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    C — Caius


    third letter of the Latin alphabet. Alphabetic writing came to Rome via the southern Etruscan "Caeretan" script, in which gamma was written as a crescent. Early Romans made little use of Greek kappa and used gamma for both the "g" and "k" sounds, the latter more frequently, so that the "k" sound came to be seen as the proper one for gamma. Classical Latin -c-, with only the value "k," passed to Celtic and, via missionary Irish monks, to the Anglo-Saxons. Also see cee.ETD C.2

    In some Old English words, before some vowels and in certain positions, -c- had a "ts" sound that was respelled ch- in Middle English by French scribes (chest, cheese, church; see ch). In Old English -k- was known but little used.ETD C.3

    Meanwhile, in Old French, many "k" sounds drifted to "ts" and by 13c., "s," but still were written -c-. Thus the 1066 invasion brought to the English language a flood of French and Latin words in which -c- represented "s" (as in cease, ceiling, circle) and a more vigorous use of -k- to distinguish that sound. By 15c. even native English words with -s- were being respelled with -c- for "s" (ice, mice, lice).ETD C.4

    In some English words from Italian, the -c- has a "ch" sound (via a sound evolution somewhat like the Old French one). In German, -c- in loanwords was regularized to -k- or -z- (depending on pronunciation) in the international spelling reform of 1901, which was based on the Duden guide of 1880.ETD C.5

    As a symbol in the Roman numeral system, "one hundred;" the symbol originally was a Greek theta, but was later reduced in form and understood to stand for centum. In music, it is the name of the keynote of the natural scale, though the exact pitch varied in time and place 18c. and 19c. from 240 vibrations per second to 275; it wasn't entirely regularized (at 261.63) until the adoption of the A440 standard in the 1930s. C-spring as a type of carriage spring is from 1794, so called for its shape.ETD C.6


    see Kaaba.ETD Caaba.2

    cab (n.)

    1826, "light, two- or four-wheeled horse-drawn carriage," a colloquial London shortening of cabriolet, a type of covered horse-drawn carriage (1763), from French cabriolet (18c.), diminutive of cabriole "a leap, a caper," earlier capriole (16c.), from Italian capriola "a caper, frisk, leap," literally "a leap like that of a kid goat," from capriola "a kid, a fawn," from Latin capreolus "wild goat, roebuck," from caper, capri "he-goat, buck," from PIE *kap-ro- "he-goat, buck" (source also of Old Irish gabor, Welsh gafr, Old English hæfr, Old Norse hafr "he-goat"). The carriages were noted for their springy suspensions.ETD cab (n.).2

    Originally a passenger-vehicle drawn by two or four horses; it was introduced into London from Paris in 1820. The name was extended to hansoms and other types of carriages, then to similar-looking parts of locomotives (1851). It was applied especially to public horse carriages, then to automobiles-for-hire (1899) when these began to replace them.ETD cab (n.).3

    cabal (n.)

    1520s, "mystical interpretation of the Old Testament," later "an intriguing society, a small group meeting privately" (1660s), from French cabal, which had both senses, from Medieval Latin cabbala (see cabbala). Popularized in English 1673 as an acronym for five intriguing ministers of Charles II (Clifford, Arlington, Buckingham, Ashley, and Lauderdale), which gave the word its sinister connotations.ETD cabal (n.).2

    cabala (n.)

    1670s, variant of cabbala. Related: Cabalist.ETD cabala (n.).2

    cabalistic (adj.)

    1670s; see cabbalistic; also compare cabal.ETD cabalistic (adj.).2

    caballero (n.)

    1861, "a Spanish gentleman," from Spanish caballero, from Latin caballarius, from caballus "a pack-horse, nag, hack" (see cavalier (n.)). It is the equivalent of French chevalier, Italian cavaliere. Also the name of a kind of stately Spanish dance.ETD caballero (n.).2

    cabana (n.)

    "a hut or shelter," 1898, western U.S., from American Spanish cognate of cabin (q.v.).ETD cabana (n.).2

    cabaret (n.)

    1650s, "tavern, bar, little inn," from French cabaret, originally "tavern" (13c.), which is of uncertain origin, perhaps from Middle Dutch cambret, from Old French (Picard dialect) camberete, diminutive of cambre "chamber" (see chamber (n.)). The word was "somewhat naturalized" in this sense [OED]. It was borrowed again from French with a meaning "a restaurant/night club" in 1912; the extension of meaning to "entertainment, floor show" is by 1918.ETD cabaret (n.).2

    cabbage (n.)

    type of cultivated culinary vegetable that grows a rounded head of thick leaves, mid-15c., caboge, from Old North French caboche "head" (in dialect, "cabbage"), from Old French caboce "head," a diminutive from Latin caput "head" (from PIE root *kaput- "head"). Earlier in Middle English as caboche (late 14c.).ETD cabbage (n.).2

