- whole cloth (n.)
- early 15c., "piece of cloth of full size," as opposed to a piece cut out for a garment; figurative sense first attested 1570s.
- whole nine yards (n.)
- by 1970, of unknown origin; perhaps arbitrary (see cloud nine). Among the guesses that have been made without real evidence: concrete mixer trucks were said to have dispensed in this amount. Or the yard might be the word used in the slang sense of "one hundred dollars." Several similar phrases meaning "everything" arose in the 1940s (whole ball of wax, which is likewise of obscure origin, whole schmear); older examples include whole hog (see hog (n.)) and whole shooting match (1896); whole shebang (1895).
- wholehearted (adj.)
- also whole-hearted, 1840, from whole (adj.) + hearted. Related: Wholeheartedly.
- wholeness (n.)
- mid-14c., from whole (adj.) + -ness. Old English had halnes.
- wholesale (adj.)
- early 15c., "in large quantities," from whole (adj.) + sale; the general sense of "extensive" is attested from 1640s. As a verb from 1800. Related: Wholesaling; wholesaler.
- wholesome (adj.)
- c. 1200, "of benefit to the soul," from whole (adj.) in the "healthy" sense + -some (1). Physical sense first attested late 14c. Related: Wholesomely; wholesomeness. Old English had halwende.
- wholistic (adj.)
- 1941, from holistic crossed with whole (adj.). Related: wholism (1939).
- wholly (adv.)
- mid-14c., from whole (adj.) + -ly (2), or a modification of unrecorded Old English *hallice.
- whom (pron.)
- objective case of who, Old English hwam (Proto-Germanic *hwam), dative form of hwa (see who). Ungrammatical use of who form whom is attested from c. 1300.
- whomever (pron.)
- early 14c., from whom + ever.
- whomp (n.)
- 1926, echoic of the sound of a heavy blow or something falling heavily.
- whomp (v.)
- 1952, from whomp (n.). Related: Whomped; whomping.
- whoop (v.)
- mid-14c., houpen, partly imitative, partly from Old French huper, houper "to cry out, shout," also imitative. It is attested as an interjection from at least mid-15c. Spelling with wh- is from mid-15c. The noun is recorded from c. 1600. Phrase whoop it up "create a disturbance" is recorded from 1881. Expression whoop-de-do is recorded from 1929. Whooping cough (1739) is now the prevalent spelling of hooping cough; whooping crane is recorded from 1791.
- whoopee (n.)
- 1845, "noisy, unrestrained revelry," extended form of whoop, originally American English. Popular song "Makin' Whoopee is from 1928. The novelty whoopee cushion is from 1931.
- exclamation of dismay, 1925; see oops.
- whoosh (v.)
- 1856, of imitative origin. Related: Whooshed; whooshing. As a noun from 1880; as an interjection by 1899.
- whoot (v.)
- early 15c. variant of hoot (v.).
- whop (v.)
- "to beat, strike," mid-15c., of imitative origin. Compare Welsh chwap "a stroke," also of imitative origin; also see wap. Related: Whopped; whopping.
- whopper (n.)
- 1767, "uncommonly large thing," originally and especially an audacious lie, formed as if from whop (v.) "to beat, overcome." Whopping "large, big, impressive" is attested by 1620s.
- whore (n.)
- 1530s spelling alteration (see wh-) of Middle English hore, from Old English hore "prostitute, harlot," from Proto-Germanic *horaz (fem. *horon-) "one who desires" (cognates: 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 *ka- "to like, desire," a base that has produced words in other languages for "lover" (cognates: 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. The Old English vowel naturally would have yielded *hoor, which is the pronunciation in some dialects; it might have shifted by influence of Middle English homonym hore "physical filth, slime," also "moral corruption, sin," from Old English horh. The wh- form became current 16c. A general term of abuse for an unchaste or lewd woman (without regard to money) from at least c. 1200. Of male prostitutes from 1630s. Whore of Babylon is from Rev. xvii:1, 5, etc. In Middle English with occasional plural forms horen, heoranna.
The word, with its derivatives, is now avoided polite speech; its survival in literature, so as it survives, is due to the fact that it is a favorite word with Shakspere (who uses it, with its derivatives, 99 times) and is common in the authorized English version of the Bible ... though the American revisers recommended the substitution of harlot as less gross .... [Century Dictionary]
Some equivalent words in other languages also derive from sources not originally pejorative, such as Bohemian nevestka, diminutive of nevesta "bride;" Dutch deern, German dirne originally "girl, lass, wench;" also 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. 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 (n.)). And of course there was prostituta, literally "placed in front," thus "publicly exposed," from the fem. past participle of prostituere (see prostitute (n.)). 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" (compare 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. Compare 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."
- whore (v.)
- "to have to do with whores," 1580s, from whore (n.). Related: Whored; whoring.
- whore-house (n.)
- early 14c., from whore (n.) + house (n.). Sometimes translating Latin lupanaria. Obsolete from c. 1700, revived early 20c. in American English.
- whore-monger (n.)
- 1520s, from whore (n.) + monger. A Petrus Hurmonger is in the 1327 Leicestershire Lay Subsidy Rolls.
- whoredom (n.)
- late 12c., "practice of sexual immorality," probably from Old Norse hordomr "adultery," from Proto-Germanic *horaz (see whore (n.)) + Old Norse -domr "condition " (see -dom).
- whoreson (n.)
