basso Look up basso at
in various musical terms borrowed from Italian, "bass, a bass voice," from Italian basso, from Late Latin bassus "short, low" (see base (adj.)).
bassoon (n.) Look up bassoon at
"large, double-reeded woodwind bass instrument," 1727, from French basson (17c.), from Italian bassone, augmentative of basso (see bass (adj.)). Compare balloon (n.); also see -oon. Related: Bassoonist. The Italian name, fagotto, literally "bundle of sticks" (see faggot (n.2)) is because it comes apart in two or more parts for convenience in carrying.
bast (n.) Look up bast at
"inner, fibrous bark of the linden tree," Old English bæst, a general Germanic word (cognate with Old Norse, Old Saxon, Middle Dutch, Old High German, German bast) of uncertain origin.
bastard (n.) Look up bastard at
"illegitimate child," early 13c., from Old French bastard "acknowledged child of a nobleman by a woman other than his wife" (11c., Modern French bâtard), probably from fils de bast "packsaddle son," meaning a child conceived on an improvised bed (saddles often doubled as beds while traveling), with pejorative ending -art (see -ard). Alternative possibly is that the word is from Proto-Germanic *banstiz "barn," equally suggestive of low origin.

Compare German bänkling "bastard; child begotten on a bench" (and not in a marriage bed), the source of English bantling (1590s) "brat, small child." Bastard was not always regarded as a stigma; the Conqueror is referred to in state documents as "William the Bastard." Figurative sense of "something not pure or genuine" is late 14c. Use as a generic vulgar term of abuse for a man is attested from 1830. Among the "bastard" words in Halliwell-Phillipps' "Dictionary of Archaic and Provincial Words" are avetrol, chance-bairn, by-blow, harecoppe, horcop, and gimbo ("a bastard's bastard").

As an adjective from late 14c. It is used of things spurious or not genuine, having the appearance of being genuine, of abnormal or irregular shape or size, and of mongrels or mixed breeds.
bastardize (v.) Look up bastardize at
1610s, "to identify as a bastard," from bastard (q.v.) + -ize. The figurative sense, "to make degenerate, debase" is earlier (1580s), probably because bastard also was serving as a verb meaning "to declare illegitimate" (1540s). Related: Bastardized; bastardizing; bastardization.
bastardy (n.) Look up bastardy at
early 14c., "condition of illegitimacy," from Anglo-French and Old French bastardie, from bastard (see bastard). As "begetting of bastards, fornication" from 1570s.
baste (v.1) Look up baste at
"sew together loosely," c. 1400, from Old French bastir "build, construct, sew up (a garment), baste, make, prepare, arrange" (12c., Modern French bâtir "to build"), probably from Frankish or some other Germanic source, from Proto-Germanic *bastjan "join together with bast" (source also of Old High German besten; see bast).
baste (v.3) Look up baste at
"beat with a stick, thrash," 1530s, perhaps from the cookery sense of baste (v.2) or from some Scandinavian source (such as Swedish basa "to beat, flog," bösta "to thump") akin to Old Norse beysta "to beat," and related to Old English beatan (see beat (v.)).
baste (v.2) Look up baste at
"to soak (cooking meat) in gravy or molten fat, moisten," late 14c., of unknown origin, possibly from Old French basser "to moisten, soak," from bassin "basin" (see basin). Related: Basted; basting.
baster (n.) Look up baster at
1520s, "one who bastes meat," from baste (v.2); from 1726 as "heavy blow," from baste (v.3).
Bastille (n.) Look up Bastille at
14th century Paris fortress, used as a prison and destroyed by revolutionaries on July 14, 1789, as a symbol of royal despotism; French, literally "fortress, gate tower" (see bastion). Many French cities kept their medieval gate-towers as prisons after other foritifications were removed. The word was in Middle English in the "fortress" sense as bastel, bastyle.
bastinado (n.) Look up bastinado at
"a beating with a cudgel" (especially on the soles of the feet, as torture or punishment), 1570s, from Spanish bastonada "a beating, cudgeling," from baston "stick," from Late Latin bastum (see baton). As a verb from 1610s.
bastion (n.) Look up bastion at
"projection from a rampart," 1560s, from Middle French bastillon, diminutive of Old French bastille "fortress, tower, fortified, building," from Old Provençal bastir "to build," perhaps originally "make with bast" (see baste (v.1)).
bat (n.2) Look up bat at
flying mouse-like mammal (order Chiroptera), 1570s, a dialectal alteration of Middle English bakke (early 14c.), which is probably related to Old Swedish natbakka, Old Danish nathbakkæ "night bat," and Old Norse leðrblaka "bat," literally "leather flapper," from Proto-Germanic *blak-, from PIE root *bhlag- "to strike" (see flagellum). If so, the original sense of the animal name likely was "flapper." The shift from -k- to -t- may have come through confusion of bakke with Latin blatta "moth, nocturnal insect."

