- cuff (n.)
- "bottom of a sleeve," mid-14c., cuffe "hand covering, mitten, glove," perhaps somehow from Medieval Latin cuffia "head covering," of uncertain origin. Sense of "band around the sleeve" is first attested 1520s; sense of "hem of trousers" is 1911. Off the cuff "extemporaneously" is 1938 American English colloquial, suggesting an actor or speaker reading from notes jotted on his shirt sleeves rather than learned lines. Cuff links is from 1897.
- cuff (v.2)
- "hit," 1520s, of unknown origin, perhaps from Swedish kuffa "to thrust, push." Related: Cuffed; cuffing. As a noun from 1560s.
- cui bono
- a Latin phrase from Cicero. It means "to whom for a benefit," or "who profits by it?" not "to what good purpose?" as is often erroneously claimed. From cui "to? for whom?," an old form preserved here in the dative form of the interrogative pronoun quis "who?" (see who) + bono "good" (see bene-).
- cuirass (n.)
- "armor for the chest and back," mid-15c., from Middle French cuirasse (15c.), from Late Latin coriacea vestis "garment of leather," from Latin corium "leather, hide" (see corium). Cognate with Italian corazza, Spanish coraza, Portuguese couraça.
- cuisine (n.)
- 1786, from French cuisine "style of cooking," originally "kitchen, cooking, cooked food" (12c.), from Late Latin cocina, earlier coquina "kitchen," from Latin coquere "to cook" (see cook (n.)).
- cul-de-sac (n.)
- 1738, as an anatomical term, from French cul-de-sac, literally "bottom of a sack," from Latin culus "bottom" (for second element, see sack (n.1)). Application to streets and alleys is from 1800.
- culdee (n.)
- mid-12c., from Old Irish céle de "anchorite," from cele "associate, companion," sometimes "servant" (cf. ceilidh) + de "of God." Perhaps an attempt to translate Servus Dei or some other Latin term for "religious hermit."
- culinary (adj.)
- 1630s, "of the kitchen," from Latin culinarius "pertaining to the kitchen," from culina "kitchen, food" (see kiln). Meaning "of cookery" is from 1650s.
- cull (v.)
- c.1200, originally "put through a strainer," from Old French coillir (12c., Modern French cueillir) "collect, gather, pluck, select," from Latin colligere "gather together, collect," originally "choose, select" (see collect). Related: Culled; culling. As a noun, from 1610s.
- cull (n.)
- "dupe, saphead," rogues' slang from late 16c., perhaps a shortening of cullion "base fellow," originally "testicle" (from French couillon, from Old French coillon "testicle; worthless fellow, dolt," from Latin coleus, literally "strainer bag;" see cojones), though another theory traces it to Romany (Gypsy) chulai "man." Also sometimes cully, though some authorities assert cully was the canting term for "dupe" and cull was generic "man, fellow," without implication of gullibility. Cf. also gullible.
- in some uses it represents an Anglicization of Cologne, the city in Germany. As a surname it can be this or from Cullen, Banffshire.
- culminate (v.)
- 1640s, from Late Latin culminatus past participle of culminare "to top, to crown," from Latin culmen (genitive culminis) "top, peak, summit, roof, gable," also used figuratively, contraction of columen (see column). Related: Culminated; culminating.
- culmination (n.)
- 1630s, from French culmination, noun of action from past participle stem of Late Latin culminare (see culminate). Originally a term in astronomy/astrology; figurative use is from 1650s.
- culottes (n.)
- "a divided skirt," 1911, from French culotte "breeches" (16c.), a diminutive of cul "bottom, backside, anus," from Latin culus "bottom, fundament." Earlier, in the singular cullote, it was used to mean "knee-breeches" (1842). Por le cul bieu "By God's arse" was an Old French oath.
- culpability (n.)
- 1670s, from Late Latin culpabilitas "guilt, culpability," from Latin culpabilis (see culpable).
- culpable (adj.)
- late 13c., coupable, from Old French coupable (12c., Modern French coupable), from Latin culpabilis "worthy of blame," from culpare "to blame," from culpa "crime, fault, blame, guilt, error." English (and for a time French) restored the first Latin -l- in later Middle Ages.
