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    Chattanooga — cherubic (adj.)


    city in Tennessee, a native name of uncertain origin, said to be either Cherokee or Muskogee; compare Muskogee cvto "rock" (in Chattahoochee, etc.); the entire name is said to mean "rock rising to a point," which might describe nearby Lookout Mountain.ETD Chattanooga.2

    chattel (n.)

    early 13c., chatel "property, goods," from Old French chatel "chattels, goods, wealth, possessions, property; profit; cattle," from Late Latin capitale "property" (see cattle, which is the Old North French form of the same word). Application to slaves is from 1640s and the word later became a rhetorical figure among the abolitionists.ETD chattel (n.).2

    chatter (v.)

    early 13c., chateren "to twitter, make quick, shrill sounds" (of birds), "to gossip, talk idly or thoughtlessly" (of persons), earlier cheateren, chiteren, of echoic origin. Compare Dutch koeteren "jabber," Danish kvidre "twitter, chirp." Of teeth, "make a rattling noise from cold or fright," mid-15c. Related: Chattered; chattering.ETD chatter (v.).2

    Phrase chattering class was in use by 1893, with perhaps an isolated instance from 1843:ETD chatter (v.).3

    chatter (n.)

    mid-13c., "a run of quick, shrill sounds," originally of birds, from chatter (v.). Meaning "idle or foolish talk" is by 1831.ETD chatter (n.).2

    chatterbox (n.)

    "incessant talker," 1774, from chatter (n.) + box (n.1). Compare saucebox. Other old terms for the same thing include prattle-basket (c. 1600), prate-apace (1630s).ETD chatterbox (n.).2

    chatty (adj.)

    "fond of chatting, talkative," 1746, from chat + -y (2). Related: Chattily; chattiness. Chatsome is attested from 1847.ETD chatty (adj.).2


    1650s, "of or pertaining to the English poet Geoffrey Chaucer" (obit 1400). The family name is from Old French chaucier "maker of chausses," from chauces "clothing for the legs, breeches, pantaloons, hose" (related to case (n.2)). Middle English chawce was a general term for anything worn on the feet.ETD Chaucerian.2

    chauffer (n.)

    "small portable stove," 1825, variant of chafer "a vessel for heating," agent noun from chafe; with form influenced by French chauffoir "a heater," from chauffer "to heat," which also is ultimately from chafe (see chauffeur).ETD chauffer (n.).2

    chauffeur (v.)

    "convey by car, drive as a chauffeur," 1902, from chauffeur (n.). Related: Chauffeured; chauffeuring.ETD chauffeur (v.).2

    chauffeur (n.)

    1896, "a motorist," from French chauffeur, literally "stoker," operator of a steam engine, French nickname for early motorists, from chauffer "to heat," from Old French chaufer "to heat, warm up; to become hot" (see chafe). The first motor-cars were steam-driven. The sense of "professional or paid driver of a private motor car" is from 1902.ETD chauffeur (n.).2

    In early 20c. British English shover was a jocular nativized form of the word.ETD chauffeur (n.).3


    "assembly for popular education," 1873, from town in New York, U.S., where an annual Methodist summer colony featured lectures. The name is from ja'dahgweh, a Seneca (Iroquoian) name, possibly meaning "one has taken out fish there," but an alternative suggested meaning is "raised body."ETD Chautauqua.2

    chauvinism (n.)

    1840, "exaggerated, blind nationalism; patriotism degenerated into a vice," from French chauvinisme (1839), from the character Nicholas Chauvin, soldier of Napoleon's Grand Armee, who idolized Napoleon and the Empire long after it was history, in the Cogniards' popular 1831 vaudeville "La Cocarde Tricolore." The meaning was extended to "excessive belief in the superiority of one's race" in late 19c. in communist jargon, and to (male) "sexism" in late 1960s via male chauvinist (q.v.).ETD chauvinism (n.).2

    The surname is a French form of Latin Calvinus and thus Calvinism and chauvinism are, etymologically, twins. The name was a common one in Napoleon's army, and if there was a real person at the base of the character in the play, he has not been certainly identified by etymologists, though memoirs of Waterloo (one published in Paris in 1822) mention "one of our principal piqueurs, named Chauvin, who had returned with Napoleon from Elba," which action implies the sort of loyalty displayed by the theatrical character.ETD chauvinism (n.).3

    chauvinist (n.)

    1863, from French chauviniste, from Chauvin (see chauvinism) + -ist. Related: Chauvinistic (1870).ETD chauvinist (n.).2

    chav (n.)

    "antisocial youth," British slang, by 2004, apparently from earlier charver "loutish young person wearing designer-style sportswear," Northern British slang (1997) of uncertain origin. Earlier it was a verb in homosexual slang for "have sex." Perhaps ultimately from Romany (Gypsy).ETD chav (n.).2

    chaw (v.)

