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    Pocahontas — pole-star (n.)


    (c. 1595-1617), daughter of Algonquian leader Powhatan, the name is said to be Algonquian Pokachantesu "she is playful."ETD Pocahontas.2

    pock (n.)

    "pustule raised on the surface of the body in an eruptive disease," Middle English pok, from Old English pocc "pustule, blister, ulcer," from Proto-Germanic *puh(h)- "to swell up, blow up" (source also of Middle Dutch pocke, Dutch pok, East Frisian pok, Low German poche, dialectal German Pfoche), from PIE root *beu- "to swell, to blow" (see bull (n.2)).ETD pock (n.).2

    French pocque is from Germanic. The plural form, Middle English pokkes "disease characterized by pustules" (late 14c.) is the source of pox.ETD pock (n.).3

    pock (v.)

    "to disfigure or mark with pustules or the pits left by them," 1841 (implied in pocked), from pock (n.). Related: Pocking.ETD pock (v.).2

    pocket (n.)

    mid-14c., pokete, "small bag or pouch, small sack," from Anglo-French pokete (13c.), diminutive of Old North French poque "bag" (Old French pouche), from a Germanic source akin to Frankish *pokka "bag," from Proto-Germanic *puk- (see poke (n.1)).ETD pocket (n.).2

    The narrower meaning "small bag worn on the person, especially one sewn into a garment" is from early 15c. The sense of "one of the small bags or nets at the corners and sides of some billiards tables" is from 1754. The mining sense of "cavity in the ground filled with ore" is attested from 1850; the military sense of "area held by troops almost surrounded by the enemy" is from 1918; the general sense of "small area different than its surroundings" (1926) apparently was extended from the military use.ETD pocket (n.).3

    Figuratively, "one's money" (conceived as being kept in a pocket), from 1717; hence to be out of pocket "expend or lose money" (1690s); Pope Pokett (late 15c.) was figurative of the greedy and corrupt Church.ETD pocket (n.).4

    pocketful (n.)

    "as much as will fill a pocket," 1610s, from pocket (n.) + -ful.ETD pocketful (n.).2

    pocket (adj.)

    1610s, "of or pertaining to or meant for a pocket," from pocket (n.). Pocket-money "money for occasional or trivial purposes" is attested from 1630s; pocket-handkerchief is from 1640s. Often merely implying a small-sized version of something (for example of of warships, from 1930; also compare Pocket Venus "beautiful, small woman," attested from 1808). Pocket veto attested from 1842, American English.ETD pocket (adj.).2

    In English history a pocket borough (by 1798) was one whose parliamentary representation was under the control of one person or family.ETD pocket (adj.).3

    pocket (v.)

    1580s, "to place in a pocket or one's pocket" (often with implications of dishonesty, "to appropriate to one's self or for one's own use"), from pocket (n.). From the earliest use often figurative. Meaning "to form pockets" is from c. 1600. Related: Pocketed; pocketing.ETD pocket (v.).2

    pocketbook (n.)

    also pocket-book, 1610s, originally a small book meant to be carried in one's pocket, from pocket (n.) + book (n.). Meaning "a flexible booklike leather folder for papers, bills, etc." is from 1722. Meaning "a woman's purse" is from 1816.ETD pocketbook (n.).2

    pocket-knife (n.)

    "knife with a blade or blades which fold into the handle, suitable for carrying in the pocket," 1727; see pocket (n.) + knife (n.).ETD pocket-knife (n.).2

    pock-mark (n.)

    also pockmark, "scar or pit left by a pustule," especially from smallpox, 1670s, from pock (n.) + mark (n.). As a verb from 1756. Related: Pockmarked; pock-marked "pitted or marked with smallpox or pits resembling those left by it (1756); earlier was pokbrokyn (mid-15c.).ETD pock-mark (n.).2

    poco (adv.)

    in musical directions, "a little, slightly," 1724, from Italian poco, from Latin paucus "few, little" (source also of French peu), from PIE *pau-ko-, suffixed form of root *pau- (1) "few, little."ETD poco (adv.).2


    mountain range and region in eastern Pennsylvania, from Delaware (Algonquian), perhaps Pocohanne "stream between mountains."ETD Pocono.2

    pod (n.1)

    "elongated seed vessel of beans, peas, etc.," 1680s, a word of uncertain origin; found earlier in podware "seed of legumes, seed grain" (mid-15c.), which had a parallel form codware "husked or seeded plants" (late 14c.), related to cod "husk of seeded plants," which was in Old English. In reference to a round belly from 1825; in reference to pregnancy from 1890. Meaning "detachable body of an aircraft" is from 1950.ETD pod (n.1).2

    Pod people (1956) was popularized by the movie "Invasion of the Body Snatchers," based on the 1954 novel by U.S. author Jack Finney about a plant-like alien life form that arrives on Earth as pods and are capable of replicating people.ETD pod (n.1).3

    pod (n.2)

    "herd of whales or seals," 1827, American English, of unknown origin.ETD pod (n.2).2

    podagra (n.)

