baler (n.) Look up baler at
machine that makes bales, 1888, agent noun from bale (v.).
Bali Look up Bali at
island in the Indonesian archipelago, of unknown origin. Related: Balinese.
balk (n.) Look up balk at
also baulk, Old English balca "ridge, bank," from or influenced by Old Norse balkr "ridge of land," especially between two plowed furrows, both from Proto-Germanic *balkon- (source also of Old Saxon balko, Danish bjelke, Old Frisian balka, Old High German balcho, German Balken "beam, rafter"), from PIE root *bhelg- "beam, plank" (source also of Latin fulcire "to prop up, support," fulcrum "bedpost;" Lithuanian balziena "cross-bar;" and possibly Greek phalanx "trunk, log, line of battle"). Italian balco "a beam" is from Germanic (see balcony).

In old use especially "an unplowed strip in a field, often along and marking a boundary." Modern senses are figurative, representing the balk as a hindrance or obstruction (see balk (v.)). In baseball, "a motion made by the pitcher as if to deliver the ball, but without doing so," first attested 1845 perhaps from the notion of "a piece missed in plowing" as "a blunder, a failure."
balk (v.) Look up balk at
late 14c., "to leave an unplowed ridge when plowing," from balk (n.). Extended meaning "to omit, intentionally neglect" is mid-15c. Most modern senses are figurative, from the notion of a balk in the fields as a hindrance or obstruction: sense of "stop short in one's course" (as a horse confronted with an obstacle) is late 15c.; that of "to refuse" is 1580s. Related: Balked; balking.
Balkan (adj.) Look up Balkan at
1835, "of or pertaining to the Balkans" (q.v.) or to the mountain range that runs across them.
Balkanise (v.) Look up Balkanise at
see Balkanize. Related: Balkanisation.
Balkanize (v.) Look up Balkanize at
1919, in early use in reference to the Baltic states and Hungary, on the model of the political condition of the Balkans; said to have been coined by English editor James Louis Garvin (1868-1947), but A.J. Toynbee (1922) credited it to "German Socialists" describing the results of the treaty of Brest-Litovsk. Either way, the reference is to the political situation in the Balkans c. 1878-1913, when the European section of the Ottoman Empire split up into small, warring nations. Balkanized and Balkanization both also are from 1920.
Balkans Look up Balkans at
the mountainous peninsula between the Adriatic and Black seas (including Greece), probably from Turkic balkan "mountain."
balky (adj.) Look up balky at
"apt to stop abruptly and refuse to move," 1847, from balk (n.) + -y (2). Related: Balkily; balkiness.
ball (v.) Look up ball at
1650s, "make into a ball," from ball (n.1). Intransitive sense of "become like a ball, form a compact cluster" is from 1713; that of "to copulate" is first recorded 1940s in jazz slang, either from the noun sense of "testicle" or "enjoyable time" (from ball (n.2)). Related: Balled; balling.
ball (n.2) Look up ball at
"dancing party, social assembly for dancing," 1630s, from French, from Old French baller "to dance," from Late Latin ballare "to dance," from Greek ballizein "to dance, jump about," literally "to throw one's body" (ancient Greek dancing being highly athletic), from PIE root *gwele- "to throw, reach." Extended meaning "very enjoyable time" is American English slang from 1945, perhaps 1930s in African-American vernacular.
ball (n.1) Look up ball at
"round object, compact spherical body," also "a ball used in a game," c. 1200, probably from an unrecorded Old English *beal, *beall (evidenced by the diminutive bealluc "testicle"), or from cognate Old Norse bollr "ball," from Proto-Germanic *balluz (source also of Dutch bal, Flemish bal, Old High German ballo, German Ball), from PIE root *bhel- (2) "to blow, swell."

Meaning "testicle" is from early 14c. (compare ballocks). Ball of the foot is from mid-14c. Meaning "rounded missile used in warfare" is from late 14c. A ball as an object in a sports game is recorded from c. 1200; meaning "a game played with a ball" is from mid-14c. Baseball sense of "pitch that does not cross the plate within the strike zone" is by 1889, probably short for high ball, low ball, etc.

