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

    blip (n.) — blow up (v.)

    blip (n.)

    1894, in reference to a kind of popping sound, of echoic origin. The radar screen sense is from 1945. As a verb from 1924. Related: Blipped; blipping.ETD blip (n.).2

    bliss (n.)

    Old English blis, also bliðs "bliss, merriment, happiness, grace, favor," from Proto-Germanic *blithsjo (source also of Old Saxon blidsea, blizza), from *blithiz "gentle, kind" (see blithe) + *-tjo noun suffix. Originally mostly of earthly happiness, in later Old English of spiritual joy, perfect felicity, the joy of heaven. It has been influenced by unrelated bless.ETD bliss (n.).2

    blissful (adj.)

    late 12c., blisfulle, "glad, happy, joyous; full of the glory of heaven," from bliss (n.) + -ful. Related: Blissfully; blissfulness.ETD blissful (adj.).2

    bliss (v.)

    "attain or exist in a state of perfect felicity," often with out (adv.), by 1973, U.S. colloquial, from bliss (n.).ETD bliss (v.).2

    blister (n.)

    c. 1300, "thin vesicle on the skin containing watery matter," perhaps via Old French blestre "blister, lump, bump," from a Scandinavian source (compare Old Norse blastr "a blowing," dative blæstri "swelling"), or from Middle Dutch blyster "swelling;" all perhaps from PIE *bhlei- "to blow, swell," extension of root *bhel- (2) "to blow, swell."ETD blister (n.).2

    blister (v.)

    late 15c., "to become covered in blisters;," 1540s, "to raise blisters on," from blister (n.). Related: Blistered; blistering.ETD blister (v.).2

    blite (n.)

    a common name for spinach, or plants like it, early 15c., from Latin blitum, from Greek bliton, which is of unknown origin.ETD blite (n.).2

    blithe (adj.)

    Old English bliþe "joyous, kind, cheerful, pleasant," from Proto-Germanic *blithiz "gentle, kind" (source also of Old Saxon bliði "bright, happy," Middle Dutch blide, Dutch blijde, Old Norse bliðr "mild, gentle," Old High German blidi "gay, friendly," Gothic bleiþs "kind, friendly, merciful"). Related: Blithely.ETD blithe (adj.).2

    No cognates outside Germanic. "The earlier application was to the outward expression of kindly feeling, sympathy, affection to others, as in Gothic and ON.; but in OE. the word had come more usually to be applied to the external manifestation of one's own pleased or happy frame of mind, and hence even to the state itself" [OED]. Rare since 16c.ETD blithe (adj.).3

    blithering (adj.)

    1880, present-participle adjective (from the first typically with idiot) from blither (v.) "to talk nonsense." From 1872 as a verbal noun.ETD blithering (adj.).2

    blither (v.)

    1868, variant of blether "talk nonsense" (1520s), a northern British and Scottish word (see blather (v.)). Related: Blithered; blithering.ETD blither (v.).2

    blithesome (adj.)

    "full of gaiety, cheerful," 1724, from blithe + -some (1). An adjective from an adjective. Related: Blithesomely; blithesomeness.ETD blithesome (adj.).2

    blitz (n.)

    "sudden overwhelming attack," 1940, shortening of blitzkrieg (q.v.). The use in U.S. football is from 1959. As a verb, 1940, from the noun. Related: Blitzed; blitzing.ETD blitz (n.).2

    blitzkrieg (n.)

    "rapid attack," 1939, from German Blitzkrieg, from Krieg "war" (see kriegspiel) + Blitz "lightning," from Middle High German blicze, back-formation from bliczen "to flash," from Old High German blecchazzen "to flash, lighten" (8c.), from Proto-Germanic *blikkatjan, from PIE root *bhel- (1) "to shine, flash, burn."ETD blitzkrieg (n.).2

    blizzard (n.)

    "strong, sustained storm of wind and cold, and dry, driving snow," 1859, origin obscure (perhaps somehow connected with blaze (n.1), and compare blazer); it came into general use in the U.S. in this sense in the hard winter of 1880-81. OED says it probably is "more or less onomatopœic," and adds "there is nothing to indicate a French origin." Earlier, it typically meant "a violent blow," also "hail of gunfire" in American English from 1829, and blizz "violent rainstorm" is attested from 1770. The winter storm sense perhaps is originally a colloquial figurative use of these in the Upper Midwest.ETD blizzard (n.).2

    bloat (v.)