    "gout in the foot" (hence gout, generally), late 14c., from Latin podagra, from Greek podagra "gout in the feet," from pod-, stem of pous "foot" (from PIE root *ped- "foot") + agra "a catching, seizure," related to agrein "to take, seize."ETD podagra (n.).2


    "episodic series of spoken-word digital audio files that can be downloaded to a personal device and listened to at leisure," 2004, noun and verb, from pod-, from iPod, brand of portable media player, + second element abstracted from broadcast. Related: Podcasting.ETD podcast.2

    podgy (adj.)

    1846, later collateral form of pudgy (q.v.).ETD podgy (adj.).2

    podiatry (n.)

    1914, formed from Greek pod-, stem of pous "foot" (from PIE root *ped- "foot") + iatreia "healing," from iatros "physician" (see -iatric). An attempt to supplant chiropody (see chiropodist) and distance the practice from the popular impression of unskilled corn-cutters. The National Association of Chiropodists changed its name to American Podiatry Association in 1958. Related: Podiatric; podiatrist.ETD podiatry (n.).2

    podium (n.)

    1743, in architecture, "raised platform around an ancient arena" (upon which sat persons of distinction), also "projecting base of a pedestal," from Latin podium "raised platform," from Greek podion "foot of a vase," diminutive of pous (genitive podos) "foot," from PIE root *ped- "foot." Meaning "raised platform at the front of a hall or stage" is by 1947.ETD podium (n.).2


    legendary small town, 1846, originally the name of a small group of Indians who lived around the Podunk River in Connecticut; the tribe name is in colonial records from 1656 (as Potunck), from southern New England Algonquian (Mohegan or Massachusetts) Potunk, probably from pautaunke, from pot- "to sink" + locative suffix -unk, thus "a boggy place." Its popularity as the name of a typical (if mythical) U.S. small town dates from a series of witty "Letters from Podunk" which ran in the "Buffalo Daily National Pilot" newspaper beginning Jan. 5, 1846.ETD Podunk.2

    poem (n.)

    1540s, "written composition in metrical form, a composition arranged in verses or measures" (replacing poesy in this sense), from French poème (14c.), from Latin poema "composition in verse, poetry," from Greek poēma "fiction, poetical work," literally "thing made or created," early variant of poiēma, from poein, poiein, "to make or compose" (see poet).ETD poem (n.).2

    From 1580s as "written composition, whether in verse or not, characterized by imaginative beauty ion thought or language." Spelling pome, representing an ignorant pronunciation, is attested from 1856.ETD poem (n.).3

    poesy (n.)

    late 14c., poesie, "poetry; poetic language and ideas; literature; a poem, a passage of poetry," from Old French poesie (mid-14c.), from Vulgar Latin *poesia (source of Provençal, Spanish, Portuguese, Italian poesia), from Latin poesis "poetry, a poem," from Greek poēsis "composition, poetry," literally "a making, fabrication," variant of poiēsis, from poein, poiein "to make or compose" (see poet). Meaning "the art of poetic composition, skill in making poems" is from late 15c.ETD poesy (n.).2

    poet (n.)

    "one endowed with the gift and power of imaginative invention and creation, attended by corresponding eloquence of expression, commonly but not necessarily in a metrical form" [Century Dictionary, 1895], early 14c., "a poet, an author of metrical compositions; one skilled in the art of making poetry; a singer" (c. 1200 as a surname), from Old French poete (12c., Modern French poète) and directly from Latin poeta "a poet," from Greek poētēs "maker, author, poet," variant of poiētēs, from poein, poiein "to make, create, compose."ETD poet (n.).2

    This is reconstructed [Watkins] to be from PIE *kwoiwo- "making," from root *kwei- "to pile up, build, make" (source also of Sanskrit cinoti "heaping up, piling up," Old Church Slavonic činu "act, deed, order").ETD poet (n.).3

    It replaced Old English scop (which survives in scoff). It was used in 14c., as in classical languages, in reference to all writers or composers of works of literature. In 16c.-17c. often Englished as maker.ETD poet (n.).4

    Poète maudit, "a poet insufficiently appreciated by his contemporaries," literally "cursed poet," is attested by 1930, from French (1884, Verlaine). For poet laureate see laureate.ETD poet (n.).5

    poetaster (n.)

    "a petty poet, a feeble rhymster, a writer of indifferent verses," 1590s, from French poetastre (1550s), from Latin poeta (see poet) + French-derived -aster, a diminutive (pejorative) suffix. Old Norse had skaldfifl in roughly the same sense. Early modern English had rimester (1580s). Swinburne (1872) used poeticule. Related: Poetastry.ETD poetaster (n.).2

    poetess (n.)

    "woman who is a poet," 1520s, from poet + -ess. Earlier fem. form was poetresse (early 15c., from Old French poeteresse). Old Norse had skaldkona "poetess."ETD poetess (n.).2

    poetic (adj.)