Old English word for the animal was hreremus, from hreran "to shake" (see rare (adj.2)), and rattle-mouse, an old dialectal word for "bat," is attested from late 16c. Flitter-mouse (1540s) is occasionally used in English (variants flinder-mouse, flicker-mouse) in imitation of German fledermaus "bat," from Old High German fledaron "to flutter."

As a contemptuous term for an old woman, it is perhaps a suggestion of witchcraft (compare fly-by-night), or from bat as "prostitute who plies her trade by night" [Farmer, who calls it "old slang" and finds French equivalent "night swallow" (hirondelle de nuit) "more poetic"].
bat (v.1) Look up bat at
"to move the eyelids," 1847, American English, an extended sense from earlier meaning "flutter (the wings) as a hawk" (1610s), a variant of bate (v.2). Related: Batted; batting.
bat (v.2) Look up bat at
"to hit, beat, or strike with a bat," mid-15c., from bat (n.1). Specifically as "to strike a ball with a bat" from 1745. Related: Batted; batting.
bat (n.1) Look up bat at
"a stick or staff used in beating, a war-club, staff used to strike the ball in certain games," c. 1200, from rare Old English batt "cudgel," a western England word at first, probably from Welsh or another Celtic source (compare Irish and Gaelic bat, bata "staff, cudgel"), later reinforced and influenced by Old French batte "pestle," from Late Latin battre "to beat;" all from PIE root *bhat- "to strike." As a kind of wooden paddle used to play cricket (later baseball), it is attested from 1706.

Middle English sense of "a lump, piece, chunk" (mid-14c.) was used of bread, clay, wool, and survives in brickbat and batting (n.1). Phrase right off the bat, also hot from the bat, both are from 1888 and probably represent a baseball metaphor, but cricket or some other use of a bat might as well be the source--there is an early citation from Australia (in an article about slang): "Well, it is a vice you'd better get rid of then. Refined conversation is a mark of culture. Let me hear that kid use slang again, and I'll give it to him right off the bat. I'll wipe up the floor with him. I'll ---" ["The Australian Journal," November 1888].
Bat Mitzvah Look up Bat Mitzvah at
1950, literally "daughter of command;" a Jewish girl who has reached age 12, the age of religious majority. Extended to the ceremony held on occasion of this.
Batavia Look up Batavia at
former name of Jakarta, capital of Indonesia, when it was the Dutch East Indies, a colony of the Netherlands; from Batavia, an ancient name for a region of Holland at the mouth of the Rhine, from Latin Batavi, a people who dwelt between the Rhine and the Waal on the island of Betawe. Related: Batavian.
batboy (n.) Look up batboy at
also bat-boy, 1914, "youth who has charge of the bats and other equipment of a baseball team," from bat (n.1) + boy.
batch (n.) Look up batch at
late 15c., probably from a survival of an unrecorded Old English *bæcce "something baked" (compare Old English gebæc) from bacan "bake" (see bake (v.)). Generalized sense of "an aggregation of similar articles" is from 1590s. Batch is to bake as watch (n.) is to wake and match (n.2) "one of a pair" is to make. Extended 1713 to "any quantity produced at one operation."
bate (v.2) Look up bate at
c. 1300, "to contend with blows or arguments," from Old French batre "to hit, beat, strike" (11c., Modern French battre), from Late Latin battere, from Latin batuere "to beat, knock" (see batter (v.)). In falconry, "to beat the wings impatiently and flutter away from the perch." Figurative sense of "to flutter downward" attested from 1580s.
bate (v.1) Look up bate at
c. 1300, "to alleviate, allay;" mid-14c., "suppress, do away with;" late 14c., "to reduce; to cease," a shortening of abate (q.v.). Now only in phrase bated breath (subdued or shortened breathing, from fear, passion, awe, etc.), which was used by Shakespeare in "The Merchant of Venice" (1596).
bateau (n.) Look up bateau at
"light, long boat for river navigation," 1711, from Canadian French bateau, from Old French batel, from Germanic *bait- "a boat" (see boat (n.)).
bated breath (n.) Look up bated breath at
see bate (v.1).
batement (n.) Look up batement at
mid-15c., shortening of abatement.
bath (n.) Look up bath at
Old English bæð "an immersing of the body in water, mud, etc.," also "a quantity of water, etc., for bathing," from Proto-Germanic *batham (source also of Old Norse bað, Middle Dutch bat, German Bad), from PIE root *bhē- "to warm" + *-thuz, Germanic suffix indicating "act, process, condition" (as in birth, death). The etymological sense is of heating, not immersing.

