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    scrimshaw (n.) — sea-level (n.)

    scrimshaw (n.)

    "shell or piece of ivory fancifully carved," a sailor's word, by 1864 in that spelling, also scrimshon, etc., "A nautical word of unstable orthography" [Century Dictionary]; a back-formation from American English scrimshander ("Moby Dick," 1851), scrimshonting (1825), which is of obscure origin. Scrimshaw is an English surname, attested from mid-12c., from Old French escremisseor "fencing-master." As a verb, by 1883.ETD scrimshaw (n.).2

    scrip (n.)

    1610s, "small piece of paper with writing on it, a written slip," apparently a corruption of script (n.). In the commercial use, "a certificate of a right to receive something" (especially a stock share), 1762, in this sense probably shortened from (sub)scrip(tion) receipt (see subscription). Originally "receipt for a portion of a loan subscribed;" the meaning "certificate issued as currency" is recorded by 1790. In U.S. history, "fractional paper money" (by 1889).ETD scrip (n.).2

    script (v.)

    1935, "adapt (a written work) for broadcasting or film," from script (n.). Figurative sense, "following prescribed directions," is by 1977. Related: Scripted; scripting.ETD script (v.).2

    script (n.)

    late 14c., "something written, a written document," earlier scrite (c. 1300), from Anglo-French scrit, Old French escrit "piece of writing, written paper; credit note, IOU; deed, bond" (Modern French écrit) and directly from Latin scriptum "a writing, book; law; line, mark," noun use of neuter past participle of scribere "to write" (from PIE root *skribh- "to cut, separate, sift"). The original notion is of carving marks in stone, wood, etc.ETD script (n.).2

    The meaning "handwriting, handwritten characters, style of handwriting" (as distinguished from print (n.)) is recorded by 1860; earlier, in typography, script was the name for a face cut to resemble handwriting (1838). Theatrical use, short for manuscript, is attested from 1884. In the study of language, "a writing system," by 1883.ETD script (n.).3

    The importance of Rome to the spread of civilization in Europe is attested by the fact that the word for "write" in Celtic and Germanic (as well as Romanic) languages derives from scribere (French écrire, Irish scriobhaim, Welsh ysgrifennu, German schreiben "to write," Dutch schrift "writing"). The cognate Old English scrifan means "to allot, assign, decree, to fine" (see shrive; also compare Old Norse skript "penance"). Modern English instead uses write (v.) to express this action.ETD script (n.).4

    scriptorium (n.)

    "writing room," especially a room set apart in a monastery or abbey for writing or copying manuscripts, 1774, an antiquarian's word, from Late Latin scriptorium "place for writing," noun use of neuter of Latin scriptorius "pertaining to writing," from Latin scriptus, past participle of scribere "to write" (from PIE root *skribh- "to cut"). It was in Middle English in a nativized form, scriptory (early 15c.).ETD scriptorium (n.).2

    scripture (n.)

    early 14c., "the sacred writings of the Bible, the books of the Old and New Testaments" (in this sense commonly with a capital); from Medieval Latin and Late Latin scriptura "the writings contained in the Bible, a passage from the Bible," in classical Latin "a writing, character, inscription," from scriptus, past participle of scribere "to write" (from PIE root *skribh- "to cut").ETD scripture (n.).2

    The word in Middle English also could mean "a writing, an act of writing, written characters" (mid-14c.), a sense now rare. The sense of "a passage from the Bible" is by late 14c. Figuratively, of something assuredly true, it is attested by 1570s. As an adjective, "relating to the Scriptures," by 1720.ETD scripture (n.).3

    Scripturalist for "one who adheres literally to the Scriptures and makes them the foundation of all philosophy" is perhaps by 1725, certainly by 1857; earlier in this sense was scripturarian (1670s), scripturist (1620s). Related: Scripturalism.ETD scripture (n.).4

    scriptural (adj.)

    1640s, "pertaining to or in accordance with Scripture," from Modern Latin scripturalis, from Latin scriptura (see scripture). "Less specific than Biblical, and more commonly without a capital." Bentham and Disraeli were among those in 19c. who attempted to use it for "of or pertaining to writing." Related: Scripturally; scripturality.ETD scriptural (adj.).2


    "shriek, screech," see screech. Related: Scritch-owl (1520s).ETD scritch.2

    scrivener (n.)

    "professional penman, copyist, amanuensis, clerk," late 14c. (early 13c. as a surname), with superfluous -er + scrivein "scribe" (c. 1300, c. 1200 as a surname), from Anglo-French escrivin, Old French escrivain "a writer, notary, clerk" (Modern French écrivain), from Vulgar Latin *scribanem accusative of scriba "a scribe," from scribere "to write" (from PIE root *skribh- "to cut"). For the dropping of Latin soft medial -b- to aspirated -v- in French, compare debere/devoir, caballum/cheval, habere/avoir, etc.ETD scrivener (n.).2

    Middle English also had scrivable "suitable for being written on" (c. 1400); an adverb scrivenish (late 14c.); scrivenrie "craft or occupation of writing" (mid-15c.). A back-formed verb scriven "to write," especially in the wordy and repetitive style of legal documents, is attested by 1680s.ETD scrivener (n.).3

    scrod (n.)

