- 1856, of imitative origin.
- early 15c. variant of hoot.
- whop (v.)
- "to beat, strike," mid-15c., of imitative origin; cf. Welsh chwap "a stroke," also of imitative origin; cf. also wap. Related: Whopped; whopping.
- whopper (n.)
- 1785, formed as if from whop (v.) "to beat, overcome." Meaning "big lie" is recorded first in 1791. Whopping "large, big, impressive" is attested by 1620s.
- whore (n.)
- Old English hore "prostitute, harlot," from Proto-Germanic *khoraz (fem. *khoron-) "one who desires" (cf. Old Norse hora "adulteress," Danish hore, Swedish hora, Dutch hoer, Old High German huora "whore;" in Gothic only in the masc. hors "adulterer, fornicator," also as a verb, horinon "commit adultery"), from PIE *qar-, a base that has produced words in other languages for "lover" (cf. Latin carus "dear;" Old Irish cara "friend;" Old Persian kama "desire;" Sanskrit Kama, name of the Hindu god of love, kamah "love, desire," the first element in Kama Sutra).
Whore itself is perhaps a Germanic euphemism for a word that has not survived. Some equivalent words in other languages also derive from sources not originally pejorative, e.g. perhaps Old French pute, perhaps literally "girl," fem. of Vulgar Latin *puttus (but perhaps rather from Latin putidus "stinking;" see poontang). Welsh putain "whore" is from French, probably via Middle English. Cf. also Bohemian nevestka, diminutive of nevesta "bride." And Dutch deern, German dirne originally "girl, lass, wench." Among other languages, Greek porne "prostitute" is related to pernemi "sell," with an original notion, probably of a female slave sold for prostitution; Latin meretrix is literally "one who earns wages" (source of Irish mertrech, Old English miltestre "whore, prostitute").
The vulgar Roman word was scortum, literally "skin, hide." Another term was lupa, literally "she-wolf" (preserved in Spanish loba, Italian lupa, French louve; see wolf). And of course there was prostituta, literally "placed in front," thus "publicly exposed," from the fem. past participle of prostituere (see prostitute). Another Old Norse term was skækja, which yielded Danish skøge, Swedish sköka; probably from Middle Low German schoke, which is perhaps from schode "foreskin of a horse's penis," perhaps with the sense of "skin" (cf. Latin scortum) or perhaps via an intermediary sense of "vagina." Spanish ramera, Portuguese ramiera are from fem. form of ramero "young bird of prey," literally "little branch," from ramo "branch." Breton gast is cognate with Welsh gast "bitch," of uncertain origin. Cf. also strumpet, harlot.
Old Church Slavonic ljubodejica is from ljuby dejati "fornicate," a compound from ljuby "love" + dejati "put, perform." Russian bljad "whore" derives from Old Church Slavonic bladinica, from bladu "fornication." Polish nierządnica is literally "disorderly woman." Sanskrit vecya is a derivation of veca- "house, dwelling," especially "house of ill-repute, brothel." Another term, pumccali, means literally "one who runs after men." Avestan jahika is literally "woman," but only of evil creatures; another term is kunairi, from pejorative prefix ku- + nairi "woman." The wh- spelling became current 16c. A general term of abuse from at least 13c. Whore of Babylon is from Rev. xvii:1, 5, etc.
- whore (v.)
- "to have to do with whores," 1580s, from whore (n.). Related: Whored; whoring.
- whore-house (n.)
- c.1300, from whore (n.) + house (n.). Obsolete from c.1700, revived early 20c. in American English.
- whore-monger (n.)
- 1520s, from whore (n.) + monger.
- whoreson (adj.)
- c.1300, from whore + son. Often used affectionately, it translates Anglo-French fiz a putain.
- whorl (n.)
- mid-15c., "flywheel or pulley on a spindle," perhaps an alteration of whirl. Meaning "circle of leaves or flowers round a stem of a plant" is first recorded 1550s. Of seashells or other spiral structures, from 1828.
- whortleberry (n.)
- 1570s, southwestern England variant of hurtleberry (see huckleberry).
- whose (pron.)
- genitive of who; from Old English hwæs, genitive of hwa (see who).
- whump (v.)
- 1897, of imitative origin. Related: Whumped; whumping. The noun is recorded from 1915.
- why (adv.)
