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    bunkum (n.) — busk (n.)

    bunkum (n.)

    variant of Buncombe (see bunk (n.2)).ETD bunkum (n.).2

    bunny (n.)

    pet name for a rabbit, 1680s, diminutive of Scottish dialectal bun, pet name for a rabbit, previously (1580s) for a squirrel, and also a term of endearment for a young attractive woman or child (c. 1600). Ultimately it could be from Scottish bun "tail of a hare" (1530s), or from French bon, or from a Scandinavian source. The Playboy Club hostess sense is from 1960. The Bunny Hug (1912), along with the foxtrot and the Wilson glide, were among the popular/scandalous dances of the ragtime era.ETD bunny (n.).2

    Bunsen burner

    1879, named for Prof. Robert Wilhelm Bunsen (1811-1899) of Heidelberg, who invented it in 1855. He also was co-inventor of the spectroscope.ETD Bunsen burner.2

    bunt (v.)

    1825, "to strike with the head or horns" (of a goat or calf); perhaps an alteration of butt (v.) with a goat in mind, or a survival from Middle English bounten "to leap back, return" (early 15c., perhaps from a variant of Old French bondir; see bound (v.2)). As a baseball term from 1889. Also compare punt (v.). Related: Bunted; bunting.ETD bunt (v.).2

    bunting (n.2)

    popular name of a lark-like bird, c. 1300, bountyng, a word of unknown origin. Perhaps from buntin "plump" (compare baby bunting, also Scots buntin "short and thick;" Welsh bontin "rump," and bontinog "big-assed"), or a double diminutive of French bon. Or it might be named in reference to speckled plumage and be from an unrecorded Old English word akin to German bunt "speckled," Dutch bont, which are perhaps from Latin punctus.ETD bunting (n.2).2

    bunting (n.1)

    "light woolen stuff loosely woven, flag-material," 1742, of uncertain origin; perhaps from a dialectal survival of Middle English bonting "sifting," verbal noun from bonten "to sift," because cloth was used for sifting grain. The Middle English verb is via Old French, from Vulgar Latin *bonitare "to make good," from Latin bonus "good" (see bonus).ETD bunting (n.1).2

    bunt (n.)

    1767, "a push with the head or horns" (of a goat or calf); see bunt (v.). Baseball sense "stop the ball with the bat without swinging the bat" is from 1889.ETD bunt (n.).2

    bunyip (n.)

    fabulous swamp-dwelling animal of Australia (supposedly inspired by fossil bones), 1848, from an Aboriginal language.ETD bunyip (n.).2

    buoy (n.)

    "float fixed in a place to indicate the position of objects underwater or to mark a channel," late 13c., boie, probably from Old French buie or Middle Dutch boeye, both of which likely are from Proto-Germanic *baukna- "beacon, signal" (see beacon). OED and Century Dictionary, however, suggest it is from Middle Dutch boeie or Old French boie "fetter, chain" (see boy), "because of its being fettered to a spot."ETD buoy (n.).2

    buoy (v.)

    1590s, "to mark with a buoy," from buoy (n.). The meaning "keep something from sinking, keep afloat" is from 1650s, probably from the noun in the extended sense of "buoyant object thrown from a vessel to assist someone in the water stay afloat." It is attested earlier (1640s) in the figurative sense (of hopes, spirits, etc.). Related: Buoyed; buoying.ETD buoy (v.).2

    buoyance (n.)

    "buoyancy," 1806, from buoyant + -ance. The more usual word is buoyancy.ETD buoyance (n.).2

    buoyancy (n.)

    1713, "relative lightness, quality of floating on water or other liquid," from buoyant + -cy. The figurative sense "cheerfulness, hopefulness" (of spirits, etc.) is from 1819. The meaning "power of supporting a body so that it floats" is from 1831.ETD buoyancy (n.).2

    buoyant (adj.)

    "having the quality of rising or floating in a liquid," 1570s, perhaps from Spanish boyante, present participle of boyar "to float," from boya "buoy," from Dutch boei (see buoy (n.)). Of personalities, etc., from c. 1748. Related: Buoyantly.ETD buoyant (adj.).2

    bupkis (n.)

    also bupkes, bubkis, "nothing." By 1931, possibly by 1919. Said by Partridge Slang to be from the Russian for "beans"; but the sense was understood in American Yiddish slang to be more specifically "goat shit."ETD bupkis (n.).2

    Term was popularized in US after being used on an episode of The Dick Van Dyke Show ("Bupkis" aired March 10, 1965). Writer Sam Denoff had learned the word from his mother and, not realizing it was considered a swear word, utilized it prominently on the show where it was defined by the characters as "a Yiddish word meaning 'nothing.'" The censors, apparently unfamiliar with the term, allowed it to air. It thus rose into popular use, lacking a sense of cursing.ETD bupkis (n.).3

    bur (n.)