Ball-point pen is by 1946. Ball of fire when first recorded in 1821 referred to "a glass of brandy;" as "spectacularly successful striver" it is c. 1900. Many phrases are from sports: To have the ball "hold the advantage" is from c. 1400. To be on the ball is from 1912; to keep (one's) eye on the ball is from 1907. Figurative use of ball in (someone's) court is by 1963, from tennis.
ball and chain (n.) Look up ball and chain at
a type of prisoner's restraint, 1818; as "one's wife," 1920.
ball-bearing (n.) Look up ball-bearing at
1874, "method of lessening friction by surrounding a shaft with loose balls;" see ball (n.1) + bearing (n.). They "bear" the friction.
ball-boy (n.) Look up ball-boy at
in tennis, 1903, from ball (n.1) + boy.
ball-club (n.) Look up ball-club at
also ballclub, "association of players of a ball game," 1845, from ball (n.1) + club (n.) in the "social organization" sense.
ball-cock (n.) Look up ball-cock at
"small hollow sphere on the end of a lever which turns the stop-cock of a water-pipe," 1790, from ball (n.1) + cock (n.2).
ballad (n.) Look up ballad at
late 15c., from Old French ballade "dancing song" (13c.), from Old Provençal ballada "(poem for a) dance," from balar "to dance," from Late Latin ballare "to dance" (see ball (n.2)). Originally a song intended to accompany a dance; later "a short narrative poem suitable for singing" (17c.).
ballade (n.) Look up ballade at
late 14c., an earlier borrowing of ballad (q.v.) with a specific metrical sense. Technically, a poem consisting of one or more triplets of seven- (later eight-) lined stanzas, each ending with the same line as the refrain, usually with an envoy. Popularized 19c. as a type of musical composition by Frédéric Chopin. Ballade royal, in which each line consists of ten syllables, is recorded from late 15c.
balladry (n.) Look up balladry at
"poetry in ballads," 1590s, from ballad + -ry.
Ballard Look up Ballard at
surname, attested from late 12c., probably meaning "bald head;" see Wyclif's "Stye up, ballard," where Coverdale translates "Come vp here thou balde heade" [2 Kings ii:23-24].
ballast (n.) Look up ballast at
"heavy material used to steady a ship," 1520s, from Middle English bar "bare" (see bare (adj.); in this case "mere") + last "a load, burden," from Proto-Germanic *hlasta-, from PIE root *klā- "to spread out flat" (see lade). Or borrowed from identical terms in North Sea Germanic and Scandinavian (compare Old Danish barlast, 14c.). "Mere" because not carried for commercial purposes. Dutch balg-last "ballast," literally "belly-load," is a folk-etymology corruption.
ballerina (n.) Look up ballerina at
"female ballet dancer," 1792, from Italian ballerina, literally "dancing girl," fem. of ballerino "dancer," from ballo "a dance" (see ball (n.2)). The Italian plural form ballerine formerly sometimes was used in English.
ballet (n.) Look up ballet at
"theatrical, costumed dance and pantomime performance telling a story and representing characters and passions by gestures and groupings," 1660s, from French ballette from Italian balletto, diminutive of ballo "a dance," from Late Latin ballare "to dance," from Greek ballizein "to dance, jump about" (see ball (n.2)).
balletomane (n.) Look up balletomane at
by 1930, from ballet + -mane, from Greek -manes "ardent admirer," related to mania "madness" (see mania).
ballgame (n.) Look up ballgame at
also ball-game, 1848, from ball (n.1) + game (n.).
ballista (n.) Look up ballista at
ancient war engine used for throwing missiles, late 14c., from Latin ballista, literally "a throwing machine," from Greek ballein "to throw" (from PIE root *gwele- "to throw, reach").
ballistic (adj.) Look up ballistic at
1775, "pertaining to construction and use of thrown objects," ultimately from Greek ballein "to throw" (from PIE root *gwele- "to throw, reach"). Of rockets or missiles (ones that are guided while under propulsion, but fall freely), from 1949. Ballistic missile first attested 1954; they attain extreme heights, hence figurative expression go ballistic (1981) "become irrationally angry."
ballistics (n.) Look up ballistics at
"art of throwing large missiles; science of the motion of projectiles," 1753, with -ics + Latin ballista "ancient military machine for hurling stones," from Greek ballistes, from ballein "to throw, to throw so as to hit," also in a looser sense, "to put, place, lay;" from PIE root *gwele- "to throw, reach," with extended sense "to pierce."
ballocks (n.) Look up ballocks at
"testicles," from Old English beallucas, plural diminutive, from Proto-Germanic *ball-, from PIE root *bhel- (2) "to blow, swell."
ballon (n.) Look up ballon at
"smoothness in dancing, lightness of step," 1830, from French ballon, literally "balloon" (see balloon (n.)).
balloon (v.) Look up balloon at
1792, "to go up in a balloon;" 1841, "to swell, puff up;" from balloon (n.). Related: Ballooned; ballooning.
balloon (n.) Look up balloon at
1570s, "a game played with a large inflated leather ball tossed, batted, or kicked back and forth," also the ball itself (1590s), from Italian pallone "large ball," from palla "ball," from a Germanic source akin to Langobardic palla (from Proto-Germanic *ball-, from PIE root *bhel- (2) "to blow, swell") + -one, suffix indicating great size. Perhaps also borrowed in part from French ballon (16c.), altered (after balle) from Italian pallone. Also see -oon.

