- chemistry (n.)
- c. 1600, "alchemy," from chemist + -ry; also see chemical (adj.). The meaning "natural physical process" is 1640s, and the scientific study not so called until 1788. The figurative sense of "instinctual attraction or affinity" is attested slightly earlier, from the alchemical sense.
- before vowels chem-, word-forming element denoting "relation to chemical action or chemicals," from comb. form of chemical (adj.), used to form scientific compound words from c. 1900.
- chemosynthesis (n.)
- 1898, from chemo- + synthesis.
- chemotaxis (n.)
- 1891, coined in German, 1888, by German botanist Wilhelm Pfeffer (1845-1920) from chemo- + Greek taxis "arrangement" (see tactics).
- chemotherapy (n.)
- 1906, from German Chemotherapie, coined by German biochemist Paul Ehrlich (1854-1915), from chemo- + therapie (see therapy).
- chenille (n.)
- "velvety cord," 1738, from French chenille, properly "caterpillar," literally "little dog" (13c.), from Latin canicula "a dog" (also "a violent woman; the star Sirius; the worst throw in dice"), diminutive of canis "dog" (see canine (n.)). So called for its furry look. Compare caterpillar.
- cheque (n.)
- see check.
- see checker (n.2).
- U.S. pop performer, born Cherilyn Sarkisian (1946). As a given name for girls in U.S., it hit a bump of popularity 1972-73 around the time she starred in a popular TV variety show.
- cherchez la femme
- French, literally "seek the woman," on the notion that a woman is the cause for whatever crime has been committed, first used by Alexandre Dumas père in "Les Mohicans de Paris" (1864) in the form cherchons la femme. French chercher is from Latin circare, in Late Latin "to wander hither and thither," from circus "circle" (see circus).
- cherish (v.)
- early 14c., cherischen, from Old French cheriss-, present participle stem of chierir "to hold dear" (12c., Modern French chérir), from chier "dear," from Latin carus "dear, costly, beloved" (see whore). The Latin word also is the source of Italian, Spanish, Portuguese caro; Old Provençal, Catalan car. Related: Cherished; cherishing.
- city in Ukraine (Ukrainian Chornobyl), from Russian chernobylnik "mugwort." Site of 1986 nuclear disaster.
- chernozem (n.)
- 1842, from Russian chernozem, literally "black earth," from chernyi "black," from PIE *kers- "dark, dirty" (see Krishna) + zemlya "earth, soil," from Old Russian zemi "land, earth," from PIE *dhghem- "earth" (see chthonic).
- 1670s, from Cherokee Tsaragi.
- cheroot (n.)
- late 17c., probably from Portuguese charuto "cigar," from Tamil curuttu "roll" (of tobacco), from curul "to roll." Originally a cigar from southern India; later a cigar of a certain shape.
- cherry (n.)
- c. 1300, earlier in surname Chyrimuth (1266, literally "Cherry-mouth"); from Anglo-French cherise, from Old North French cherise (Old French, Modern French cerise, 12c.), from Vulgar Latin *ceresia, from late Greek kerasian "cherry," from Greek kerasos "cherry tree," possibly from a language of Asia Minor. Mistaken in Middle English for a plural and stripped of its -s (compare pea).
Old English had ciris "cherry" from a West Germanic borrowing of the Vulgar Latin word (cognate with German Kirsch), but it died out after the Norman invasion and was replaced by the French word. Meaning "maidenhead, virginity" is from 1889, U.S. slang, from supposed resemblance to the hymen, but perhaps also from the long-time use of cherries as a symbol of the fleeting quality of life's pleasures.
- cherry-pick (v.)
- "to select the very best selfishly," 1959 (implied in cherry-picking), American English ("Billboard"), a pejorative figurative sense,from cherry (n.) + pick (v.). Related: Cherry-picked.
- from Greek khersonesos "peninsula," from khersos "dry land" + nesos "island," which is of uncertain origin; perhaps from *na-sos, literally "that which swims," from PIE root sna- "to swim" (see natatorium), but also see isle.
- chert (n.)
- "flint-like quartz," 1670s, of unknown origin. Apparently "a local term, which has been taken into geological use" [OED].
- cherub (n.)
- late 14c. as an order of angels, from Late Latin cherub, from Greek cheroub, from Hebrew kerubh (plural kerubhim) "winged angel," perhaps related to Akkadian karubu "to bless," karibu "one who blesses," an epithet of the bull-colossus. Old English had cerubin, from the Greek plural.
The cherubim, a common feature of ancient Near Eastern mythology, are not to be confused with the round-cheeked darlings of Renaissance iconography. The root of the terms either means "hybrid" or, by an inversion of consonants, "mount," "steed," and they are winged beasts, probably of awesome aspect, on which the sky god of the old Canaanite myths and of the poetry of Psalms goes riding through the air. [Robert Alter, "The Five Books of Moses," 2004, commentary on Gen. iii:24]
- cherubic (adj.)