    "prickly seed vessel of some plants," c. 1300, burre, from a Scandinavian source (compare Danish borre, Swedish hard-borre, Old Norse burst "bristle"), from PIE *bhars- (see bristle (n.)). It was transferred 1610s to "rough edge on metal," which might be the source of the sense "rough sound of the letter -r-" (see burr). Also the name given to various tools and appliances.ETD bur (n.).2

    burble (v.)

    "make a bubbling sound, bubble, gush," c. 1300, imitative (compare unrelated Spanish borbollar, Old French borboter "to bubble, gush," Greek borboryzein "to rumble"). Related: Burbled; burbling.ETD burble (v.).2

    burd (n.)

    poetic word for "woman, lady" in old ballads; later "young lady, maiden;" c. 1200, perhaps from Old English byrde "wealthy, well-born, of good birth" (compare Old English gebyrd "birth, descent, race; offspring; nature; fate;" see birth (n.)) Or a metathesis of bryd "bride" (see bride). The masculine equivalent was berne.ETD burd (n.).2

    burden (n.2)

    "leading idea, main topic," 1640s, a figurative use (on the notion of "subject often repeated") of the earlier sense "refrain or chorus of a song," 1590s, originally "bass accompaniment to music" (late 14c.), from Old French bordon (Modern French bourdon) "bumble-bee, drone," or directly from Medieval Latin burdonom "drone, drone bass" (source also of Spanish bordon, Portuguese bordão, Italian bordone), of echoic origin.ETD burden (n.2).2

    burden (n.1)

    "a load, that which is borne or carried," Old English byrðen "a load, weight, charge, duty;" also "a child;" from Proto-Germanic *burthinjo- "that which is borne" (source also of Old Norse byrðr, Old Saxon burthinnia, German bürde, Gothic baurþei), from PIE root *bher- (1) "to carry," also "to bear children."ETD burden (n.1).2

    The shift from -th- to -d- began early 12c. (compare murder (n.), rudder, afford). Archaic burthen is occasionally retained for the specific sense of "capacity of a ship." Beast of burden is from 1740. Burden of proof (Latin onus probandi) "obligation on one party in an action to establish an alleged fact by proof" is recorded from 1590s.ETD burden (n.1).3

    burdensome (adj.)

    "heavy, wearisome," 1570s, from burden (n.1) + -some (1). Earlier was burdenous (1520s). Related: Burdensomeness.ETD burdensome (adj.).2

    burdock (n.)

    common name of a kind of coarse, weedy plant, 1590s, from bur + dock (n.3).ETD burdock (n.).2

    burdon (n.)

    mule born of a horse and a she-ass, late 14c., from Latin burdonem.ETD burdon (n.).2

    bureau (n.)

    1690s, "desk with drawers for papers, writing desk," from French bureau (plural bureaux) "office; desk, writing table," originally "cloth covering for a desk," from burel "coarse woolen cloth" (as a cover for writing desks), Old French diminutive of bure "dark brown cloth," which is perhaps either from Latin burrus "red" (see burro) or from Late Latin burra "wool, shaggy garment" (which is of unknown origin).ETD bureau (n.).2

    Bureau desks being the common furniture of offices, the meaning expanded by 1720 to "office or place where business is transacted," and by 1796 to "division of a government." The meaning "chest of drawers for clothes, etc.," is from 1770, said to be American English but early in British use.ETD bureau (n.).3

    bureaucracy (n.)

    "government by bureaus," especially "tyrannical officialdom," excessive multiplication of administrative bureaus and concentration of power in them, in reference to their tendency to interfere in private matters and be inefficient and inflexible, 1818, from French bureaucratie, coined by French economist Jean Claude Marie Vincent de Gournay (1712-1759) on model of democratie, aristocratie, from bureau "office," literally "desk" (see bureau) + Greek suffix -kratia denoting "power of" (see -cracy).ETD bureaucracy (n.).2

    bureaucratization (n.)

    "act or action of rendering bureaucratic," 1899, noun of action from bureaucratize.ETD bureaucratization (n.).2

    bureaucratic (adj.)

    "of the nature of a bureaucracy," 1836, from French bureaucratique (19c.); see bureaucracy. Related: Bureaucratical; bureaucratically.ETD bureaucratic (adj.).2

    bureaucrat (n.)

    "member of a bureaucracy," 1839, from French bureaucrate (19c.); see bureaucracy.ETD bureaucrat (n.).2

    bureaucratize (v.)

