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    tail (n.2) — tangental (adj.)

    tail (n.2)

    "limitation or setting of ownership," a legal term, early 14c. in Anglo-French; late 13c. in Anglo-Latin, in most cases a shortened form of entail. Also compare Old French taille "a cut, a cutting, division," also in the legal senses (12c.), from the verb tailler, taillier.ETD tail (n.2).2

    This French verb also was in Middle English from c. 1300, as taillen "cut, carve, cut up," and by early 14c. as "restrict an inheritance." The notion is perhaps "cut in shape," hence "determine the form of."ETD tail (n.2).3

    tail-bone (n.)

    also tailbone, "coccyx," 1540s, from tail (n.1) + bone (n.).ETD tail-bone (n.).2

    tail-coat (n.)

    "coat with tails, coat with a divided skirt in back, swallow-tail coat," by 1847, from tail (n.1) + coat (n.).ETD tail-coat (n.).2

    tail-end (n.)

    late 14c., tail-ende, "rump, backside, rear-end, part opposite the head;" colloquially "the end" of anything; from tail (n.1) + end (n.).ETD tail-end (n.).2

    tailer (n.)

    "one who follows," 1838, agent noun from tail (v.).ETD tailer (n.).2

    tail-feather (n.)

    "feather of a bird's tail," 1774, from tail (n.1) + feather (n.).ETD tail-feather (n.).2

    tail-fin (n.)

    1680s, "fin on the tail of a fish," from tail (n.1) + fin (n.). By 1940 in reference to aircraft; 1954 of automobiles.ETD tail-fin (n.).2

    tail-gate (n.)

    1868, back panel on a wagon, hinged to swing down and open, American English, from tail (n.1) + gate (n.). Extended by 1950 to hatchback door on an automobile. It also could refer to the lower pair of gates in a canal-lock.ETD tail-gate (n.).2

    The verb (also tailgate) meaning "to drive too close behind another vehicle" is from 1951, implied in tail-gating ("Truck drivers know the practice of following too close as tail-gating" — "Popular Science," Jan. 1952).ETD tail-gate (n.).3

    As an adjective, in reference to the open tail-gate of a parked car as a setting for a party or picnic, by 1958. Related: Tail-gating.ETD tail-gate (n.).4

    tail-hook (n.)

    1861, in angling, "hook of a tail fly," from tail (n.1) + hook (n.).ETD tail-hook (n.).2

    tailless (adj.)

    "lacking a tail," early 14c.; see tail (n.1) + -less.ETD tailless (adj.).2

    tailor (v.)

    1660s, from tailor (n.). Figurative sense of "to design (something) to suit needs" is attested from 1942. Related: Tailored; tailoring.ETD tailor (v.).2

    tailor (n.)

    "one who makes the outer garments of men and other garments of heavy stuff," late 13c., tailloir (late 12c. as a surname), from Anglo-French tailour, Old French tailleor "tailor," also "stone-mason" (13c., Modern French tailleur), literally "a cutter," from tailler "to cut," from Late Latin or old Medieval Latin taliare "to split" (compare Medieval Latin taliator vestium "a cutter of clothes"), from Latin talea "a slender stick, rod, staff; a cutting, twig."ETD tailor (n.).2

    The post-Latin sense development would be "piece of a plant cut for grafting," hence a verb, "cut a shoot," then, generally, "to cut." It had been connected with Sanskrit talah "wine palm," Old Lithuanian talokas "a young girl," Greek talis "a marriageable girl" (for sense, compare slip of a girl, twiggy), Etruscan Tholna, name of the goddess of youth. But de Vaan (2008) writes, "There is no viable etymology for talea, unless it is a derivative of talus 'ankle, knuckle'." An Old English word for a tailor was seamere, from seam (n.).ETD tailor (n.).3

    tailor-made (adj.)

    by 1830 in the figurative sense of "made or shaped to suit" a person or situation, usually slighting.ETD tailor-made (adj.).2

    Perhaps on the contemporary notion of a tailor as "one who makes outer garments to order," as opposed to a clothier, who makes them for sale ready-made. But the expression may owe something to Shakespeare:ETD tailor-made (adj.).3

    The later literal sense (by 1873) was "heavy and plain, with attention to exact fit and with little ornamentation," as of women's garments made by a tailor rather than a dress-maker.ETD tailor-made (adj.).4

    tail-pipe (n.)

    also tailpipe, 1757, "small pipe fixed at the swell of a musket to receive the ramrod," from tail (n.1) + pipe (n.). From 1832 as "suction pipe of a pump;" 1907 as "exhaust pipe at the rear of an automobile."ETD tail-pipe (n.).2

    tail-race (n.)

    1776, "part of a mill race below the wheel," from tail (n.) in a specialized sense "slack part of a mill stream" (1530s) + race (n.3). Extended to hydroelectric dams by 1953.ETD tail-race (n.).2

    tailspin (n.)

    "downward spiraling dive of an aircraft," 1916, from tail (n.1) + spin (n.). Figurative sense of "state of loss of control" is from 1928. As a verb by 1927.ETD tailspin (n.).2

    tain (n.)