    The decline of "ch" to "j" in the unaccented final syllable parallels the common pronunciation of spinach, sandwich, Greenwich, etc. The comparison of a head of cabbage to the head of a person (usually disparaging to the latter) is at least as old as Old French cabus "(head of) cabbage; nitwit, blockhead," from Italian capocchia, diminutive of capo.ETD cabbage (n.).3

    The plant was introduced to Canada 1541 by Jacques Cartier on his third voyage. The earliest record of it in the modern U.S. is 1660s. The cabbage-butterfly (1816) is so called because its caterpillars feed on cabbages and other cruciferous plants.ETD cabbage (n.).4

    cabbala (n.)

    "Jewish mystic philosophy," 1520s, also quabbalah, etc., from Medieval Latin cabbala, from Mishnaic Hebrew qabbalah "reception, received lore, tradition," especially "tradition of mystical interpretation of the Old Testament," from qibbel "to receive, admit, accept." Compare Arabic qabala "he received, accepted." Hence "any secret or esoteric science." Related: Cabbalist.ETD cabbala (n.).2

    cabbalistic (adj.)

    "of or pertaining to cabbalists or the cabbala," 1620s, from cabbala + -istic. Cabbalistical is from 1590s.ETD cabbalistic (adj.).2

    cabbie (n.)

    also cabby, "cab-driver," 1848, from cab (n.) + -ie. Also see taxi (n.).ETD cabbie (n.).2

    caber (n.)

    pole used in housebuilding, especially as an object tossed in the Highland games, 1510s, from Gaelic cabar "pole, spar," cognate with Irish cabar "lath," Welsh ceibr "beam, rafter."ETD caber (n.).2

    cabernet (n.)

    family of grapes, or wine made from them, 1833, from French. There seems to be no general agreement on the etymology; the word seems not very old in French and is from the Médoc dialect. Supposedly the best of them, cabernet sauvignon is attested in English from 1846.ETD cabernet (n.).2

    cabin (n.)

    mid-14c., "small house or habitation," especially one rudely constructed, from Old French cabane "hut, cottage, small house," from Old Provençal cabana, from Late Latin capanna "hut" (source also of Spanish cabana, Italian capanna); a word of doubtful origin. Modern French cabine (18c.), Italian cabino are English loan-words.ETD cabin (n.).2

    The meaning "room or partition of a ship" (later especially one set aside for use of officers) is from mid-14c. Cabin fever is recorded by 1918 in the "need to get out and about" sense; earlier (1820s) it was a term for typhus.ETD cabin (n.).3

    cabinet (n.)

    1540s, "secret storehouse, treasure chamber; case for valuables," from French cabinet "small room" (16c.), diminutive of Old French cabane "cabin" (see cabin); perhaps influenced by (or from) Italian gabbinetto, diminutive of gabbia, from Latin cavea "stall, stoop, cage, den for animals" (see cave (n.)).ETD cabinet (n.).2

    The meaning "case for safe-keeping" (of papers, liquor, etc.) is from 1540s, gradually shading to mean a piece of furniture that does this. The sense of "private room where advisers meet" (c. 1600) led to the modern political meaning "an executive council" (1640s); perhaps originally short for cabinet council (1620s); compare board (n.1) in its evolution from place where some group meets to the word for the meeting group. From 1670s also "building or part of a building set aside for the conservation and study of natural specimens, art, antiquities, etc."ETD cabinet (n.).3

    cabinet-maker (n.)

    "one whose occupation is the making of household furniture," 1680s, from cabinet + maker.ETD cabinet-maker (n.).2

    cabinetry (n.)

    1825, "the art or craft of making cabinets;" 1857, "cabinets collectively;" from cabinet + -ry.ETD cabinetry (n.).2

    cable (n.)

    c. 1200, "large, strong rope or chain used on a ship," from Old North French cable, from Medieval Latin capulum "lasso, rope, halter for cattle," from Latin capere "to take, seize," from PIE root *kap- "to grasp."ETD cable (n.).2

    Technically, in nautical use, a rope 10 or more inches around, to hold the ship when at anchor; in non-nautical use, a rope of wire (not hemp or fiber). It was given a new range of senses in 19c. in telegraphy (1850s), traction-railroads (1880s), etc. The meaning "message received by telegraphic cable" is from 1883, short for cable message (1870), cablegram (1868), cable dispatch (1864). Cable television is attested by 1963; shortened form cable in this sense is from 1970.ETD cable (n.).3

    cable (v.)

    c. 1500, "to tie up with cables," from cable (n.). As "to transmit by telegraph cable," 1868. Related: Cabled; cabling.ETD cable (v.).2

    But other British sources list it as an Americanism.ETD cable (v.).3

    cable-car (n.)