    "to make bureaucratic," 1855; see bureaucracy + -ize. Related: Bureaucratized; bureaucratizing.ETD bureaucratize (v.).2

    bureaucratise (v.)

    chiefly British English spelling of bureaucratize (q.v.); for suffix, see -ize. Related: Bureaucratised; bureaucratising; bureaucratisation.ETD bureaucratise (v.).2

    burette (n.)

    "small vessel for liquids," 1836, in chemistry, a precise measuring tube for laboratory work, from French burette "small vase, cruet," diminutive of buire "vase for liquors," in Old French "jug," variant of buie (12c.) "bottle, water jug," from Frankish *buk- or some similar Germanic source (see bucket (n.)).ETD burette (n.).2

    burg (n.)

    "town, city," 1843, American English colloquial, from the many place names ending in -burg (see borough; also see -ville).ETD burg (n.).2


    obsolete form of bourgeois.ETD burgeois.2

    burgeon (v.)

    early 14c., "grow, sprout, blossom," from Anglo-French burjuner, Old French borjoner "to bud, sprout," from borjon "a bud, shoot, pimple" (Modern French bourgeon), a word of uncertain origin. Perhaps from Vulgar Latin *burrionem (nominative *burrio), from Late Latin burra "flock of wool," itself of uncertain origin.ETD burgeon (v.).2

    Some sources (Kitchin, Gamillscheg) say either the French word or the Vulgar Latin one is from Germanic (compare Old High German burjan "to raise, lift up"). The English verb is perhaps instead a native development from burjoin (n.) "a bud" (c. 1300), from Old French. According to OED, it died out by 18c. except as a technical term in gardening, and was revived early 19c. in poetry. Related: Burgeoned; burgeoning.ETD burgeon (v.).3

    burger (n.)

    1939, American English shortening of hamburger (q.v.).ETD burger (n.).2

    burgess (n.)

    c. 1200, burgeis "citizen of a borough, inhabitant of a walled town," from Old French borjois (Modern French bourgeois), from Late Latin burgensis (see bourgeois). Applied from late 15c. to borough representatives in Parliament and used later in Virginia and Maryland to denote members of the legislative body, while in Pennsylvania and Connecticut it meant "member of the governing council of a local municipality."ETD burgess (n.).2

    burgher (n.)

    1560s, "freeman of a burgh," from Middle Dutch burgher or German Bürger, from Middle High German burger, from Old High German burgari, literally "inhabitant of a fortress," from burg "fortress, citadel" (from PIE root *bhergh- (2) "high," with derivatives referring to hills and hill-forts). Burgh, as a native variant of borough, persists in Scottish English (as in Edinburgh) and in Pittsburgh.ETD burgher (n.).2

    burgle (v.)

    "commit burglary, be a burglar," 1869, humorous or erroneous back-formation from burglar (q.v.) as though an agent noun. Related: Burgled; burgling. Compare burglarize.ETD burgle (v.).2

    burglar (n.)

    "one who commits robbery by breaking into a house," 1540s, shortened from Anglo-Latin burglator (late 13c.), earlier burgator, from Medieval Latin burgator "burglar," from burgare "to break open, commit burglary," from Latin burgus "fortress, castle," a Germanic loan-word akin to borough.ETD burglar (n.).2

    The unetymological -l- is perhaps from influence of Latin latro "thief" (see larceny). Middle English had burgur (c. 1200), from Old French burgeor, burgur, also housbreker (c. 1400). Burglar-alarm is by 1840.ETD burglar (n.).3

    burglarize (v.)

    "commit burglary upon," 1865, American English, from burglary + -ize. Damned as an American barbarism in England and Canada. Related: Burglarized; burglarizing.ETD burglarize (v.).2

    burglarious (adj.)

    "of or pertaining to burglary," 1769, from burglary + -ous. Related: Burglariously; burglariousness.ETD burglarious (adj.).2

    burglary (n.)

    "crime of housebreaking," c. 1200, from Anglo-Latin burglaria (see burglar). The Old English word was husbreche.ETD burglary (n.).2

    Burgundy (n.)

    region, kingdom, duchy, and province in France, from Medieval Latin Burgundia, from Late Latin Burgundiones, literally "highlanders," from PIE *bhrgh-nt- "high, mighty," from root *bhergh- (2) "high." The Burgundians were a Germanic people, originally from what is now Sweden, who migrated and founded a kingdom west of the Rhine in 411. Their story is told in the 12c. Nibelungenlied. As "wine made in Burgundy," 1670s; as a color resembling that of the wine, 1881 (burgundy rose as a color is from 1872). Related: Burgundian.ETD Burgundy (n.).2

    bury (v.)

