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    whitlow (n.) — wily (adj.)

    whitlow (n.)

    "inflammation on a finger or toe," mid-15c., alteration of whitflaw (c. 1400), from flaw, with first element possibly from Dutch vijt or Low German fit "abscess."ETD whitlow (n.).2


    late 13c., contraction of Whitsunday.ETD Whitsun.2


    "Pentecost," late Old English Hwita Sunnandæg "white Sunday" (see white (adj.)); possibly so called from the white baptismal robes worn by newly baptized Christians on this day. Related: Whitsuntide.ETD Whitsunday.2

    whittle (v.)

    1550s, "to cut thin shavings from (something) with a knife," from Middle English whittel "a knife," especially a large one (c. 1400), variant of thwittle (late 14c.), from Old English þwitan "to cut," from Proto-Germanic *thwit- (source also of Old Norse þveita "to hew"), from PIE root *twei- "to agitate, shake, toss" (see seismo-). Figurative sense is attested from 1746. Related: Whittled; whittling.ETD whittle (v.).2

    whiz (n.)

    "clever person," 1914, probably a special use of whiz "something remarkable" (1908), an extended sense of whizz; or perhaps a shortened and altered form of wizard. Noun phrase whiz kid is from 1930s, a take-off on a radio show's quiz kid.ETD whiz (n.).2

    whizbang (n.)

    also whiz-bang, whizz-bang, 1915, originally a soldier's name for a type of German artillery shell in World War I, so called by the Allied troops in reference to its characteristic sound. From whizz + bang (v.).ETD whizbang (n.).2

    whizz (v.)

    "make or move with a humming, hissing sound," 1540s, of imitative origin. Meaning "to urinate" is from 1929. Related: Whizzed; whizzing. The noun is recorded from 1610s. Whizzer "something extraordinary" is from 1888.ETD whizz (v.).2

    who (pron.)

    Old English hwa "who," sometimes "what; anyone, someone; each; whosoever," from Proto-Germanic *hwas (source also of Old Saxon hwe, Danish hvo, Swedish vem, Old Frisian hwa, Dutch wie, Old High German hwer, German wer, Gothic hvo (fem.) "who"), from PIE root *kwo-, stem of relative and interrogative pronouns.ETD who (pron.).2

    whoa (interj.)

    1620s, a cry to call attention from a distance, a variant of who. As a command to stop a horse, it is attested from 1843, a variant of ho. As an expression of delight or surprise (1980s) it has gradually superseded wow, which was very popular in the 1960s.ETD whoa (interj.).2

    whodunit (n.)

    "murder mystery," 1930, U.S. slang, originally a semi-facetious formation from who done it? Whydunit is from 1968.ETD whodunit (n.).2

    whoever (pron.)

    late Old English hwa efre; see who + ever.ETD whoever (pron.).2

    whole (n.)

    "entire body or company; the full amount," late 14c., from whole (adj.).ETD whole (n.).2

    whole (adj.)

    Old English hal "entire, whole; unhurt, uninjured, safe; healthy, sound; genuine, straightforward," from Proto-Germanic *haila- "undamaged" (source also of Old Saxon hel, Old Norse heill, Old Frisian hal, Middle Dutch hiel, Dutch heel, Old High German, German heil "salvation, welfare"), from PIE *kailo- "whole, uninjured, of good omen" (source also of Old Church Slavonic celu "whole, complete;" see health).ETD whole (adj.).2

    The spelling with wh- developed early 15c. The sense in whole number is from early 14c. Whole milk is from 1782. On the whole "considering all facts or circumstances" is from 1690s. For phrase whole hog, see hog (n.).ETD whole (adj.).3

    wholeness (n.)

    mid-14c., from whole (adj.) + -ness. Old English had halnes.ETD wholeness (n.).2

    whole cloth (n.)

    early 15c., "piece of cloth of full size," as opposed to a piece cut out for a garment; figurative sense first attested 1570s.ETD whole cloth (n.).2

    wholehearted (adj.)

    also whole-hearted, 1840, from whole (adj.) + -hearted. Related: Wholeheartedly.ETD wholehearted (adj.).2

    whole nine yards (n.)