    "thin tin plate for mirrors, etc.," 1858, from French tain "tinfoil" (17c.), an alteration of étain "tin," from Latin stagnum, stannum "alloy of silver and lead," in Late Latin "tin" (see stannic).ETD tain (n.).2


    an indigenous people of the Caribbean at the time of Columbus, from Taino (Arawakan) nitayno "the first, the good." Also the name of their language. Compare Arawakan.ETD Taino.2

    taint (v.)

    two distinct words of different origin overlap in the modern verb. From late 14c. as "to dye, impart color," from Anglo-French teinter, Old French teindre "to dye, color," from Latin tingere (see tincture, tint). Teintour as an English surname, meaning probably "one who dyes clothes," is from late 12c.ETD taint (v.).2

    Middle English also had teynten, teinten "to convict (of a crime), prove guilty" (implied in past-participle teinte, late 14c.), which is partly from Old French ataint, past participle of ataindre "to touch upon, seize" (see attainder). It also is partly a native shortening of attaint "to convict (someone)," from the past participle of atteinen in a legal sense (see attain (v.)).ETD taint (v.).3

    The semantic overlap was evident in Middle English. Taint is attested by 1570s as "to corrupt, contaminate, imbue with something deleterious," also "to touch, tinge, imbue slightly" (1590s). Related: Tainted; tainting.ETD taint (v.).4

    taint (n.)

    c. 1600, "stain, spot, infecting tinge." The meaning "moral stain, depraving corruption, contaminating influence" is from 1610s. It is two distinct but identical nouns that overlapped and merged.ETD taint (n.).2

    Taint "color, hue, dye, tinge" is from Old French teint "color, hue, dye, stain" (12c.), from Latin tinctus "a dyeing" (Medieval Latin tincta), from tingere "to dye" (see tincture). Middle English teint "shame, disgrace" (c. 1400) is an aphetic form of atteinte "a charge or conviction of felony," from Old French ataindre (see attain).ETD taint (n.).3


    also 'taint, representing a vulgar colloquial contraction of it ain't, by 1830s, American English. The joke about the perineum involving this word dates to at least 1977.ETD taint.2


    literally "platform bay" (perhaps with a sense of "port"), from Chinese tai "terrace, platform" + wan "bay." Related: Taiwanese.ETD Taiwan.2

    Taj Mahal (n.)

    mausoleum at Agra, India, built by Shah Jahan for his favorite wife, from Persian, perhaps "the best of buildings," with second element, mahal, from Urdu mahall "private apartments; summer house or palace," from Arabic halla "to lodge."ETD Taj Mahal (n.).2

    But some authorities hold that the name of the mausoleum is a corruption of the name of the woman interred in it, Mumtaz (in Persian, literally "chosen one") Mahal, who died in 1631.ETD Taj Mahal (n.).3

    Persian taj is literally "crown, diadem, ornamental headdress," but here denoting an object of distinguished excellence. Figurative use of Taj Mahal in English as a name denoting anything surpassing or excellent is attested from 1895.ETD Taj Mahal (n.).4

    taking (adj.)

    late 15c., "receiving," present-participle adjective from take (v.). By c. 1600 in the figurative sense of "captivating, attractive, pleasing." Related: Takingly. Colloquial taky "captivating, charming" is by 1854.ETD taking (adj.).2

    take (n.)

    "that which is taken," in any sense, 1650s, from take (v.). The movie-making sense of "continuous section of film recorded at one time" is by 1916.ETD take (n.).2

    The specific sense of "money taken in" is by 1850 in reference to church collections (by 1931 in reference to money taken in from a single performance). The criminal sense of "money acquired by theft" is from 1888. The verb take in the sense of "cheat, defraud" is attested from 1920. On the take "amenable to bribery" is by 1930.ETD take (n.).3

    take (v.)

    Middle English taken, from late Old English tacan "to grip, seize by force, lay hold of," from a Scandinavian source (such as Old Norse taka "take, grasp, lay hold," past tense tok, past participle tekinn; also compare Swedish ta, past participle tagit).ETD take (v.).2

    This is reconstructed to be from Proto-Germanic *takan- (source also of Middle Low German tacken, Middle Dutch taken, Gothic tekan "to touch"), from Germanic root *tak- "to take," which is of uncertain origin, perhaps originally meaning "to touch" [OED, 1989].ETD take (v.).3

    The weakened sense of "get to oneself, get in hand, obtain, receive, acquire" is by late 12c. As the principal verb for "to take," it gradually replaced Middle English nimen, from Old English niman, from the usual West Germanic verb, *nemanan (source of German nehmen, Dutch nemen; see nimble and compare nim).ETD take (v.).4

    OED calls take "one of the elemental words of the language;" take up alone has 55 varieties of meaning in that dictionary's 1989 edition. Already in Middle English one could take pity, charge, a nap, hostages, heed, the veil, fire, an answer, a concubine, a bath, pains, prisoners, place, possession, part, leave, advice, a breath, a spouse, a chance, comfort, flight, courage. Compare the range of senses in Latin capere "to take."ETD take (v.).5

    In the sense of "take effect, work," earliest in reference to transplants or grafts (mid-15c.). As "obtain (one's image) by drawing or painting" from c. 1600, hence the later use for photographic images. To take after "resemble" is from 1550s. Take that! accompanying a blow, etc., is by early 15c.ETD take (v.).6

    You can't take it with you (i.e. riches, to the grave) is the title of a popular Kaufman and Hart play from 1936; the idea in the quip is at least a century older. To take apart "dismantle" is by 1936.ETD take (v.).7

    To take five "go on a five-minute break" is by 1929, from the approximate time it takes to smoke a cigarette. Take it easy is recorded by 1880; the phrase take it or leave it is recorded from 1897. Colloquial figurative phrase what it takes "the right qualities" (for success) is by 1929.ETD take (v.).8

    To take it "absorb punishment" is by 1862; take the rap "accept (undeserved) punishment" is from 1930 (compare rap (n.)); take the fall in a similar sense is by 1942 (compare fall guy, by 1906).ETD take (v.).9

    takeaway (adj.)

    also take-away, 1964 in reference to food-shops, from the verbal phrase; see take (v.) + away (adv.).ETD takeaway (adj.).2

    The verbal phrase is attested by early 12c. as "seize, take by force, arrest," by c. 1300 as "remove, withdraw." Take-away (n.) is by 1970 as "shop which sells prepared food to go."ETD takeaway (adj.).3

    takedown (n.)

