- fine-tune (v.)
- also fine-tune, 1969, a back-formation from fine-tuning (1909 in reference to radio; earlier in various machinery contexts). From fine (adj.) + tune (v.). Related: Fine-tuning.
- finely (adv.)
- early 14c., "perfectly, completely," from fine (adj.) + -ly (1). Meaning "delicately, minutely" is from 1540s; that of "excellently" is from 1680s.
- fineness (n.)
- c. 1400, from fine (adj.) + -ness.
- finery (n.)
- 1670s, "showy dress," from fine (adj.) + -ery. Literally, "something that is fine."
- finesse (n.)
- 1520s, "fineness" (obsolete); 1530s, "artifice, delicate stratagem," from Middle French finesse "fineness, subtlety," from Old French fin "subtle, delicate" (see fine (adj.)).
- finesse (v.)
- "to use fine stratagems," 1746, originally as a term in whist; see finesse (n.). Related: Finessed; finessing.
- finger (n.)
- "terminal or digital member of the hand" (in a restricted sense not including the thumb), Old English finger, fingor "finger," from Proto-Germanic *fingraz (source also of Old Saxon fingar, Old Frisian finger, Old Norse fingr, Dutch vinger, German Finger, Gothic figgrs "finger"), with no cognates outside Germanic; perhaps connected with PIE *penkwe-, the root meaning "five."
As a unit of measure for liquor and gunshot (late Old English) it represents the breadth of a finger, about three-quarters of an inch. They generally are numbered from the thumb outward, and named index finger, fool's finger, leech- or physic-finger, and ear-finger.
- finger (v.)
- early 15c., "to touch or point to with the finger" (but see fingering (n.1) from late 14c.), from finger (n.). Sense of "play upon a musical instrument" is from 1510s. Meaning "touch or take thievishly" is from 1520s. The meaning "identify a criminal" is underworld slang first recorded 1930. Related: Fingered; fingering. Compare Dutch vingeren, German fingern, Swedish fingra, all from their respective nouns.
- finger-board (n.)
- of a violin, etc., 1670s, from finger (n.) + board (n.1).
- finger-nail (n.)
- also fingernail, early 13c., from finger (n.) + nail (n.).
- finger-tip (n.)
- also fingertip, 1817, from finger (n.) + tip (n.). Related: Fingertips. To have something at one's fingertips is from 1870.
- fingering (n.1)
- "action or method of using the fingers in playing a musical instrument," late 14c., fyngerynge, noun of action from finger (v.). Mid-15c. as "action of touching lightly."
- fingering (n.2)
- "thick, loose woolen yarn," 1680s, from fingram, from French fin grain, literally "fine grain."
- fingerless (adj.)
- 1822, of gloves, from finger (n.) + -less.
- fingerprint (n.)
- also finger-print, 1834, from finger (n.) + print (n.). Attempts to classify fingerprint types as a means of identification began in the 1820s; the current arch-loop-whorl system was introduced by Francis Galton in 1892. Admissibility as evidence as valid proof of guilt in murder trials in U.S. was upheld in 1912. From 1900 as a verb. Related: Fingerprinted; fingerprinting.
- finial (n.)
- "ornament at the top of a spire, gable, etc.," mid-15c., from fyniall "putting an end to, binding" (early 15c.), a variant of final.
- finical (adj.)
- "fastidious, affecting extreme elegance in manners, taste, or speech," 1590s; see finicky. Related: finically; finicality; finick (v.), 1857.
- finicky (adj.)
- 1825, "dainty, mincing," from finical "too particular" (1590s), which perhaps is from fine (adj.) + -ical as in cynical, ironical (OED says "ultimate derivation" from the adjective "seems probable"). But finikin (1660s) "dainty, precise in trifles" has been proposed as a source, even though the timing is off. It apparently comes from Dutch; compare Middle Dutch fijnkens (adv.) "precisely, exactly," from fijn, cognate with English fine (adj.).