    "to chew, chew roughly," 1520s, unexplained phonetic variant of chew (v.). OED notes that the variant form chow was "very common in 16-17th c." Bartlett's "Dictionary of Americanisms" [1859] says chaw, "Although found in good authors, ... is retained, in this country as in England, only by the illiterate." Related: Chawed; chawing. The noun meaning "that which is chewed" (especially a quid of tobacco) is recorded from 1709.ETD chaw (v.).2

    chazzan (n.)

    "cantor in a synagogue," 1640s, from Hebrew chazzan, said in OED to be probably from Assyrian hazannu "overseer."ETD chazzan (n.).2


    nickname of Argentine Marxist revolutionary Ernesto Guevara (1928-1967), given to him by Cuban exiles in Guatemala in mid-1950s, from his dialectal use of Argentine che, a slang filler word in speech.ETD Che.2

    cheapness (n.)

    "state or quality of being cheap," 1540s, from cheap (adj.) + -ness.ETD cheapness (n.).2

    cheap (adj.)

    "low in price, that may be bought at small cost," c. 1500, ultimately from Old English noun ceap "traffic, a purchase," from ceapian (v.) "to trade, buy and sell," probably from early Germanic borrowings of Latin caupo "petty tradesman, huckster, peddler," cauponari "to haggle" (see chapman). Compare, from the same borrowing, German kaufen "to buy," Old Norse kaupa "to bargain, barter," Gothic kaupon "to traffic, trade."ETD cheap (adj.).2

    The sense evolution is from the noun meaning "a barter, a purchase" to "a purchase as rated by the buyer," hence the adjectival meaning "inexpensive," the main modern sense, via Middle English phrases such as god chep "favorable bargain" (12c., a translation of French a bon marché).ETD cheap (adj.).3

    The sense of "lightly esteemed, common" is from 1590s (compare similar evolution of Latin vilis). The meaning "low in price" was represented in Old English by undeor, literally "un-dear" (but deop ceap, literally "deep cheap," meant "high price").ETD cheap (adj.).4

    The word also was used in Old English for "market" (as in ceapdæg "market day"), a sense surviving in place names Cheapside, East Cheap, etc. To do something on the cheap "with very little expense" is from 1859. Cheap shot originally was U.S. football jargon for a head-on tackle; extended sense "unfair hit" in politics, etc. is by 1970.ETD cheap (adj.).5

    German billig "cheap" is from Middle Low German billik, originally "fair, just," with a sense evolution via billiger preis "fair price," etc.ETD cheap (adj.).6

    cheapen (v.)

    1570s, "ask the price of" (obsolete), from cheap (adj.), itself from a verb, but that had largely died out by 16c., + -en (1). The meaning "lower the price of" is from 1833, but figuratively, "to lower in estimation" it is from 1650s. Related: Cheapened; cheapening.ETD cheapen (v.).2

    cheapie (n.)

    "something inexpensive," colloquial, 1891, from cheap (adj.) + -ie.ETD cheapie (n.).2

    cheaply (adv.)

    "at a small price," 1550s, from cheap (adj.) + -ly (2).ETD cheaply (adv.).2

    cheapo (adj.)

    "inexpensive, costing little," colloquial, 1967, from cheap (adj.) + -o (see O).ETD cheapo (adj.).2

    cheapskate (n.)

    also cheap skate, "miserly person," 1896, from cheap (adj.), second element perhaps from American English slang skate "worn-out horse" (1894), which is of uncertain origin. Also compare skite.ETD cheapskate (n.).2


    obsolete spelling of cheer (n.).ETD chear.2

    cheat (v.)

    mid-15c., "to escheat, to seize as an escheat," a shortening of Old French escheat, legal term for revision of property to the state when the owner dies without heirs, literally "that which falls to one," past participle of escheoir "happen, befall, occur, take place; fall due; lapse (legally)," from Late Latin *excadere "fall away, fall out," from Latin ex- "out" (see ex-) + cadere "to fall" (from PIE root *kad- "to fall").ETD cheat (v.).2

    Also compare escheat. The royal officers who had charge of escheats evidently had a reputation for unscrupulousness, and the meaning of the verb evolved through "confiscate" (mid-15c.) to "deprive unfairly" (1580s), to "deceive, impose upon, trick" (1630s). The intransitive sense of "act dishonestly, practice fraud or trickery" is from 1630s. To cheat on (someone) "be sexually unfaithful" is attested by 1934. Related: Cheated; cheating.ETD cheat (v.).3

    cheat (n.)

    late 14c., "forfeited property, reversion of property to a lord," from cheat (v.) or from escheat (n.). The meaning "a fraud committed by deception, a deceptive act" is from 1640s; earlier, in thieves' jargon, it meant "a stolen thing" (late 16c.), and earlier still "dice" (1530s). For sense evolution, see cheat (v.). It also was used in canting slang generally, as an affix, for any "thing" (e.g. cackling-chete "a fowl," crashing-chetes "the teeth"). The meaning "a swindler, a person who cheats" is from 1660s; from 1680s as "anything which deceives or is intended to deceive."ETD cheat (n.).2

    cheating (n.)