- Old English hwi, instrumental case (showing for what purpose or by what means) of hwæt (see what), from Proto-Germanic *khwi (cf. Old Saxon hwi, Old Norse hvi), from PIE *qwei, locative of *qwo- "who" (cf. Greek pei "where"). As an interjection of surprise or to call attention to a statement, recorded from 1510s.
- wi-fi (n.)
- 1999, apparentlly from wireless; the second element perhaps suggested by hi-fi.
- 1871, from wibble-wobble (1847), a colloquial reduplication of wobble.
- Wicca (n.)
- An Old English masc. noun meaning "male witch, wizard, soothsayer, sorcerer, magician;" see witch. Use of the word in modern contexts traces to English folklorist Gerald Gardner (1884-1964), who is said to have joined circa 1939 an occult group in New Forest, Hampshire, England, for which he claimed an unbroken tradition to medieval times. Gardner seems to have first used it in print in 1954, in his book "Witchcraft Today" (e.g.: "Witches were the Wica or wise people, with herbal
knowledge and a working occult teaching usually used for good ...."). In published and unpublished material, he apparently only ever used the word as a mass noun referring to adherents of the practice and not as the name of the practice itself. Some of his followers continue to use it in this sense. According to Gardner's book "The Meaning of Witchcraft" (1959), the word, as used in the initiation ceremony, played a key role in his experience:
I realised that I had stumbled upon something interesting; but I was half-initiated before the word, 'Wica' which they used hit me like a thunderbolt, and I knew where I was, and that the Old Religion still existed. And so I found myself in the Circle, and there took the usual oath of secrecy, which bound me not to reveal certain things.
In the late 1960s the term came into use as the title of a modern pagan movement associated with witchcraft. The first printed reference in this usage seems to be 1969, in "The Truth About Witchcraft" by freelance
author Hans Holzer:
If the practice of the Old Religion, which is also called Wicca (Craft of the Wise), and thence, witchcraft, is a reputable and useful cult, then it is worthy of public interest.
And, quoting witch Alex Sanders:
"No, a witch wedding still needs a civil ceremony to make it legal. Wicca itself as a religion is not registered yet. But it is about time somebody registered it, I think. I've done all I can to call attention to our religion."
Sanders was a highly visible representative of neo-pagan Witchcraft in the late 1960s and early 1970s. During this time he appears to have popularized use of the term in this sense. Later books c.1989 teaching modernized witchcraft using the same term account for its rise and popularity, especially in U.S.
- wich (n.)
- "salt works, salt pit," Old English, apparently a variant of wic "dwelling place, town" (see wick (n.2)).
- wick (n.1)
- "bundle of fiber in a lamp or candle," Old English weoce, from West Germanic *weukon (cf. Middle Dutch wieke, Dutch wiek, Old High German wiohha, German Wieche), of unknown origin, with no known cognates beyond Germanic. To dip one's wick "engage in sexual intercourse" (in reference to males) is recorded from 1958, perhaps from Hampton Wick, rhyming slang for "prick," which would connect it rather to wick (n.2).
- wick (n.2)
- "dairy farm," now surviving, if at all, as a localism in East Anglia or Essex, it was once the common Old English wic "dwelling place, lodging, abode," then coming to mean "village, hamlet, town," and later "dairy farm" (e.g. Gatwick "Goat-farm"). Common in this latter sense 13c.-14c. The word is a general Germanic borrowing from Latin vicus "group of dwellings, village; a block of houses, a street, a group of streets forming an administrative unit" (see vicinity). Cf. Old High German wih "village," German Weichbild "municipal area," Dutch wijk "quarter, district," Old Frisian wik, Old Saxon wic "village."
- wicked (adj.)
- late 13c., earlier wick (12c.), apparently an adjectival use of Old English wicca "wizard" (see wicca). For evolution, cf. wretched from wretch. Slang ironic sense of "wonderful" first attested 1920, in F. Scott Fitzgerald.
- wickedness (n.)
- c.1300, from wicked + -ness.
- wicker (n.)
- mid-14c., "wickerwork," from a Scandinavian source (cf. Middle Swedish viker "willow branch") akin to Old Norse vikja "to move, turn," Swedish vika "to bend," and related to Old English wican "to give way, yield" (see weak). The notion is of pliant twigs.
- wicket (n.)
- early 13c., "small door or gate," from Anglo-French wiket, from Old North French wiket (French guichet) "wicket, wicket gate," probably from Proto-Germanic *wik- (cf. Old Norse vik "nook") related to Old English wican "to give way, yield" (see weak). The notion is of "something that turns." Cricket sense of "set of three sticks defended by the batsman" is recorded from 1733.
