guess (v.) Look up guess at
c. 1300, gessen "to infer from observation, perceive, find out; form an opinion, judge, decide, discern; evaluate, estimate the number, importance, etc. of," perhaps from Scandinavian (compare Middle Danish gitse, getze "to guess," Old Norse geta "guess, get"), or from or influenced by Middle Dutch gessen, Middle Low German gissen "to guess," all from Proto-Germanic *getan "to get" (see get (v.)). The prehistoric sense evolution then would be from "get," to "take aim at," to "to estimate." Meaning "to hit upon the right answer" is from 1540s. Spelling with gu- is late 16c., sometimes attributed to Caxton and his early experience as a printer in Bruges. Related: Guessed; guessing. Guessing game attested from 1650s. To keep (someone) guessing "keep him in a state of suspense" is from 1896, American English.
[T]he legitimate, English sense of this word is to conjecture; but with us, and especially in New England, it is constantly used in common conversation instead of to believe, to suppose, to think, to imagine, to fancy. [Bartlett, "Dictionary of Americanisms," 1848]
guess (n.) Look up guess at
c. 1300, "indiscriminate conclusion, guesswork, doubtful supposition," from guess (v.). Mid-15c. as "considered opinion." Verbal shrug phrase your guess is as good as mine attested from 1902.
guess-work (n.) Look up guess-work at
also guesswork, "what is done by or due to guess," 1725, from guess (v.) + work (n.).
guesstimate (v.) Look up guesstimate at
1902, a blending of guess (v.) and estimate (v.). Related: Guesstimated; guesstimating. As a noun from 1906.
guest (n.) Look up guest at
Old English gæst, giest (Anglian gest) "an accidental guest, a chance comer, a stranger," from Proto-Germanic *gastiz (cognates: Old Frisian jest, Dutch gast, German Gast, Gothic gasts "guest," originally "stranger"), from PIE root *ghos-ti- "stranger, guest; host" (cognates: Latin hostis, in earlier use "a stranger," in classical use "an enemy," hospes "host," from *hosti-potis "host, guest," originally "lord of strangers;" Greek xenos "guest, host, stranger;" Old Church Slavonic gosti "guest, friend," gospodi "lord, master"); the root sense, according to Watkins, probably is "someone with whom one has reciprocal duties of hospitality," representing "a mutual exchange relationship highly important to ancient Indo-European society." But as strangers are potential enemies as well as guests, the word has a forked path.

Spelling evolution influenced by Old Norse cognate gestr (the usual sound changes from the Old English word would have yielded Modern English *yest). Meaning "person entertained for pay" (at an inn, etc.) is from late 13c. Old English also had cuma "stranger, guest," literally "a comer." Phrase be my guest in the sense of "go right ahead" first recorded 1955.
guest (v.) Look up guest at
early 14c., "receive as a guest;" 1610s, "be a guest;" 1936, American English, "appear as a guest performer," from guest (n.). Related: Guested; guesting.
guest star (n.) Look up guest star at
1914 in the entertainment sense; earlier the phrase was used literally, of novae. As a verb, by 1942.
guest-room (n.) Look up guest-room at
also guestroom, 1630s, from guest (n.) + room (n.). Guest chamber is recorded from 1520s. Old English had giestærn "guest-chamber," with the second element the same one as in barn.
guff (n.) Look up guff at
"empty talk, nonsense," 1888, from earlier sense of "puff of air" (1825), of imitative origin.
guffaw (n.) Look up guffaw at
1720, Scottish, probably imitative of the sound of coarse laughter. Compare gawf (early 16c.) "loud, noisy laugh." The verb is from 1721. Related: Guffawed; guffawing.
Guggenheim (n.) Look up Guggenheim at
grant for advanced study, from the John Simon Guggenheim Foundation, established 1925 by U.S. Sen. Simon Guggenheim (1867-1941) in memory of his son, who died young. The senator's brother was an arts patron who founded the Solomon R. Guggenheim Foundation in 1937, which grew into the Guggenheim Museum of modern art. The surname is German, said to mean literally "swamp hamlet" or "cuckoo hamlet."
guidance (n.) Look up guidance at
1530s, "the process of directing conduct," hybrid from guide (v.) + -ance; replacing 15c. guying. In reference to direction in school, career, marriage, etc., from 1927.