- 1620s, from cherub + -ic. Earlier was cherubical (c. 1600).
- chervil (n.)
- type of herb, Old English cerfelle "chervil," from Latin chaerephyllum, from Greek khairephyllon; second element phyllon "leaf" (see phyllo-); first element perhaps from khairein "to rejoice" (see hortatory).
- fem. proper name, popular in U.S. for girls born 1944-1975.
- from an Algonquian language, perhaps literally "great shellfish bay." Early spellings include Chesepiooc and Chesupioc.
- 1086, Cestre Scire, from Chester + scir "district" (see shire). Cheshire cat and its proverbial grin are attested from 1770, but the signification is obscure.
I made a pun the other day, and palmed it upon Holcroft, who grinned like a Cheshire cat. (Why do cats grin in Cheshire?--Because it was once a county palatine, and the cats cannot help laughing whenever they think of it, though I see no great joke in it.) I said that Holcroft, on being asked who were the best dramatic writers of the day, replied, "HOOK AND I." Mr Hook is author of several pieces, Tekeli, &c. You know what hooks and eyes are, don't you? They are what little boys do up their breeches with. [Charles Lamb, letter to Thomas Manning, Feb. 26, 1808]
- chess (n.)
- 13c., from Old French esches "chessmen," plural of eschec "game of chess, chessboard; checkmate" (see check (n.1)), from the key move of the game. Modern French still distinguishes échec "check, blow, rebuff, defeat," from plural échecs "chess."
The original word for "chess" is Sanskrit chaturanga "four members of an army" -- elephants, horses, chariots, foot soldiers. This is preserved in Spanish ajedrez, from Arabic (al) shat-ranj, from Persian chatrang, from the Sanskrit word.
The chess pieces are the block alphabet which shapes thoughts; and these thoughts, although making a visual design on the chessboard, express their beauty abstractly, like a poem. [Marcel Duchamp, address to New York State Chess Association, Aug. 30, 1952]
- chess-board (n.)
- mid-15c., from chess + board (n.1).
- chessmen (n.)
- also chess-men, late 15c., from chess + men.
- chest (n.)
- Old English cest "box, coffer, casket," from Proto-Germanic *kista (cognates: Old Norse and Old High German kista, Old Frisian, Middle Dutch, German kiste, Dutch kist), an early borrowing from Latin cista "chest, box," from Greek kiste "a box, basket," from PIE *kista "woven container." Meaning extended to "thorax" 1520s, replacing breast (n.), on the metaphor of the ribs as a box for the organs. Chest of drawers is from 1590s.
- Cestre (1086), from Old English Legacæstir (735) "City of the Legions," from Old English ceaster "Roman town or city," from Latin castrum "fortified place" (see castle (n.)). It was the base of the Second Legion Adiutrix in the 70s C.E. and later the 20th Legion Valeria Victrix. But the town's name in Roman times was Deoua (c. 150 C.E.), from its situation on the River Dee, a Celtic river name meaning "the goddess, the holy one."
- Derbyshire town, Old English Cesterfelda, literally "open land near a Roman fort," from ceaster "fort" (see Chester) + feld "open land" (see field (n.)). The cigarette brand was named for Chesterfield County, Virginia, U.S. As a kind of overcoat and a kind of sofa (both 19c.), the name comes from earls of Chesterfield. Philip Stanhope, the fourth Earl of Chesterfield (1694-1773) was the writer on manners and etiquette.
- chestnut (n.)
- 1560s, from chesten nut (1510s), with superfluous nut (n.) + Middle English chasteine, from Old French chastain (12c., Modern French châtaigne), from Latin castanea "chestnut, chestnut tree," from Greek kastaneia, which the Greeks thought meant either "nut from Castanea" in Pontus, or "nut from Castana" in Thessaly, but probably both places are named for the trees, not the other way around, and the word is borrowed from a language of Asia Minor (compare Armenian kask "chestnut," kaskeni "chestnut tree"). In reference to the dark reddish-brown color, 1650s. Applied to the horse-chestnut by 1832.
Slang sense of "venerable joke or story" is from 1885, explained 1888 by Joseph Jefferson (see "Lippincott's Monthly Magazine," January 1888) as probably abstracted from the 1816 melodrama "The Broken Sword" by William Dimond where an oft-repeated story involving a chestnut tree figures in an exchange between the characters "Captain Zavior" and "Pablo":
Zav. Let me see--ay! it is exactly six years since that peace being restored to Spain, and my ship paid off, my kind brother offered me a snug hammock in the dwelling of my forefathers. I mounted a mule at Barcelona and trotted away for my native mountains. At the dawn of the fourth day's journey, I entered the wood of Collares, when, suddenly, from the thick boughs of a cork-tree--
Jefferson traced the connection through William Warren, "the veteran comedian of Boston" who often played Pablo in the melodrama.
