peninsula (n.) Look up peninsula at
1530s, from Latin pæninsula "a peninsula," literally "almost an island," from pæne "almost" + insula "island" (see isle). Earlier translated as demie island.
peninsular (adj.) Look up peninsular at
1610s, from peninsula + -ar.
penis (n.) Look up penis at
1670s, perhaps from French pénis or directly from Latin penis "penis," earlier "tail," from PIE *pes- "penis" (source also of Sanskrit pasas-, Greek peos, posthe "penis," probably also Old English fæsl "progeny, offspring," Old Norse fösull, German Fasel "young of animals, brood"). The proper plural is penes. The adjective is penial. In psychological writing, penis envy is attested from 1924.
penitence (n.) Look up penitence at
c. 1200, from Old French penitence (11c.) and directly from Latin paenitentia "repentance," noun of condition from paenitentum (nominative paenitens) "penitent," present participle of paenitere "cause or feel regret," probably originally "is not enough, is unsatisfactory," from paene "nearby, almost."
penitent (adj.) Look up penitent at
mid-14c., from Old French pénitent (14c.) and directly from Latin paenitentem (see penitence). As a noun, late 14c., from the adjective.
penitential (adj.) Look up penitential at
c. 1500, from Medieval Latin penitentialis, from Latin paenitentia "repentance" (see penitence).
penitentiary (n.) Look up penitentiary at
early 15c., "place of punishment for offenses against the church," from Medieval Latin penitentiaria, from fem. of penitentiarius (adj.) "of penance," from Latin paenitentia "penitence" (see penitence). Meaning "house of correction" (originally an asylum for prostitutes) is from 1806, short for penitentiary house (1776). Slang shortening pen is attested from 1884.
penknife (n.) Look up penknife at
early 15c., from pen (n.1) + knife (n.). So called because such small knives were used to sharpen quills.
penman (n.) Look up penman at
1610s, "copyist, clerk, scrivener" (obsolete), from pen (n.1) + man (n.).
penmanship (n.) Look up penmanship at
1690s, from obsolete penman "copyist, clerk, scrivener" + -ship.
pennant (n.) Look up pennant at
1610s, "rope for hoisting," probably a blend of pendant in the nautical sense of "suspended rope" and pennon. Use for "flag on a warship" first recorded 1690s; "flag symbolizing a sports championship" (especially baseball) is from 1880; as a synonym for "championship" it was first used 1915.
penniless (adj.) Look up penniless at
"destitute," early 14c., penyles, from penny + -less.
pennon (n.) Look up pennon at
long, narrow flag (often triangular or swallow-tailed), late 14c., from Old French penon "feathers of an arrow; streamer, flag, banner," from penne "feather," from Latin penna "feather" (see pen (n.1)).
Pennsylvania Look up Pennsylvania at
American colony, later U.S. state, 1681, literally "Penn's Woods," a hybrid formed from the surname Penn (Welsh, literally "head") + Latin sylvania (see sylvan). Not named for William Penn, the proprietor, but, on suggestion of Charles II, for Penn's late father, Admiral William Penn (1621-1670), who had lent the king the money that was repaid to the son in the form of land for a Quaker settlement in America. The story goes that the younger Penn wanted to call it New Wales, but the king's secretary, a Welshman of orthodox religion, wouldn't hear of it. Pennsylvania Dutch is attested from 1824.
Pennsylvanian (adj.) Look up Pennsylvanian at
1698, from Pennsylvania + -an. In reference to a geological system, attested from 1891. As a noun meaning "a person of Pennsylvania," by 1685.
penny (n.) Look up penny at
Old English pening, penig, Northumbrian penning "penny," from Proto-Germanic *panninggaz (source also of Old Norse penningr, Swedish pänning, Danish penge, Old Frisian panning, Old Saxon pending, Middle Dutch pennic, Dutch penning, Old High German pfenning, German Pfennig, not recorded in Gothic, where skatts is used instead), of unknown origin.
Offa's reformed coinage on light, broad flans is likely to have begun c.760-5 in London, with an awareness of developments in Francia and East Anglia. ... The broad flan penny established by Offa remained the principal denomination, with only minor changes, until the fourteenth century. [Anna Gannon, "The Iconography of Early Anglo-Saxon Coinage," Oxford, 2003]
The English coin was originally set at one-twelfth of a shilling and was of silver, later copper, then bronze. There are two plural forms: pennies of individual coins, pence collectively. In translations it rendered various foreign coins of small denomination, especially Latin denarius, whence comes its abbreviation d.

