Norse blekkja "delude"), from PIE root *bhel- (1) "to shine, flash, burn," also "shining white." Related: Blenched; blenching.ETD blench (v.).2

    blende (n.)

    an ore of zinc and other metals, 1680s, from German Blende, a back-formation from blenden "to blind, deceive" (see blind (adj.)). Said by German sources to be so called because it resembles lead but does not yield any.ETD blende (n.).2

    blend (v.)

    c. 1300, blenden, "to mix in such a way as to become inextinguishable, mingle, stir up a liquid," in Middle English chiefly in northern writers, from or akin to rare Old English blandan "to mix" (Mercian blondan) or Old Norse blanda "to mix," or a combination of the two; from Proto-Germanic *blandan "to mix," which comes via a notion of "to make cloudy" from an extended Germanic form of the PIE root *bhel- (1) "to shine, flash, burn."ETD blend (v.).2

    Compare Old Saxon and Old High German blantan, Gothic blandan, Middle High German blenden "to mix;" German Blendling "bastard, mongrel," and, outside Germanic, Lithuanian blandus "troubled, turbid, thick;" Old Church Slavonic blesti "to go astray." The figurative sense of "mingle closely" is from early 14c. Related: Blended; blending.ETD blend (v.).3

    blend (n.)

    "mixture formed by blending," 1860, from blend (v.).ETD blend (n.).2

    blender (n.)

    person or thing that blends, 1872 (as a type of artist's brush), agent noun from blend (v.). As a type of electric-powered food processor, from 1942.ETD blender (n.).2

    blenny (n.)

    type of small fish, 1774, from Latin blennius (in Pliny), from Greek blennos, from blenna "slime, snot, mucous discharge," so called for the coating on its scales (from PIE *mled-sno-, suffixed form of root *mel- (1) "soft"). "The Blennies (B. gattorugine and allied species) are little fishes common in the rock pools, often called Butterfishes from the slime or mucus which they exude. Hence their name" [Thompson, "A Glossary of Greek Fishes"].ETD blenny (n.).2

    blepharoplasty (n.)

    "surgical operation of making a new eyelid from transplanted skin," 1839, from blepharo-, from Greek blepharon "eyelid" (related to blepein "to look, see") + -plasty.ETD blepharoplasty (n.).2

    bless (v.)

    Middle English blessen, from Old English bletsian, bledsian, Northumbrian bloedsian "to consecrate by a religious rite, make holy, give thanks," from Proto-Germanic *blodison "hallow with blood, mark with blood," from *blotham "blood" (see blood (n.)). Originally a blood sprinkling on pagan altars.ETD bless (v.).2

    This word was chosen in Old English bibles to translate Latin benedicere and Greek eulogein, both of which have a ground sense of "to speak well of, to praise," but were used in Scripture to translate Hebrew brk "to bend (the knee), worship, praise, invoke blessings." L.R. Palmer ("The Latin Language") writes, "There is nothing surprising in the semantic development of a word denoting originally a special ritual act into the more generalized meanings to 'sacrifice,' 'worship,' 'bless,' " and he compares Latin immolare (see immolate).ETD bless (v.).3

    The meaning shifted in late Old English toward "pronounce or make happy, prosperous, or fortunate" by resemblance to unrelated bliss. The meaning "invoke or pronounce God's blessing upon" is from early 14c. No cognates in other languages. Related: Blessed; blessing.ETD bless (v.).4

    blessed (adj.)

    late 12c., "supremely happy," also "consecrated, holy" (c. 1200), past-participle adjective from bless (v.). Reversed or ironic sense of "cursed, damned" is recorded from 1806. Related: Blessedly; blessedness.ETD blessed (adj.).2

    blessing (n.)

    Middle English blessinge, from Old English bletsunga, bledsunge, "divine grace; protecting influence (of a deity, saint); state of spiritual well-being or joy;" also of a sanction or benediction of the Pope, a priest, etc.; verbal noun from bless. The meaning "a gift from God, that which gives temporal or spiritual benefit" is from mid-14c. In the sense of "religious invocation before a meal" it is recorded from 1738. Phrase blessing in disguise is recorded from 1746.ETD blessing (n.).2


    alternative (contracted) past tense and past participle of bless.ETD blest.2


    French form of blue (1), used from c. 1890 in names of various French blue cheeses (French fromage bleu) marketed in Britain and U.S.ETD bleu.2


    Old English bleow, past tense of blow (v.1).ETD blew.2

    blight (n.)

    1610s, "influence, usually hidden or inconspicuous, that nips, blasts, or destroys plants," a word of obscure origin; according to OED it emerged into literary speech from the talk of gardeners and farmers.ETD blight (n.).2

    It is perhaps from Old English blæce, blæcðu, a scrofulous skin condition and/or from Old Norse blikna "become pale" (from the group including bleach, bleak, etc.). The word came to be used in a general way of agricultural diseases, with or without suggestion of invisible baleful influence; hence the figurative sense of "anything which withers hopes or prospects or checks prosperity" (1660s). Compare slang blighter. Urban blight "condition of disrepair and poverty in a previously thriving part of a city" is attested by 1935.ETD blight (n.).3

    blight (v.)