Pab. [Jumping up.] A chesnut, Captain, a chesnut!
Zav. Bah, you booby! I say, a cork!
Pab. And I swear, a chesnut. Captain, this is the twenty-seventh time I have heard you relate this story, and you invariably said, a chesnut, till now.
- chesty (adj.)
- "aggressively self-assured," 1898, American English slang, from chest (n.) in the body sense + -y (2). Of a woman, "bosomy, full-breasted," by 1955.
- chetnik (n.)
- "member of a Balkan guerrilla force," 1904, from Serbian četnik, from četa "band, troop."
- cheval de frise (n.)
- 1680s, from French, literally "horse of Frisia," supposedly because it was first employed there as a defense against cavalry; from French cheval "horse" (see cavalier (n.)). Plural chevaux de frise.
- chevalier (n.)
- late 13c., Anglo-French chivaler "mounted knight," Old French chevalier "knight, horseman, knight in chess" (12c., Modern French chevaler), from Late Latin caballarius "horseman" (source of Provençal cavallier, Spanish caballero, Portuguese cavalleiro, Italian cavaliere; see cavalier (n.)). The word formerly was nativized, but has been given a French pronunciation since 16c.
- Cheviot (n.)
- range of hills between Scotland and England, named for one of them, The Cheviot, attested from 12c. as Chiviet; of uncertain origin; the second element is perhaps Old English geat "gate."
- chevron (n.)
- late 14c., from Old French chevron "rafter; chevron" (13c.), the accent mark so called because it looks like rafters of a shallow roof, from Vulgar Latin *caprione, from Latin caper "goat" (see cab); the hypothetical connection between goats and rafters being the animal's angular hind legs. Compare Latin capreolus "props, stays, short pieces of timber for support," lit. "wild goat, chamoix."
- Chevy (n.)
- by 1938, popular form of Chevrolet, U.S. automobile brand, which was founded by Louis Chevrolet and William Durant in 1911; acquired by General Motors in 1917.
- chew (v.)
- Old English ceowan "to bite, gnaw, chew," from West Germanic *keuwwan (cognates: Middle Low German keuwen, Dutch kauwen, Old High German kiuwan, German kauen), from PIE root *gyeu- "to chew" (cognates: Old Church Slavonic živo "to chew," Lithuanian žiaunos "jaws," Persian javidan "to chew").
Figurative sense of "to think over" is from late 14c.; to chew the rag "discusss some matter" is from 1885, apparently originally British army slang. Related: Chewed; chewing. To chew (someone) out (1948) probably is military slang from World War II. Chewing gum is by 1843, American English, originally hardened secretions of the spruce tree.
- chew (n.)
- c. 1200, "an act of chewing," from chew (v.). Meaning "wad of tobacco chewed at one time" is from 1725; as a kind of chewy candy, by 1906.
- chewable (adj.)
- 1827, from chew (v.) + -able.
- 1778, from French Canadian, from Dakota Sahi'yena, a diminutive of Sahi'ya, a Dakotan name for the Cree people.
- 1740, from French chez "at the house of," from Old French chiese "house" (12c.), from Latin casa "house." Used with French personal names, meaning "house of _____."
- chi (n.)
- 22nd letter of the Greek alphabet, representing a -kh- sound (see ch). The letter is shaped like an X, and so the Greek letter name was used figuratively to signify such a shape or arrangement (as in khiasma "two things placed crosswise;" khiastos "arranged diagonally; marked with an X;" khiazein "to mark with an 'X', to write the letter 'X'"). Some dialects used chi to represent the -ks- sound properly belonging to xi; Latin picked this up and the sound value of chi in Latin-derived alphabets is now that of English X.
- chi-chi (adj.)
- also chichi, "extremely chic, sophisticated," also "pretentious fussiness," 1908, from French chichi "airs, fuss." Perhaps, like frou-frou, imitative.
- Chian (adj.)
- "pertaining to the Greek island of Chios," 1630s. The island name is of uncertain origin, perhaps related to Greek khion "snow."
- Chiang Mai
- city in northwest Thailand, founded in 1292; the name is Thai northern dialect chiang "town" + mai "new."
- chianti (n.)
- also chiante, kind of dry red wine, 1833, from Chianti Mountains of Tuscany, where the wine was made. "[L]oosely applied to various inferior Italian wines" [OED].
- chiaroscuro (n.)
- 1680s, "disposition of light and dark in a picture," literally "bright-dark," from Italian chiaro "clear, bright" (from Latin clarus; see clear (adj.)) + oscuro (from Latin obscurus; see obscure (adj.)). Related: Chiaroscurist.