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    potato (n.) — practicum (n.)

    potato (n.)

    1560s, "sweet potato," from Spanish patata, from a Carib language of Haiti batata "sweet potato." Sweet potatoes were first to be introduced to Europe; they were in cultivation in Spain by mid-16c. and in Virginia by 1648. Early 16c. Portuguese traders carried the crop to all their shipping ports and the sweet potato was quickly adopted from Africa to India and Java.ETD potato (n.).2

    "This was the original application of the name, and it is in this sense that the word is generally to be understood when used by English writers down to the middle of the seventeenth century" [Century Dictionary].ETD potato (n.).3

    The name later (1590s) was extended (based on general likeness, both being esculent tubers) to the common white potato, native to Peru, which was at first (mistakenly) called Virginia potato, or, because at first it was of minor importance compared to the sweet potato, bastard potato. Spanish invaders in Peru began to use white potatoes as cheap food for sailors 1530s.ETD potato (n.).4

    The first potato from South America reached Pope Paul III in 1540; it was grown in France at first as an ornamental plant. According to popular tradition, it was introduced to Ireland 1565 by John Hawkins. It was brought to England from Colombia by Sir Thomas Herriot, 1586.ETD potato (n.).5

    German Kartoffel (17c.) is a dissimilation from tartoffel, ultimately from Italian tartufolo (Vulgar Latin *territuberem), originally "truffle." Frederick II forced its cultivation on Prussian peasants in 1743. The French is pomme de terre, literally "earth-apple;" a Swedish dialectal word for "potato" is jordpäron, literally "earth-pear."ETD potato (n.).6

    Colloquial pronunciation tater is attested in print from 1759. Potato salad is by 1842 as a typical German dish; by 1844 in English cookery books. For Potato chip see chip (n.1); for the British alternative potato crisp see crisp (adj.). Slang potato trap "mouth" is attested from 1785. The Potato Famine in Ireland from 1845 to 1849 was so called by 1851, mostly outside Ireland; in it it is typically the Great Famine, Great Hunger, or Great Starvation.ETD potato (n.).7

    To drop (something) like a hot potato is from 1824. Children's counting-out rhyme that begins one potato, two potato is recorded by 1885 in Canada.ETD potato (n.).8

    pot-belly (n.)

    "a protuberant belly; a person having a protuberant belly," 1714, from pot (n.1) + belly (n.). Pot-belly stove, so called for its shape, attested from 1940.ETD pot-belly (n.).2

    pot-bellied (adj.)

    also potbellied, "having a protuberant belly," 1650s, from pot (n.1) + bellied. As a type of stove from 1884.ETD pot-bellied (adj.).2

    potboiler (n.)

    also pot-boiler, 1864 in the figurative sense of "literary or artistic work produced hastily and merely for providing the necessities of life," from pot (n.1) + agent noun from boil (v.). The notion is of something one writes solely to "keep the pot boiling," that is, put food on the table.ETD potboiler (n.).2

    poteen (n.)

    "whiskey made in Ireland," especially the strong sort distilled privately and illicitly, 1812, from Irish poitin "little pot" (suggesting distillation in small quantities), from English pot (n.1) "vessel" + diminutive suffix -in, -een.ETD poteen (n.).2


    by 1938 in reference to Grigory Aleksandrovich Potemkin (1739-1791), favorite of Catherine II of Russia, especially in reference to the sham villages supposedly erected under his orders for the empress' tour of Crimea (1787) to create an impression of prosperity and progress. The silent film "Battleship Potemkin" dates from 1925, depicting (with elaboration) events of 1905 and the mutiny aboard a Russian battleship named for the Tsarist minister.ETD Potemkin.2

    potence (n.)

    "potency, power, strength," early 15c., from Old French potence "power," from Latin potentia, from potis "powerful, able, capable," from PIE root *poti- "powerful; lord." The potence in watch-making, etc. (1670s) is from a special sense of French potence "a crutch."ETD potence (n.).2

    potency (n.)

    "power, inherent strength, ability to accomplish or effect," mid-15c., potencie, from Latin potentia "power," from potentem "potent," from potis "powerful, able, capable," from PIE root *poti- "powerful; lord."ETD potency (n.).2

    potentate (n.)

    c. 1400, potentat, "a ruler, lord, prince, monarch; person who possesses independent power or sway," from Old French potentat and directly from Late Latin potentatus "a ruler," also "political power," from Latin potentatus "might, power, rule, dominion," from potentem (nominative potens) "powerful," from potis "powerful, able, capable; possible;" of persons, "better, preferable; chief, principal; strongest, foremost," from PIE root *poti- "powerful; lord."ETD potentate (n.).2

    potent (adj.)

    early 15c., "mighty, very powerful, possessed of inherent strength," from Latin potentem (nominative potens) "powerful," present participle of *potere "be powerful," from potis "powerful, able, capable; possible;" of persons, "better, preferable; chief, principal; strongest, foremost," from PIE root *poti- "powerful; lord." Meaning "having sexual power, capable of orgasm in sexual intercourse" (of men) is recorded by 1893.ETD potent (adj.).2

    potentiate (v.)