- widdershins (adv.)
- 1510s, chiefly Scottish, originally "contrary to the course of the sun or a clock" (movement in this direction considered unlucky), probably from Middle Low German weddersinnes, literally "against the way" (i.e. "in the opposite direction"), from widersinnen "to go against," from wider "against" (see with) + sinnen "to travel, go," from Old High German sinnen, related to sind "journey" (see send).
- wide (adj.)
- Old English wid, from Proto-Germanic *widas (cf. Old Saxon, Old Frisian wid, Old Norse viðr, Dutch wijd, Old High German wit, German weit), perhaps from PIE *wi-ito-, from root *wi- "apart, away." Wide open "unguarded, exposed to attack" (1915) originally was in boxing, etc. Wide awake (adj.) is first recorded 1818; figurative sense of "alert, knowing" is attested from 1833.
- widely (adv.)
- 1660s, from wide + -ly (2).
- widen (v.)
- c.1600, from wide + -en (1). Related: Widened; widening.
- 1705, from wide + spread.
- widgeon (n.)
- migratory wild duck, 1510s, perhaps from some variant of French vigeon, which some trace to Latin vipionem (nominative vipio), "a kind of small crane," a Balearic word, perhaps imitative. OED, however, finds all this "very dubious."
- widget (n.)
- "gadget, small manufactured item," c.1920, American English, probably an alteration of gadget, perhaps based on which it.
- widow (n.)
- Old English widewe, widuwe, from Proto-Germanic *widewo (cf. Old Saxon widowa, Old Frisian widwe, Middle Dutch, Dutch weduwe, Dutch weeuw, Old High German wituwa, German Witwe, Gothic widuwo), from PIE adjective *widhewo (cf. Sanskrit vidhuh "lonely, solitary," vidhava "widow;" Avestan vithava, Latin vidua, Old Church Slavonic vidova, Russian vdova, Old Irish fedb, Welsh guedeu "widow;" Persian beva, Greek eitheos "unmarried man;" Latin viduus "bereft, void"), from root *weidh- "to separate" (cf. second element in Latin di-videre "to divide;" see with).
As a prefix to a name, attested from 1570s. Meaning "short line of type" (especially at the top of a column) is 1904 print shop slang. Widow's mite is from Mark xii:43. Widow's peak is from the belief that hair growing to a point on the forehead is an omen of early widowhood, suggestive of the "peak" of a widow's hood. Widow maker "anything lethally dangerous" first recorded 1945, originally among loggers, in reference to dead trees, etc. The widow bird (1747) so-called in reference to the long black tail feathers of the males, suggestive of widows' veils.
- widow (v.)
- c.1300; see widow (n.). Related: Widowed; widowing.
- widower (n.)
- mid-14c., extended from widow. The Old English masc. form was widewa.
- width (n.)
- 1620s, formed from wide on model of breadth, and replacing wideness. Johnson (1755) calls it "a low word."
- wield (v.)
- Old English weldan (Mercian), wieldan, wealdan (West Saxon) "to govern, possess, have control over" (class VII strong verb; past tense weold, past participle gewealden), merged with weak verb wyldan, both from Proto-Germanic *wal-t- (cf. Old Saxon and Gothic waldan, Old Frisian walda "to govern, rule," Old Norse valda "to rule, wield, to cause," Old High German waltan, German walten "to rule, govern").
The Germanic words probably are from PIE *waldh- (cf. Old Church Slavonic vlado "to rule," vlasti "power;" Lithuanian veldu "to rule, possess"), from root *wal- "to be strong, to rule" (see valiant). Related: Wielded; wielding.
- wieldy (adj.)
- late 14c., from wield + -y (2).
- wiener (n.)
- 1904, shortening of wienerwurst (1889), from German Wiener "of Vienna" (from Wien "Vienna," from Latin Vindo-bona; see Vienna) + Wurst "sausage" (see wurst). Clipped form wienie is attested from 1911. Extensive pejorative senses developed from its penis-like shape.
- wife (n.)