    by 1970, of unknown origin; perhaps arbitrary (see cloud nine). Among the guesses that have been made without real evidence: concrete mixer trucks were said to have dispensed in this amount. Or the yard might be the word used in the slang sense of "one hundred dollars." Several similar phrases meaning "everything" arose in the 1940s (whole ball of wax, which is likewise of obscure origin, whole schmear); older examples include whole hog (see hog (n.)) and whole shooting match (1896); whole shebang (1895).ETD whole nine yards (n.).2

    wholesale (adj.)

    early 15c., "in large quantities," from whole (adj.) + sale; the general sense of "extensive" is attested from 1640s. As a verb from 1800. Related: Wholesaling; wholesaler.ETD wholesale (adj.).2

    wholesome (adj.)

    c. 1200, "of benefit to the soul," from whole (adj.) in the "healthy" sense + -some (1). Physical sense first attested late 14c. Related: Wholesomely; wholesomeness. Old English had halwende.ETD wholesome (adj.).2

    wholistic (adj.)

    1941, from holistic crossed with whole (adj.). Related: wholism (1939).ETD wholistic (adj.).2

    wholly (adv.)

    mid-14c., from whole (adj.) + -ly (2), or a modification of unrecorded Old English *hallice.ETD wholly (adv.).2

    whom (pron.)

    objective case of who, Old English hwam (Proto-Germanic *hwam), dative form of hwa (from PIE root *kwo-, stem of relative and interrogative pronouns). Ungrammatical use of who for whom is attested from c. 1300.ETD whom (pron.).2

    whomever (pron.)

    early 14c., from whom + ever.ETD whomever (pron.).2

    whomp (v.)

    1952, from whomp (n.). Related: Whomped; whomping.ETD whomp (v.).2

    whomp (n.)

    1926, echoic of the sound of a heavy blow or something falling heavily.ETD whomp (n.).2

    whoop (v.)

    mid-14c., houpen, partly imitative, partly from Old French huper, houper "to cry out, shout," also imitative. It is attested as an interjection from at least mid-15c. Spelling with wh- is from mid-15c. The noun is recorded from c. 1600. Phrase whoop it up "create a disturbance" is recorded from 1881. Expression whoop-de-do is recorded from 1929. Whooping cough (1739) is now the prevalent spelling of hooping cough; whooping crane is recorded from 1791.ETD whoop (v.).2


    exclamation of dismay, 1925; see oops.ETD whoops.2

    whoopee (n.)

    1845, "noisy, unrestrained revelry," extended form of whoop, originally American English. Popular song "Makin' Whoopee" is from 1928. The novelty whoopee cushion is from 1931.ETD whoopee (n.).2

    whoosh (v.)

    1856, of imitative origin. Related: Whooshed; whooshing. As a noun from 1880; as an interjection by 1899.ETD whoosh (v.).2

    whoot (v.)

    early 15c. variant of hoot (v.).ETD whoot (v.).2

    whop (v.)

    "to beat, strike," mid-15c., of imitative origin. Compare Welsh chwap "a stroke," also of imitative origin; also see wap. Related: Whopped; whopping.ETD whop (v.).2

    whopper (n.)

    1767, "uncommonly large thing," originally and especially an audacious lie, formed as if from whop (v.) "to beat, overcome." Whopping "large, big, impressive" is attested by 1620s. Compare smasher, slapper; swapper "something very big" (1700).ETD whopper (n.).2

    whore (n.)

    1530s spelling alteration (see wh-) of Middle English hore, from Old English hore "prostitute, harlot," from Proto-Germanic *hōran-, fem. *hōrā- (source also of Old Frisian hor "fornication," Old Norse hora "adulteress," Danish hore, Swedish hora, Dutch hoer, Old High German huora "prostitute;" in Gothic only in the masc. hors "adulterer, fornicator," also as a verb, horinon "commit adultery"), probably etymologically "one who desires," from PIE root *ka- "to like, desire," which in other languages has produced words for "lover; friend."ETD whore (n.).2

    Whore itself is perhaps a Germanic euphemism for a word that has not survived. The Old English vowel naturally would have yielded *hoor, which is the pronunciation in some dialects; it might have shifted by influence of Middle English homonym hore "physical filth, slime," also "moral corruption, sin," from Old English horh. The wh- form became current 16c. A general term of abuse for an unchaste or lewd woman (without regard to money) from at least c. 1200. Of male prostitutes from 1630s. Whore of Babylon is from Revelation xvii.1, 5, etc. In Middle English with occasional plural forms horen, heoranna.ETD whore (n.).3