    1660s, "to cause to swell" (earlier, in reference to cured fish, "to cause to be soft," 1610s), from now obsolete bloat (adj.), attested from c. 1300 as "soft, flabby, flexible, pliable," but by 17c. meaning "puffed up, swollen." It is perhaps from a Scandinavian source akin to Old Norse blautr "soaked, soft from being cooked in liquid" (compare Swedish blöt fisk "soaked fish"), possibly from Proto-Germanic *blaut-, from PIE *bhleu- "to swell, well up," extended form of root *bhel- (2) "to blow, swell."ETD bloat (v.).2

    It was influenced by or combined with Old English blawan "blow, puff." The figurative use is by 1711. The intransitive meaning "to swell, to become swollen" is from 1735. Related: Bloated; bloating.ETD bloat (v.).3

    bloated (adj.)

    "overgrown, unwieldy," especially from excessive eating and drinking, 1660s, past-participle adjective from bloat (v.). The figurative sense "puffed up" with pride, wealth, etc., is by 1711.ETD bloated (adj.).2

    bloat (n.)

    1860, "a contemptible person" (perhaps with notions of being bloated by indulgence in alcohol, etc.), from bloat (v.). By 1878 as a disease of livestock; the meaning "bloatedness" is from 1905.ETD bloat (n.).2

    blob (n.)

    "drop, globule," 1725, from a verb meaning "to make or mark with blobs" (early 15c.), which is perhaps related to bubble. The same noun was used 16c. in senses of "a bubble, a blister." Related: Blobby.ETD blob (n.).2

    bloc (n.)

    1903, in reference to alliances in Continental politics, from French bloc "group, block," from Old French bloc "piece of wood" (see block (n.1)).ETD bloc (n.).2

    blocking (n.)

    1630s, verbal noun from present participle of block (v.2). By 1891 in U.S. football; by 1961 in theater.ETD blocking (n.).2

    block (v.1)

    "obstruct, hinder passage from or to," 1590s, from French bloquer "to block, stop up," from Old French bloc "log, block of wood" (see block (n.1)). Compare Dutch blokkeren, German blockieren "to blockade." The sense in cricket is from 1772; in U.S. football, "stop or obstruct another player," from 1889. Related: Blocked; blocking.ETD block (v.1).2

    block (n.2)

    "obstruction," 1831, from block (v.1), also in part perhaps an extended sense of block (n.1). As a type of defensive shot in cricket, from 1825; in U.S. football, the act of obstructing another player, from 1912.ETD block (n.2).2

    block (n.1)

    "solid piece," early 14c., blok, blokke, "large solid piece of wood," usually with one or more plane faces, from Old French bloc "log, block" of wood (13c.), which is from a Germanic source such as Middle Dutch bloc "trunk of a tree," Old High German bloh (from PIE *bhlugo-, from *bhelg- "a thick plank, beam;" see balk (n.)).ETD block (n.1).2

    The word was generalized by late 15c. to any solid piece. The meaning "solid mass of wood, the upper surface of which is used for some purpose" is from late 15c., originally the executioner's block where the condemned were beheaded. The meaning "stump where a slave stood to be sold at auction" is from 1842. The sense of "mold on which something is shaped, or placed to keep its shape," typically a hat or wig, is from 1570s; the meaning "head" (generally disparaging) is from 1630s, perhaps an extension of this. To knock (someone's) block off "thrash, beat" is by 1923.ETD block (n.1).3

    The meaning "grooved pulley in a wooden case" (used to transmit power and change the direction of motion by means of a rope) is from c. 1400. Hence block and tackle (1825; see tackle (n.)). The meaning in city block is 1796, from the notion of a "compact mass" of buildings.ETD block (n.1).4

    Later of a portion of a city enclosed by streets, whether built up or not.ETD block (n.1).5

    blocks (n.)

    children's wooden building toys, 1821, from block (n.1).ETD blocks (n.).2

    block (v.2)

    "make smooth or to give shape on a block," 1620s, from block (n.1). The meaning "form into a block" is by 1863; that of "strengthen or support by blocks" is from 1881. The theater sense "designate the position on stage of each actor in a scene" is by 1961. Related: Blocked; blocking.ETD block (v.2).2

    blockade (v.)

    "prevent ingress and egress from by warlike means," 1670s, from blockade (n.). Related: Blockaded; blockading.ETD blockade (v.).2

    blockade (n.)

    "the shutting up of a place by hostile ships or troops," 1690s, from block (v.1) + -ade, false French ending (the French word is blocus, 18c. in this sense, which seems to be in part a back-formation from the verb bloquer and in part influenced by Middle Dutch blokhuus; see blockhouse). Blockade-runner is from 1863.ETD blockade (n.).2

    blockage (n.)

