C Look up C at Dictionary.com
third letter of the alphabet. Alphabetic writing came to Rome via the southern Etruscan "Caeretan" script, in which gamma was written as a crescent. Early Romans made little use of Greek kappa and used gamma for both the "g" and "k" sounds, the latter more frequently, so that the "k" sound came to be seen as the proper one for gamma. Classical Latin -c-, with only the value "k," passed to Celtic and, via missionary Irish monks, to the Anglo-Saxons. In Old English -k- was known but little used.

Meanwhile, in Old French, many "k" sounds drifted to "ts" and by 13c., "s," but still were written -c-. Thus the 1066 invasion brought to the English language a flood of French and Latin words in which -c- represented "s" (as in cease, ceiling, circle) and a more vigorous use of -k- to distinguish that sound. By 15c. even native English words with -s- were being respelled with -c- for "s" (ice, mice, lice).

In some English words from Italian, the -c- has a "ch" sound (via a sound evolution somewhat like the Old French one). In German, -c- in loanwords was regularized to -k- or -z- (depending on pronunciation) in the international spelling reform of 1901, which was based on the Duden guide of 1880.

As a symbol in the Roman numeral system, "one hundred;" the symbol originally was a Greek theta, but was later reduced in form and understood to stand for centum. In music, it is the name of the keynote of the natural scale, though the exact pitch varied in time and place 18c. and 19c. from 240 vibrations per second to 275; it wasn't entirely regularized (at 261.63) until the adoption of the A440 standard in the 1930s.
C.E. Look up C.E. at Dictionary.com
abbreviation of Common Era or Christian Era, a secular or non-Christian alternative to A.D., attested from 1838 in works on Jewish history. Companion B.C.E. is attested from 1881.
C.O.D. Look up C.O.D. at Dictionary.com
abbreviation of cash on delivery, 1859, originally American English.
c/o Look up c/o at Dictionary.com
addressing abbreviation for care of; common by 1889.
ca.sa. Look up ca.sa. at Dictionary.com
abbreviation of Latin capias ad satisfaciendum, a writ issued upon a judgment in a personal action for the recovery of money (see capias).
Caaba Look up Caaba at Dictionary.com
see Kaaba.
cab (n.) Look up cab at Dictionary.com
1826, "light, two- or four-wheeled horse-drawn carriage," shortening of cabriolet, a type of covered horse-drawn carriage (1763), from French cabriolet (18c.), diminutive of cabriole "a leap, a caper," earlier capriole (16c.), from Italian capriola "a caper, frisk, leap," literally "a leap like that of a kid goat," from capriola "a kid, a fawn," from Latin capreolus "wild goat, roebuck," from PIE *kap-ro- "he-goat, buck" (source also of Old Irish gabor, Welsh gafr, Old English hæfr, Old Norse hafr "he-goat"). The carriages were noted for their springy suspensions.

Extended to hansoms and other types of carriages, then extended to similar-looking parts of locomotives (1851). Applied especially to public horse carriages, then to automobiles-for-hire (1899) when these began to replace them.
cabal (n.) Look up cabal at Dictionary.com
1520s, "mystical interpretation of the Old Testament," later "an intriguing society, a small group meeting privately" (1660s), from French cabal, which had both senses, from Medieval Latin cabbala (see cabbala). Popularized in English 1673 as an acronym for five intriguing ministers of Charles II (Clifford, Arlington, Buckingham, Ashley, and Lauderdale), which gave the word its sinister connotations.
cabala (n.) Look up cabala at Dictionary.com
1670s, variant of cabbala. Related: Cabalist.
cabalistic (adj.) Look up cabalistic at Dictionary.com
1670s; see cabbalistic; also compare cabal.
caballero (n.) Look up caballero at Dictionary.com
1861, "a Spanish gentleman," from Spanish caballero, from Latin caballarius, from caballus "a pack-horse, nag, hack" (see cavalier (n.)). Equivalent of French chevalier, Italian cavaliere. Also a kind of stately Spanish dance.
cabana (n.) Look up cabana at Dictionary.com
"a hut or shelter," 1898, western U.S., from American Spanish cognate of cabin (q.v.).
cabaret (n.) Look up cabaret at Dictionary.com
1650s, "tavern, bar, little inn," from French cabaret, originally "tavern" (13c.), which is of uncertain origin, perhaps from Middle Dutch cambret, from Old French (Picard dialect) camberete, diminutive of cambre "chamber" (see chamber (n.)). The word was "somewhat naturalized" in this sense [OED]. It was borrowed again from French with a meaning "a restaurant/night club" in 1912; extension of meaning to "entertainment, floor show" is by 1918.
cabbage (n.) Look up cabbage at Dictionary.com
type of cultivated culinary vegetable that grows a rounded head of thick leaves, mid-15c., caboge, from Old North French caboche "head" (in dialect, "cabbage"), from Old French caboce "head," a diminutive from Latin caput "head" (from PIE root *kaput- "head"). Earlier in Middle English as caboche (late 14c.). The plant was introduced to Canada 1541 by Jacques Cartier on his third voyage. First record of it in modern U.S. is 1660s.

