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

    mendelevium (n.) — meritless (adj.)

    mendelevium (n.)

    artificial trans-uranic element, 1955, Modern Latin, in honor of Russian chemist Dmitri Ivanovich Mendeleev (1834-1907). With metallic element ending -ium.ETD mendelevium (n.).2

    mender (n.)

    "one who or that which repairs or mends," late 14c., agent noun from mend (v.). Originally especially "one who corrects what is wrong, a moral guide."ETD mender (n.).2


    Proto-Indo-European root meaning "to learn." It forms all or part of: chrestomathy; mathematic; mathematical; mathematics; opsimathy; polymath.ETD *mendh-.2

    It is the hypothetical source of/evidence for its existence is provided by: Greek menthere "to care," manthanein "to learn," mathēma "science, knowledge, mathematical knowledge;" Lithuanian mandras "wide-awake;" Old Church Slavonic madru "wise, sage;" Gothic mundonsis "to look at," German munter "awake, lively."ETD *mendh-.3

    mendicity (n.)

    "beggary," c. 1400, mendicite, from Old French mendicite "begging," from Latin mendicitatem (nominative mendicitas) "beggary" (see mendicant (adj.) ).ETD mendicity (n.).2

    mendicancy (n.)

    "state or condition of beggary, act of begging," 1758, from mendicant + abstract noun suffix -cy. Also in this sense was mendicity (c. 1400), from Old French mendicité "begging," from Latin mendicitatem (nominative mendicitas) "beggary, mendicity."ETD mendicancy (n.).2

    mendicant (adj.)

    "practicing beggary, living by alms or doles" (in reference to orders of friars), late 15c., mendicaunt, from Latin mendicantem (nominative mendicans) present participle of mendicare "to beg, ask alms," from mendicus "beggar," originally "cripple" (connection via cripples who must beg), from menda "fault, physical defect," from PIE root *mend- "physical defect, fault" (see amend (v.)).ETD mendicant (adj.).2

    Meaning "reduced to beggary, begging" is from 1610s. The older word in Middle English in relation to religious orders was mendinant (mid-14c.), from Old French mendinant, present participle of mendiner "to beg," from the same Latin source. The mendicant orders (freurs mendicantes or begging friars, principally the Franciscans, the Carmelites, and the Augustinians) were those religious orders which originally depended for support on the alms they received.ETD mendicant (adj.).3

    mendicant (n.)

    "a beggar, one who lives by asking alms," late 14c., from Latin mendicantem (nominative mendicans), noun use of present participle of mendicare "to beg, ask alms" (see mendicant (adj.)).ETD mendicant (n.).2

    Mendoza line (n.)

    in baseball, "a low batting average," (somewhere around .200) with the suggestion that any player hitting below it ought to feel a bit ashamed, by 1984, said to have been in humorous use in baseball clubhouses c. 1979, from the name of former Pirate, Mariner, and Ranger shortstop Mario Mendoza, who was noted for his defense but whose .215 lifetime batting average routinely left him at the bottom of weekly batting averages. The surname is Basque.ETD Mendoza line (n.).2


    king of Sparta, husband of Helen, brother of Agamemnon, Latinized form of Greek Menelaos, literally "restraining the people," from menein "to stay, abide, remain" + laos "people" (see lay (adj.)).ETD Menelaus.2

    menfolk (n.)

    also men-folk, colloquial, "the men of a household or community collectively; the male sex, men generally," by 1802, from men + folk (n.). Related: men-folks.ETD menfolk (n.).2

    menhaden (n.)

    kind of herring-like fish abundant off the East Coast of the U.S., 1792, from Algonquian (probably Narragansett) munnawhateaug (noted from 1643), literally "they fertilize," because the abundant little fishes were used by the Indians as fertilizer. Century Dictionary reports it had at least 30 different popular names.ETD menhaden (n.).2

    menhir (n.)

    "ancient upright monumental stone," very abundant in Brittany but also found in other places, 1834, from French menhir (19c.), from Breton, literally "long stone," from men "stone" + hir "long," from PIE *se-ro-, from root *se- "long, late" (see soiree). Cognate with Welsh maen hir, Cornish medn hir.ETD menhir (n.).2

    menial (n.)

    "a domestic servant, one of a body of household servants," late 14c., meynyal; see menial (adj.).ETD menial (n.).2

    menial (adj.)

    late 14c., "pertaining to a household," from Anglo-French meignial, from Old French mesnie "household," earlier mesnede, from Vulgar Latin *mansionata, from Latin mansionem "dwelling" (see mansion). Compare Middle English meine "a household, household servants" (c. 1300; also "chessmen"), from Anglo-French meine, Old French maisniee. From early 15c. as "belonging to a retinue or train of servants." Sense of "lowly, humble, servile, suited to a servant" is recorded by 1670s.ETD menial (adj.).2

    meninges (n.)

    plural of meninx, 1610s, "one of the three membranes enveloping the brain and spinal cord," from French meninges (1530s) or directly from medical Latin meninx, from Greek meninx (genitive meningos) "membrane," in medical Latin especially that of the brain (see member).ETD meninges (n.).2

    meningitis (n.)