    1841, "a young cod, split and fried or boiled," a New England word of uncertain origin, possibly from Dutch schrood "piece cut off," from Middle Dutch scrode "shred" (cognate with Old English screade "piece cut off;" see shred (n.)). If this is the origin, the notion is probably of fish cut into pieces for drying or cooking.ETD scrod (n.).2

    scrofulous (adj.)

    "diseased or affected with scrofula," early 15c., from Medieval Latin scrophulosus; see scrofula + -ous. Related: Scrofulously; scrofulousness.ETD scrofulous (adj.).2

    scrofula (n.)

    disorder that primarily affects the lymph glands, c. 1400 (Lanfranc), scrophula, from Medieval Latin scrofulæ (plural) "swelling of the glands of the neck," literally "little pigs," from Latin scrofa "breeding sow" (see screw (n.)). The connection may be because the glands associated with the disease resemble the body of a sow or some part of it, or because pigs were thought to be prone to it. Compare Greek khoirades (plural) "scrofula," related to khoiros "young pig." Old English had the word as scrofell.ETD scrofula (n.).2

    scroggy (adj.)

    "overgrown with bushes or stunted trees," mid-15c., from scrog (n.) "a stunted bush, a shrub-like plant" (c. 1400, scrogge), also in place-names, which probably is related to scrag "a lean person or thing" (1570s; also compare scraggly). A Scottish and northern English word.ETD scroggy (adj.).2

    scroll (n.)

    c. 1400, scroule, scrowell, "roll of parchment or paper" used for writing, an altered (by association with rolle "roll") of scrowe (c. 1200), from Anglo-French escrowe, Old French escroe, escroele "scrap, strip or roll of parchment," from Frankish *skroda "shred" or a similar Germanic source, from Proto-Germanic *skrauth- (source also of Old English screada "piece cut off, cutting, scrap"), from PIE *skreu- "to cut; cutting tool," extension of root *sker- (1) "to cut." Also compare shred (v.)). As a spiral-shaped decorative device, resembling a partly unrolled scroll, by early 15c. on garments, by 1610s on furniture or in architecture.ETD scroll (n.).2

    scroll (v.)

    c. 1600, "to write down in a scroll," c. 1600, from scroll (n.). Sense of "show a few lines at a time" (on a computer or other screen) is recorded by 1981. Related: Scrolled; scrolling.ETD scroll (v.).2

    scrollwork (n.)

    "ornamental work in which scrolls or scroll-like lines figure," 1822, from scroll (n.) + work (n.).ETD scrollwork (n.).2

    Scrooge (n.)

    generic for "miser," by 1905, from the name of the curmudgeonly employer in Dickens' 1843 story "A Christmas Carol." It does not appear to be a genuine English surname; in old dictionaries it is an 18c. variant of scrouge "to squeeze, press, crowd (someone)," also scrudge, etc., an 18c. provincial word that is the source of scrounge.ETD Scrooge (n.).2

    scrotum (n.)

    "purse-like tegumentary investment of the testes and part of the spermatic cord; the cod" [Century Dictionary], 1590s, from Latin scrotum, which probably is transposed from scortum "a skin, hide" (see corium), perhaps by influence of scrautum "leather quiver for arrows." Related: Scrotal.ETD scrotum (n.).2

    scrounge (v.)

    "to acquire by irregular means," 1915, an alteration of dialectal scrunge "to search stealthily, rummage, pilfer" (1909), which is of uncertain origin. OED reports it probably altered from dialectal scringe "to pry about." Or perhaps it is related to (or a variant of) scrouge, scrooge "push, jostle" (1755, also Cockney slang for "a crowd"), which are probably suggestive of screw, squeeze, etc. Scrounge was popularized in the military during World War I, frequently as a euphemism for "steal." Related: Scrounged; scrounger; scrounging.ETD scrounge (v.).2

    scrub (n.1)

    late 14c., "a low, stunted tree; a shrub," variant of shrobbe, from Old English scrybb, scrub (see shrub, which is the common form of the same word), perhaps influenced by a cognate Scandinavian word (such as Danish dialectal skrub, Old Danish skrubbe, "a stunted tree, brushwood").ETD scrub (n.1).2

    The collective sense of "brush, stunted trees, shrubs; a tract of these" is attested by 1805. Transferred sense of "mean, insignificant fellow" is from 1580s; earlier it meant a small breed of cattle (1550s). The U.S. sports meaning "athlete not on the varsity team" is recorded from 1892, probably from this "insignificant" sense, but compare scrub "hard-working servant, drudge" (1709), which is perhaps from influence of scrub (v.).ETD scrub (n.1).3

    As an adjective from 1710, "of inferior breed or stunted growth," from the noun. Scrub oak for a kind of low American species, is recorded from 1766.ETD scrub (n.1).4

    scrub (v.)

    c. 1400, scrobben, "to rub hard; rub or scratch (someone, an animal)," a variant of shrubben (c. 1300), which is perhaps from Middle Dutch or Middle Low German schrubben, schrobben "to scrub," or from an unrecorded Old English cognate of these, or from a Scandinavian source (such as Danish skrubbe "to scrub"). Probably ultimately from the Proto-Germanic root of shrub, an ancient cleaning tool. Compare the evolution of broom, brush (n.1), also compare scrub (n.1).ETD scrub (v.).2

    Meaning "to cancel" is attested from 1828, probably from notion of "to rub out, erase" an entry on a listing. It was popularized during World War II with reference to air missions. Related: Scrubbed; scrubbing.ETD scrub (v.).3

    scrub (n.2)

    1620s, "act of scrubbing," from scrub (v.). Meaning "thing that is used in scrubbing" is from 1680s. By 1952 as "act of cancellation, an abandonment."ETD scrub (n.2).2

    scrubbing (n.)