The decline of "ch" to "j" in the unaccented final syllable parallels the common pronunciation of spinach, sandwich, Greenwich, etc. The comparison of a head of cabbage to the head of a person (usually disparaging to the latter) is at least as old as Old French cabus "(head of) cabbage; nitwit, blockhead," from Italian capocchia, diminutive of capo. The cabbage-butterfly (1816) is so called because its caterpillars feed on cabbages and other cruciferous plants.
cabbala (n.) Look up cabbala at Dictionary.com
"Jewish mystic philosophy," 1520s, from Medieval Latin cabbala, from Mishnaic Hebrew qabbalah "reception, received lore, tradition," especially "tradition of mystical interpretation of the Old Testament," from qibbel "to receive, admit, accept." Compare Arabic qabala "he received, accepted." Hence "any secret or esoteric science." Related: Cabbalist.
cabbalistic (adj.) Look up cabbalistic at Dictionary.com
"of or pertaining to cabbalists or the cabbala," 1620s, from cabbala + -istic. Cabbalistical is from 1590s.
cabbie (n.) Look up cabbie at Dictionary.com
also cabby, "cab-driver," 1859, from cab (n.) + -ie. Also see taxi (n.).
caber (n.) Look up caber at Dictionary.com
pole used in housebuilding, especially as an object tossed in the Highland games, 1510s, from Gaelic cabar "pole, spar," cognate with Irish cabar "lath," Welsh ceibr "beam, rafter."
cabernet (n.) Look up cabernet at Dictionary.com
family of grapes, or wine made from them, 1833, from French. Supposedly the best of them, cabernet sauvignon is attested in English from 1846.
cabin (n.) Look up cabin at Dictionary.com
mid-14c., "small house or habitation," especially one rudely constructed, from Old French cabane "hut, cottage, small house," from Old Provençal cabana, from Late Latin capanna "hut" (source also of Spanish cabana, Italian capanna); a word of doubtful origin. Modern French cabine (18c.), Italian cabino are English loan-words.

Meaning "room or partition of a ship" (later especially one set aside for use of officers) is from mid-14c. Cabin fever first recorded by 1918 in the "need to get out and about" sense; earlier (1820s) it was a term for typhus.
cabinet (n.) Look up cabinet at Dictionary.com
1540s, "secret storehouse, treasure chamber; case for valuables," from Middle French cabinet "small room" (16c.), diminutive of Old French cabane "cabin" (see cabin); perhaps influenced by (or rather, from) Italian gabbinetto, diminutive of gabbia, from Latin cavea "stall, stoop, cage, den for animals" (see cave (n.)).

Meaning "case for safe-keeping" (of papers, liquor, etc.) is from 1540s, gradually shading to mean a piece of furniture that does this. Sense of "private room where advisers meet" (c. 1600) led to modern political meaning "an executive council" (1640s); perhaps originally short for cabinet council (1620s); compare board (n.1) in its evolution from place where some group meets to the word for the group that meets there. From 1670s also "building or part of a building set aside for the conservation and study of natural specimens, art, antiquities, etc."
cabinet-maker (n.) Look up cabinet-maker at Dictionary.com
"one whose occupation is the making of household furniture," 1680s, from cabinet + maker.
cabinetry (n.) Look up cabinetry at Dictionary.com
1857, from cabinet + -ry.
cable (n.) Look up cable at Dictionary.com
c. 1200, "large, strong rope or chain used on a ship," from Old North French cable, from Medieval Latin capulum "lasso, rope, halter for cattle," from Latin capere "to take, seize," from PIE root *kap- "to grasp."