    also take-down, 1893 "act of taking down," from the verbal phrase; see take (v.) + down (adv.).ETD takedown (n.).2

    The verbal phrase in the literal sense is attested from c. 1300, "move to a lower place or position." As "lower the power, spirit, or pride of, abase, humble" 1560s (often as take down a peg, notch, buttonhole, etc.); c. 1600 as "to swallow." As "pull down, remove by taking to pieces," 1540s. As "put in writing," by 1712.ETD takedown (n.).3


    past participle of take (v.).ETD taken.2

    takeoff (n.)

    also take-off, "caricature, act of mimicking," 1846, colloquial, from the verbal phrase take off "mimic, ridicule" (1750), earlier "reproduce, copy" (1650s), hence "personate, imitate;" see take (v.) + off (adv.). Also compare take off (n.) "thing that detracts from something, drawback" (1826).ETD takeoff (n.).2

    As "place from which to jump or launch oneself," by 1869. The figurative meaning "beginning of growth or development" is by 1953.ETD takeoff (n.).3

    The verbal phrase is attested by 1814 as "start with a leap" (intransitive); in reference to aircraft, "become airborne," by 1918. The figurative meaning "rise suddenly and dramatically" is attested by 1963.ETD takeoff (n.).4

    The noun meaning "act of becoming airborne" is from 1904 in reference to aircraft; in reference to jumping, it is attested from 1869.ETD takeoff (n.).5

    The verbal phrase is earlier as "remove from position" (one's hat, etc., c. 1300), "deduct" (1630s). In the U.S. colloquial sense of "be absent from school or work," take off is attested by 1935.ETD takeoff (n.).6

    take on (v.)

    intransitive, "be agitated, display great excitement," early 15c., on the notion of "put on" a form, display, etc.; see take (v.) + on (prep.). To take (something) on "begin to do" is from late 12c.ETD take on (v.).2

    takeout (adj.)

    also take-out, in reference to food prepared at a restaurant but not eaten there, 1941, from take (v.) + out (adv.). The British equivalent is takeaway. Earlier it meant "designed to be removed or folded away" (1908).ETD takeout (adj.).2

    The verbal phrase is attested from 14c., as "remove from within a place, lead someone out of a place." As "remove so as to deprive someone of" (as in take the starch out of), by 1847.ETD takeout (adj.).3

    It is attested by 1630s as "obtain as an equivalent," hence colloquial take it out of "obtain or extort reparation from" (1851). To take it out on (someone or something) "vent one's anger on other than what caused it" is by 1840.ETD takeout (adj.).4

    takeover (n.)

    also take-over, 1917, "an act of taking over," from verbal phrase take over "assume ownership, control, or management of" (1884), from take (v.) + over (adv.). By 1957 as "coup." Attested from 1958 in the corporate sense "assumption of control or ownership of a business by another." Also compare overtake.ETD takeover (n.).2

    taker (n.)

    "one who takes" in any sense, late 14c., specifically "someone who arrests or captures," agent noun from take (v.). As "one who accepts a bet," by 1810.ETD taker (n.).2

    talaria (n.)

    "winged sandals" of Hermes (Mercury) and often other mythical figures (Iris, Eros, the Fates and the Furies), 1590s, from Latin talaria, noun use of neuter plural of talaris "of the ankle," from talus "ankle" (see talus (n.1)).ETD talaria (n.).2

    Hence talaric "pertaining to the ankles" (1853); talarian (of a tunic) "reaching to the ankles" (1670s).ETD talaria (n.).3

    talc (n.)

    mineral substance, a magnesium silicate, 1580s, talke, from French talc (16c.), probably from Spanish talco and Medieval Latin talcus, also talcum "talc" (ealy 14c.), both from Arabic talq, from Persian talk "talc." "It was applied by the Arab and medieval writers to various transparent, translucent and shining minerals such as talc proper, mica, selenite, etc." [Flood]. Related: Talcoid; talcose; talcous. As a verb, "treat or rub with talc," by 1888 (implied in talced).ETD talc (n.).2

    talcum (n.)

    "talc, soapstone," 1550s (pouder of Talchum), from Medieval Latin talcum, used for any of various shiny minerals; see talc. Talcum powder is attested from 1871. As a verb by 1923.ETD talcum (n.).2

    tale (n.)

    Middle English tale, from Old English talu "piece of information, story, narrative, fable; statement or relation of events alleged to be true;" also "deposition, accusation, reproach, blame;" in the broadest sense "talk, that which is told; action of telling." This is from Proto-Germanic *talō (source also of Dutch taal "speech, language," Danish tale "speech, talk, discourse," German Erzählung "story," also compare Gothic talzjan "to teach"). This is reconstructed in Watkins to be from a PIE root *del- (2) "to recount, count."ETD tale (n.).2

    The etymological sense of the Modern English word in its "that which is told" meaning might have been "an account of things in their due order." Compare its relations talk (v.) and tell (v.).ETD tale (n.).3

    Also in Old English it meant "series, calculation," and the secondary Modern English sense was "number, numerical quantity, numerical reckoning" (c. 1200). If the etymology is correct this might be nearer to the prehistoric Germanic sense. See tell (v.), teller, and compare cognate Old Frisian tale, Middle Dutch tal, Old Saxon tala, Danish tal "number;" Old High German zala "number; message," Middle High German zale, "number, message, talk, tale;" German Zahl "number."ETD tale (n.).4

    The oldest uses refer to accounts held to be true. By c. 1200 it is attested as "unsubstantiated story, rumor, gossip," and by mid-13c. as "story known to be untrue." By mid-14c. specifically "things divulged that were given secretly" (as in tell tales "spread rumors," mid-14c.).ETD tale (n.).5

    The proverbial notion in dead men tell no tales is as old as c. 1300 in English; the exact expression is by 1680s.ETD tale (n.).6

    talebearer (n.)

    also tale-bearer, "tattle-tale," late 15c., from tale (n.) + agent noun from bear (v.).ETD talebearer (n.).2

    talented (adj.)