guide (v.) Look up guide at
late 14c., "to lead, direct, conduct," from Old French guider "to guide, lead, conduct" (14c.), earlier guier, from Frankish *witan "show the way" or a similar Germanic source, from Proto-Germanic *witanan "to look after, guard, ascribe to, reproach" (cognates: German weisen "to show, point out," Old English witan "to reproach," wite "fine, penalty"), from PIE *weid- "to see" (see vision). The form of the French word influenced by Old Provençal guidar (n.) "guide, leader," or Italian guidare, both from the same source. Related: Guided; guiding. Guided missile, one capable of altering course in flight, is from 1945.
guide (n.) Look up guide at
mid-14c., "one who shows the way," from Old French guide, 14c., verbal noun from guider (see guide (v.)). In book titles from 1610s; meaning "book of information on local sites" is from 1759. In 18c. France, a "for Dummies" or "Idiot's Guide to" book would have been a guid' âne, literally "guide-ass." Guide-dog for the blind is from 1932.
guide-post (n.) Look up guide-post at
also guidepost, 1761, from guide (v.) + post (n.1). Placed at a fork or intersection, with signs to guide travelers on their way.
guideline (n.) Look up guideline at
1785, "line marked on a surface before cutting," from guide + line (n.). Meaning "rope for steering a hot-air balloon" is from 1846. In figurative use by 1948. Related: Guidelines.
Guido Look up Guido at
masc. proper name, Italian, literally "leader," of Germanic origin (see guide (v.)). As a type of gaudy machoism often associated with Italian-Americans, 1980s, teen slang, from the name of character in Hollywood film "Risky Business" (1983).
guidon (n.) Look up guidon at
"small flag," originally one borne by a military unit to direct movements, 1540s, from Middle French guidon (16c.), from Italian guidone "battle standard," from guidare "to direct, guide," from Old Provençal guidar "to guide," from Proto-Germanic *witanan "to look after, guard" (see guide (v.)).
Guidonian (adj.) Look up Guidonian at
1721, in reference to the system of musical notation devised by Guido d'Arezzo, who lived early 11c.
guild (n.) Look up guild at
also gild, early 13c., yilde (spelling later influenced by Old Norse gildi "guild, brotherhood"), a semantic fusion of Old English gegield "guild, brotherhood," and gield "service, offering; payment, tribute; compensation," from Proto-Germanic *geldjam "payment, contribution" (cognates: Old Frisian geld "money," Old Saxon geld "payment, sacrifice, reward," Old High German gelt "payment, tribute;" see yield (v.)).

The connecting sense is of a contribution or payment to join a protective or trade society. But some look to the alternative prehistoric sense of "sacrifice," as if in worship, and see the word as meaning a combination for religious purposes, either Christian or pagan. The Anglo-Saxon guilds had a strong religious component; they were burial societies that paid for Masses for the souls of deceased members as well as paying fines in cases of justified crime. Continental guilds of merchants, incorporated in each town or city and holding exclusive rights of doing business there, arrived after the Conquest. In many cases they became the governing body of a town (compare Guildhall, which came to be the London city hall). Trade guilds arose 14c., as craftsmen united to protect their common interest.
guilder (n.) Look up guilder at
Dutch gold coin, late 15c., probably from a mispronunciation of Middle Dutch gulden, literally "golden," in gulden (florijn) or some similar name for a golden coin (see golden).
guile (n.) Look up guile at
mid-12c., from Old French guile "deceit, wile, fraud, ruse, trickery," probably from Frankish *wigila "trick, ruse" or a related Germanic source, from Proto-Germanic *wih-l- (cognates: Old Frisian wigila "sorcery, witchcraft," Old English wig "idol," Gothic weihs "holy," German weihen "consecrate"), from PIE root *weik- (2) "consecrated, holy."
guileful (adj.) Look up guileful at
c. 1300, from guile + -ful. Nowadays only in poems and dictionaries. Related: Guilefully; guilefulness.
guileless (adj.) Look up guileless at
1710, from guile + -less. Related: Guilelessly; guilelessness.
guillotine (n.) Look up guillotine at
"The name of the machine in which the axe descends in grooves from a considerable height so that the stroke is certain and the head instantly severed from the body." ["Universal Magazine of Knowledge and Pleasure," January 1793], 1791, from French guillotine, named in recognition of French physician Joseph Guillotin (1738-1814), who as deputy to the National Assembly (1789) proposed, for humanitarian and efficiency reasons, that capital punishment be carried out by beheading quickly and cleanly on a machine, which was built in 1791 and first used the next year. Similar devices were used in the Middle Ages. The verb is first attested 1794. Related: Guillotined; guillotining.