    1680s, "rubbing with a hard brush," verbal noun from scrub (v.). Scrubbing-brush is from 1680s. Scrubbing-board "washboard, corrugated board on which clothes are scrubbed" is by 1889.ETD scrubbing (n.).2

    scrubby (adj.)

    1590s, "stunted, inferior, shabby;" see scrub (n.1) + -y (2). In reference to land, "covered with brush or underwood," from 1670s. Related: Scrubbiness.ETD scrubby (adj.).2

    scruff (n.)

    "nape of the neck," 1790, altered (by influence of scruff "crust") from scuft, skuft (1787), a provincial word of obscure origin, but probably related to North Frisian skuft "back of the neck of a horse" and Dutch schoft "withers of a horse," all from a common Germanic source (compare Old Norse skopt "hair of the head," Gothic skuft, Middle High German schopf, German Schopf). Another theory holds it to be from a metathesis variant of scurf attested from late Old English.ETD scruff (n.).2

    scruffy (adj.)

    1650s, "covered with scurf," from scruff "dandruff, scurf" (late Old English variant of scurf) + -y (2). The generalized sense of "rough and dirty" is by 1871 ("Mark Twain"). Related: Scruffily; scruffiness.ETD scruffy (adj.).2

    scrum (n.)

    1888, "a scrimmage in rugby," abbreviation of scrummage, a variant form of scrimmage (n.). The transferred sense of "continued noisy throng" is by 1950.ETD scrum (n.).2

    scrumptious (adj.)

    1833, American English, in countrified humor writing of "Major Jack Downing" of Maine (Seba Smith), "stylish, splendid, fine;" probably a colloquial alteration (intensification) of sumptuous. By late 19c. especially of food, "delicious, delightful," and it was noted 1890s and early 20c. as a vogue word among college girls (also as scrum, scrummy). Related: Scrumptiously; scrumptiousness.ETD scrumptious (adj.).2

    OED (2nd edition, print) has scrumptious as probably identical with dialectal scrumptious "mean, stingy, close-fisted," and ultimately related to shrimp. The editors insist the sense transition "is not impossible," and they compare nice.ETD scrumptious (adj.).3

    scrunch (v.)

    1825, "to bite, crush with or as with the teeth," intensive form of crunch (v.); ultimately imitative (see scr-). The colloquial meaning "to squeeze, crush" is by 1835 (implied in scrunched). The intransitive sense of "contract oneself into a more compact shape" is by 1884. Related: Scrunching. As a noun, "noise made by scrunching," by 1857; as an adjective, scrunchy is attested by 1905.ETD scrunch (v.).2

    scruple (n.)

    "moral misgiving, pang of conscience," late 14c., scrupul, from Old French scrupule (14c.), from Latin scrupulus "uneasiness, anxiety, pricking of conscience," also, literally, "small sharp stone," a diminutive of scrupus "sharp stone or pebble," used figuratively by Cicero for a cause of uneasiness or anxiety, a word of unknown etymology.ETD scruple (n.).2

    Probably the notion in the image is of a pebble in one's shoe. The word in the classical Latin sense of "smallest unit of weight or measurement" also is attested in English from late 14c., and was given various extensions: "one minute of arc, one minute of an hour," etc. The Latin words commonly are regarded as identical, with sense development of the latter from "small pebble" to "small weight."ETD scruple (n.).3

    scruple (v.)

    "to have or make scruples, be reluctant to act or decide, have conscientious doubts," 1620s, from scruple (n.). Related: Scrupled; scrupling.ETD scruple (v.).2

    scrupulous (adj.)

    mid-15c., "characterized by fine distinctions of doubt," from Anglo-French scrupulus (Old French scrupulos, Modern French scrupuleux) and directly from Latin scrupulosus "careful, exact," from scrupulus (see scruple). By 1540s as "careful to follow the dictates of conscience," hence, in non-moral matters, "exact, precise, rigorous, punctilious" (1630s). Scruplesome "inclined to be scrupulous" is from 1800 (Maria Edgeworth). Related: Scrupulously; scrupulousness; scrupulosity.ETD scrupulous (adj.).2

    scrutable (adj.)

    "discoverable by inquiry or critical examination," c. 1600, probably a back-formation from inscrutable (q.v.), as there seems to be no Latin *scrutabilis.ETD scrutable (adj.).2

    scrutinization (n.)

    "minute search, scrutiny, close examination," 1772, noun of action from scrutinize. Earlier was scrutation (1590s), from Latin noun of action scrutationem (nominative scrutatio).ETD scrutinization (n.).2

    scrutinize (v.)