    "inflammation of the membranes of the brain or spinal cord," 1825, coined from Modern Latin meninga, from Greek meninx (genitive meningos) "membrane," in medical Latin especially that of the brain (see member) + -itis "inflammation." Related: Meningitic.ETD meningitis (n.).2

    meningeal (adj.)

    "of or pertaining to the meninges," 1802, from Modern Latin meningeus, from meninx "membrane of the brain" (from Greek meninx "membrane," used in medical Latin for "membrane of the brain;" see member) + -al (1).ETD meningeal (adj.).2

    meniscus (n.)

    "a crescent or crescent-shaped body," 1690s in reference to lenses convex on one side, concave on the other, and thicker in the middle; c. 1812 in reference to liquid surfaces, Modern Latin meniscus, from Greek meniskos "lunar crescent," diminutive of mene "moon" (see moon (n.)). Related: Meniscoid; mensicoidal; mensical; mensicate.ETD meniscus (n.).2

    Mennonite (n.)

    member of a German Anabaptist sect, 1560s, from name of Menno Simons (1492-1559), founder of the sect in Friesland and chief exponent of its doctrines (adult baptism, refusal of oaths, civic offices, and support of the state in war), + -ite (1). As an adjective by 1727. Alternative form Mennonist (n.) is attested from 1640s.ETD Mennonite (n.).2


    also Menomini, Algonquian people of Wisconsin, also of their language, from Ojibwa (Algonquian) Manoominii, literally "wild rice people," from manoomin "wild rice." Not their name for themselves.ETD Menominee.2

    menopausal (adj.)

    1879, from menopause + -al (1).ETD menopausal (adj.).2

    menopause (n.)

    "the final cessation of the monthly courses of women," 1852 (from 1845 as a French word in English), from French ménopause, from medical Latin menopausis, from Greek mēn (genitive mēnos) "month" (from PIE *mehnes- "moon, month," from root *me- (2) "to measure," via the notion of the moon as the measurer of time) + pausis "a cessation, a pause," from pauein "to cause to cease," a word of uncertain etymology with no certain cognates outside Greek [Beekes]. Earlier it was change of life (1834).ETD menopause (n.).2

    menorah (n.)

    "seven-branched candelabrum used in Jewish rituals and as a symbol of Judaism," 1886, from Hebrew menorah "candlestick," from Semitic stem n-w-r "to give light, shine" (compare Arabic nar "fire," manarah "candlestick, lighthouse, tower of a mosque," see minaret).ETD menorah (n.).2

    menses (n.)

    "monthly discharge of blood from the uterus," 1590s, from Latin menses, plural of mensis "month" (see moon (n.)).ETD menses (n.).2

    mensa (n.)

    "altar top," 1848, Latin, literally "table," also "meal, supper," and "altar, sacrificial table," hence used in Church Latin for "upper slab of a church altar" (see mesa). With a capital M-, the name of an organization for people of IQs of 148 or more founded in England in 1946, the name chosen, according to the organization, to suggest a "round table" type group. The constellation (1763) originally was Mons Mensae "Table Mountain." It is the faintest constellation in the sky, with no star brighter than magnitude 5.0.ETD mensa (n.).2

    mensal (adj.1)

    "monthly," 1860, from Latin mensis "month" (see moon (n.)) + -al (1).ETD mensal (adj.1).2

    mensal (adj.2)

    "pertaining to or used at a table," mid-15c., from Late Latin mensalis, from Latin mensa "table" (see mesa).ETD mensal (adj.2).2

    mensch (n.)

    "person of strength and honor," 1907, from Yiddish, from German Mensch, literally "man, person," from Old High German mennisco "human," from Proto-Germanic adjective *manniska- "human," from *manna- (from PIE root *man- (1) "man"). Middle English had cognate menske "honor, reputation" (c. 1200, from Old Norse mennska "human nature"), which, as modern mense "propriety, decorum," lingered in Scottish and North of England dialect long enough to be in Scott and Burns.ETD mensch (n.).2

    Menshevik (adj.)

    1907, from Russian men'shevik, from men'she "lesser" (comparative of malo "little," from PIE root *mei- (2) "small") + -evik "one that is." So called by Lenin because they were a minority in the party. The Russian word was used earlier in reference to the minority faction of the Social-Democratic Party when it split in 1903. See Bolshevik. As a noun from 1917. Russian plural mensheviki occasionally was used in English. Related: Menshevism; Menshevist.ETD Menshevik (adj.).2

    mens rea

    "state of mind accompanying an act which condemns the perpetrator to criminal punishment," Latin, literally "guilty mind;" from mens "mind," from PIE root *men- (1) "to think."ETD mens rea.2

    mens sana in corpore sano

    c. 1600, Latin, literally "a sound mind in a sound body," a line found in Juvenal, "Satires," x.356.ETD mens sana in corpore sano.2

    menstrual (adj.)

    late 14c., "pertaining to menses of females," from Old French menstruel and directly from Latin menstrualis "monthly," especially "of or having monthly courses," from menstruus "of a month, every month, monthly, pertaining to a month," from mensis "month" (see moon (n.)). Occasionally, in astronomy, "monthly" (1590s).ETD menstrual (adj.).2

    menstruate (v.)