guilt (n.) Look up guilt at
Old English gylt "crime, sin, moral defect, failure of duty," of unknown origin, though some suspect a connection to Old English gieldan "to pay for, debt," but OED editors find this "inadmissible phonologically." The -u- is an unetymological insertion. In law, "That state of a moral agent which results from his commission of a crime or an offense wilfully or by consent" [Century Dictionary], from early 14c. Then use for "sense of guilt," considered erroneous by purists, is first recorded 1680s. Guilt by association recorded by 1919.
guilt (v.) Look up guilt at
"to influence someone by appealing to his sense of guiltiness," by 1995, from guilt (n.). Related: Guilted; guilting. Old English also had a verbal form, gyltan (Middle English gilt), but it was intransitive and meant "to commit an offense, act criminally."
guiltiness (n.) Look up guiltiness at
late 14c., from guilty + -ness.
guiltless (adj.) Look up guiltless at
late Old English gyltleas; see guilt (n.) + -less. Related: Guiltlessly; guiltlessness.
guilty (adj.) Look up guilty at
Old English gyltig "offending, delinquent, criminal," from gylt (see guilt (n.)). In law, "that has committed some specified offense," late 13c. Of conscience, feelings, etc., 1590s. Meaning "person who is guilty" is from 1540s. To plead not guilty is from 15c.; to plead guilty is 19c., though, as OED notes, "Guilty is technically not a plea, but a confession." Related: Guiltily; guiltiness.
guinea (n.) Look up guinea at
former British coin, 1660s, from Guinea, because the coins were first minted for British trade with Guinea (but soon in domestic use) and with gold from Africa. The original guinea was in use from 1663 to 1813.
Guinea Look up Guinea at
region along the west coast of Africa, presumably from an African word (perhaps Tuareg aginaw "black people"). As a derogatory term for "an Italian" (1896) it is from Guinea Negro (1740s) "black person, person of mixed ancestry;" applied to Italians probably because of their dark complexions relative to northern Europeans, and after 1911 it was occasionally applied to Hispanics and Pacific Islanders as well. New Guinea was so named 1546 by Spanish explorer Inigo Ortiz de Retes in reference to the natives' dark skin and tightly curled hair. The Guinea hen (1570s) is a domestic fowl imported from there. Related: Guinean.
guinea pig (n.) Look up guinea pig at
rodent native to South America, 1660s. It does not come from Guinea and has nothing to do with the pig. Perhaps so called either because it was brought back to Britain aboard Guinea-men, ships that plied the triangle trade between England, Guinea, and South America [Barnhart, Klein], or from its resemblance to the young of the Guinea-hog "river pig" [OED], or from confusion of Guinea with the South American region of Guyana (but OED is against this). Pig probably for its grunting noises. In the extended sense of "one subjected to an experiment" it is first recorded 1920, because they were commonly used in medical experiments (by 1865).
Guinevere Look up Guinevere at
fem. proper name, from Welsh Gwenhwyvar, literally "white-cheeked."
Guinness Look up Guinness at
Irish brewery, founded 1759 by Arthur Guinness (1725-1803) in Dublin.
guise (n.) Look up guise at
late 13c., "style or fashion of attire," from Old French guise "manner, fashion, way," from Frankish *wisa or some similar Germanic source, from Proto-Germanic *wison "appearance, form, manner," from *wissaz (cognates: Old High German wisa "manner, wise"), from PIE root *weid- "to see" (see vision). Sense of "assumed appearance" is from 1660s, from earlier meaning "mask, disguise" (c. 1500).
guiser (n.) Look up guiser at
"masquerader, mummer, one who goes from house to house, whimsically disguised, and making diversion with songs and antics, usually at Christmas," late 15c., agent noun from guise.
guitar (n.) Look up guitar at
lute-like musical instrument, 1620s, from French guitare, which was altered by Spanish and Provençal forms from Old French guiterre, earlier guiterne, from Latin cithara, from Greek kithara "cithara," a triangular seven-stringed musical instrument related to the lyre, perhaps from Persian sihtar (see sitar). The name reached English several times, including giterne (early 14c., from Old French), in reference to various stringed, guitar-like instruments; the modern word is also directly from Spanish guitarra (14c.), which ultimately is from the Greek. The Arabic word is perhaps from Spanish or Greek, though often the relationship is said to be the reverse. The modern guitar is one of a large class of instruments used in all countries and ages but particularly popular in Spain and periodically so in France and England. Other 17c, forms of the word in English include guittara, guitarra, gittar, and guitarre. Compare zither, gittern.
guitarist (n.) Look up guitarist at
1770, from guitar + -ist.
