breakfast (n.) Look up breakfast at
"first meal of the day," mid-15c., from the verbal phrase; see break (v.) + fast (n.). For vowel shift, see met (v.). An Old English word for it was undernmete (see undern), also morgenmete "morning meal."

Spanish almuerzo "lunch," but formerly and still locally "breakfast," is from Latin admorsus, past participle of admordere "to bite into," from ad "to" + mordere "to bite" (see mordant). German Frühstück is from Middle High German vruostücke, literally "early bit."

In common with almuerzo, words for "breakfast" tend over time to shift in meaning toward "lunch;" compare French déjeuner "breakfast," later "lunch" (cognate of Spanish desayuno "breakfast"), from Vulgar Latin *disieiunare "to breakfast," from Latin dis- "apart, in a different direction from" + ieiunare, jejunare "fast" (see jejune; also compare dine). Greek ariston in Homer and Herodotus was a meal at the break of day but in classical times taken in the afternoon.
breakfast (v.) Look up breakfast at
1670s, "to eat breakfast;" 1793 as "to supply with breakfast," from breakfast (n.). Related: Breakfasted; breakfasting.
breakneck (adj.) Look up breakneck at
also break-neck, "extremely hazardous, likely to end in a broken neck," 1560s, from break (v.) + neck (n.).
breakout (n.) Look up breakout at
also break-out, 1820, from the verbal phrase, "issue forth, arise, spring up;" see break (v.) + out (adv.). The verbal phrase goes back to Old English ut brecan, utabrecan. Transitive sense is attested from 1610s.
breakthrough (n.) Look up breakthrough at
also break-through, 1918, in a military sense, from the verbal phrase; see break (v.) + through (adv.). The verbal phrase is attested from c. 1400 in the sense "overcome or penetrate a barrier." Meaning "abrupt solution or progress" is from 1930s, on the notion of a successful attack.
breakup (n.) Look up breakup at
also break-up, "a disruption, dissolution of connection, separation of a mass into parts," 1795, from verbal expression break up "separate, dissolve" (mid-15c.); see break (v.) + up (adv.). The verbal phrase was used of plowland, later of groups, assemblies, etc.; of things (also of marriages, relationships), from mid-18c. Break it up as a command to stop a fight, etc., is recorded from 1936.
breakwater (n.) Look up breakwater at
"any structure serving to break the force of waves and protect a harbor or shore," 1721, from break (v.) + water (n.1).
bream (n.) Look up bream at
type of common European freshwater fish, late 14c., from Old French braisme "bream," from Frankish *brahsima, from West Germanic *brahsm- (compare Old High German brahsima), perhaps from Proto-Germanic base *brehwan "to shine, glitter, sparkle," from PIE *bherek- (see braid (v.)). Insipid and little esteemed as food. The name also was given to various similar fish in other places.
breast (v.) Look up breast at
1590s, "to push the breast against," from breast (n.). From 1850 in figurative sense "meet boldly or openly." Related: Breasted; breasting.
breast (n.) Look up breast at
Old English breost "mammary gland of a woman, bosom; the thorax or chest, part of the body between the neck and the belly; mind, thought, disposition," from Proto-Germanic *breustam "breast" (source also of Old Saxon briost, Old Frisian briast, Old Norse brjost, Dutch borst, German brust, Gothic brusts), perhaps literally "swelling" and from PIE root *bhreus- "to swell, sprout" (source also of Middle Irish bruasach "having a broad, strong chest," Old Irish bruinne "breast").

The spelling conforms to the Scottish and northern England dialectal pronunciation. Figurative sense of "seat of the emotions and affections, repository of designs and secrets" was in Old English. Breast-plate "armor for the front of the body" is from late 14c. Breast-pump is from 1821.
breast-stroke (n.) Look up breast-stroke at
method of swimming, 1867, from breast (n.) + stroke (n.). Related: Breast-stroker.
breastbone (n.) Look up breastbone at
"sternum," Old English breostban; see breast (n.) + bone (n.).
breastwork (n.) Look up breastwork at
"fieldwork thrown up breast-high for defense," 1640s, from breast (n.) + work (n.) in "fortification" sense. Old English had breostweall in same sense.
breath (n.) Look up breath at
Old English bræð "odor, scent, stink, exhalation, vapor" (Old English word for "air exhaled from the lungs" was æðm), from Proto-Germanic *bræthaz "smell, exhalation" (source also of Old High German bradam, German Brodem "breath, steam"), perhaps from a PIE root *gwhre- "to breathe; smell."

