half-assed (adj.)
"ineffectual," 1932, perhaps a humorous mispronunciation of haphazard.
half-baked (adj.)
1620s as "underdone;" 1855 in sense of "silly;" see half + bake (v.).
half-breed (n.)
"person of mixed race," 1760; as an adjective by 1762. Half-blooded in this sense is from c.1600.
half-hearted (adj.)
also halfhearted, early 15c.; see half + hearted. Related: halfheartedly; halfheartedness. English in 17c. also had half-headed "stupid."
half-hour
early 15c., from half + hour. Related: Half-hourly.
half-life (n.)
also halflife, half life, 1864, with meaning "unsatisfactory way of living;" the sense in physics, "amount of time it takes half a given amount of radioactivity to decay" is first attested 1907.
half-mast
1620s, from half + mast (n.1).
half-time (n.)
also halftime, half time, indicating "half of the time," 1640s, from half + time. Tempo sense is by 1880. In football, from 1867.
half-track (n.)
also halftrack, type of military vehicle, 1927, from half + track (n.).
half-truth (n.)
1650s, from half + truth.
half-wit (n.)
1670s, originally "a would-be wit whose abilities are mediocre;" sense of "simpleton" (one lacking all his wits) is first attested 1755.
Half-wits are fleas; so little and so light,
We scarce could know they live, but that they bite.
[Dryden, "All for Love"]
Phrase out of half wit "half out of one's mind" was in Middle English (late 14c.). Half-witted "lacking common sense" is from 1640s.
halfling (n.)
"one not fully grown," 1794, from half + -ling.
halfpenny (n.)
mid-13c. (though implied in Old English healfpenigwurð "halfpenny-worth"); see half + penny.
halfway
also half-way, Old English healfweg; see half + way (n.). Halfway house originally was a common name for inns midway between cities or stages.
hali-
word-forming element meaning "salt, sea," from Greek hali-, comb. form of hals (genitive halos) "a lump of salt, salt generally," in Homer, "the sea," from PIE *sal- "salt" (see salt (n.)).
halibut (n.)
large flatfish, early 15c., perhaps from hali "holy" (see holy) + butte "flatfish;" supposedly so called from its being eaten on holy days (compare cognate Dutch heilbot, Low German heilbutt, Swedish helgeflundra, Danish helleflynder). For second element see butt (n.4).
halide (n.)
a compound of a halogen and a metal radical, 1876, from halo- + chemical suffix -ide.
halieutic (adj.)
"pertaining to fishing," from Latin halieuticus, from Greek halieutikos "pertaining to fishing," from halieuein "to fish," from hals "the sea," literally "salt" (see hali-).
Halifax
place in West Yorkshire, from Old English halh "secluded spot" + feax "rough grass," literally "hair." In popular expressions coupled with Hull and Hell since at least 1620s.
halite (n.)
"rock-salt," 1868, coined as Modern Latin halites (Glocker, 1847), from Greek hals "salt" (see halo-) + chemical noun suffix -ite (2).
halitosis (n.)
"bad breath," 1874, coined from Latin halitus "breath," related to halare "to breathe" + Greek-based noun suffix -osis.
hall (n.)
Old English heall "place covered by a roof, spacious roofed residence, temple, law-court," from Proto-Germanic *hallo "covered place, hall" (cognates: Old Saxon, Old High German halla, German halle, Dutch hal, Old Norse höll "hall;" Old English hell, Gothic halja "hell"), from PIE root *kel- (2) "to hide, conceal" (see cell). Sense of "entry, vestibule" evolved 17c., at a time when the doors opened onto the main room of a house. Older sense preserved in town hall, music hall, etc., and in university dormitory names. Hall of fame attested by 1786 as an abstract concept; in sporting sense first attested 1901, in reference to Columbia College.
hallelujah
also halleluiah, 1530s, from Hebrew hallalu-yah "praise ye Jehovah," from hallalu, plural imperative of hallel "to praise" also "song of praise," from hillel "he praised," of imitative origin, with primary sense being "to trill." Second element is yah, shortened form of Yahweh, name of God. Replaced variant formation alleluia (12c.).
hallmark (n.)
1721, official stamp of purity in gold and silver articles, from Goldsmiths' Hall in London, site of the assay office; see hall + mark (n.1). General sense of "mark of quality" first recorded 1864. As a verb from 1773.
hallo
shout to call attention, 1781, earlier hollo, holla (see hello). Halow as a shipman's cry to incite effort is from mid-15c.; Halloo as a verb, "to pursue with shouts, to shout in the chase," from late 14c. Compare also harou, cry of distress, late 13c., from French.
hallow (v.)
Old English halgian "to make holy, to honor as holy, consecrate, ordain," related to halig "holy," from Proto-Germanic *haila-ga- (cognates: Old Saxon helagon, Middle Dutch heligen, Old Norse helga), from PIE root *kailo- "whole, uninjured, of good omen" (see health). Used in Christian translations to render Latin sanctificare. Also used since Old English as a noun meaning "holy person, saint." Related: Hallowed; hallowing.
Halloween
c.1745, Scottish shortening of Allhallow-even "Eve of All Saints, last night of October" (1550s), the last night of the year in the old Celtic calendar, where it was Old Year's Night, a night for witches. A pagan holiday given a cursory baptism and sent on its way. See hallow; also see hallows.
hallows
in All-Hallows, a survival of hallow in the noun sense of "holy personage, saint," attested from Old English haligra but little used after c.1500. Hallowmas "All-saints" is first attested late 14c.