    "of or pertaining to poetry; of or pertaining to poets," 1520s, from poet + -ic, or else from or influenced by French poetique (c. 1400), from Latin poeticus, from Greek poiētikos "pertaining to poetry," literally "creative, productive," from poiētos "made," verbal adjective of poiein "to make" (see poet). Related: Poetics "branch of criticism which treats of the nature and laws of poetry" (1727); poetically (early 15c.).ETD poetic (adj.).2

    By 1854 as "endowed with the feeling or faculty of a poet; poetically beautiful or elevated." The earlier adjective was poetical (late 14c.); also obsolete poetly (mid-15c.). Coleridge used poematic (c. 1819), from Greek poiēmatikos.ETD poetic (adj.).3

    Poetic justice "ideal distribution of rewards and punishments as portrayed in poems, plays, and stories (but seldom existing in reality)" is from 1670s. Poetic licence "privilege or liberty taken by a poet in using words, phrases, or matters of fact in order to produce a desired effect" is from 1733, earlier as lycence poetycall (1530).ETD poetic (adj.).4

    poetry (n.)

    late 14c., poetrie, "poetry, composition in verse; a poem; ancient literature; poetical works, fables, or tales," from Old French poetrie (13c.), and perhaps directly from Medieval Latin poetria (c. 650), from Latin poeta (see poet). In classical Latin, poetria meant "poetess;" "poetry" was poetica or poetice.ETD poetry (n.).2

    Figurative use is from 1660s. Old English had metergeweorc "verse," metercræft "art of versification." Also scop-cræft "the poet's art." Modern English lacks a true verb form in this group of words, though poeticize (1804), poetize (1580s, from French poétiser), and poetrize (c. 1600) have been tried. The (Late) Latin verb was poetari "compose poetry, be a poet." Poetry in motion (1826) perhaps is from poetry of motion (1813) "dance" (also poetry of the foot, 1660s). Poetry slam is by 1993.ETD poetry (n.).3

    po-face (adj.)

    "expressionless, impassive," 1934, American English, of unknown origin. Po' as a dialectal pronunciation of poor is attested by 1893.ETD po-face (adj.).2

    pog (n.)

    disc used in playing a game said to have originated in Hawaii and popular in U.S. during the mid-1990s; said to be from the name of a brand of juice-drink made in Hawaii since about 1971, the milk caps from the bottles of it being used to play the game originally. The juice-drink name is said to be an acronym from passionfruit, orange, and guava, the ingredients of the drink.ETD pog (n.).2

    pogo (n.)

    1921, originally a registered trademark (Germany, 1919), of unknown origin, perhaps formed from elements of the names of the designers.ETD pogo (n.).2

    The fad periodically returned in U.S., but with fading intensity. As a leaping style of punk dance, attested from 1977. The newspaper comic strip of the same name, featuring Pogo Possum ("We have met the enemy and he is us"), by Walt Kelly, debuted in 1948 and ran daily through 1975.ETD pogo (n.).3


    word-forming element from Greek pōgōn "the beard," which is of unexplained origin. Used in Pogonophile (by 1961); pogonophobia (1852).ETD pogon-.2

    pogo stick (n.)

    1921; see pogo.ETD pogo stick (n.).2

    pogrom (n.)

    "organized massacre in Russia against a particular class or people, especially the Jews," 1882, from Yiddish pogrom, from Russian pogromu "devastation, destruction," from po- "by, through, behind, after" (cognate with Latin post-; see post-) + gromu "thunder, roar," from PIE imitative root *ghrem- (see grim).ETD pogrom (n.).2


    contemptuous exclamation, attested from 1670s.ETD poh.2

    poi (n.)

    1823, from Hawaiian poi "food made from taro root."ETD poi (n.).2

    poy (n.)

    "prop, support, pole used to propel a boat," late 15c., a word of uncertain origin, perhaps from Old French poi, poie, variants of pui, puie "a railing, balustrade, trellis." Poi-tre "frame used to stretch clothes" is attested in English from late 14c.ETD poy (n.).2


    *pō(i)-, Proto-Indo-European root meaning "to drink."ETD *po(i)-.2

    It forms all or part of: beer; bever; beverage; bib; bibitory; bibulous; hibachi; imbibe; imbrue; pinocytosis; pirogi; poison; potable; potation; potion; symposium.ETD *po(i)-.3

    It is the hypothetical source of/evidence for its existence is provided by: Sanskrit pati "drinks," panam "beverage;" Greek pinein "to drink," poton "that which one drinks," potos "drinking bout;" Latin potare "to drink," potio "a potion, a drinking," also "poisonous draught, magic potion;" Old Church Slavonic piti "to drink," pivo "beverage."ETD *po(i)-.4


    word-forming element meaning "making, producing," from Latinized form of Greek poietikos "capable of making, creative, productive," from poiein "to make, create" (see poet).ETD -poietic.2

    poignancy (n.)

    1680s, "sharpness, keenness" (of words, expressions, etc.), from poignant + abstract noun suffix -cy. From 1730 as "pungency of taste or smell." By 1787 as "grief."ETD poignancy (n.).2

    poignance (n.)