    "afflict with blight, cause to wither or decay," 1660s (implied in blighted), from blight (n.). Figurative sense of "exert a baleful influence on" is by 1712. Related: Blighted; blighting.ETD blight (v.).2

    blighter (n.)

    1769, "thing which blights," agent noun from blight (v.). British colloquial sense of "contemptible person" (often jocular) is recorded from 1896.ETD blighter (n.).2


    a British soldier's informal and (usually) affectionate term for "Britain" or "England," popularized in World War I but attested by 1896 in India, an alteration of Hindi bilayut, billait, which is from Arabic wilayat "a kingdom, a province," which apparently was used by various peoples in South Asia in reference to their distant homelands, and in India came to be used for "Europe" generally.ETD Blighty.2


    by 1889, probably a corruption of (God) blind me! First attested in a slang dictionary which defines it as "an apparently meaningless, abusive term."ETD blimey.2

    blimp (n.)

    "non-rigid airship," 1916, of obscure origin, with many claimants (even J.R.R. Tolkien had a guess at it). "One of the weird coinages of the airmen" [Weekley]. Common theory (which dates to 1919) is that it is from the designers' prototype nickname Type B-limp, in the sense of "without internal framework," as opposed to Type A-rigid; thus see limp (adj.), but references are wanting. There apparently was a type b in the U.S. military's development program for airships in World War I.ETD blimp (n.).2

    blind (n.)

    "a blind person; blind persons collectively," late Old English, from blind (adj.). Meaning "place of concealment," especially for a hunter or fowler, is from 1640s. Meaning "anything that obstructs sight" is from 1702.ETD blind (n.).2

    blind (adj.)

    Old English blind "destitute of sight," also "dark, enveloped in darkness, obscure; unintelligent, lacking mental perception," probably from Proto-Germanic *blindaz "blind" (source also of Old Frisian, Old Saxon, Dutch and German blind, Old Norse blindr, Gothic blinds "blind"), perhaps, via notion of "to make cloudy, deceive," from an extended Germanic form of the PIE root *bhel- (1) "to shine, flash, burn."ETD blind (adj.).2

    The original sense would be not "sightless" but rather "confused," which perhaps underlies such phrases as blind alley (1580s; Chaucer's lanes blynde), which is older than the sense of "closed at one end" (1610s).ETD blind (adj.).3

    The meaning "not directed or controlled by reason" was in Old English. The meaning "without opening for admitting light or seeing through" is from c. 1600. In reference to acting without seeing or investigating first, by 1840; of aviators flying without instruments or without clear observation, from 1919.ETD blind (adj.).4

    To steal (someone) blind is attested by 1873.ETD blind (adj.).5

    blinded (adj.)

    "made blind," 1590s, past-participle adjective from blind (v.). Figurative sense is earlier (1530s).ETD blinded (adj.).2

    blindness (n.)

    "state of being blind, want of sight," Middle English blindnesse, from Old English blindnysse, blendes; see blind (adj.) + -ness. The figurative sense was in Old English.ETD blindness (n.).2

    blinds (n.)

    "window screens," 1771, from blind (singular blind in this sense is recorded from 1731).ETD blinds (n.).2

    blind (v.)

    "make blind, deprive of sight," early 13c., from Old English blendan "to blind, deprive of sight; deceive," from Proto-Germanic *blandjan (source also of Old Frisian blinda, Dutch blinden, Old High German blinden "become blind;" Danish blinde, Gothic gablindjan "make blind"), perhaps, via notion of "to make cloudy, deceive," from an extended Germanic form of the PIE root *bhel- (1) "to shine, flash, burn (see blind (adj.)).ETD blind (v.).2

    The form was influenced in Middle English by the adjective. Related: Blinded; blinding. To blind (someone) with science "confuse by the use of big words or complex explanations" is attested from 1937, originally noted as a phrase from Australia and New Zealand.ETD blind (v.).3

    blinding (adj.)

    "making blind, depriving of light," 1737, present-participle adjective from blind (v.). Related: Blindingly.ETD blinding (adj.).2

    blind date (n.)

    by 1921, U.S. college student slang, from blind (adj.) + date (n.3). Earliest attested use is in reference to the person; of the event by 1925.ETD blind date (n.).2

    blinder (n.)

    "one who or that which blinds," 1580s, agent noun from blind (v.). In 19c. use, especially of blinkers for horses (1809), and often figurative. They were said to prevent the horse being startled by peripheral movements and to keep it steady at its work, but many equestrian authorities railed against them as cruel and unnecessary. Related: Blinders.ETD blinder (n.).2

    blindfold (v.)