    1630s, "having skills or abilities, accomplished," from talent (n.). There was a verb talent in 15c., but it meant "predispose," and talented in early 15c. meant "predisposed (to a vice)." Talentive (late 14c.) was "willing, eager, desirous." Talented in Middle English also could mean "decorated with coin-like disks."ETD talented (adj.).2

    talent (n.)

    late 13c., "inclination, disposition, will, desire;" c. 1300, "feeling, emotion, passion," senses now obsolete, from Old French talent (12c.), from Medieval Latin talenta, plural of talentum "inclination, leaning, will, desire" (11c.), in classical Latin "balance, weight; sum of money." This is from Greek talanton "a balance, pair of scales," hence "weight, definite weight, anything weighed," and in later times sum of money." It is reconstructed to be from PIE *tele- "to lift, support, weigh," "with derivatives referring to measured weights and thence money and payment" [Watkins]; see extol.ETD talent (n.).2

    According to Liddell & Scott, as a monetary sum it was considered to consist of 6,000 drachmae, or, in Attica, 57.75 lbs. of silver. Also borrowed in other Germanic languages and Celtic. It is attested in Old English (talente) in the sense of "ancient unit of weight or monetary sum." The Medieval Latin and common Romanic "will, inclination, desire" sense developed from figurative use of the word in the sense of "money, wealth, riches."ETD talent (n.).3

    The meaning "gift committed to one for use and improvement" developed by mid-15c., probably mostly from the parable of the talents in Matthew xxv.14-30. The notion is of something God has granted to one and for which one will render account at the Last Judgment. It may be also in part from or encouraged by the figurative sense of "wealth, treasures, riches."ETD talent (n.).4

    The general sense of "special natural ability or aptitude" is by c. 1600. The meaning "persons of ability collectively" is attested from 1856. Talent scout is attested by 1936; talent agency is by 1956.ETD talent (n.).5

    In Middle English, to have talent was "have resolve, be resolved, have a will or inclination;" talent of being was "survival instinct." To drink (one's) talent was to drink one's fill.ETD talent (n.).6

    talesman (n.)

    "reserve member of a jury," 1670s, from tales "writ ordering bystanders to serve" in place of jurors not in attendance (late 15c.), via Anglo-French (mid-13c.), from Latin tales (in tales de circumstantibus "such persons from those standing about," a clause featured in such a writ), noun use of plural of talis "such, of such kind" (see that). Taleman as a surname is attested from late 12c., but the sense is uncertain.ETD talesman (n.).2

    Taliban (n.)

    Sunni fundamentalist movement begun in Afghanistan, from Pashto plural of Arabic tālib "student;" so called because it originated among students in Pakistani religious schools. The group formed c. 1993. It is often incorrectly treated as singular in English.ETD Taliban (n.).2

    talipes (n.)

    "club-foot, deformed foot," from Latin talus "ankle" (see talus (n.1)) + pes "foot" (from PIE root *ped- "foot"). The notion seems to be "walking on the ankles."ETD talipes (n.).2

    talisman (n.)

    1630s, "magical figure cut or engraved on stone or metal under certain observances," from French talisman, in part via Arabic tilsam (plural tilsaman), from Byzantine Greek telesma "talisman, religious rite, payment," earlier "consecration, ceremony," originally in ancient Greek "completion," from telein "perform (religious rites), pay (tax), fulfill," from telos "end, fulfillment, completion" (see telos).ETD talisman (n.).2

    The figurative sense of "any means of attainment of extraordinary results" is by 1784. The Arabic word also was borrowed into Turkish, Persian, Hindi. Related: Talismanic; talismanical.ETD talisman (n.).3

    talk (n.)

    late 14c., "speech, discourse, conversation," from talk (v.). The meaning "informal lecture or address" is by 1859.ETD talk (n.).2

    The sense of "report, rumor" is from 1550s; the meaning "a subject of gossip" is from 1620s (in talk of the town). Talk show is recorded by 1959; talk radio by 1962.ETD talk (n.).3

    talkative (adj.)

    "immoderate in speech," early 15c.; see talk (v.) + -ative. An early hybrid word in English. Originally especially "boastful," but now considered less pejorative than loquacious or garrulous. Related: Talkatively; talkativeness. An earlier Middle English word for "talkative" was tale-wise (Old English getæl-wis meant "skilled in computation").ETD talkative (adj.).2

    talk (v.)

    c. 1200, talken, "speak, discourse, say something," probably a diminutive or frequentative form related to Middle English tale "story," and ultimately from the same source as tale (q.v.), with rare English formative -k (compare hark from hear, stalk from steal, smirk from smile) and replacing tale as a verb. East Frisian has talken "to talk, chatter, whisper."ETD talk (v.).2

    The slang meaning "disclose information" (to authority) is from 1824. To talk (someone, oneself) into or out of (some action or condition) is by 1690s. To talk at "make remarks intended for but not addressed to" is by 1789.ETD talk (v.).3

    To talk (something) up "discuss in order to further or promote" is from 1722. To talk over (someone) "override in talking" (in a broadcast or recording) is by 1962. To talk back "respond forcefully or impertinently" is by 1847, American English colloquial.ETD talk (v.).4

    To talk (someone) down "out-talk, drown out with talk" is by 1814. To talk down to "lower one's discourse to the presumed level of one's audience" is by 1855. To talk down an aircraft, "provide with directions by radio to enable it to land" in low visibility or an emergency is by 1943.ETD talk (v.).5

    To talk big "speak boastfully" 1690s. To talk someone's ear off is by 1871 (the older thing talked off was the hind leg of a horse or other quadruped, by 1808).ETD talk (v.).6

    The phrase talking head is by 1966 in the jargon of television production, "an in-tight closeup of a human head talking on television." In reference to a person who habitually appears on television in talking-head shots (usually a news anchor), by 1970. The phrase is used earlier, in reference to the well-known magic trick (such as Señor Wences's talking head-in-the-box "Pedro" on the "Ed Sullivan Show"), and to actual talking heads in mythology around the world (Orpheus, Bran).ETD talk (v.).7

    Related: Talked; talking. Talking machine is by 1844 of various inventions; as "a phonograph" by 1891.ETD talk (v.).8

    talker (n.)