    "observe or investigate closely," 1670s, from scrutiny + -ize. Related: Scrutinized; scrutinizing. The earlier verb was scrutine (1590s), from French scrutine, from Late Latin scrutinium.ETD scrutinize (v.).2

    scrutiny (n.)

    early 15c., "the formal enumerating of the votes in an election to an office or dignity" (according to OED, "Now chiefly in Canon Law"), from Late Latin scrutinium "a search, inquiry" (in Medieval Latin, "a mode of election by ballot"), from Latin scrutari "to examine, investigate, search" (from PIE root *skreu- "to cut; cutting tool;" see shred (n.)). The meaning "close investigation or examination" is recorded from c. 1600.ETD scrutiny (n.).2

    Perhaps the original notion of the Latin word is "to search among rubbish," via scruta (plural) "trash, rags, rubbish" ("shreds"); or the original sense might be "to cut into, scratch."ETD scrutiny (n.).3

    scrutinise (v.)

    chiefly British English spelling of scrutinize (q.v.); for suffix, see -ize. Related: Scrutinised; scrutinising; scrutinisation.ETD scrutinise (v.).2

    scry (v.)

    "to see images in a crystal, water, etc., which reveal the past or forebode the future," intransitive, 1520s, a shortening of descry (v.1). Compare Middle English scrien "to describe" (mid-15c.), short for ascrien or descrien. Related: Scried; scrying; scryer.ETD scry (v.).2

    scuba (n.)

    also SCUBA, 1952, American English, acronym for self-contained underwater breathing apparatus. Scuba-diving is attested by 1956.ETD scuba (n.).2

    scud (v.)

    "to move quickly, shoot or fly along with haste," 1530s, a word of uncertain origin, perhaps echoic somehow, or perhaps it is a variant of Middle English scut "rabbit, rabbit's tail," in reference to its movements (see scut (n.1)), but there are phonetic difficulties with that. Perhaps it is rather from a North Sea Germanic source akin to Middle Low German, Middle Dutch schudden "to shake" (see quash). OED is against connection with Danish skyde "shoot, push, shove," Old English sceotan "to shoot." Related: Scudded; scudder; scudding.ETD scud (v.).2

    Especially nautical, "to run before a gale with little or no sail set" (1580s). As a noun, "act or action of scudding," by c. 1600, from the verb. With many extended senses, such as "small shreds of clouds driven rapidly along under a mass of storm cloud," attested by 1660s. The noun also was the NATO reporting name for a type of Soviet missile introduced in the 1960s.ETD scud (v.).3

    scudo (n.)

    old Italian silver coin current 17c.-19c., 1640s, Italian, literally "shield" (in reference to the device it bore), from Latin scutum "a shield," in Medieval Latin "a coin" (see escutcheon). Also compare Anglo-French scute, variant of Old French escu (see ecu) and Middle English scute "French gold coin worth about half an English noble," c. 1400, from Medieval Latin.ETD scudo (n.).2

    scuff (v.)

    1768, "to walk (through or over something) without raising the feet," originally Scottish, a word "Of uncertain and possibly mixed origin" [OED], probably from a Scandinavian source related to Old Norse skufa, skyfa "to shove, push aside" (from Proto-Germanic *skubanan, from PIE *skeubh- "to shove;" see shove (v.)).ETD scuff (v.).2

    The meaning "injure the surface of by hard usage or grazing with something rough" is by 1879. Related: Scuffed; scuffing. As a noun, "a slight, glancing blow," by 1824. Compare cuff (v.2).ETD scuff (v.).3

    scuffy (adj.)

    "lacking or having lost the original finish and freshness," hence "shabby-looking," 1858; see scuff (v.) + -y (2). Past-participle adjective scuffed in the sense of "worn, shabby" is by 1819. Related: Scuffiness.ETD scuffy (adj.).2

    scuffle (v.)

    "to push or fight in a disorderly manner, struggle confusedly at close quarters," 1570s (transitive), 1580s (intransitive), probably a frequentative form of scuff (v.), but OED is against this; perhaps ultimately of Scandinavian origin. Related: Scuffled; scuffling. As a noun, "a confused pushing or struggle," c. 1600, from the verb.ETD scuffle (v.).2

    scull (n.)

    kind of short, light, spoon-bladed oar, mid-14c., skulle, a word of unknown origin. The verb, "to propel with one oar worked from the stern," is by 1620s, from the noun. Related: Sculled; sculling.ETD scull (n.).2

    scullery (n.)

    mid-15c., sculerie (early 14c. as a surname), "department in a great house concerned with plates, dishes, kitchen utensils, etc.," from Old French escuelerie "office of the servant in charge of plates, etc.; place where dishes are kept," from escuelier "keeper of the dishes," from escuele "dish" (12c., Modern French écuelle), from Latin scutella "salver," in Medieval Latin, "a serving platter, plate" (see scuttle (n.)).ETD scullery (n.).2

    scullion (n.)

    "low-ranking domestic servant who performs menial kitchen tasks," late 15c., sculioun, scwlioun, perhaps, with substitution of suffix, from Anglo-French sculier, a variant of Old French escuelier, from escouve "broom, twig," from Latin scopa (plural scopæ) "broom," related to scapus "shaft, stem" (see scape (n.2)). Or it might be an alteration of Old French souillon "scullion" (but this is not attested before 16c.), by influence of scullery. "The word is now generally associated in thought with scullery, which is, however, of different origin" [Century Dictionary].ETD scullion (n.).2

    sculpt (v.)