    Some equivalent words in other languages also derive from sources not originally pejorative, such as Bohemian nevestka, diminutive of nevesta "bride;" Dutch deern, German dirne originally "girl, lass, wench;" also perhaps Old French pute, perhaps literally "girl," fem. of Vulgar Latin *puttus (but perhaps rather from Latin putidus "stinking;" see poontang). Welsh putain "whore" is from French, probably via Middle English. Among other languages, Greek porne "prostitute" is related to pernemi "sell," with an original notion probably of a female slave sold for prostitution; Latin meretrix is literally "one who earns wages" (source of Irish mertrech, Old English miltestre "whore, prostitute").ETD whore (n.).4

    The vulgar Roman word was scortum, literally "skin, hide." Another term was lupa, literally "she-wolf" (preserved in Spanish loba, Italian lupa, French louve; see wolf (n.)). And of course there was prostituta, literally "placed in front," thus "publicly exposed," from the fem. past participle of prostituere (see prostitute (n.)). Another Old Norse term was skækja, which yielded Danish skøge, Swedish sköka; probably from Middle Low German schoke, which is perhaps from schode "foreskin of a horse's penis," perhaps with the sense of "skin" (compare Latin scortum) or perhaps via an intermediary sense of "vagina." Spanish ramera, Portuguese rameira are from fem. form of ramero "young bird of prey," literally "little branch," from ramo "branch." Breton gast is cognate with Welsh gast "bitch," of uncertain origin. Compare also strumpet, harlot.ETD whore (n.).5

    Old Church Slavonic ljubodejica is from ljuby dejati "fornicate," a compound from ljuby "love" + dejati "put, perform." Russian bljad "whore" derives from Old Church Slavonic bladinica, from bladu "fornication." Polish nierządnica is literally "disorderly woman." Sanskrit vecya is a derivation of veca- "house, dwelling," especially "house of ill-repute, brothel." Another term, pumccali, means literally "one who runs after men." Avestan jahika is literally "woman," but only of evil creatures; another term is kunairi, from pejorative prefix ku- + nairi "woman."ETD whore (n.).6

    whore (v.)

    "to have to do with whores," 1580s, from whore (n.). Related: Whored; whoring.ETD whore (v.).2

    whoredom (n.)

    late 12c., "practice of sexual immorality," probably from Old Norse hordomr "adultery," from Proto-Germanic *horaz "one who desires" (see whore (n.)) + Old Norse -domr "condition " (see -dom).ETD whoredom (n.).2

    whore-house (n.)

    early 14c., from whore (n.) + house (n.). Sometimes translating Latin lupanaria. Obsolete from c. 1700, revived early 20c. in American English.ETD whore-house (n.).2

    whore-monger (n.)

    1520s, from whore (n.) + monger (n.). A Petrus Hurmonger is in the 1327 Leicestershire Lay Subsidy Rolls.ETD whore-monger (n.).2

    whoreson (n.)

    c. 1300, from whore (n.) + son. Often used affectionately, it translates Anglo-French fiz a putain. As an adjective, "mean, scurvy, contemptuous," from mid-15c.ETD whoreson (n.).2

    whorl (n.)

    mid-15c., "the small flywheel of a spindle," perhaps an alteration of whirl. Meaning "circlar arrangement of leaves or flowers round a stem of a plant" is first recorded 1550s. Of seashells or other spiral structures, from 1828. Related: Whorled.ETD whorl (n.).2

    whortleberry (n.)

    1570s, southwestern England variant of hurtleberry (see huckleberry).ETD whortleberry (n.).2

    whose (pron.)

    genitive of who; from Old English hwæs, genitive of hwa "who," from PIE root *kwo-, stem of relative and interrogative pronouns.ETD whose (pron.).2

    whosis (n.)

    1923, short for who is this; whosit (who is it) attested by 1948.ETD whosis (n.).2

    whump (v.)

    1897, of imitative origin. Related: Whumped; whumping. The noun is recorded from 1915.ETD whump (v.).2

    why (adv.)