    "deceptiveness, swindling," 1530s, verbal noun from cheat (v.).ETD cheating (n.).2

    cheater (n.)

    early 14c., "royal officer in charge of the king's escheats," short for escheater, agent noun from escheat (and compare cheat (v.)). Meaning "dishonest player" is recorded from 1530s.ETD cheater (n.).2

    check (n.1)

    c. 1300, in chess, "a call noting one's move has placed his opponent's king (or another major piece) in immediate peril," from Old French eschequier "a check at chess" (also "chess board, chess set"), from eschec "the game of chess; chessboard; check; checkmate," from Vulgar Latin *scaccus, from Arabic shah, from Persian shah "king," the principal piece in a chess game (see shah; also compare checkmate (n.)). Also c. 1300 in a generalized sense, "harmful incident or event, hostile environment."ETD check (n.1).2

    As "an exposure of the king to a direct attack from an opposing piece" early 15c. When his king is in check, a player's choices are severely limited. From that notion come the many extended senses: From the notion of "a sudden stoppage, hindrance, restraint" (1510s) comes that of "act or means of checking or restraining," also "means of detecting or exposing or preventing error; a check against forgery or alteration."ETD check (n.1).3

    Hence: "a counter-register as a token of ownership used to check against, and prevent, loss or theft" (as in hat check, etc.), 1812. Hence also the financial use for "written order for money drawn on a bank, money draft" (1798, often spelled cheque), which was probably influenced by exchequer. Hence also "mark put against names or items on a list indicating they have been verified or otherwise examined" (by 1856).ETD check (n.1).4

    The meaning "restaurant bill" is from 1869. Checking account is attested from 1897, American English. Blank check in the figurative sense is attested by 1849 (compare carte blanche). Checks and balances is from 1782, perhaps originally suggesting machinery.ETD check (n.1).5

    check (v.1)

    late 15c., in chess, "to attack the king; to put (the opponent's king) in check;" earlier (late 14c.) in a figurative sense, "to stop, arrest; block, barricade;" from check (n.1) or Old French eschequier, from the noun in French. A player in chess limits his opponent's ability to move when he places his opponent's king in check.ETD check (v.1).2

    The other senses seem all to have developed from the chess sense, or from the noun: "To arrest, stop," then "to hold in restraint" (1620s); "to hold up or control" (an assertion, a person, etc.) by comparison with some authority or record (1690s); of baggage, etc., "to hand over in return for a check that serves as a means of identifying" (1846); "to note with a mark as having been examined, etc., mark off from a list" (1928).ETD check (v.1).3

    Hence, to check off (1839); to check up (1883); to check in or out (in a hotel, of a library book, etc., 1909). To check out (something) "to look at, investigate" is from 1959. Related: Checked; checking.ETD check (v.1).4

    checked (adj.)

    early 15c., "ornamented with a checkered design," past-participle adjective from check (v.2).ETD checked (adj.).2

    check (n.2)

    "pattern of squares in alternating colors," c. 1400, short for checker (n.1). As a fabric having such a pattern from 1610s.ETD check (n.2).2

    check (v.2)

    "mark like a chessboard, incise with a pattern of squares or checks," early 15c., from Old French eschequier (v.), from the noun in French (see check (n.1)). Related: Checking.ETD check (v.2).2

    check-book (n.)

    also checkbook, cheque-book, "book containing blank checks on a bank," 1872, from check (n.1) in the financial sense + book (n.).ETD check-book (n.).2

    checkers (n.)

    U.S. name for the game known in Britain as draughts, 1712, from plural of checker (n.1). So called for the board on which the game is played.ETD checkers (n.).2

    checker (v.)

    "to ornament with a checked or checkered design, decorate with squares of alternate color," late 14c. (implied in checkered), from Old French eschequeré and from checker (n.1). Related: Checkering.ETD checker (v.).2

    checker (n.2)

    "table covered with a checked cloth," specialized sense of checker (n.1), late 14c. (in Anglo-Latin from c. 1300); especially a table for counting money or keeping accounts (revenue reckoned with counters); later extended to "the fiscal department of the English Crown; the Exchequer" (mid-14c.; in Anglo-Latin from late 12c.).ETD checker (n.2).2

    checker (n.3)

    "one who checks or controls," especially "one who collects money for others," 1867, agent noun from check (v.2).ETD checker (n.3).2

    checker (n.1)

    mid-13c., "game of chess (or checkers);" c. 1300, "a chessboard, board with 64 squares for playing chess or similar games; a set of chessmen" (all now obsolete), a shortening of Old French eschequier "chessboard; a game of chess" (Modern French échiquier), from Medieval Latin scaccarium "chess-board" (see check (n.1)).ETD checker (n.1).2

