sluggish (adj.) Look up sluggish at
mid-15c., from Middle English slugge "lazy person" (see sluggard) + -ish. Earlier adjective was sluggi (early 13c.). Related: Sluggishly; sluggishness.
sluice (n.) Look up sluice at
c. 1400, earlier scluse (mid-14c.), a shortening of Old French escluse "sluice, floodgate" (Modern French écluse), from Late Latin exclusa "barrier to shut out water" (in aqua exclusa "water shut out," i.e. separated from the river), from fem. singular of Latin exclusus, past participle of excludere "to shut out" (see exclude).
sluice (v.) Look up sluice at
1590s, from sluice (n.). Related: Sluiced; sluicing.
slum (n.) Look up slum at
1845, from back slum "dirty back alley of a city, street of poor or low people" (1825), originally a slang or cant word meaning "room," especially "back room" (1812), of unknown origin, pastime popularized by East End novels. Related: slums. Slumscape is from 1947.
slum (v.) Look up slum at
"visit slums of a city," especially for diversion or amusement, often under guise of philanthropy, 1884, from slum (n.). Pastime popularized by East End novels. Earlier it meant to visit slums for disreputable purposes or in search of vice (1860). Related: Slumming.
slumber (n.) Look up slumber at
mid-14c., from slumber (v.). Slumber party first recorded 1942. Slumberland is from 1875.
slumber (v.) Look up slumber at
mid-14c. alteration of slumeren (mid-13c.), frequentative form of slumen "to doze," probably from Old English sluma "light sleep" (compare Middle Dutch slumen, Dutch sluimeren, German schlummern "to slumber"). Frequentative on the notion of "intermittent light sleep." For the -b-, compare number, lumber, chamber, etc. Related: Slumbered; slumbering.
slumlord (n.) Look up slumlord at
also slum-lord, 1899, from slum landlord (1885); see slum (n.) + landlord.
slummy (adj.) Look up slummy at
1873, from slum (n.) + -y (2). Related: Slummily; slumminess.
slump (v.) Look up slump at
1670s, "fall or sink into a muddy place," probably from a Scandinavian source such as Norwegian and Danish slumpe "fall upon," Swedish slumpa; perhaps ultimately of imitative origin. Related: Slumped; slumping.
The word "slump," or "slumped," has too coarse a sound to be used by a lady. [Eliza Leslie, "Miss Leslie's Behaviour Book," Philadelphia, 1839]
Economic sense from 1888.
slump (n.) Look up slump at
"act of slumping, slumping movement," 1850; "heavy decline in prices on the stock exchange," 1888, from slump (v.). Generalized by 1922 to "sharp decline in trade or business."
slung Look up slung at
past tense and past participle of sling.
slunk Look up slunk at
past tense and past participle of slink (v.).
slur (n.) Look up slur at
"deliberate slight, disparaging or slighting remark," c. 1600, from dialectal slur "thin or fluid mud," from Middle English slore (mid-15c.), cognate with Middle Low German sluren, Middle Dutch sloren "to trail in mud." Related to East Frisian sluren "to go about carelessly," Norwegian slora "to be careless." Literal sense of "a mark, stain, smear" is from 1660s in English. The musical sense (1746) is from the notion of "sliding." Meaning "act or habit of slurring" in speech is from 1882.
slur (v.) Look up slur at
c. 1600, "smear, soil by smearing," from slur (n.). Meaning "disparage depreciate" is from 1650s. In music, from 1746; of speech, from 1893. Related: Slurred; slurring.
slurp (v.) Look up slurp at
1640s, from Dutch slurpen, perhaps of imitative origin (compare German schlürfen). Related: Slurped; slurping. The noun is first recorded 1949, from the verb.
slurry (n.) Look up slurry at
mid-15c., "mud, slime, semi-fluid mix of water and dirt or clay," probably related to Middle English sloor "thin or fluid mud" (see slur (n.)).