    1680s, "pollute with menstrual blood" (transitive), a sense now rare or obsolete; 1752 as "to discharge the menses," probably a back-formation from menstruation, or else from Latin menstruatus, past participle of menstruare, from menstruus "monthly," from mensis "month" (see moon (n.)). Related: Menstruated; menstruating.ETD menstruate (v.).2

    menstruation (n.)

    "the period of menstruation," 1680s, from past-participle stem of Late Latin menstruare, from menstruus "monthly" (from mensis "month;" see moon (n.)) + -ation. Old English equivalent was monaðblot "month-blood." Middle English had menstrue (n.), late 14c., from Old French menstrue, from Latin menstruum.ETD menstruation (n.).2

    menstruous (adj.)

    "having the monthly flow or discharge," early 15c., from Old French menstrueus and directly from Medieval Latin *menstruosus, from Latin menstruum "of or belonging to menstruation," from menstruus (adj.) "that happens every month, monthly," from mensis "month" (see moon (n.)).ETD menstruous (adj.).2

    mensural (adj.)

    c. 1600, in music, "having a fixed measure;" 1650s, "pertaining to measure, measurable," from Medieval Latin mensuralis, from Latin mensura "a measuring, a measurement; thing to measure by," from mensus, past participle of metiri "to measure," from PIE root *me- (2) "to measure."ETD mensural (adj.).2

    mensurable (adj.)

    "capable of being measured," late 14c., from Medieval Latin mensurabilis "able to be measured," from mensurare "to measure," from Latin mensura "a measuring, a measurement; thing to measure by," from mensus, past participle of metiri "to measure," from PIE root *me- (2) "to measure." Related: Mensurably; mensurability.ETD mensurable (adj.).2


    common suffix of Latin origin forming nouns, originally from French and representing Latin -mentum, which was added to verb stems to make nouns indicating the result or product of the action of the verb or the means or instrument of the action. In Vulgar Latin and Old French it came to be used as a formative in nouns of action. French inserts an -e- between the verbal root and the suffix (as in commenc-e-ment from commenc-er; with verbs in ir, -i- is inserted instead (as in sent-i-ment from sentir).ETD -ment.2

    Used with English verb stems from 16c. (for example amazement, betterment, merriment, the last of which also illustrates the habit of turning -y to -i- before this suffix).ETD -ment.3

    mental (adj.)

    early 15c., "in, of, or pertaining to the mind; characteristic of the intellect," from Late Latin mentalis "of the mind," from Latin mens (genitive mentis) "mind," from PIE root *men- (1) "to think."ETD mental (adj.).2

    In Middle English, also "of the soul, spiritual." From 1520s as "done or performed in the mind." Meaning "crazy, deranged" is by 1927, probably from combinations such as mental patient (1859); mental hospital (1891). Mental health is attested by 1803; mental illness by 1819; mental retardation by 1904.ETD mental (adj.).3

    mentality (n.)

    1690s, "mental action or power," from mental (adj.) + -ity. The sense of "intellectual activity" is by 1856; that of "mental character or disposition" is by 1895.ETD mentality (n.).2

    mentally (adv.)

    early 15c., "intellectually, in the mind," from mental + -ly (2). In Middle English also "spiritually, in the soul."ETD mentally (adv.).2

    mentalist (n.)

    1782, "one devoted to mental pleasures," from mental + -ist. Originally in reference to artistic taste; philosophical sense "one who believes matter in ultimate analysis is a mode of mind or consciousness" (from mentalism) is from 1900. Related: Mentalistic.ETD mentalist (n.).2

    mentation (n.)

    "mental function, the action or exercise of the mind" 1839, from Latin ment-, stem of mens "mind" (from PIE root *men- (1) "to think") + -ation. Also "a state of mind."ETD mentation (n.).2

    mentholated (adj.)

    of cigarettes, 1933, an advertiser's word, from menthol + -ate (2).ETD mentholated (adj.).2

    menthol (n.)

    white crystalline substance, 1862, from German Menthol, coined 1861 by Alphons Oppenheim from Latin mentha "mint" (see mint (n.1)) + oleum "oil" (see oil (n.)). So called because it was first obtained from oil of peppermint. Menthol cigarette is by 1934.ETD menthol (n.).2

    mentionable (adj.)

    "that can be or is worthy to be mentioned," 1630s, from mention (v.) + -able.ETD mentionable (adj.).2

    mention (n.)

    c. 1300, mencioun, "a note, a reference, a calling to mind by speech or writing," from Old French mencion "mention, memory, speech," from Latin mentionem (nominative mentio) "a calling to mind, a speaking of, a making mention," from root of Old Latin minisci "to think," related to mens (genitive mentis) "mind," from PIE root *men- (1) "to think." From late 15c. as "statement about or in reference to a person or thing," which by mid-18c. had diminished to "incidental or casual reference," though in military use a mention in the dispatches remained an important thing.ETD mention (n.).2

    mention (v.)

    "make mention of, speak of briefly or cursorily," 1520s, from mention (n.) or else from French mentionner, from Old French mencion. Related: Mentioned; mentioning. Not to mention as a "rhetorical suggestion that the speaker is refraining from presenting the full strength of his case" [OED] is by 1690s. Don't mention it as a conventional reply to expressions of gratitude or apology is attested from 1840.ETD mention (v.).2

    mentor (v.)