    The meaning "pattern of squares" is from late 14c. That of "a man or piece in the game of checkers" is from 1864. British prefers chequer. From late 14c. as "a checked design." The word had earlier senses of "table covered with checked cloth for counting" (late 12c. in Anglo-Latin), a sense also in Old French (see checker (n.2)).ETD checker (n.1).3

    checkered (adj.)

    late 14c., "marked with squares or checks," past-participle adjective from checker (v.). Checkered past (1831) is from a figurative use: "variegated with different qualities or events, having a character both good and bad."ETD checkered (adj.).2

    checker-board (n.)

    also checkerboard, "board divided into 64 small squares of alternating color," 1779, from checker (n.1) + board (n.1).ETD checker-board (n.).2

    check-list (n.)

    also checklist, "systematic list intended for reference, verification, etc.," 1849, American English, from check (v.1) + list (n.1).ETD check-list (n.).2

    checkmate (n.)

    mid-14c., in chess, said of a king when it is in check and cannot escape it, from Old French eschec mat (Modern French échec et mat), which (with Spanish jaque y mate, Italian scacco-matto) is from Arabic shah mat "the king died" (see check (n.1)), which according to Barnhart is a misinterpretation of Persian mat "be astonished" as mata "to die," mat "he is dead." Hence Persian shah mat, if it is the ultimate source of the word, would be literally "the king is left helpless, the king is stumped."ETD checkmate (n.).2

    checkmate (v.)

    late 14c., figurative, "to thwart, frustrate;" see checkmate (n.). As a verb in chess, from 1789. Related: Checkmated; checkmating.ETD checkmate (v.).2

    checkout (n.)

    also check-out, 1944, from the verbal phrase; see check (v.1) + out (adv.). Originally "training given to a pilot for using a specific aircraft;" the hotel sense of "administrative procedure followed when guests leave after a stay" is from 1958. Retail sense of "place where one pays for goods selected" is from 1947.ETD checkout (n.).2

    checkpoint (n.)

    1940, from check (v.1) + point (n.). Originally an aviator's term for landforms or structures of known height against which the craft's altitude could be visually checked. The "place where travelers are stopped and subject to security checks" sense is recorded from 1950.ETD checkpoint (n.).2

    check-up (n.)

    also checkup, "careful examination," 1921, American English, from the verbal phrase (1889), from check (v.1) + up (adv.), on notion of a checklist of things to be examined. The verbal phrase check up (on) is attested from 1889.ETD check-up (n.).2

    cheddar (n.)

    type of cheese, 1660s (but the cheese presumably was made long before that), from Cheddar, village in Somerset, England, where it originally was made, from Old English Ceodre (c.880), probably from ceodor "ravine" (there is a striking gorge nearby).ETD cheddar (n.).2

    cheeks (n.)

    "the buttocks," c. 1600; see cheek.ETD cheeks (n.).2

    cheek (n.)

    "either of the two fleshy sides of the face below the eyes," Old English ceace, cece "jaw, jawbone," in late Old English also "the fleshy wall of the mouth," of uncertain origin, from Proto-Germanic *kaukon (source also of Middle Low German kake "jaw, jawbone," Middle Dutch kake "jaw," Dutch kaak), not found outside West Germanic, probably a substrate word.ETD cheek (n.).2

    Words for "cheek," "jaw," and "chin" tend to run together in IE languages (compare PIE *genw-, source of Greek genus "jaw, cheek," geneion "chin," and English chin); Aristotle considered the chin as the front of the "jaws" and the cheeks as the back of them. The other Old English word for "cheek" was ceafl (see jowl (n.1)).ETD cheek (n.).3

    In reference to the buttocks from c. 1600. The sense of "brazen insolence" is from 1840, perhaps from a notion akin to that which led to jaw "insolent speech," mouth off, etc. To turn the other cheek is an allusion to Matthew v.39 and Luke vi.29. Cheek-by-jowl "with cheeks close together," hence "in intimate contact" is from 1570s; earlier in same sense was cheek-by-cheek (early 14c.). In ballroom dancing, cheek-to-cheek is from 1919 (earlier it was a measurement of apples).ETD cheek (n.).4

    cheeky (adj.)

    "impudent, presumptuous," 1859 (1850 as the nickname of a misbehaving boy in a story), from cheek in its sense of "insolence" + -y (2). Related: Cheekily; cheekiness (1841).ETD cheeky (adj.).2

    cheep (v.)