    "one who talks," especially to excess, late 14c., agent noun from talk (v.).ETD talker (n.).2

    talky (adj.)

    "loquacious, abounding in talk," 1815, from talk (n.) + -y (2). Related: Talkiness.ETD talky (adj.).2

    talkie (n.)

    "motion picture with sound," 1913, from earlier talking picture (1908), from talk (v.) + -ie. The first Hollywood motion pictures to be broadcast by television were called tele-talkies (1928).ETD talkie (n.).2

    talking-to (n.)

    "a reprimand," 1871, from euphemistic use of verbal phrase talk to "address stern words to, rebuke," which is attested by 1860 (see talk (v.)).ETD talking-to (n.).2

    tall (adj.)

    "having a relatively great stature, high in proportion to breadth," 1520s, originally of persons; by 1540s of things, probably from otherwise obsolete Middle English tal "handsome, good-looking;" also "valiant," from Old English getæl "prompt, active," from Germanic *(ge)-tala- (source also of Old High German gi-zal "quick," Gothic un-tals "indocile").ETD tall (adj.).2

    The sense of "being of more than average height (and slim in proportion to height)" probably evolved out of earlier meanings "brave, valiant, seemly, proper" (c. 1400), "attractive, handsome" (late 14c.), also "large, big" (mid-14c.), as sometimes in Modern English, colloquially.ETD tall (adj.).3

    The sense evolution is "remarkable," says OED (1989), but it notes that adjectives applied to persons can wander far in meaning (such as pretty, buxom, German klein "small, little," which in Middle High German meant the same as its English cognate clean (adj.)).ETD tall (adj.).4

    The meaning "having a (defined) height," whether lofty or not is from 1580s. The meaning "exaggerated" (as in tall tale) is American English colloquial attested by 1846. Phrase tall, dark, and handsome is recorded by 1841. Related: Tallness.ETD tall (adj.).5


    city in Alabama, U.S., from Muskogee /talati:ki/, a tribal town name, from /(i)talwa/ "tribal town" + /-atiiki/ "at the edge, border" [Bright].ETD Talladega.2


    place in Florida, U.S.A., 1799, originally Seminole Tallahassee, from Muskogee /talaha:ssi/, name of a tribal town, perhaps from /(i)talwa/ "tribal town" + /ahassi/ "old, rancid" [Bright].ETD Tallahassee.2

    tallboy (n.)

    also tall-boy, 1670s, "high-stemmed wine-glass or goblet," from tall + boy, though the exact signification is unclear. In reference to a high chest of drawers it is recorded by 1769, in this use perhaps a partial loan-translation of French haut bois, literally "high wood."ETD tallboy (n.).2

    tally (n.)

    mid-15c., talie, "scored stick used in record-keeping, piece of wood marked with notches or scores to indicate amount owed or paid," also the record kept on it, from Anglo-French tallie (early 14c., Old French taille "notch in a piece of wood signifying a debt"), Anglo-Latin talea (late 12c.), from Medieval Latin tallia, from Latin talea "a cutting, rod, stick" (see tailor (n.), and compare the sense history of score (n.)).ETD tally (n.).2

    The broader meaning "a record of an amount or number" is by 1590s. The sports sense of "a total score" is from 1856.ETD tally (n.).3

    The meaning "a thing that matches another" is attested by 1650s, from the practice of splitting a tally lengthwise across the notches, debtor and creditor each retaining one of the halves; the usual method of keeping accounts before writing became general (the size of the notches varied with the amount). This is also in 19c. British provincial expression live tally, make a tally bargain "live as husband and wife without marrying."ETD tally (n.).4

    tally (v.)

    mid-15c., talien, "keep an account by tally," also literal, "notch a stick so as to make a tally," from Medieval Latin talliare "to tax," from tallia (see tally (n.)). The meaning "correspond, agree" as one half of a tally to another is from 1705.ETD tally (v.).2

    The meaning "count or record each item" in a cargo, etc., is from 1812. The sports sense of "to score" is from 1867 in baseball jargon. Related: Tallied; talliable; tallying. Hence tally-sheet "score sheet" (1889); tallyman "one who trades or sells on credit" (1650s), also "one who keeps account" of anything (1857).ETD tally (v.).3


    Estonian capital, from Old Estonian (Finnic) tan-linn "Danish fort," from tan "Danish" + linn "fort, castle." Founded 1219 by Danish king Valdemar II.ETD Tallinn.2

    tallish (adj.)