    Old English byrgan "to raise a mound, hide, enclose in a grave or tomb, inter," akin to beorgan "to shelter," from Proto-Germanic *burzjan- "protection, shelter" (source also of Old Saxon bergan, Dutch bergen, Old Norse bjarga, Swedish berga, Old High German bergan "protect, shelter, conceal," German bergen, Gothic bairgan "to save, preserve"), from PIE root *bhergh- (1) "to hide, protect."ETD bury (v.).2

    The meaning "cover, conceal from sight" is from 1711. Related: Buried; burying. Burying-ground "cemetery" attested from 1711. Buried treasure is from 1801.ETD bury (v.).3

    The Old English -y- was a short "oo" sound, like modern French -u-. Under normal circumstances it transformed into Modern English -i- (in bridge, kiss, listen, sister, etc.), but in bury and a few other words (merry, knell) it retained a Kentish change to "e" that took place in the late Old English period. In the West Midlands, meanwhile, the Old English -y- sound persisted, slightly modified over time, giving the standard modern pronunciation of blush, much, church.ETD bury (v.).4

    burial (n.)

    "act of burying," late 13c.; earlier "tomb" (c. 1200), false singular from Old English byrgels "tomb," from byrgan "to bury" + suffix -els; a compound also found in Old Saxon burgisli, suggesting a Proto-Germanic *burgisli-, from PIE root *bhergh- (1) "to hide, protect." The Germanic suffix *-isli- (also in riddle (n.1), Old English hydels "hiding place," fætels "bag") became obsolete and was felt as a plural of the Latin-derived suffix -al (2) forming nouns of action from verbs (survival, approval, removal, etc.). In the "act of burying a dead person" sense it is now regarded as bury + -al. Burial-ground is from 1803.ETD burial (n.).2

    burin (n.)

    engraver's tool, 1660s, from French burin, cognate with Italian bolino, Spanish buril, perhaps from Old High German bora "tool for boring" (from PIE root *bhorh- "hole"). Related: Burinist.ETD burin (n.).2

    Burke (v.)

    family name (first recorded 1066), from Anglo-Norman pronunciation of Old English burgh. Not common in England itself, but it took root in Ireland, where William de Burgo went in 1171 with Henry II and later became Earl of Ulster.ETD Burke (v.).2

    As shorthand for a royalty reference book, it represents "A General and Heraldic Dictionary of the Peerage and Baronetage of the United Kingdom," first issued 1826, compiled by John Burke (1787-1848). As a verb meaning "murder by smothering," it is abstracted from William Burk, executed in Edinburgh 1829 for murdering several persons to sell their bodies for dissection (the method was chosen because it left no marks on the victims). Related: Burking.ETD Burke (v.).3

    burka (n.)

    also burkha, burqa, etc., "head-to-toe garment worn in public by women in some Muslim countries," 1836, from Hindi, from Arabic burqa'.ETD burka (n.).2

    burl (n.)

    mid-15c., "small knot in cloth or thread," from Old French bourle "tuft of wool," which perhaps is related to the root of bur, or from Vulgar Latin *burrula "small flock of wool," from Late Latin burra "wool," a word of unknown origin. In American English also "a knot or excrescence on a walnut or other tree" (1868).ETD burl (n.).2

    burlap (n.)

    "coarse, heavy material made of hemp, jute, etc., used for bagging," 1690s, the first element probably from Middle English borel "coarse cloth," from Old French burel (see bureau); or Dutch boeren "coarse," perhaps confused with boer "peasant." The second element, -lap, meant "piece of cloth" (see lap (n.2)).ETD burlap (n.).2

    burlesque (v.)

    "make ridiculous by mocking representation," 1670s, from burlesque (n.). Related: Burlesqued; burlesquing.ETD burlesque (v.).2

    burlesque (n.)

    1660s, "piece composed in burlesque style, derisive imitation, grotesque parody," earlier as an adjective, "odd, grotesque" (1650s), from French burlesque (16c.), from Italian burlesco "ludicrous," from burla "joke, fun, mockery," possibly ultimately from Late Latin burra "trifle, nonsense," literally "flock of wool" (a word of unknown origin). For ending, see -esque.ETD burlesque (n.).2

    The more precise adjectival meaning "tending to excite laughter by ludicrous contrast between the subject and the manner of treating it" is attested in English by 1700.ETD burlesque (n.).3

    By 1880s it typically meant "travesties on the classics and satires on accepted ideas" and vulgar comic opera. The modern sense of "variety show featuring striptease" is American English, evolving after 1870 and predominant from 1920s, probably from the earlier sense "sketches at the end of minstrel shows" (1857).ETD burlesque (n.).4

    burly (adj.)