    "endow with power," 1817 (Coleridge), from Latin potentia "power, might, force" (from potis "powerful, able, capable; possible," from PIE root *poti- "powerful; lord") + -ate (2) on model of German potenzieren. Specifically as "increase the effect of" (a drug, etc.) by 1917. Related: Potentiated; potentiating; potentiation.ETD potentiate (v.).2

    potential (adj.)

    late 14c., "possible" (as opposed to actual), "capable of being or becoming," from Old French potenciel and directly from Medieval Latin potentialis "potential," from Latin potentia "power, might, force;" figuratively "political power, authority, influence," from potens "powerful," from potis "powerful, able, capable; possible;" of persons, "better, preferable; chief, principal; strongest, foremost," from PIE root *poti- "powerful; lord."ETD potential (adj.).2

    The noun, meaning "that which is possible, anything that may be" is attested by 1817 (Coleridge), from the adjective. Middle English had potencies (plural) "a caustic medicine" (early 15c.).ETD potential (adj.).3

    potentially (adv.)

    mid-15c., potencialli, "in possibility, in an undeveloped or unrealized manner or state" (opposed to actually); from potential + -ly (2).ETD potentially (adv.).2

    potentiality (n.)

    "state of being potential, mere being without actualization," 1620s, from potential + -ity, or else from Medieval Latin potentialitas, from potentialis.ETD potentiality (n.).2

    potentiometer (n.)

    "instrument for measuring the difference of electrical potential between two points," 1868, a hybrid formed from combining form of Latin potentia "power" (see potential) + Greek-derived -meter. Related: Potentiometric.ETD potentiometer (n.).2

    pothead (n.)

    also pot-head "chronic marijuana user," 1967, from pot (n.2) + head (n.). Earlier it meant "stupid person" (1530s), from pot (n.1).ETD pothead (n.).2

    pother (n.)

    1590s, "disturbance, commotion," a word of unknown origin. Meaning "mental trouble" is from 1640s; verb sense of "to fluster" is attested from 1690s. According to OED originally rhyming with other, brother; the pronunciation shift came in 19c. by influence of bother.ETD pother (n.).2

    pothole (n.)

    also pot-hole, "more or less cylindrical cavity from a few inches to several feet deep in rock," 1826, originally a geological feature in glaciers and gravel beds, from Middle English pot "a pit, a hollow, a deep hole for a mine or from peat-digging" (mid-15c.; 12c. in place-names), now generally obsolete in those senses, but preserved in Scotland and northern England dialect; perhaps ultimately from or related (via a Scandinavian source) to pot (n.1) on notion of "deep, cylindrical shape." Applied to a hole in a road from 1909.ETD pothole (n.).2

    pot-holder (n.)

    also potholder, "something to cover and protect the hand when handling hot kitchen equipment," the cloth variety so called by 1902, from pot (n.1) + holder.ETD pot-holder (n.).2

    pot-hook (n.)

    also pothook, "hook secured in a chimney for supporting a pot over a fire," late 15c., from pot (n.1) + hook (n.).ETD pot-hook (n.).2

    pot-hunter (n.)

    "one who shoots whatever he finds; one who hunts or fishes for food or profit not for sport, one who kills regardless of the season, waste of game, or pleasure involved," 1781, from pot (n.1) + hunter. Related: Pot-hunting (1808).ETD pot-hunter (n.).2


    Proto-Indo-European root meaning "powerful; lord."ETD *poti-.2

    It forms all or part of: bashaw; compos mentis; despot; hospodar; host (n.1) "person who receives guests;" idempotent; impotent; omnipotent; pasha; plenipotentiary; posse; possess; possible; potence; potency; potent; potentate; potential; potentiate; potentiometer; power; totipotent.ETD *poti-.3

    It is the hypothetical source of/evidence for its existence is provided by: Sanskrit patih "master, husband;" Greek posis, Lithuanian patis "husband;" Latin potis "powerful, able, capable; possible."ETD *poti-.4

    potion (n.)

    c. 1300, pocioun "medicinal drink, dose of liquid medicine or poison," from Old French pocion "potion, draught, medicine" (12c.), from Latin potionem (nominative potio) "a potion, a drinking," also "poisonous draught, magic potion" (source also of Spanish pocion "potion," ponzoña "poison," Italian pozione "potion"), from potus, irregular past participle of potare "to drink," from PIE root *po(i)- "to drink." A doublet of poison (n.). By early 15c. specifically as a magical or enchanted drink.ETD potion (n.).2

    potlatch (n.)

