- service (n.1)
- c. 1100, "celebration of public worship," from Old French servise "act of homage; servitude; service at table; Mass, church ceremony," from Latin servitium "slavery, condition of a slave, servitude," also "slaves collectively," from servus "slave" (see serve (v.)).
Meaning "act of serving, occupation of an attendant servant" is attested from c. 1200, as is that of "assistance, help; a helpful act." From c. 1300 as "provision of food; sequence of dishes served in a meal;" from late 14c. as "service at table, attendance during a meal." Meaning "the furniture of the table" (tea service, etc.) is from mid-15c.
Meanings "state of being bound to undertake tasks for someone or at someone's direction; labor performed or undertaken for another" are mid-13c. Sense of "service or employment in a court or administration" is from c. 1300, as is that of "military service (especially by a knight); employment as a soldier;" hence "the military as an occupation" (1706).
Also in Middle English "sexual intercourse, conjugal relations" (mid-15c.; service of Venus, or flesh's service). Service industry (as distinct from production) attested from 1938. A service station originally was a gas stop that also repaired cars.
- service (n.2)
- type of tree or berry, extended form of serve (perhaps via Middle English plural serves being taken as a singular), from Old English syrfe, Old French sorbe, both from Vulgar Latin *sorbea, from Latin sorbus (see sorb).
- serviceable (adj.)
- "ready to do service," early 14c., from Old French servicable, from servise (see service (n.1)). Related: Serviceability.
Edgar: I know thee well: a serviceable villain,
As duteous to the vices of thy mistress
As badness would desire.
["King Lear," IV.vi.]
- serviceman (n.)
- 1899, from service (n.) + man (n.).
- servient (adj.)
- 1640s, from Latin servientem "subordinate," present participle of servire "be a servant, be a slave" (see serve (v.)).
- serviette (n.)
- "table napkin," late 15c., from Middle French serviette "napkin, towel" (14c.), of uncertain origin, perhaps from past participle of servir "to serve" (see serve (v.)). Primarily Scottish at first; re-introduced from French 1818.
- servile (adj.)
- late 14c., from Latin servilis "of a slave" (as in Servile Wars, name given to the slave revolts in the late Roman Republic), also "slavish, servile," from servus "slave" (see serve (v.)). Earliest sense was legal, servile work being forbidden on the Sabbath; sense of "cringing, fawning" first recorded c. 1600.
- servility (n.)
- 1570s; see servile + -ity.
- serving (n.)
- "action of serving," c. 1200, verbal noun from serve (v.). As "a helping of food" from 1769.
- servitude (n.)
- early 15c., "condition of being enslaved," from Old French servitude, servitute (13c.) and directly from Late Latin servitudo "slavery," from Latin servus "a slave" (see serve (v.)) + abstract noun suffix.
- 1910, from servo-motor (1889), from French servo-moteur (1873), ultimately from Latin servus "slave" (see serve (v.)) + motor "mover" (see motor (n.)).
- sesame (n.)
- early 15c., probably from Middle French sisame and directly from Latin sesamum (nominative sesama), from Greek sesamon (Doric sasamon) "seed or fruit of the sesame plant," a very early borrowing via Phoenician from Late Babylonian *shawash-shammu (compare Assyrian shamash-shammu "sesame," literally "oil-seed"). First as a magic password in 1785 translation of Galland's "Mille et une nuits," where it opens the door of the thieves' den in "Ali Baba and the Forty Thieves." Phrase open sesame current since about 1826.
- word-forming element, from Latin sesqui- "one-half more," contraction of *semis-que- "a half in addition," from semis "a half" (see semi-) + -que "and," from PIE *kwe-.
- sesquicentennial (adj.)
- "pertaining to a century and a half," 1878, from sesqui- + centennial. As a noun from 1880; first recorded reference is to Baltimore's.
- sesquipedalian (n.)
- 1610s, "person or thing a foot and a half long," from Latin sesquipedalia "a foot-and-a-half long," from sesqui- "half as much again" (see sesqui-) + stem of pes "foot," from PIE root *ped- (1) "a foot" (see foot (n.)). As an adjective 1650s. Meaning "sesquipedalian word" (1830) is from Latin sesquipedalia verba "words a foot-and-a-half long," in Horace's "Ars Poetica" (97), nicely illustrating the thing he is criticizing.
