- fierce (adj.)
- mid-13c., "proud, noble, bold, haughty," from Old French fers, fiers, nominative form of fer, fier "strong, overwhelming, violent, fierce, wild; proud, mighty, great, impressive" (Modern French fier "proud, haughty"), from Latin ferus "wild, untamed, uncultivated; waste, desert;" figuratively "wild, uncultivated, savage, cruel," from PIE root *ghwer- "wild; wild animal" (cognates: Greek ther, Old Church Slavonic zveri, Lithuanian zveris "wild beast").
Meaning "ferocious, wild, savage, cruel" of persons is from c. 1300; of beasts from late 14c. Original English sense of "brave, proud" died out 16c., but while this sense was current fierce often was used in English as an epithet (and thus surname), which accounts for the rare instance of a French word entering English in the nominative case. Related: Fiercely; fierceness. In Middle English sometimes also "dangerous, destructive; great, strong; huge (in number)." An early 15c. medical treatise has fers benes for "wild beans."
- fieri facias (n.)
- writ concerning a sum awarded in judgment (often requiring seizure and sale of property for debt), Latin, literally "cause it to be done, cause to be made," the first words of the writ, from Latin fieri "to be made, come into being" (see fiat). Second word from facere "to do" (see factitious).
- fiery (adj.)
- late 13c., "flaming, full of fire," from Middle English fier "fire" (see fire (n.)) + -y (2). The spelling is a relic of one of the attempts to render Old English "y" in fyr in a changing system of vowel sounds. Other Middle English spellings include firi, furi, fuiri, vuiri, feri. From c. 1400 as "blazing red." Of persons, from late 14c. Related: Fieriness. As adjectives Old English had fyrbære "fiery, fire-bearing;" fyren "of fire, fiery, on fire;" fyrenful; fyrhat "hot as fire."
- fiesta (n.)
- 1844 as a Spanish word in English, "Spanish-American religious festival," Spanish, literally "feast" (see feast (n.)).
- 1915, acronym from Fédération Internationale de Football Association, founded 1904 in Paris.
- fife (n.)
- 1550s, from German Pfeife "fife, pipe," ultimately from Old High German pfifa; the English word is perhaps via Middle French fifre (15c.) from the same Old High German word. Imitative. German musicians provided music for most European courts in those days. As a verb from 1590s. Agent noun fifer is recorded earlier (1530s). Fife and drum is from 1670s.
- fifteen (n.)
- Old English fiftyne, from fif "five" (see five) + tyne (see -teen). Cognate with Old Saxon fiftein, Old Frisian fiftine, Old Norse fimtan, Swedish femton, Dutch vijftien, German fünfzehn, Gothic fimftaihun "fifteen." French quinze, Italian quindici "fifteen" are from Latin quindecim (from quinque "five;" see quinque-; + -decim (see -teen). The number of players forming a side in rugby.
- fifteenth (adj.)
- late 14c., from fifteen + -th (1). By 15c. displacing forms derived from Old English fifteoða. Compare Old Frisian fiftuda, Dutch vijftiende, German fünfzehnte, Old Norse fimmtandi, Gothic fimftataihunda, with ordinal -d where English has -th. As a noun by late 14c.
- fifth (adj.)
- c. 1200, fift, from Old English fifta "fifth," from fif "five" (see five) + -ta (see -th (1)). Normal development would have yielded fift; altered 14c. by influence of fourth. Compare Old Frisian fifta, Old Saxon fifto, Old Norse fimmti, Dutch vijfde, Old High German fimfto, German fünfte, Gothic fimfta.
Noun meaning "fifth part of a gallon of liquor" is first recorded 1938, American English; the noun in the music sense is from 1590s. Fifth Avenue (in New York City) has been used figuratively for "elegance, taste" since at least 1858. Fifth wheel "superfluous person or thing" attested from 1630s. It also was the name of a useful device, "wheel-plate or circle iron of a carriage" placed on the forward axle for support and to facilitate turning (1825). And the phrase sometimes is turned on its head and given a positive sense of "that which a prudent driver ought to take with him in case one of the others should break" (1817). Fifth-monarchy-man, 17c. for "anarchist zealot," is a reference to Dan. ii:44.
- fifth column (n.)
