B movie (n.) Look up B movie at Dictionary.com
by 1939, usually said to be so called from being the second, or supporting, film in a double feature. Some film industry sources say it was so called for being the second of the two films major studios generally made in a year, and the one cast with less headline talent and released with less promotion. And early usage varies with grade-B movie, suggesting a perceived association with quality.
b'hoy (n.) Look up b'hoy at Dictionary.com
1846, U.S. colloquial for "spirited lad, young spark," supposedly from the Irish pronunciation of boy.
B'nai B'rith (n.) Look up B'nai B'rith at Dictionary.com
Jewish fraternal organization founded in New York City in 1843, Hebrew, literally "Sons of the Covenant," from bene, state construct of banim, plural of ben "son," + brith "covenant."
B-girl (n.) Look up B-girl at Dictionary.com
1936, abbreviation of bar girl, U.S. slang for a woman paid to encourage customers at a bar to buy her drinks.
B.B.C. (n.) Look up B.B.C. at Dictionary.com
for British Broadcasting Company, and continued after 1927 when it was replaced by British Broadcasting Corporation. BBC English as a type of standardized English recommended for announcers is recorded from 1928.
B.C. Look up B.C. at Dictionary.com
abbreviation of Before Christ, in chronology, attested by 1823. The phrase itself, Before Christ, in dating, with exact years, is in use by 1660s.
B.C.E. Look up B.C.E. at Dictionary.com
initialism (acronym) for "Before Common Era" or "Before Christian Era," 1881; see C.E. A secular alternative to B.C.
b.o. (n.) Look up b.o. at Dictionary.com
abbreviation of body odor, by c.1950; an advertisers' invention.
baa Look up baa at Dictionary.com
imitative sound of a sheep, attested from 1580s, but probably older, as baa is recorded before this a name for a child's toy sheep. Compare Latin bee "sound made by a sheep" (Varro), balare "to bleat;" Greek blekhe "a bleating;" Catalan be "a sheep."
Baal Look up Baal at Dictionary.com
Biblical, from Hebrew Ba'al, literally "owner, master, lord," a title applied to any deity (including Jehovah), but later a name of a particular Semitic solar deity worshipped licentiously by the Phoenecians and Carthaginians; from ba'al "he took possession of," also "he married;" related to or derived from Akkadian Belu (source of Hebrew Bel), name of Marduk. Identical with the first element in Beelzebub and the second in Hannibal. Used figuratively in English for any "false god."
Baath Look up Baath at Dictionary.com
pan-Arab socialist party, founded by intellectuals in Syria in 1943, from Arabic ba't "resurrection, renaissance."
baba (n.) Look up baba at Dictionary.com
kind of plum cake, 1827, from French baba (19c.), said by French etymology dictionaries to be from Polish baba.
Babbitt (n.) Look up Babbitt at Dictionary.com
"conventional, complacent, materialistic American businessman," 1923, from George Babbitt, title character of Sinclair Lewis' novel (1922).
His name was George F. Babbitt. He was forty-six years old now, in April 1920, and he made nothing in particular, neither butter nor shoes nor poetry, but he was nimble in the selling of houses for more money than people could afford to pay. [Sinclair Lewis, "Babbitt," 1922]
babble (v.) Look up babble at Dictionary.com
mid-13c., babeln "to prattle, chatter," akin to other Western European words for stammering and prattling (cognates: Swedish babbla, Old French babillier) attested from the same era, some of which probably were borrowed from others, but etymologists cannot now determine which were original. Probably imitative of baby-talk, in any case (compare Latin babulus "babbler," Greek barbaros "non-Greek-speaking"). "No direct connexion with Babel can be traced; though association with that may have affected the senses" [OED]. Meaning "to repeat oneself incoherently, speak foolishly" is attested from c.1400. Related: Babbled; babbler; babbling; babblement.
babble (n.) Look up babble at Dictionary.com
"idle talk," c.1500, from babble (v.). In 16c., commonly in reduplicated form bibble-babble.
babe (n.) Look up babe at Dictionary.com
late 14c., short for baban (early 13c.), which probably is imitative of baby talk (see babble), however in many languages the cognate word means "old woman" (compare Russian babushka "grandmother," from baba "peasant woman").
Crist crid in cradil, "moder, baba!" [John Audelay, c.1426]
Now mostly superseded by its diminutive form baby. Used figuratively for "a childish person" from 1520s. Meaning "attractive young woman" is 1915, college slang. Babe in the woods is from 1795.
Babel Look up Babel at Dictionary.com
capital of Babylon, late 14c., from Hebrew Babhel (Gen. xi), from Akkadian bab-ilu "Gate of God" (from bab "gate" + ilu "god"). The name is a translation of Sumerian Ka-dingir. Meaning "confused medley of sounds" (1520s) is from the biblical story of the Tower of Babel.
babelicious (adj.) Look up babelicious at Dictionary.com
1991, from babe in the "attractive young woman" sense + ending from delicious.