    c. 1300, borlich, "excellent, noble; handsome, beautiful," probably from Old English borlice "noble, stately," literally "bowerly," that is, fit to frequent a lady's apartment (see bower). The sense descended through "stout, sturdy" (c. 1400) to "heavily built." Another theory connects the Old English word to Old High German burlih "lofty, exalted," related to burjan "to raise, lift." In Middle English also of things; now only of persons. Related: Burliness.ETD burly (adj.).2


    nation in Southeast Asia, from Burmese people's self-designation; see Myanmar.ETD Burma.2


    1823 (adj.), "of or pertaining to Burma;" 1824 as a noun, "native or inhabitant of Burma," from Burma + -ese. Burman is older (1800 as a noun, 1802 as an adjective). Burmese cat is attested from 1939.ETD Burmese.2

    burn (v.)

    early 12c., brennen, "be on fire, be consumed by fire; be inflamed with passion or desire, be ardent; destroy (something) with fire, expose to the action of fire, roast, broil, toast; burn (something) in cooking," of objects, "to shine, glitter, sparkle, glow like fire;" chiefly from Old Norse brenna "to burn, light," and also from two originally distinct Old English verbs: bærnan "to kindle" (transitive) and beornan "be on fire" (intransitive).ETD burn (v.).2

    All these are from Proto-Germanic *brennanan (causative *brannjanan), source also of Middle Dutch bernen, Dutch branden, Old High German brinnan, German brennen, Gothic -brannjan "to set on fire;" but the ultimate etymology is uncertain. Related: Burned/burnt (see -ed); burning.ETD burn (v.).3

    Figurative use (of passions, battle, etc.) was in Old English. The meaning "be hot, radiate heat" is from late 13c. The meaning "produce a burning sensation, sting" is from late 14c. The sense of "cheat, swindle, victimize" is attested from 1650s. In late 18c, slang, burned meant "infected with venereal disease."ETD burn (v.).4

    To burn one's bridges (behind one) "behave so as to destroy any chance of returning to a status quo" (attested by 1892 in Mark Twain), perhaps ultimately is from reckless cavalry raids in the American Civil War. Of money, to burn a hole in (one's) pocket "affect a person with a desire to spend" from 1850.ETD burn (v.).5

    Slavic languages have historically used different and unrelated words for the transitive and intransitive senses of "set fire to"/"be on fire:" for example Polish palić/gorzeć, Russian žeč'/gorel.ETD burn (v.).6

    burning (adj.)

    Middle English brenning, from Old English, "scorching, hot;" mid-14c. in figurative sense of "powerful, strong, ardent;" present-participle adjective from burn (v.)). The meaning "causing excitement" is by 1865 and is the sense in burning question (1865), which matches French question brûlante, German brennende Frage. Burning bush is from Exodus iii.2. It was adopted as an emblem by Scottish Presbyterian churches in memory of the 17c. persecutions. Burning-glass is attested from 1560s.ETD burning (adj.).2

    burn (n.)

    c. 1300, "act or operation of burning," from Old English bryne, from the same source as burn (v.). Until mid-16c. the usual spelling was brenne. Meaning "mark or injury made by burning" is from 1520s. Slow burn is attested by 1938, in reference to U.S. movie actor Edgar Kennedy (1890-1948), who made it his specialty.ETD burn (n.).2

    burnable (adj.)

    "capable of being burned," 1610s, a hybrid from burn (v.) + -able.ETD burnable (adj.).2


    English artist and designer Edward C. Burne-Jones (1833-1898), an associate of William Morris and the Pre-Raphaelites, whose work, popular late 19c., featured women who were pale, thin, and hollow-cheeked, with large, haunted eyes.ETD Burne-Jones.2

    burner (n.)

    late 13c., also as a surname, Brenner, "person who makes bricks," agent noun from burn (v.)). As a name for a part of a lamp where the flame issues, from 1790. Of the heating elements on gas cooking-stoves, by 1885.ETD burner (n.).2

    burnish (v.)

    early 14c., "polish by friction," from Old French burniss- present-participle stem of burnir, metathesis of brunir "to shine, gleam, sparkle" (trans.), also "polish, make sparkle, make bright, shine," from brun "brown; polished," from Frankish or some other Germanic source (compare Old High German brun, Old Norse brunn "bright, polished; brown"), from Proto-Germanic *brunaz (from PIE root *bher- (2) "bright; brown"). The connection to "brown" might be explained if the original objects in mind were wooden ones. The meaning "cause to glow, clean (something) until it shines" is from late 14c. Related: Burnished; burnishing.ETD burnish (v.).2

    burn-out (n.)