slush (n.) Look up slush at
1640s, "melting snow, snow and water," perhaps from a Scandinavian source (compare Norwegian and Swedish slask "slushy ground;" obsolete Danish slus "sleet"), all probably imitative of the sound of sloshing. Slush fund is first attested 1839, from an earlier sense of slush "refuse fat" (1756); the money from the sale of a ship's slush was distributed among the officers, which was the original sense of the phrase. The extended meaning "money collected for bribes and to buy influence" is first recorded 1874, no doubt with suggestions of "greasing" palms.
slushy (adj.) Look up slushy at
1791, "covered with slush," from slush + -y (2). As slang for "ship's cook," 1859, from slush (n.) "refuse from a cook's galley" (1756). Related: Slushiness.
slut (n.) Look up slut at
c. 1400, "a dirty, slovenly, or untidy woman," according to OED "Of doubtful origin," but probably cognate with dialectal German Schlutt "slovenly woman," dialectal Swedish slata "idle woman, slut," and Dutch slodde "slut," slodder "a careless man," but the exact relationship of all these is obscure. Chaucer uses sluttish (late 14c.) in reference to the appearance of an untidy man. Also "a kitchen maid, a drudge" (mid-15c.; hard pieces in a bread loaf from imperfect kneading were called slut's pennies, 18c.).

Specific modern sense of "woman who enjoys sex in a degree considered shamefully excessive" is by 1966. Meaning "woman of loose character, bold hussy" is attested from mid-15c., but the primary association through 18c. was untidiness. Johnson has it (second definition) as "A word of slight contempt to a woman" but sexual activity does not seem to figure into his examples. Playful use of the word, without implication of messiness or loose morals, is attested by 1660s:
My wife called up the people to washing by four o'clock in the morning; and our little girl Susan is a most admirable slut, and pleases us mightily, doing more service than both the others, and deserves wages better. [Pepys, diary, Feb. 21, 1664]
Compare playful use of scamp, etc., for boys. Sometimes used 19c. as a euphemism for bitch to describe a female dog.

There is a group of North Sea Germanic words in sl- that mean "sloppy," and also "slovenly woman" and, less often, "slovenly man," and that tend to evolve toward "woman of loose morals." Compare slattern, also English dialectal slummock "a dirty, untidy, or slovenly person" (1861), variant of slammacks "slatternly woman," said to be from slam "ill-shaped, shambling fellow." Also slammakin (from 1756 as a type of loose gown; 1785 as "slovenly female," 1727 as a character name in Gay's "Beggar's Opera"), with variants slamkin, slammerkin. Also possibly related are Middle Dutch slore "a sluttish woman," Dutch slomp, German schlampe "a slattern."
sluttery (n.) Look up sluttery at
"neglect of cleanliness and order," 1580s, from slut + -ery. From 1841 as "an untidy room."
sluttish (adj.) Look up sluttish at
late 14c., from slut + -ish. Related: Sluttishly; sluttishness.
slutty (adj.) Look up slutty at
c. 1400, "dirty, slovenly," from slut + -ish.
sly (adj.) Look up sly at
c. 1200, "skillful, clever, dexterous," from Old Norse sloegr "cunning, crafty, sly," from Proto-Germanic *slogis (cognates: Low German slu "cunning, sly," German schlau), probably from base *slak- "to strike, hit" (see slay (v.)), with an original notion of "able to hit." Compare German verschlagen "cunning, crafty, sly," schlagfertig "quick-witted," literally "strike-ready," from schlagen "to strike." A non-pejorative use of the word lingered in northern English dialect until 20c. On the sly "in secret" is recorded from 1812. Sly-boots "a seeming Silly, but subtil Fellow" is in the 1700 "Dictionary of the Canting Crew."
slyly (adv.) Look up slyly at
c. 1200, from sly (adj.) + -ly (2).
slyness (n.) Look up slyness at
mid-14c., from sly (adj.) + -ness.