    "to cut, carve, engrave," 1826 (implied in sculpted), from French sculpter, from Latin sculpt-, past-participle stem of sculpere "to carve" (see sculpture). Related: Sculpting. The older verb form was sculpture (1640s), from the noun, also sculp (1530s), from Latin sculpere. Related: Sculptured.ETD sculpt (v.).2

    sculptor (n.)

    1630s, "one who models in clay or wax, casts or strikes in bronze or other metal, or carves figures in stone," from Latin sculptor "one who cuts or carves," agent noun from sculpt-, past-participle stem of sculpere "to carve" (see sculpture). Formerly of broader application than in modern use. Fem. form sculptress is attested from 1660s.ETD sculptor (n.).2

    sculpture (n.)

    late 14c., "the art or process of sculpture, the act or art of carving or shaping figures and other objects in the round or in relief on more or less hard surfaces," from Latin sculptura "sculpture," from past participle stem of sculpere "to carve, engrave," a back-formation from compounds such as exculpere, from scalpere "to carve, cut" (from PIE root *skel- (1) "to cut"). The meaning "a work of carved art" is from 1610s.ETD sculpture (n.).2

    sculptural (adj.)

    "pertaining to sculpture," 1819, from sculpture + -al (1). Related: Sculpturally.ETD sculptural (adj.).2

    scum (n.)

    early 14c., "froth, foam, thin layer atop liquid" (implied in scomour "scummer, shallow ladle for removing scum"), from Middle Dutch schume "foam, froth," from Proto-Germanic *skuma- (source also of Old Norse skum, Old High German scum, German Schaum "foam, froth"), which is perhaps from PIE root *(s)keu- "to cover, conceal" on the notion of "that which covers the water."ETD scum (n.).2

    Especially (late 14c.) "impure foam or extraneous substance that rises to the surface when liquid boils." Hence any sort of impure froth, and the sense deteriorated to "film of dirt," then simply "dirt, filth." The meaning "lowest class of humanity" is from 1580s; scum of the Earth is attested by 1712. The Germanic word was adopted in Romanic (Old French escume, Modern French écume, Spanish escuma, Italian schiuma). As a verb, "remove the scum from," late 14c.ETD scum (n.).3

    scumbag (n.)

    by 1939, "condom," slang, from scum + bag (n.). Earlier (by 1817) it was used in sugar refining as the name of a frame covered in coarse cloth used in straining. The meaning "despicable person" is attested by 1971.ETD scumbag (n.).2

    scummer (n.)

    "implement used in skimming," early 14c., scomour; see scum (n.) + -er.ETD scummer (n.).2

    scummy (adj.)

    "covered with scum," 1570s, from scum + -y (2). Transferred sense of "filthy, disreputable" is recorded from 1932. Related: Scumminess.ETD scummy (adj.).2

    scupper (n.)

    "opening in a ship's side at deck level to let the water flow out," early 15c. (implied in scoper-nail "nail used to attach scupper leathers to a ship"), perhaps from Old French escopir "to spit out," because the water seems to spit out of it, or related to Dutch schop "shovel," or from Middle English scope "scoop" (see scoop (n.)).ETD scupper (n.).2

    scuppernong (n.)

    cultivated muscadine grape vine, 1811, from the name of the river in North Carolina, which is recorded 18c. as Cascoponung, Cuscopang, from an unidentified Native American word.ETD scuppernong (n.).2

    scurf (n.)

    late Old English scurf, "scaly or flaky matter forming on the surface of the skin," also "exfoliated epidermis," earlier sceorf, from Proto-Germanic *skurf- (source also of Old Norse skurfottr, Danish skurv, Swedish skorv, Middle Dutch scorf, schorf, Dutch schurft, Old High German scorf, German Schorf "scurf"), which probably is related to Old English sceorfan "to gnaw," scearfian "to cut into shreds" (from PIE *skerp-, from root *sker- (1) "to cut"). The form of the word likely is influenced by Scandinavian cognates. The scruff in scruffy is from a variant form.ETD scurf (n.).2

    scurfy (adj.)

    early 15c., scurfi, "suffering from 'the scurf;' covered with scaly or flaking epidermis," from scurf + -y (2). Compare scurvy, which is another form of it. Related: Scurfiness.ETD scurfy (adj.).2

    scurry (v.)

    "hasten along, move precipitately," 1810, perhaps from hurry-scurry (1732), a reduplication of hurry (v.), or imitative. As a noun, "a hurried movement, fluttering or bustling haste," 1823, from the verb.ETD scurry (v.).2

    scurrilous (adj.)

    "given to the use of low and indecent language," "using such language as only the licence of a buffoon can warrant" [Johnson], 1570s, from scurrile "coarsely joking" (implied in scurrility), from Latin scurrilis "buffoon-like," from scurra "fashionable city idler, man-about-town," later "buffoon." According to Klein's sources, "an Etruscan loan-word." Related: Scurrilously; scurrilousness. As a verb, scurrilize was tried (c. 1600).ETD scurrilous (adj.).2

    scurrility (n.)