    "somewhat tall," 1748, from tall (adj.) + -ish.ETD tallish (adj.).2

    tallow (n.)

    hard animal fat, especially as separated and used to make soap, candles, etc., mid-14c., taloue, talwgh, from a source (perhaps an unrecorded Old English word) cognate with Middle Low German talg "tallow," Middle Dutch talch, from Proto-Germanic *talga-, meaning perhaps originally "firm, compact material" (compare Gothic tulgus "firm, solid").ETD tallow (n.).2

    OED (1989) says related Scandinavian words probably are from continental Germanic. The English word is implied from late 13c. in surnames (Geoffrey le Talghmongere). Tallow-chandler "one who makes tallow candles" is recorded from c. 1400.ETD tallow (n.).3

    tallowy (adj.)

    mid-15c., "having the properties of tallow;" by 1832 as "yellowish-white in color or complexion;" from tallow (n.) + -y (2).ETD tallowy (adj.).2


    also tallyho, huntsman's cry to alert others that the game has been spotted, 1772, earlier in the name of a roistering character in English theater, Sir Toby Tallyho (Foote, 1756), apparently altered from French taiaut, cry used in deer hunting (1660s), from Old French taho, tielau. The meaning "fast coach" is from 1823, originally in reference to the one that made the run from London to Birmingham.ETD tally-ho.2

    Talmud (n.)

    body of Jewish traditional ceremonial and civil law, 1530s, from late Hebrew talmud "instruction" (c. 130 C.E.), from lamadh "he learned." Related: Talmudic; Talmudical; Talmudist.ETD Talmud (n.).2

    talon (n.)

    c. 1400, talounz (plural) "claws of a bird or beast," especially of a bird of prey, probably originally from Old French talon "heel or hinder part of the foot of a beast, or of a man, or of a shoe; foot-step" (12c.), from Medieval Latin talonem "heel," from Latin talus "ankle" (see talus (n.1)).ETD talon (n.).2

    "The extension to birds of prey, and subsequent stages, are peculiar to English" [OED, 1989]. Sometimes in Middle English also also talaund, talaunt; for the unetymological -t, compare pheasant.ETD talon (n.).3

    talus (n.1)

    "anklebone," 1690s, from Latin talus "ankle, anklebone, knucklebone" (plural tali), related to or a derivative of Latin taxillus "a small die, cube" (they originally were made from the knucklebones of animals), which is of obscure origin.ETD talus (n.1).2

    talus (n.2)

    "slope," 1640s, from French talus (16c.), from Old French talu "slope, mound, small hill" (12c.), probably from Gallo-Roman *talutum, from Latin talutium "a slope or outcrop of rock debris," which is perhaps of Celtic origin (compare Welsh, Breton tal "forehead, brow").ETD talus (n.2).2

    OED (1989), however, suggests derivation from root of talus (n.1) in the sense of "heel" which developed in its Romanic descendants. Mainly used of military earthwork at first; the meaning "sloping mass of rocky fragments that has fallen from a cliff" is attested by 1830.ETD talus (n.2).3

    tamale (n.)

    Mexican dish of corn and meat seasoned with red pepper, 1860, tamal, tamauli, a singular form derived from tamales (1690s), from American Spanish tamales, plural of tamal, from Nahuatl tamal, tamalli, a food made of Indian corn and meat.ETD tamale (n.).2

    tamarack (n.)

    also tamarac, North American black larch, 1805, probably of Algonquian origin (compare synonymous hackmatack, 1792, from a source akin to Abenaki akemantak "a kind of supple wood used for making snowshoes"), but the etymology is unclear.ETD tamarack (n.).2

    tamarind (n.)

    c. 1400, tamarinde, "pod-shaped fruit of the tamarind tree," used medicinally, via Medieval Latin tamarindus, Latin tamarinda, etc., ultimately from Arabic tamr hindi, literally "date of India," from hind "India" (see Hindu). The first element is cognate with Hebrew tamar "palm tree, date palm." In reference to the tree itself, from 1610s.ETD tamarind (n.).2

    tamarisk (n.)

    southern European evergreen shrub, c. 1400, tamarisc, thamarike, from Late Latin tamariscus, thamaricus, variant of tamarix, a word of unknown origin, probably a borrowing from a non-Indo-European language. Perhaps it is from Semitic and related to Hebrew tamar "palm tree, date palm" (as in tamarind).ETD tamarisk (n.).2

    Tambo (n.)

    "tambourine player in a minstrel troupe," especially as one of the end-men (opposite Bones), by 1844, American English, shortened from tambourine., also the word for the instrument he has.ETD Tambo (n.).2

    tambour (n.)

    "a drum," late 15c. (Caxton), from Old French tambour, a kind of drum (see tambourine, which is a diminutive). Used of many things resembling a drum or having an elastic membrane stretched over a cup-shaped device. As "circular frame on which fabric is stretched to be embroidered," by 1777.ETD tambour (n.).2

    tambourine (n.)

    "parchment-covered hoop with pieces of metal attached used as a drum," 1782; earlier "small drum" (1570s), apparently from French tambourin, which meant "long narrow drum used in Provence," but the modern sense is that of French tambour de basque (see below). It is a diminutive of tambour "drum," a word altered from Old French tabour (see tabor) by influence of Arabic tunbur, the name of a kind of lute or guitar.ETD tambourine (n.).2

    The Arabic word itself turns up in English as tamboura (1580s), the name of a long-necked lute of the Balkans and Near East. The sense evolution presents some difficulty, and in 17c. and early 18c. it is sometimes difficult to say what sort of instrument is intended.ETD tambourine (n.).3

    Earlier names in English for it were tambour de basque (1680s), also timbre and timbrel. Tambour itself is attested in English from late 15c., and Shakespeare has tabourine.ETD tambourine (n.).4

    tame (adj.)

    c. 1200, of persons, "in a state of subjection, physically subdued, restrained in behavior;" mid-13c., of animals, "domesticated, reclaimed from wildness," also, of persons, "meek, gentle-natured, compliant, intent on homely or domestic activities," from oblique forms of Old English tom, tam "domesticated, docile."ETD tame (adj.).2