    1845, among some American native peoples, "a gift," from Chinook jargon pot-latch, "a gift," from Nootka (Wakashan) patshatl "giving, gift." Later (1865) in sense "An Indian feast, often lasting several days, given to the tribe by a member who aspires to the position of chief, and whose reputation is estimated by the number and value of the gifts distributed at the feast" [Century Dictionary, 1895]ETD potlatch (n.).2

    pot-liquor (n.)

    "liquid in which meat has been boiled," 1744, from pot (n.1) + liquor (n.).ETD pot-liquor (n.).2

    potluck (n.)

    also pot-luck, 1590s, "meal accepted from another and made without preparation," from pot (n.1) + luck; with notion of "one's luck or chance as to what may be in the pot." As an adjective from 1775.ETD potluck (n.).2


    river in eastern U.S., from Algonquian Patowmeck, originally the name of a native village in Virginia, perhaps literally "something brought."ETD Potomac.2

    pot-pie (n.)

    also potpie, "pie made by lining the inner surface of a pot with pastry and filling it with meat and seasoning and baking it," 1807, American English, from pot (n.1) + pie (n.).ETD pot-pie (n.).2

    potpourri (n.)

    also pot-pourri, 1610s, "mixed meats and vegetables cooked together and served in a stew," from French pot pourri "stew," literally "rotten pot" (loan-translation of Spanish olla podrida), from pourri, past participle of pourrir "to rot," from Vulgar Latin *putrire, from Latin putrescere "grow rotten" (see putrescent). The notion of "medley" led to the meaning "mixture of dried flowers and spices," attested in English by 1749. Figurative sense (originally in music) of "miscellaneous collection" is recorded from 1855.ETD potpourri (n.).2


    town in Germany, first recorded 993 as Poztupimi; the name is Slavic, the first element is po "by near," the second element evidently was influenced by Dutch names in -dam. The Potsdam Conference of the victorious Allies in World War II was held July 17-Aug. 2, 1945, to decide the fate of Germany. During the Cold War, the town was in the Soviet sector and the bridge there across the Havel was one of the restricted border crossings between East Germany and West Berlin. The Americans and the Soviets used it for the exchange of captured spies.ETD Potsdam.2

    potsherd (n.)

    "piece or fragment of an earthenware pot," mid-14c., from pot (n.1) + Middle English schoord, from Old English sceard "fragment" (see shard). An early form of it was also pot scarth, from Middle English scarth "a pottery fragment" (c. 1400; 12c. in place-names), from Old Norse skarð, apparently a cognate of Old English sceard, though attested only as "notch, mountain pass," but compare Old Swedish scarþer "splinter."ETD potsherd (n.).2

    potshot (n.)

    also pot-shot, 1836, "shot taken at animal simply to 'get it in the pot,' " that is, not for sport or marksmanship and with little heed paid to the preservation of the animal; from pot (n.1) + shot (n.). Extended sense of "piece of opportunistic criticism" first recorded 1926. Compare pot-hunter. Earlier as an adjective it meant "drunk" (17c.).ETD potshot (n.).2

    pot-stick (n.)

    also potstick, "stick for stirring porridge, etc.," early 15c., from pot (n.1) + stick (n.).ETD pot-stick (n.).2

    pot-sticker (n.)

    in Chinese cookery, "crispy dumpling," by 1983, supposedly so called in contrast to the soft variety of boiled dumpling because they look as though they stuck to the pot they were cooked in. See pot (n.1) + stick (v.).ETD pot-sticker (n.).2

    pottage (n.)

    "soup, meat-broth," c. 1200, potage, "thick stew or soup," literally "food prepared in a pot, that which is put in a pot," from Old French potage "vegetable soup, food cooked in a pot," from pot "pot" (see pot (n.1)). The spelling with double -t- is from early 15c.; the later spelling with one -t- is a later borrowing (see potage).ETD pottage (n.).2

    potter (v.)

    "occupy oneself in a trifling way, be busy in doing little," 1740, earlier "to poke again and again" (1520s), apparently frequentative of obsolete verb poten "to push, shove, poke," from Old English potian "to push" (see put (v.)). Related: Pottered; pottering.ETD potter (v.).2

    potter (n.)

    "maker of pots, one whose occupation is the making of earthenware vessels" (they also sometimes doubled as bell-founders), late Old English pottere "potter," reinforced by Old French potier (Anglo-French poter) "potter," both from the root of pot (n.1). As a surname from late 12c. An older Old English word for "potter" was crocwyrhta "crock-wright."ETD potter (n.).2

    Potter's field "piece of ground reserved as a burying place for friendless paupers, unknown persons, and criminals" (1520s; early 14c. as potter's place) is Biblical (Matthew xxvii.7), a ground where clay suitable for pottery was dug, later purchased by high priests of Jerusalem as a burying ground for strangers, criminals, and the poor. [Purchased with the coins paid to Judas for betraying Jesus; these being considered blood money it was then known in Aramaic as Akeldema, "field of blood."]ETD potter (n.).3

    The ancient Athenian city cemetery also was a "potterville" (Kerameikos), and there seems to have been an ancient association of potters' workshops with burial places (Argos, Rhodes, etc.; see John H. Oakley (ed.), "Athenian Potters and Painters," vol. III, 2014). Perhaps both were kept away from the inhabited districts for public safety reasons (disease on the one hand and on the other fires sparked by the kilns).ETD potter (n.).4

    pottery (n.)

    late 15c., "a potter's workshop, place where earthen vessels are made," from Old French poterie (13c.), from potier (see potter (n.)). Attested from 1727 as "the potter's art or business;" from 1785 as "potteryware, vessels made by a potter."ETD pottery (n.).2

    potty (n.)