Gujarati Look up Gujarati at
from Gujarat, state in western India, Hindi, from Sanskrit Gurjara.
gulag (n.) Look up gulag at
system of prisons and labor camps, especially for political detainees, in the former Soviet Union; rough acronym from Russian Glavnoe upravlenie ispravitel'no-trudovykh lagerei "Chief Administration of Corrective Labor Camps," set up in 1931.
gulch (n.) Look up gulch at
"deep ravine," 1832, perhaps from obsolete or dialectal verb gulsh "sink in" (of land), "gush out" (of water), from Middle English gulchen "to gush forth; to drink greedily" (c. 1200). Compare gulche-cuppe "a greedy drinker" (mid-13c.). "There appears to be no etymological connection with gully" [Century Dictionary].
gules (adj.) Look up gules at
"red," in heraldic descriptions, c. 1300, from Old French goules "neckpiece of (red) fur," plural of gole, guele "throat," from Latin gula "throat" (see gullet). Or perhaps the reference is to the red open mouth of the heraldic lion. Derivation from Persian gul "a rose" is "a poetical fancy" [Century Dictionary].
gulf (n.) Look up gulf at
late 14c., "profound depth," from Old French golf "a gulf, whirlpool," from Italian golfo "a gulf, a bay," from Late Latin colfos, from Greek kolpos "bay, gulf of the sea," earlier "trough between waves, fold of a loose garment," originally "bosom," the common notion being "curved shape." This is from PIE *kwelp- "to arch, to vault" (compare Old English hwealf, a-hwielfan "to overwhelm"). Latin sinus underwent the same development, being used first for "bosom," later for "gulf" (and in Medieval Latin, "hollow curve or cavity in the body"). The geographic sense "large tract of water extending into the land" (larger than a bay, smaller than a sea, but the distinction is not exact and not always observed) is in English from c. 1400, replacing Old English sæ-earm. Figurative sense of "a wide interval" is from 1550s. The U.S. Gulf States so called from 1836. The Gulf Stream (1775) takes its name from the Gulf of Mexico.
gull (n.1) Look up gull at
shore bird, early 15c. (in a cook book), probably from Brythonic Celtic; compare Welsh gwylan "gull," Cornish guilan, Breton goelann; all from Old Celtic *voilenno-. Replaced Old English mæw (see mew (n.1)).
gull (n.2) Look up gull at
cant term for "dupe, sucker, credulous person," 1590s, of uncertain origin. Perhaps from verb meaning "to dupe, cheat" (see gull (v.)). Or it is perhaps from (or influenced by) the bird name (see gull (n.1)); in either case with a sense of "someone who will swallow anything thrown at him." Another possibility is Middle English gull, goll "newly hatched bird" (late 14c.), which is perhaps from Old Norse golr "yellow," from the hue of its down.
gull (v.) Look up gull at
"to dupe, cheat, mislead by deception," 1540s, earlier "to swallow" (1520s), ultimately from gull "throat, gullet" (early 15c.); see gullet. Related: Gulled; gulling.
Gullah Look up Gullah at
"of or pertaining to blacks on the sea-islands of Georgia and South Carolina," 1739 (first attested as a male slave's proper name), of uncertain origin. Early 19c. folk etymology made it a shortening of Angola (homeland of many slaves) or traced it to a West African tribal group called the Golas.
gullet (n.) Look up gullet at
"passage from the mouth of an animal to the stomach," c. 1300 (as a surname), from Old French golet "neck (of a bottle); gutter; bay, creek," diminutive of gole "throat, neck" (Modern French gueule), from Latin gula "throat," also "appetite," from PIE root *gwele- (3) "to swallow" (cognates: Latin gluttire "to gulp down, devour," glutto "a glutton;" Old English ceole "throat;" Old Church Slavonic glutu "gullet," Russian glot "draught, gulp;" Old Irish gelim "I devour").
gullibility (n.) Look up gullibility at
1782, earlier cullibility (1728), probably from gull (n.2) "dupe, sucker" + -ability.