- 1936, from Gen. Emilio Mola's comment at the siege of Madrid during the Spanish Civil War that he would take the city with his four columns of troops outside it and his "fifth column" (quinta columna) in the city.
- fifties (n.)
- 1826 as the years of someone's life between 50 and 59; 1853 as the sixth decade of years in a given century. See fifty.
- fiftieth (adj.)
- Old English fifteogoða "fiftieth;" see fifty + -th (1). Compare Old Norse fimmtugande, and, with a different suffix, Old Frisian fiftichsta, Dutch vijftigste, Old High German fimfzugsto, German fünfzigste.
- fifty (n.)
- Old English fiftig "fifty; a set of fifty," from fif "five" (see five) + -tig "group of ten" (see -ty (1)). Compare Old Frisian fiftich, Old Norse fimm tigir, Dutch vijftig, Old High German fimfzug, German fünfzig, Gothic fimf tigjus. U.S. colloquial fifty-fifty "in an even division" is from 1908.
- fig (n.1)
- early 13c., from Old French figue "fig" (12c.), from Old Provençal figa, from Vulgar Latin *fica, corresponding to Latin ficus "fig tree, fig," which, with Greek sykon, Armenian t'uz is "prob. fr. a common Mediterranean source" [Buck], possibly a Semitic one (compare Phoenician pagh "half-ripe fig"). A reborrowing of a word that had been taken directly from Latin as Old English fic "fig, fig-tree."
The insulting sense of the word in Shakespeare, etc. (A fig for ...) is 1570s (in 17c. sometimes in Italian form fico), in part from fig as "small, valueless thing," but also from Greek and Italian use of their versions of the word as slang for "vulva," apparently because of how a ripe fig looks when split open [Rawson, Weekley]. Giving the fig (Old French faire la figue, Spanish dar la higa) was an indecent gesture of ancient provenance, made by putting the thumb between two fingers or into the mouth, with the intended effect of the modern gesture of "flipping the bird" (see bird (n.3)). Also compare sycophant.
Use of fig leaf in figurative sense of "flimsy disguise" (1550s) is from Gen. iii:7. Fig-faun translates Latin faunus ficarius (Jer. l:39).
- fig (n.2)
- "dress, equipment," 1823, in phrase in full fig; hence "condition, state of preparedness" (1883). Said to be an abbreviation of figure (n.), perhaps from the abbreviation of that word in plate illustrations in books, etc. According to others, from the fig leaves of Adam and Eve. Related: Figgery.
- figgy (adj.)
- 1540s "sweet" (as figs are), from fig (n.1) + -y (2). From 1846 (in a book of Cornish words) as "full of figs or raisins."
- fight (v.)
- Old English feohtan "to combat, contend with weapons, strive; attack; gain by fighting, win" (intransitive; class III strong verb; past tense feaht, past participle fohten), from Proto-Germanic *fehtan (cognates: Old High German fehtan, German fechten, Middle Dutch and Dutch vechten, Old Frisian fiuhta "to fight"), from PIE *pek- (2) "to pluck out" (wool or hair), apparently with a notion of "pulling roughly" (cognates: Greek pekein "to comb, shear," pekos "fleece, wool;" Persian pashm "wool, down," Latin pectere "to comb," Sanskrit paksman- "eyebrows, hair").
Spelling substitution of -gh- for a "hard H" sound was a Middle English scribal habit, especially before -t-. In some late Old English examples, the middle consonant was represented by a yogh. Among provincial early Modern English spellings, Wright lists faight, fate, fecht, feeght, feight, feit, feyght, feyt, feort, foight.
From c. 1200 as "offer resistance, struggle;" also "to quarrel, wrangle, create a disturbance." From late 14c. as "be in conflict." Transitive use from 1690s. To fight for "contest on behalf of" is from early 14c. To fight back "resist" is recorded from 1890. Well figt þat wel fligt ("he fights well that flies fast") was a Middle English proverb.
- fight (n.)
- Old English feohte, gefeoht "a fight, combat, hostile encounter;" see fight (v.). Compare Old Frisian fiucht, Old Saxon fehta, Dutch gevecht, Old High German gifeht, German Gefecht. Meaning "power or inclination to fight" is from 1812.