    1769, of words, expressions, etc., "point, sharpness, power of irritation;" see poignant + -ance. As "power of stimulating the organs of taste" by 1782; in reference to emotional states, "painfulness, bitterness" by 1812.ETD poignance (n.).2

    poignant (adj.)

    late 14c., poinaunt, "painful to physical or mental feeling" (of sauce, spice, wine as well as things that affect the feelings), from Old French poignant "sharp, pointed" (13c.), present participle of poindre "to prick, sting," from Latin pungere "to prick, pierce, sting," figuratively, "to vex, grieve, trouble, afflict" (from suffixed form of PIE root *peuk- "to prick"). Related: Poignantly.ETD poignant (adj.).2

    The sense of "sharp to the taste" is now obsolete. The word contains an etymological double-reverse. Latin pungere is from the same root as Latin pugnus "fist," and represents a Latin metathesis of -n- and -g- that was reversed in French.ETD poignant (adj.).3

    poilu (n.)

    French private soldier, 1914, from French poilu, literally "hairy," from poil "hair," not of the head, but of beards, animal coats, etc., from Latin pilus (see pile (n.3)). In 19c. French the adjective had a secondary sense of "strong, brave, courageous" (Balzac).ETD poilu (n.).2

    poindexter (n.)

    "nerdy intellectual," by 1986, U.S. teenager slang, from the character Poindexter, introduced 1959 in the made-for-TV cartoon version of "Felix the Cat." The name originally was a surname, said to be Norman.ETD poindexter (n.).2

    Poinsettia (n.)

    type of much-cultivated American plant conspicuous for its large scarlet floral leaves, from the genus name (1836), Modern Latin, in recognition of Joel R. Poinsett (1779-1851), U.S. ambassador to Mexico, who is said to have brought the plant to the attention of botanists in 1828, + abstract noun ending -ia.ETD Poinsettia (n.).2

    point (n.)

    c. 1200, pointe, "minute amount, single item in a whole; sharp end of a sword, etc.," a merger of two words, both ultimately from Latin pungere "to prick, pierce," from a nasalized form of PIE root *peuk- "to prick."ETD point (n.).2

    The Latin neuter past participle punctum was used as a noun, meaning "small hole made by pricking," subsequently extended to anything that looked like one, hence, "dot, particle," etc. This yielded Old French point "dot; smallest amount," which was borrowed in Middle English in the "smallest amount" sense by c. 1300. The meaning "small mark, dot" (mark made by the end of a pointed instrument) in English is from mid-14c.ETD point (n.).3

    Meanwhile the Latin fem. past participle of pungere was puncta, which was used in Medieval Latin to mean "sharp tip," and became Old French pointe "point of a weapon, vanguard of an army," which also passed into English (early 14c.). The senses have merged in English, but remain distinct in French.ETD point (n.).4

    The sense of "peak or promontory from a land or coast" is from 1550s. The extended senses often are from the notion of "minute, single, or separate items in an extended whole." The sense of "brief period of time, instant" is from late 14c. Meaning "distinguishing feature" (especially a good one) is recorded from late 15c. Meaning "a unit of score in a game" is recorded from 1746.ETD point (n.).5

    The meaning "recognized unit of fluctuation of price per share on an exchange" is by 1814. As a typeface unit (in Britain and U.S., one twelfth of a pica), it went into use in U.S. 1883. As a measure of weight for precious stones (one one-hundredth of a carat) it is recorded from 1931. Meaning "diacritical mark indicating a vowel or other modification of sound" is from 1610s.ETD point (n.).6

    The point "the matter being discussed" is attested from late 14c.; meaning "sense, purpose, end, aim, advantage" (usually in the negative, as in what's the point?) is recorded by 1903. Point of honor (1610s) translates French point d'honneur. Point of no return (1941) is originally aviators' term for the point in a flight "before which any engine failure requires an immediate turn around and return to the point of departure, and beyond which such return is no longer practical" [Young America's Aviation Annual]. To make a point of "be resolved to do something and do it accordingly" is from 1778.ETD point (n.).7

    pointing (n.)

    late 14c., "the act of replacing or filling up the mortar in the exterior faces of joints in stone- or brickwork," verbal noun from point (v.). Also from late 14c. as "pricking;" the sense of "process of attaching pieces of thread lace as a fringe or border" is from mid-15c. Meaning "action of indicating or directing with the finger, etc." is from 1550s.ETD pointing (n.).2

    point (v.)

    late 14c., "indicate with the finger;" c. 1400, "wound by stabbing; make pauses in reading a text; seal or fill openings or joints or between tiles," partly from Old French pointoier "to prick, stab, jab, mark," and also from point (n.).ETD point (v.).2

    From mid-15c. as "to stitch, mend." From late 15c. as "furnish (a garment) with tags or laces for fastening;" from late 15c. as "aim (something), direct toward an object." Related: Pointed; pointing. To point up "emphasize" is from 1934; to point out "indicate, show, make manifest" is from 1570s.ETD point (v.).3

    pointed (adj.)

    c. 1300, "having a sharp end or ends," from point (n.). Meaning "having the quality of penetrating the feelings or mind" is from 1660s; that of "aimed at or expressly intended for some particular person" is by 1798. Related: Pointedly; pointedness.ETD pointed (adj.).2

    pointe (n.)

    in dance, "the tips of the toes," 1830, from French pointe (see point (n.)).ETD pointe (n.).2

    point-blank (n.)