smack (n.1) Look up smack at
"a taste, flavor, savor" especially a slight flavor that suggests something, from Old English smæc "taste; scent, odor," from Proto-Germanic *smak- (cognates: Old Frisian smek, Middle Dutch smæck, Dutch smaak, Old High German smac, German Geschmack, Swedish smak, Danish smag), from a Germanic and Baltic root *smeg- meaning "to taste" (cognates: Lithuanian smaguriai "dainties," smagus "pleasing"). Meaning "a trace (of something)" is attested from 1530s.
smack (n.4) Look up smack at
"heroin," 1942, American English slang, probably an alteration of schmeck "a drug," especially heroin (1932), from Yiddish schmeck "a sniff."
smack (v.1) Look up smack at
"make a sharp noise with the lips," 1550s, probably of imitative origin (see smack (v.2)). With adverbial force, "suddenly, directly," from 1782; extended form smack-dab is attested from 1892, American English colloquial (slap-dab is from 1886).
smack (n.3) Look up smack at
single-masted sailboat, 1610s, probably from Dutch or Low German smak "sailboat," perhaps from smakken "to fling, dash" (see smack (v.2)), perhaps so-called from the sound made by its sails. French semaque, Spanish zumaca, Italian semacca probably are Germanic borrowings.
smack (v.2) Look up smack at
"to slap a flat surface with the hand," 1835, from smack (n.) in this sense; perhaps influenced by Low German smacken "to strike, throw," which is likely of imitative origin (compare Swedish smak "slap," Middle Low German smacken, Frisian smakke, Dutch smakken "to fling down," Lithuanian smagiu "to strike, knock down, whip").
smack (v.3) Look up smack at
mid-13c., "to smell (something"); mid-14c., "to taste (something), perceive by taste" (transitive); late 14c. "to have a taste, taste of" (intransitive), from smack (n.1). Compare Old English smæccan "to taste," Old Frisian smakia Middle Dutch smaecken, Old High German smakken "have a savor, scent, or taste," German schmecken "taste, try, smell, perceive." Sometimes also smatch. Now mainly in verbal figurative use smacks of ... (first attested 1590s). "Commonly but erroneously regarded as identical with [smack (n.2)], as if 'taste' proceeds from 'smacking the lips.'" [Century Dictionary]
smack (n.2) Look up smack at
"smart, sharp sound made by the lips," 1560s, from smack (v.1). Meaning "a loud kiss" is recorded from c. 1600. Meaning "sharp sound made by hitting something with the flat of the hand" is from c. 1746.
smacker (n.) Look up smacker at
"money," c. 1918, American English slang, perhaps from smack (v.1) on notion of something "smacked" into the palm of the hand. Extended form smackeroo is attested from 1939.
smaik (n.) Look up smaik at
"mean or contemptible fellow," mid-15c., Scottish, now archaic, current c. 1450-c. 1900, perhaps cognate with Old High German smeichari, from smeken "to flatter."
small (adj.) Look up small at
Old English smæl "thin, slender, narrow; fine," from Proto-Germanic *smal- "small animal; small" (cognates: Old Saxon, Danish, Swedish, Middle Dutch, Dutch, Old High German smal, Old Frisian smel, German schmal "narrow, slender," Gothic smalista "smallest," Old Norse smali "small cattle, sheep"), perhaps from a PIE root *(s)melo- "smaller animal" (cognates: Greek melon, Old Irish mil "a small animal;" Old Church Slavonic malu "bad"). Original sense of "narrow" now almost obsolete, except in reference to waistline and intestines.
My sister ... is as white as a lilly, and as small as a wand. [Shakespeare, "Two Gentlemen of Verona," 1591]
Sense of "not large, of little size" developed in Old English. Of children, "young," from mid-13c. Meaning "inferior in degree or amount" is from late 13c. Meaning "trivial, unimportant" is from mid-14c. Sense of "having little property or trade" is from 1746. That of "characterized by littleness of mind or spirit, base, low, mean" is from 1824. As an adverb by late 14c.