The city in Somerset, England (Old English Baðun) was so called from its hot springs. Bath salts attested from 1875 (Dr. Julius Braun, "On the Curative Effects of Baths and Waters"). Bath-house is from 1705; bath-towel is from 1967.
bathe (v.) Look up bathe at
Old English baþian "to wash, lave, place in a bath, take a bath" (transitive and intransitive), from root of bath (q.v.), with different vowel sound due to i-mutation. Related: Bathed; bathing. Similar nouns in Old Norse baða, Old High German badon, German baden.
bathetic (adj.) Look up bathetic at
1834, from bathos on the model of pathetic (q.v.), which, however, does not come directly from pathos, so the formation is either erroneous or humorous. Bathotic (1863, perhaps on model of chaotic) is not much better.
bathing (n.) Look up bathing at
1540s, verbal noun from bathe (v.). Bathing suit is recorded from 1852 (bathing costume from 1830); bathing beauty is from 1891, in reference to Frederick Leighton's "The Bath of Venus."
batholith (n.) Look up batholith at
1903, from German batholith (1892), coined by German geologist Eduard Suess (1831-1914) from Greek bathos "depth" (see benthos) + -lith "stone."
bathos (n.) Look up bathos at
"ludicrous anticlimax, a descent from the sublime to the ridiculous," 1727, from Greek bathos "depth," which is related to bathys "deep" (see benthos). The word was introduced in this sense by Pope.
bathrobe (n.) Look up bathrobe at
also bath-robe, 1894, from bath (n.) + robe (n.).
bathroom (n.) Look up bathroom at
also bath-room, 1780, from bath + room (n.). Originally a room with apparatus for bathing (the only definition in "Century Dictionary," 1902); it came to be used 20c. in U.S. as a euphemism for a lavatory and often is noted as a word that confuses British travelers. To go to the bathroom, euphemism for "relieve oneself; urinate, defecate," is from 1920 (in a book for children), but typically is used without regard for whether an actual bathroom is involved.
Bathsheba Look up Bathsheba at
Biblical wife of King David, mother of Solomon, from Hebrew Bathshebha, literally "daughter of the oath," from bath "daughter."
bathtub (n.) Look up bathtub at
also bath-tub, 1837, from bath + tub. Prohibition-era bathtub gin is recorded by 1928.
bathukolpian (adj.) Look up bathukolpian at
also bathycolpian, etc., "big-breasted," 1825, from Greek bathykolpos "with full breasts," literally "deep-bosomed," from bathys "deep" (see benthos) + kolpos "breast" (see gulf (n.)). With -ian.
bathyscaphe (n.) Look up bathyscaphe at
"diving apparatus for reaching great depths," 1947, a name coined by its inventor, Swiss "scientific extremist" Prof. Auguste Piccard (1884-1962), from Greek bathys "deep" (see benthos) + skaphe "light boat, skiff" (see skaphoid).
batik (n.) Look up batik at
Javanese technique of textile design, 1880, from Dutch, from Malay (Austronesian) mbatik, said to be from amba "to write" + titik "dot, point."
batman (n.) Look up batman at
"officer's servant," originally military title for "man in charge of a bat-horse and its load," 1755, from bat "pack-saddle" (late 14c.), from Old French bast (Modern French bât), from Late Latin bastum (see baton). Hence also batwoman (1941). The comic book hero dates from 1939.
baton (n.) Look up baton at