    "car on a cable railroad," 1879, from cable (n.) + car. A streetcar moved by an endless cable which is cased in a small tunnel under the railway and kept in motion by a remote stationary engine.ETD cable-car (n.).2

    cablese (n.)

    "shorthand used by journalists in cablegrams," 1916, from cable in the telegraphic sense + -ese as a language-name suffix. "Since cablegrams had to be paid for by the word and even press rates were expensive the practice was to affix Latin prefixes and suffixes to make one word do the work of several" [Daniel Schorr], such as exLondon and Londonward to mean "from London," "to London" (non-Latin affixes also were used). Hence the tale, famous in the lore of the United Press International, of the distinguished but harried foreign correspondent who reached his breaking point and wired headquarters UPSTICK JOB ASSWARD. Its economy and expressive power fascinated Hemingway in his newspapering days.ETD cablese (n.).2

    cabochon (n.)

    "a polished but uncut precious stone," 1570s, from French cabochon (14c.), augmentative of caboche (12c.), itself an augmentative or pejorative formation, ultimately from Latin caput "head" (from PIE root *kaput- "head"). Essentially the same word as cabbage.ETD cabochon (n.).2

    caboodle (n.)

    "crowd, pack, lot, company," 1848, see kit and caboodle.ETD caboodle (n.).2

    caboose (n.)

    1747, "ship's cookhouse," from Middle Dutch kambuis "ship's galley," from Low German kabhuse "wooden cabin on ship's deck;" probably a compound whose elements correspond to English cabin and house (n.). Railroading sense "car for the use of the conductor, brakeman, etc.," is by 1859.ETD caboose (n.).2

    cabriolet (n.)

    "light two-wheeled chaise," 1766, from French cabriolet (18c.), derivative of cabriole "a leap like a goat" (see cab). So called from its light, leaping motion. As a form of curved leg on furniture, 1854, from the resemblance to the leg of a leaping quadruped.ETD cabriolet (n.).2

    caca (n.)

    "excrement," c. 1870, slang, probably from Spanish or another language that uses it, ultimately from PIE root *kakka- "to defecate," which forms the base word for "excrement, to void excrement" in many Indo-European languages.ETD caca (n.).2

    cacao (n.)

    seed from which cocoa and chocolate are made, 1550s, from Spanish cacao "the cocoa bean," an adaptation of Nahuatl (Aztecan) cacaua, root form of cacahuatl "bean of the cocoa-tree."ETD cacao (n.).2

    cacciatore (adj.)

    in cookery, "hunter-style," by 1973, from Italian, literally "hunter," from past participle of cacciare "to hunt, chase" (see chase (v.)).ETD cacciatore (adj.).2

    cache (n.)

    1797, "hiding place," from French Canadian trappers' slang, "hiding place for stores and provisions" (1660s), a back-formation from French cacher "to hide, conceal" (13c., Old French cachier), from Vulgar Latin *coacticare "store up, collect, compress," frequentative of Latin coactare "constrain," from coactus, past participle of cogere "to collect," literally "to drive together," from com- "together" (see co-) + agere "to set in motion, drive; to do, perform" (from PIE root *ag- "to drive, draw out or forth, move"). The sense was extended by 1830s to "anything stored in a hiding place."ETD cache (n.).2

    cachectic (adj.)

    "pertaining to or characteristic of a bad state of bodily health," 1630s, perhaps via French cachectique (16c.), from Latinized form of Greek kakhektikos "in a bad habit of body" (see cachexia). Cachectical is from 1620s.ETD cachectic (adj.).2

    cache-sexe (n.)

    "slight covering for a woman's genitals," 1926, French, from cacher "to hide" (see cache) + sexe "genitals" (fem.); see sex (n.).ETD cache-sexe (n.).2

    cachet (n.)

    1630s, "a seal," Scottish borrowing of French cachet "seal affixed to a letter or document" (16c.), from Old French dialectal cacher "to press, crowd," from Latin coactare "constrain" (see cache). The meaning evolved 18c. (via French lettre de cachet "letter under seal of the king") to "(letter under) personal stamp (of the king)," thence to "symbol of prestige" (1840).ETD cachet (n.).2

    cachexia (n.)

    "bad general state of health," 1550s (from 1540s in Englished form cachexy), from Latinized form of Greek kakhexia "bad habits," from kakos "bad" (from PIE root *kakka- "to defecate") + -exia, related to exis "habit or state," from exein "to have, be in a condition," from PIE root *segh- "to hold." Related: cachexic.ETD cachexia (n.).2

    cachinnate (v.)