- fighter (n.)
- Old English feohtere; agent noun from fight (v.). Compare Dutch vechter, German Fechter. Old English also had feohtling in this sense. Meaning "fast military airplane used for combat" is from 1917.
- fighting (adj.)
- "qualified or trained to fight," mid-14c., present participle adjective from fight (v.). Fighting chance is from 1877; fighting mad is attested by 1750; fighting words is by 1882. Fighty "pugnacious" is attested from c. 1200.
- fighting (n.)
- early 13c., "act of engaging in combat," verbal noun from fight (v.). Old English had feohtlac (n.) "fighting, battle." Nautical fighting-top "platform near the top of a mast for small-arms fire" is from 1890.
- figment (n.)
- early 15c., "something invented or imagined, a myth or fable; deceitful practice; false doctrine," from Latin figmentum "something formed or fashioned, creation," related to figura "shape" (see figure (n.)). Related: Figmental; figmentary.
- figurante (n.)
- "one who dances in the 'figures' of the ballet" (in troops and as background for soloists), 1775, from French figurante, noun use of fem. past participle of figurer (see figure (v.)). In some cases perhaps from Italian figurante.
- figurative (adj.)
- late 14c., "emblematical," from Old French figuratif "metaphorical," from Late Latin figurativus "figurative" (of speech), from figurat-, past participle stem of Latin figurare "to form, shape," from figura "a shape, form, figure" (see figure (n.)). Of speech, language, etc., "allegorical, metaphoric, involving figures of speech," from late 14c. Related: Figuratively.
- figure (n.)
- c. 1200, "numeral;" mid-13c., "visible appearance of a person;" late 14c., "visible and tangible form of anything," from Old French figure "shape, body; form of a word; figure of speech; symbol, allegory" (10c), from Latin figura "a shape, form, figure; quality, kind, style; figure of speech," in Late Latin "a sketch, drawing," from PIE *dheigh- "to form, build" (see dough).
Philosophical and scientific senses are from use of Latin figura to translate Greek skhema. Meaning "lines forming a shape" is from mid-14c. From mid-14c. as "human body as represented by art;" late 15c. as "a body, the human form as a whole." The rhetorical use of figure, "peculiar use of words giving meaning different from usual," dates to late 14c.; hence figure of speech (by 1704). Figure-skating is from 1835. Figure eight as a shape was originally figure of eight (c. 1600). From late 14c. as "a cut or diagram inserted in text."
- figure (v.)
- late 14c., "to represent" (in painting or sculpture), "make a likeness," also "to have a certain shape or appearance," from Old French figurer, from Latin figurare (see figure (n.)). Meaning "to shape into" is c. 1400; from mid-15c. as "to cover or adorn with figures." Meaning "to picture in the mind" is from c. 1600. Intransitive meaning "make an appearance, make a figure, show oneself" is from c. 1600. Meaning "work out a sum" (by means of arithmetical figures) is from 1833, American English; hence colloquial sense "to calculate upon, expect" (1837). Related: Figured; figuring.
- figurehead (n.)
- also figure-head, 1765, from figure (n.) + head (n.). The ornament on the projecting part of the head of a ship, immediately under the bowsprit; sense of "leader without real authority" is first attested 1868.
You may say that the king is still head of the State, and that this is a sufficient basis for loyal feeling; certainly, if he were really so, and not a mere ornamented figure-head on the ship of state. [James Hadley, "Essays Philological and Critical," London, 1873]
- figurine (n.)
- "small, ornamental human representation in pottery or other material work," 1854, from French figurine (16c.), from Italian figurina, diminutive of figura, from Latin figura "shape, form, figure" (see figure (n.)). Figurette is from 1850, from Italian.
- of uncertain origin, considered in Room to be probably a variant of Viti, main island of the group.
- fike (v.)
- Middle English fyken "move about restlessly" (early 13c.), from Old Norse fikjask "to desire eagerly," fika (in fika sig upp "climb up nimbly," of a spider), probably from a general North Sea Germanic word related to the source of German ficken "to move about briskly." Later as "give trouble, vex" (1570s), a sense surviving especially in Scottish. Hence also fikery "vexatious trouble" (1823); fiky "causing trouble about trifles" (1768).