    "low, vile, buffoon-like scoffing or jeering; indecent or gross abusiveness" [Century Dictionary], c. 1500, from Latin scurrilitas "buffoonery," from scurrilis "buffoon-like" (see scurrilous).ETD scurrility (n.).2

    scurvy (n.)

    debilitating disease that affects the skin, 1560s, noun use of adjective scurvy "covered with scabs, diseased with scurvy, scorbutic" (early 15c.), a variant of scurfy. By 1560s the adjective also could mean "vile, low, mean, vulgar." Related: Scurvied.ETD scurvy (n.).2

    It took on the narrower meaning of Dutch scheurbuik, French scorbut "scurvy," in reference to the disease characterized by swollen and bleeding gums, prostration, etc., perhaps from Old Norse skyrbjugr, which is perhaps literally "a swelling (bjugr) from drinking sour milk (skyr) on long sea voyages;" but OED has alternative etymology of Middle Dutch or Middle Low German origin, as "disease that lacerates the belly," from schoren "to lacerate" + Middle Low German buk, Dutch buik "belly."ETD scurvy (n.).3

    scuse (v.)

    shortened form of excuse (v.), attested from late 15c., implied in scused (Caxton); also as a noun, "a manorial exemption from certain taxes." In modern formations (since c. 1830) typically 'scuse, in 'scuse me.ETD scuse (v.).2

    scut (n.2)

    term of contempt for a person, 1873, of unknown etymology. OED suggests it is a variant of scout (v.2).ETD scut (n.2).2

    scut (n.1)

    "short, erect tail" (of a rabbit, hare, deer, etc.), 1520s; earlier "a hare" (mid-15c., perhaps c. 1300), a word of obscure origin.ETD scut (n.1).2

    Perhaps it is from Old Norse skjota "to shoot (with a weapon), launch, push, shove quickly" (compare Norwegian skudda "to shove, push"), from PIE root *skeud- "to shoot, chase, throw." Or perhaps it is a relative of Middle English sheten "hasten from one place to another," from Old English sceotan, sceotian, from Proto-Germanic *skeutanan (source also of Old Frisian skiata "to shoot, supply," Old Dutch scietan), for which Boutkan offers no IE etymology.ETD scut (n.1).3

    Also compare Middle English scut (v.) "make short, hurried runs," as a noun, "a short garment" (mid-15c.), as an adjective, "short" (c. 1200), perhaps from Old French escorter, from Latin excurtare.ETD scut (n.1).4

    scutcheon (n.)

    "shield for armorial bearings," mid-14c., short for escutcheon.ETD scutcheon (n.).2

    scuttle (v.1)

    "run hurriedly, scamper, scurry," mid-15c. (implied in scuttling), probably related to or a frequentative form of scud (v.). Also compare scut (n.1). Related: Scuttled.ETD scuttle (v.1).2

    As a noun, "a short, hurried run," by 1620s.ETD scuttle (v.1).3

    scuttle (v.2)

    "cut a hole in the bottom or sides of a ship," especially to sink it, 1640s, from skottell (n.) "small, square hatchway or opening in a ship's deck" (late 15c.), from French escoutille (Modern French écoutille) or directly from Spanish escotilla "hatchway," diminutive of escota "opening in a garment," from escotar "cut (clothes to fit), cut out." This is perhaps from e- "out" (see ex-) + a word borrowed from a Germanic language (ultimately from PIE root *sker- (1) "to cut"). Figurative sense of "deliberately sink or destroy one's own effort or project" is by 1888. Related: Scuttled; scuttling.ETD scuttle (v.2).2

    scuttle (n.)

    Middle English scutel "dish; basket, winnowing basket," from late Old English scutel "broad, shallow dish; platter," from Latin scutella "serving platter" (source also of Old French escuelle, Modern French écuelle, Spanish escudilla, Italian scudella "a plate, bowl"), diminutive of scutra "flat tray, dish," which is perhaps related to scutum "shield" (see escutcheon).ETD scuttle (n.).2

    A common Germanic borrowing from Latin (Old Norse skutill, Middle Dutch schotel, Old High German scuzzila, German Schüssel "a dish"). The meaning "basket for sifting grain" is attested from mid-14c.; the sense of "deep, sheet-metal bucket for holding small amounts of coal" is by 1849, short for coal-scuttle. An Arnaldus Scutelmuth turns up in a roll from 1275.ETD scuttle (n.).3

    scuttlebutt (n.)

    also scuttle-butt, 1805, "cask of drinking water kept on a ship's deck, having a hole (scuttle) cut in it for a cup or dipper," from scuttle "opening in a ship's deck" (see scuttle (v.2)) + butt (n.2) "barrel." Earlier scuttle cask (1777). The slang meaning "rumor, gossip" is recorded by 1901, traditionally said to be from the sailors' custom of gathering around the scuttlebutt to gossip while at sea. Compare water-cooler, figurative for "workplace gossip" in mid-20c.ETD scuttlebutt (n.).2


    constellation, added 1687 by Polish astronomer Johannes Hevelius, originally Scutum Sobiescanum "Shield of (King John) Sobeski," the 17c. Polish monarch famous as the savior of Christendom for his victory over the Ottomans at the Battle of Vienna (1683). The name was later shortened. From Latin scutum "shield" (see escutcheon). Middle English had scutifer "shield-bearer (late 14c.), from Medieval Latin.ETD Scutum.2

    scuzzy (adj.)