    This is reconstructed to be from Proto-Germanic *tamaz (source also of Old Norse tamr, Old Saxon, Old Frisian, Middle Low German, Middle Dutch tam, Old High German zam, German zahm "tame").ETD tame (adj.).3

    This in turn is said to be (Watkins) from PIE *deme- "to constrain, to force, to break (horses)" (source also of Sanskrit damayati "tames;" Persian dam "a tame animal;" Greek daman "to tame, subdue," dametos "tame;" Latin domare "to tame, subdue;" Old Irish damnaim "I tie up, fasten, I tame, subdue"). A possible ulterior connection is with PIE *dem- "house, household" (see domestic (adj.)).ETD tame (adj.).4

    The meaning "spiritless, weak, dull, uninspiring, insipid" is recorded from c. 1600. Related: Tamely; tameless; tameness. As a noun by c. 1300, "tame beasts."ETD tame (adj.).5

    tame (v.)

    mid-14c., tamen, "domesticate (an animal), reclaim from a wild or feral state," from tame (adj.), or altered by the form of the adjective from Old English temian "subdue, make tame," from Proto-Germanic *tamjan- (source also of Old Norse temja, Old Frisian tema, Middle Dutch temmen, Old High German zemmen, German zähmen, Gothic tamjan "to tame").ETD tame (v.).2

    The general sense of "bring into subjection, subdue or restrain" is from late 14c.; as "deprive of courage or spirit" by 1520s. Related: Tamed; taming.ETD tame (v.).3

    tamer (n.)

    "one who or that which domesticates or brings into subjection," c. 1400, agent noun from tame (v.).ETD tamer (n.).2


    also Tamul, Tamoul, Dravidian people and language of southern India, 1734, from Pali Damila, from Sanskrit Dramila, variant of Dravida (see Dravidian). Related: Tamilian.ETD Tamil.2


    in 19c. American English political jargon a word synonymous with "the Democratic Party in New York City," hence, by late 19c., proverbial for "political and municipal corruption," from Tammany Hall, on 14th Street, headquarters of a social club incorporated 1789 and named for Delaware Indian chief Tamanen, who had sold land to William Penn.ETD Tammany.2

    Around the time of the American Revolution he was popularly canonized as St. Tammany and taken as the "patron saint" of Pennsylvania and neighboring colonies, sometimes of the whole of America. He was assigned a feast day (May 1 Old Style, May 12 New Style) which was celebrated with festivities that raised money for charity, hence the easy transfer of the name to what was, at first, a benevolent association. The club's symbol was a tiger.ETD Tammany.3

    Tammuz (n.)

    Babylonian and Assyrian god (identified with Adon), according to Klein's sources probably from Babylonian Du'uzu, contraction of Dumu-zi "the son who rises," also interpeted as "the faithful son."ETD Tammuz (n.).2

    tam-o'-shanter (n.)

    type of bonnet formerly worn by Scottish plowmen, c. 1840, from Tam O'Shanter "Tom of Shanter," name of the hero in a poem of the same name by Robert Burns, written 1790. The woolen cap became fashionable c. 1887 as a head-dress for ladies.ETD tam-o'-shanter (n.).2

    tamp (v.)

    1819, in mining and quarrying, "fill (a hole containing an explosive) with dirt or clay before blasting," a workmen's word, perhaps a back-formation from tampion, that word being mistaken as a present participle (*tamping).ETD tamp (v.).2

    The general sense of "ram down, pound" is by 1875; later of more gentle actions, as putting tobacco in a pipe. The figurative sense of "subdue or constrain by force" is by 1959. Related: Tamped; tamping. Tamping as a verbal noun in mining is by 1828.ETD tamp (v.).3


    city in Florida, U.S.A., probably from the name of a Calusa village, of unknown meaning.ETD Tampa.2

    tamper (v.)

    1560s, "meddle unwisely, interfere rashly," 1560s, a figurative use of tamper in the contemporary sense of "to work in clay, etc., so as to mix it thoroughly" (a sense now obsolete), which probably is originally a variant of temper (v.) and often was spelled temper at first. Perhaps it represents a dialectal or workmen's pronunciation (OED, 1989). Temper (v.) in the clay-working sense is attested from 14c.ETD tamper (v.).2

    It is attested by 1590s as "interfere for the purpose of alteration, make objectionably or unauthorized changes." Related: Tampered; tamperer; tampering. Tampering as a verbal noun is attested by 1854 as "improper interference."ETD tamper (v.).3

    tamper (n.)

    "one who or that which tamps," 1864, agent noun from tamp (v.). Originally in mining and quarrying, in reference to stopping the hole in which the blasting charge is placed.ETD tamper (n.).2

    tamper-proof (adj.)

    also tamperproof, "not susceptible to unauthorized changes," 1886, from tamper (v.) + proof. Originally of clocks that track workers' time on unsupervised duty.ETD tamper-proof (adj.).2

    tampion (n.)

    early 15c., "plug, stopper, bung," a sense now obsolete, from a nasalized variant of Old French tapon "piece of cloth to stop a hole" (14c.), a suffixed form of Frankish *tappo "stopper, plug," related to Old High German zapfo and Old English tæppa "stopper" (see tap (n.1)).ETD tampion (n.).2

    The specific meaning "wooden plug for the muzzle of a gun" (to keep out rain or seawater) is recorded from 1620s. The Old French form tapon also was used in Middle English for "stopper, plug" (late 14c.).ETD tampion (n.).3

    tampon (n.)