    also burnout, "drug user," by 1972, slang, from the verbal phrase, which is attested from 1590s in the sense "burn until fuel is exhausted;" see burn (v.) + out (adv.). The immediate source is perhaps the use of the phrase in reference to electrical circuits, "fuse or cease to function from overload" (1931). Also compare burnt out "extinct after entire consumption of fuel" (1837). The meaning "mental exhaustion from continuous effort" is from 1975.ETD burn-out (n.).2

    burnsides (n.)

    style of facial hair consisting of side whiskers and a mustache (but clean-shaven chin), 1875 (singular; plural form from 1878; many early uses are in college and university magazines), a reference to U.S. Army Gen. Ambrose E. Burnside (1824-1881) of Civil War fame, who wore them and inspired the style. Compare sideburns.ETD burnsides (n.).2

    burnt (adj.)

    late 14c., "consumed or scorched by fire," past-participle adjective from the original past participle of burn (v.), which was displaced after 16c, by burned. Burnt offering "animal burned whole upon an altar in Jewish ritual" is from late 14c., a biblical phrase (see Exodus xx.24, Mark xii.33). Burnt-cork (1800) was used as theatrical makeup in blackface acts. Burnt fox was an old slang name for a student during his second half-year in a German university.ETD burnt (adj.).2


    1932, noun ("act of eructation") and verb ("belch, eruct"), American English, apparently imitative. The transitive sense of the verb is attested by 1940. Related: Burped; burping. Burp-gun is attested from 1945.ETD burp.2

    burqua (n.)

    see burka.ETD burqua (n.).2

    burr (n.)

    "rough sound of the letter -r-" (especially that common in Northumberland), 1760, later extended to "northern accented speech" in general. Possibly the sound of the word is imitative of the speech peculiarity itself, or it was adapted from one of the senses of bur (q.v.), perhaps from the phrase to have a bur in (one's) throat (late 14c.), which was a figure of speech for "feel a choking sensation, huskiness." OED says the Scottish -r- is a lingual trill, not a true burr.ETD burr (n.).2

    burry (adj.)

    mid-15c., "full of burs;" see bur + -y (2).ETD burry (adj.).2

    burrito (n.)

    Mexican food dish, 1934, from Spanish, literally "little burro" (see burro).ETD burrito (n.).2

    burro (n.)

    "donkey," 1800, from Spanish burrico "donkey," from Late Latin burricus "small, shaggy horse," probably from burrus "reddish-brown," from Greek pyrros "flame-colored, yellowish-red," from pyr (genitive pyros) "fire" (from PIE root *paewr- "fire"). Or, for its shaggy hair, from Late Latin burra "wool," a word of unknown origin.ETD burro (n.).2

    burrow (n.)

    "rabbit-hole, fox-hole, hole in the ground excavated by an animal as a refuge or habitation," c. 1300, borewe, a collateral form of Old English burgh "stronghold, fortress" (see borough); influenced by bergh "hill" and berwen "to defend, take refuge."ETD burrow (n.).2

    burrow (v.)

    c. 1600, "to place in a burrow," from burrow (n.). Figuratively (such as to burrow (one's) head) by 1862. The intransitive sense, "to bore one's way into, penetrate, make a hole in" is from 1610s, originally figurative; the literal sense, in reference to animals, is attested by 1771. Related: Burrowed; borrowing.ETD burrow (v.).2

    bursa (n.)

    "pouch, sack, vesicle," by 1788 as an English word in physiology, shortened from medieval Latin bursa mucosa "mucus pouch," from Medieval Latin bursa "bag, purse," from Late Latin bursa, variant of byrsa "hide," from Greek byrsa "hide, skin, wine-skin, drum," which is of unknown origin; compare purse (n.). Related: Bursal (1751).ETD bursa (n.).2

    bursar (n.)

    "treasurer of a college," 1580s, from Anglo-Latin burser "treasurer" (13c.), from Medieval Latin bursarius "purse-bearer," from bursa "bag, purse" (see purse (n.)). Also, in Scotland, "student in a college who receives an allowance from a fund for his subsistence" (1560s). Related: Bursarial.ETD bursar (n.).2

    bursary (n.)

    "treasury of a college or monastery," 1690s, from Medieval Latin bursaria "treasurer's room," from bursarius, from bursa "bag, purse" (see purse (n.)).ETD bursary (n.).2

    bursitis (n.)

    "inflammation of a bursa," 1834; see bursa + -itis.ETD bursitis (n.).2

    burst (n.)

    1610s, "act of bursting, a violent rending; a sudden issuing forth," from burst (v.). The meaning "a spurt, an outburst" (of activity, etc.) is from 1862. Jane Austen, Coleridge, Browning use it in a sense of "a sudden opening to sight or view." The earlier noun berst (early Middle English) meant "damage, injury, harm."ETD burst (n.).2

    burst (v.)