    "to peep, chirp," 1510s, of imitative origin, originally Scottish. Related: Cheeped; cheeping; cheeper. The noun is attested by 1774.ETD cheep (v.).2

    cheer (v.)

    late 14c., cheren, "to humor, console, dispel despondency;" c. 1400 as "entertain with food or drink," from cheer (n.). Related: Cheered; cheering. The sense of "to encourage by words or deeds" is early 15c., and this had focused to "salute with shouts of applause" by late 18c. Cheer up (intransitive) is attested by 1670s.ETD cheer (v.).2

    cheer (n.)

    c. 1200, "the face, countenance," especially as expressing emotion, from Anglo-French chere "the face," Old French chiere "face, countenance, look, expression," from Late Latin cara "face" (source also of Spanish cara), possibly from Greek kara "head" (from PIE root *ker- (1) "horn; head"). From mid-13c. as "frame of mind, state of feeling, spirit; mood, humor."ETD cheer (n.).2

    By late 14c. the meaning had extended metaphorically to "state or temper of mind as indicated by expression." This could be in a good or bad sense ("The feend ... beguiled her with treacherye, and brought her into a dreerye cheere," "Merline," c. 1500), but a positive sense, "state of gladness or joy" (probably short for good cheer), has predominated since c. 1400.ETD cheer (n.).3

    The meaning "that which makes cheerful or promotes good spirits" is from late 14c. The meaning "shout of encouragement" is recorded by 1720, perhaps nautical slang (compare the earlier verbal sense "encourage by words or deeds," early 15c.). The antique English greeting what cheer? (mid-15c.) was picked up by Algonquian Indians of southern New England from the Puritans and spread in Native American languages as far as Canada.ETD cheer (n.).4

    cheerful (adj.)

    c. 1400, "full of cheer, having good spirits," from cheer (n.) + -ful. Meaning "elevating the spirits" is from mid-15c. Related: Cheerfully; cheerfulness.ETD cheerful (adj.).2

    cheers (interj.)

    salute or toast when taking a drink, British, 1919, from plural of cheer (also see cheerio). Earlier it is recorded as a shout of support or encouragement (1720).ETD cheers (interj.).2

    cheery (adj.)

    "showing good spirits," mid-15c., from cheer (n.) + -y (2). The colloquial alternative to cheerful. Related: Cheerily; cheeriness.ETD cheery (adj.).2

    cheerio (interj.)

    upbeat parting exclamation, British, 1896 as cheero; 1918 as cheerio; from cheer. The breakfast cereal Cheerios debuted in 1941 as CheeriOats; the name was shortened in 1945.ETD cheerio (interj.).2

    cheerleader (n.)

    also cheer-leader, "performer of cheers, chants, dancing, etc. in support of a sports team," 1900, American English, from cheer (n.) + leader. Cheerleading is attested from 1906.ETD cheerleader (n.).2

    cheerless (adj.)

    "devoid of comfort, without joy," 1570s, from cheer (n.) + -less. Related: Cheerlessly; cheerlessness.ETD cheerless (adj.).2

    cheese (n.1)

    "curd of milk coagulated, separated from the whey, pressed, and used as food," Old English cyse (West Saxon), cese (Anglian) "cheese," from West Germanic *kasjus (source also of Old Saxon kasi, Old High German chasi, German Käse, Middle Dutch case, Dutch kaas), from Latin caseus "cheese" (source of Italian cacio, Spanish queso, Irish caise, Welsh caws).ETD cheese (n.1).2

    This is of unknown origin; perhaps (Watkins) from a PIE root *kwat- "to ferment, become sour" (source also of Prakrit chasi "buttermilk;" Old Church Slavonic kvasu "leaven; fermented drink," kyselu "sour," -kyseti "to turn sour;" Czech kysati "to turn sour, rot;" Sanskrit kvathati "boils, seethes;" Gothic hwaþjan "foam").ETD cheese (n.1).3

    But de Vaan writes, "no etymology can be found which does not require some poorly-founded assumptions," and suggests a loan-word. Also compare fromage. Old Norse ostr, Danish ost, Swedish ost are related to Latin ius "broth, sauce, juice."ETD cheese (n.1).4

    The earliest references would be to compressed curds of milk used as food; pressed or molded cheeses with rinds are from 14c. Transferred to other cheese-like substances by 1530s. As a photographer's word to make subjects hold a smile, it is attested from 1930, but in a reminiscence of schoolboy days, which suggests an earlier use. Probably for the forced smile involved in making the -ee- sound.ETD cheese (n.1).5

    Green cheese is that newly made; the notion that the moon is made of green cheese as a type of a ridiculous assertion is from 1520s. To make cheeses (1835) was a schoolgirls' amusement of wheeling rapidly so one's petticoats blew out in a circle then dropping down so they came to rest inflated and resembling a wheel of cheese; hence, used figuratively for "a deep curtsy." Bartlett ("Dictionary of Americanisms," 1848) defines head cheese as "The ears and feet of swine cut up fine, and, after being boiled, pressed into the form of a cheese."ETD cheese (n.1).6

    cheese (n.2)

    "the proper thing" (slang), from Urdu chiz "a thing," from Persian chiz, from Old Persian *ciš-ciy "something," from PIE pronominal root *kwo-. Picked up by British in India by 1818 and used in the sense of "a big thing" (especially in the phrase the real chiz).ETD cheese (n.2).2

    This perhaps is behind the expression big cheese "important person" (1914), but that is American English in origin and likely rather belongs to cheese (n.1). To cut a big cheese as a figurative expression for "look important" is recorded from 1915, and overlarge wheels of cheese, especially from Wisconsin, were commonly displayed 19c. as publicity stunts by retailers, etc.ETD cheese (n.2).3

    cheese (v.)