- c. 1300, from whore (n.) + son. Often used affectionately, it translates Anglo-French fiz a putain. As an adjective, "mean, scurvy, contemptuous," from mid-15c.
- whorl (n.)
- mid-15c., "the small flywheel of a spindle," perhaps an alteration of whirl. Meaning "circlar arrangement of leaves or flowers round a stem of a plant" is first recorded 1550s. Of seashells or other spiral structures, from 1828. Related: Whorled.
- whortleberry (n.)
- 1570s, southwestern England variant of hurtleberry (see huckleberry).
- whose (pron.)
- genitive of who; from Old English hwæs, genitive of hwa (see who).
- whosis (n.)
- 1923, short for who is this; whosit (who is it) attested by 1948.
- whump (v.)
- 1897, of imitative origin. Related: Whumped; whumping. The noun is recorded from 1915.
- why (adv.)
- Old English hwi, instrumental case (indicating for what purpose or by what means) of hwæt (see what), from Proto-Germanic adverb *hwi (cognates: Old Saxon hwi, Old Norse hvi), from PIE *kwi- (source of Greek pei "where"), locative of *kwo- "who" (see who). As an interjection of surprise or emphasis, recorded from 1510s. As a noun, "cause, reason" from c. 1300.
- wi-fi (n.)
- 1999, apparently from wireless; the second element perhaps suggested by hi-fi.
- wibble (v.)
- 1871, from wibble-wobble (1847), a colloquial reduplication of wobble (v.).
- Wicca (n.)
- An Old English masc. noun meaning "male witch, wizard, soothsayer, sorcerer, astrologer, 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" ("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 wic, apparently a specialized use of the wic that means "dwelling place, town" (see wick (n.2)).
- wick (n.1)
- "bundle of fiber in a lamp or candle," 17c. spelling alteration of wueke, from Old English weoce "wick of a lamp or candle," from West Germanic *weukon (cognates: 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, house, mansion, abode," then coming to mean "village, hamlet, town," and later "dairy farm" (as in Gatwick "Goat-farm"). Common in this latter sense 13c.-14c. The word is from 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). Compare Old High German wih "village," German Weichbild "municipal area," Dutch wijk "quarter, district," Old Frisian wik, Old Saxon wic "village."
- wicked (adj.)
- c. 1200, extended form of earlier wick "bad, wicked, false" (12c.), which apparently is an adjectival use of Old English wicca "wizard" (see wicca). Formed as if a past participle, but there is no corresponding verb. For evolution, compare wretched from wretch. Slang ironic sense of "wonderful" first attested 1920, in F. Scott Fitzgerald. As an adverb from early 15c. Related: Wickedly.
- wickedness (n.)
- c. 1300, from wicked + -ness.
- wicker (n.)
- mid-14c., "wickerwork," from a Scandinavian source (compare Danish viger, Middle Swedish viker "willow, willow branch"), from Proto-Germanic *wik- (cognates: Old Norse vikja "to move, turn," Swedish vika "to bend," Old English wican "to give way, yield"), from PIE root *weik- (4) "to bend, twine" (see weak). The notion is of pliant twigs. As an adjective, "made of wicker," from c. 1500.
- wickerwork (n.)
- 1719, from wicker + work (n.).
- wicket (n.)
- early 13c., "small door or gate," especially one forming part of a larger one, from Anglo-French wiket, Old North French wiket (Old French guichet, Norman viquet) "small door, wicket, wicket gate," probably from Proto-Germanic *wik- (cognates: Old Norse vik "nook," Old English wican "to give way, yield"), from PIE root *weik- (4) "to bend, wind" (see weak). The notion is of "something that turns." Cricket sense of "set of three sticks defended by the batsman" is recorded from 1733; hence many figurative phrases in British English.
- widdershins (adv.)
- 1510s, chiefly Scottish, originally "contrary to the course of the sun or a clock" (movement in this direction being 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 "vast, broad, long," also used of time, from Proto-Germanic *widaz (cognates: 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, in half."
Meaning "distended, expanded, spread apart" is from c. 1500; sense of "embracing many subjects" is from 1530s; meaning "missing the intended target" is from 1580s. As a second element in compounds (such as nationwide, worldwide) meaning "extending through the whole of," is is from late Old English. As an adverb, Old English wide. 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 (transitive), from wide + -en (1). Intransitive sense from 1709. Related: Widened; widening.
- widespread (adj.)
- also wide-spread, 1705, from wide + past participle of spread (v.). Earlier was wide-spreading (1590s).
- widgeon (n.)
- migratory wild duck, 1510s, perhaps from a northern variant of French vigeon, which some trace to Latin vipionem (nominative vipio), "a kind of small crane," a Balearic word, perhaps imitative, with an evolution of form similar to that which produced pigeon. But the French word is later than the English one, and OED finds all this "very dubious." Applied to different species in Europe and America.
- 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, wuduwe, from Proto-Germanic *widuwo (cognates: Old Saxon widowa, Old Frisian widwe, Middle Dutch, Dutch weduwe, Dutch weeuw, Old High German wituwa, German Witwe, Gothic widuwo), from PIE adjective *widhewo (cognates: 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" (source of second element in Latin di-videre "to divide;" see with).
Extended to "woman separated from or deserted by her husband" from mid-15c. (usually in a combination, such as grass widow). 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. The widow bird (1747) so-called in reference to the long black tail feathers of the males, suggestive of widows' veils.