    Old English hwi, instrumental case (indicating for what purpose or by what means) of hwæt (see what), from Proto-Germanic adverb *hwi (source also of Old Saxon hwi, Old Norse hvi), from PIE *kwi- (source of Greek pei "where"), locative of root *kwo-, stem of relative and interrogative pronouns. As an interjection of surprise or emphasis, recorded from 1510s. As a noun, "cause, reason" from c. 1300.ETD why (adv.).2

    wibble (v.)

    1871, from wibble-wobble (1847), a colloquial reduplication of wobble (v.).ETD wibble (v.).2

    Wicca (n.)

    An Old English masc. noun meaning "male witch, wizard, soothsayer, sorcerer, astrologer, magician;" see witch. Use of the word in modern contexts traces to English folklorist Gerald Gardner (1884-1964), who is said to have joined circa 1939 an occult group in New Forest, Hampshire, England, for which he claimed an unbroken tradition to medieval times. Gardner seems to have first used it in print in 1954, in his book "Witchcraft Today" ("Witches were the Wica or wise people, with herbal knowledge and a working occult teaching usually used for good ...."). In published and unpublished material, he apparently only ever used the word as a mass noun referring to adherents of the practice and not as the name of the practice itself. Some of his followers continue to use it in this sense. According to Gardner's book "The Meaning of Witchcraft" (1959), the word, as used in the initiation ceremony, played a key role in his experience:ETD Wicca (n.).2

    In the late 1960s the term came into use as the title of a modern pagan movement associated with witchcraft. The first printed reference in this usage seems to be 1969, in "The Truth About Witchcraft" by freelance author Hans Holzer:ETD Wicca (n.).3

    And, quoting witch Alex Sanders:ETD Wicca (n.).4

    Sanders was a highly visible representative of neo-pagan Witchcraft in the late 1960s and early 1970s. During this time he appears to have popularized use of the term in this sense. Later books c. 1989 teaching modernized witchcraft using the same term account for its rise and popularity, especially in U.S.ETD Wicca (n.).5

    wich (n.)

    "salt works, salt pit," Old English wic, apparently a specialized use of the wic that means "dwelling place, town" (see wick (n.2)).ETD wich (n.).2

    wick (n.2)

    "dairy farm," now surviving, if at all, as a localism in East Anglia or Essex, it was once the common Old English wic "dwelling place, lodging, house, mansion, abode," then coming to mean "village, hamlet, town," and later "dairy farm" (as in Gatwick "Goat-farm"). Common in this latter sense 13c.-14c. The word is from a general Germanic borrowing from Latin vicus "group of dwellings, village; a block of houses, a street, a group of streets forming an administrative unit" (from PIE root *weik- (1) "clan"). Compare Old High German wih "village," German Weichbild "municipal area," Dutch wijk "quarter, district," Old Frisian wik, Old Saxon wic "village."ETD wick (n.2).2

    wicked (adj.)

    c. 1200, extended form of earlier wick "bad, wicked, false" (12c.), which apparently is an adjectival use of Old English wicca "wizard" (see witch). Formed as if a past participle, but there is no corresponding verb. For evolution, compare wretched from wretch. Slang ironic sense of "wonderful" first attested 1920, in F. Scott Fitzgerald. As an adverb from early 15c. Related: Wickedly.ETD wicked (adj.).2

    wick (n.1)

    "bundle of fiber in a lamp or candle," 17c. spelling alteration of wueke, from Old English weoce "wick of a lamp or candle," from West Germanic *weukon (source also of Middle Dutch wieke, Dutch wiek, Old High German wiohha, German Wieche), of unknown origin, with no known cognates beyond Germanic. To dip one's wick "engage in sexual intercourse" (in reference to males) is recorded from 1958, perhaps from Hampton Wick, rhyming slang for "prick," which would connect it rather to wick (n.2).ETD wick (n.1).2

    wickedness (n.)

    c. 1300, from wicked + -ness.ETD wickedness (n.).2

    wicker (n.)

    mid-14c., "wickerwork," from a Scandinavian source (compare Danish viger, Middle Swedish viker "willow, willow branch"), from Proto-Germanic *wik- (source also of Old Norse vikja "to move, turn," Swedish vika "to bend," Old English wican "to give way, yield"), from PIE root *weik- (2) "to bend, to wind." The notion is of pliant twigs. As an adjective, "made of wicker," from c. 1500.ETD wicker (n.).2

    wickerwork (n.)