    "stop (what one is doing), run off," 1812, thieves' slang, of uncertain origin. The meaning "to smile" is from 1930 (see cheese (n.1)). For the sense of "annoy," see cheesed.ETD cheese (v.).2

    cheesed (adj.)

    "disgruntled, exasperated," 1941, British slang, origin obscure, connections uncertain. See cheese (n.1), cheese (n.2), cheesy.ETD cheesed (adj.).2

    cheeseburger (n.)

    "hamburger served with a slice of cheese on top," 1938, American English, from cheese (n.1) + ending abstracted from hamburger.ETD cheeseburger (n.).2

    cheesecake (n.)

    also cheese-cake, mid-15c., from cheese (n.1) + cake (n.). Originally a cake or tart containing cheese, later one made with sweetened soft curds, etc. It was used figuratively for "soft, effeminate" from 18c.ETD cheesecake (n.).2

    The modern slang meaning dates from 1933; a "Time" magazine article from 1934 defined it as "leg-pictures of sporty females." In its early years this sense of the word often was associated with film star Marlene Dietrich. "A number of fanciful theories about its origins have been put forward, none of which carry sufficient conviction to bear repeating" [John Ayto, "The Diner's Dictionary"].ETD cheesecake (n.).3

    cheese-cloth (n.)

    "coarse cotton fabric of open texture," 1650s, originally cloth in which curds were pressed, from cheese (n.1) + cloth.ETD cheese-cloth (n.).2

    cheesy (adj.)

    "cheese-like," late 14c., from cheese (n.1) + -y (2). The meaning "cheap, inferior" is attested from 1896, in U.S. student slang, along with cheese (n.) "an ignorant, stupid person." In late 19c. British slang, cheesy was "fine, showy" (1858), probably from cheese (n.2) and some suggest the modern derogatory use is an ironic reversal of this. The word was common in medical writing in the late 19c. to describe morbid substances found in tumors, decaying flesh, etc. Related: Cheesiness.ETD cheesy (adj.).2

    cheetah (n.)

    "large, spotted cat of India," 1704, from Hindi chita "leopard," from Sanskrit chitraka "hunting leopard, tiger," literally "speckled," from chitra-s "distinctively marked, variegated, many-colored, bright, clear" (from PIE *kit-ro-, from root *skai- "to shine, gleam, be bright;" see shine (v.)) + kayah "body" (from PIE *kwei- "to build, make;" see poet).ETD cheetah (n.).2

    chef (n.)

    "head cook," 1842, from French chef, short for chef de cuisine, literally "head of the kitchen," from Old French chief "leader, ruler, head" (see chief (n.)).ETD chef (n.).2


    early Soviet secret police, 1921, from Russian initials of Chrezvychainaya Komissiya "Extraordinary Commission (for Combating Counter-Revolution);" set up 1917, superseded 1922 by the G.P.U.ETD Cheka.2

    chelate (adj.)

    in zoology, "having pincer-like claws," 1826 as a term in zoology; 1920 in chemistry, from Modern Latin chela "claw" of a crab or lobster (from Greek khēlē "claw, talon, pincers, cloven hoof," a word of uncertain origin) + -ate (2). In chemistry from 1920. Related: Chelated; chelating; chelation.ETD chelate (adj.).2

    chelicerae (n.)

    piercing appendages in the proboscis of a scorpion or spider, 1831, plural of Modern Latin chelicera, from Greek khēlē "crab claw, talon, pincers; cloven hoof of cattle, horse's hoof," metaphorically "surgical forceps, hooked needle, crochet needle, notch of an arrow," a word of uncertain origin with no agreement on ulterior connections (according to Watkins, related to keras "horn," from PIE root *ker- (1) "horn; head"). Earlier chelicer (1835), from French chélicère.ETD chelicerae (n.).2

    cheliped (n.)