    "to laugh loudly or immoderately," 1824, from Latin cachinnatum, past participle of cachinnare (see cachinnation). Related: Cachinnated; cachinnating.ETD cachinnate (v.).2

    cachinnation (n.)

    "loud laughter," 1620s, from Latin cachinnationem (nominative cachinnatio) "violent laughter, excessive laughter," noun of action from past-participle stem of cachinnare "to laugh immoderately or loudly," of imitative origin. Compare Sanskrit kakhati "laughs," Greek kakhazein "to laugh loudly," Old High German kachazzen, English cackle, Armenian xaxanc'.ETD cachinnation (n.).2

    cack (n.)

    "excrement, act of voiding excrement," Old English (in cac-hus); as a verb, "to void excrement," mid-15c., from Latin cacare (see caca). Related: Cacked; cacking. Cack-handed (also cag-handed) "left-handed; awkward" is from 1854.ETD cack (n.).2

    cackle (v.)

    early 13c., imitative of the noise of a hen (see cachinnation); perhaps partly based on Middle Dutch kake "jaw," with frequentative suffix -el (3). As "to laugh," 1712. Related: Cackled; cackling.ETD cackle (v.).2

    cackle (n.)

    1670s, "sound made by a hen or goose," from cackle (v.). From 1856 as "a short laugh." Cackleberries, slang for "eggs" is recorded from 1880.ETD cackle (n.).2


    before vowels cac-, word-forming element meaning "bad, ill, poor" (as in cacography, the opposite of calligraphy and orthography), from Latinized form of Greek kakos "bad, evil," considered by etymologists probably to be connected with PIE root *kakka- "to defecate." The ancient Greek word was common in compounds; when added to words already bad, it made them worse; when added to words signifying something good, it often implies too little of it.ETD caco-.2

    cacoethes (n.)

    "itch for doing something," 1560s, from Latinized form of Greek kakoēthēs "ill-habit, wickedness, itch for doing (something)," from kakos "bad" (from PIE root *kakka- "to defecate") + ēthē- "disposition, character" (see ethos). Most famously, in Juvenal's insanabile scribendi cacoethes "incurable passion for writing."ETD cacoethes (n.).2

    caconym (n.)

    "a name rejected for linguistic reasons, bad nomenclature in botany or biology," 1888, from caco- "bad, ill, poor" + -onym "name" (from PIE root *no-men- "name").ETD caconym (n.).2

    cacoon (n.)

    large, flat bean from an African shrub, 1846, from some African word.ETD cacoon (n.).2

    cacophony (n.)

    1650s, "harsh or unpleasant sound," probably via French cacophonie (16c.), from a Latinized form of Greek kakophonia, from kakophonos "harsh sounding," from kakos "bad, evil" (from PIE root *kakka- "to defecate") + phonē "voice, sound," from PIE root *bha- (2) "to speak, tell, say." The meaning "discordant sounds in music" is from 1789. Related: Cacophonous.ETD cacophony (n.).2

    cactus (n.)

    c. 1600, in the classical sense, "cardoon, artichoke," from Latin cactus, from Greek kaktos, name of a type of prickly plant of Sicily (the Spanish artichoke), a "foreign word of unknown origin" [Beekes]. In reference to the green, leafless, spiked American plants from 1769. Linnaeus gave the name to them thinking they were related to the classical plant. Related: Cactal.ETD cactus (n.).2

    cad (n.)

    1730, shortening of cadet (q.v.); originally used of servants, then (1831) of town boys by students at Oxford and English public schools (though at Cambridge it meant "snob"), then "townsman" generally. Compare caddie. The meaning "person lacking in finer feelings" is from 1838.ETD cad (n.).2

    cadastral (adj.)

    "pertaining to the valuation of landed property as a basis for taxation," 1850, from French cadastral, from cadastre "register of the survey of lands" (16c.), from Old Italian catastico, from Late Greek katastikhos "register," literally "by the line" (see cata-, stair). Gamillscheg dismisses derivation from Late Latin capitastrum "register of the poll tax."ETD cadastral (adj.).2

    cadaver (n.)

    "a dead body, a corpse," late 14c., from Latin cadaver "dead body (of men or animals)," probably from a perfective participle of cadere "to fall, sink, settle down, decline, perish," from PIE root *kad- "to fall." Compare Greek ptoma "dead body," literally "a fall" (see ptomaine); poetic English the fallen "those who have died in battle."ETD cadaver (n.).2

    cadaverous (adj.)

    early 15c., "gangrenous, mortified;" 1620s "of or belonging to a corpse;" 1660s, "looking like a corpse;" from Latin cadaverosus "corpse-like," from cadaver "dead body" (see cadaver). Related: Cadaverously; cadaverousness.ETD cadaverous (adj.).2

    caddy (n.)

