- silhouette (n.)
- 1798, from French silhouette, in reference to Étienne de Silhouette (1709-1767), French minister of finance in 1759. Usually said to be so called because it was an inexpensive way of making a likeness of someone, a derisive reference to Silhouette's petty economies to finance the Seven Years' War, which were unpopular among the nobility. But other theories are that it refers to his brief tenure in office, or the story that he decorated his chateau with such portraits.
Silhouette portraits were so called simply because they came into fashion in the year (1759) in which M. de Silhouette was minister. [A. Brachet, "An Etymological Dictionary of the French Language," transl. G.W. Kitchin, 1882]
Used of any sort of dark outline or shadow in profile from 1843. The verb is recorded from 1876, from the noun. The family name is a Frenchified form of a Basque surname; Arnaud de Silhouette, the finance minister's father, was from Biarritz in the French Basque country; the southern Basque form of the name would be Zuloeta or Zulueta, which contains the suffix -eta "abundance of" and zulo "hole" (possibly here meaning "cave").
- silica (n.)
- "hard silicon dioxide," 1801, Modern Latin, from Latin silex (genitive silicis) "flint, pebble," on model of alumina, soda.
- silicate (n.)
- 1811, from silica + -ate (3).
- silicon (n.)
- nonmetallic element, 1817, coined by British chemist Thomas Thomson from silica (silicon dioxide), from which it was isolated. The name is patterned on carbon, etc. Silicon chip first attested 1965; Silicon Valley for the Santa Clara Valley south of San Francisco, U.S., first attested 1974, from the concentration of manufacturers of silicon chips used in computers, watches, etc.
- silicone (n.)
- coined 1863 in German from silico-, comb. form indicating the presence of silicon, + -one.
- silicosis (n.)
- 1881, a hybrid from silicon + -osis.
- silk (n.)
- c. 1300, from Old English seoloc, sioloc "silk, silken cloth," from Latin sericum "silk," plural serica "silken garments, silks," literally "Seric stuff," neuter of Sericus, from Greek Serikos "silken; pertaining to the Seres," an oriental people of Asia from whom the Greeks got silks. Western cultivation began 552 C.E., when agents from Byzantium impersonating monks smuggled silkworms and mulberry leaves out of China. Chinese si "silk," Manchurian sirghe, Mongolian sirkek have been compared to this and the people name in Greek might be a rendering via Mongolian of the Chinese word for "silk," but this is uncertain.
Also found in Old Norse as silki but not elsewhere in Germanic. The more common Germanic form is represented by Middle English say, from Old French seie, with Spanish seda, Italian seta, Dutch zijde, German Seide is from Medieval Latin seta "silk," perhaps elliptical for seta serica, or else a particular use of seta "bristle, hair" (see seta (n.)).
According to some sources [Buck, OED], the use of -l- instead of -r- in the Balto-Slavic form of the word (Old Church Slavonic šelku, Lithuanian šilkai) passed into English via the Baltic trade and may reflect a Chinese dialectal form, or a Slavic alteration of the Greek word. But the Slavic linguist Vasmer dismisses that, based on the initial sh- in the Slavic words, and suggests the Slavic words are from Scandinavian rather than the reverse.
As an adjective from mid-14c. In reference to the "hair" of corn, 1660s, American English. Figurative use of silk-stocking (n.) is from 1590s; as an adjective meaning "wealthy" it is attested from 1798, American English (silk stockings, especially worn by men, being regarded as extravagant and reprehensible, indicative of luxurious habits). Silk-screen (n.) is first attested 1930; as a verb from 1961. Silk road so called in English from 1931.
- silken (adj.)
- Old English seolcen "made of silk;" see silk + -en (2). Meaning "silk-like, soft and glossy" is from 1510s.
- silkworm (n.)
- Old English seolcwyrm; see silk + worm (n.).
- silky (adj.)
- 1610s, from silk + -y (2). Related: Silkily; silkiness.