1540s, "a staff used as a weapon," from French bâton "stick, walking stick, staff, club, wand," from Old French baston (12c.) "stick, staff, rod," from Late Latin bastum "stout staff," which is probably of Gaulish origin or else from Greek *baston "support," from bastazein "to lift up, raise, carry." Meaning "staff carried as a symbol of office" is from 1580s; musical sense of "conductor's wand" is by 1823, from French. Often Englished 17c.-18c. as batoon.
Baton Rouge Look up Baton Rouge at
city in Louisiana, U.S., a French translation of Choctaw (Muskogean) itti homma "red pole," perhaps in reference to a painted boundary marker.
batrachophobia (n.) Look up batrachophobia at
"aversion to frogs and toads," 1863, from Greek batrakhos "a frog" + -phobia.
batshit Look up batshit at
also bat-shit, by 1967 as a variant of bullshit (n.) in the slang sense; from bat (n.2) + shit (n.). By early 1980s as "crazy," the sense shift is for uncertain reasons; perhaps from the notion of guano as an explosive or health problems caused by inhaling powdered bat feces in caves and mines. Also compare batty "crazy" (early 20c.), from the expression bats in (one's) belfry.
battalion (n.) Look up battalion at
1580s, from Middle French bataillon (16c.), from Italian battaglione "battle squadron," from diminutive of Vulgar Latin battalia "battle," from Latin bauttere "to beat" (see batter (v.)). Specific sense of "part of a regiment" is from 1708. The oft-repeated quote "God is on the side of the largest battalions" (with many variants) usually is attributed to 17c. French military genius and marshal Turenne:
Madame, lui répondit-il, ne vous y fiez pas: j'ay tôujours vû Dieu do coté des gros Batallions. [E.Boursault, 1702]
batten (v.1) Look up batten at
"to improve; to fatten," 1590s, probably representing an unrecorded Middle English dialectal survival of Old Norse batna "improve" (source also of Old English batian, Old Frisian batia, Old High German bazen, Gothic gabatnan "to become better, avail, benefit," Old English bet "better;" also see boot (n.2)). Related: Battened; battening.
batten (v.2) Look up batten at
"to furnish with battens," 1775, from batten (n.) "strip of wood, bar nailed across parallel boards to hold them together." Nautical phrase batten down "cover (hatches) with tarpaulin and nail it down with battens to make it secure" is recorded from 1823. Related: Battened; battening.
batten (n.) Look up batten at
"strip of wood, bar nailed across parallel boards to hold them together," 1650s, Englished variant of baton "a stick, a staff" (see baton). Nautical sense "strip of wood nailed down over a tarpaulin over a ship's hatches to prevent leakage in stormy weather" is attested from 1769.
Battenberg (n.) Look up Battenberg at
type of cake, 1903, from name of a town in Germany, the seat of a family which became known in Britain as Mountbatten.
batter (v.) Look up batter at
"strike repeatedly, beat violently and rapidly," early 14c., from Old French batre "to beat, strike" (11c., Modern French battre "to beat, to strike"), from Latin battuere "to beat, strike," an old word in Latin, but almost certainly borrowed from Gaulish, from PIE root *bhau- "to strike" (source also of Welsh bathu "beat;" Old English beadu "battle," beatan "to beat," bytl "hammer, mallet").

The word began to be widely used in reference to domestic abuse in 1962. Related: Battered; battering. Battering-ram is an ancient weapon (Latin aries), but the phrase is attested only from 1610s.