- gator (n.)
- 1844, colloquial shortening of alligator.
- 1947, acronym from General Agreement on Tariffs and Trade.
- gau (n.)
- ancient German territorial and administrative division, originally comprising several villages, surviving in place names such as Breisgau and Oberammergau; also in gauleiter (with leiter "leader"), title of the local political leaders under the Nazi system. Compare the first element in yeoman.
- gauche (adj.)
- "awkward, tactless," 1751 (Chesterfield), from French gauche "left" (15c., replacing senestre in that sense), originally "awkward, awry," from gauchir "turn aside, swerve," from Proto-Germanic *wankjan (cognates: Old High German wankon, Old Norse vakka "to stagger, totter"), from PIE *weng- "to bend, curve" (see wink (v.)).
- gaucherie (n.)
- "an awkward action; awkwardness," 1798, from French gaucherie, from gauche (see gauche).
- gaucho (n.)
- "a Spanish-descended native of the pampas," 1824, guacho, from Spanish gaucho, probably from a native South American language. Compare Araucanian (native language spoken in part of Chile) cauchu "wanderer." Noted for their independence and skill in horsemanship and with the lasso.
- gaud (n.)
- early 15c., "a bauble, trinket," earlier "a large, ornamental bead in a rosary" (mid-14c.), probably mistakenly taken as singular of earlier gaudy (n.) "large, ornamental rosary bead" (early 14c., in plural form gaudeez), later "ornamentation" generally (late 14c.), which is from Medieval Latin gaudia and Old French gaudie "joy, pleasure, playfulness; a piece of showy finery, a flashy trinket," from Latin gaudium "joy," gaude "rejoice thou" (in hymns), from gaudere "rejoice" (see joy (n.), and compare jewel (n.)).
Also in Middle English "a jest, prank, trick" (late 14c.); "a deception, fraud, artifice" (mid-14c.). As a verb, "to furnish with gauds," from late 14c. Related: Gauded; gauding; gaudful; gaudless.
- gaudery (n.)
- "showy decoration," 1590s, from gaud (n.) + -ery.
- gaudily (adv.)
- 1610s, from gaudy + -ly (2).
- gaudiness (n.)
- c.1600, from gaudy + -ness.
- gaudy (adj.)
- "showy, tastelessly rich," c.1600; earlier "joyfully festive" (1580s), probably a re-adjectivizing of gaudy (n.) "large, ornamental bead in a rosary" (early 14c.) via the noun gaud + -y (2.). In early Modern English it also could mean "full of trickery" (1520s).
Or possibly the adjective is from or influenced by Middle English noun gaudegrene (early 14c.), name of a yellowish-green color or pigment, originally of dye obtained from the weld plant (see weld (n.1)). This Germanic plant-name became gaude in Old French, and thus the Middle English word. Under this theory, the sense shifted from "weld-dye" to "bright ornamentation."
As a noun, "feast, festival" 1650s, from gaudy day "day of rejoicing" (1560s).
- gauge (v.)
- "ascertain by exact measurements," mid-15c., from Anglo-French gauge (mid-14c.), from Old North French gauger "standardize, calibrate, measure" (Old French jaugier), from gauge "gauging rod," a word of unknown origin. Perhaps from Frankish *galgo "rod, pole for measuring" or another Germanic source (compare Old Norse gelgja "pole, perch," Old High German galgo; see gallows). Related: Gauged; gauging. The figurative use is from 1580s. "The spelling variants gauge and gage have existed since the first recorded uses in Middle English, though in American English gage is found exclusively in technical uses" [Barnhart].
- gauge (n.)
- early 15c., "fixed standard of measure" (surname Gageman is early 14c.), from Old North French gauge "gauging rod" (see gauge (v.)). Meaning "instrument for measuring" is from 1670s; meaning "distance between rails on a railway" is from 1841.
Railway-gage, the distance between perpendiculars on the insides of the heads of the two rails of a track. Standard gage is 4 feet 8 1/2 inches; anything less than this is narrow gage; anything broader is broad gage. The dimension was fixed for the United States by the wheels of the British locomotive imported from the Stephenson Works in 1829. [Century Dictionary]
- Gaul (n.)