    1570s, in gunnery, "having a horizontal direction," said to be from point (v.) + blank (n.), here meaning the white center of a target. The notion would be of standing close enough to aim (point) at the blank without allowance for curve, windage, or gravity.ETD point-blank (n.).2

    But early references make no mention of a white target, and the phrase is possibly from a simplification of the French phrase de pointe en blanc, used in French gunnery in reference to firing a piece on the level into open space to test how far it will carry. In that case the blank represents "empty space" or perhaps the "zero point" of elevation. The whole phrase might be a French loan-translation from Italian.ETD point-blank (n.).3

    From 1590s as an adjective in English. The transferred meaning "direct, blunt, straight, without circumlocution" is from 1650s.ETD point-blank (n.).4

    pointer (n.)

    mid-14c., "a tiler" (early 13c. as a surname), agent noun from point (v.). From c. 1500 as "maker of needlepoint lace." From 1570s as "thing that points;" meaning "dog that stands rigid in the presence of game, facing the quarry" is recorded from 1717. Meaning "item of advice" is recorded by 1883.ETD pointer (n.).2

    pointy (adj.)

    1640s, "notably pointed," from point (n.) + -y (2). Insult pointy-head for one deemed overly intellectual, attested by 1971, was popularized, if not coined, by U.S. politician George Wallace in his 1972 presidential run. In earlier slang (late 19c.) pointy meant "terse, well-put, pithy."ETD pointy (adj.).2

    pointillism (n.)

    1901, from French pointillisme, from pointiller "to cover with pointilles," small dots, plural diminutive of point (see point (n.)). Pointillist is attested from 1891, from French pointilliste.ETD pointillism (n.).2

    pointless (adj.)

    early 14c., of a sword, "having no sharp point, terminating i n a square or rounded end," from point (n.) + -less. Meaning "of no effect or force, to no purpose" is from 1726. Related: Pointlessly; pointlessness.ETD pointless (adj.).2

    point man (n.)

    "one who leads a military patrol in formation in a jungle, etc.," 1944, said to be from point (n.) in military sense of "small leading party of an advance guard" (1580s) + man (n.). A more literal sense also is possible. Point (n.) in U.S. also meant "position at the front of a herd of cattle," and pointman in this sense is attested by 1903.ETD point man (n.).2

    point of view (n.)

    "position from which a thing is or is supposed to be viewed," 1727, translating French point de vue, a loan-translation of Latin punctum visus. Figurative use "state of mind, predisposition (conscious or not)" is from 1760. The Latin phrase was translated into German as Gesichtspunkt.ETD point of view (n.).2

    point-to-point (adj.)

    "in a straight line, across country," 1883, from point (n.).ETD point-to-point (adj.).2

    poise (n.)

    early 15c., pois, "weight, quality of being heavy," later "significance, importance" (mid-15c.), from Old French pois "weight, balance, consideration" (12c., Modern French poids, with -d- added 16c. on supposed derivation from Latin pondus "weight"), from Medieval Latin pesum "weight," from Latin pensum "something weighted or weighed," (source of Provençal and Catalan pes, Spanish, Portuguese, Italian peso), noun use of neuter past participle of pendere "to hang, cause to hang; weigh" (from PIE root *(s)pen- "to draw, stretch, spin").ETD poise (n.).2

    Original senses are obsolete. The figurative sense (in reference to abstract things) of "steadiness, balance, equilibrium, composure" is recorded from 1640s, from the sense of "a state of of being equally weighted on either side" (1550s). The meaning "way in which the body is carried" is from 1770.ETD poise (n.).3

    poise (v.)

    late 14c., poisen, "to have (a specified) weight," a sense now obsolete, from Old French poiser, stressed form of peser "to weigh, be heavy; weigh down, be a burden; worry, be a concern," from Vulgar Latin *pesare, from Latin pensare "to weigh carefully, weigh out, counter-balance," frequentative of pendere (past participle pensus) "to hang, cause to hang; weigh; pay" (from PIE root *(s)pen- "to draw, stretch, spin").ETD poise (v.).2

    The meaning "to weigh, ascertain by weighing or balancing is from 1590s, hence the meaning "to hold or place in equilibrium or balance," from 1630s (compare equipoise). The intransitive sense of "be balanced or suspended," figuratively "to hang in suspense" is by 1847; the passive sense of "to be ready" (for or to do something) is by 1932. Related: Poised; poising. In 15c. a poiser was an official who weighed goods. The secondary sense of "to ponder, consider" in Latin pensare yielded pensive; that sense was occasional, but rare in Middle English poise.ETD poise (v.).3

    poison (n.)

    c. 1200, poisoun, "a deadly potion or substance," also figuratively, "spiritually corrupting ideas; evil intentions," from Old French poison, puison (12c., Modern French poison) "a drink," especially a medical drink, later "a (magic) potion, poisonous drink" (14c.), from Latin potionem (nominative potio) "a drinking, a drink," also "poisonous drink" (Cicero), from potare "to drink" (from PIE root *po(i)- "to drink").ETD poison (n.).2