    1719, from wicker + work (n.).ETD wickerwork (n.).2

    wicket (n.)

    early 13c., "small door or gate," especially one forming part of a larger one, from Anglo-French wiket, Old North French wiket (Old French guichet, Norman viquet) "small door, wicket, wicket gate," probably from Proto-Germanic *wik- (source also of Old Norse vik "nook," Old English wican "to give way, yield"), from PIE root *weik- (2) "to bend, to wind." The notion is of "something that turns." Cricket sense of "set of three sticks defended by the batsman" is recorded from 1733; hence many figurative phrases in British English.ETD wicket (n.).2

    widdershins (adv.)

    1510s, chiefly Scottish, originally "contrary to the course of the sun or a clock" (movement in this direction being considered unlucky), probably from Middle Low German weddersinnes, literally "against the way" (i.e. "in the opposite direction"), from widersinnen "to go against," from wider "against" (see with) + sinnen "to travel, go," from Old High German sinnen, related to sind "journey" (see send).ETD widdershins (adv.).2

    widely (adv.)

    1660s, from wide + -ly (2).ETD widely (adv.).2

    wide (adj.)

    Old English wid "vast, broad, long," also used of time, from Proto-Germanic *widaz (source also of Old Saxon, Old Frisian wid, Old Norse viðr, Dutch wijd, Old High German wit, German weit), perhaps from PIE *wi-ito-, from root *wi- "apart, away, in half."ETD wide (adj.).2

    Meaning "distended, expanded, spread apart" is from c. 1500; sense of "embracing many subjects" is from 1530s; meaning "missing the intended target" is from 1580s. As a second element in compounds (such as nationwide, worldwide) meaning "extending through the whole of," is is from late Old English. As an adverb, Old English wide. Wide open "unguarded, exposed to attack" (1915) originally was in boxing, etc. Wide awake (adj.) is first recorded 1818; figurative sense of "alert, knowing" is attested from 1833.ETD wide (adj.).3

    widen (v.)

    c. 1600 (transitive), from wide + -en (1). Intransitive sense from 1709. Related: Widened; widening.ETD widen (v.).2

    widespread (adj.)

    also wide-spread, 1705, from wide + past participle of spread (v.). Earlier was wide-spreading (1590s).ETD widespread (adj.).2

    widgeon (n.)

    migratory wild duck, 1510s, perhaps from a northern variant of French vigeon, which some trace to Latin vipionem (nominative vipio), "a kind of small crane," a Balearic word, perhaps imitative, with an evolution of form similar to that which produced pigeon. But the French word is later than the English one, and OED finds all this "very dubious." Applied to different species in Europe and America.ETD widgeon (n.).2

    widget (n.)

    "gadget, small manufactured item," c. 1920, American English, probably an alteration of gadget, perhaps based on which it.ETD widget (n.).2

    widow (n.)

    Old English widewe, wuduwe, from Proto-Germanic *widuwō (source also of Old Saxon widowa, Old Frisian widwe, Middle Dutch, Dutch weduwe, Dutch weeuw, Old High German wituwa, German Witwe, Gothic widuwo), from PIE adjective *widhewo (source also of Sanskrit vidhuh "lonely, solitary," vidhava "widow;" Avestan vithava, Latin vidua, Old Church Slavonic vidova, Russian vdova, Old Irish fedb, Welsh guedeu "widow;" Persian beva, Greek eitheos "unmarried man;" Latin viduus "bereft, void"), from root *uidh- "to separate, divide" (see with).ETD widow (n.).2

    Extended to "woman separated from or deserted by her husband" from mid-15c. (usually in a combination, such as grass widow). As a prefix to a name, attested from 1570s. Meaning "short line of type" (especially at the top of a column) is 1904 print shop slang. Widow's mite is from Mark xii.43. Widow's peak is from the belief that hair growing to a point on the forehead is an omen of early widowhood, suggestive of the "peak" of a widow's hood. The widow bird (1747) so-called in reference to the long black tail feathers of the males, suggestive of widows' veils.ETD widow (n.).3

    widower (n.)