- 1560s, "an inhabitant of ancient Gaul," from French Gaule, from Latin Gallia, from Gallus "a Gaul." Also used somewhat facetiously for "a Frenchman." Gauloise, the popular brand of French cigarettes, dates to 1910.
- 1650s (adj.); 1660s (n.), from Gaul + -ish. Earlier was Gaulic (1610s).
- gaunt (adj.)
- "lean and haggard," from or as if from hunger, mid-15c. (as a surname from mid-13c.), from Middle French gant, of uncertain origin; perhaps from a Scandinavian source (compare Old Norse gand "a thin stick," also "a tall thin man") and somehow connected with the root of gander. Connection also has been suggested to Old French jaunet "yellowish" [Middle English Dictionary].
- gauntlet (n.1)
- "glove," early 15c., gantelet, from Old French gantelet (13c.) "gauntlet worn by a knight in armor," also a token of one's personality or person, and in medieval custom symbolizing a challenge, as in tendre son gantelet "throw down the gauntlet" (a sense found in English by 1540s). The Old French word is a semi-diminutive or double-diminutive of gant "glove" (12c.), earlier wantos (7c.), from Frankish *wanth-, from Proto-Germanic *wantuz "glove" (cognates: Middle Dutch want "mitten," East Frisian want, wante, Old Norse vöttr "glove," Danish vante "mitten"), which apparently is related to Old High German wintan, Old English windan "turn around, wind" (see wind (v.)).
The name must orig. have applied to a strip of cloth wrapped about the hand to protect it from sword-blows, a frequent practice in the Icelandic sagas. [Buck]
Italian guanto, Spanish guante likewise are ultimately from Germanic. The spelling with -u- was established from 1500s.
- gauntlet (n.2)
- military punishment in which offender runs between rows of men who beat him in passing; see gantlet.
- C.G.S. unit of intensity of a magnetic field, 1882, named for German mathematician Karl Friedrich Gauss (1777-1855). Related: Gaussage; gaussian.
- surname of the Buddha, from Sanskrit Gotamah, properly a patronymic, literally "descendant of the greatest ox," from superlative of gauh "ox, bull, cow."
- gauze (n.)
- 1560s, gais, from French gaze, which is of uncertain origin. It has been conjectured to be from Arabic gazz "raw silk" [Barnhart], or from Gaza, Palestinian city associated with production of this fabric [Klein, Du Cagne], but Century Dictionary calls the latter conjecture, and there has been no evidence for either.
- gauzy (adj.)
- 1796, from gauze + -y (2). Related: Gauziness.
- gavage (n.)
- "force-feeding of poultry for market," 1889, from French gavage, from gaver "to stuff" (17c.; see gavotte).
- past tense of give.
- gavel (n.)
- "small mallet used by presiding officers at meetings," 1805, American English, of unknown origin; perhaps connected with German dialectal gaffel "brotherhood, friendly society," from Middle High German gaffel "society, guild," related to Old English gafol "tribute," giefan "to give" (see habit). But in some sources gavel also is identified as a type of mason's tool, in which case the extended meaning may be via freemasonry. As a verb, by 1887, from the noun. Old English had tabule "wooden hammer struck as a signal for assembly among monks," an extended sense of table (n.).
- gavotte (n.)
- lively dance, 1690s, from French gavotte (17c.), from Old Provençal gavoto "mountaineer's dance," from gavot, a local name for an Alpine resident, said to mean literally "boor, glutton," from gaver "to stuff, force-feed poultry," from Old Provençal gava "crop." From the same source is French gavache "coward, dastard." The Italianized form is gavotta.
- gawk (v.)
- "stare stupidly," 1785, American English, of uncertain origin. Perhaps [Watkins] from gaw, a survival from Middle English gowen "to stare" (c.1200), from a Scandinavian source akin to Old Norse ga "to heed," from Proto-Germanic *gawon, from PIE *ghow-e- "to honor, revere, worship" (see favor (n.)); and altered perhaps by gawk hand (see gawky). Liberman finds this untenable and writes that its history is entangled with that of gowk "cuckoo," which is from Scandinavian, but it need not be from that word, either. Nor is French gauche (itself probably from Germanic) considered a likely source. "It is possibly another independent imitative formation with the structure g-k" (compare geek). From 1867 as a noun. Related: Gawked; gawking.