    "obstruction," 1827, from block (v.1) + -age.ETD blockage (n.).2

    blockbuster (n.)

    also block-buster, 1942, "large bomb" (4,000 pounds or larger, according to some sources), from block (n.1) in the "built-up city square" sense, + agent noun from bust (v.), on the notion of the widespread destruction they could cause. The popular entertainment sense of "spectacularly successful production" is attested by 1952. The U.S. sense of "real estate broker who sells a house to a black family on an all-white neighborhood," thus sparking an exodus, is from 1955.ETD blockbuster (n.).2

    blocker (n.)

    c. 1400 of a tool, c. 1600 of a person, agent noun from block (v.1). The U.S. football sense is from 1914.ETD blocker (n.).2

    blockhead (n.)

    also block-head, "stupid person," 1540s (implied in blockheaded), from block (n.1) + head (n.); probably originally an image of the head-shaped oaken block used by hat-makers, though the insulting sense is equally old.ETD blockhead (n.).2

    blockhouse (n.)

    "detached fort blocking a landing, mountain pass, etc., 1510s, of uncertain origin; perhaps from Middle Dutch blokhuis, German Blockhaus, French blockhaus (which is from one of the German words), all from 16c.; see block (v.1). Later "building with an overhanging upper story with loopholes for firing through" (often a square of logs serving as a fort in rough country), which seems to connect it to block (n.1). For second element, see house (n.).ETD blockhouse (n.).2

    blocky (adj.)

    1879, "solidly built, stocky," from block (n.1) + -y (2). Related: Blockily; blockiness.ETD blocky (adj.).2

    blog (n.)

    "online journal," 1998, short for weblog (which is attested from 1993 but in the sense "file containing a detailed record of each request received by a web server"), from (World Wide) Web (n.) + log (n.2). Joe Bloggs (c. 1969) was British slang for "any hypothetical person" (compare U.S. equivalent Joe Blow); earlier blog meant "a servant boy" in one of the college houses (c. 1860, see Partridge, who describes this use as a "perversion of bloke"), and, as a verb, "to defeat" in schoolboy slang. The Blogger online publishing service was launched in 1999.ETD blog (n.).2

    bloke (n.)

    "fellow," 1851, also bloak, London slang, of unknown origin, perhaps from Celtic ploc "large, stubborn person;" another suggestion is Romany (Gypsy) and Hindi loke "a man."ETD bloke (n.).2


    French fem. of blond (n. and adj.).ETD blonde.2

    blond (n.)

    c. 1755 of a type of lace (originally unbleached silk, hence the name); 1822 of persons with blond hair and fair complexions; from blond (adj.).ETD blond (n.).2

    blondness (n.)

    "state or quality of being blond," 1842, from blond (adj.) + -ness.ETD blondness (n.).2

    blond (adj.)

    of hair, "of a golden or light golden-brown color," late 15c., from Old French blont "fair, blond" (12c.), from the same source as Medieval Latin blundus "yellow," but of uncertain origin. Perhaps from Frankish *blund or another Germanic source (compare Dutch, German, Danish blond).ETD blond (adj.).2

    If it is a Germanic word, it is possibly related to Old English blonden-feax "gray-haired," from blondan, blandan "to mix" (see blend (v.)). According to Littré, the original sense of the French word was "a colour midway between golden and light chestnut," which might account for the notion of "mixed." [But Century Dictionary finds this "hardly probable."]ETD blond (adj.).3

    Old English beblonden meant "dyed," so it is also possible that the root meaning of blonde, if it is Germanic, may be "dyed," as ancient Teutonic warriors were noted for dying their hair. Du Cange, however, writes that blundus was a vulgar pronunciation of Latin flavus "yellow." Another guess (discounted by German etymologists), is that it represents a Vulgar Latin *albundus, from alba "white."ETD blond (adj.).4

    The word was reintroduced into English 17c. from French, and was until recently still felt as French, hence blonde (with French feminine ending) for females. Italian biondo, Spanish blondo, Old Provençal blon are said to be ultimately of Germanic origin.ETD blond (adj.).5

    blondish (adj.)

    "somewhat blonde," 1857, from blond (adj.) + -ish.ETD blondish (adj.).2

    blood (n.)