    1942, child's word for "chamber pot," from pot (n.1). Potty-training is attested from 1944. Potty-mouth "one who uses obscene language" is student slang from 1968.ETD potty (n.).2

    potty (adj.)

    "crazy, silly," 1916, slang, of unknown origin, perhaps connected to potter (v.), or to pot (n.1) in its association with alcoholic drinking. Earlier slang senses were "easy to manage" (1899) and "feeble, petty" (1860).ETD potty (adj.).2

    pottle (n.)

    "a vessel; a half-gallon measure" (however the gallon was defined), early 14c. (mid-13c. as a surname), potel, from Old French potel "a little pot," diminutive of pot (see pot (n.1)) and from Medieval Latin potellus.ETD pottle (n.).2

    POTUS (n.)

    wire service acronym for president of the United States (or President of the United States). It is a survival from the Phillips Code, created 1879 by U.S. journalist Walter P. Phillips to speed up (and save money on) Morse code transmissions but obsolete from c. 1940 with the widespread use of teletype machines. The AP still uses it in wire slugs and it is affected occasionally by those seeking to establish journalistic credibility. Other Phillips Code survivals include SCOTUS for "Supreme Court of the United States."ETD POTUS (n.).2

    pot-valiant (adj.)

    "courageous through drink, fighting drunk," 1640s, from pot (n.1) + valiant (adj.).ETD pot-valiant (adj.).2

    potwalloper (n.)

    also pot-walloper, 1725, "one who boils in a pot," hence "one who prepares his own food," a vulgar alteration of pot-waller (1701), from wall "to boil, from a dialectal survival of Old English weallan "to boil, bubble up" (see well (v.)). The word took on a political association in debates over voting reform in early 19c. England.ETD potwalloper (n.).2

    pouch (v.)

    1560s, "put in a pouch;" 1670s, "to form a pouch, swell or protrude," from pouch (n.). Related: Pouched; pouching.ETD pouch (v.).2

    pouch (n.)

    early 14c. (late 12c. as a surname), pouche, "bag worn on one's person for carrying things," especially (late 14c.) "small bag in which money is carried," from Anglo-French puche, Old North French pouche (13c.), Old French poche "purse, poke," all from a Germanic source (compare Old English pocca "bag;" see poke (n.1)). Extended to sac-like cavities in animal bodies from c. 1400.ETD pouch (n.).2

    pouf (n.)

    "style of elaborate female head-dress," 1817 (in reference to styles of c. 1780), from French bouffer "to blow out, puff," probably of imitative origin. In dress-making, in reference to a part gathered up in a bunch, recorded from 1869; in reference to over-stuffed cushions, 1884. As a verb by 1882 (implied in pouffed).ETD pouf (n.).2


    "long-pointed toe of a shoe," mid-15c., from Old French Poulaine, literally "Poland," hence "in the Polish fashion." The style was supposed in Western Europe to have originated there. Compare Cracow.ETD poulaine.2

    poult (n.)

    "the young of a chicken or domestic fowl," mid-15c. (early 14c. in surnames), a contraction of Middle English pulte, itself a contraction of polete "young chicken" (see pullet).ETD poult (n.).2

    poulter (n.)

    the earlier form of poulterer (q.v.). Poetic poulter's measure (1570s), alternating lines of 12 and 14 syllables (an Alexandrine and a fourteener), is said to be so called for suggesting "the poulter's old practice of giving an extra egg with the second dozen." [Miller Williams, "Patterns of Poetry," 1986].ETD poulter (n.).2

    poulterer (n.)

    "dealer in poultry, one whose business is the sale of poultry (also hares, game, etc.) for the table," 1630s, a redundancy, but it has largely ousted original poulter (mid-13c., pulter), from Anglo-French poleter, pulleter, Old French pouletier "poulterer," from pouletrie (see poultry). With agent suffix -er (1). Compare upholsterer.ETD poulterer (n.).2

    poultice (n.)

    soft and usually warm mass of meal, etc., and herbs, applied to sores or inflammations on the body," a 17c. alteration of Middle English pultes (late 14c.), from Medieval Latin pultes, ultimately from Latin pultes, plural of puls "porridge" (see pulse (n.2)). The modern form in English predominated from mid-18c.ETD poultice (n.).2

    poultry (n.)