- gawky (adj.)
- "awkward, ungainly," 1759, from gawk hand "left hand" (1703), perhaps a contraction of gaulick, thus "gaulish hand," derogatory slang that could have originated during some period of strained Anglo-French relations, i.e. most of recorded history. Liberman considers it belongs to the group that includes gawk (v.). Related: Gawkily.
- gawp (n.)
- "fool, simpleton," 1825, perhaps from gawp (v.) "to yawn, gape" (as in astonishment), which is attested from 1680s, a dialectal survival of galp (c.1300), which is related to yelp or gape and perhaps confused with or influenced by gawk.
- gay (adj.)
- late 14c., "full of joy, merry; light-hearted, carefree;" also "wanton, lewd, lascivious" (late 12c. as a surname, Philippus de Gay), from Old French gai "joyful, happy; pleasant, agreeably charming; forward, pert; light-colored" (12c.; compare Old Spanish gayo, Portuguese gaio, Italian gajo, probably French loan-words). Ultimate origin disputed; perhaps from Frankish *gahi (related to Old High German wahi "pretty"), though not all etymologists accept this. Meaning "stately and beautiful; splendid and showily dressed" is from early 14c. In the English of Yorkshire and Scotland formerly it could mean "moderately, rather, considerable" (1796; compare sense development in pretty (adj.)).
The word gay by the 1890s had an overall tinge of promiscuity -- a gay house was a brothel. The suggestion of immorality in the word can be traced back at least to the 1630s, if not to Chaucer:
But in oure bed he was so fressh and gay
Slang meaning "homosexual" (adj.) begins to appear in psychological writing late 1940s, evidently picked up from gay slang and not always easily distinguished from the older sense:
Whan that he wolde han my bele chose.
After discharge A.Z. lived for some time at home. He was not happy at the farm and went to a Western city where he associated with a homosexual crowd, being "gay," and wearing female clothes and makeup. He always wished others would make advances to him. ["Rorschach Research Exchange and Journal of Projective Techniques," 1947, p.240]
The association with (male) homosexuality likely got a boost from the term gay cat, used as far back as 1893 in American English for "young hobo," one who is new on the road, also one who sometimes does jobs.
"A Gay Cat," said he, "is a loafing laborer, who works maybe a week, gets his wages and vagabonds about hunting for another 'pick and shovel' job. Do you want to know where they got their monica (nickname) 'Gay Cat'? See, Kid, cats sneak about and scratch immediately after chumming with you and then get gay (fresh). That's why we call them 'Gay Cats'." [Leon Ray Livingston ("America's Most Celebrated Tramp"), "Life and Adventures of A-no. 1," 1910]
Quoting a tramp named Frenchy, who might not have known the origin. Gay cats were severely and cruelly abused by "real" tramps and bums, who considered them "an inferior order of beings who begs of and otherwise preys upon the bum -- as it were a jackal following up the king of beasts" [Prof. John J. McCook, "Tramps," in "The Public Treatment of Pauperism," 1893], but some accounts report certain older tramps would dominate a gay cat and employ him as a sort of slave. In "Sociology and Social Research" (1932-33) a paragraph on the "gay cat" phenomenon notes, "Homosexual practices are more common than rare in this group," and gey cat "homosexual boy" is attested in Noel Erskine's 1933 dictionary of "Underworld & Prison Slang" (gey is a Scottish variant of gay).
The "Dictionary of American Slang" reports that gay (adj.) was used by homosexuals, among themselves, in this sense since at least 1920. Rawson ["Wicked Words"] notes a male prostitute using gay in reference to male homosexuals (but also to female prostitutes) in London's notorious Cleveland Street Scandal of 1889. Ayto ["20th Century Words"] calls attention to the ambiguous use of the word in the 1868 song "The Gay Young Clerk in the Dry Goods Store," by U.S. female impersonator Will S. Hays, but the word evidently was not popularly felt in this sense by wider society until the 1950s at the earliest.