    "man who has lost his wife by death," late 14c., extended from widow (n.). The Old English masc. form was widewa. Similar formation in Middle Dutch weduwer, German Wittwer. Related: Widowerhood.ETD widower (n.).2

    widow (v.)

    early 14c.; see widow (n.). Related: Widowed; widowing.ETD widow (v.).2

    widowhood (n.)

    c. 1200, from widow (n.) + -hood. Modifying or replacing Old English wuduwanhad "state of a woman who has no husband."ETD widowhood (n.).2

    widow-maker (n.)

    "something lethally dangerous" (war, the sea, dangerous machinery, etc.), 1590s, from widow (n.) + maker.ETD widow-maker (n.).2

    width (n.)

    1620s, formed from wide on model of breadth, and replacing wideness (Old English widnes). Johnson (1755) calls it "a low word." Related: Widthwise.ETD width (n.).2

    wield (v.)

    Old English weldan (Mercian), wieldan, wealdan (West Saxon) "have power over, compel, tame, subdue" (class VII strong verb; past tense weold, past participle gewealden), merged with weak verb wyldan, both from Proto-Germanic *waldan "to rule" (source also of Old Saxon and Gothic waldan, Old Frisian walda "to govern, rule," Old Norse valda "to rule, wield, to cause," Old High German waltan, German walten "to rule, govern").ETD wield (v.).2

    The Germanic words and cognates in Balto-Slavic (Old Church Slavonic vlado "to rule," vlasti "power," Russian vladeti "to reign, rule, possess, make use of," Lithuanian veldu, veldėti "to rule, possess") probably are from PIE *woldh-, extended form of root *wal- "to be strong, to rule." Related: Wielded; wielding.ETD wield (v.).3

    wieldy (adj.)

    late 14c., "capable of wielding," from wield + -y (2). Meaning "capable of being weilded" is from 1580s. Old English had wielde "powerful, victorious."ETD wieldy (adj.).2

    wiener (n.)

    1900, shortening of wienerwurst (1874, American English), from German Wiener "of Vienna" (from Wien "Vienna," from Latin Vindo-bona; see Vienna) + Wurst "sausage" (see wurst). Colloquial wienie is attested by 1911. Extensive pejorative senses developed from its penis-like shape. Wiener roast is from 1910.ETD wiener (n.).2

    wife (n.)

    Middle English wif, wyf, from Old English wif (neuter) "woman, female, lady," also, but not especially, "wife," from Proto-Germanic *wīfa- (source also of Old Saxon, Old Frisian wif, Old Norse vif, Danish and Swedish viv, Middle Dutch, Dutch wijf, Old High German wib, German Weib), of uncertain origin and disputed etymology, not found in Gothic.ETD wife (n.).2

    Apparently felt as inadequate in its basic sense, leading to the more distinctive formation wifman (source of woman). Dutch wijf now means, in slang, "girl, babe," having softened somewhat from earlier sense of "bitch." The Modern German cognate (Weib) also tends to be slighting or derogatory; Middle High German wip in early medieval times was "woman, female person," vrouwe (Frau) being retained for "woman of gentle birth, lady;" but from c. 1200 wip "took on a common, almost vulgar tone that restricted its usage in certain circles" and largely has been displaced by Frau.ETD wife (n.).3

    The more usual Indo-European word is represented in English by queen/quean. Words for "woman" also double for "wife" in some languages. Some proposed PIE roots for wife include *weip- "to twist, turn, wrap," perhaps with sense of "veiled person" (see vibrate); and more recently *ghwibh-, a proposed root meaning "shame," also "pudenda," but the only examples of it would be the Germanic words and Tocharian (a lost IE language of central Asia) kwipe, kip "female pudenda."ETD wife (n.).4

    The modern sense of "female spouse" began as a specialized sense in Old English; the general sense of "woman" is preserved in midwife, old wives' tale, etc. Middle English sense of "mistress of a household" survives in housewife; and the later restricted sense of "tradeswoman of humble rank" in fishwife. By 1883 as "passive partner in a homosexual couple." Wife-swapping is attested from 1954.ETD wife (n.).5

    wifely (adj.)

    Old English wiflic "womanly, pertaining to a woman," from wife + -ly (1). From late 14c. as "befitting a wife."ETD wifely (adj.).2

    wife-beater (n.)