Technically, in nautical use, a rope 10 or more inches around, to hold the ship when at anchor; in non-nautical use, a rope of wire (not hemp or fiber). Given a new range of senses in 19c. in telegraphy (1850s), traction-railroads (1880s), etc. Meaning "message received by telegraphic cable" is from 1883, short for cable message (1877), cablegram (1868). Cable television first attested 1963; shortened form cable in this sense is from 1970.
cable (v.) Look up cable at Dictionary.com
c. 1500, "to tie up with cables," from cable (n.). As "to transmit by telegraph cable," 1871, American English. Related: Cabled; cabling.
cable-car (n.) Look up cable-car at Dictionary.com
"car on a cable railroad," 1879, from cable (n.) + car. A streetcar moved by an endless cable which is cased in a small tunnel under the railway and kept in motion by a remote stationary engine.
cablese (n.) Look up cablese at Dictionary.com
"shorthand used by journalists in cablegrams," 1916, from cable in the telegraphic sense + -ese as a language-name suffix. "Since cablegrams had to be paid for by the word and even press rates were expensive the practice was to affix Latin prefixes and suffixes to make one word do the work of several" [Daniel Schorr], such as exLondon and Londonward to mean "from London," "to London" (non-Latin affixes also were used). Hence the tale, famous in the lore of the United Press International, of the distinguished but harried foreign correspondent who reached his breaking point and wired headquarters UPSTICK JOB ASSWARD. Its economy and expressive power fascinated Hemingway in his newspapering days.
cabochon (n.) Look up cabochon at Dictionary.com
"a polished but uncut precious stone," 1570s, from French cabochon (14c.), augmentative of caboche (12c.), itself an augmentative or pejorative formation, ultimately from Latin caput "head" (from PIE root *kaput- "head"). Essentially the same word as cabbage.
caboodle (n.) Look up caboodle at Dictionary.com
"crowd, pack, lot, company," 1848, see kit and caboodle.
caboose (n.) Look up caboose at Dictionary.com
1747, "ship's cookhouse," from Middle Dutch kambuis "ship's galley," from Low German kabhuse "wooden cabin on ship's deck;" probably a compound whose elements correspond to English cabin and house (n.). Railroading sense "car for the use of the conductor, brakeman, etc.," is by 1859.
cabriolet (n.) Look up cabriolet at Dictionary.com
"light two-wheeled chaise," 1766, from French cabriolet (18c.), derivative of cabriole "a leap like a goat" (see cab). So called from its light, leaping motion. As a form of curved leg on furniture, 1888, from the resemblance to the leg of a leaping quadruped.
caca (n.) Look up caca at Dictionary.com
"excrement," c. 1870, slang, probably from Spanish or another language that uses it, ultimately from PIE root *kakka- "to defecate," which forms the base word for "excrement, to void excrement" in many Indo-European languages.
cacao (n.) Look up cacao at Dictionary.com
seed from which cocoa and chocolate are made, 1550s, from Spanish cacao, from Nahuatl (Aztecan) cacaua, root form of cacahuatl "bean of the cocoa-tree."
cacciatore (adj.) Look up cacciatore at Dictionary.com
by 1973, from Italian, literally "hunter," from past participle of cacciare "to hunt, chase" (see chase (v.)).
cache (n.) Look up cache at Dictionary.com
1797, "hiding place," from French Canadian trappers' slang, "hiding place for stores and provisions" (1660s), a back-formation from French cacher "to hide, conceal" (13c., Old French cachier), from Vulgar Latin *coacticare "store up, collect, compress," frequentative of Latin coactare "constrain," from coactus, past participle of cogere "to collect," literally "to drive together," from com- "together" (see co-) + agere "to set in motion, drive; to do, perform" (from PIE root *ag- "to drive, draw out or forth, move"). Sense extended by 1830s to "anything stored in a hiding place."
cache-sexe (n.) Look up cache-sexe at Dictionary.com
"slight covering for a woman's genitals," 1926, French, from cacher "to hide" (see cache) + sexe "genitals" (fem.); see sex (n.).
cachectic (adj.) Look up cachectic at Dictionary.com