As American English colloquial for cent, it is recorded from 1889. Penny-a-liner "writer for a journal or newspaper" is attested from 1834. Penny dreadful "cheap and gory fiction" dates from c. 1870. Phrase penny-wise and pound-foolish is recorded from c. 1600. Penny-pincher "miserly person" is recorded from 1906 (as an adjective penny-pinching is recorded from 1858, American English). Penny loafers attested from 1960.
penny-ante (adj.) Look up penny-ante at
"cheap, trivial," 1935; extended from use in reference to poker played for insignificant stakes (1855), from penny + ante.
pennyfarthing (adj.) Look up pennyfarthing at
also penny farthing, penny-farthing, "ineffective," 1887, from penny + farthing, the two together making but a small sum. The noun, in reference to the kind of bicycle with a small wheel in back and a big one in front (so called from the notion of different size coins) is first recorded 1927.
pennyroyal (n.) Look up pennyroyal at
herb, 1520s, alteration by folk etymology of Anglo-French puliol real; for second element see royal; first element ultimately from Latin puleium "thyme," of unknown origin.
pennyweight (n.) Look up pennyweight at
Old English penega gewiht, originally the weight of a silver penny; see penny + weight (n.).
pennyworth (n.) Look up pennyworth at
Old English peningwurð; see penny + worth (adj.). Figurative of "small amount" from mid-14c.
penology (n.) Look up penology at
"study of punishment and crime prevention," 1838, coined apparently by Francis Lieber, corresponding member of the Philadephia Society for Alleviating the Miseries of Public Prisons, from pen- as in penitentiary (ultimately from Latin poena "penalty, punishment;" see penal) + -ology "study of." Related: Penologist; penological.
Pensacola Look up Pensacola at
name of a Muskogean tribe, from Choctaw, literally "hair-people," from pashi "hair of the head" + oklah "people."
pension (n.) Look up pension at
mid-14c., "payment for services," especially "reward, payment out of a benefice" (early 14c., in Anglo-Latin), from Old French pension "payment, rent" (13c.) and directly from Latin pensionem (nominative pensio) "a payment, installment, rent," from past participle stem of pendere "pay, weigh" (see pendant). Meaning "regular payment in consideration of past service" first recorded 1520s. Meaning "boarding house, boarding school" first attested 1640s, from French, and usually in reference to places in France or elsewhere on the Continent.
pension (v.) Look up pension at
1640s, "to live in a pension," from pension (n.) or else from French pensionner. Meaning "to grant a pension" is from 1702. Related: Pensioned; pensioning.
pensioner (n.) Look up pensioner at
late 15c., from Anglo-French pensionner, from Old French pensionnier (mid-14c.), from Medieval Latin pensionarius, from pension (see pension (n.)).
pensive (adj.) Look up pensive at
late 14c., from Old French pensif "thoughtful, distracted, musing" (11c.), from penser "to think," from Latin pensare "weigh, consider," frequentative of pendere "weigh" (see pendant). Related: Pensively; pensiveness.
pent (adj.) Look up pent at
"kept in, confined," 1540s, variant of penned, past participle of pen (v.2). Pent-up (also pent up) is from 1580s.
penta- Look up penta- at
word-forming element meaning "five, containing five," from Greek penta- (before a vowel pent-), comb. form of pente "five," related to Aeolian pempte (see five), with -a- by analogy of hepta-, ennea-, deka-.
pentacle (n.) Look up pentacle at
1590s, from Medieval Latin pentaculum "pentagram," a hybrid coined from Greek pente "five" (see five) + Latin -culum, diminutive (or instrumental) suffix. OED notes other similar words: Italian had pentacolo "anything with five points," and French pentacle (16c.) was the name of something used in necromancy, perhaps a five-branched candlestick; French had pentacol "amulet worn around the neck" (14c.), from pend- "to hang" + a "to" + col "neck." The same figure as a pentagram, except in magical usage, where it has been extended to other symbols of power, including a six-point star. Related: Pentacular.
pentad (n.) Look up pentad at
1650s, from Greek pentas (genitive pentados) "group of five" (see five). Meaning "period of five years" is from 1880; meaning "period of five days" is from 1906, originally in meteorology.
pentagon (n.) Look up pentagon at
plane figure with five angles and five sides, 1560s, from Middle French pentagone or directly from Late Latin pentagonum "pentagon," from Greek pentagonon, noun use of neuter of adjective pentagonos "five-angled," from pente "five" (see five) + gonia "angle" (see -gon). The U.S. military headquarters Pentagon was completed 1942, so called for its shape; used allusively for "U.S. military leadership" from 1945. Related: Pentagonal.