    1855, from wife (n.) + beater. Related: Wife-beating. As "sleeveless undershirt" by 1990.ETD wife-beater (n.).2


    hollow, perforated plastic ball, registered trademark name (The Wiffle Ball Inc., Shelton, Connecticut, U.S.), claiming use from 1954. According to the company, designed in 1953 by David N. Mullany "in response to a lack of field space and numerous broken windows by his baseball-playing son," the name based on whiff (q.v.), baseball slang for a missed swing.ETD Wiffle.2

    wi-fi (n.)

    1999, apparently from wireless; the second element perhaps suggested by hi-fi.ETD wi-fi (n.).2

    wig (n.)

    1670s, shortened form of periwig. Meaning "person who wears a wig (professionally)" is from 1828.ETD wig (n.).2

    wig (v.)

    1826, "supply with a wig," from wig (n.). The earlier verb was bewig (see bewigged). The meaning "to behave hysterically" (usually with out) is attested from 1955, perhaps from notion in flip one's wig. Compare dash my wig!, a former mild imprecation (1797), also wigs on the green (1856), Irish colloquial for "a fight or rumble" (because wigs are likely to get detached from owners in such an event). The verb also had a colloquial sense of "scold severely," attested by 1829, perhaps related to these. Related: Wigged; wigging.ETD wig (v.).2

    wiggle (v.)

    early 13c., perhaps from Middle Dutch, Middle Low German, or Middle Flemish wigelen, frequentative of wiegen "to rock, wag, move back and forth," from wiege "cradle," from Proto-Germanic *wig- (source also of Old High German wiga, German Wiege "cradle," Old Frisian widze), from PIE root *wegh- "to go, move, transport in a vehicle." Related: Wiggled; wiggling. The noun is attested from 1816.ETD wiggle (v.).2

    wiggly (adj.)

    1878, from wiggle (n.) + -y (2).ETD wiggly (adj.).2

    wight (n.)

    Old English wiht "living being, creature, person; something, anything," from Proto-Germanic *wihti- (source also of Old Saxon wiht "thing, demon," Dutch wicht "a little child," Old High German wiht "thing, creature, demon," German Wicht "creature, little child," Old Norse vettr "thing, creature," Swedish vätte "spirit of the earth, gnome," Gothic waihts "something"), from PIE *wekti- "thing, creature" (source also of Old Church Slavonic vešti "a thing"). Not related to the Isle of Wight, which is from Latin Vectis (c. 150), originally Celtic, possibly meaning "place of the division."ETD wight (n.).2

    wigwam (n.)

    1620s, from Algonquian (probably Eastern Abenaki) wikewam "a dwelling," said to mean literally "their house;" also said to be found in such formations as wikiwam and Ojibwa wiigiwaam and Delaware wiquoam.ETD wigwam (n.).2

    wiki (n.)

    web page that can be edited by browsers, by 2002, abstracted from names of such sites (such as Wikipedia, launched January 2001), the original being WikiWikiWeb, introduced and named by Ward Cunningham in 1995, from Hawaiian wikiwiki "fast, swift."ETD wiki (n.).2

    wilful (adj.)

    British English spelling of willful. Related: Wilfully; wilfulness.ETD wilful (adj.).2


    1945, in two-way radio slang, abbreviation and conflation of will comply.ETD wilco.2

    wild (n.)

    "uncultivated or desolate region," 1590s, in the wilds. From wild (adj.). Earlier it meant "wild animal" (c. 1200).ETD wild (n.).2

    wildness (n.)

    early 14c., "unrestrained behavior," from wild (adj.) + -ness. Late 14c. as "frenzy;" mid-15c. as "undomesticated state."ETD wildness (n.).2

    wild (adj.)

    Old English wilde "in the natural state, uncultivated, untamed, undomesticated, uncontrolled," from Proto-Germanic *wildia- (source also of Old Saxon wildi, Old Norse villr, Old Frisian wilde, Dutch wild, Old High German wildi, German wild, Gothic wilþeis "wild," German Wild (n.) "game"), of uncertain origin, perhaps from PIE root *welt- "woodlands; wild" (see wold).ETD wild (adj.).2

    Meaning "sexually dissolute, loose" is attested from mid-13c. Meaning "distracted with excitement or emotion, crazy" is from 1590s. U.S. slang sense of "exciting, excellent" is recorded from 1955. As an adverb from 1540s. Baseball wild pitch is recorded from 1867. Wildest dreams attested from 1717. Wild West in a U.S. context recorded by 1826. Wild Turkey brand of whiskey (Austin Nichols Co.) in use from 1942.ETD wild (adj.).3

    wild (v.)