- Old English wif "woman," from Proto-Germanic *wiban (cf. Old Saxon, Old Frisian wif, Old Norse vif, Danish and Swedish viv, Middle Dutch, Dutch wijf, Old High German wib, German Weib), of uncertain origin. Dutch wijf now means, in slang, "girl, babe," having softened somewhat from earlier sense of "bitch." Some proposed PIE roots include *weip- "to twist, turn, wrap," perhaps with sense of "veiled person" (see vibrate); or *ghwibh-, a proposed root meaning "shame," also "pudenda," but the only examples of it are wife and Tocharian (a lost IE language of central Asia) kwipe, kip "female pudenda."
The modern sense of "female spouse" began as a specialized sense in Old English; the general sense of "woman" is preserved in midwife, old wives' tale, etc. Middle English sense of "mistress of a household" survives in housewife; and later restricted sense of "tradeswoman of humble rank" in fishwife. Wife-swapping is attested from 1954.
- hollow, perforated plastic ball, registered trademark name (The Wiffle Ball Inc., Shelton, Connecticut, U.S.), attested from 1954. According to the company, designed in 1953 by David N. Mullany "in response to a lack of field space and numerous broken windows by his baseball-playing son," the name based on whiff (q.v.), baseball slang for a missed swing.
- wig (n.)
- 1670s, shortened form of periwig. Meaning "person who wears a wig (professionally)" is from 1828. The verb meaning "to behave hysterically" (usually with out) is attested from 1955, from notion in to flip one's wig. Cf. dash my wig!, a former mild imprecation (1797), also wigs on the green (1856), Irish colloquial for "a fight or rumble" (because wigs are likely to get detached from owners in such an event).
- wiggle (v.)
- early 13c., perhaps from Middle Dutch or Middle Flemish wigelen, frequentative of wiegen "to rock," from wiege "cradle" (cf. Old High German wiga, German Wiege, Old Frisian widze), from PIE root *wegh- "to move" (see weigh). Related: Wiggled; wiggling. The noun is attested from 1816.
- wight (n.)
- Old English wiht "living being, creature," from Proto-Germanic *wekhtiz (cf. Old Saxon wiht "thing, demon," Dutch wicht "a little child," Old High German wiht "thing, creature, demon," German Wicht "creature, infant," Old Norse vettr "thing, creature," Swedish vätte "spirit of the earth, gnome," Gothic waihts "something"). The only apparent cognate outside Germanic is Old Church Slavonic vešti "a thing." Not related to the Isle of Wight, which is from Latin Vectis (c.150), originally Celtic, possibly meaning "place of the division."
- wigwam (n.)
- 1620s, from Algonquian (probably Eastern Abenaki) wikewam "a dwelling," said to mean literally "their house;" also said to be found in such formations as wikiwam and Ojibwa wiigiwaam and Delaware wiquoam.
- wiki (n.)
- web page that can be edited by browsers, by 2002, abstracted from names of such sites (e.g. Wikipedia, launched January 2001), the original being WikiWikiWeb, introduced and named by Ward Cunningham in 1995, from Hawaiian wikiwiki "fast, swift."
- 1946, in two-way radio slang, abbreviation and conflation of will comply.
- wild (adj.)
- Old English wilde "in the natural state, uncultivated, undomesticated," from Proto-Germanic *wilthijaz (cf. Old Saxon wildi, Old Norse villr, Old Frisian wilde, Dutch wild, Old High German wildi, German wild, Gothic wilþeis "wild," German Wild (n.) "game"), probably from PIE *ghwelt- (cf. Welsh gwyllt "untamed"), related to the base of Latin ferus (see fierce).
Ursula ... hath bin at all the Salsbury rasis, dancing like wild with Mr Clarks. [letter, 1674]
Meaning "sexually dissolute, loose" is attested from mid-13c. U.S. slang sense of "exciting, excellent" is recorded from 1955. The noun meaning "uncultivated or desolate region" is first attested 1590s in the wilds. Baseball wild pitch is recorded from 1867. Wildest dreams first attested 1961 (in Carson McCullers). Wild West first recorded 1849. Wild Turkey brand of whiskey (Austin Nichols Co.) in use from 1942.
- wild (v.)
- "to run wild," Old English awildian (see wild (adj.)). Wilding in the teen gang sense first recorded 1989.
- wild card (n.)
- 1927, in figurative sense, from literal use in poker, from wild (adj.) + card (n.). Sports team sense first recorded 1959.
- wild goose chase (n.)
- 1592, first attested in "Romeo and Juliet," where it evidently is a figurative use of an earlier (but unrecorded) literal sense in reference to a kind of follow-the-leader steeplechase.