    "small box with small divisions for holding tea," 1792, earlier tea-caddy (1790), from catty (1590s), Anglo-Indian unit of weight, from Malay (Austronesian) kati, a unit of weight. The catty was adopted as a standard mid-18c. by the British in the Orient and fixed in 1770 by the East India Company at a pound and a third. Apparently the word for a measure of tea was transferred to the chest it was carried in.ETD caddy (n.).2

    caddis (n.)

    also caddice, larva of the English May-fly, used for bait, 1650s, of unknown origin, perhaps a diminutive of some sense of cad. Also used of the adult stage of certain neuropterous insects.ETD caddis (n.).2

    caddie (n.)

    1630s, "a cadet, student soldier," Scottish form of French cadet (see cadet). From 1730 as "person who runs errands;" meaning "golfer's assistant" is from 1851. A letter from Edinburgh c. 1730 describes the city's extensive and semi-organized "Cawdys, a very useful Black-Guard, who attend ... publick Places to go at Errands; and though they are Wretches, that in Rags lye upon the Stairs and in the Streets at Night, yet are they often considerably trusted .... This Corps has a kind of Captain ... presiding over them, whom they call the Constable of the Cawdys."ETD caddie (n.).2

    caddy (v.)

    "act as a caddy for a golfer," 1900, from an alternative spelling of caddie (n.). Related: Caddied; caddying.ETD caddy (v.).2

    caddish (adj.)

    "offensively ill-bred; characteristic of a cad," 1868, from cad (n.) + -ish. Related: Caddishly; caddishness.ETD caddish (adj.).2

    cade (n.)

    "a pet or tame animal," especially a lamb, late 15c., often used in reference to young animals abandoned by their mothers and brought up by hand; of unknown origin. The meaning "spoiled or over-indulged child" is from 1877. Also as a verb, "to rear by hand or tenderly," and an adjective (late 15c.).ETD cade (n.).2

    cadence (n.)

    late 14c., "flow of rhythm in prose or verse," from French cadence, from Old Italian cadenza "conclusion of a movement in music," literally "a falling," from Vulgar Latin *cadentia, from neuter plural of Latin cadens, present participle of cadere "to fall" (from PIE root *kad- "to fall"). A doublet of chance (n.).ETD cadence (n.).2

    The notion is of a "fall" in the voice in reading aloud or speaking, as at the end of a sentence, also the rising and falling in modulation of tones in reciting. Later (1590s) extended to music, in reference to a sequence of chords expressing conclusion at the end of a phrase and resolving to the key in which the piece was written. Also the measure or beat of any rhythmic movement (c. 1600). In 16c., sometimes used literally for "an act of falling." Related: Cadential.ETD cadence (n.).3

    cadence (v.)

    "to regulate by musical measure," 1749, from cadence (n.). Related: Cadenced; cadencing.ETD cadence (v.).2

    cadenza (n.)

    "ornamental passage near the close of a song or solo," 1780, from Italian cadenza "conclusion of a movement in music" (see cadence (n.)).ETD cadenza (n.).2

    cadet (n.)

    c. 1610, "younger son or brother;" 1650s, "gentleman entering the military as a profession;" from French cadet "military student officer," noun use of adjective, "younger" (15c.), from Gascon capdet "captain, chief, youth of a noble family," from Medieval Latin capitellum, "little chief," literally "little head" (hence, "inferior head of a family"), diminutive of Latin caput "head" (from PIE root *kaput- "head").ETD cadet (n.).2

    "The eldest son being regarded as the first head of the family, the second son the cadet, or little head" [Kitchin]. Younger sons from noble families were sent to French court to serve as officers, without rising through the ranks or attending military school, after being attached to a corps without pay and enjoying certain privileges. This gave the word its military meaning "accepted candidate for a commission who is undergoing training to become an officer." Meaning "student at a military college" is from 1775.ETD cadet (n.).3

    Via the Scottish form cadee comes caddie "a messenger boy," especially one who carries clubs for a golfer, and slang cad.ETD cadet (n.).4

    cadge (v.)

    "to beg" (1812), "to get by begging" (1848), of uncertain origin, perhaps a back-formation from cadger "itinerant dealer with a pack-horse" (mid-15c.), which is perhaps from Middle English cadge "to fasten, to tie" (late 14c.), which probably is from a Scandinavian source (compare Old Norse kögur-barn "swaddled child").ETD cadge (v.).2

    cady (n.)