The -k- between the final -c- and a suffix beginning in -i, -y, or -e is an orthographic rule to mark the pronunciation of -c- as "k" (compare picnicking, trafficking, panicky, shellacked). Related: Finickiness.
- finis (n.)
- Latin, literally "the end" (see finish (v.)). Word often placed 15c.-19c. at the end of a book.
- finish (v.)
- late 14c., "to bring to an end;" mid-15c., "to come to an end" (intransitive), from Old French finiss-, present participle stem of fenir "stop, finish, come to an end; die" (13c.), from Latin finire "to limit, set bounds; put an end to; come to an end," from finis "that which divides, a boundary, border," figuratively "a limit, an end, close, conclusion; an extremity, highest point; greatest degree," which is of unknown origin, perhaps related to figere "to fasten, fix" (see fix (v.)). Meaning "to kill, terminate the existence of" is from 1755.
- finish (n.)
- 1779, "that which finishes or gives completion," from finish (v.). Meaning "the end" is from 1790. Finish line attested from 1873.
- finished (adj.)
- c. 1300, "consummate, perfect in form or quality," past participle adjective from finish (v.). From mid-14c. as "beautiful, attractive;" 1540s as "refined, choice, elegant;" 1560s as "minutely precise or exact." Meaning "thin in consistency" is from c. 1400. From 1580s as "brought to a conclusion." Of made things, "completed," 1833.
- finishing (n.)
- 1530s, "action of bringing to completion," verbal noun from finish (v.). From 1660s as "that which gives a completion to." Finishing-school is from 1804.
- finite (adj.)
- early 15c., "limited in space or time, finite," from Latin finitum, past participle of finire "to limit, set bounds; come to an end" (see finish (v.)). Related: Finitely; finiteness.
- finitude (n.)
- 1640s, from finite + -ude.
- finity (n.)
- 1670s, "an instance of finiteness," from French finité, from fini, past participle of finir "to bound," from Latin finire (see finite).
- fink (n.)
- 1902, of uncertain origin, possibly from German Fink "a frivolous or dissolute person," originally "a finch" (see finch); the German word also had a sense of "informer" (compare stool pigeon). The other theory traces it to Pinks, short for Pinkerton agents, the private police force hired to break up the 1892 Homestead strike. As a verb, 1925 in American English slang. Related: Finked; finking.
- Finn (n.)
- Old English finnas, from Old Norse finnr, the Norsemen's name for the Suomi. Some suggest a connection with fen. Attested in Tacitus as Fenni. Finlander in English is from 1727.
- finned (adj.)
- mid-14c., adjective in past participle form from fin.
- Finnish (adj.)
- c. 1790, from Finn + -ish. Earlier was Finnic (1660s as a noun, in reference to the language). Related: Finno-.
- finny (adj.)
- 1580s, from fin + -y (2).
- fiord (n.)
- alternative form of fjord (q.v.).
- 1802, short for five penny; further contracted form fip attested by 1822.
- fir (n.)
- late 14c., from Old Norse fyri- "fir" or Old Danish fyr, both from Proto-Germanic *furkhon (source also of Old High German foraha, German Föhre "fir"), from PIE root *perkwu-, originally meaning "oak," also "oak forest," but never "wood" (source also of Sanskrit paraktah "the holy fig tree," Hindi pargai "the evergreen oak," Latin quercus "oak," Lombardic fereha "a kind of oak"). Old English had a cognate form in furhwudu "pine wood" (only in glosses, for Latin pinus), but the modern English word is more likely from Scandinavian and in Middle English fyrre glosses Latin abies "fir," which is of obscure origin.