    "to run wild, refuse to be tamed," Old English awildian (see wild (adj.)). Wilding (n.) in the teen gang sense first recorded 1989. Earlier it meant "plant that grows without cultivation" (1520s).ETD wild (v.).2

    wild card (n.)

    1950 in figurative sense, from literal use in certain forms of poker (1941), from wild (adj.) + card (n.1). The phrase was used occasionally c. 1900 in British and Irish writing to mean "drinking, free-spirited man."ETD wild card (n.).2

    wildcat (n.)

    undomesticated cat, early 14c. (late 12c. as a surname), from wild (adj.) + cat (n.). The meaning "savage woman" is recorded from 1570s; sense of "one who forms rash projects" is attested from 1812. The adjective in the financial speculative sense is by 1838, American English.ETD wildcat (n.).2

    wildebeest (n.)

    1838, from South African Dutch (in modern Afrikaans wildebees, plural wildebeeste), literally "wild beast," from Dutch wild "wild" (see wild (adj.)) + beest "beast, ox" (in South African Dutch "steer, cattle"), from Middle Dutch beeste, from Old French beste "beast" (see beast).ETD wildebeest (n.).2

    wilderness (n.)

    c. 1200, "wild, uninhabited, or uncultivated place," with -ness + Old English wild-deor "wild animal, wild deer;" see wild (adj.) + deer (n.). Similar formation in Dutch wildernis, German Wildernis, though the usual form there is Wildnis.ETD wilderness (n.).2

    wildfire (n.)

    late Old English wilde fyr "destructive fire" (perhaps caused by lightning); also "erysipelas, spreading skin disease;" see wild (adj.) + fire (n.). From c. 1300 as "Greek fire," also fire rained down from the sky as divine retribution. Figurative sense from late 14c. By 1795 as "sheet lightning."ETD wildfire (n.).2

    wild goose chase (n.)

    "pursuit of anything in ignorance of the direction it will take," hence "a foolish enterprise," 1592, first attested in "Romeo and Juliet," where it evidently is a figurative use of an earlier (but unrecorded) literal sense in reference to a kind of follow-the-leader steeplechase, perhaps from one of the "crazy, silly" senses in goose (n.). Wild goose (as opposed to a domesticated one) is attested in late Old English (wilde gos).ETD wild goose chase (n.).2

    wildly (adv.)

    early 15c., from wild (adj.) + -ly (2).ETD wildly (adv.).2

    wildlife (n.)

    also wild life, "fauna of a region," 1879, from wild (adj.) + life.ETD wildlife (n.).2

    wild man (n.)

    c. 1200, "man lacking in self-restraint," from wild (adj.) + man (n.). From mid-13c. as "primitive, savage." Late 14c. as a surname.ETD wild man (n.).2

    wile (n.)

    late Old English, wil "stratagem, trick, sly artifice," perhaps from Old North French *wile (Old French guile), or directly from a Scandinavian source (compare Old Norse vel "trick, craft, fraud," vela "defraud"). Perhaps ultimately related to Old English wicca "wizard" (see Wicca). Lighter sense of "amorous or playful trick" is from c. 1600.ETD wile (n.).2

    wile (v.)

    late 14c., "to deceive," from wile (n.). Related: Wiled; wiling. Sense of "cause (time, etc.) to pass pleasantly, divert attention pleasantly" is by 1796, from confusion with while (v.).ETD wile (v.).2


    German form of William (q.v.). Fem. form is Wilhelmina. Wilhelmine (adj.) is "pertaining to the reign of Wilhelm II," emperor of Germany 1888-1918. Berlin's Wilhelmstrasse was the pre-1945 headquarters of the German foreign office, hence used metonymically for "German foreign policy" (compare Quai d'Orsay).ETD Wilhelm.2

    wily (adj.)

    "subtle, cunning, crafty," early 14c., from wile (n.) + -ly (1). Related: Wiliness. In 16c. English had wily-pie "cunning fellow."ETD wily (adj.).2

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