    "serve as a mentor to," 1888, from mentor (n.). Related: Mentored; mentoring.ETD mentor (v.).2

    mentor (n.)

    "wise adviser, intimate friend who also is a sage counselor," especially to one who is young or inexperienced, 1750, from Greek Mentor, in the Odyssey" the name of the friend of Odysseus and adviser of Telemachus (but often actually Athene appearing in disguise).ETD mentor (n.).2

    The name perhaps ultimately means "adviser," because in form it is an agent noun of mentos "intent, purpose, spirit, passion" from PIE *mon-eyo- (source also of Sanskrit man-tar- "one who thinks," Latin mon-i-tor "one who admonishes"), causative form of root *men- (1) "to think" [Watkins]. Compare monitor (n.).ETD mentor (n.).3

    Often capitalized, even in the general sense, into mid-19c. The general use of the word probably is via later popular romances, in which Mentor played a larger part than he does in Homer. Related: Mentorship.ETD mentor (n.).4

    menu (n.)

    1837, "detailed list of dishes to be served at a banquet or meal," from French menu de repas "list of what is served at a meal," from French menu (adj.) "small, detailed" (11c.), from Latin minutus "small," literally "made smaller," past participle of minuere "to diminish," from root of minus "to diminish" (from PIE root *mei- (2) "small"). Computer sense of "list of options displayed on a screen" is by 1967, from the expanded sense of "any detailed list," which is attested by 1889.ETD menu (n.).2

    meow (n.)

    representation of cat sound, 1842, earlier miaow, miau, meaw (1630s). Of imitative origin, compare French miaou, German miauen, Persian maw, Japanese nya nya, Arabic nau-nau, and Joyce's mrkgnao. In Chinese, miau means "cat." As a verb in English by 1630s, meaw, also meawle. Compare Old French miauer "to meow, caterwaul." Related: Meowed; meowing.ETD meow (n.).2


    shortened form of Mephistopheles.ETD Mephisto.2


    1590s, Mephastophilus, the name of the evil spirit to whom Faust sold his soul in the old legend, from German (1587), a word of unknown origin. The older, Greek-like form is apparently a folk-etymology. According to the speculation of eminent Göthe scholar K.J. Schröer (1886) it is a compound of Hebrew mephitz "destroyer" + tophel "liar" (short for tophel sheqer, literally "falsehood plasterer;" see Job xiii.4). Klein writes that the names of devils in the Middle Ages "are in most cases derived from Hebrew." Related: Mephistophelian.ETD Mephistopheles.2

    mephitic (adj.)

    1620s, "of poisonous smell, foul, noxious," from Late Latin mephiticus, from Latin mephitis, mefitis "noxious vapor, a pestilential exhalation, especially from the earth" (also personified as a goddess believed to have the power to avert it), an Italic word of uncertain origin. English use of mephitis is attested from 1706.ETD mephitic (adj.).2


    Proto-Indo-European root meaning "to rub away, harm." Possibly identical with the root *mer- that means "to die" and forms words referring to death and to beings subject to death.ETD *mer-.2

    It forms all or part of: amaranth; ambrosia; amortize; Amritsar; immortal; manticore; marasmus; mare (n.3) "night-goblin, incubus;" morbid; mordacious; mordant; moribund; morsel; mort (n.2) "note sounded on a horn at the death of the quarry;" mortal; mortality; mortar; mortgage; mortify; mortmain; mortuary; murder; murrain; nightmare; post-mortem; remorse.ETD *mer-.3

    It is the hypothetical source of/evidence for its existence is provided by: Sanskrit mrnati "crushes, bruises," mriyate "to kill," martave "to die," mrta- "died, dead," mrtih "death," martah "mortal man," amrta- "immortal;" Avestan miriia- "to die," miryeite "dies," Old Persian martiya- "man;" Hittite mer- "to disappear, vanish," marnu- "to make disappear;" Armenian meranim "to die;" Greek marainein "to consume, exhaust, put out, quench," marasmus "consumption," emorten "died," brotos "mortal" (hence ambrotos "immortal"); Latin mors (genitive mortis) "death," mori "to die;" Armenian merani- "to die;" Gothic maurþr, Old English morþ "murder;" Old Irish marb, Welsh marw "dead;" Lithuanian mirti "to die," mirtis "death;" Old Church Slavonic mreti "to die," mrutvu "dead;" Russian mertvyj, Serbo-Croatian mrtav "dead."ETD *mer-.4


    in reference to the Mercalli scale, expressing the intensity of an earthquake at a given place, 1900, named for Italian geologist Giuseppe Mercalli (1850-1914), who invented it ("I Terremoti della Liguria e del Piemonte," Naples, 1897). It was a modification of the Rossi-Forel scale (1883).ETD Mercalli.2

    mercantile (adj.)

    "of or pertaining to merchants, trade, or commerce," 1640s, from French mercantile (17c.), from Italian mercantile, from Medieval Latin mercantile, from Latin mercantem (nominative mercans) "a merchant," also "trading," present participle of mercari "to trade," from merx "wares, merchandise" (see market (n.)). Mercantile system first appears in Adam Smith (1776).ETD mercantile (adj.).2

    mercantilism (n.)