    Middle English bresten, from Old English berstan (intransitive) "break suddenly, shatter as a result of pressure from within" (class III strong verb; past tense bærst, past participle borsten), from a West Germanic metathesis of Proto-Germanic *brest- (source also of Old Saxon brestan, Old Frisian bersta, Middle Dutch berstan, Low German barsten, Dutch barsten, Old High German brestan, German bersten "to burst").ETD burst (v.).2

    The forms reverted to brest- in Middle English from influence of Old Norse brestan/brast/brosten, from the same Germanic root, but it was re-metathesized late 16c. and emerged in the modern form, though brast was common as past tense through 17c. and survives in dialect.ETD burst (v.).3

    In Old English "Chiefly said of things possessing considerable capacity for resistance and breaking with loud noise; often of cords, etc., snapping under tension; also of spears, swords, etc., shivered in battle" [OED]; in late Old English also "break violently open as an effect of internal forces." Figuratively, in reference to being over-full of excitement, anticipation, emotion, etc., from c. 1200.ETD burst (v.).4

    The transitive sense ("to cause to break, cause to explode") is from late 13c. The meaning "to issue suddenly and abundantly" is from c. 1300 (literal), mid-13c. (figurative). The meaning "break (into) sudden activity or expression" is from late 14c. Related: Bursting.ETD burst (v.).5


    see burden.ETD burthen.2

    busby (n.)

    "type of tall fur hat worn by hussars on parade," 1807, earlier "a kind of bushy, tall wig" (1764), a word of unknown origin, though it is both a place name and a surname in England. Related: Busbied.ETD busby (n.).2

    busboy (n.)

    also bus-boy, "employee at a restaurant who clears tables after meals," 1913, from bus (v.) in the restaurant sense + boy.ETD busboy (n.).2

    busing (n.)

    1888, "traveling by omnibus," verbal noun from bus (v.)). From 1965 as "forced integration of schools by transporting children to different areas."ETD busing (n.).2

    bush (n.)

    "many-stemmed woody plant," from Old English bysc (found in place names), from West Germanic *busk "bush, thicket" (source also of Old Saxon and Old High German busc, Dutch bosch, bos, German Busch). Influenced by or combined with Old French (busche "firewood") and Medieval Latin busca (source also of Italian bosco, Spanish bosque, French bois), both of which probably are from Germanic (compare Boise).ETD bush (n.).2

    In the British American colonies, applied from 1650s to the uncleared districts. In South Africa, "country," as opposed to town (1780); probably from Dutch bosch in the same sense. As "branch of a tree hung out as a tavern-sign," 1530s; hence the proverb "good wine needs no bush." The meaning "pubic hair" (especially of a woman) is from 1745.ETD bush (n.).3

    To beat the bushes (mid-15c.) is a way to rouse birds so that they fly into the net which others are holding, which originally was the same thing as beating around the bush (see beat (v.)).ETD bush (n.).4

    bush (v.)

    c. 1500, "grow thick," from bush (n.). From 1640s as "set bushes about."ETD bush (v.).2

    bushing (n.)

    "metal sleeve fitted into a machine or hole," 1839, from gerundive of bush (n.) "metal lining of the axle hole of a wheel or touch hole of a gun" (1560s), which is from Middle Dutch busse "box" (cognate with the second element in blunderbuss). Bush-metal "hard brass, gun-metal" is attested from 1847.ETD bushing (n.).2

    bushed (adj.)

    "tired, exhausted," 1870, American English, perhaps from earlier sense of "lost in the woods" (1856), from bush (n.).ETD bushed (adj.).2

    bushel (n.)

    early 14c., busshel, measure of capacity containing four pecks or eight gallons, from Old French boissel "bushel" (13c., Modern French boisseau), probably from boisse, a grain measure based on Gallo-Roman *bostia "handful," from Gaulish *bosta "palm of the hand" (compare Irish bass, Breton boz "the hollow of the hand").ETD bushel (n.).2

    The exact measure varied from place to place and according to commodity, and though in 19c. in Britain it acquired a precise legal definition, it varied in U.S. from state to state. It has been used since late 14c. loosely to mean "a large quantity or number." Attested from late 14c. as "a bushel basket." To hide (one's) light under a bushel is from Matthew v.15.ETD bushel (n.).3

    bushy (adj.)

    late 14c., "overgrown with bushes," from bush (n.) + -y (2). Of hair, etc., "resembling a bush, thick and spreading," from 1610s. Related: Bushiness.ETD bushy (adj.).2

    bushido (n.)