- culprit (n.)
- 1670s, from Anglo-French cul prit, contraction of Culpable: prest (d'averrer nostre bille) "guilty, ready (to prove our case)," words used by prosecutor in opening a trial. It seems the abbreviation cul. prit was mistaken in English for an address to the defendant.
- cult (n.)
- 1610s, "worship," also "a particular form of worship," from French culte (17c.), from Latin cultus "care, labor; cultivation, culture; worship, reverence," originally "tended, cultivated," past participle of colere "to till" (see colony). Rare after 17c.; revived mid-19c. with reference to ancient or primitive rituals. Meaning "devotion to a person or thing" is from 1829.
Cult. An organized group of people, religious or not, with whom you disagree. [Rawson]
- cultivar (n.)
- 1923, from culti(vated) var(iety), coined by U.S. horticulturalist Liberty Hyde Bailey (1858-1954) in "Gentes Herbarum."
- cultivate (v.)
- early 17c., from Medieval Latin cultivatus, past participle of cultivare, from Late Latin cultivus "tilled," from Latin cultus (see cult). Figurative sense of "improve by training or education" is from 1680s. Related: Cultivable; cultivated; cultivating.
- cultivation (n.)
- c.1700, of knowledge, etc., a figurative use, from French cultivation (16c.), noun of action from cultiver, from Latin cultivare "to till" (see cultivate). Meaning "raising of a plant or crop" is from 1719; literal sense of "tilling of the land" is from 1725.
- cultivator (n.)
- 1660s, noun of action (in Latin form) from cultivate. As the name of an agricultural tool, from 1759.
- cultural (adj.)
- 1868, in reference to the raising of plants or animals, from Latin cultura "tillage" (see culture) + -al (1). In reference to the cultivation of the mind, from 1875; hence, "relating to civilization or a civilization." A fertile starter-word among anthropologists and sociologists: e.g. cultural diffusion, in use by 1912; cultural diversity by 1935; cultural imperialism by 1937; cultural pluralism by 1932; cultural relativism by 1948.
- Cultural Revolution
- 1966, from Chinese, translation of Wuchan Jieji Wenhua Da Geming "Proletarian Cultural Great Revolution."
- culturalization (n.)
- by 1929; see cultural + -ization.
- culturally (adv.)
- 1889, from cultural + -ly (2).
- culture (n.)
- mid-15c., "the tilling of land," from Middle French culture and directly from Latin cultura "a cultivating, agriculture," figuratively "care, culture, an honoring," from past participle stem of colere "tend, guard, cultivate, till" (see cult). The figurative sense of "cultivation through education" is first attested c.1500. Meaning "the intellectual side of civilization" is from 1805; that of "collective customs and achievements of a people" is from 1867.
For without culture or holiness, which are always the gift of a very few, a man may renounce wealth or any other external thing, but he cannot renounce hatred, envy, jealousy, revenge. Culture is the sanctity of the intellect. [William Butler Yeats]
Slang culture vulture is from 1947. Culture shock first recorded 1940.
- culvert (n.)
- 1773, origin unknown, perhaps, as Weekley suggests, the name of a long-forgotten engineer or bridge-builder.
- verb and noun, by 1973, apparently a variant of the sexual sense of come that originated in pornographic writing, perhaps first in the noun sense. This "experience sexual orgasm" slang meaning of come (perhaps originally come off) is attested from 1650, in "Walking In A Meadowe Greene," in a folio of "loose songs" collected by Bishop Percy.
They lay soe close together, they made me much to wonder;
As a noun meaning "semen or other product of orgasm" it is on record from the 1920s. The sexual cum seems to have no connection with Latin cum, the preposition meaning "with, together with," which is occasionally used in English in local names of combined parishes or benifices (e.g. Chorlton-cum-Hardy), in popular Latin phrases (e.g. cum laude), or as a combining word to indicate a dual nature or function (e.g. slumber party-cum-bloodbath).
I knew not which was wether, until I saw her under.