    Old English blod "blood, fluid which circulates in the arteries and veins," from Proto-Germanic *blodam "blood" (source also of Old Frisian blod, Old Saxon blôd, Old Norse bloð, Middle Dutch bloet, Dutch bloed, Old High German bluot, German Blut, Gothic bloþ), according to some sources from PIE *bhlo-to-, perhaps meaning "to swell, gush, spurt," or "that which bursts out" (compare Gothic bloþ "blood," bloma "flower"), from suffixed form of root *bhel- (3) "to thrive, bloom." But Boutkan finds no certain IE etymology and assumes a non-IE origin.ETD blood (n.).2

    There seems to have been an avoidance in Germanic, perhaps from taboo, of other PIE words for "blood," such as *esen- (source of poetic Greek ear, Old Latin aser, Sanskrit asrk, Hittite eshar); also *krew-, which seems to have had a sense of "blood outside the body, gore from a wound" (source of Latin cruour "blood from a wound," Greek kreas "meat"), but which came to mean simply "blood" in the Balto-Slavic group and some other languages.ETD blood (n.).3

    Inheritance and relationship senses (also found in Latin sanguis, Greek haima) emerged in English by mid-13c. The meanings "person of one's family, race, kindred; offspring, one who inherits the blood of another" are late 14c. As the fluid of life (and the presumed seat of the passions), blood has stood for "temper of mind, natural disposition" since c. 1300 and been given many figurative extensions. The slang meaning "hot spark, a man of fire" [Johnson] is from 1560s. Blood pressure is attested from 1862. Blood money is from 1530s; originally money paid for causing the death of another.ETD blood (n.).4

    Blood type is from 1928. That there were different types of human blood was discovered c. 1900 during early experiments in transfusion. To get blood from a stone "do the impossible" is from 1660s. Expression blood is thicker than water is attested by 1803, in reference to family ties of those separated by distance. New (or fresh) blood, in reference to new members of an organization or group, especially ones bringing new ideas and fresh vigor or strength, is from 1880.ETD blood (n.).5

    blood (v.)

    1590s, "to smear or stain with blood;" 1620s, "to cause to bleed," from blood (n.). Meaning "to give (a hunting animal) its first taste of blood" is from 1781. Related: Blooded; blooding.ETD blood (v.).2

    blood-bank (n.)

    "place for storing blood or plasma for transfusions," 1938, from blood (n.) + bank (n.1).ETD blood-bank (n.).2

    blood-curdling (adj.)

    also bloodcurdling, figurative, "chilling the blood; causing thrills of fear or horror," 1817, from blood (n.) + present participle of curdle. Also formerly with a noun form, bloodcurdler "incident which freezes the blood," especially "sensational story," 1877, slang; also in use in this sense was blood-freezer (1886).ETD blood-curdling (adj.).2

    bloodhound (n.)

    also blood-hound, type of large dog used in hunting, c. 1300, from blood (n.) + hound (n.). It has an acute sense of smell and traces wounded prey by the scent of the blood it has spilled, hence the name. Similar formation in Dutch bloedhond, German Bluthund.ETD bloodhound (n.).2

    bloodiness (n.)

    1590s, "state of being bloody;" 1610s, "disposition to shed blood;" from bloody (adj.) + -ness.ETD bloodiness (n.).2

    bloody (v.)

    "to stain with blood," 1520s, from bloody (adj.). Related: Bloodied; bloodying. Old English had blodigan "to make bloody," but the modern word seems to be a later formation.ETD bloody (v.).2

    bloody (adj.)

    "of the nature of blood, pertaining to blood, bleeding, covered in blood," Old English blodig, adjective from blod (see blood (n.) + -y (2)). Common Germanic, compare Old Frisian blodich, Old Saxon blôdag, Dutch bloedig, Old High German bluotag, German blutig. The English word is attested from late 14c. as "involving bloodshed" and by 1560s as "bloodthirsty, cruel, tainted with blood-crimes."ETD bloody (adj.).2

    It has been a British intensive swear word at least since 1676. Weekley relates it to the purely intensive use of the cognate Dutch bloed, German Blut. Perhaps it is influenced by bloods in the slang sense of "rowdy young aristocrats" (18c., see blood (n.)), via expressions such as bloody drunk "as drunk as a blood," and it might be ultimately from the general association of the blood and high emotions and heated passions.ETD bloody (adj.).3

    Partridge reports that bloody was "respectable" before c. 1750, and it was used by Dryden, Fielding and Swift, but it was heavily tabooed c. 1750-c. 1920. Johnson calls it "very vulgar," and OED writes of it, "now constantly in the mouths of the lowest classes, but by respectable people considered 'a horrid word', on par with obscene or profane language."ETD bloody (adj.).4

    Shaw shocked theatergoers when he put it in the mouth of Eliza Doolittle in "Pygmalion" (1913), and for a time the word was known euphemistically as the Shavian adjective. It was avoided in print as late as 1936. Bloody Sunday, Jan. 30, 1972, saw 13 civilians were killed by British troops at protest in Londonderry, Northern Ireland.ETD bloody (adj.).5

    bloodily (adv.)

    "in a bloody manner," 1560s, from bloody + -ly (2).ETD bloodily (adv.).2

    bloodless (adj.)