The original long vowel (preserved in breathe) has become short. Meaning "ability to breathe," hence "life" is from c. 1300. Meaning "a single act of breathing" is from late 15c.; sense of "the duration of a breath, a moment, a short time" is from early 13c. Meaning "a breeze, a movement of free air" is from late 14c.
breath-taking (adj.) Look up breath-taking at
also breathtaking, "thrilling, surprising," 1867, from breath + present participle of take (v.). Phrase take (one's) breath away "leave breathless with astonishment or delight" is from 1864. Breathtaking (n.) "act of taking breaths or a breath" is from 1620s. Related: Breathtakingly.
breathable (adj.) Look up breathable at
"that can be breathed," 1731, from breathe + -able.
breathalyzer (n.) Look up breathalyzer at
also breathalyser, 1958, from breath + analyzer; an earlier name for it was drunkometer (1934).
breathe (v.) Look up breathe at
"to draw air into and expel it from the lungs; to inhale and exhale (a scent, etc.)," c. 1200, not in Old English, but it retains the original Old English vowel of its source word, breath. To breathe (one's) last "die" is from 1590s. Related: Breathed; breathing.
breather (n.) Look up breather at
c. 1600, "a living creature, one who breathes," agent noun from breathe. Meaning "spell of exercise to stimulate breathing" is from 1836; that of "a rest to recover breath" is from 1882.
breathless (adj.) Look up breathless at
late 14c., "unable to breathe," from breath + -less. Meaning "out of breath, panting" is from mid-15c. Also used from 1590s in the sense "dead." Meaning "forgetting to breathe" due to excitement, awe, anticipation, etc. is recorded from 1765. Related: Breathlessly; breathlessness. Breathful was used late 16c.
breathy (adj.) Look up breathy at
1520s, "pertaining to breath," from breath + -y (2). Of voices, "full of breath," from 1883. Related: Breathily; breathiness.
breccia (n.) Look up breccia at
"conglomerate rock of angular pieces," 1774, from Italian breccia, "marble of angular pieces," from a Germanic source akin to Old High German brecha "a breaking," from Proto-Germanic *brekan, from PIE root *bhreg- "to break." The same Germanic root is the source of Spanish brecha, French brèche "a breach."
bred (adj.) Look up bred at
"reared, brought up," 1650s, past-participle adjective from breed (v.).
breech (n.) Look up breech at
"back part of a gun or firearm," 1570s, from singular of breeches (q.v.) in the sense "lower part of the body," hence "the hinder part of anything" (especially the part of a cannon or firearm behind the barrel). Breech-loader is from 1858.
breech (v.) Look up breech at
late 15c., "put in breeches," from breeches. Meaning "fit a gun with a breech" is from 1757, from breech (n.). Related: Breeched; breeching.
breeches (n.) Look up breeches at
"bifurcated garment worn by men, covering the body and waist to the knees," c. 1200, a double plural (also breechen, and singular breech), from Old English brec "breeches," which already was plural of broc "garment for the legs and trunk," from Proto-Germanic *brokiz (source also of Old Norse brok, Dutch broek, Danish brog, Old High German bruoh, German Bruch, obsolete since 18c. except in Swiss dialect), perhaps from PIE root *bhreg- "to break." The etymological notion would be of a garment "forked" or "split." The singular breech survived into 17c., but the word is now always used in the plural.

The Proto-Germanic word is a parallel form to Celtic *bracca, source (via Gaulish) of Latin braca (source of French braies, Italian braca, Spanish braga). Some propose that the Germanic word group is borrowed from Gallo-Latin, others that the Celtic was from Germanic, but OED writes that the Proto-Germanic noun "has all the markings of an original Teutonic word."

Classical bracae were part of the characteristic garb of Gauls and Orientals; they were not worn by Greeks or Romans until the end of the republic. After 1 c. they came into use at first among military forces stationed in cold climates and were adopted generally toward the end of the empire, though they never seem to have been much in favor in Rome proper.

Expanded sense of "lower part of the body, part of the body covered by breeches, posterior" led to senses in childbirthing (1670s) and gunnery ("the part of a firearm behind the bore," 1570s). As the popular word for "trousers" in English, displaced in U.S. c. 1840 by pants. The Breeches Bible (Geneva Bible of 1560) so called on account of rendition of Genesis iii.7 (already in Wyclif) "They sewed figge leaues together, and made themselues breeches."
breed (v.) Look up breed at
Old English bredan "bring (young) to birth, procreate," also "cherish, keep warm," from West Germanic *brodjan (source also of Old High German bruoten, German brüten "to brood, hatch"), from *brod- "fetus, hatchling," from PIE root *bhreu- "to boil, bubble, effervesce, burn." The etymological notion is incubation, warming to hatch.