    "domestic fowls collectively," late 14c., pultry (mid-14c. as "place where poultry is sold," also the name of a street in London), from Old French pouletrie "domestic fowl" (13c.), from pouletier "dealer in domestic fowl," from poulet "young fowl" (from PIE root *pau- (1) "few, little"). Also from Medieval Latin pultria, pulteria.ETD poultry (n.).2

    pounce (n.2)

    "an act of jumping or falling upon," 1825, from pounce (v.).ETD pounce (n.2).2

    pounce (v.)

    1680s, originally "to seize with the pounces," from Middle English pownse (n.) "hawk's claw" (see pounce (n.1)). The earlier verb sense was "perforate, make holes in" (late 14c.). Meaning "to jump or fall upon suddenly" is from 1812. Figurative sense of "lay hold of eagerly" is from 1840. Related: Pounced; pouncing. A doublet of punch (v.).ETD pounce (v.).2

    pounce (n.1)

    "claw of a bird of prey," late 15c., pownse, probably from Old French ponchon "lance, javelin; spine, quill" (Modern French poinçon; see punch (v.)). So called for being the "claws that punch" holes in things. In falconry, the heel claw is a talon, and others are pounces. Hence, "a stab, thrust" (c. 1400). In Middle English also the name of a tool for punching holes or embossing metal (late 14c.), from pounce (v.) in the special sense of "ornament by perforation." Clothing ornamented with cut-out figures was pounced.ETD pounce (n.1).2

    pound (n.1)

    [fundamental unit of weight] Old English pund "pound" (in weight or money), also "pint," from Proto-Germanic *punda- "pound" as a measure of weight (source of Gothic pund, Old High German phunt, German Pfund, Middle Dutch pont, Old Frisian and Old Norse pund), an early borrowing from Latin pondo "pound," originally in libra pondo "a pound by weight," from pondo (adv.) "by weight," ablative of pondus "weight," from stem of pendere "to hang, cause to hang; weigh" (from PIE root *(s)pen- "to draw, stretch, spin"). Perhaps the notion is the weight of a thing measured by how much it stretches a cord.ETD pound (n.1).2

    Meaning "unit of money" was in Old English, originally "a (Tower) pound of silver."ETD pound (n.1).3

    In the Middle Ages it was reckoned variously: the Tower pound (12 ounces), the merchant's pound (15), the avoirdupois (16), the Troy (12); the 16-ounce pound was established before late 14c. Pound cake (1747) is so called because it has a pound, more or less, of each ingredient. Pound of flesh is from "Merchant of Venice" IV.i. The abbreviations lb., £ are from libra "pound," and reflect the medieval custom of keeping accounts in Latin (see Libra).ETD pound (n.1).4

    pound (n.2)

    "enclosed place for animals," especially an enclosure maintained by authorities for confining cattle or other beasts when at large or trespassing, late 14c., from a late Old English word attested in compounds (such as pundfald "penfold, pound"), related to pyndan "to dam up, enclose (water)," and thus from the same root as pond. Ultimate origin unknown. Also used as a storage place for other goods seized; as a lot for impounded motor vehicles by 1970.ETD pound (n.2).2

    pound (v.)

    Middle English pounen, "pulverize (a herb or an ingredient of a medicine or perfume), grind (grain)," from Old English punian "crush by beating, pulverize, beat, bruise," from West Germanic *puno- (source also of Low German pun, Dutch puin "fragments"). With unetymological -d- from 16c. Meaning "to beat, strike, punch (someone)" is from early 14c. Sense of "beat or thrash as with the fists or a heavy instrument" is by 1790. Related: Pounded; pounding.ETD pound (v.).2

    poundage (n.)

    early 15c., "tax or subsidy per pound of weight;" 1903 as "weight;" from pound (n.1) + -age.ETD poundage (n.).2


    in compounds, "having a weight of (a specified number of) pounds," 1680s, from pound (n.1).ETD -pounder.2

    pouring (adj.)

    "raining heavily," c. 1600, present-participle adjective from pour (v.).ETD pouring (adj.).2

    pour (v.)

    "to cause (liquid or granular substance) to flow or stream either out of a vessel or into one," c. 1300, of unknown origin. Not in Old English; perhaps from Old French (Flanders dialect) purer "to sift (grain), pour out (water)," from Latin purare "to purify," from purus "pure" (see pure). Replaced Old English geotan. Intransitive sense of "to flow, issue forth in a stream" is from 1530s. Related: Poured; pouring; pourable. As a noun from 1790, "a pouring stream."ETD pour (v.).2

    pourpoint (n.)

    also purpoint, "something quilted," used especially of garments worn by men late 14c.-15c., early 15c., from Old French porpoint, noun use of the past participle of porpoindre "to perforate," from *por-, a Vulgar Latin variant of Latin pro- (itself here a substitute for per- "through") + poindre "to stab, pierce with a pointed object, from Latin pungere "to prick" (from suffixed form of PIE root *peuk- "to prick").ETD pourpoint (n.).2

    Not to be confused with pour-point "temperature below which an oil is too viscous to be poured" (by 1932).ETD pourpoint (n.).3

    pousette (v.)