- sill (n.)
- Old English syll "beam, threshold, large timber serving as a foundation of a wall," from Proto-Germanic *suljo (cognates: Old Norse svill, Swedish syll, Danish syld "framework of a building," Middle Low German sull, Old High German swelli, German Schwelle "sill"), perhaps from PIE root *swel- (3) "post, board" (cognates: Greek selma "beam"). Meaning "lower horizontal part of a window opening" is recorded from early 15c.
- sillabub (n.)
- also sillibub, syllabub, etc., 1530s, of unknown origin. Drink or dish of milk and wine or cider, often sweetened. Figurative sense of "floridly vapid prose" is from 1706.
- silliness (n.)
- "foolishness," c. 1600, from silly + -ness; a reformation of seeliness, from Old English saelignes "happiness, (good) fortune, occurrence."
- silly (adj.)
- Old English gesælig "happy, fortuitous, prosperous" (related to sæl "happiness"), from Proto-Germanic *sæligas (cognates: Old Norse sæll "happy," Old Saxon salig, Middle Dutch salich, Old High German salig, German selig "blessed, happy, blissful," Gothic sels "good, kindhearted"), from PIE *sele- "of good mood; to favor," from root *sel- (2) "happy, of good mood; to favor" (cognates: Latin solari "to comfort," Greek hilaros "cheerful, gay, merry, joyous").
This is one of the few instances in which an original long e (ee) has become shortened to i. The same change occurs in breeches, and in the American pronunciation of been, with no change in spelling. [Century Dictionary]
The word's considerable sense development moved from "happy" to "blessed" to "pious," to "innocent" (c. 1200), to "harmless," to "pitiable" (late 13c.), "weak" (c. 1300), to "feeble in mind, lacking in reason, foolish" (1570s). Further tendency toward "stunned, dazed as by a blow" (1886) in knocked silly, etc. Silly season in journalism slang is from 1861 (August and September, when newspapers compensate for a lack of hard news by filling up with trivial stories). Silly Putty trademark claims use from July 1949.
- silo (n.)
- 1835, from Spanish silo, traditionally derived from Latin sirum (nominative sirus), from Greek siros "a pit to keep corn in." "The change from r to l in Spanish is abnormal and Greek siros was a rare foreign term peculiar to regions of Asia Minor and not likely to emerge in Castilian Spain" [Barnhart]. Alternatively, the Spanish word is from a pre-Roman Iberian language word represented by Basque zilo, zulo "dugout, cave or shelter for keeping grain." Meaning "underground housing and launch tube for a guided missile" is attested from 1958.
- pool and spring outside Jerusalem (John ix:7), from Late Latin, from New Testament Greek, from Hebrew shiloach, literally "sending forth," from shalach "to send."
- silphium (n.)
- plant genus, 1771, from Latin, from Greek Silphion, name of a North African Mediterranean plant whose identity has been lost, the gum or juice of which was prized by the ancients as a condiment and a medicine. Probably of African origin.
- silt (n.)
- mid-15c., originally "sediment deposited by seawater," probably from a Scandinavian source (compare Norwegian and Danish sylt "salt marsh"), or from Middle Low German or Middle Dutch silte, sulte "salt marsh, brine," from Proto-Germanic *sultjo- (cognates: Old English sealt, Old High German sulza "saltwater," German Sulze "brine"), from PIE *sal- (see salt (n.)).
- silt (v.)
- "to become choked with silt" (of river channels, harbors, etc.), 1799, from silt (n.). Related: Silted; silting.
- Silurian (adj.)
- 1708, "pertaining to the Silures," from Latin Silures "ancient British tribe inhabiting southeast Wales." Geological sense is from 1835, coined by Sir Roderick Impey Murchison (1792-1871) because rocks of this period are especially frequent in Wales.
- silvan (adj.)
- see sylvan.
- silver (n.)