- sessile (adj.)
- 1725, "adhering close to the surface," from Latin sessilis "pertaining to sitting, for sitting on," from sessum, past participle of sedere "to sit" (see sedentary). In botany from 1753. Meaning "sedentary" first recorded 1860.
- session (n.)
- late 14c., "periodical sitting of a court," from Old French session "act or state of sitting; assembly," from Latin sessionem (nominative sessio) "act of sitting; a seat; loitering; a session," noun of action from past participle stem of sedere "to sit" (see sedentary). Sense of "period set aside for some activity" is first recorded 1920, in bull session, probably from quarter sessions courts (see quarter (n.)). Musical sense of "recording occasion in a studio" is from 1927.
- sestet (n.)
- 1801, from Italian sestetto, diminutive of sesto "sixth," from Latin sextus (see Sextus).
- sestina (n.)
- 1797, from Italian, "poem of six-lined stanzas," from sesto "sixth," from Latin sextus (see six). Invented by 12c. Provençal troubadour Arnaut Daniel. The line endings of the first stanza are repeated in different order in the rest, and in an envoi.
- set (v.)
- Old English settan (transitive) "cause to sit, put in some place, fix firmly; build, found; appoint, assign," from Proto-Germanic *(bi)satjan "to cause to sit, set" (source also of Old Norse setja, Swedish sätta, Old Saxon settian, Old Frisian setta, Dutch zetten, German setzen, Gothic satjan), causative form of PIE *sod-, variant of *sed- (1) "to sit" (see sit (v.)). Also see set (n.2).
Intransitive sense from c. 1200, "be seated." Used in many disparate senses by Middle English; sense of "make or cause to do, act, or be; start" and that of "mount a gemstone" attested by mid-13c. Confused with sit since early 14c. Of the sun, moon, etc., "to go down," recorded from c. 1300, perhaps from similar use of the cognates in Scandinavian languages. To set (something) on "incite to attack" (c. 1300) originally was in reference to hounds and game.
- set (adj.)
- "fixed," c. 1200, sett, past participle of setten "to set" (see set (v.)). Meaning "ready, prepared" first recorded 1844.
- set (n.1)
- "collection of things," mid-15c., from Old French sette "sequence," variant of secte "religious community," from Medieval Latin secta "retinue," from Latin secta "a following" (see sect). "[I]n subsequent developments of meaning influenced by SET v.1 and apprehended as equivalent to 'number set together'" [OED]. The noun set was in Middle English, but only in the sense of "religious sect" (late 14c.), which likely is the direct source of some modern meanings, such as "group of persons with shared status, habits, etc." (1680s).
Meaning "complete collection of pieces" is from 1680s. Meaning "group of pieces musicians perform at a club during 45 minutes" (more or less) is from c. 1925, though it is found in a similar sense in 1580s. Set piece is from 1846 as "grouping of people in a work of visual art;" from 1932 in reference to literary works.
- Egyptian god, from Greek Seth, from Egyptian Setesh.
- set (n.2)
- "act of setting; condition of being set" (of a heavenly body), mid-14c., from set (v.) or its identical past participle. Many disparate senses collect under this word because of the far-flung meanings assigned to the verb:
"Action of hardening," 1837; also "manner or position in which something is set" (1530s), hence "general movement, direction, tendency" (1560s); "build, form" (1610s), hence "bearing, carriage" (1855); "action of fixing the hair in a particular style" (1933).
"Something that has been set" (1510s), hence the use in tennis (1570s) and the theatrical meaning "scenery for an individual scene in a play, etc.," recorded from 1859. Other meanings OED groups under "miscellaneous technical senses" include "piece of electrical apparatus" (1891, first in telegraphy); "burrow of a badger" (1898). Old English had set "seat," in plural "camp; stable," but OED finds it "doubtful whether this survived beyond OE." Compare set (n.1).
Set (n.1) and set (n.2) are not always distinguished in dictionaries; OED has them as two entries, Century Dictionary as one. The difference of opinion seems to be whether the set meaning "group, grouping" (here (n.2)) is a borrowing of the unrelated French word that sounds like the native English one, or a borrowing of the sense only, which was absorbed into the English word.