Hallstatt
1866, Iron Age civilization of Europe, from the name of a village in Upper Austria, where implements from this period were found. The Germanic name is literally "place of salt," in reference to ancient salt mines there, which preserved the bodies of the original miners.
hallucinate (v.)
c.1600, "deceive," from Latin alucinatus, later hallucinatus, past participle of alucinari "wander (in the mind), dream; talk unreasonably, ramble in thought," probably from Greek alyein, Attic halyein "be distraught," probably related to alaomai "wander about" [Barnhart, Klein]. The Latin ending probably was influenced by vaticinari "to prophecy," also "to rave." Sense of "to have illusions" is from 1650s. Occasionally used 19c. in transitive senses, "to cause hallucination." Related: Hallucinated; hallucinating.
hallucination (n.)
in the pathological/psychological sense of "seeing or hearing something which is not there," 1640s, from Latin hallucinationem (nominative hallucinatio), from past participle stem of hallucinari (see hallucinate). Hallucination is distinct from illusion in not necessarily involving a false belief. Related: Hallucinations.
hallucinatory (adj.)
1830, from hallucinat-, past participle stem of Latin hallucinari (see hallucinate) + -ory.
hallucinogen (n.)
"drug which induces hallucinations," 1954, from stem of hallucination + -gen.
hallucinogenic (adj.)
1952, from hallucinogen + -ic.
hallux (n.)
1831, from Modern Latin hallux, corruption of allex "great toe."
hallway (n.)
1877, American English, from hall + way (n.).
halo (n.)
1560s, from Latin halo (nominative halos), from Greek halos "disk of the sun or moon, ring of light around the sun or moon" (also "threshing floor" and "disk of a shield"), of unknown origin. Sense of "light around the head of a holy person or deity" first recorded 1640s. As a verb from 1801.
halo-
before vowels hal-, word-forming element meaning "salt, sea," from Greek hals (genitive halos) "a lump of salt, salt generally," in Homer, "the sea," from PIE *sal- "salt" (see salt (n.)).
halogen (n.)
general name for elements of the chlorine family, 1842, from Swedish, coined by Swedish chemist Baron Jöns Jakob Berzelius (1779-1848), literally "salt-producer," from Greek hals "salt" (see halo-) + -gen "giving birth to" (see -gen); so called because a salt is formed in reactions involving these four elements.
halt (n.)
"a stop, a halting," 1590s, from French halte (16c.) or Italian alto, ultimately from German Halt, imperative from Old High German halten "to hold" (see hold (v.)). A German military command borrowed into the Romanic languages 16c. The verb in this sense is from 1650s, from the noun. Related: Halted; halting.
halt (adj.)
"lame," in Old English lemphalt "limping," from Proto-Germanic *haltaz (cognates: Old Saxon, Old Frisian halt, Old Norse haltr, Old High German halz, Gothic halts "lame"), from PIE *keld-, from root *kel- "to strike, cut," with derivatives meaning "something broken or cut off" (cognates: Russian koldyka "lame," Greek kolobos "broken, curtailed"). The noun meaning "one who limps; the lame collectively" is from c.1200.
halt (v.)
"to walk unsteadily," early 14c., from Old English haltian "to be lame," from the same source as halt (adj.). The meaning "make a halt" is 1650s, from halt (n.). As a command word, attested from 1796. Related: Halted; halting.
halter (n.)
Old English hælftre "rope for leading a horse," from West Germanic *halftra- "that by which something is held" (cognates: Old Saxon haliftra "halter," Old High German halftra, Middle Dutch halfter; see helve). In women's clothing sense, originally "strap attached to the top of a backless bodice and looped around the neck," 1935, later extended to the tops themselves.
halting (n.)
"act of limping or walking lamely," early 14c., verbal noun from halt (v.). Related: Haltingly.
halve (v.)
c.1200, halfen "to divide in halves;" see half. Meaning "to reduce by half" is from c.1400. Related: Halved; halving.
halyard (n.)
"rope for hoisting sails," 1610s, from Middle English halier "a halyard" (late 14c.), also "a carrier, porter" (late 13c. in surnames), from halen "to haul" (see hale (v.)). Spelling influenced by yard "long beam that supports a sail" (see yard (n.2)).
ham (n.1)
"meat of a hog's hind leg used for food," 1630s, from Old English hamm "hollow or bend of the knee," from Proto-Germanic *hamma- (cognates: Old Norse höm, Middle Low German, Middle Dutch hamme, Old High German hamma), from PIE *konemo- "shin bone" (cognates: Greek kneme "calf of the leg," Old Irish cnaim "bone"). Ham-fisted (1928) was originally in reference to pilots who were heavy on the controls, as was ham-handed (by 1918). With hammen ifalden "with folded hams" was a Middle English way of saying "kneeling."
ham (n.2)
"overacting inferior performer," 1882, American English, apparently a shortening of hamfatter (1880) "actor of low grade," said since at least 1889 to be from an old minstrel show song, "The Ham-fat Man" (1863). The song, a black-face number, has nothing to do with acting, so the connection must be with the quality of acting in minstrel shows, where the song was popular. Ham also had a sports slang sense of "incompetent pugilist" circa 1888, perhaps from ham-fisted. The notion of "amateurish" led to the sense of "amateur radio operator" (1919). The verb in the performance sense is first recorded 1933. As an adjective in this sense by 1935.
hamadryad (n.)
late 14c., from Greek hamadryas (plural hamadryades) "wood-nymph," fabled to die with her tree, from hama "together" (see same) + drus (genitive dryos) "tree."
hamartia (n.)
Greek, literally "fault, failure, guilt," from hamartanein "to fail of one's purpose; to err, sin," originally "to miss the mark."