- Old English seolfor, Mercian sylfur "silver; money," from Proto-Germanic *silubra- (cognates: Old Saxon silvbar, Old Frisian selover, Old Norse silfr, Middle Dutch silver, Dutch zilver, Old High German silabar, German silber "silver; money," Gothic silubr "silver"), from a common Germanic/Balto-Slavic term (cognates: Old Church Slavonic s(u)rebo, Russian serebro, Polish srebro, Lithuanian sidabras "silver") of uncertain relationship and origin. According to Klein's sources, possibly from a language of Asia Minor, perhaps from Akkadian sarpu "silver," literally "refined silver," related to sarapu "to refine, smelt."
As an adjective from late Old English (cognates: silvern). As a color name from late 15c. Of voices, words, etc., from 1520s in reference to the metal's pleasing resonance; silver-tongued is from 1590s. The silver age (1560s) was a phrase used by Greek and Roman poets. Chemical abbreviation Ag is from Latin argentum "silver," from the usual PIE word for the metal (see argent), which is missing in Germanic.
- silver (v.)
- "to cover or plate with silver," mid-15c., from silver (n.). Meaning "to tinge with gray" (of hair) is from c. 1600. Related: Silvered; silvering.
- silver bullet (n.)
- "very effective, almost magical remedy," 1808. The belief in the magical power of silver weapons to conquer foes goes back at least to ancient Greece (as in Delphic Oracle's advice to Philip of Macedon).
- silver lining
- a "bright side" which proverbially accompanies even the darkest trouble; by 1843, apparently from oft-quoted lines from Milton's "Comus," where the silver lining is the light of the moon shining from behind the cloud.
Was I deceived? or did a sable cloud
To which Thomas Warton added the commentary: "When all succour ſeems to be lost, Heaven unexpectedly presents the ſilver lining oſ a ſable cloud to the virtuous."
Turn forth her silver lining on the night?
I did not err, there does a sable cloud,
Turn out her silver lining on the night
And casts a gleam over this tufted grove.
- silver screen (n.)
- 1921, originally in reference to movie house projection screens colored with metallic paint to be more reflective. Transferred sense of "movies generally" is attested from 1924.
- Silver Star
- U.S. military decoration awarded for gallantry in action, originally (1918) a small badge worn on the ribbon of a campaign medal; as a distinct medal, it was established Aug. 8, 1932.
- silverfish (n.)
- 1703, in reference to various types of silver-colored fish (similar formation in German Silberfisch, Dutch zilvervisch); from silver (adj.) + fish (n.). In reference to a type of household insect damaging to books, wallpaper, etc. (also known as silvertail and furniture-bug), it is attested from 1855.
- silvern (adj.)
- Middle English silveren, from Old English seolfren "made of silver;" see silver (n.) + -en (2). Similar formation in German silbern, Dutch zilveren. Fallen from use in English except in poetry.
- silversmith (n.)
- Old English seolfursmið; see silver (n.) + smith (n.).
- 1860, from silver (n.) + ware (n.).
- silvery (adj.)
- late 14c., from silver (n.) + -y (2). Related: Silveriness.
- masc. proper name, Biblical second son of Jacob and Leah; also a tribe of Israel; see Simon.
- simian (adj.)
- "characteristic of monkeys or apes," c. 1600, from Latin simia "ape," from simus "snub-nosed," from Greek simos "snub-nosed" (like the Scythians), also a masculine proper name, of unknown origin. Biological meaning "pertaining to monkeys" is from 1863. The noun meaning "an ape or monkey" first is attested in 1880.
- similar (adj.)
- "having characteristics in common," 1610s (earlier similary, 1560s), from French similaire, from a Medieval Latin extended form of Latin similis "like, resembling," from Old Latin semol "together," from PIE root *sem- (1) "one, as one, together with" (see same). The noun meaning "that which is similar" is from 1650s. Related: Similarly.
- similarity (n.)