    "hat, cap," 1846, British English, of unknown origin.ETD cady (n.).2

    Cadillac (n.)

    type of luxury automobile made by the Cadillac Automobile Company, established in 1902 by Detroit engine-maker Henry Martyn Leland and named for Antoine de la Mothe Cadillac (1658-1730), French minor aristocrat and colonial governor who founded Detroit in 1701. The company was purchased by General Motors in 1909.ETD Cadillac (n.).2


    port city in southwestern Spain, from Latin Gades (Greek Gadeira), from Phoenician gadir "fort, enclosure." Related: Gaditan (from Latin adjective Gaditanus).ETD Cadiz.2

    Cadmean victory (n.)

    c. 1600, "victory involving one's own ruin," translating Greek Kadmeia nikē, from Cadmus (Greek Kadmos), legendary hero-founder of Thebes in Boeotia and bringer of the original sixteen-letter alphabet to Greece. The term probably is a reference to the story of Cadmus and the "Sown-Men," who fought each other till only a handful were left alive. Compare Pyrrhic (adj.1).ETD Cadmean victory (n.).2

    cadmium (n.)

    bluish-white metallic element, 1822, discovered 1817 by German scientist Friedrich Strohmeyer (1776-1835), coined in Modern Latin from cadmia, a word used by ancient naturalists for various earths and oxides (especially zinc carbonate), from Greek kadmeia (ge) "Cadmean (earth)," from Kadmos "Cadmus," legendary founder of Boeotian Thebes. With metallic element ending -ium. So called because the earth was first found in the vicinity of Thebes (Kadmeioi was an alternative name for "Thebans" since the time of Homer). Its sulphate furnishes a brilliant and permanent yellow color (cadmium-yellow, 1850) used by artists, etc.ETD cadmium (n.).2

    cadre (n.)

    "permanently organized framework of a military unit" (the officers, etc., as opposed to the rank-and-file), 1851; earlier "framework, scheme" (1830); from French cadre, literally "a frame of a picture" (16c.), so, "a detachment forming the skeleton of a regiment," from Italian quadro, from Latin quadrum "a square," which related to quattuor "four" (from PIE root *kwetwer- "four"). The communist sense of "group or cell of workers trained to promote the interests of the Party" is from 1930.ETD cadre (n.).2

    caducous (adj.)

    "having a tendency to fall or decay," 1797, in botany, from Latin caducus "falling, fallen, fleeting," from cadere "to fall, decline, perish" (from PIE root *kad- "to fall"). Related: Caducity.ETD caducous (adj.).2

    caduceus (n.)

    in ancient Greece or Rome, "herald's staff," 1590s, from Latin caduceus, alteration of Doric Greek karykeion "herald's staff," from kēryx (genitive kērykos) "a herald," which is probably a Pre-Greek word. A token of a peaceful embassy, it was originally an olive branch. Later especially it was the wand carried by Mercury, messenger of the gods, usually represented with two serpents twined round it and wings. Related: Caducean.ETD caduceus (n.).2

    The word and the thing are sometimes used mistakenly as a symbol of medicine by confusion with the Rod of Asclepius, Greek god of medicine, which also features a serpent entwined about a rod but only a single serpent.ETD caduceus (n.).3

    caecum (n.)

    in human anatomy, "the pouch at the beginning of the colon," 1721, from Latin intestinum caecum "blind gut," from neuter of caecus "blind, hidden," from Proto-Italic *kaiko-, from PIE *kehi-ko- "one-eyed," cognate with Old Irish ca'ech "one-eyed," coeg "empty," Welsh coeg-dall, Old Cornish cuic "one-eyed;" Gothic haihs "one-eyed, blind." So called for being prolonged into a cul-de-sac. Related: Caecal.ETD caecum (n.).2


    see Cenozoic.ETD Caenozoic.2


    "an emperor, a ruler, a dictator," late 14c., cesar, from Cæsar, originally a surname of the Julian gens in Rome, elevated to a title after Caius Julius Caesar (100 B.C.E.-44 B.C.E.) became dictator; it was used as a title of emperors down to Hadrian (138 C.E.). The name is of uncertain origin; Pliny derives it from caesaries "head of hair," because the future dictator was born with a full one; Century Dictionary suggests Latin caesius "bluish-gray" (of the eyes), also used as a proper name. Also compare caesarian.ETD Caesar.2

    Old English had casere, which would have yielded modern *coser, but it was replaced in Middle English by keiser (c. 1200), from Norse or Low German, and later by the French or Latin form of the name. Cæsar also is the root of German Kaiser and Russian tsar (see czar). He competes as progenitor of words for "king" with Charlemagne (Latin Carolus), as in Lithuanian karalius, Polish krol.ETD Caesar.3

    The use in reference to "temporal power as the object of obedience" (contrasted with God) is from Matthew xxii.21. Caesar's wife (1570s) as the figure of a person who should be above suspicion is from Plutarch. In U.S. slang c. 1900, a sheriff was Great Seizer.ETD Caesar.4


    Latin city name derived from Caesar, applied in honor of the emperors to some new and existing cities in the Roman Empire, including modern Kayseri, Turkey; Shaizar, Syria, and Cherchell, Algeria (representing a French spelling of an Arabic name based on a Berber garbling of the Latin word).ETD Caesarea.2


    see caesarian.ETD caesarean.2

    caesarian (n.)