Meaning "bag or hollow vessel filled with heated air or (later) hydrogen or helium so as to rise and float in the atmosphere" is 1784, after the Montgolfier brothers' flights. As a toy air- or gas-filled inflatable bag, from 1858; as "outline containing words in a comic engraving" it dates from 1844. Balloon-frame (n.) "structure of light timber fitted together to form the skeleton of a building" is from 1853.
ballooning (n.) Look up ballooning at
"art or process of ascending in and managing a balloon," 1784, verbal noun from balloon (v.).
balloonist (n.) Look up balloonist at
"one who ascends in a balloon," 1784, from balloon (n.) + -ist. In the heyday of ballooning mania, balloonacy (1858) and balloonatic (1852) also were used.
ballot (v.) Look up ballot at
1540s, "to vote by secret method" (such as ballot balls), from ballot (n.). Related: Balloted; balloting.
ballot (n.) Look up ballot at
1540s, "small ball used in voting," also "secret vote taken by ballots," from Italian pallotte, diminutive of palla "ball," for small balls used as counters in secret voting, from a Germanic source, from PIE root *bhel- (2) "to blow, swell." Earliest references are to Venice. By 1776 extended to tickets or sheets of paper used in secret voting. Ballot box attested from 1670s; metonymically from 1834 as "system or practice of voting by ballot."
ballpark (n.) Look up ballpark at
also ball-park, "baseball stadium," 1893, short for base ball (or foot ball) park; see ball (n.1) + park (n.).

To be in the ballpark in the figurative sense of "within an acceptable range of approximation" is first recorded 1954, originally in the jargon of atomic weapons scientists, perhaps referring to the area within which a missile was expected to return to earth; the idea is broad but reasonably predictable dimensions. Hence ballpark (adj.) "approximate" (1967), of figures, etc.
The result, according to the author's estimate, is a stockpile equivalent to one billion tons of TNT. Assuming this estimate is "in the ball park," clearly there is valid reason for urging candor on the part of our government. [Ralph E. Lapp, "Atomic Candor," in "Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists," October 1954]
ballplayer (n.) Look up ballplayer at
also ball-player, mid-15c., from ball (n.1) + player.
ballroom (n.) Look up ballroom at
also ball-room, "a room designed or set aside for dancing parties," 1724, from ball (n.2) + room (n.). Ballroom dancing is attested by 1872.
balls (n.) Look up balls at
"testicles," early 14c., from plural of ball (n.1). See also ballocks. Meaning "courage, nerve" is from 1928. Balls to the wall, however, probably is from World War II Air Forces slang, from the ball that topped the aircraft throttle, thrust to the bulkhead of the cockpit to attain full speed.