Then off he came, and blusht for shame soe soon that he had endit;
Yet still she lies, and to him cryes, "one more and none can mend it."
- cum laude
- 1872, originally at Harvard, from Medieval Latin, literally "with praise," from Latin cum "with" + laude, ablative of laus (genitive laudis) "praise" (see laud). Probably from earlier use (in Latin) at Heidelberg and other German universities.
- Cumaean (adj.)
- 1731, from Latin Cumae (Greek Kyme), ancient city on the Italian coast near Naples, founded by Greeks 8c. B.C.E.; especially famous for the Sybil there, mentioned by Virgil.
- cumber (v.)
- c.1300, "to overthrow, destroy; to be overwhelmed; to harass," apparently from French, but Old French combrer "to seize hold of, lay hands on, grab, snatch, take by force, rape," has not quite the same sense. Perhaps a shortened formation from a verb akin to Middle English acombren "obstructing progress," from Old French encombrer, from combre "obstruction, barrier," from Vulgar Latin *comboros "that which is carried together," perhaps from a Gaulish word.
The likely roots are PIE *kom (see com-) + *bher- (1) "to bear" (see infer). Weakened sense of "to hamper, to obstruct or weigh down" is late 14c. Related: Cumbered; cumbering.
- Old English Cumbra land (945) "region of the Cymry" (see Cymric).
- cumbersome (adj.)
- late 14c., from cumber (v.) + -some. Meaning "unwieldy, hard to carry" is from 1590s. Related: Cumbersomely; cumbersomeness.
- cumbrous (adj.)
- late 14c., "cumbersome, troublesome, clumsy, unwieldy," from cumber + -ous.
- cumin (n.)
- Old English cymen, from Latin cuminum, from Greek kyminon, cognate with Hebrew kammon, Arabic kammun.
- cummerbund (n.)
- 1610s, from Hindi kamarband "loin band," from Persian kamar "waist" + band "something that ties," from Avestan banda- "bond, fetter," from PIE root *bhendh- "to bind" (see bend (v.)).
- cummin (n.)
- alternative spelling of cumin.
- cumulate (v.)
- 1530s, from Latin cumulatus "heaped, increased, augmented," past participle of cumulare "to heap," from cumulus "mound, heap" (see cumulus). Related: Cumulated; cumulating.
- cumulation (n.)
- 1610s, noun of action from cumulate.
- cumulative (adj.)
- c.1600, from Latin cumulatus, past participle of cumulare "to heap," from cumulus "heap" (see cumulus) + -ive.
- cumulonimbus (n.)
- 1887, from cumulo-, comb. form of cumulus, + nimbus.
- cumulus (n.)
- 1650s, "a heap," from Latin cumulus "a heap, pile, mass, surplus," from PIE *ku-m-olo-, suffixed shortened form of root *keue- "to swell" (cf. Sanskrit svayati "swells up, is strong," Greek kyein "to swell," Lithuanian šaunas "firm, solid, fit, capable"). Meteorological use for "rounded mass of clouds" first attested 1803.
- cun (v.)
- "to learn to know, inquire into," from Old English cunnian "to learn to know," ultimately from the same ancient root as can (v.1). Surviving into 17c. and perhaps later in dialects.
- cuneiform (adj.)
- 1670s, "wedge shaped," from French cunéiforme (16c.), from Latin cuneus "a wedge, wedge-shaped thing," of unknown origin, + French -forme (see form (n.)). Applied to characters in ancient Middle Eastern inscriptions made with wedge-shaped writing tools; first used in this sense by German physician and traveller Engelbert Kämpfer (1681-1716); in English from 1818. As a noun from 1862.
- cunnilingus (n.)
- 1887, from Latin cunnus "vulva" (see cunt) + lingere "to lick" (see lick (v.)). The Latin properly would mean "one who licks a vulva," but it is used in English in reference to the action, not the actor. The verb ought to be *cunnilingue.
Cunnilingus was a very familiar manifestation in classical times; ... it tends to be especially prevalent at all periods of high civilization. [Havelock Ellis, 1905]
- cunning (adj.)