    "delivery of a child by cutting through the abdomen of the mother," 1923, shortening of Caesarian section (1610s); caesar as "baby delivered by caesarian section is from 1530s. Section (n.) here has the literal Latin sense of "act or action of cutting," which is attested from 1550s in English but is rare outside of medicine.ETD caesarian (n.).2

    Supposedly from Caius Julius Caesar, who was said to have been delivered surgically. Thus also legend traces his cognomen to Latin caesus, past participle of caedere "to cut" (see -cide). But if this is the etymology of the name, it was likely an ancestor who was so born (Caesar's mother lived to see his triumphs and such operations would have been fatal to the woman in ancient times). Rather, caesar here may come directly from caesus.ETD caesarian (n.).3

    The operation was prescribed in Rome for cases of dead mothers; the first recorded instance of it being performed on a living woman is c. 1500, but as late as the early 19c., before antiseptics and blood transfusions, it had a 50% mortality rate.ETD caesarian (n.).4

    Caesar salad (n.)

    salad of romaine lettuce and croutons dressed with egg, anchovies, pepper, etc., 1952, said to be named not for the emperor, but for Cesar Cardini, restaurant owner in Tijuana, Mexico, who is said to have served the first one c. 1924.ETD Caesar salad (n.).2

    caesium (n.)

    see cesium.ETD caesium (n.).2

    caesura (n.)

    "a pause about the middle of a metrical line" (often coinciding with a pause in sense), 1550s, from Latin caesura, "metrical pause," literally "a cutting," from past participle stem of caedere "to cut down" (from PIE root *kae-id- "to strike"). In classical use, "the division of a metrical foot between two words, a break within a foot caused by the end of a word," as opposed to a diaeresis, a pause between feet.ETD caesura (n.).2

    cafe (n.)

    "coffee-house, restaurant," 1802, from French café "coffee, coffeehouse," from Italian caffe "coffee" (see coffee).ETD cafe (n.).2

    The beverage was introduced in Venice by 1615 and in France by 1650s by merchants and travelers who had been to Turkey and Egypt. The first public European café might have been one opened in Marseilles in 1660. Cafe society "people who frequent fashionable dining spots, night-clubs, etc." is from 1922.ETD cafe (n.).3

    cafe au lait (n.)

    1763, French café au lait, literally "coffee with milk," from lait "milk" (12c.), from Latin lactis, genitive of lac "milk" (see lacto-). As opposed to café noir "black coffee."ETD cafe au lait (n.).2

    cafeteria (n.)

    1839, "cafe," American English, from Mexican Spanish cafeteria "coffee store," from café "coffee" (see coffee) + Spanish -tería "place where something is done" (usually business). The sense shifted by 1890s to "self-service dining establishment." The ending came to be understood popularly as meaning "help-yourself" and was extended to new formation with that sense from c. 1923.ETD cafeteria (n.).2

    Examples of the thing itself date to 1885, but they seem to have become established first in Chicago in the early 1890s by social and philanthropic organizations (such as the YWCA) to offer working girls affordable, fast, light meals in a congenial atmosphere. Their popularity waned after c. 1926, eclipsed by coffee shops, lunch counters, and sandwich shops. Industrial plants began to add them in 1915; schools and colleges followed.ETD cafeteria (n.).3

    caffeic (adj.)

    "of or pertaining to coffee," 1842, from Modern Latin caffea (see coffee) + -ic.ETD caffeic (adj.).2

    caffeinism (n.)

    "morbid state produced by prolonged or excessive exposure to caffeine," 1880, from caffeine + -ism.ETD caffeinism (n.).2

    caffeine (n.)

    trimethyl-derivative of xanthine, 1830, from German Kaffein, coined by chemist F.F. Runge (1795-1867), apparently from German Kaffee "coffee" (see coffee) + chemical suffix -ine (2) (German -in). So called because the alkaloid was found in coffee beans; its presence accounts for the stimulating effect of coffee and tea. The form of the English word may be via French caféine. Related: Caffeinic.ETD caffeine (n.).2

    caftan (n.)

    also kaftan, 1590s, "long tunic worn by men in Turkey, Egypt, etc.," from Turkish qaftan (also in Arabic), from Persian khaftan. A kind of long vest tied about the waist, with long sleeves. As a similar shirt or dress style worn fashionably in the West, it is attested from c. 1955.ETD caftan (n.).2

    cage (v.)

    "to confine in a cage, to shut up or confine," 1570s, from cage (n.). Related: Caged; caging.ETD cage (v.).2

    cage (n.)