    A doublet of potion. For similar form evolution from Latin to French, compare raison from rationem, trahison from traditionem. The more usual Indo-European word for this is represented in English by virus. The Old English word was ator (see attercop) or lybb (cognate with Old Norse lyf "medicinal herbs;" see leaf (n.)).ETD poison (n.).3

    For sense evolution, compare Old French enerber, enherber "to kill with poisonous plants." In many Germanic languages "poison" is named by a word equivalent to English gift (such as Old High German gift, German Gift, Danish and Swedish gift; Dutch gift, vergift). This shift might have been partly euphemistic, partly by influence of Greek dosis "a portion prescribed," literally "a giving," used by Galen and other Greek physicians to mean an amount of medicine (see dose (n.)).ETD poison (n.).4

    Of persons detested or regarded as exerting baleful influence, by 1910. The slang meaning "alcoholic drink" is by 1805 in American English (potus as a past-participle adjective in Latin meant "drunken").ETD poison (n.).5

    As an adjective from 1520s; with plant names from 18c. Poison ivy is recorded by 1784 for a shrub-vine of North America causing an itching rash on contact; poison oak for poison ivy or related species is by 1743. Poison sumac (1817), causing an even more severe rash, is a swamp-border tree noted for the brilliant red of its leaves in fall. Poison gas is recorded from 1915. Poison-pen (letter) was popularized 1913 by a notorious criminal case in Pennsylvania, U.S.; the phrase dates to 1898.ETD poison (n.).6

    poisoner (n.)

    "one who poisons or corrupts," late 14c., poisonere, agent noun from poison (v.). OED notes that in Australia and New Zealand it was used for "A cook, esp. for large numbers" (1905).ETD poisoner (n.).2

    poisonous (adj.)

    "having the properties of a poison; containing poison," 1570s, from poison (n.) + -ous. Failed rivals were poisonsome (1590s), poisonful (1550s), poisony (1590s). Earlier poisoned was used (late 15c.). Related: Poisonously; poisonousness. Compare venomous.ETD poisonous (adj.).2

    poison (v.)

    "to give poison to; add poison to; kill with poison," c. 1300, poisonen, from Old French poisonner "to give to drink," and directly from poison (n.). Figuratively, "to corrupt," from late 14c. Related: Poisoned; poisoning.ETD poison (v.).2

    poisonwood (n.)

    "small poisonous tree of the West Indies and southern Florida," 1721, from poison (n.) + wood (n.).ETD poisonwood (n.).2

    Poitevin (adj.)

    1640s, "of or characteristic of Poitou," the region in France.ETD Poitevin (adj.).2

    poke (v.)

    "to push or thrust against, to prod," especially with something long or pointed, c. 1300, puken, poken "to poke, nudge," a word of obscure origin, perhaps from or related to Middle Dutch poken "to poke" (Dutch beuken), or Middle Low German poken "to stick with a knife" (compare German pochen "to knock, rap"), implying a Proto-Germanic root *puk-, perhaps imitative. Related: Poked; poking.ETD poke (v.).2

    To poke around "search" is from 1809; to poke along "advance lazily; walk at a leisurely pace" is from 1833. The sense evolution there might be via the notion of "grope, search, feel, or push one's way in or as in the dark;" poke meaning "work in a desultory, ineffective way" is attested from 1796, and poking "pottering" is by 1769. To poke fun "tease" is attested by 1811.ETD poke (v.).3

    poke (n.1)

    "small sack," early 13c., probably from a merger of Old English pohha (Northumbrian poha, pocca) "bag, pocket" and Old Norse poki "bag, pouch, pocket," influenced by Old North French poque (12c., Old French poche) "purse, poke, purse-net," which is probably from Germanic. All of them probably are from Proto-Germanic *puk- (source also of Middle Dutch poke, dialectal German Pfoch), from PIE root *beu-, an imitative root associated with words for "to swell" (see bull (n.2)). Compare pocket.ETD poke (n.1).2

    poke (n.2)

    "pokeweed; a strong-growing branching weed of eastern North America used in medicine and dyeing," colonial American English, from native words, possibly a confusion of similar-sounding Native American plant names; from 1630s in English as "tobacco plant," short for uppowoc (1580s), from Algonquian (Virginia) *uppowoc. Later (1708) the word is used in the sense "pokeweed," as a shortened form of puccoon, from Algonquian (Virginia) *puccoon, name of a plant used for dyeing. Native roots for "smoke" and "stain" have been proposed as the origin or origins.ETD poke (n.2).2

    poke (n.3)

    "an act of poking; a thrust or push, especially with something long or pointed," 1796, originally pugilistic slang, from poke (v.). Also (1809) the name of a device, a sort of collar or ox-bow with a short, projecting pole, fitted to domestic animals such as cows, pigs, and sheep to keep them from jumping fences and escaping enclosures. Hence slowpoke. Slang sense "act of sexual intercourse" is attested from 1902.ETD poke (n.3).2

    pokey (n.)