"pertaining to or characteristic of a bad state of bodily health," 1630s, perhaps via French cachectique (16c.), from Latinized form of Greek kakhektikos "in a bad habit of body" (see cachexia). Cachectical is from 1620s.
cachet (n.) Look up cachet at Dictionary.com
1630s, "a seal," Scottish borrowing of French cachet "seal affixed to a letter or document" (16c.), from Old French dialectal cacher "to press, crowd," from Latin coactare "constrain" (see cache). Meaning evolved 18c. (via French lettre de cachet "letter under seal of the king") to "(letter under) personal stamp (of the king)," thence to "symbol of prestige" (1840).
cachexia (n.) Look up cachexia at Dictionary.com
"bad general state of health," 1550s (from 1540s in Englished form cachexy), from Latinized form of Greek kakhexia "bad habits," from kakos "bad" (from PIE root *kakka- "to defecate") + -exia, related to exis "habit or state," from exein "to have, be in a condition," from PIE root *segh- "to hold." Related: cachexic.
cachinnate (v.) Look up cachinnate at Dictionary.com
"to laugh loudly or immoderately," 1824, from Latin cachinnatum, past participle of cachinnare (see cachinnation). Related: Cachinnated; cachinnating.
cachinnation (n.) Look up cachinnation at Dictionary.com
"loud laughter," 1620s, from Latin cachinnationem (nominative cachinnatio) "violent laughter, excessive laughter," noun of action from past participle stem of cachinnare "to laugh immoderately or loudly," of imitative origin. Compare Sanskrit kakhati "laughs," Greek kakhazein "to laugh loudly," Old High German kachazzen, English cackle, Armenian xaxanc'.
cack (n.) Look up cack at Dictionary.com
"excrement, act of voiding excrement," Old English (in cac-hus); as a verb, "to void excrement," mid-15c., from Latin cacare (see caca). Related: Cacked; cacking. Cack-handed "left-handed; awkward" is from 1854.
cackle (v.) Look up cackle at Dictionary.com
early 13c., imitative of the noise of a hen (see cachinnation); perhaps partly based on Middle Dutch kake "jaw," with frequentative suffix -el (3). As "to laugh," 1712. Related: Cackled; cackling.
cackle (n.) Look up cackle at Dictionary.com
1670s, "sound made by a hen or goose," from cackle (v.). From 1856 as "a short laugh." Cackleberries, slang for "eggs" is first recorded 1880.
caco- Look up caco- at Dictionary.com
before vowels cac-, word-forming element meaning "bad, ill, poor" (as in cacography, the opposite of calligraphy and orthography), from Latinized form of Greek kakos "bad, evil," considered by etymologists probably to be connected with PIE root *kakka- "to defecate." The ancient Greek word was common in compounds; when added to words already bad, it made them worse; when added to words signifying something good, it often implies too little of it.
cacoethes (n.) Look up cacoethes at Dictionary.com
"itch for doing something," 1560s, from Latinized form of Greek kakoethes "ill-habit, wickedness, itch for doing (something)," from kakos "bad" (from PIE root *kakka- "to defecate") + ethe- "disposition, character" (see ethos). Most famously, in Juvenal's insanabile scribendi cacoethes "incurable passion for writing."
caconym (n.) Look up caconym at Dictionary.com
"a name rejected for linguistic reasons, bad nomenclature in botany or biology," 1889, from caco- "bad, ill, poor" + -onym "name" (see name (n.)).
cacoon (n.) Look up cacoon at Dictionary.com
large, flat bean from an African shrub, 1854, from some African word.
cacophony (n.) Look up cacophony at Dictionary.com
1650s, "harsh or unpleasant sound," probably via French cacophonie (16c.), from a Latinized form of Greek kakophonia, from kakophonos "harsh sounding," from kakos "bad, evil" (from PIE root *kakka- "to defecate") + phone "voice, sound," from PIE root *bha- (2) "to speak, tell, say." Meaning "discordant sounds in music" is from 1789. Related: Cacophonous.
cactus (n.) Look up cactus at Dictionary.com
c. 1600, in a classical sense, "cardoon, artichoke," from Latin cactus, from Greek kaktos, name of a type of prickly plant of Sicily (the Spanish artichoke), perhaps a pre-Greek word. In reference to the green, leafless, spiked American plants from 1769, because Linnaeus gave the name to them thinking they were related to the classical plant. Related: Cactal.