- filament (n.)
- "fine untwisted thread, separate fibril," 1590s, from Modern Latin filamentum, from Late Latin filare "to spin, draw out in a long line," from Latin filum "thread" (see file (v.1)). As the name of the incandescent element in a light-bulb, from 1881.
- filbert (n.)
- "hazelnut," late 14c., from Anglo-French philber (late 13c.), from Norman dialect noix de filbert, in reference to St. Philbert, 7c. Frankish abbot, so called because the hazel nuts ripen near his feast day, Aug. 22 (Old Style). Weekley compares German Lambertsnuss "filbert," associated with St. Lambert (Sept. 17); also German Johannisbeere "red currant," associated with St. John's Day (June 24). The saint's name is Old High German Filu-berht, literally "very bright."
- filch (v.)
- "steal," especially in a small, sly way, 1560s, slang, perhaps from c. 1300 filchen "to snatch, take as booty," which is of unknown origin. Liberman says filch probably is from German filzen "comb through." Related: Filched; filching.
- filcher (n.)
- 1570s, agent noun from filch.
- file (v.1)
- "place (papers) in consecutive order for future reference," mid-15c., from Old French filer "string documents on a thread or wire for preservation or reference" (15c.), earlier "to spin thread," from fil "thread, string" (12c.), from Latin filum "a thread, string; thread of fate; cord, filament," from PIE *gwhis-lom (cognates: Armenian jil "sinew, string, line," Lithuanian gysla "vein, sinew," Old Church Slavonic zila "vein"), from root *gwhi- "thread, tendon." The notion is of documents hung up on a line in consecutive order for ease of reference.
File (filacium) is a threed or wyer, whereon writs, or other exhibits in courts, are fastened for the better keeping of them. [Cowel, "The Interpreter," 1607]
Methods have become more sophisticated, but the word has stuck. Meaning "place among the records of a court or office" is from 1510s; of newspaper reporters sending in stories, 1954. Intransitive sense "march in a line (as soldiers do) one after another" is from 1610s. Related: Filed; filing.
- file (n.2)
- metal tool for abrading or smoothing, Old English feol (Mercian fil) "file," from Proto-Germanic *fihalo "cutting tool" (cognates: Old Saxon fila, Old High German fila, Middle Dutch vile, Dutch vijl, German Feile), probably from PIE *peig- (1) "to cut, mark by incision" (cognates: Old Church Slavonic pila "file, saw," Lithuanian pela "file;" see paint (v.)). Century Dictionary (1906) lists 60 named varieties of them.
- file (n.1)
- 1520s, "string or wire on which documents are strung," from French file "a row" (15c.), noun derived from Middle French filer "string documents; spin thread" (see file (v.1)). The literal sense explains why from the beginning until recently things were generally on file (or upon file). The meaning "collection of papers systematically arranged for ready reference" is from 1620s; computer sense is from 1954. The sense "row of persons or things one behind another" (1590s) is originally military, from the French verb in the sense of "march in file." Meaning "line of squares on a chessboard running directly from player to player" is from 1610s.
- file (v.2)
- "to smooth or abrade with a file," early 13c., from Old English filian, from the source of file (n.2). Related: Filed; filing.
- filet (n.)
- 1841 in cookery, reborrowing from French of the same word that had been taken 14c. and anglicized as fillet (q.v.). Filet mignon is attested as a French word in English from 1815.
The 'Chateaubriand,' the 'entrecôte,' and the 'filet mignon' (of mutton), with other forms, are all due to the more enlarged sympathies of the French butcher for what is perfect. We must entirely change the mode of cutting up the carcase before we can arrive at the same perfection in form of meat purchasable, and as that is hopeless, so is it useless to insist further on the subject on behalf of the public. ["The Kitchen and the Cellar," "Quarterly Review," April 1877]
- filial (adj.)
- late 14c., from Late Latin filialis "of a son or daughter," from Latin filius "son," filia "daughter," possibly from a suffixed form of PIE root *bheue- "to be, exist, grow" (see be), though *dhe(i)- "to suck, suckle" (see fecund) "is more likely" [Watkins].
- filiation (n.)