    "to swing round in couples," as in a country dance, 1812, from French pousette, literally "push-pin," from pousser "to push" (see push (v.)).ETD pousette (v.).2

    pout (v.)

    "thrust out the lips, as in sullenness or displeasure," mid-14c., of uncertain origin, perhaps from Scandinavian (compare Swedish dialectal puta "to be puffed out"), or Frisian (compare East Frisian püt "bag, swelling," Low German puddig "swollen"); related via notion of "inflation" to Old English ælepute "fish with inflated parts," Modern English pout as a fish name, and Middle Dutch puyt, Flemish puut "frog," all from a hypothetical PIE imitative root *beu- suggesting "swelling" (see bull (n.2)). Also compare French bouder "to pout," also presumably imitative (and the source of boudoir). Related: Pouted; pouting.ETD pout (v.).2

    As a noun from 1590s; "a protrusion of the lips as in pouting; a fit of sullenness or displeasure."ETD pout (v.).3

    pouty (adj.)

    "inclined to pout; sullen, petulant," 1833, from pout + -y (2). Related: Poutiness. An earlier adjective was pouting (1560s).ETD pouty (adj.).2


    also pov, initialism (acronym) for point of view, by 1973.ETD p.o.v..2

    poverty (n.)

    late 12c., poverte, "destitution, want, need or insufficiency of money or goods," from Old French poverte, povrete "poverty, misery, wretched condition" (Modern French pauvreté), from Latin paupertatem (nominative paupertas) "poverty," from pauper "poor" (see poor (adj.)).ETD poverty (n.).2

    From early 13c. in reference to deliberate poverty as a Christian act. Figuratively from mid-14c., "dearth, scantiness;" of the spirit, "humility," from the Beatitudes.ETD poverty (n.).3

    Poverty line "estimated minimum income for maintaining the necessities of life" is attested from 1891; poverty trap "situation in which any gain in income is offset by a loss of state benefits" is from 1966; poverty-stricken "reduced to a state of poverty" is by 1778.ETD poverty (n.).4

    POW (n.)

    also P.O.W., initialism (acronym) for prisoner of war, coined 1919 but not common until World War II.ETD POW (n.).2


    expression imitative of a punch, shot, collision, etc., by 1881, originally American English (Joel Chandler Harris).ETD pow.2

    powder (v.)

    c. 1300, poudren, "to put or sprinkle powder on;" late 14c., "to make into powder," from Old French poudrer "to pound, crush to powder; strew, scatter," from poudre (see powder (n.)). Specifically as "to whiten cosmetically by some application of white material in powder form" is from 1590s. Related: Powdered; powdering.ETD powder (v.).2

    powder (n.)

    "fine, minute, loose, uncompacted particles," c. 1300, poudre, "ash, cinders; dust of the earth;" early 14c. of any pulverized substance; from Old French poudre "dust, powder; ashes; powdered substance" (13c.), earlier pouldre (11c.), from Latin pulverem (nominative pulvis) "dust, powder" (source also of Spanish polvo, Italian polve; see pulverize).ETD powder (n.).2

    The insertion of the unetymological -d- was common in French (compare meddle, tender (adj.), remainder; see D). German has it as a doublet; Puder via French and Pulver from Latin. From mid-14c. specifically as "medicinal powder;" specialized sense of "gunpowder" is from late 14c. In the sense "powdered cosmetic," it is recorded from 1570s.ETD powder (n.).3

    Powder keg "small barrel for holding gunpowder" is by 1820; the figurative sense ("something likely to explode easily") is by 1895. Powder room, euphemistic for "women's lavatory," is attested from 1936. Earlier it meant "place where gunpowder is stored on a warship" (1620s). Powder monkey "boy employed on ships to carry powder from the magazines to the guns" is from 1680s. Powder blue (1650s) was smalt used in laundering; as a color name from 1894.ETD powder (n.).4

    The phrase take a powder "scram, vanish," is from 1920; it was a common phrase as a doctor's instruction, so perhaps the notion is of taking a laxative medicine or a sleeping powder, with the result that one has to leave in a hurry (or, on another guess, from a magician's magical powder, which makes things disappear).ETD powder (n.).5

    Powder in the wind (c. 1300, meaning powdered spices) was a Middle English image of something highly valued but flawed in some way that renders it impermanent or doomed to loss (of virtues without humility, etc.).ETD powder (n.).6

    powder-horn (n.)

    "powder flask made of horn (usually of an ox or cow) with a movable stopper at the small end," 1530s, from powder (n.) + horn (n.).ETD powder-horn (n.).2

    powdery (adj.)