- set off (v.)
- verbal phrase; see set (v.) + off (adv.). From 1590s as "make prominent by contrast," 1610s as "adorn." Intransitive sense of "start on a journey" is from 1774. Meaning "separate from contect" (in typography) is from 1824; sense of "ignite, discharge, cause to explode" is from 1810.
- set-aside (n.)
- 1943, from verbal phrase (early 15c.); see set (v.) + aside (adv.).
- set-to (n.)
- "bout, fight," 1743, originally pugilistic slang, from verbal phrase; see set (v.) + to.
- set-up (n.)
- "arrangement," 1890, from verbal phrase set up, attested from c. 1200 as "to make ready for use" and from 1950 (in pugilism) as "to bring (someone) to a vulnerable position;" from set (v.) + up (adv.). The verbal phrase also can mean "to establish" (early 15c.) and "put drinks before customers" (1880).
- seta (n.)
- plural setae, 1793, from Latin seta "bristle," from PIE root *sai- "to tie, bind" (see sinew). Related: Setaceous.
- setback (n.)
- also set-back, 1670s, "reversal, check to progress," from set (v.) + back (adv.). Sometimes backset was used in the same sense. Meaning "space between a building and a property line" is from 1916. To set (someone) back "cost" is from 1900.
- masc. proper name, Biblical third son of Adam, literally "set, appointed," from Hebrew Sheth, from shith "to put, set." The Gnostic sect of Sethites (2c.) believed Christ was a reappearance of Seth, whom they venerated as the first spiritual man.
- setness (n.)
- 1640s, from set (n.2) + -ness. Old English had setnes, which was pressed into service to translate various ideas in Roman law and Christianity: "foundation, creation, construction; size, extent; law, ordinance; instruction; sentence."
- sett (n.)
- see set (n.1).
The extra t is an arbitrary addition in various technical senses, from a lawn-tennis to a granite set. Each class of persons has doubtless added it to distinguish the special sense that means most to it from all others ; but so many are the special senses that the distinction is now no more distinctive than an Esq. after a man's name, & all would do well to discard it. [Fowler]
- settee (n.)
- "long seat with back and arms," 1716, perhaps a variant of settle (n.), or a diminutive of set (v.) "act of setting."
- setter (n.)
- "one who sets (something)," c. 1400, agent noun from set (v.). As a type of hunting-dog (originally a type of spaniel), 1570s, so called because the dog is "set" on game.
- setting (n.)
- late 14c., "fact or action of setting (something), putting, placing, planting," verbal noun from set (v.).
Meaning "place, location, site" is late 14c. Surgical sense, with reference to broken bones, etc., is from early 15c. In reference to heavenly bodies, from c. 1400. Also in Middle English "act of creation; thing created" (c. 1400). In reference to mounts for jewels, etc. from 1815; meaning "background, history, environment" is attested from 1841.
- settle (v.)
- "come to rest," Old English setlan "cause to sit, place, put," from setl "a seat" (see settle (n.)). Related: Settling. Compare German siedeln "to settle, colonize."
From c. 1300 of birds, etc., "to alight." From early 14c. as "sink down, descend; cave in." Early 15c. in reference to suspended particles in a liquid. Sense of "establish a permanent residence" first recorded 1620s; that of "decide" is 1620s. Meaning "secure title to by deed" is from 1660s.
Meaning "reconcile" (a quarrel, differences, etc.) perhaps is influenced by Middle English sahtlen "to reconcile," from Old English saht "reconciliation," from Old Norse satt "reconciliation." To settle down "become content" is from 1853; transitive sense from 1520s; as what married couples do in establishing domesticity, from 1718. To settle for "content oneself with" is from 1943.
- settle (n.)
- "long bench," 1550s, from Middle English setle "a seat," from Old English setl "a seat, stall; position, abode; setting of a heavenly body," related to sittan "to sit," from Proto-Germanic *setla- (source also of Middle Low German, Middle Dutch setel, Dutch zetel, German Sessel, Gothic sitls), from PIE *sedla- (source also of Latin sella "seat, chair," Old Church Slavonic sedlo "saddle," Old English sadol "saddle"), from root *sed- (1) "to sit" (see sedentary).