- 1520s, "process of becoming, or state of being, a son," from French filiation, from Medieval Latin filiationem (nominative filiatio), noun of action from past participle stem of filiare "to have a child," from Latin filius/filia "son/daughter" (see filial). As "relationship of a son or daughter to a parent" (correlative of paternity) from 1794.
- filibuster (n.)
- 1580s, flibutor "pirate," especially, in history, "West Indian buccaneer of the 17th century" (mainly French, Dutch, and English adventurers), probably ultimately from Dutch vrijbueter (now vrijbuiter) "freebooter," a word which was used of pirates in the West Indies in Spanish (filibustero) and French (flibustier, earlier fribustier) forms. See freebooter.
According to Century Dictionary, the spread of the word is owing to a Dutch work ("De Americaensche Zee-Roovers," 1678) "written by a bucaneer named John Oexmelin, otherwise Exquemelin or Esquemeling, and translated into French and Spanish, and subsequently into English (1684)." Spanish inserted the -i- in the first syllable; French is responsible for the -s-, inserted but not originally pronounced, "a common fact in 17th century F[rench], after the analogy of words in which an original s was retained in spelling, though it had become silent in pronunciation" [Century Dictionary].
In American English, from 1851 in reference to lawless military adventurers from the U.S. who tried to overthrow Central American governments. The major expeditions were those of Narciso Lopez of New Orleans against Cuba (1850-51) and by William Walker of California against the Mexican state of Sonora (1853-54) and against Nicaragua (1855-58).
FILIBUSTERING is a term lately imported from the Spanish, yet destined, it would seem, to occupy an important place in our vocabulary. In its etymological import it is nearly synonymous with piracy. It is commonly employed, however, to denote an idea peculiar to the modern progress, and which may be defined as the right and practice of private war, or the claim of individuals to engage in foreign hostilities aside from, and even in opposition to the government with which they are in political membership. ["Harper's New Monthly Magazine," January 1853]
The noun in the legislative sense is not in Bartlett (1859) and seems not to have been in use in U.S. legislative writing before 1865 (filibustering in this sense is from 1861). Probably the extension in sense is because obstructionist legislators "pirated" debate or overthrew the usual order of authority. Originally of the senator who led it; the maneuver itself so called by 1893. Not technically restricted to U.S. Senate, but that's where the strategy works best. [The 1853 use of filibustering by U.S. Rep. Albert G. Brown of Mississippi reported in the "Congressional Globe" and cited in the OED does not refer to legislative obstruction, merely to national policy toward Cuba.]
- filibuster (v.)
- 1853 in the freebooting sense, from filibuster (n.). Legislative sense is from 1861. Related: Filibustered; filibustering.
- filicide (n.)
- 1660s, "action of killing a son or daughter," from Latin filius/filia "son/daughter" (see filial) + -cide. Meaning "one who kills a son or daughter" is from 1823. Related: Filicidal.
- filigree (n.)
- 1690s, shortening of filigreen (1660s), from French filigrane "filigree" (17c.), from Italian filigrana, from Latin filum "thread, wire" (see file (v.1)) + granum "grain" (see corn (n.1)). Related: Filigreed.
- filing (n.)
- 1712, verbal noun from file (v.1). Filing cabinet is from 1883.
- Latin, "and from the son," from ablative of filius "son" (see filial). "Clause in Nicene Creed which separates Eastern Church from Western" [Weekley].
- filipendulous (adj.)
- "hanging by a thread," 1864, as if from Latin filum "thread" (see file (v.1)) + pendulus "hanging down" (see pendulous).
- Filipino (n.)
- 1898 (fem. Filipina), Spanish, from las Islas Filipinas "the Philippine Islands" (see Philippines).
- fill (v.)
- Old English fyllan "to fill, make full, fill up, replenish, satisfy; complete, fulfill," from Proto-Germanic *fulljan "to fill" (cognates: Old Saxon fulljan, Old Norse fylla, Old Frisian fella, Dutch vullen, German füllen, Gothic fulljan "to fill, make full"), a derivative of adjective *fullaz "full" (see full (adj.)). Related: Filled.
To fill the bill (1882) originally was U.S. theatrical slang, in reference to a star of such magnitude his or her name would be the only one on a show's poster. To fill out "write in required matter" is recorded from 1880.