- early 14c., "learned, skillful," present participle of cunnen "to know" (see can (v.1)). Sense of "skillfully deceitful" is probably late 14c. As a noun from c.1300. Related: Cunningly.
- cunt (n.)
- "female intercrural foramen," or, as some 18c. writers refer to it, "the monosyllable," Middle English cunte "female genitalia," by early 14c. (in Hendyng's "Proverbs" -- ʒeve þi cunte to cunni[n]g, And crave affetir wedding), akin to Old Norse kunta, Old Frisian, Middle Dutch, and Middle Low German kunte, from Proto-Germanic *kunton, of uncertain origin. Some suggest a link with Latin cuneus "wedge," others to PIE root *geu- "hollow place," still others to PIE *gwen-, root of queen and Greek gyne "woman."
The form is similar to Latin cunnus "female pudenda" (also, vulgarly, "a woman"), which is likewise of disputed origin, perhaps literally "gash, slit," from PIE *sker- "to cut," or literally "sheath," from PIE *kut-no-, from root *(s)keu- "to conceal, hide."
Hec vulva: a cunt. Hic cunnus: idem est. [from Londesborough Illustrated Nominale, c.1500, in "Anglo-Saxon and Old English Vocabularies," eds. Wright and Wülcker, vol. 1, 1884]
First known reference in English apparently is in a compound, Oxford street name Gropecuntlane cited from c.1230 (and attested through late 14c.) in "Place-Names of Oxfordshire" (Gelling & Stenton, 1953), presumably a haunt of prostitutes. Used in medical writing c.1400, but avoided in public speech since 15c.; considered obscene since 17c.
in Middle English also conte, counte, and sometimes queinte, queynte (for this, see q). Chaucer used quaint and queynte in "Canterbury Tales" (late 14c.; see q), and Andrew Marvell might be punning on quaint in "To His Coy Mistress" (1650).
"What eyleth yow to grucche thus and grone? Is it for ye wolde haue my queynte allone?" [Wife of Bath's Tale]
Under "MONOSYLLABLE" Farmer lists 552 synonyms from English slang and literature before launching into another 5 pages of them in French, German, Italian, Spanish, and Portuguese. [A sampling: Botany Bay, chum, coffee-shop, cookie, End of the Sentimental Journey, fancy bit, Fumbler's Hall, funniment, goatmilker, heaven, hell, Itching Jenny, jelly-bag, Low Countries, nature's tufted treasure, parenthesis, penwiper, prick-skinner, seminary, tickle-toby, undeniable, wonderful lamp, and aphrodisaical tennis court. Dutch cognate de kont means "a bottom, an arse," but Dutch also has attractive poetic slang ways of expressing this part, such as liefdesgrot, literally "cave of love," and vleesroos "rose of flesh."
Alternative form cunny is attested from c.1720 but is certainly much earlier and forced a change in the pronunciation of coney (q.v.), but it was good for a pun while coney was still the common word for "rabbit": "A pox upon your Christian cockatrices! They cry, like poulterers' wives, 'No money, no coney.' " [Philip Massinger: "The Virgin-Martyr," Act I, Scene 1, 1622]
- cup (n.)
- Old English cuppe, from Late Latin cuppa "cup" (source of Italian coppa, Spanish copa, Old French coupe "cup"), from Latin cupa "tub, cask, tun, barrel," from PIE *keup- "a hollow" (cf. Sanskrit kupah "hollow, pit, cave," Greek kype "a kind of ship," Old Church Slavonic kupu, Lithuanian kaupas).
The Late Latin word was borrowed throughout Germanic; cf. Old Frisian kopp "cup, head," Middle Low German kopp "cup," Middle Dutch coppe, Dutch kopje "cup, head." German cognate Kopf now means exclusively "head" (cf. French tête, from Latin testa "potsherd"). Meaning "part of a bra that holds a breast" is from 1938. [One's] cup of tea "what interests one" (1932), earlier used of persons (1908), the sense being "what is invigorating."
- cup (v.)
- late 14c., "to draw blood by cupping," from cup (n.). Meaning "to form a cup" is from 1830. Related: Cupped; cupping.