    "a mercantile spirit or character; devotion (or excess devotion) to trade and commerce," 1834, from French mercantilisme; see mercantile + -ism. By 1881 as "the mercantile system." Related: Mercantilist; mercantilistic.ETD mercantilism (n.).2


    type of map projection, 1660s, invented by Flemish geographer Gerhard Kremer (1512-1594), who Latinized his surname, which means "dealer, tradesman," as Mercator (see merchant). He first used this type of map projection in 1568. Its great distortions in the northern and southern regions renders it unsuitable for land maps, but as on it a constant compass bearing always is represented by a straight line, it is useful for sea maps.ETD Mercator.2


    fem. proper name, from Spanish, abbreviation of Maria de las Mercedes "Mary of the Mercies," from plural of merced "mercy, grace," from Latin mercedem (nominative merces) "hire, pay, wage, salary; rent, income; a price for anything;" see mercy. The early Christians gave a spiritual meaning to the purely financial classical senses of the Latin word, which also, in its original senses, entered Middle English as mercede "wages" (late 14c.).ETD Mercedes.2


    motorcar brand first marketed 1926 after merger of two earlier companies. The first part of the name, Mercedes, marketed as a car name from 1901, was chosen by Austrian manufacturer Emil Jellinek for his daughter, Mercedes (1889-1929). The Benz is from the other company, from name of Karl Benz, creator of the Benz Patent Motorwagen (1886). The surname is built from a familiar form of Berthold, Benedict, or Bernhard.ETD Mercedes-Benz.2

    mercenary (n.)

    late 14c., mercenarie, "one who works only for hire, one who has no higher motive to work than love of gain," from Old French mercenaire "mercenary, hireling" (13c.) and directly from Latin mercenarius "one who does anything for pay," literally "hired, paid," from merces (genitive mercedis) "pay, reward, wages," from merx "wares, merchandise" (see market (n.)). Specifically "a professional soldier in foreign service" by mid-17c.ETD mercenary (n.).2

    mercenary (adj.)

    "working or acting for reward, serving only for gain," hence "resulting from sordid motives, ready to accept dishonorable gain," 1530s, from mercenary (n.), or in part from Latin mercenarius "hired, paid, serving for pay."ETD mercenary (adj.).2

    mercer (n.)

    "dealer in small wares or merchandise of any sort," also, specifically, "dealer in textiles or clothes of any sort, especially silk," c. 1200 (late 12c. as a surname), from Old French mercier "shopkeeper, tradesman," from Vulgar Latin *merciarius, from Latin merx "wares, merchandise" (see market (n.)). Related: Mercery.ETD mercer (n.).2

    merchandizer (n.)

    also merchandiser, "a dealer in merchandise," 1590s, agent noun from merchandize (v.).ETD merchandizer (n.).2

    merchandize (v.)

    also merchandise, late 14c., "to buy and sell, to engage in commerce," from merchandise (v.). The original sense was obsolete by late 19c. Meaning "to promote the sale of goods" is from 1926. Related: Merchandising; merchandizing.ETD merchandize (v.).2

    merchandizing (n.)

    late 14c., marchaundising, "goods, commodities, mercantile business," verbal noun from merchandize (v.). Meaning "trade, commerce" is from mid-15c. That of "promotion of goods for sale, activities meant to stimulate interest in products" is by 1910.ETD merchandizing (n.).2

    merchandise (n.)

    mid-13c., marchaundise, "trading, commerce, action or business of buying and selling goods or commodities for profit;" mid-14c., "commodities of commerce; wares, movable objects, and articles for sale or trade," from Anglo-French marchaundise, Old French marcheandise "goods, merchandise; trade, business" (12c.), from marchaunt "merchant" (see merchant). The plural had become obsolete in English by late 19c.ETD merchandise (n.).2

    merchant (n.)

    "one engaged in the business of buying commercial commodities and selling them again for profit," early 13c., marchaunt (late 12c. as a surname), from Anglo-French marchaunt "merchant, shopkeeper" (Old French marcheant, Modern French marchand), from Vulgar Latin *mercatantem (nominative *mercatans) "a buyer," present participle of *mercatare, frequentative of Latin mercari "to trade, traffic, deal in" (see market (n.)). Meaning "fellow, chap" is from 1540s; with a specific qualifier, and suggesting someone who deals in it (such as speed merchant "one who enjoys fast driving," by 1914).ETD merchant (n.).2

    merchant (adj.)

    "relating to trade or commerce; pertaining to merchants," c. 1400, from merchant (n.) and from Old French marcheant (adj.).ETD merchant (adj.).2

    merchantman (n.)