    "to cover the eyes to hinder from seeing," a mistaken formation ultimately from Old English (ge)blindfellian "to strike blind," from blind (adj.) + Anglian gefeollan "to strike down, make fall, cause to fall" (see fell (v.1)).ETD blindfold (v.).2

    This became Middle English blindfellen "to strike blind," also "to cover (the eyes) to block vision" (c. 1200). This was most common in the past-participle, blindfelled, blindfeld, "whence the -d was, in the 15th c., erroneously admitted to the stem of the vb." [OED]. It was further altered early 16c. by similarity to fold (n.), from the notion of "folding" a band of cloth over the eyes. Related: Blindfolded; blindfolding.ETD blindfold (v.).3

    blindfold (n.)

    1880, "something wrapped around the head over the eyes to take away vision," from blindfold (v.). Earlier in this sense was blindfolder (1640s).ETD blindfold (n.).2

    blindly (adv.)

    "in a blind manner; without sight; without reasoning," Middle English blindli, from Old English blindlice; see blind (adj.) + -ly (2).ETD blindly (adv.).2

    blindman (n.)

    also blind-man, "blind person," early 14c., from blind (adj.) + man (n.). The children's game of blindman's buff attested from 1580s; the blindfolded person tries to catch the others, "who, on their part, push him about and make sport with him" [OED]; from buff "a buffet, blow" (see buffet (n.2)). Alternative form blindman's bluff is by 1880s. Such a game formerly was called hoodman-blind (1560s).ETD blindman (n.).2

    blind side (n.)

    "weak or unguarded aspect of a person or thing," c. 1600; see blind (adj.). As a verb, also blindside, "to hit from the blind side," attested from 1968, American English, in reference to U.S. football tackles.ETD blind side (n.).2

    blind spot (n.)

    1864, "spot within one's range of vision but where one cannot see," from blind (adj.) + spot (n.). Of the point on the retina insensitive to light (where the optic nerve enters the eye), from 1872. The figurative use of the older sense (in reference to moral, intellectual, etc. sight) is by 1907.ETD blind spot (n.).2

    bling (n.)

    also bling-bling, by 1997, U.S. rap slang, "wealth, expensive accessories," a sound suggestive of the glitter of jewels and precious metals (compare German blinken "to gleam, sparkle").ETD bling (n.).2

    blink (n.)

    1590s, "a glance," a word of uncertain origin, perhaps from a continental Germanic language; see blink (v.). As with the verb, there is a similar noun in Middle English, from c. 1300, that might represent a native form of the same root. The meaning "action of blinking" is from 1924. From the otherwise archaic sense of "a flicker, a spark," comes on the blink "nearly extinguished," hence "not functioning" (1901).ETD blink (n.).2

    blink (v.)

    1580s, "nictitate, wink rapidly and repeatedly," perhaps from Middle Dutch blinken "to glitter," which is of uncertain origin, possibly, along with German blinken "to gleam, sparkle, twinkle," from a nasalized form of base found in Old English blican "to shine, glitter" (from PIE root *bhel- (1) "to shine, flash, burn").ETD blink (v.).2

    Middle English had blynke (c. 1300) in the sense "a brief gleam or spark," perhaps a variant of blench "to move suddenly or sharply; to raise one's eyelids" (c. 1200), perhaps from the rare Old English blencan "deceive."ETD blink (v.).3

    The word existed originally with a vague and shifting set of meanings, many now obsolete, having to do with motion of the eyes; in earlier use "the notion of 'glancing' predominates; in the latter, that of 'winking'" [OED].ETD blink (v.).4

    Blink as "to wink" is attested by 1761. The meaning "cast a sudden, fleeting light" is from 1786; that of "shut the eyes momentarily and involuntarily" is from 1858. Related: Blinked; blinking. The last, as a euphemism for a stronger adjective, is attested by 1914.ETD blink (v.).5

    blinkard (n.)

    a mocking term for a person with bad eyesight, c. 1500, from blink (v.) + -ard. Figuratively, "one who lacks intellectual perception" (1520s).ETD blinkard (n.).2

    blinkered (adj.)

    in the figurative sense, 1849, from horses being fitted with blinders to limit the range of their vision (see blinker).ETD blinkered (adj.).2

    blinker (n.)

    1630s, "one who blinks," agent noun from blink (v.). As a type of horse eye screen to keep the animal looking straight ahead, from 1789 (compare blinder). The slang meaning "the eye" is from 1816. The meaning "intermittent flashing light" is from 1923.ETD blinker (n.).2

    blintz (n.)

    "thin rolled pancake filled with cheese or fruit then fried or baked," 1903, from Yiddish blintze, from Russian blinyets, diminutive of blin "pancake," from Old Russian blinu, which is perhaps ultimately from PIE root *mele- "to crush, grind."ETD blintz (n.).2

    Larger font
    Smaller font