In nature, pentagonal symmetry is rare in inanimate forms. Packed soap bubbles seem to strive for it but never quite succeed, and there are no mineral crystals with true pentagonal structures. But pentagonal geometry is basic to many living things, from roses and forget-me-nots to sea urchins and starfish. [Robert Bringhurst, "The Elements of Typographic Style," 1992]
pentagram (n.) Look up pentagram at
"five-pointed star," 1820, from Greek pentagrammon, noun use of neuter of adj. pentagrammos "having five lines," from pente "five" (see five) + gramma "letter, character, what is written" (see -gram).
pentameter (adj.) Look up pentameter at
1540s, from Middle French pentametre, from Latin pentameter, from Greek pentametros (adj.) "having five measures," from pente "five" (see five) + metron "measure" (see meter (n.2)). As a noun from 1580s.
pentangle (n.) Look up pentangle at
c. 1300; see penta- + angle (n.). In some early uses perhaps a corruption of pentacle. Related: Pentangular.
Pentateuch Look up Pentateuch at
first five books of the Bible, c. 1400, from Late Latin pentateuchus (Tertullian, c.207), from Greek pentateukhos (c. 160), originally an adjective (abstracted from phrase pentateukhos biblos), from pente "five" (see five) + teukhos "implement, vessel, gear" (in Late Greek "book," via notion of "case for scrolls"), literally "anything produced," related to teukhein "to make ready," from PIE *dheugh- "to produce something of utility" (see doughty). Glossed in Old English as fifbec.
pentathlon (n.) Look up pentathlon at
athletic contest of five events, 1852, from Greek pentathlon "the contest of five exercises," from pente "five" (see five) + athlon "prize, contest," of uncertain origin. Earlier in English in Latin form pentathlum (1706). The Greek version consisted of jumping, sprinting, discus and spear throwing, and wrestling. The modern version (1912) consists of horseback riding, fencing, shooting, swimming, and cross-country running.
Pentecost Look up Pentecost at
Old English Pentecosten "Christian festival on seventh Sunday after Easter," from Late Latin pentecoste, from Greek pentekoste (hemera) "fiftieth (day)," fem. of pentekostos, from pentekonta "fifty," from pente "five" (see five). The Hellenic name for the Old Testament Feast of Weeks, a Jewish harvest festival observed on 50th day of the Omer (see Leviticus xxiii.16).
pentecostal Look up pentecostal at
1660s, "pertaining to the Pentecost," from Latin pentecostalis (Tertullian), from pentecoste (see pentecost). With a capital P- and meaning "Pentecostalist," in reference to "Christian sect emphasizing gifts of the Holy Spirit" (Acts ii), it is attested from 1904 (noun and adjective).
penthouse (n.) Look up penthouse at
pendize, early 14c., from Anglo-French pentiz, a shortening of Old French apentis "attached building, appendage," from Medieval Latin appendicium, from Latin appendere "to hang" (see append). Modern spelling is from c. 1530, by folk etymology influence of Middle French pente "slope," and English house (the meaning at that time was "attached building with a sloping roof or awning"). Originally a simple structure (Middle English homilies describe Jesus' birthplace in the manger as a "penthouse"); meaning "apartment or small house built on the roof of a skyscraper" first recorded 1921, from which time dates its association with luxury.
Pentothal Look up Pentothal at
trademark name of an anaesthetic and hypnotic, 1935, refashioning of Thiopental, from pento-, in reference to the methylbutyl five-carbon group + first two letters of thiobarbiturate + chemical product suffix -ol.
penult (adj.) Look up penult at
"last but one," 1530s, abbreviation of penultima. As a noun from 1570s.
penultima (n.) Look up penultima at
1580s, from Latin penultima (syllaba), "the next to the last syllable of a word or verse," from fem. of Latin adjective penultimus "next-to-last," from paene "almost" + ultimus "final" (see ultimate).
penultimate (adj.) Look up penultimate at
1670s, from penultima (n.) on model of proximate.
penumbra (n.) Look up penumbra at
1660s, from Modern Latin penumbra "partial shadow outside the complete shadow of an eclipse," coined 1604 by Kepler from Latin pæne "almost" + umbra "shadow" (see umbrage). Related: Penumbral.
penurious (adj.) Look up penurious at
1590s, from penury + -ous, or else from Medieval Latin penuriosus, from Latin penuria "penury." Originally "poverty-stricken, in a state of penury;" meaning "stingy" is first attested 1630s. Related: Penuriously.
penury (n.) Look up penury at
c. 1400, from Latin penuria "want, need; scarcity," related to paene "scarcely."
Penzance Look up Penzance at
place in Cornwall, Pensans (late 13c.), literally "Holy Headland," from Cornish penn "head" + sans "holy."
peon (n.) Look up peon at
unskilled worker, 1826, from Mexican Spanish peon "agricultural laborer" (especially a debtor held in servitude by his creditor), from Spanish peon "day laborer," also "pedestrian," originally "foot soldier," from Medieval Latin pedonem "foot soldier" (see pawn (n.2)). The word entered British English earlier (c. 1600) in the sense "native constable, soldier, or messenger in India," via Portuguese peao "pedestrian, foot soldier, day laborer."
peonage (n.) Look up peonage at
1848, American English, from peon + -age.