- settled (adj.)
- "firmly fixed," also "quiet, orderly, steady," 1550s, past participle adjective from settle (v.).
- settlement (n.)
- 1620s, "act of fixing or steadying;" from settle (v.) + -ment. Meaning "a colony," especially a new one, "tract of country newly developed" is attested from 1690s; that of "small village on the frontier" is from 1827, American English. Sense of "payment of an account" is from 1729; legal sense "a settling of arrangements" (of divorce, property transfer, etc.) is from 1670s.
- settler (n.)
- 1590s, "a thing that settles" (a debate, etc.); agent noun from settle (v.). Meaning "a person who moves into a new country" is from 1690s.
- seven (n.)
- Old English seofon, from Proto-Germanic *sebun (source also of Old Saxon sibun, Old Norse sjau, Swedish sju, Danish syv, Old Frisian sowen, siugun, Middle Dutch seven, Dutch zeven, Old High German sibun, German sieben, Gothic sibun), from PIE *septm "seven" (source also of Sanskrit sapta, Avestan hapta, Hittite shipta, Greek hepta, Latin septem, Old Church Slavonic sedmi, Lithuanian septyni, Old Irish secht, Welsh saith).
Long regarded as a number of perfection (seven wonders; seven sleepers, the latter translating Latin septem dormientes; seven against Thebes, etc.), but that notion is late in Old English and in German a nasty, troublesome woman could be eine böse Sieben "an evil seven" (1662).
Magical power or healing skill associated since 16c. with the seventh son ["The seuenth Male Chyld by iust order (neuer a Gyrle or Wench being borne betweene)," Thomas Lupton, "A Thousand Notable Things," 1579]. The typical number for "very great, strong," as in seven-league boots in the fairy story of Hop o'my Thumb. The Seven Years' War (1756-63) is also the Third Silesian War.
The Seven Stars (Old English sibunsterri), usually refers to the Pleiades, though in 15c. and after this name occasionally was given to the Big Dipper (which also has seven stars), or the seven planets of classical astronomy. Popular as a tavern sign, it might also (with six in a circle, one in the center) be a Masonic symbol.
FOOL: ... The reason why the
seven stars are no more than seven is a pretty reason.
LEAR: Because they are not eight?
FOOL: Yes, indeed: thou wouldst make a good fool.
["King Lear," I.v.]
- Seven Champions (n.)
- 1590s, the national saints of England, Scotland, Wales, Ireland, France, Spain, and Italy, viz. George, Andrew, David, Patrick, Denys, James, and Anthony.
- Seven Seas (n.)
- 1872, the Arctic, Antarctic, North Atlantic, South Atlantic, North Pacific, South Pacific, and Indian.
- Seven Sisters
- "the Pleiades," early 15c. (see Pleiades), seven daughters of Atlas and Pleione, placed among the stars by Zeus. The Pleiades also are known as the Seven Stars (see seven). As a late-20c. name for the major multi-national petroleum companies, it is attested from 1962. They were listed in 1976 as Exxon, Mobil, Gulf, Standard Oil of California, Texaco, British Petroleum, and Royal Dutch Shell.
- seven-up (n.)
- children's game, 1830; with capital initials, as the proprietary name of a brand of carbonated drink, it is attested from 1928.
- seven-year itch (n.)
- 1899, American English, some sort of skin condition (sometimes identified with poison ivy infection) that either lasts seven years or returns every seven years. Jocular use for "urge to stray from marital fidelity" is attested from 1952, as the title of the Broadway play (made into a film, 1955) by George Axelrod (1922-2003), in which the lead male character reads an article describing the high number of men have extra-marital affairs after seven years of marriage.
- sevenfold (adj.)
- Old English seofonfeald; see seven + -fold.
- late Old English seofontyne; see seven + -teen. Replacing Old English form seofon-teoða. Compare German siebzehn, a contraction of Middle High German siben-zehen.
- seventeenth (adj.)
- c. 1300, seventenþe, from seventeen + -th (1); replacing forms based on Old English seofonteoþa.