    Middle English blodles, from Old English blodleas, "drained of blood;" see blood (n.) + -less. The figurative sense in Middle English was "powerless, without spirit or energy." The meaning "free from bloodshed" is from c. 1600. The figurative sense of "cold-hearted" is by 1881. Related: Bloodlessly.ETD bloodless (adj.).2

    blood-letting (n.)

    also bloodletting, in medicine, "act of letting blood by opening a vein," as a measure in treatment of disease, early 13c., blod letunge, from blood (n.) + letting. Hyphenated from 17c., one word from mid-19c. Old English had blodlæte (n.) "blood-letting," from blodlætan "to bleed, let blood."ETD blood-letting (n.).2

    blood-lust (n.)

    also bloodlust, "eagerness to shed blood," 1847 (Bulwer Lytton), from blood (n.) + lust (n.).ETD blood-lust (n.).2

    blood-red (adj.)

    "blood-colored," also "red with blood," Old English blodread; see blood (n.) + red (adj.1). Compare Dutch bloedrood, German blutroth, Old Norse bloðrauðr.ETD blood-red (adj.).2

    blood-root (n.)

    1570s, name of a European plant with red-colored roots, from blood (n.) + root (n.). The name later was transferred to an early-flowering North American herb with the same property.ETD blood-root (n.).2

    bloodshed (n.)

    also blood-shed, "the shedding of blood, slaughter," c. 1400, from the verbal phrase (attested in late Old English), as in "there was much blood shed;" from blood (n.) + past participle of shed (v.). As a noun, bloodshedding is attested from c. 1300.ETD bloodshed (n.).2

    bloodshot (adj.)

    also blood-shot, of the eye, "red and inflamed by swelling of blood vessels," 1550s, short for bloodshotten (c. 1500), from blood (n.) + old past participle of shoot (v.).ETD bloodshot (adj.).2

    blood-stained (adj.)

    also bloodstained, "stained with blood; guilty of slaughter," 1590s, from blood (n.) + past participle of stain (v.).ETD blood-stained (adj.).2

    blood-stream (n.)

    also bloodstream, "the blood circulating through the body," 1847, from blood (n.) + stream (n.).ETD blood-stream (n.).2

    bloodsucker (n.)

    also blood-sucker, late 14c., "an animal that sucks blood," from blood (n.) + sucker (n.). Originally especially medicinal leeches. In the figurative sense, of persons, "extortioner, sponger, one who preys on others," it is attested from 1660s. Related: Bloodsucking.ETD bloodsucker (n.).2

    bloodthirsty (adj.)

    also blood-thirsty, "eager to shed blood," 1530s (Coverdale, Psalm xxv.9), from blood (n.) + thirsty (adj.). Compare Dutch bloeddorstig, German blutdürstig. Ancient Greek had a similar image in haimodipsos. Related: Bloodthirstiness.ETD bloodthirsty (adj.).2

    Bloody Mary

    the cocktail, attested from 1947 (originally touted in part as a hangover cure), said to be named for Mary Tudor, queen of England 1553-58, who earned her epithet for vigorous prosecution of Protestants. The drink earned its, apparently, simply for being red from tomato juice. The cocktail's popularity also coincided with that of the musical "South Pacific," which has a character named "Bloody Mary."ETD Bloody Mary.2

    blooey (n.)

    "ruin, smash," 1915, U.S. slang, probably imitative.ETD blooey (n.).2

    blooming (adj.)

    late 14c., "that is in flower, flourishing," present-participle adjective from bloom (v.). The meaning "full-blown" (often a euphemism for bloody) is attested from 1882.ETD blooming (adj.).2

    bloom (n.1)

    "blossom of a plant," c. 1200, a northern word, from a Scandinavian source akin to Old Norse blomi "flower, blossom," also collectively "flowers and foliage on trees;" from Proto-Germanic *blomon (source also of Old Saxon blomo, Middle Dutch bloeme, Dutch bloem, Old High German bluomo, German Blume, Gothic bloma), from PIE *bhle- (source also of Old Irish blath "blossom, flower," Latin flos "flower," florere "to blossom, flourish"), extended form of root *bhel- (3) "to thrive, bloom." It is related to Old English blowan "to flower" (see blow (v.2)).ETD bloom (n.1).2

    The transferred sense, of persons, "pre-eminence, superiority," is from c. 1300; the meaning "state of greatest loveliness" is from early 14c.; that of "blush on the cheeks" is from 1752. Old English had cognate bloma, but only in the figurative sense of "state of greatest beauty;" the main word in Old English for "flower" was blostm (see blossom (n.)).ETD bloom (n.1).3

    bloom (v.)

    mid-13c., blomen, "bear flowers, blossom, be in flower," from an Old Norse noun from the same source as bloom (n.1). Related: Bloomed; blooming.ETD bloom (v.).2

    bloom (n.2)

    "rough mass of wrought iron," from Old English bloma "lump of metal; mass," which is of unknown origin. Identical in form to bloom (n.1), and sometimes regarded as a secondary sense of it, but evidence of a connection is wanting.ETD bloom (n.2).2

    bloomer (n.)