    "feudal samurai warrior code," 1898, from Japanese, said to mean literally "military-knight way."ETD bushido (n.).2

    bush league (adj.)

    "mean, petty, unprofessional," 1906, from baseball slang for the small-town baseball clubs below the minor league where talent was developed (by 1903), from bush (n.) in the adjectival slang sense of "rural, provincial," which originally was simple description, not a value judgment.ETD bush league (adj.).2

    Bushman (n.)

    one of an aboriginal tribe near the Cape of Good Hope, 1785, from South African Dutch boschjesman, literally "man of the bush," from boschje, from Dutch bosje, diminutive of bosch, bos (see bush (n.)).ETD Bushman (n.).2

    bushwa (n.)

    also bushwah, 1906, U.S. slang, perhaps originally among students, euphemistic for bullshit (n.).ETD bushwa (n.).2

    bushwhacker (n.)

    also bush-whacker, 1809, American English, "woodsman, one accustomed to life in the bush," literally "one who beats the bushes" (to make his way through), perhaps modeled on Dutch bosch-wachter "forest keeper;" see bush (n.) + whack (v.).ETD bushwhacker (n.).2

    Among Northern troops in the American Civil War in reference to Confederate irregulars who took to the woods and fought as guerrillas (1862). Related: bushwhack (v.), 1837; bushwhacking (1826).ETD bushwhacker (n.).3

    business (n.)

    Old English bisignes (Northumbrian) "care, anxiety, occupation," from bisig "careful, anxious, busy, occupied, diligent" (see busy (adj.)) + -ness. The original sense is obsolete, as is the Middle English sense of "state of being much occupied or engaged" (mid-14c.), the latter replaced by busyness. Johnson's dictionary also has busiless "At leisure; without business; unemployed." The modern two-syllable pronunciation is from 17c.ETD business (n.).2

    The sense of "a person's work, occupation, that which one does for a livelihood" is recorded late 14c. (in late Old English bisig appears as a noun with the sense "occupation, state of employment"). The sense of "that which is undertaken as a duty" is from late 14c. The meaning "what one is about at the moment" is from 1590s. The sense of "trade, commercial engagements, mercantile pursuits collectively" is attested by 1727, on the notion of "matters which occupy one's time and attention." In 17c. business also could mean "sexual intercourse."ETD business (n.).3

    Business card is attested from 1840; business letter from 1766. Business end "the practical or effective part" (of something) is American English, by 1874. Phrase business as usual attested from 1865. To mean business "be intent on serious action" is from 1856. To mind (one's) own business "attend to one's affairs and not meddle with those of others" is from 1620s.ETD business (n.).4

    busy (v.)

    late Old English bisgian, "attend to, be concerned with, be diligent," from the source of busy (adj.). From late 14c. as "keep engaged, make or keep busy." Related: Busied; busying.ETD busy (v.).2

    busy (adj.)

    Old English bisig "careful, anxious," later "continually employed or occupied, in constant or energetic action" cognate with Old Dutch bezich, Low German besig, but having no known connection with any other Germanic or Indo-European language. Still pronounced as in Middle English, but for some unclear reason the spelling shifted to -u- in 15c.ETD busy (adj.).2

    The notion of "anxiousness" has drained from the word since Middle English. Often in a bad sense in early Modern English, "prying, meddlesome, active in that which does not concern one" (preserved in busybody). The word was a euphemism for "sexually active" in 17c. Of telephone lines, 1884. Of display work, "excessively detailed, visually cluttered," 1903.ETD busy (adj.).3

    busily (adv.)

    c. 1200, bisili, bisiliche, "carefully, with attention to detail;" see busy (adj.) + -ly (2). From mid-14c. as "in a busy manner, diligently."ETD busily (adv.).2

    businesslike (adj.)

    "methodical and thorough, such as ought to prevail in doing business," 1791, from business + like (adj.).ETD businesslike (adj.).2

    businessman (n.)

    also business-man, "man engaged in business," 1826, from business + man (n.). Man of business is recorded from 1660s. Business-woman is from 1844 (as woman of business 1838).ETD businessman (n.).2

    busking (n.)

    1851, a slang word, defined variously in Mayhew as selling articles or obscene ballads in public houses, playing music on the streets, or performing as a sort of informal stand-up comedy act in pubs, perhaps from an earlier word meaning "to cruise as a pirate" (see busker).ETD busking (n.).2

    busk (n.)

    "strip of wood, whalebone, etc., used in corset-making," 1590s, probably from French busc (16c.), which is of unknown origin, perhaps from or cognate with Italian bosco "splinter" and of Germanic origin (see bush (n.)).ETD busk (n.).2

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