    "dirty, gross, greasy and messy," 1968, North American colloquial, perhaps a blend of scummy and fuzzy [Barnhart, OED]. First attested use is in reference to Ratso Rizzo in "Midnight Cowboy."ETD scuzzy (adj.).2

    Scylla (n.)

    female sea-monster in the Strait of Messina, presiding genius of a dangerous rock in the passage, from Latinized form of Greek Skylla, Skyllē, a name of unknown origin, traditionally associated with skylax "a young dog, dog," from skyllein "to tear." Compare Charybdis.ETD Scylla (n.).2

    scythe (n.)

    "long, curving blade made fast to a handle, convenient for swinging, and used in mowing or reaping," Middle English sithe, sythe, from Old English siðe, sigði, from Proto-Germanic *segitho "sickle" (source also of Middle Low German segede, Middle Dutch sichte, Old High German segensa, German Sense), from PIE root *sek- "to cut."ETD scythe (n.).2

    The sc- spelling began by early 15c. (earliest surviving use of it is in an English word in a document written in Latin), from influence of Latin scissor "carver, cutter" and scindere "to cut." Compare French scier "saw," a false spelling from sier. Since the Middle Ages, it was carried by personifications of Time and Death.ETD scythe (n.).3

    scythe (v.)

    1570s, "use a scythe;" 1590s "to mow;" from scythe (n.). By 1897 as "move with the sweeping motion of one using a scythe." Related: Scythed; scything.ETD scythe (v.).2

    Scythian (n.)

    one of an ancient nomadic race living on the steppes of southern Russia, 1540s, from Latin Scythia, from Greek Skythia, name anciently given to the region along the north coast of the Black Sea and extending in definitely north, from Skythes "a Scythian," said to be from an Indo-European root meaning "shepherd" [Room]. The earlier noun was Scyth (late 14c.). As an adjective from 1560s, "pertaining to Scythia or the Scythians." Herodotus is responsible for Scythian disease or Scythian insanity.ETD Scythian (n.).2


    word-forming element in words of Latin origin, "apart, away," from Latin se-, collateral form of sed- "without, apart, aside," probably originally "by one's self, on one's own," and related to sed, Latin reflexive pronoun (accusative and ablative), from PIE *sed-, extended form of root *s(w)e-, pronoun of the third person and reflexive (source also of German sich; see idiom).ETD se-.2

    sea (n.)

    Middle English se, seo, from Old English sæ, "sheet of water, sea, lake, pool," from Proto-Germanic *saiwa- (source also of Old Saxon seo, Old Frisian se, Middle Dutch see, Dutch zee, German See, Swedish sjö), of unknown origin, outside connections "wholly doubtful" [Buck], and an IE etymon "has generally been doubted" [Boutkan]. The meaning "any great mass or large quantity" (of anything) is from c. 1200.ETD sea (n.).2

    Germanic languages also use the more general Indo-European word (represented by English mere (n.1)) but have no firm distinction between "sea" and "lake," either large or small, by inland or open, salt or fresh. This may reflect the Baltic geography where the languages are thought to have originated. The two words are used more or less interchangeably in Germanic, and exist in opposite senses (such as Gothic saiws "lake, marshland," marei "sea;" but Dutch zee "sea," meer "lake"). Compare also Old Norse sær "sea," but Danish , usually "lake" but "sea" in phrases. German See is "sea" (fem.) or "lake" (masc.).ETD sea (n.).3

    Boutkan writes that the sea words in Germanic likely were originally "lake," and the older word for "sea" is represented by haff. The single Old English word glosses Latin mare, aequor, pontus, pelagus, and marmor. The range in the Old English word included "the expanse of salt water that covers much of the world" to individual great, distinctly limited bodies of water; it also was used of inland seas, bogs, lakes, rivers, and the Bristol Channel.ETD sea (n.).4

    The meaning "dark area of the moon's surface" is attested from 1660s (see mare (n.2)); before the invention of telescopes they were supposed to be water. The phrase sea change "transformation," literally "a change wrought by the sea," is attested from 1610, first in Shakespeare ("The Tempest," I.ii). Sea legs, humorous colloquial term implying ability to walk on a ship's deck when she is pitching or rolling is from 1712. At sea in the figurative sense of "perplexed" is attested from 1768, from literal sense (in reference to ships) of "out of sight of land" (c. 1300).ETD sea (n.).5

    sea-anemone (n.)

    by 1742; see sea + anemone. Another name for it was sea-pudding (1750).ETD sea-anemone (n.).2

    Seabee (n.)

    1942, from pronunciation of C.B., abbreviation of Construction Battalion, formed as a volunteer branch of the Civil Engineer Corps of the U.S. Navy.ETD Seabee (n.).2

    sea-bird (n.)

    "marine web-footed bird," 1580s, from sea + bird (n.1). Middle English had sæfugol "sea-bird, sea-fowl."ETD sea-bird (n.).2

    seaboard (n.)

    late 15c., "seaward side of a ship," a sense now obsolete; from sea + board (n.2). The meaning "seashore, coastline" is by 1788.ETD seaboard (n.).2

    sea-breeze (n.)

    one blowing from the sea toward the shore, 1690s, from sea + breeze (n.).ETD sea-breeze (n.).2

    sea-captain (n.)