According to Indo-Europeanists Gamkrelidze and Ivanov, "The semantics of the term clearly points to a connection between 'oak' and mountainous regions, which is the basis for the ancient European term applied to forested mountains" (such as Gothic fairgunni "mountainous region," Old English firgen "mountain forest," Middle High German Virgunt "mountain forest; Sudetes"). In the period 3300 B.C.E. to 400 B.C.E., conifers and birches gradually displaced oaks in northern European forests. "Hence it is no surprise that in the early history of the Germanic languages the ancient term for mountain oak and oak forest shifts to denote conifers and coniferous forests." [Thomas V. Gamkrelidze, Vjaceslav V. Ivanov, "Indo-European and the Indo-Europeans," Berlin, 1994]
- Firbolgs (n.)
- 1797, ancient supernatural people of Ireland (enemies of the Dannans); according to OED perhaps from Old Irish fir, plural of fear "man" + bolg, genitive plural of bolg "bag, belly;" or the second element may be cognate with Gaulish Belgae. Related: Firbolgian.
- fire (n.)
- Old English fyr "fire, a fire," from Proto-Germanic *fur-i- (source also of Old Saxon fiur, Old Frisian fiur, Old Norse fürr, Middle Dutch and Dutch vuur, Old High German fiur, German Feuer "fire"), from PIE *perjos, from root *paəwr- "fire" (source also of Armenian hur "fire, torch," Czech pyr "hot ashes," Greek pyr, Umbrian pir, Sanskrit pu, Hittite pahhur "fire"). Current spelling is attested as early as 1200, but did not fully displace Middle English fier (preserved in fiery) until c. 1600.
PIE apparently had two roots for fire: *paewr- and *egni- (source of Latin ignis). The former was "inanimate," referring to fire as a substance, and the latter was "animate," referring to it as a living force (compare water (n.1)).
Brend child fuir fordredeþ ["The Proverbs of Hendyng," c. 1250]
English fire was applied to "ardent, burning" passions or feelings from mid-14c. Meaning "discharge of firearms, action of guns, etc." is from 1580s. To be on fire is from c. 1500 (in fire attested from c. 1400, as is on a flame "on fire"). To play with fire in the figurative sense "risk disaster, meddle carelessly or ignorantly with a dangerous matter" is by 1861, from the common warning to children. Phrase where's the fire?, said to one in an obvious hurry, is by 1917, American English.
Fire-bell is from 1620s; fire-alarm as a self-acting, mechanical device is from 1808 as a theoretical creation; practical versions began to appear in the early 1830s. Fire-escape (n.) is from 1788 (the original so-called was a sort of rope-ladder disguised as a small settee); fire-extinguisher is from 1826. A fire-bucket (1580s) carries water to a fire. Fire-house is from 1899; fire-hall from 1867, fire-station from 1828. Fire company "men for managing a fire-engine" is from 1744, American English. Fire brigade "firefighters organized in a body in a particular place" is from 1838. Fire department, usually a branch of local government, is from 1805. Fire-chief is from 1877; fire-ranger from 1909.
Symbolic fire and the sword is by c. 1600 (translating Latin flamma ferroque absumi); earlier yron and fyre (1560s), with suerd & flawme (mid-15c.), mid fure & mid here ("with fire and armed force"), c. 1200. Fire-breathing is from 1590s. To set the river on fire, "accomplish something surprising or remarkable" (usually with a negative and said of one considered foolish or incompetent) is by 1830, often with the name of a river, varying according to locality, but the original is set the Thames on fire (1796). The hypothetical feat was mentioned as the type of something impossibly difficult by 1720; it circulated as a theoretical possibility under some current models of chemistry c. 1792-95, which may have contributed to the rise of the expression.
[A]mong other fanciful modes of demonstrating the practicability of conducting the gas wherever it might be required, he anchored a small boat in the stream about 50 yards from the shore, to which he conveyed a pipe, having the end turned up so as to rise above the water, and forcing the gas through the pipe, lighted it just above the surface, observing to his friends "that he had now set the river on fire." ["On the Origins and Progress of Gas-lighting," in "Repertory of Patent Inventions," vol. III, London, 1827]
- fire (v.)