Small fry, first recorded 1690s of little fish, 1885 of insignificant people. Small potatoes "no great matter" first attested 1924; small change "something of little value" is from 1902; small talk "chit-chat, trifling conversation" (1751) first recorded in Chesterfield's "Letters." Small world as a comment upon an unexpected meeting of acquaintances is recorded from 1895. Small-arms, indicating those capable of being carried in the hand (contrasted to ordnance) is recorded from 1710.
small (n.) Look up small at
early 13c., "small person or animal," from small (adj.). From c. 1300 as "persons of low rank" (opposed to great); late 15c. as "the small part" of something (such as small of the back, 1530s).
small beer (n.) Look up small beer at
1560s, originally "weak beer;" used figuratively of small things or trifling matters. Small with the meaning "of low alcoholic content" is attested from mid-15c.
small-time (adj.) Look up small-time at
1910, originally theater slang for lower-salaried circuits, or ones requiring more daily performances; from noun phrase (also 1910). Compare big time.
small-town (adj.) Look up small-town at
"unsophisticated, provincial," 1824, from noun phrase, from small (adj.) + town.
smallish (adj.) Look up smallish at
late 14c., from small (adj.) + -ish.
smallmouth (n.) Look up smallmouth at
1880, short for small-mouth (black) bass (1878); from small (adj.) + mouth (n.).
smallness (n.) Look up smallness at
late 14c., from small (adj.) + -ness.
smallpox (n.) Look up smallpox at
acute, highly contagious disease, 1510s, small pokkes, as distinguished from great pox "syphillis;" from small-pock "pustule caused by smallpox" (mid-15c.); see small (adj.) + pox. Compare French petite vérole. Fatal in a quarter to a third of unvaccinated cases.
smarm (n.) Look up smarm at
1914, from colloquial verb smalm, smarm "to smear, bedaub" (the hair, with pomade), 1847, of unknown origin, perhaps somehow suggestive of the action. Verbal meaning "to smear with flattery" is from 1902.
smarmy (adj.) Look up smarmy at
"smooth and sleek" (1909); "ingratiating, unctuous," 1924, from smarm + -y (2). Related: Smarmily; smarminess.
smart (v.) Look up smart at
Old English smeortan "be painful," from Proto-Germanic *smarta- (cognates: Middle Dutch smerten, Dutch smarten, Old High German smerzan, German schmerzen "to pain," originally "to bite"), from PIE *smerd- "pain," an extension of the root *mer- (2) "to rub; to harm" (cognates: Greek smerdnos "terrible, dreadful," Sanskrit mardayati "grinds, rubs, crushes," Latin mordere "to bite"). Related: Smarted; smarting.
smart (adj.) Look up smart at
late Old English smeart "painful, severe, stinging; causing a sharp pain," related to smeortan (see smart (v.)). Meaning "executed with force and vigor" is from c. 1300. Meaning "quick, active, clever" is attested from c. 1300, from the notion of "cutting" wit, words, etc., or else "keen in bargaining." Meaning "trim in attire" first attested 1718, "ascending from the kitchen to the drawing-room c. 1880" [Weekley]. For sense evolution, compare sharp (adj.).

In reference to devices, the sense of "behaving as though guided by intelligence" (as in smart bomb) first attested 1972. Smarts "good sense, intelligence," is first recorded 1968 (Middle English had ingeny "intellectual capacity, cleverness" (early 15c.)). Smart cookie is from 1948.
smart (n.) Look up smart at
"sharp pain," c. 1200, from sharp (adj.). Cognate with Middle Dutch smerte, Dutch smart, Old High German smerzo, German Schmerz "pain."
smart aleck (n.) Look up smart aleck at
1865, of unknown origin, perhaps in reference to Aleck Hoag, notorious pimp, thief, and confidence man in New York City in early 1840s [Barnhart]. See smart (adj.). Related: Smart-alecky.