    "large, specialized chelate limb of a crustacean, great claw of a crab or lobster," 1859, Modern Latin, from chela "claw" (from Greek khēlē "claw, talon, pincers, cloven hoof," a word of uncertain origin) + Latin pod-, stem of pes "foot" (from PIE root *ped- "foot").ETD cheliped (n.).2


    district in southwest London, Chelchuthe (1300), Old English Chelchede (1086), Celchyth (789), Caelichyth (767), probably literally "chalk landing place," from Old English cealc "chalk" (see chalk (n.)) + hyth "landing place." Perhaps chalk or limestone was unloaded here from Chalk near Gravesend in Kent. Chelsea Hospital was founded 1680s by Charles II as a home for aged veterans.ETD Chelsea.2

    As a fem. proper name, not in the top 1,000 names in U.S. until 1969, then in the top 100 among girls born 1984 to 1998, peaking at number 15 in 1992.ETD Chelsea.3

    chemical (adj.)

    1570s, "relating to chemistry, pertaining to the phenomena with which chemistry deals," from chemic "of alchemy" (a worn-down derivative of Medieval Latin alchimicus; see alchemy) + -al (1). In early use also of alchemy. Related: Chemically. Chemical warfare is attested from 1917.ETD chemical (adj.).2

    chemical (n.)

    "a substance produced by a chemical process, a chemical agent," 1747, from chemical (adj.). Related: Chemicals.ETD chemical (n.).2

    chemise (n.)

    early Middle English kemes, from late Old English, cemes "shirt, undershirt," from Old French chemise "shirt, undertunic, shift," or directly from Late Latin camisia "shirt, tunic" (Jerome; also source of Italian camicia, Spanish camisa); originally a soldier's word, probably via Gaulish, from Proto-Germanic *hamithjan (source also of Old Frisian hemethe, Old Saxon hemithi, Old English hemeðe, German hemd "shirt"), which is of uncertain origin.ETD chemise (n.).2

    The French form took over in English after c. 1200, along with the specialized sense "woman's undergarment." In early 19c. in reference to a short, loose-fitting gown worn by women; in early 20c. to a dress hanging straight from the shoulders. Each of these might be a separate borrowing of the French word. Related: Chemisette.ETD chemise (n.).3

    chemist (n.)

    1560s, chymist, "alchemist," from French chimiste, from Medieval Latin chimista, reduced from alchimista (see alchemy). The modern spelling is from c. 1790. The meaning "chemical scientist, person versed in chemistry" is from 1620s; the looser meaning "dealer in medicinal drugs" is from 1745, mostly in British English.ETD chemist (n.).2

    chemistry (n.)

    c. 1600, "alchemy," from chemist + -ry; also see chemical (adj.). The meaning "natural physical process" is from 1640s; the sense of "scientific study of the composition of material things and the changes they undergo" is by 1788. Chemistry in the European mind disengaged itself from alchemy in the mid-1600s; The Academy del Cimento was established in Italy in 1657, the Royal Society in London in 1660, and the Academy of Sciences in Paris in 1666.ETD chemistry (n.).2

    The figurative sense of "instinctual attraction or affinity" is also attested by c. 1600, from the alchemical sense.ETD chemistry (n.).3


    before vowels chem-, word-forming element denoting "relation to chemical action or chemicals," from combining form of chemical (adj.), used to form scientific compound words from c. 1900. In 19c., chemico- was used.ETD chemo-.2

    chemosynthesis (n.)

    synthesis of organic material by living organisms involving non-organic chemicals (typically in the absence of sunlight), 1898; see chemo- + synthesis.ETD chemosynthesis (n.).2

    chemotaxis (n.)

    "disposition of microscopic organisms to move towards or away from certain chemicals," 1891, coined in German (1888) by German botanist Wilhelm Pfeffer from chemo- + Greek taxis "arrangement" (see tactics).ETD chemotaxis (n.).2

    chemotherapy (n.)

    "treatment of diseases by chemical substances," 1906, from German Chemotherapie, coined by German biochemist Paul Ehrlich (1854-1915), from chemo- + therapie (see therapy). Especially of cancer from 1950s; short form chemo attested by 1977.ETD chemotherapy (n.).2

    chenille (n.)

    "kind of velvety cord used in embroidery, fringes, etc.," 1738, from French chenille, properly "caterpillar," literally "little dog" (13c.), from Latin canicula "a dog" (also "a violent woman; the star Sirius; the worst throw in dice"), diminutive of canis "dog" (from PIE root *kwon- "dog"). So called for its furry look. Compare caterpillar.ETD chenille (n.).2

    cheque (n.)

    see check.ETD cheque (n.).2


    see checker (n.2).ETD chequer.2


    U.S. pop performer, born Cherilyn Sarkisian (1946). As a given name for girls in U.S., it hit a bump of popularity 1972-73 around the time she starred in a popular TV variety show.ETD Cher.2

    cherchez la femme

    French, literally "seek the woman," the reflexive notion that a woman or passion for one is behind whatever crime has been committed, first used by Alexandre Dumas père in "Les Mohicans de Paris" (1864) in the form cherchons la femme. French chercher is from Latin circare, in Late Latin "to wander hither and thither," from circus "circle" (see circus).ETD cherchez la femme.2

    cherish (v.)