- c. 1200, furen, "arouse, inflame, excite" (a figurative use); literal sense of "set fire to" is attested from late 14c., from fire (n.). The Old English verb fyrian "to supply with fire" apparently did not survive into Middle English. Related: Fired; firing.
Meaning "expose to the effects of heat or fire" (of bricks, pottery, etc.) is from 1660s. Meaning "to discharge artillery or a firearm" (originally by application of fire) is from 1520s; extended sense of "to throw (as a missile)" is from 1580s. Fire away in the figurative sense of "go ahead" is from 1775.
The sense of "sack, dismiss from employment" is recorded by 1885 (with out; 1887 alone) in American English. This probably is a play on the two meanings of discharge (v.): "to dismiss from a position," and "to fire a gun," influenced by the earlier general sense "throw (someone) out" of some place (1871). To fire out "drive out by or as if by fire" (1520s) is in Shakespeare and Chapman. Fired up "angry" is from 1824 (to fire up "become angry" is from 1798).
- fire-ant (n.)
- 1796, from fire (n.) + ant. So called for their bite.
- fire-damp (n.)
- "marsh gas," 1670s, from fire (n.) + damp (n.) "noxious vapor." Largely methane, it can spontaneously ignite when mixed with atmospheric air.
- fire-drill (n.)
- 1865, originally a device for making fire by the twirled stick method, from fire (n.) + drill (n.1). Meaning "rehearsal of what to do in a fire" is from 1884 (originally it also involved fighting the fire), from drill (n.) in the "agreed-upon procedure" sense (see drill (v.)).
- fire-eater (n.)
- 1670s, "juggler who appears to swallow fire as part of an act," from fire (n.) + eater. From 1804 as "person of irascible or recklessly defiant disposition;" especially in U.S. history in reference to vehement Southern partizans (1851). Perhaps due to the extended senses, fire-swallower began to be used for the original sense by 1883. Related: Fire-eating.
- fire-engine (n.)
- 1680s, "engine designed to throw a stream of water through a hose onto a fire for the purpose of extinguishing it," from fire (n.) + engine (n.). Also an early name for a steam engine (1722).
- fire-fight (n.)
- also firefight, 1850, from fire (n.) in the military sense + fight (n.). A fight with guns and firearms (as opposed to hand-to-hand, etc.).
- fire-walker (n.)
- 1895, from fire (n.) + agent noun from walk (v.). Related: Fire-walking.
- firearm (n.)
- also fire-arm, 1640s, from fire (n.) + arm (n.2). Anything which expels a missile by combustion of gunpowder (or a similar substance), from a pistol to a cannon. Related: Firearms.
- fireball (n.)
- also fire-ball, 1550s, from fire (n.) + ball (n.1).
- firebomb (n.)
- also fire-bomb, 1895 (earlier as a type of fireworks and a type of cannonball), from fire (n.) + bomb (n.). As a verb, from 1950 as an act of vandalism or terrorism, from 1941 as a military aviation tactic. Related: Firebombed; firebombing.
- firebrand (n.)
- also fire-brand, c. 1200, "piece of wood kindled at a fire, a piece of something burning," from fire (n.) + brand (n.). Used for spreading fire. Figurative sense of "one who kindles mischief or passions" is from late 14c.
- firebug (n.)
- also fire-bug, "arsonist, incendiary," 1869, from fire (n.) + bug (n.) in the "obsessed person" sense.
- firecracker (n.)
- also fire-cracker, "exploding paper cylinder," 1830, American English coinage for what is in England a cracker, but the U.S. word distinguishes it from the word meaning "biscuit." See fire (n.) + agent noun from crack (v.).
Sec 2 And be it enacted, That it shall not be lawful for any person to burn, explode or throw any burning fire cracker, squib, turpentine balls or fire serpents in this state. [act of the General Assembly of the state of New Jersey, Feb. 18, 1835]