- "state of being similar," 1660s, from similar + -ity, or from French similarité. Related: Similarities "points of resemblance" (1838).
- simile (n.)
- late 14c., from Latin simile "a like thing; a comparison, likeness, parallel," neuter of similis "like" (see similar). Both things must be mentioned and the comparison directly stated. To Johnson, "A simile, to be perfect, must both illustrate and ennoble the subject."
- similitude (n.)
- late 14c., from Old French similitude "similarity, relationship, comparison" (13c.) and directly from Latin similitudinem (nominative similitudo) "likeness, resemblance," from similis "like" (see similar).
- simmer (v.)
- 1650s, alteration of simperen "to simmer" (late 15c.), possibly imitative; not thought to be connected to simper (v.). OED says the change is "probably due to a feeling of phonetic appropriateness." Figurative sense, of feelings, "to be agitated" is from 1764. Opposite sense, in simmer down, first recorded 1871, probably from the notion of moving from a full boil to a mere simmer.
I must and will keep shady and quiet till Bret Harte simmers down a little. [Mark Twain, letter, 1871]
Related: Simmered; simmering. The noun meaning "a condition of simmering" is from 1809.
- simnel (n.)
- "sweet cake," c. 1200, from Old French simenel "fine wheat flour; flat bread cake, Lenten cake," probably by dissimilation from Vulgar Latin *siminellus (also source of Old High German semala "the finest wheat flour," German Semmel "a roll"), a diminutive of Latin simila "fine flour" (see semolina).
- simoleon (n.)
- slang for "a dollar," 1895, American English, of unknown origin. Related sambolio is attested from 1886; perhaps this was altered based on Napoleon, name of a late 19c. French gold coin.
- masc. proper name, from Latin, from Greek Symeon, from Hebrew Shim'on, literally "hearkening, hearing," from shama "he heard." In English Old Testaments, usually printed as Simeon, but in New Testament almost always as Simon. Confused with Greek masc. proper name Simon, which is from simos "snub-nosed."
- simon-pure (adj.)
- 1815, from the true Simon Pure "the genuine person or thing" (1795), from Simon Pure, name of a Quaker who is impersonated by another character (Colonel Feignwell) in part of the comedy "A Bold Stroke for a Wife" (1717) by Susannah Centlivre, English dramatist and actress. The real Simon Pure is dealt with as an imposter in the play and is believed only after he has proved his identity.
- simonize (v.)
- 1921, from Simoniz, trademark for a type of car polish invented by George Simons, who along with Elmer Rich of the Great Northern Railway organized Simons Manufacturing Company to sell it in Chicago, U.S.A., in 1910. Rich and his brother, R.J. Rich, acquired sole ownership two years later.
- simony (n.)
- c. 1200, "the sin of buying or selling sacred things," from Old French simonie "selling of church offices" (12c.), from Late Latin simonia, from Simon Magus, the Samaritan magician who was rebuked by Peter when he tried to buy the power of conferring the Holy Spirit (Acts viii:18-20). Related: Simoniac; simoniacal.
- simoom (n.)
- "hot, dry desert wind," 1790, from Arabic samum "a sultry wind," literally "poisonous," from samma "he poisoned," from sam "poison."
- simp (n.)
- 1903, circus slang shortening of simpleton.
- simpatico (adj.)
- 1864 (in fem. form simpatica), from Spanish simpatico "sympathetic," from simpatia "sympathy," or from Italian simpatico, from simpatia, both ultimately from Latin sympathia (see sympathy).
- simper (v.)
- 1560s, "to smile in an affected and silly way," perhaps from a Scandinavian source (such as dialectal Danish semper "affected, coy, prudish") or Middle Dutch zimperlijk "affected, coy, prim," of unknown origin. Related: Simpered; simpering. As a noun, 1590s, from the verb.
- simpering (adj.)
- 1580s, present participle adjective from simper (v.). Related: Simperingly.