    early 14c., cherischen, "hold as dear, treat with tenderness and affection," from Old French cheriss-, present-participle stem of chierir "to hold dear" (12c., Modern French chérir), from chier "dear," from Latin carus "dear, costly, beloved" (from PIE root *ka- "to like, desire"). The Latin word also is the source of Italian, Spanish, Portuguese caro; Old Provençal, Catalan car.ETD cherish (v.).2

    The meaning "indulge and encourage in the mind" is from late 14c. Related: Cherished; cherishing.ETD cherish (v.).3


    city in Ukraine (Ukrainian Chornobyl), from Russian chernobylnik "mugwort." Site of 1986 nuclear disaster.ETD Chernobyl.2

    chernozem (n.)

    "fertile black soil of Ukraine and southern Russia," 1842, from Russian chernozem, literally "black earth," from chernyi "black," from PIE *kers- "dark, dirty" (see Krishna) + zemlya "earth, soil" (from Old Russian zemi "land, earth," from PIE root *dhghem- "earth").ETD chernozem (n.).2


    native North American people, also their Iroquoian language, 1670s, Chorakae, from Cherokee tsaragi.ETD Cherokee.2

    cheroot (n.)

    "cigar," 1670s, probably from Portuguese charuto "cigar," from Tamil (Dravidian) curuttu "roll" (of tobacco), from curul "to roll." Originally a cigar from southern India or Manila in the Philippines; later a cigar of a certain shape.ETD cheroot (n.).2

    cherry (n.)

    pulpy drupe of a well-known type of tree, c. 1300, earlier in surname Chyrimuth (1266, literally "Cherry-mouth"); from Anglo-French cherise, from Old North French cherise (Old French, Modern French cerise, 12c.), from Vulgar Latin *ceresia, from late Greek kerasian "cherry," from Greek kerasos "cherry tree," which is possibly from a language of Asia Minor. Beekes writes, "As the improved cherry came from the Pontos area ..., the name is probably Anatolian as well."ETD cherry (n.).2

    It was mistaken in Middle English for a plural and stripped of its -s (compare pea). Old English had ciris "cherry" from a West Germanic borrowing of the Vulgar Latin word (cognate with German Kirsch), but it died out after the Norman invasion and was replaced by the French word.ETD cherry (n.).3

    Short for cherry-tree from 1620s. As an adjective, "of the color of a cherry," mid-15c.ETD cherry (n.).4

    The meaning "maidenhead, virginity" is by 1928, U.S. slang, from supposed resemblance to the hymen, but perhaps also from the long-time use of cherries as a symbol of the fleeting quality of life's pleasures (and compare English underworld slang cherry "young girl," attested from 1889). Cherry-bounce, popular name of a cordial made from fermented cherries, is from 1690s.ETD cherry (n.).5

    cherry-pick (v.)

    "to select the very best selfishly," 1959 (implied in cherry-picking), American English (Billboard magazine), a pejorative figurative sense, from cherry (n.) + pick (v.). Related: Cherry-picked. Cherry-picker as a name for a crane with a bucket for raising and lowering persons (as to pick cherries from a tree) is by 1961; earlier it was the name of a type of railroad crane.ETD cherry-pick (v.).2


    peninsula south of Thrace, from Greek khersonesos "peninsula," etymologically "island connected to the mainland," from khersos "dry land, mainland" + nēsos "island," also "(flooded) land near a river, alluvial land," which is of uncertain origin; traditionally from PIE root sna- "to swim," but this is now generally rejected. "As words for 'island' differ from language to language, [nēsos] is probably an Aegean loan (note that Lat. insula is also of unclear origin)" [Beekes]. Compare isle.ETD Chersonese.2

    Greek khersos is perhaps from PIE root *ghers- "to bristle" (see horror (n.)) if the Greek word first referred to "arid, stubbly land, and only later to land in opposition to water" [Beekes].ETD Chersonese.3

    chert (n.)

    "flint-like quartz," 1670s, a word of unknown origin. Apparently "a local term, which has been taken into geological use" [OED].ETD chert (n.).2

    cherub (n.)

    late 14c. as an order of angels, from Late Latin cherub, from Greek kheroub, from Hebrew kerubh (plural kerubhim) "winged angel," which according to Klein is perhaps related to Akkadian karubu "to bless," karibu "one who blesses," an epithet of the bull-colossus. Old English had cerubin, from the Greek plural. But there are other theories:ETD cherub (n.).2

    The meaning "beautiful child" is from 1705. The plural in this sense is cherubs.ETD cherub (n.).3

    cherubic (adj.)

    "pertaining to or resembling a cherub," 1620s, from cherub + -ic. Earlier was cherubical (c. 1600).ETD cherubic (adj.).2

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