Intransitive sense "come into being" is from c. 1200; that of "beget or bear offspring" is from mid-13c. Of livestock, etc., "procure by the mating of parents and rear for use," mid-14c. Sense of "grow up, be reared" (in a clan, etc.) is late 14c.; meaning "form by education" is from mid-15c. Related: Bred; breeding.
breed (n.) Look up breed at
"race, lineage, stock from the same parentage" (originally of animals), 1550s, from breed (v.). Of persons, from 1590s. Meaning "kind, species" is from 1580s.
breeder (n.) Look up breeder at
1530s, "one who raises a particular kind of animal" (especially cattle); 1570s, "one who produces or originates," used especially of females, agent noun from breed (v.). Of nuclear reactors, from 1948. As a scornful homosexual term for "heterosexual person," attested from 1986.
breeding (n.) Look up breeding at
early 14c., "hatching, incubation; act of generating or producing;" late 14c., "formation, development, growth;" verbal noun from breed (v.). Meaning "manners, deportment in social life" is from 1590s (commonly short for good breeding), from the notion of "upbringing."
breeze (n.) Look up breeze at
1560s, "moderate north or northeast wind," from Old Spanish briza "cold northeast wind;" in West Indies and Spanish Main, the sense shifting to "northeast trade wind," then "brisk, fresh wind from the sea." English sense of "gentle or light wind" is from 1620s. An alternative possibility is that the English word is from East Frisian brisen "to blow fresh and strong." The slang sense of "something easy" is American English, c. 1928.
breeze (v.) Look up breeze at
1680s, "blow gently," from breeze (n.). Meaning "move briskly" is from 1904. Related: Breezed; breezing.
breezeway (n.) Look up breezeway at
"roofed passage between buildings, open at both sides," 1904, American English, from breeze (n.) + way (n.).
breezy (adj.) Look up breezy at
1718, "blowy, windy," from breeze (n.) + -y (2). Figurative sense "fresh, easygoing, light, airy" is from 1870. Related: Breezily; breeziness.
brekekekex Look up brekekekex at
Greek (Aristophanes) imitation of the croaking of frogs.
Bremen Look up Bremen at
city in Germany, from Old Saxon bremo "edge" (related to English brim (n.)), in reference to its site on a river bank.
Bren Look up Bren at
type of machine gun used by the British army in World War II, 1937, short for Bren gun, coined from first letters of Brno, Czechoslovakia, and Enfield, near London. The patent was purchased in Brno, and the gun was manufactured in Enfield.
Brenda Look up Brenda at
fem. proper name, Scottish (introduced to a wider English audience in Scott's "The Pirate," 1822), from Old Norse brandr, literally "sword" or torch" (see brand (n.)). Little-used as a given name in U.S. before 1925, bot a top-30 name for girls born there 1944-1966: The popular "Brenda Starr" newspaper comic strip debuted in 1940.
Brenner Pass Look up Brenner Pass at
historical route over the Alps between Germany and Italy, from Breuni, name of a people who lived near there, which is perhaps from Celtic.
Brest Look up Brest at
city in France, a Celtic name, from bre "hill." The city in modern Belarus is from Slavic berest "elm." It was part of Lithuania from 1319 and thus was known, for purposes of distinguishing them, as Brest Litovsk until 1921.
brethren (n.) Look up brethren at
alternative plural of brother (q.v.); predominant c. 1200-1600s, but surviving only in religious usage and not now used in reference to male children of the same parents. The title was used by primitive Christians (Acts xviii, etc.) and so was taken by various Protestant sects, such as the Dunkers.
Breton (n.) Look up Breton at
"native or language of Brittany," the former province in northwestern France, late 14c., from French form of Briton (q.v.).
breve (n.) Look up breve at
c. 1300, "letter of authority" (see brief (n.)); mid-15c. as a medieval musical notation having one-half or one-third the duration of a "long" note (longa), from Latin breve (adj.) "short" in space or time (see brief (adj.)). In modern use it has the value of two whole notes and is the longest notation (though seldom used), which reverses the etymological sense. The grammatical curved line placed over a vowel to indicate "shortness" (1540s) is from the same source.
brevet (n.) Look up brevet at
mid-14c., from Old French brievet "letter, note, piece of paper; papal indulgence" (13c.), diminutive of bref "letter, note" (see brief (n.)). Military sense of "a commission to a higher rank without advance in command" (for meritorious service, etc.) is from 1680s.
brevet (v.) Look up brevet at
"confer brevet rank upon," 1803, from French breveter, from brevet (see brevet (n.)). Related: Breveted; breveting.
breviary (n.) Look up breviary at
1540s, "brief statement;" 1610s, "short prayer book used by Catholic priests;" from Latin breviarium "summary," noun use of neuter of adjective breviarius "abridged," from breviare "to shorten, abbreviate," from brevis "short" (from PIE root *mregh-u- "short").
brevity (n.) Look up brevity at
"shortness," especially in speech or writing, c. 1500, from Latin brevitatem (nominative brevitas) "shortness" in space or time, from brevis "short" (from PIE root *mregh-u- "short").
brew (v.) Look up brew at
"produce (a beverage) by fermentation; prepare by mixing and boiling," Old English breowan (class II strong verb, past tense breaw, past participle browen), from Proto-Germanic *breuwan "to brew" (source also of Old Norse brugga, Old Frisian briuwa, Middle Dutch brouwen, Old High German briuwan, German brauen "to brew"), from PIE root *bhreu- "to boil, bubble, effervesce, burn;" the etymological sense thus being "make (a drink) by boiling." Intransitive, figurative sense of "be in preparation" (of trouble, etc.) is from c. 1300. Related: Brewed; brewing.
brew (n.) Look up brew at
"a brewed beverage, that which is brewed," c. 1500, from brew (v.).
brewer (n.) Look up brewer at
"one who brews, craftsman who brews and sells ale or beer," c. 1300 (as a surname from c. 1200), agent noun from brew (v.).