Cuba Look up Cuba at
said to be from Taino (Arawakan) Cubanacan, the name of the people who occupied the island. Related: Cuban (1829), Cuban heel (1908); Cuban Missile Crisis (October 16-28, 1962).
cubby (n.) Look up cubby at
1868, short for cubbyhole.
cubbyhole (n.) Look up cubbyhole at
1825, the first element possibly from a diminutive of cub "stall, pen, cattle shed, coop, hutch" (1540s), a dialect word with apparent cognates in Low German (such as East Frisian kubbing, Dutch kub). Or related to cuddy "small room, cupboard" (1793), originally "small cabin in a boat" (1650s), from Dutch kajuit, from French cahute. Or perhaps simply a children's made-up word.
cube (n.) Look up cube at
1550s, from Middle French cube (13c.) and directly from Latin cubus, from Greek kybos "a cube, a six-sided die, vertebra," perhaps from PIE root *keu(b)- "to bend, turn." Mathematical sense is from 1550s in English (it also was in the ancient Greek word: the Greeks threw with three dice; the highest possible roll was three sixes).
cube (v.) Look up cube at
1580s in the mathematical sense; 1947 with meaning "cut in cubes," from cube (n.). The Greek verbal derivatives from the noun all referred to dice-throwing and gambling. Related: Cubed; cubing.
cubic (adj.) Look up cubic at
1550s, from Middle French cubique (14c.), from Latin cubicus, from Greek kybikos, from kybos "cube" (see cube (n.)). Related: Cubical.
cubicle (n.) Look up cubicle at
mid-15c., "bedroom," from Latin cubiculum "bedroom," from cubare "to lie down," originally "bend oneself," from PIE root *keu(b)- "to bend, turn." With Latin -clom, suffix denoting place. Obsolete from 16c. but revived 19c. for "dormitory sleeping compartment," sense of "any partitioned space" (such as a library carrel or, later, office work station) is first recorded 1926.
cubism (n.) Look up cubism at
1911, from French cubisme, from cube (see cube (n.)), said to have been coined by French art critic Louis Vauxcelles at the 1908 Salon des Indépendants in reference to a work by Georges Braque. Related: Cubist.
cubit (n.) Look up cubit at
ancient unit of measure based on the forearm from elbow to fingertip, usually from 18 to 22 inches, early 14c., from Latin cubitum "the elbow," from PIE *keu(b)- "to bend." Such a measure, known by a word meaning "forearm" or the like, was known to many peoples (Greek pekhys, Hebrew ammah, English ell).
cuboid (adj.) Look up cuboid at
"cube-like," 1829, a modern coinage; see cube (n.) + -oid.
cucking stool (n.) Look up cucking stool at
early 13c., from cuck "to void excrement," from Old Norse kuka "feces" (the chair was sometimes in the form of a close-stool). Also known as trebucket and castigatory, it was used on disorderly women and fraudulent tradesmen, either in the form of public exposure to ridicule or for ducking in a pond.
cuckold (n.) Look up cuckold at
mid-13c., kukewald, from Old French cucuault, from cocu (see cuckoo) + pejorative suffix -ault, of Germanic origin. So called from the female bird's alleged habit of changing mates, or her authentic habit of leaving eggs in another bird's nest.

In Modern French the identity is more obvious: Coucou for the bird and cocu for the betrayed husband. German Hahnrei (13c.), from Low German, is of obscure origin. The second element seems to be connected to words for "ardent," and suggests perhaps "sexually aggressive hen," with transferal to humans, but Kluge suggests rather a connection to words for "capon" and "castrated." Related: Cuckoldry.
cuckold (v.) Look up cuckold at
1580s, from cuckold (n.). Related: Cuckolded; cuckolding.
cuckoo (n.) Look up cuckoo at
mid-13c., from Old French cocu "cuckoo," also "cuckold," echoic of the male bird's mating cry (compare Greek kokkyx, Latin cuculus, Middle Irish cuach, Sanskrit kokilas). Slang adjectival sense of "crazy" is American English, 1918, but noun meaning "stupid person" is recorded by 1580s, perhaps from the bird's unvarying, oft-repeated call. The Old English name was geac, cognate with Old Norse gaukr, source of Scottish and northern English gowk. The Germanic words presumably originally were echoic, too, but had drifted in form. Cuckoo clock is from 1789.
cucumber (n.) Look up cucumber at
late 14c., from Old French cocombre (13c., Modern French concombre), from Latin cucumerem (nominative cucumis), perhaps from a pre-Italic Mediterranean language. The Latin word also is the source of Italian cocomero, Spanish cohombro, Portuguese cogombro. Replaced Old English eorþæppla (plural), literally "earth-apples."