    1730, "plant which blooms," agent noun from bloom (v.).ETD bloomer (n.).2

    bloomers (n.)

    "loose trousers, commonly buttoned below the knee," 1851, named for U.S. feminist reformer Amelia Jenks Bloomer (1818-1894), who promoted them as part of an attempt to make women's dress more practical. The original Bloomer costume was a short skirt, loose trousers buttoned round the ankle, and a broad-brimmed, low-crowned hat.ETD bloomers (n.).2

    The surname is attested from c. 1200 and said to mean "iron-worker," from Old English bloma (see bloom (n.2)).ETD bloomers (n.).3


    1910, in reference to the set of Bohemian writers, artists, and intellectuals (including E.M. Forster, Virginia Woolf, Vanessa and Clive Bell, John Maynard Keynes) centered on Lytton Strachey; so called from the London neighborhood where several lived and worked.ETD Bloomsbury.2

    The place name is recorded 1291 as Blemondesberi "manor held by the Blemond family," from Blémont in France. It was laid out for housing in 17c., fashionable from 18c.ETD Bloomsbury.3

    bloop (v.)

    1926, a word from the early days of radio (see blooper). In baseball, "hit a ball in a high arc over the head of a fielder," by 1940. Related: Blooped; blooping. As a noun from 1931.ETD bloop (v.).2

    blooper (n.)

    "blunder," 1943, apparently first in stage jargon, perhaps from the baseball slang meaning "a fly ball in a high arc missed by the fielder" (1937) or else from the earlier meaning "radio receiver that interferes with nearby sets" when a careless operator throws it into oscillation (1926), in which case it imitates the resulting sound (compare bloop).ETD blooper (n.).2

    blossom (v.)

    late 14c., blosmen, "come into flower," from Old English blostmian "put forth blossoms, to flower," from blostma "a blossom, a flower" (see blossom (n.)). Figurative use is from late 14c. Related: Blossomed; blossoming.ETD blossom (v.).2

    blossom (n.)

    "a flower of a plant," c. 1200, blosme, from Old English blostm, blostma, from Proto-Germanic *blo-s- (source also of Middle Low German blosom, Dutch bloesem, German Blust), from PIE *bhlow-, extended form of root *bhel- (3) "to thrive, bloom."ETD blossom (n.).2

    This is the native word, now largely superseded by bloom (n.1) from Old Norse and flower (n.) from French. Figurative uses, in reference to a thing of exceptional beauty or excellence or the prime of life are in late Old English.ETD blossom (n.).3

    blot (n.)

    late 14c., "a spot or stain of ink;" also "a moral stain or blemish, a disgrace, a sin;" a word of uncertain origin. Perhaps from Old Norse blettr "blot, stain," or from Old French blot, variant of bloc "block." The Middle English Compendium compares, hesitantly, Old French blo(s)tre, variant of blestre "a boil." It is attested from 1570s as "any black or dark patch."ETD blot (n.).2

    blotting (n.)

    mid-15c., "obliteration," verbal noun from blot (v.). Blotting-paper (1510s), rough and spongy, is used to absorb excess ink from freshly written paper without blurring.ETD blotting (n.).2

    blot (v.)

    early 15c., "to make blots (with ink), disfigure with blots," also figurative; mid-15c. "to blot out, obliterate" (words), from blot (n.). Related: Blotted; blotting.ETD blot (v.).2

    blotch (n.)

    "a spot," especially a large irregular spot, as on the skin, c. 1600, perhaps an extension of blot (n.) by influence of botch or patch. Also from c. 1600 as a verb. Related: Blotched; blotching.ETD blotch (n.).2

    blotchy (adj.)

    "disfigured with blotches," 1799, from blotch (n.) + -y (2). Related: Blotchiness.ETD blotchy (adj.).2

    blotter (n.)

    1590s, "thing for drying wet spots," agent noun from blot (v.). The meaning "bad writer" is from c. 1600. The sense of "day book" is from 1670s, and the word was applied by 1810 to rough drafts, scrap books, notebooks, and draft account books. Hence the police jargon sense "arrest record sheet," recorded from 1887.ETD blotter (n.).2

    blotto (adj.)

    "drunk," c. 1905, from some signification of blot (v.) in its "soak up liquid" meaning.ETD blotto (adj.).2

    blouse (n.)