    "commander of an ocean-going vessel," 1610s; see sea + captain (n.).ETD sea-captain (n.).2

    seacoal (n.)

    also sea-coal, old name for "mineral coal, fossil coal" (as opposed to charcoal), late 13c., secol; earlier, in Old English, it meant "jet," which chiefly was found washed ashore by the sea. See sea + coal (n.). The coal perhaps was so called for its resemblance to jet, or because it was first dug from beds exposed by wave erosion. As it became the predominant type used, the prefix was dropped.ETD seacoal (n.).2

    sea-dog (n.)

    1590s, "harbor seal," from sea + dog (n.). Also "pirate" (1650s). Meaning "old seaman, sailor who has been long afloat" is attested by 1823. In Middle English sea-hound was used of the walrus and the beaver.ETD sea-dog (n.).2

    seafarer (n.)

    "one whose life is spent voyaging the ocean," 1510s, from sea + agent noun from fare (v.). The Anglo-Saxon poem known by this name at least since 1842 was untitled in original MS. Related: Seafaring (c. 1200 as an adjective).ETD seafarer (n.).2

    seafaring (adj.)

    also sea-faring, "customarily travelling on the sea, habitually going to sea," c. 1200, safarinde, from sea + faring (see fare (v.)).ETD seafaring (adj.).2

    sea-floor (n.)

    1832, from sea + floor (n.). Old English had -grund; Middle English had sea-bottom (c. 1400).ETD sea-floor (n.).2

    seafood (n.)

    also sea-food, "food obtained from the sea," 1836, American English, from sea + food.ETD seafood (n.).2

    sea-going (adj.)

    "designed or fit for going to sea," 1829; see sea + going.ETD sea-going (adj.).2

    sea-green (n.)

    as a color, a luminous, pale bluish-green, 1590s, from sea + green (adj.). As an adjective from c. 1600. Sea-green incorruptible was Carlyle's term for Robespierre.ETD sea-green (n.).2

    seagull (n.)

    "a gull," 1540s, from sea + gull (n.1).ETD seagull (n.).2

    sea-horse (n.)

    late 15c., "walrus" (apparently), from sea + horse (n.); compare walrus. Also in heraldry as a fabulous animal with the foreparts of a horse and the tail of a fish. Main modern sense in zoology is attested from 1580s.ETD sea-horse (n.).2

    seal (n.2)

    "fish-eating marine mammal with flippers; any pinniped not a walrus," Middle English sele, from Old English seolh "seal," from Proto-Germanic *selkhaz (compare Old Norse selr, Swedish sjöl, Danish sæl, Middle Low German sel, Middle Dutch seel, Old High German selah), a word of unknown origin, perhaps a borrowing from Finnic.ETD seal (n.2).2

    Seal point "dark brown marking on a Siamese cat" is recorded from 1934, from the resemblance to the color of seal fur; compare seal brown "rich, dark brown color," which is attested by 1875. Old English seolhbæð, literally "seal's bath," was an Anglo-Saxon kenning for "the sea."ETD seal (n.2).3

    seal (v.)

    c. 1200, selen, "to fasten (a letter, etc.) with or as with a seal, close up with a seal, press a seal on wax," also "place a seal on (a document)," also figurative, "to join together," from seal (n.1) or else from Old French seeler, sealer.ETD seal (v.).2

    Hence "to conclude, ratify, render official or binding" by affixing seals to it (late 15c.). In reference to jars or other containers, "to close up with wax, lead, cement, etc.," attested from 1660s, from the notion of wax seals on envelopes. In reference to the actions of wood-coatings, "render impervious," by 1940. Related: Sealed; sealing.ETD seal (v.).3

    Sealing-wax, "soft substance prepared for receiving the impression of a seal," is attested from c. 1300. To seal (one's) lips "be silent" is by 1782. To seal (one's) fate (1799) "decide irrevocably" perhaps reflects the notion of a seal on a warrant of execution.ETD seal (v.).4

    seal (n.1)

    "design stamped on wax," especially an impressed figure attached to a document as evidence of authenticity, c. 1200, sel, sele, from Old French seel, seal "seal on a letter" (Modern French sceau), from Vulgar Latin *sigellum (source of Italian suggello, Spanish sello; also Old Frisian and Middle High German sigel, German Siegel), from Latin sigillum "small picture, engraved figure, seal," diminutive of signum "identifying mark, sign" (see sign (n.)).ETD seal (n.1).2

    An earlier borrowing directly from Latin is represented by Old English insigel. The use for "engraved device of some hard material used for imprinting a seal" (technically a matrix) is by c. 1300. Extended senses are via the notion of a seal used to mark and close a document to insure its secrecy (c. 1300). The meaning "an identifying mark" is from mid-14c.; especially one confirming goods and measures as conforming to standard. The technical sense of "what prevents the escape of a gas or liquid" is by 1853.ETD seal (n.1).3

    sealant (n.)

    "substance designed to seal a surface or container," 1945, from seal (v.) + -ant.ETD sealant (n.).2

    sealer (n.)

    "one who hunts seals," by 1770, from seal (n.2). Related: Sealery.ETD sealer (n.).2

    sea-level (n.)

    "the mean surface of the sea," presumed to be level, halfway between the mean high and low water; by 1806, see sea + level (n.). Sea-line for "the horizon at sea" is by 1680s.ETD sea-level (n.).2

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