    "a ship employed in the transportation of goods," 1620s, from merchant + man.ETD merchantman (n.).2

    mercy (n.)

    late 12c., "God's forgiveness of his creatures' offenses," from Old French mercit, merci (9c.) "reward, gift; kindness, grace, pity," from Latin mercedem (nominative merces) "reward, wages, pay, hire" (in Vulgar Latin "favor, pity;" in Medieval Latin "thanks; grace"), from merx (genitive mercis) "wares, merchandise" (see market (n.)). In Church Latin (6c.) it was given a specific application to the heavenly reward earned by those who show kindness to the helpless and those from whom no requital can be expected.ETD mercy (n.).2

    Meaning "disposition to forgive or show compassion" is attested from early 13c. Sense of "an act or exercise of forbearance or good will" is from c. 1300. As an interjection, attested from mid-13c. (short for may God have mercy, have mercy on me, etc.). Many of the English senses are found earlier in French, but in French the word largely has been superseded by miséricorde except as a word of thanks. Sense of "discretionary action" (as in at (one's) mercy) is from mid-14c. Seat of mercy "golden covering of the Ark of the Covenant" (1530), hence "the throne of God," is Tyndale's loan-translation of Luther's gnadenstuhl, an inexact translation of Latin propitiatorium, ultimately a rendering of Hebrew kapporeth, literally "propitiatory."ETD mercy (n.).3

    merciful (adj.)

    "exercising forbearance or pity; characterized by mercy, giving relief from danger, need, or suffering," mid-14c., from mercy + -ful. The earlier word was merciable (c. 1200). Related: Mercifully; mercifulness.ETD merciful (adj.).2


    Anglo-Saxon kingdom of the Midlands, Latinized from Old English Mierce "men of the Marches," from mearc (see march (n.2)). Related: Mercian. Mercian law (Medieval Latin Lex Merciorum, Middle English Mercene laue, mid-12c.) was the law code of the Anglo-Saxon kingdom of Mercia (perhaps codified by Offa, but it survives only in fragments quoted in later English laws). Eight shires in the old Mercia still were governed under it in Middle English times, and the laws of William the Conqueror and Henry I set different penalties for breaches of the peace between the Mercian law, the Dane law, and the West Saxon law. Through some whim or error, Geoffrey of Monmouth and other later Middle English writers invented a British queen, Marcia, and attributed the laws to her.ETD Mercia.2

    merciless (adj.)

    late 14c., "unfeeling, pitiless, cruel," from mercy + -less. Sense of "relentless" is from early 15c.; of inanimate things, from 1580s. Related: Mercilessly; mercilessness.ETD merciless (adj.).2

    mercuric (adj.)

    1828, in chemistry, "relating to or containing mercury," from mercury + -ic. Specifically applied to compounds in which each atom of mercury is regarded as bivalent. Mercurous (1840) is applied to those in which two atoms of mercury are regarded as forming a bivalent radical.ETD mercuric (adj.).2

    mercurial (adj.)

    late 14c., "pertaining to or under the influence of the planet Mercury," from Latin Mercurialis, from Mercurius (see Mercury). Meaning "pertaining to the god Mercury, having the form or qualities attributed to Mercury" (in reference to his role as god of trade or as herald and guide) is from 1590s. Meaning "light-hearted, sprightly, volatile, changeable, quick" (1640s) is from the qualities supposed to characterize those born under the planet Mercury (they also are the qualities of the god Mercury), probably also partly by association with the qualities of quicksilver. A variant in this sense was mercurious (1590s). Related: Mercurially; mercuriality.ETD mercurial (adj.).2

    mercury (n.)

    silver-white fluid metallic element, late 14c., from Medieval Latin mercurius, from Latin Mercurius (see Mercury). Prepared in ancient times from cinnabar, it was one of the seven metals (bodies terrestrial) known to the ancients, which were coupled in astrology and alchemy with the seven known heavenly bodies. This one probably was associated with the planet for its mobility. The others were Sun/gold, Moon/silver, Mars/iron, Saturn/lead, Jupiter/tin, Venus/copper.ETD mercury (n.).2

    The Greek name for it was hydrargyros "liquid silver," which gives the element its symbol, Hg. Compare quicksilver, which is its popular name. It has a freezing point of -39° C. The use of the word in reference to temperature or state of the atmosphere (by 1756) is from its use in thermometers and barometers.ETD mercury (n.).3


    "the Roman god Mercury," herald and ambassador of his father, Jupiter, mid-12c., Mercurie, from Latin Mercurius "Mercury," originally a god of tradesmen and thieves, from merx "merchandise" (see market (n.)); or perhaps [Klein, Tucker] from Etruscan and influenced by merx. De Vaan thinks it possible the whole stem *merk- was borrowed and the god-name with it.ETD Mercury.2

    Mercury later was identified with Greek Hermes and still later with Germanic Woden. From his role as a messenger and conveyor of information, since mid-17c. Mercury has been a common name for a newspaper.ETD Mercury.3

    The planet closest to the sun was so called in classical Latin (c. 1300 in English). A hypothetical inhabitant of the planet was a Mercurean (1855) or a Mercurian (1755). For the metallic element, see mercury.ETD Mercury.4

    In U.S. numismatics, the Mercury-head dime (so called by 1941) was in circulation from 1916; properly it is the female head of Liberty, in her characteristic cap, here winged to symbolize freedom of thought. But the resemblance to Mercury was noted in coin circles at once, and the coin design sometimes was popularly mistaken as the head of Mercury, Roman god of making money and thieving, in his winged hat. It was so-called in 1933 in newspaper articles calling attention to the fasces on the reverse. The coin is more correctly the Winged Liberty-head dime (simple Liberty-head dime being a designation of the previous design). The design was replaced in 1946, which made it necessary for it to have an agreed-upon specifying name.ETD Mercury.5

    merde (n.)

    also merd, "dung, excrement," late 15c., from Old French merde "feces, excrement, dirt" (13c.), from Latin merda "dung, ordure, excrement." De Vaan compares Lithuanian smirdėti "to stink," Latvian smards "smell, odor," dialectal Russian smorod, Ukrainian smorid, genitive smorodu "stink," from a PIE *smerdh- "stench." Merd was naturalized in English through 17c., but subsequently lost and since mid-19c. (and especially since World War I) it has been generally treated as a French word when used in English.ETD merde (n.).2

    merdivorous (adj.)