Cowcumber was common form 17c.-18c., and that pronunciation lingered into 19c. Planted as a garden vegetable by 1609 by Jamestown colonists. Phrase cool as a cucumber (c. 1732) embodies ancient folk knowledge confirmed by science in 1970: inside of a field cucumber on a warm day is 20 degrees cooler than the air temperature.
cud (n.) Look up cud at
Old English cudu "cud," earlier cwudu, common Germanic (compare Old Norse kvaða "resin," Old High German quiti "glue," German Kitt "putty"); perhaps from PIE root *gwet- "resin, gum."
cuddle (v.) Look up cuddle at
early 16c. (implied in cudlyng), perhaps a variant or frequentative form of obsolete cull, coll "to embrace" (see collar (n.)); or perhaps from Middle English *couthelen, from couth "known," hence "comfortable with." It has a spotty early history and seems to have been a nursery word at first. Related: Cuddled; cuddling.
cuddly (adj.) Look up cuddly at
1863, from cuddle + -y (2).
cudgel (n.) Look up cudgel at
Old English cycgel "club with rounded head;" perhaps from PIE root *geu- "to curve, bend."
cudgel (v.) Look up cudgel at
"to beat with a cudgel," 1590s, from cudgel (n.). Related: Cudgeled; cudgeling.
cue (v.) Look up cue at
1928, from cue (n.1). Related: Cued, cueing.
cue (n.1) Look up cue at
"stage direction," 1550s, from Q, which was used 16c., 17c. in stage plays to indicate actors' entrances, probably as an abbreviation of Latin quando "when" (see quandary) or a similar Latin adverb. Shakespeare's printed texts have it as both Q and cue.
cue (n.2) Look up cue at
"billiard stick," 1749, variant of queue (n.). Cue ball first recorded 1881.
cuff (v.1) Look up cuff at
"to put a cuff on," 1690s, from cuff (n.). Related: Cuffed; cuffing.
cuff (n.) Look up cuff at
"bottom of a sleeve," mid-14c., cuffe "hand covering, mitten, glove," perhaps somehow from Medieval Latin cuffia "head covering," which is 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) Look up cuff at
"hit," 1520s, of unknown origin, perhaps from Swedish kuffa "to thrust, push." Related: Cuffed; cuffing. As a noun from 1560s.
cui bono Look up cui bono at
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.) Look up cuirass at
"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.) Look up cuisine at
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.) Look up cul-de-sac at
1738, as an anatomical term, from French cul-de-sac, literally "bottom of a sack," from Latin culus "bottom, backside, fundament." For second element, see sack (n.1). Application to streets and alleys is from 1800.
culdee (n.) Look up culdee at
mid-12c., from Old Irish céle de "anchorite," from cele "associate, companion," sometimes "servant" (compare ceilidh) + de "of God." Perhaps an attempt to translate Servus Dei or some other Latin term for "religious hermit."
culinary (adj.) Look up culinary at
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.) Look up cull at
early 14c., "choose, select, pick; collect and gather the best things from a number or quantity," especially with reference to literary selections, from Old French cuiler "collect, gather, pluck, select" (12c., Modern French cueillir), from Latin colligere "gather together, collect," originally "choose, select" (see collect). Meaning "select livestock according to quality" is from 1889; notion of "select and kill (animals)," usually in the name of reducing overpopulation or improving the stock, is from 1934. Related: Culled; culling.
cull (n.) Look up cull at
"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 in the form cully, however some authorities assert cully was the canting term for "dupe" and cull was generic "man, fellow," without implication of gullibility. Compare also gullible.
cull (n.) Look up cull at
1610s, "a selection," from cull (v.). From 1791 as "flock animal selected as inferior;" 1958 as "a killing of animals deemed inferior."
cullen Look up cullen at
in some uses it represents an Englishing of Cologne, the city in Germany. As a surname it can be this or from Cullen, Banffshire.
culminate (v.) Look up culminate at
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.) Look up culmination at
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.) Look up culottes at
"a divided skirt," 1911, from French culotte "breeches" (16c.), a diminutive of cul "bottom, backside, backside, anus," from Latin culus "bottom, fundament." Earlier, in the singular cullote, it was used to mean "knee-breeches" (1842). Por le cul dieu "By God's arse" was an Old French oath.
culpability (n.) Look up culpability at
1670s, from Late Latin culpabilitas "guilt, culpability," from Latin culpabilis (see culpable).
culpable (adj.) Look up culpable at
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.) Look up culprit at
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.) Look up cult at
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 "a 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.) Look up cultivar at
1923, from culti(vated) var(iety), coined by U.S. horticulturalist Liberty Hyde Bailey (1858-1954) in "Gentes Herbarum."
cultivate (v.) Look up cultivate at
early 17c., from Medieval Latin cultivatus, past participle of cultivare "to cultivate," 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.) Look up cultivation at
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.) Look up cultivator at
1660s, noun of action (in Latin form) from cultivate. As the name of an agricultural tool, from 1759.
cultural (adj.) Look up cultural at
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, for example cultural diffusion, in use by 1912; cultural diversity by 1935; cultural imperialism by 1937; cultural pluralism by 1932; cultural relativism by 1948.
Cultural Revolution Look up Cultural Revolution at
1966, from Chinese, translation of Wuchan Jieji Wenhua Da Geming "Proletarian Cultural Great Revolution."
culturalization (n.) Look up culturalization at
by 1929; see cultural + -ization.