    "of the nature or consistency of powder," early 15c., poudri, from powder (n.) + -y (2).ETD powdery (adj.).2

    powder-puff (n.)

    1704, "small feathery ball (of swansdown, etc.) for applying powder to the skin," from powder (n.) + puff (n.). As a symbol of femaleness or effeminacy, by 1930s.ETD powder-puff (n.).2

    powerful (adj.)

    c. 1400, pouerful, "mighty, having great strength or power," from power (n.) + -ful. Sense of "capable of exerting great force or power" is from 1580s.ETD powerful (adj.).2

    Meaning "of great quality or number" is from 1811; hence the colloquial sense of "exceedingly, extremely" (adv.) is from 1822. Thornton ("American Glossary") notes powerful, along with monstrous, as "Much used by common people in the sense of very," and cites curious expressions such as devilish good, monstrous pretty (1799), dreadful polite, cruel pretty, abominable fine (1803), "or when a young lady admires a lap dog for being so vastly small and declares him prodigious handsome" (1799).ETD powerful (adj.).3

    Related: Powerfully; powerfulness.ETD powerful (adj.).4

    power (v.)

    "to supply with power," 1898, from power (n.). Earlier it meant "make powerful" (1530s). Related: Powered; powering.ETD power (v.).2

    power (n.)

    c. 1300, pouer, "ability; ability to act or do; strength, vigor, might," especially in battle; "efficacy; control, mastery, lordship, dominion, ability or right to command or control; legal power or authority; authorization; military force, an army," from Anglo-French pouair, Old French povoir, noun use of the infinitive, "to be able," earlier podir (9c.), from Vulgar Latin *potere (source also of Spanish poder, Italian potere), from Latin potis "powerful" (from PIE root *poti- "powerful; lord").ETD power (n.).2

    Meaning "one who has power, person in authority or exercising great influence in a community" is late 14c. Meaning "a specific ability or capacity" is from early 15c. In mechanics, "that with which work can be done," by 1727.ETD power (n.).3

    Sense of "property of an inanimate thing or agency of modifying other things" is by 1590s. Meaning "a state or nation with regard to international authority or influence" [OED] is from 1726. Meaning "energy available for work is from 1727. Sense of "electrical supply" is from 1896.ETD power (n.).4

    Colloquial a power of for "a large quantity of, a great number of" is from 1660s (compare powerful). Phrase the powers that be "the authorities concerned" is from Romans xiii.1. As a statement wishing good luck, more power to (someone) is recorded from 1842. A man-advantage power play in ice hockey so called by 1940. Power failure "failure of the (electrical) power supply" is from 1911; power steering in a motor vehicle is from 1921. Power politics "political action based on or backed by threats of force" (1937) translates German Macht-politik.ETD power (n.).5

    power-broker (n.)

    "one who by intrigue exerts influence on the distribution of political power," 1961, apparently coined by (or at least popularized by) T.H. White in reference to the 1960 U.S. presidential election; from power (n.) + broker (n.).ETD power-broker (n.).2

    power-house (n.)

    also powerhouse, 1873, "building where power is generated (by steam, electricity, etc.) to drive machinery," from power (n.) + house (n.). Figurative sense "source of energy or inspiration" is by 1913.ETD power-house (n.).2

    powerless (adj.)

    early 15c., pouerles, "lacking might or fortitude," from power (n.) + -less. Related: Powerlessly; powerlessness.ETD powerless (adj.).2

    PowerPoint (n.)

    Microsoft computer slide show program, 1987.ETD PowerPoint (n.).2


    name given to an Algonquian people of Virginia, 1608, originally the name of a village, probably from Algonquian pawat- "falls" + -hanne "river." The name was applied by John Smith to the leader of the village (the father of Pocahontas) and then to the confederation of peoples associated with it.ETD Powhatan.2

    powwow (n.)

    also pow-wow, 1620s, "priest, conjurer, sorcerer among the North American natives," from a southern New England Algonquian language (probably Narragansett) powwaw "shaman, medicine man, Indian priest," from a verb meaning "to use divination, to dream," from Proto-Algonquian *pawe:wa "he dreams, one who dreams."ETD powwow (n.).2

    The meaning "magical ceremony among North American Indians" is recorded from 1660s. The general sense of "council, conference, meeting," especially if convivial, is recorded by 1812. Verb sense of "to confer, discuss, hold a consultation, deliberate over events" is attested from 1780.ETD powwow (n.).3

    pox (n.)

    "disease characterized by eruptive sores," late 15c., spelling alteration of pockes (late 13c. in this sense), plural of pocke "pustule" (see pock (n.)). Especially (after c. 1500) of syphilis.ETD pox (n.).2

    poxy (adj.)