Babism (n.) Look up Babism at Dictionary.com
1850; see Baha'i.
baboon (n.) Look up baboon at Dictionary.com
type of old world ape, c.1400, babewyn, earlier "a grotesque figure used in architecture or decoration" (early 14c.), from French babouin "baboon," from Old French baboin "ape," earlier "simpleton, dimwit, fool" (13c.), also "gaping figure (such as a gargoyle)," so perhaps from Old French baboue "grimacing;" or perhaps it is imitative of the ape's babbling speech-like cries. Also see -oon. German Pavian "baboon" is from Dutch baviaan, from Middle Dutch baubijn, a borrowing of the Old French word. Century Dictionary says Arabic maimun probably is from the European words.
babouche (n.) Look up babouche at Dictionary.com
1690s, from French babouche, from Arabic babush, from Persian papush, from pa "foot" (related to Avestan pad-, see foot (n.)) + posh "covering." Arabic, lacking a -p-, regularly converts -p- in foreign words to -b-.
babushka (n.) Look up babushka at Dictionary.com
type of head covering for women, 1938, from Russian babushka "grandmother."
baby (n.) Look up baby at Dictionary.com
late 14c., babi, diminutive of baban (see babe + -y (3)). Meaning "childish adult person" is from c.1600. Meaning "youngest of a group" is from 1897. As a term of endearment for one's lover it is attested perhaps as early as 1839, certainly by 1901; its popularity perhaps boosted by baby vamp "a popular girl," student slang from c.1922. As an adjective, by 1750.

Baby food is from 1833. Baby blues for "blue eyes" recorded by 1892 (the phrase also was used for "postpartum depression" 1950s-60s). To empty the baby out with the bath (water) is first recorded 1909 in G.B. Shaw (compare German das Kind mit dem Bade ausschütten). Baby's breath (noted for sweet smell, which also was supposed to attract cats) as a type of flower is from 1897. French bébé (19c.) is from English.
baby (v.) Look up baby at Dictionary.com
"to treat like a baby," 1742, from baby (n.). Related: Babied; babying.
baby boom (n.) Look up baby boom at Dictionary.com
coined 1941, from baby (n.) + boom (n.); derivative baby-boomer (member of the one that began 1945) recorded by 1974.
babyish (adj.) Look up babyish at Dictionary.com
1753, from baby (n.) + -ish. Earlier in same sense was babish (1530s).
Babylon Look up Babylon at Dictionary.com
mid-14c., from Greek version of Akkadian Bab-ilani "the gate of the gods," from bab "gate" + ilani, plural of ilu "god" (see Babel). The Old Persian form, Babiru-, shows characteristic transformation of -l- to -r- in words assimilated from Semitic.
Babylonian (n.) Look up Babylonian at Dictionary.com
1560s; see Babylon + -ian. From 1630s as an adjective. Earlier in the adjectival sense was Babylonical (1530s).
babysit (v.) Look up babysit at Dictionary.com
also baby-sit, 1947, from baby (n.) + sit (v.); figurative use (often contemptuous) by 1968. Babysitting is from 1946.
babysitter (n.) Look up babysitter at Dictionary.com
also baby-sitter, 1914, from baby (n.) + agent noun from sit (v.). Short form sitter is attested from 1937.
Bacardi Look up Bacardi at Dictionary.com
1921, name for a brand of West Indian rum produced by Compania Ron Bacardi, originally of Cuba.
baccalaureate (n.) Look up baccalaureate at Dictionary.com
1620s, "university degree of a bachelor," from Modern Latin baccalaureatus, from baccalaureus "student with the first degree," alteration of Medieval Latin baccalarius "one who has attained the lowest degree in a university, advanced student lecturing under his master's supervision but not yet having personal license" (altered by folk etymology or word-play, as if from bacca lauri "laurel berry," laurels being awarded for academic success).

The Medieval Latin word is of uncertain origin; perhaps ultimately from Latin baculum "staff" (see bacillus), which the young student might carry. Or it might be a re-Latinization of bachelor in its academic sense.

In modern U.S. usage, baccalaureate usually is short for baccalaureate sermon (1864), a religious farewell address to a graduating class at an American college, from the adjectival sense "pertaining to the university degree of bachelor."
baccarat (n.) Look up baccarat at Dictionary.com
card game, 1848, from French baccara (19c.), of unknown origin. Baccarat is the name of a town in France that was noted for glass-making.
Bacchae (n.) Look up Bacchae at Dictionary.com
"female attendants of Bacchus," from Greek Bakkhai, plural of Bakkhe, from Bakkhos (see Bacchus).
bacchanal Look up bacchanal at Dictionary.com
1530s (n.); 1540s (adj.), from Latin bacchanalis "having to do with Bacchus" (see Bacchus). Meaning "riotous, drunken roistering; orgy" is from 1711.
bacchanalia (n.) Look up bacchanalia at Dictionary.com
"drunken revelry," 1630s, from the name of the Roman festival held in honor of Bacchus, from neuter plural of Latin bacchanalis (see bacchanal). A participant is a Bacchant (1690s), fem. Bacchante, from French. The plural of both is Bacchantes.
bacchanalian (adj.) Look up bacchanalian at Dictionary.com
1560s; see bacchanalia + -an. As a noun from 1610s.