    "feeding upon dung," 1856, from Modern Latin, from Latin merda "dung, excrement" (see merde) + -vorous. Perhaps based in French merdivores (by 1830).ETD merdivorous (adj.).2

    mere (n.1)

    "pool, small lake, pond," from Old English mere "sea, ocean; lake, pool, pond, cistern," from Proto-Germanic *mari (source also of Old Norse marr, Old Saxon meri "sea," Middle Dutch maer, Dutch meer "lake, sea, pool," Old High German mari, German Meer "sea," Gothic marei "sea," mari-saiws "lake"), from PIE root *mori- "body of water." The larger sense of "sea, arm of the sea" has been obsolete since Middle English. Century Dictionary reports it "Not used in the U.S. except artificially in some local names, in imitation of British names."ETD mere (n.1).2

    merely (adv.)

    mid-15c., "solely, only, and nothing more," from mere (adj.) + -ly (2).ETD merely (adv.).2

    mere (n.2)

    "boundary line" (between kingdoms, estates, fields, etc.), now surviving in provincial use or place names, but once an important word, from Old English mære "boundary, object indicating a boundary," from Proto-Germanic *mairjo- (source also of Middle Dutch mere "boundary mark, stake," Old Norse -mæri "boundary, border-land"), related to Latin murus "wall" (see mural (n.)).ETD mere (n.2).2

    Hence merestone "stone serving as a landmark" (Old English mærstan); mere-stake "pole or tree standing as a mark or boundary" (1620s); meresman "man appointed to find boundaries" (of a parish, etc.). In Middle English meres of erthe (c. 1400) was "the ends of the earth."ETD mere (n.2).3

    mere (adj.)

    late 14c., of a voice, "pure, clear;" mid-15c., of abstract things, "absolute, sheer;" from Old French mier "pure" (of gold), "entire, total, complete," and directly from Latin merus "unmixed" (of wine), "pure; bare, naked;" figuratively "true, real, genuine," according to some sources probably originally "clear, bright," from PIE *mer- "to gleam, glimmer, sparkle" (source also of Old English amerian "to purify," Old Irish emer "not clear," Sanskrit maricih "ray, beam," Greek marmarein "to gleam, glimmer"). But de Vaan writes "there is no compelling reason to derive 'pure' from 'shining,'" and compares Hittite marri "just so, gratuitously," and suggests the source is a PIE *merH-o- "remaining, pure."ETD mere (adj.).2

    The English sense of "nothing less than, in the fullest sense absolute" (mid-15c., surviving now only in vestiges such as mere folly) existed for centuries alongside the apparently opposite sense of "nothing more than" (1580s, as in a mere dream).ETD mere (adj.).3

    merengue (n.)

    popular dance, 1936, from Haitian or Dominican Creole méringue, from French méringue (see meringue), perhaps on the notion of "a mixture."ETD merengue (n.).2

    meretricious (adj.)

    1620s, "pertaining to harlots," from Latin meretricius "of or pertaining to prostitutes," from meretrix (genitive meretricis) "prostitute," literally "woman who earns money," from merere, mereri "to earn, gain" (from PIE root *(s)mer- (2) "to get a share of something"). Meaning "gaudily alluring, alluring by false attractions" is from 1630s. Related: Meretriciously; meretriciousness.ETD meretricious (adj.).2

    merge (v.)

    1630s, "to plunge or sink in" (to something), a sense now obsolete, from Latin mergere "to dip, dip in, immerse, plunge," probably rhotacized from *mezgo, from PIE *mezgo- "to dip, to sink, to wash, to plunge" (source also of Sanskrit majjanti "to sink, dive under," Lithuanian mazgoju, mazgoti, Latvian mazgat "to wash").ETD merge (v.).2

    Intransitive meaning "sink or disappear into something else, be swallowed up, lose identity" is from 1726, in the specific legal sense of "absorb an estate, contract, etc. into another." Transitive sense of "cause to be absorbed or to disappear in something else" is from 1728. Related: Merged; merging. As a noun, from 1805.ETD merge (v.).3


    Proto-Indo-European root meaning "boundary, border."ETD *merg-.2

    It forms all or part of: Cymric; demarcation; Denmark; emarginate; landmark; march (v.) "walk with regular tread;" march (n.2) "boundary;" marchioness; margin; margrave; mark (n.1) "trace, impression;" mark (n.2) "unit of money or weight;" marque; marquee; marquetry; marquis; remark; remarkable.ETD *merg-.3

    It is the hypothetical source of/evidence for its existence is provided by: Latin margo "margin;" Avestan mareza- "border;" Old Irish mruig, Irish bruig "borderland," Welsh bro "district;" Old English mearc "boundary, sign, limit, mark," Gothic marka "boundary, frontier."ETD *merg-.4

    merganser (n.)

    genus of duck-like water birds of the northern hemisphere, 1752, coined in Modern Latin (1550s), from Latin mergus "waterfowl, diver" (from mergere "to dip, immerse;" see merge (v.)) + anser "goose" (see goose (n.)).ETD merganser (n.).2

    merger (n.)