    "light, loose upper garment of linen or cotton," 1828 (from 1822 as a French word in English), from French blouse, "workman's or peasant's smock" (1788), which is of unknown origin. Perhaps it is akin to Provençal (lano) blouso "short (wool)" [Gamillscheg]. Another suggestion [Klein] is that it is from Medieval Latin pelusia, from Pelusium, a city in Upper Egypt, supposedly a clothing manufacturing center in the Middle Ages.ETD blouse (n.).2

    At first a garment worn by French working-men as a protection from dust, etc., later adopted fashionably for women and children, not without objection:ETD blouse (n.).3

    bloviate (v.)

    1857, American English, a Midwestern word for "to talk aimlessly and boastingly; to indulge in 'high falutin'," according to Farmer (1890), who seems to have been the only British lexicographer to notice it. He says it was based on blow (v.1) on the model of deviate, etc.ETD bloviate (v.).2

    It seems to have been felt as outdated within a few years ("It was a pleasure for him to hear the Doctor talk, or, as it was inelegantly expressed in the phrase of the period, 'bloviate' ...." ["Overland Monthly," San Francisco, 1872, describing a scene from 1860]), but it enjoyed a revival early 1920s during the presidency of Warren G. Harding, who wrote a notoriously ornate and incomprehensible prose (e.e. cummings eulogized him as "The only man, woman or child who wrote a simple declarative sentence with seven grammatical errors") at which time the word took on its connection with political speech; it faded again thereafter, but, with its derivative, bloviation, it enjoyed a revival in the 2000 U.S. election season that continued through the era of blogging.ETD bloviate (v.).3

    bloviation (n.)

    "pompous oratory," 1857; noun of action from bloviate (v.).ETD bloviation (n.).2

    blow (v.2)

    "to bloom, blossom, put forth flowers" (intransitive), from Old English blowan "to flower, blossom, flourish," from Proto-Germanic *blæ- (source also of Old Saxon bloian, Old Frisian bloia, Middle Dutch and Dutch bloeien, Old High German bluoen, German blühen), from PIE root *bhel- (3) "to thrive, bloom." This verb is the source of the blown in full-blown. The figurative sense of "attain perfection" is from c. 1600.ETD blow (v.2).2

    blow (v.1)

    "move air, produce a current of air," Middle English blouen, from Old English blawan "to blow (of the wind, bellows, etc.), breathe, make an air current; kindle; inflate; sound" a wind instrument (class VII strong verb; past tense bleow, past participle blawen), from Proto-Germanic *blæ-anan (source of Old High German blaen, German blähen), according to Watkins from PIE root *bhle- "to blow."ETD blow (v.1).2

    The transitive sense of "carry by a wind or current of air" is from c. 1300; that of "fill with air, inflate" is from late 14c. Of noses, from 1530s; of electrical fuses, from 1902. The meaning "to squander" (money) is from 1874; that of "lose or bungle" (an opportunity, etc.) is by 1943. The sense of "depart (some place) suddenly" is from 1902.ETD blow (v.1).3

    As a colloquial imprecation by 1781, associated with sailors (as in Popeye's "well, blow me down!"); it has past participle blowed.ETD blow (v.1).4

    To blow (a candle, etc.) out "extinguish by a current of air" is from late 14c. To blow over "pass" is from 1610s, originally of storms. To blow hot and cold "vacillate" is from 1570s. To blow off steam (1837) is a figurative use from steam engines releasing pressure. Slang blow (someone or something) off "dismiss, ignore" is by 1986. To blow (someone's) mind was in use by 1967; there is a song title "Blow Your Mind" released in a 1965 Mirawood recording by a group called The Gas Company.ETD blow (v.1).5

    For the sexual sense, see blow-job.ETD blow (v.1).6

    blow (n.2)

    "a blowing, a blast of wind," c. 1500, from blow (v.1).ETD blow (n.2).2

    blow (n.1)

    "a hard hit (with a fist)," mid-15c., blaw, blowe, from northern and East Midlands dialects, perhaps from Middle Dutch blouwen "to beat," or an unrecorded Old English cognate. The ordinary Old English word for "to strike" was slean (see slay (v.)). A common Germanic word; compare German bleuen, Gothic bliggwan "to strike."ETD blow (n.1).2

    Influenced in English by blow (v.1). The figurative sense of "a sudden shock or calamity" is from 1670s. To come to blows "engage in combat" is from 1650s (fall to blows is from 1590s). In reference to descriptions or accounts, blow-by-blow is recorded from 1921, American English, originally of detailed accounts in prize-fight broadcasts.ETD blow (n.1).3

    blowback (n.)

    also blow-back, 1883, in reference to flames in enclosed spaces (firearms, furnaces, etc.) reversing the usual direction through escape of pressure or delayed combustion; from the verbal phrase; see blow (v.1) + back (adv.). The sense of "unintended adverse result or repercussion" in reference to convert actions, etc., is by 1978.ETD blowback (n.).2

    blow-dry (v.)