"Gay" (or "gai") is now widely used in French, Dutch, Danish, Japanese, Swedish, and Catalan with the same sense as the English. It is coming into use in Germany and among the English-speaking upper classes of many cosmopolitan areas in other countries. [John Boswell, "Christianity, Social Tolerance, and Homosexuality," 1980]
As a teen slang word meaning "bad, inferior, undesirable," without reference to sexuality, from 2000.
- gay (n.)
- "a (usually male) homosexual," by 1971, from gay (adj.). In Middle English it meant "excellent person, noble lady, gallant knight," also "something gay or bright; an ornament or badge" (c.1400).
- gaydar (n.)
- by 1996, in gay literature, from gay + radar.
- gayety (n.)
- see gaiety.
- masc. proper name, also a surname (from early 13c.), also Galliard, from Old French Gaillart, from Proto-Germanic *Gailhard "lofty-hard;" or from Old French gaillard "lively, brisk, gay, high-spirited," from PIE root *gal- (3) "to be able, have power."
- Arabic form of Hebrew 'az "force, strength." Gaza Strip was created by the division of 1949.
- gaze (v.)
- late 14c., gasen, gazen, "to stare, look steadily and intently," probably of Scandinavian origin (compare Norwegian, Swedish dialectal gasa "to gape"), perhaps related somehow to Old Norse ga "heed" (see gawk). Related: Gazed; gazing; gazer; gazee; gazeful; gazement.
- gaze (n.)
- 1540s, "thing stared at;" 1560s as "long look," from gaze (v.). Gaze-hound (1560s) was an old name for a dog that follows prey by sight, not scent.
- gazebo (n.)
- 1752, supposedly a facetious formation from gaze + -bo, Latin first person singular future tense suffix (as in videbo "I shall see"), on model of earlier belvedere "cupola," from Italian bello verde "handsome sight." But according to OED perhaps rather a corruption of some oriental word.
- c.1600, from French gazelle, Old French gazel (14c.), probably via Spanish, ultimately from North African pronunciation of Arabic ghazal.
- gazette (n.)
- "newspaper," c.1600, from French gazette (16c.), from Italian gazzetta, Venetian dialectal gazeta "newspaper," also the name of a small copper coin, literally "little magpie," from gazza; applied to the monthly newspaper (gazeta de la novità) published in Venice by the government, either from its price or its association with the bird (typical of false chatter), or both. First used in English 1665 for the paper issued at Oxford, whither the court had fled from the plague.
The coin may have been so called for its marking; Gamillscheg writes the word is from French gai (see jay). The general story of the origin of the word is broadly accepted, but there are many variations in the details:
We are indebted to the Italians for the idea of newspapers. The title of their gazettas was, perhaps, derived from gazzera, a magpie or chatterer; or, more probably, from a farthing coin, peculiar to the city of Venice, called gazetta, which was the common price of the newspapers. Another etymologist is for deriving it from the Latin gaza, which would colloquially lengthen into gazetta, and signify a little treasury of news. The Spanish derive it from the Latin gaza, and likewise their gazatero, and our gazetteer, for a writer of the gazette and, what is peculiar to themselves, gazetista, for a lover of the gazette. [Isaac Disraeli, "Curiosities of Literature," 1835]
Gazzetta It., Sp. gazeta, Fr. E. gazette; prop. the name of a Venetian coin (from gaza), so in Old English. Others derive gazette from gazza a magpie, which, it is alleged, was the emblem figured on the paper; but it does not appear on any of the oldest Venetian specimens preserved at Florence. The first newspapers appeared at Venice about the middle of the 16th century during the war with Soliman II, in the form of a written sheet, for the privilege of reading which a gazzetta (= a crazia) was paid. Hence the name was transferred to the news-sheet. [T.C. Donkin, "Etymological Dictionary of the Romance Languages" (based on Diez), 1864]
GAZETTE. A paper of public intelligence and news of divers countries, first printed at Venice, about the year 1620, and so called (some say) because una gazetta, a small piece of Venetian coin, was given to buy or read it. Others derive the name from gazza, Italian for magpie, i.e. chatterer.--Trusler. A gazette was printed in France in 1631; and one in Germany in 1715. [Haydn's "Dictionary of Dates," 1857]
- gazette (v.)