    "box-like receptacle or enclosure, with open spaces, made of wires, reeds, etc.," typically for confining domesticated birds or wild beasts, c. 1200, from Old French cage "cage, prison; retreat, hideout" (12c.), from Latin cavea "hollow place, enclosure for animals, coop, hive, stall, dungeon, spectators' seats in the theater" (source also of Italian gabbia "basket for fowls, coop;" see cave (n.)). From c. 1300 in English as "a cage for prisoners, jail, prison, a cell."ETD cage (n.).2

    cagey (adj.)

    "evasive, reticent," 1896, U.S. colloquial, of unknown origin. Earlier in English dialect it meant "sportive."ETD cagey (adj.).2

    cahier (n.)

    "exercise book; report of proceedings," c. 1845, "book of loose sheets tacked together," from French cahier "writing book, copy-book," originally a bookbinding term, from Old French cayer, originally quaier "sheet of paper folded in four," from Vulgar Latin *quaternus, from Latin quaterni "four each," from quater "four times" (from PIE root *kwetwer- "four"). Compare quire (n.1).ETD cahier (n.).2

    cahoots (n.)

    "company, partnership," 1829, Southern and Western American English, of unknown origin; said [OED] to be perhaps from French cahute "cabin, hut" (12c.), but U.S. sources [Bartlett] credit it to French cohorte (see cohort), which is said to have had a sense of "companions, confederates."ETD cahoots (n.).2


    see cahoots.ETD cahoot.2

    cay (n.)

    "low island of sand or coral," 1707, from Spanish cayo; see key (n.2).ETD cay (n.).2

    caiman (n.)

    type of tropical American alligator, also cayman, 1570s, from Portuguese or Spanish caiman, from Carib acayouman "crocodile," or perhaps from a Congo African word applied to the reptiles in the new world by African slaves. "The name appears to be one of those like anaconda and bom, boma, which the Portuguese or Spaniards very early caught up in one part of the world, and naturalized in another." [OED]ETD caiman (n.).2


    elder son of Adam and Eve, the first murderer and the first fratricide, from Hebrew Qayin, literally "created one," also "smith," from Semitic stem q-y-n "to form, to fashion." Figurative use for "murderer, fratricide" is from late 14c. The Cainites were a 2c. heretical sect who revered Cain, Judas, and other wicked characters in Scripture.ETD Cain.2

    To raise Cain "behave disruptively" is recorded from 1840, American English.ETD Cain.3

    The surnames McCain, McCann, etc., are a contraction of Irish Mac Cathan "son of Cathan," from Celtic cathan, literally "warrior," from cath "battle."ETD Cain.4

    cairn (n.)

    "large, conical heap of stone," especially of the type common in Scotland and Wales and also found elsewhere in Britain, 1530s, from Scottish carne, akin to Gaelic carn "heap of stones, rocky hill" and Gaulish karnon "horn," perhaps from PIE *ker-n- "highest part of the body, horn," thus "tip, peak" (see horn (n.)).ETD cairn (n.).2


    city in Egypt, from Arabic al-Kahira "the strong," the name given 973 C.E. to the new city built north of the old one, which was Egyptian khere-ohe, said to mean "place of combat" and to be in reference to a battle between the gods Seth and Horus that took place here. Related: Cairene.ETD Cairo.2

    caisson (n.)

    "ammunition wagon; wooden chest for bombs, gunpowder, etc.," 1704, from French caisson "ammunition wagon," originally "large box" (16c.), from Italian cassone, augmentative form of cassa "a chest," from Latin capsa "a box" (see case (n.2)).ETD caisson (n.).2

    caitiff (adj.)

    c. 1300, "wicked, base, cowardly," from Old North French caitive "captive, miserable" (Old French chaitif, 12c., Modern French chétif "puny, sickly, poor, weak"), from Latin captivus "caught, taken prisoner," from captus, past participle of capere "to take, hold, seize" (from PIE root *kap- "to grasp"). Its doublet, captive, is a later, scholarly borrowing of the same word. In most Romance languages, it has acquired a pejorative sense (Spanish cautivo, Italian cattivo).ETD caitiff (adj.).2

    caitiff (n.)

    c. 1300, "wicked man, scoundrel," from Anglo-French caitif, noun use of Old North French caitive (Old French chaitif) "captive, miserable" (see caitiff (adj.)). It is attested from mid-14c as "prisoner."ETD caitiff (n.).2


    fem. proper name, alternative spelling of Kathleen (itself a variant of Catherine); not much used in U.S., then suddenly popular from c. 1985.ETD Caitlin.2


    variant of Gaius, common Roman praenomen. Both forms have the abbreviation C., and the confusion reflects the early Roman uncertainty about the use of gamma (see C).ETD Caius.2

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