    1853, "infected with pox," from pox + -y (2). As a deprecatory adjective, attested in English dialects by 1899.ETD poxy (adj.).2


    also p.p.m., abbreviation of parts per million, attested by 1913.ETD ppm.2

    PR (n.)

    also P.R.; 1942, abbreviation of public relations (see public (adj.) ).ETD PR (n.).2

    practical (adj.)

    early 15c., practicale "of or pertaining to matters of action, practice, or use; applied," with -al (1) + earlier practic (adj.) "dealing with practical matters, applied, not merely theoretical" (early 15c.) or practic (n.) "method, practice, use" (late 14c.).ETD practical (adj.).2

    In some cases directly from Old French practique (adj.) "fit for action," earlier pratique (13c.) and Medieval Latin practicalis, from Late Latin practicus "practical, active," from Greek praktikos "fit for action, fit for business; business-like, practical; active, effective, vigorous," from praktos "done; to be done," verbal adjective of prassein (Attic prattein) "to do, act, effect, accomplish; come to an end, succeed," literally "to pass through, travel," from PIE *per(h)- "go through, cross," an enlargement of the root *per- (2) "to lead, pass over."ETD practical (adj.).3

    Of persons, in reference to skills or occupations, "whose knowledge is derived from practice rather than theory," 1660s. The noun meaning "examination or lesson devoted to practice in a subject" is by 1934. Practical joke "trick played on someone for the sake of annoying him and raising a laugh at his expense" is from 1771 on the notion of "a jest carried into action" (earlier handicraft joke, 1741).ETD practical (adj.).4

    practicable (adj.)

    1670s, "capable of being performed or affected," from French pratiquable (1590s), from pratiquer "to practice," from Medieval Latin practicare "to practice," from Late Latin practicus, ultimately from Greek (see practical). By 1710 as "capable of being actually used."ETD practicable (adj.).2

    practice (n.)

    early 15c., practise, "practical aspect or application," originally especially of medicine but also alchemy, education, etc.; from Old French pratiser, from Medieval Latin practicare (see practice (v.)). It largely displaced the older word, practic, which survived in parallel into 19c. From early 15c. it began to be assimilated in spelling to nouns in -ice.ETD practice (n.).2

    Sense of "habit, frequent or customary performance" is from c. 1500. Meaning "exercise for instruction or discipline" is from 1520s. Sense of "action, the process of accomplishing or carrying out" (opposed to speculation or theory) is from 1530s. The meaning "regular pursuit of some employment or business" is from 1570s. In 16c.-17c. it also was used in an evil sense, "conspiracy, a scheme."ETD practice (n.).3

    practice (v.)

    late 14c., practisen, "to follow or employ" a course of action; c. 1400, "to do, put into action or practice;" from Old French pratiser, practiser "to practice," alteration of practiquer, from Medieval Latin practicare "to do, perform, practice," from Late Latin practicus "practical," from Greek praktikos "practical" (see practical).ETD practice (v.).2

    From early 15c. as "to carry on a profession," especially medicine; also "to do or perform repeatedly or habitually with the object of acquiring skill, to learn by repeated performance;" from mid-15c. as "to perform, work at, exercise." Intransitive sense of "perform certain acts repeatedly, train one's self" is by 1590s. Sense of "to cause to practice, teach by exercise, train, drill" is from 1590s. Related: Practiced; practicing.ETD practice (v.).3

    practiced (adj.)

    also practised, "expert, skilled through practice," 1540s, past-participle adjective from practice (v.).ETD practiced (adj.).2

    practically (adv.)

    1620s, "in a practical manner, from a practical point of view," from practical + -ly (2). Meaning "for practical purposes, as good as, in effect, so far as results and relations are concerned," is from 1748; loosened sense of "almost" is from 1869.ETD practically (adv.).2

    practicality (n.)

    "character of being concerned with material considerations," 1809, from practical + -ity. Related: Practicalities.ETD practicality (n.).2

    practic (n.)

    late 14c., practike, "practical aspect of doing something, method; practice (as opposed to theory), practical knowledge or experience;" also "an applied science;" from Old French practique "practice, usage" (13c.) and directly from Medieval Latin practica "accomplishment, practical knowledge," ultimately from Greek praktikē "of or pertaining to actions, concerned with action or business"(as opposed to "theoretical"); fem. of praktikos "done; to be done" (see practical).ETD practic (n.).2

    practicing (adj.)

    also practising, 1620s in reference to professions; from 1906 in reference to religions (Catholics); present-participle adjective from practice (v.).ETD practicing (adj.).2

    practicability (n.)

    "feasibility, capacity for being practiced," 1720, from practicable + -ity. The earlier word was practicableness (1640s).ETD practicability (n.).2

    practician (n.)

    "a practitioner; one who practices (as distinguished from one who theorizes," originally also practitian, c. 1500, from Old French practicien (Modern French praticien), from Late Latin practicus "fit for action," (see practice (v.)). An earlier word was practisour (late 14c.).ETD practician (n.).2

    practicum (n.)

    "a practical exercise or course of practical training," 1904, from Late Latin practicum, neuter of practicus (see practical). Compare German praktikum.ETD practicum (n.).2

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