Ball-busting "difficult" is recorded by 1944; ball-breaker "difficult job or problem" is by 1954. Ball-buster, disparaging for "dominant female, woman who destroys men's self-confidence" is from 1954; ball-breaker in this sense is by 1975.
ballsy (adj.) Look up ballsy at
"courageous, masculine," 1959, first attested in Norman Mailer (writing of Truman Capote); see balls + -y (2). Related: Ballsiness.
bally (adj.) Look up bally at
1885, British English, slang euphemism for bloody.
ballyhoo (n.) Look up ballyhoo at
"publicity, hype," 1908, from circus slang, "a short sample of a sideshow" used to lure customers (1901), which is of unknown origin. The word seems to have been in use in various colloquial senses in the 1890s. To catch ballyhoo is attested from 1895 in sense "be in trouble." There is a village of Ballyhooly in County Cork, Ireland, (the Bally- is a common Irish place-name element meaning "a town, village") but no evident sense connection. In nautical lingo, ballahou or ballahoo (1867, perhaps 1836) was a sailor's contemptuous word for any vessel they disliked (from Spanish balahu "schooner"). As a verb from 1901 (implied in ballyhooer).
balm (n.) Look up balm at
c. 1200, basme, "oily, resinous aromatic substance exuding naturally from shrubs of the genus Commiphora," from Old French basme, baume, balme "balsam, balm" (12c., Modern French baume), from Latin balsamum, from Greek balsamon "balsam," from Hebrew (Semitic) basam "spice," which is related to Aramaic busma, Arabic basham "balsam, spice, perfume." The spelling was refashioned 15c.-16c. on the Latin model. Compare balsam.

As the name of a tree from which it comes, late 14c.; from mid-15c. extended to various fragrant garden herbs. Also by extension, "any aromatic preparation used in healing wounds or soothing pain, or as a perfume or in anointing" (late 14c.). Hence the transferred sense of "healing or soothing influence" (1540s). Biblical Balm of Gilead (esteemed for its medicinal properties) is from Coverdale (Jeremiah viii.22); the Hebrew word there is tsori, which was rendered in Septuagint and Vulgate as "resin" (Greek rhetine, Latin resina).
balmy (adj.) Look up balmy at
c. 1500, "delicately fragrant," from balm + -y (2). Figurative use for "soft and soothing" dates from c. 1600; of breezes, air, etc. "mild, fragrant" (combining both earlier senses) it is first attested 1704. Meaning "weak-minded, idiotic," 1851, is from London slang, perhaps by confusion with barmy. Related: Balmily.
balneal (adj.) Look up balneal at
"pertaining to baths," 1640s, with -al (1) + Latin balneum "bath," from Greek balaneion "warm bath, bathing room," which is of unknown origin. Balneography (1841) is the description of baths and medicinal springs.
baloney (n.) Look up baloney at
1894 as a spelling variant of bologna sausage (q.v.), representing the popular pronunciation. As slang for "nonsense," 1922, American English (popularized 1930s by Gov. Alfred E. Smith of New York; sometimes said to be one of the coinages of legendary "Variety" staffer Jack Conway), from earlier sense of "idiot" (by 1915), perhaps influenced by blarney, but usually regarded as being from the sausage, as a type traditionally made from odds and ends. It also was early 20c. ring slang for an inferior fighter.
The aristocratic Kid's first brawl for sugar was had in Sandusky, Odryo, with a boloney entitled Young Du Fresne. He gave the green and nervous Kid a proper pastin' for six rounds and the disgusted Dummy sold me his find for a hundred bucks, leavin' the clubhouse just in time to miss seein' the boy get stung, get mad, and win by a knockout. [H.C. Witwer, "The Leather Pushers," "Colliers," Oct. 16, 1920]
balsa (n.) Look up balsa at
1852 as the name of a tropical South American tree noted for its soft, light-weight wood, apparently from Spanish balsa "float," originally the name of rafts used on the Pacific coast of Latin America (attested in English in this sense from 1777, also balza), perhaps from a native word of Peru. Related: Balsa-wood (1913).
balsam (n.) Look up balsam at
1570s, "aromatic resin used for healing wounds and soothing pains," from Latin balsamum "gum of the balsam tree," ultimately from Semitic (see balm). There is an isolated Old English use from c. 1000, and Middle English used balsamum. Originally in reference to Balm of Gilead, later extended to various other aromatic preparations from trees and shrubs. As a type of flowering plant of the Impatiens family, it is attested from 1741.