    "plug of cotton to stanch a flow of blood (especially from the vagina)," 1848, from French tampon, originally "plug" (see tampion). Tampax, proprietary name registered in U.S. 1932, is based on tampon.ETD tampon (n.).2

    tan (n.)

    c. 1600, "crushed bark of the sort used in tanning," from tan (v.) and perhaps also from Middle English tannedust, powder of tanne "oak bark powdered and used medicinally or in tanning" (late 14c.), from Old French tan, ten and directly from Medieval Latin tannum.ETD tan (n.).2

    The meaning "a browning of the skin by exposure to the sun, bronze color imparted to skin by exposure to sun" is by 1749 (compare sun-tan). Tan-line is attested by 1979.ETD tan (n.).3

    As a name for a brownish color, in any context (originally fashion), it is recorded by 1888. As an adjective from 1620s; the meaning "of the yellowish-gray color of tanned leather" is by 1660s. Spent tan-bark was used in gardening and spread on enclosures for riding horses, hence tan had for a time 19c. a figurative association with the circus ring.ETD tan (n.).4

    tan (v.)

    c. 1400, tannen, in part from late Old English tannian "convert hides into leather" (by steeping them in liquid containing tannin), from Medieval Latin tannare "tan, dye a tawny color" (c. 900), from tannum "crushed oak bark," used in tanning leather. This is believed to be from a Celtic source, such as Breton tann "oak tree."*ETD tan (v.).2

    By extension, "convert to leather" by other means. The sense of "make (the skin, face, etc.) brown by exposure to the sun" (as tanning does to hides) is recorded by 1520s; the intransitive sense "become tanned by the rays of the sun" also is from 1520s; compare sun-tan.ETD tan (v.).3

    To tan (someone's) hide in the figurative sense of "beat, flog, thrash" is from 1660s. Related: Tanned; tanning.ETD tan (v.).4

    * German Tanne "fir tree" (as in Tannenbaum) might be a transferred meaning from the same Celtic source.ETD tan (v.).5

    tanning (n.)

    late 15c., "process of tanning leather," verbal noun from tan (v.). The meaning "process of getting a sun-tan" is by 1944. Tanning booth is attested by 1978; tanning bed by 1981.ETD tanning (n.).2

    tanager (n.)

    a name given to various small, conspicuous American woodlands birds, 1844, earlier tanagra (1610s), from Modern Latin tanagra, alteration of Portuguese tangara, from Tupi (Brazil) tangara, a bird name of uncertain meaning. Related: Tanagrine; tanagroid.ETD tanager (n.).2

    T and A (n.)

    1972, short for tits and ass (a phrase attributed to Lenny Bruce), in reference to salacious U.S. mass media; earlier it was medical shorthand for "tonsils and adenoids" (1942).ETD T and A (n.).2

    tandem (n.)

    1785, "two-wheeled carriage pulled by horses harnessed one behind the other" (instead of side-by-side), jocular use of Latin tandem "at length (of time), at last, so much," from tam "so" (from PIE *tam-, adverbial form of demonstrative pronoun root *-to-; see -th (1)) + demonstrative suffix -dem. "Probably first in university use" [Century Dictionary].ETD tandem (n.).2

    Transferred by 1884 to "a bicycle with two seats" (tandem-bicycle). In English as an adverb ("one behind the other, in single file") from 1795; as an adjective ("having one before the other") from 1801.ETD tandem (n.).3

    tandoor (n.)

    also tandour, 1660s, in reference to a kind of heating apparatus used in Persia; by 1840 as a kind of clay oven used in Northern India and Pakistan; from a Turkish pronunciation of Persian and Arabic tannur "oven, portable furnace" (see tandoori).ETD tandoor (n.).2

    tandoori (adj.)

    in reference to a type of northern Indian and Pakistani cooking using a charcoal-fired clay oven, 1958, from adjectival form of Urdu or Punjabi tandur "cooking stove," a regional word of uncertain origin. As a noun by 1969.ETD tandoori (adj.).2

    tang (n.)

    mid-14c., tang, tonge, "serpent's tongue" (thought to be a stinging organ), from a Scandinavian source akin to Old Norse tangi "spit of land; pointed end by which a blade is driven into a handle," from Proto-Germanic *tang-, from PIE *denk- "to bite" (see tongs).ETD tang (n.).2

    Later of other long, projecting parts, such as "portion of a metal blade that extends into the handle" of a sword, knife, chisel, etc. (1680s). Influenced in some senses by tongue (n.). The meaning "sting of an insect or reptile" lingered in provincial English.ETD tang (n.).3

    The figurative sense of "a sharp taste, pungency of flavor" is recorded by mid-15c. (for sense evolution, compare piquant, pungent, sharp (adj.), acrid, etc.; there are similar evolutions in the Dutch and German cognates); that of "suggestion, trace" is from 1590s. The fish (1734) are so called for their spines.ETD tang (n.).4

    As a verb, Middle English tangen, "to bite" (of a serpent); "to pierce" (of an arrow), c. 1400, from the noun.ETD tang (n.).5

    tang (v.)

    1540s, "strike a bell," imitative. By c. 1600 as "utter a ringing tone;" as a noun, 1660s, "a tanging sound." Related: Tanged; tanging.ETD tang (v.).2

    tangelo (n.)

    "hybrid of a tangerine and a pomelo," 1904, the word formed like the fruit.ETD tangelo (n.).2

    tangent (adj.)

    1590s, in geometry, of a line, "touching, meeting at a point without intersecting," from Latin tangentem (nominative tangens), present participle of tangere "to touch" (from PIE root *tag- "to touch, handle;" the Latin verb also is in tactile, contact, etc.).ETD tangent (adj.).2

    First used by Danish mathematician Thomas Fincke in "Geomietria Rotundi" (1583). The extended sense of "slightly connected with a subject" is recorded by 1825. Related: Tangence; tangency.ETD tangent (adj.).3

    tangental (adj.)

    "tangential; of, pertaining to, or of the nature of a tangent," 1742, from tangent (adj.) + -al (1). Related: Tangentally.ETD tangental (adj.).2

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