    1728 in legal sense, "extinguishment by absorption," originally of real estate titles, from merge (v.), on analogy of French infinitives used as nouns (see waiver). From 1889 in the business sense "extinguishment of a security for a debt by the creditor's acceptance of a higher security;" not common until c. 1926. General meaning "any act of merging" is by 1881.ETD merger (n.).2

    meridian (n.)

    mid-14c., "noon, midday," from Old French meridien "of the noon time, midday; the meridian; a southerner" (12c.), and directly from Latin meridianus "of midday, of noon, southerly, to the south," from meridies "noon, south," from meridie "at noon," altered by dissimilation from pre-Latin *medi die, locative of medius "mid-" (from PIE root *medhyo- "middle") + dies "day" (from PIE root *dyeu- "to shine").ETD meridian (n.).2

    The cartographic sense of "a great circle or half-circle of a sphere passing through the poles" is attested from late 14c., originally astronomical. Figurative uses tend to suggest "point of highest development or fullest power," implying a subsequent decline. As an adjective from late 14c. Related: Meridional. The city in Mississippi, U.S., was settled 1854 (as Sowashee Station) at a railway junction and given its current name in 1860, supposedly by people who thought meridian meant "junction" (they perhaps confused the word with median).ETD meridian (n.).3

    meringue (n.)

    "beaten whites of eggs mixed with sugar," 1706, from French méringue (18c.), which is of unknown origin. None of the geographical explanations is regarded as convincing.ETD meringue (n.).2

    merino (n.)

    fine-wool breed of sheep originally from Spain, 1781, from Spanish merino, possibly from Arabic Merini, a Berber family or tribe of sheep farmers in northwest Africa whose animals were imported into Spain 14c.-15c. to improve local breeds. Or from or influenced by Medieval Latin maiorinus, from maior "greater," either in reference to size of the animals or from Spanish derivative merino (n.) "overseer of cattle pastures," also a title of judicial officers. Applied from early 19c. to the wool itself and to various articles made from it.ETD merino (n.).2

    merism (n.)

    1894 in the biological sense "repetition of parts in living things;" earlier in rhetoric, "synecdoche in which totality is expressed by contrasting parts" (such as high and low, young and old); from Modern Latin merismus, from Greek merismos "a dividing, division, a partition," from merizein "to divide," from meros "a part, a share" (from PIE root *(s)mer- (2) "to get a share of something"). Related: Meristic. Merismatic "dividing by the formation of internal partitions" is attested by 1849.ETD merism (n.).2

    meristem (n.)

    "growing cellular tissues of plants, actively dividing cell tissue," 1862, formed irregularly from Greek meristos "divided, divisible" (verbal adjective from merizein "to divide, distribute," from meros "a part, a share;" from PIE root *(s)mer- (2) "to get a share of something") + ending from xylem, etc. Related: Meristematic.ETD meristem (n.).2

    merit (v.)

    late 15c. (Caxton), "to be entitled to, be or become deserving of, earn a right or incur a liability," from French meriter (Modern French mériter), from merite (n.), or directly from Latin meritare "to earn, yield," frequentative of merere, mereri "to earn (money);" also "to earn pay as a soldier" (see merit (n.)). Related: Merited; meriting.ETD merit (v.).2

    merited (adj.)

    "well-earned," c. 1600, past-participle adjective from merit (v.). Related: Meritedly.ETD merited (adj.).2

    merit (n.)

    c. 1200, "spiritual credit" (for good works, etc.); c. 1300, "spiritual reward," from Old French merite "wages, pay, reward; thanks; merit, moral worth, that which assures divine pity" (12c.) and directly from Latin meritum "a merit, service, kindness, benefit, favor; worth, value, importance," neuter of meritus, past participle of merere, mereri "to earn, deserve, acquire, gain," from PIE root *(s)mer- (2) "to get a share of something."ETD merit (n.).2

    Sense of "worthiness, excellence," is from early 14c.; from late 14c. as "state or fact of deserving, condition or conduct that deserves either reward or punishment;" also "a reward, benefit." Etymologically it is merely "that which one deserves," and the Latin word was used of rewards or punishments, but in English it has typically meant "state or fact of deserving well."ETD merit (n.).3

    Merits, in law, is "the right and wrong of the case, essential facts and principles" (as distinguished from questions of procedure, etc.). In civil service promotion, the merit system is attested by 1880 (opposed to the spoils system); the phrase was used earlier in other contexts. Merit-monger (1550s, Latimer) was a common 16c.-17c. term of theological contempt for one who believes that human merit entitles man to divine rewards.ETD merit (n.).4

    meritless (adj.)

    "undeserving, worthless," 1590s, from merit (n.) + -less. Related: Meritlessly; meritlessness.ETD meritless (adj.).2

    Larger font
    Smaller font