- "to announce in the Gazette," 1670s; see gazette (n.). The three official journals were published in Britain from c.1665, twice weekly, and contained lists of appointments, promotions, public notices, etc. Hence, to be gazetted was "to be named to a command, etc."
- gazetteer (n.)
- 1610s, "journalist," from gazette (n.) + -eer. Meaning "geographical dictionary" is from 1704, from Laurence Eachard's 1693 geographical handbook for journalists, "The Gazetteer's, or Newsman's, Interpreter," second edition simply titled "The Gazetteer."
- gazillion (n.)
- by 1984, with made-up prefix and ending from billion, trillion, etc.
- gear (n.)
- c.1200, "fighting equipment, armor and weapons," probably from Old Norse gørvi (plural gørvar) "apparel, gear," related to görr, gørr, gerr "skilled, accomplished; ready, willing," and to gøra, gørva "to make, construct, build; set in order, prepare," a very frequent verb in Old Norse, used in a wide range of situations from writing a book to dressing meat. This is from Proto-Germanic *garwian "to make, prepare, equip" (cognates: Old English gearwe "clothing, equipment, ornament," which may be the source of some uses; Old Saxon garwei; Dutch gaar "done, dressed;" Old High German garo "ready, prepared, complete," garawi "clothing, dress," garawen "to make ready;" German gerben "to tan").
From early 14c. as "wearing apparel, clothes, dress;" also "harness of a draught animal; equipment of a riding horse." From late 14c. as "equipment generally; tools, utensils," especially the necessary equipment for a certain activity, as the rigging of a sailing ship. Meaning "toothed wheel in machinery" first attested 1520s; specific mechanical sense of "parts by which a motor communicates motion" is from 1814; specifically of a vehicle (bicycle, automobile, etc.) by 1888. Slang for "male sex organs" from 1670s.
- gear (v.)
- c.1200, "to equip oneself for fighting; to dress," probably from gear (n.) or from the verb in Old Norse. Mechanical meaning "put (machinery) in gear" is from 1851. Related: Geared; gearing.
- gear (adj.)
- "stylish, excellent," British slang, 1951 (popularized c.1963 by the Beatles), said to be from earlier that's the gear, an expression of approval (1925), from gear (n.).
- gecko (n.)
- 1774, from Malay gekoq, said to be imitative of its cry. Earlier forms in English were chacco (1711), jackoa (1727).
- gee (interj.)
- exclamation of surprise, 1895, probably euphemistic for Jesus. Form gee whiz is attested from 1871; gee whillikens (1851) seems to be the oldest form. As a command to a horse to go, 1620s, Scottish. It had a particular sense as a teamster's command: "go to the right (or off) side of the driver." Extended form gee-up is from 1733, the second element said by OED to be hup.
- Geechee (n.)
- patois of coastal black communities in the southeastern U.S., from the Ogeechee River in Georgia. The name is perhaps from Muskogee and could mean "River of the Uchees," referring to a neighboring people.
- geek (n.)
- "sideshow freak," 1916, U.S. carnival and circus slang, perhaps a variant of geck "a fool, dupe, simpleton" (1510s), apparently from Dutch gek or Low German geck, from an imitative verb found in North Sea Germanic and Scandinavian meaning "to croak, cackle," and also "to mock, cheat" (Dutch gekken, German gecken, Danish gjække, Swedish gäcka). The modern form and the popular use with reference to circus sideshow "wild men" is from 1946, in William Lindsay Gresham's novel "Nightmare Alley" (made into a film in 1947 starring Tyrone Power).
"An ordinary geek doesn't actually eat snakes, just bites off chunks of 'em, chicken heads and rats." [Arthur H. Lewis, "Carnival," 1970]
By c.1983, used in teenager slang in reference to peers who lacked social graces but were obsessed with new technology and computers (such as the Anthony Michael Hall character in 1984's "Sixteen Candles").
geek out vi. To temporarily enter techno-nerd mode while in a non-hackish context, for example at parties held near computer equipment. [Eric S. Raymond, "The New Hacker's Dictionary," 1996]