    1971, of hair, "to dry and style with a blow-dryer;" see blow (v.1) + dry (adj.). Related: Blow-dried; blow-drying; blow-dryer.ETD blow-dry (v.).2

    blower (n.)

    early 12c., blouere, "a horn-blower," from Old English blawere, agent noun from blow (v.1). Of mechanical devices for forcing air, etc., from 1795. As a colloquial word for "speaking-tube," 1922, hence also, by extension, "telephone."ETD blower (n.).2

    blowfish (n.)

    also blow-fish, 1862, American English, from blow (v.1) + fish (n.).ETD blowfish (n.).2

    blow-fly (n.)

    a common name for species of flies and similar insects which deposit their eggs on flesh, and taint it, 1720, from fly (n.) + blow (v.1) in an obsolete sense "to deposit eggs, to infect with eggs" (1550s), in reference to insects, "apparently connected with old notions of natural history" [OED]. Hence also flyblown. But blow on or upon meaning "breathe (infectious breath, poison) upon; infect with disease, taint" is by c. 1300, and compare Middle English elf-blown "tainted." Blown also was used in other compounds for "stale from exposure to air," which flows into the senses of "tainted, unsavory; exposed to flies."ETD blow-fly (n.).2

    blow-gun (n.)

    "pipe or tube through which missiles are blown by the breath," 1799, from blow (v.1) + gun (n.).ETD blow-gun (n.).2

    blowhard (n.)

    also blow-hard, "blustering person," 1840, a sailor's word (from 1790 as a nickname for a sailor), perhaps originally a reference to weather and not primarily meaning "braggart;" from blow (v.1) + hard (adv.). However, blow (v.1) in the sense of "brag, boast, bluster, speak loudly" is attested from c. 1300 and blower had been used since late 14c. as "braggart, boaster, one who speaks loudly" (in Middle English translating Latin efflator, French corneur).ETD blowhard (n.).2

    blow-hole (n.)

    also blowhole, nostril of a whale or porpoise, 1787, from blow (v.1) + hole (n.).ETD blow-hole (n.).2

    blow-job (n.)

    also blowjob, "act of fellatio," 1961, from blow + job (n.). Exactly which blow is meant is the subject of some debate; the word might have begun as a euphemism for suck (thus from blow (v.1)), or it might refer to the explosive climax of an orgasm (thus blow (v.2)). The oldest verbal form appears to be blow (someone) off (1933), a phrase originally among prostitutes.ETD blow-job (n.).2

    Unlike much sex slang, its date of origin probably is pretty close to the date it first is attested in print: as recently as the early 1950s, military pilots could innocently talk of their jet planes as blow jobs according to the "Thesaurus of American Slang."ETD blow-job (n.).3

    blown (adj.)

    early 15c., "inflated," from Old English blawen, past participle of blow (v.1). Figurative sense of "inflated by pride" is from late 15c. Meaning "out of breath" is from 1670s. As a past-participle adjective from blow (v.2), "fully expanded or open," as a flower, it was Old English geblowenne.ETD blown (adj.).2

    blow-out (n.)

    also blowout, 1825, American English colloquial, "outburst, brouhaha" (what in modern vernacular would be called a blow-up), from the verbal phrase, in reference to pressure in a steam engine, etc., from blow (v.1) + out (adv.). The meaning "abundant feast" is recorded from 1824; that of "a bursting of an automobile tire" is from 1908.ETD blow-out (n.).2

    blow-pipe (n.)

    also blowpipe, 1680s, "instrument to carry a current of air or gas to a flame, jet, etc.;" 1825 as a type of weapon, "blow-gun;" from blow (v.1) + pipe (n.1).ETD blow-pipe (n.).2

    blow-torch (n.)

    "small automatic blast lamp, plumber's torch, apparatus in which a spray of gas is expelled in a very hot flame under air pressure," 1894, from blow (v.1) + torch (n.).ETD blow-torch (n.).2

    blow up (v.)

    1590s, "explode;" 1690s "cause to explode;" from blow (v.1) + up (adv.). From 1670s as "inflate, puff up." The figurative sense "lose one's temper" is from 1871.ETD blow up (v.).2

    As a noun, it is recorded from 1809 in the sense of "outburst, quarrel;" 1807 as "an explosion." The meaning "enlargement from a photograph" is attested by 1945 (the verbal phrase in this sense is by 1930). Old English had an adjective upablawan "upblown," used of a volcano, etc.ETD blow up (v.).3

    Larger font
    Smaller font