    "jail," by 1919, American English slang, also poky, pogey, of uncertain origin; Barnhart says perhaps altered from pogie "poorhouse" (1891), which itself is of unknown origin.ETD pokey (n.).2

    Pokemon (n.)

    video and trading card franchise, released in Japan in 1996, said to be from a contracted Romanization of Japanese Poketto Monsuta "pocket monsters," both elements ultimately from European languages. Apparently it is a collective word with no distinctive plural form.ETD Pokemon (n.).2

    poker (n.1)

    "the iron bar with which men stir the fire" [Johnson], 1530s, agent noun from poke (v.). The Middle English pokere (early 12c.) might mean "one who stores or bags grain" (from poke (n.1)).ETD poker (n.1).2

    poker (n.2)

    card game for two or more played with a full pack, 1834, American English, of obscure origin, perhaps from the first element of German Pochspiel, name of a card game similar to poker, from pochen "to brag as a bluff," literally "to knock, rap" (see poke (v.)). A popular alternative theory traces the word to French poque, also said to have been a card game resembling poker. "[B]ut without documentation these explanations are mere speculation" [Barnhart]. The earlier version of the game in English was called brag.ETD poker (n.2).2

    The game itself originated apparently by 1829, according to later reminiscences, in and around the lower Mississippi region, perhaps among riverboat gamblers. The original form seems to have been played with a 20-card pack (A-K-Q-J-10) evenly dealt among four players; the full-deck version was played by the 1840s.ETD poker (n.2).3

    Slang poker face (n.) "deadpan" is from 1874.ETD poker (n.2).4

    pokeweed (n.)

    1751, from poke (n.2) + weed (n.).ETD pokeweed (n.).2

    poky (adj.)

    also pokey, 1828, of places, "confined, cramped, shabby," later (1856), of persons, "slow, dull;" from varied senses of poke (v.) + -y (2). Also see poke (n.3), which perhaps influenced it. Related: Pokily; pokiness.ETD poky (adj.).2

    pol (n.)

    1942, American English colloquial shortening of politician.ETD pol (n.).2


    1866 in reference to a Slavic people in eastern Germany, from Bohemian Polab, from po "near, on" + Labe "the Elbe river" (Latin Albis, German Elbe).ETD Polabian.2

    Polack (n.)

    "Polish person," 1570s, from Polish Polak "(male) Polish person," related to Polanie "Poles," Polska "Poland," polski "Polish" (see Pole). By 1834 as a term for Polish Jews (distinguished from Litvak). In North American use, "Polish immigrant, person of Polish descent" (1879) and in that context considered offensive in English. As an adjective from c. 1600.ETD Polack (n.).2

    Poland (n.)

    1560s, from Pole + land (n.). Related: Polander.ETD Poland (n.).2

    polarize (v.)

    1811, "develop polarization in," in optics, from French polariser, coined by French physicist Étienne-Louis Malus (1775-1812) as a term in optics, from Modern Latin polaris "polar" (see polar). Transferred sense of "to accentuate a division in a group or system" is recorded from 1949 in Arthur Koestler. Related: Polarized; polarizing.ETD polarize (v.).2

    polar (adj.)

    1550s, "from or found in the regions near the poles of the Earth," from French polaire (16c.) or directly from Medieval Latin polaris "of or pertaining to the poles," from Latin polus "an end of an axis" (see pole (n.2)). By 1816 as "of or pertaining to a pole or poles of a sphere." Meaning "directly opposite in character or tendency" is attested from 1832. Polar bear is attested from 1781.ETD polar (adj.).2

    polarization (n.)

    1812, "state of having different properties on different sides," from polarize + -ation, and in part from French polarisation, noun of action from polariser. Figuratively from 1871; of social and political groups, "accentuation of differences," from 1945.ETD polarization (n.).2

    polarity (n.)

    1640s, "the having two opposite poles," originally of magnets, from polar + -ity. The sense of "variation in certain physical properties so that in one direction they are the opposite of what they are in the opposite direction" is from 1670s.ETD polarity (n.).2

    Polaris (n.)

    1769, short for stella polaris, Modern Latin, literally "the pole star" (see polar). The ancient Greeks called it Phoenice, "the Phoenician (star)," because the Phoenicians used it for navigation. Due to precession of the equinoxes the pole was a few degrees off (closer to Beta Ursae Minoris), but evidently Polaris was close enough. Also see pole (n.2). The Old English word for it was Scip-steorra "ship-star," also reflecting its importance in navigation. As the name of a U.S. Navy long-range submarine-launched guided nuclear missile, it dates from 1957.ETD Polaris (n.).2

    polarisation (n.)

    chiefly British English spelling of polarization. For spelling, see -ize. Related: Polarise; polarised; polarising.ETD polarisation (n.).2

    Polaroid (n.)

    material which in thin sheets produces a high degree of plane polarization of light passing through it, 1936, proprietary name (Sheet Polarizer Co., Union City, N.J.). For the elements, see polarize + -oid. As a type of camera producing prints rapidly it is attested from 1961. A trademarked brand name, and, if you omit that, their lawyers will send you The Letter, a la Photoshop, Dumpster, Taser, Wiffle Ball, Ritz, Xerox, etc.ETD Polaroid (n.).2

    polder (n.)

    c. 1600, in reference to the Netherlands, Flanders, and Frisia, "boggy or marshy soil," especially a tract of marshy land which as been reclaimed and brought under cultivation, from Dutch polder, from Middle Dutch polre, related to East Frisian poller, polder, words of unknown origin.ETD polder (n.).2

    Pole (n.)