Bacchus Look up Bacchus at Dictionary.com
Greek god of wine and revelry, a later name of Dionysus, late 15c., from Latin Bacchus, from Greek Bakkhos, perhaps related to Latin bacca "berry, olive-berry, bead, pearl." Perhaps originally a Thracian fertility god.
bach (n.) Look up bach at Dictionary.com
1845, American English, clipped form of bachelor (n.). Also in colloquial American English use as a verb (1870) meaning "to live as an unmarried man," especially "to do one's own cooking and cleaning." Related: Bached; baching.
bachelor (n.) Look up bachelor at Dictionary.com
c.1300, "young man;" also "youthful knight, novice in arms," from Old French bacheler, bachelor, bachelier (11c.) "knight bachelor," a young squire in training for knighthood, also "young man; unmarried man," and as a university title, of uncertain origin, perhaps from Medieval Latin baccalarius "vassal farmer, adult serf without a landholding," one who helps or tends a baccalaria "field or land in the lord's demesne" (according to old French sources, perhaps from an alteration of vacca "a cow" and originally "grazing land" [Kitchin]). Or from Latin baculum "a stick," because the squire would practice with a staff, not a sword. "Perhaps several independent words have become confused in form" [Century Dictionary]. Meaning in English expanded early 14c. to "young unmarried man," late 14c. to "one who has taken the lowest degree in a university." Bachelor party as a pre-wedding ritual is from 1882.
bachelorette (n.) Look up bachelorette at Dictionary.com
1935, American English, from bachelor with French ending -ette. Replaced earlier bachelor-girl (1895). Middle French had bachelette "young girl;" Modern French bachelière is found only in the "student" sense.
bacilli (n.) Look up bacilli at Dictionary.com
plural of bacillus (q.v.).
bacillus (n.) Look up bacillus at Dictionary.com
1877, medical Latin, from Late Latin bacillus "wand," literally "little staff," diminutive of baculum "a stick," from PIE root *bak- "staff," also source of Greek bakterion (see bacteria). Introduced as a term in bacteriology 1853 by German botanist Ferdinand Cohn (1828-1898).
back (n.) Look up back at Dictionary.com
Old English bæc "back," from Proto-Germanic *bakam (cognates: Old Saxon and Middle Dutch bak, Old Frisian bek), with no known connections outside Germanic. In other modern Germanic languages the cognates mostly have been ousted in this sense ib words akin to Modern English ridge (cognates: Danish ryg, German Rücken). Many Indo-European languages show signs of once having distinguished the horizontal back of an animal (or a mountain range) from the upright back of a human. In other cases, a modern word for "back" may come from a word related to "spine" (Italian schiena, Russian spina) or "shoulder, shoulder blade" (Spanish espalda, Polish plecy).

To turn (one's) back on (someone or something) "ignore" is from early 14c. Behind (someone's) back "clandestinely" is from late 14c. To know (something) like the back of one's hand, implying familiarity, is first attested 1893. The first attested use of the phrase is from a dismissive speech made to a character in Robert Louis Stevenson's "Catriona":
If I durst speak to herself, you may be certain I would never dream of trusting it to you; because I know you like the back of my hand, and all your blustering talk is that much wind to me.
The story, a sequel to "Kidnapped," has a Scottish setting and context, and the back of my hand to you was noted in the late 19th century as a Scottish expression meaning "I will have nothing to do with you" [see Longmuir's edition of Jamieson's Scottish dictionary]. In English generally, the back of (one's) hand has been used to imply contempt and rejection since at least 1300. Perhaps the connection of a menacing dismissal is what made Stevenson choose that particular anatomical reference.
back (v.) Look up back at Dictionary.com
late 15c., "to move (something) back," from back (adv.). Meaning "to support" (as by a bet) is first attested 1540s. Related: Backed; backing.
back (adj.) Look up back at Dictionary.com
Middle English, from back (n.) and back (adv.). Formerly with comparative backer (c.1400), also backermore. To be on the back burner in the figurative sense is from 1960, from the image of a cook keeping a pot there to simmer while he or she works on another concoction at the front of the stove.
back (adv.) Look up back at Dictionary.com
late 14c., shortened from abak, from Old English on bæc "backwards, behind, aback" (see back (n.)). Adverbial phrase back and forth attested from 1814.
back down (v.) Look up back down at Dictionary.com
in figurative sense of "withdraw a charge," 1859, American English, from notion of descending a ladder, etc.; from back (v.) + down (adv.).
back off (v.) Look up back off at Dictionary.com
"retreat, stop annoying someone," by 1938, from the verbal phrase, from back (v.) + off (adv.).
back seat (n.) Look up back seat at Dictionary.com
also back-seat, 1832, originally of coaches, from back (adj.) + seat (n.). Used figuratively for "less or least prominent position" by 1868. Back-seat driver first attested 1926.