    "inhabitant or native of Poland," 1650s, from German Pole, singular of Polen, from Polish Polanie "Poles," literally "field-dwellers," from pole "field," related to Old Church Slavonic polje "field" (from PIE root *pele- (2) "flat; to spread"). The older word was Polack.ETD Pole (n.).2

    pole (n.1)

    "stake, staff," late Old English pal "stake, pole, post," a general Germanic borrowing (Old Frisian and Old Saxon pal "stake," Middle Dutch pael, Dutch paal, Old High German pfal, Old Norse pall) from Latin palus "a stake," from PIE *pakslo-, suffixed form of root *pag- "to fasten." Later specifically "a long, slender, tapering piece of wood."ETD pole (n.1).2

    Racing sense of "inside pole-fence surrounding a course" is from 1851; hence pole position in auto racing (1904). A ten-foot pole as a metaphoric measure of something one would not touch something (or someone) else with is by 1839, American English. The ten-foot pole was a common tool used to set stakes for fences, etc., and the phrase "Can't touch de bottom with a ten foot pole" is in the popular old minstrel show song "Camptown Races."ETD pole (n.1).3

    pole (v.)

    1570s, "to furnish with poles (for support)," from pole (n.1). Meaning "to push with a pole" is from 1753. Related: Poled; poling.ETD pole (v.).2

    pole (n.2)

    "northern or southern end of Earth's axis," late 14c., from Old French pole or directly from Latin polus "end of an axis;" also "the sky, the heavens" (a sense sometimes used in English from 16c.), from Greek polos "pivot, axis of a sphere, the sky," from PIE *kwol- "turn round" (PIE *kw- becomes Greek p- before some vowels), from root *kwel- (1) "revolve, move round."ETD pole (n.2).2

    Originally principally in reference to the celestial sphere and the fixed points about which (by the revolution of the Earth) the stars appear to revolve; also sometimes of the terrestrial poles (poles of this world), the two points on the Earth's surface which mark the axis of rotation.ETD pole (n.2).3

    poleax (n.)

    kind of long-handled axe used as a weapon or by butchers, mid-14c., pollax, pol-axe, from pol "head" (see poll (n.)) + ax (n.). From notion of beheading or skull-splitting, or perhaps from the shape of the ax. Spelling altered 17c. by confusion with pole (n.1)).ETD poleax (n.).2

    polecat (n.)

    "small, dark-brown, northern European predatory quadruped of the weasel family," noted as a chicken-thief and for its strong, offensive smell, early 14c., pol-cat, from cat (n.); the first element is perhaps Anglo-French pol, from Old French poule "fowl, hen" (see pullet (n.)); so called because it preys on poultry [Skeat]. The other alternative is that the first element is from Old French pulent "stinking." Originally the European Putorius foetidus; the name was extended to related North American skunks by 1680s.ETD polecat (n.).2

    polemic (adj.)

    "of or pertaining to controversy," 1640s, from French polémique "disputatious, controversial," or directly from Greek polemikos "of war, warlike, belligerent; skilled in war, fit for service; like an enemy, stirring up hostility," from polemos "war," a word of unknown origin. Related: Polemical (1630s); polemically.ETD polemic (adj.).2

    polemic (n.)

    1630s, "controversial argument or discussion, a controversy," from French polémique (16c./17c.), noun use of adjective meaning "disputatious, controversial" (see polemic (adj.)). From 1670s as "a disputant, one who writes or argues in opposition to another."ETD polemic (n.).2

    polemarch (n.)

    "commander of the army," a title of certain officers in Greek history, 1570s, from Greek polemarkhos "one who begins or leads a war," from polemos "war" (a word of unknown origin) + arkhos "leader, chief, ruler" (see archon).ETD polemarch (n.).2

    polemicize (v.)

    "engage in controversial argument, carry on a controversy," 1953, from polemic + -ize. Related: Polemicized; polemicizing. Earlier was polemize (1828), from Greek polemizein "to make war, to wage war," from polemos "war," a word of unknown origin.ETD polemicize (v.).2

    polemicist (n.)

    "one given to controversy," 1859, an American English formation parallel to polemist (1825), from Greek polemistēs "a warrior," from polemizein "to wage war, to make war," from polemos "war," a word of unknown origin.ETD polemicist (n.).2

    polemology (n.)

    "the study of war," 1870, from Greek polemos "war," a word of unknown origin, + connective -o- + -logy.ETD polemology (n.).2

    polenta (n.)

    Old English polente, "a kind of barley meal," from Latin pollenta, polenta, literally "peeled barley," related to pollen "powder, fine flour" (see pollen), but the ultimate origin is uncertain. English later reborrowed it 19c. from Italian polenta (from the Latin word) for "porridge made of corn (maize)," a principal food in northern Italy, originally made from chestnut meal.ETD polenta (n.).2

    pole-star (n.)

    the North Star, the brightest star situated near the north pole of the heavens (see Polaris), 1550s, from pole (n.2) + star (n.).ETD pole-star (n.).2

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