firefighter (n.) Look up firefighter at
also fire-fighter, 1895, from fire (n.) + fighter.
firefly (n.) Look up firefly at
also fire-fly, "An insect which has the faculty of becoming luminous" [Century Dictionary], 1650s, from fire (n.) + fly (n.).
firelight (n.) Look up firelight at
also fire-light, "light emitted by an open fire," Old English fyrleoht; see fire (n.) + light (n.).
firelock (n.) Look up firelock at
type of gun lock that uses sparks to ignite the priming, 1540s, from fire (n.) + lock (n.). Originally of the wheel-lock; transferred 17c. to the flintlock.
fireman (n.) Look up fireman at
also fire-man, late 14c., "tender of a fire," from fire (n.) + man (n.). From 1650s as "furnace-tender" of a early steam engine. As "person hired to put out (rather than tend) fires" it is attested from 1714. For "stoker," Old English had fyrbeta.
fireplace (n.) Look up fireplace at
also fire-place, c. 1700, from fire (n.) + place (n.).
fireplug (n.) Look up fireplug at
also fire-plug, 1713, from fire (n.) + plug (n.).
firepower (n.) Look up firepower at
also fire-power "effectiveness of military fire," 1891, from fire (n.) + power (n.).
fireproof (adj.) Look up fireproof at
also fire-proof, 1630s, from fire (n.) + proof. As a verb, from 1867. Related: Fireproofed; fireproofing.
fireside (n.) Look up fireside at
also fire-side, 1560s, from fire (n.) + side (n.). Symbolic of home life by 1848. As an adjective from 1740s; especially suggesting the intimately domestic.
firestorm (n.) Look up firestorm at
also fire-storm, 1580s, in poetry, from fire (n.) + storm (n.). From 1945 in reality, in reference to nuclear war.
firetrap (n.) Look up firetrap at
also fire-trap, "place at great risk of destruction by fire and with insufficient means of escape," 1882, from fire (n.) + trap (n.).
firewall (n.) Look up firewall at
also fire-wall, 1851 as a physical wall meant to prevent the spread of fire in a structure, from fire (n.) + wall (n.). Computer sense (originally figurative) is by 1990.
firewater (n.) Look up firewater at
also fire-water, "alcoholic liquor," 1826, American English, supposedly from speech of American Indians, from fire (n.) + water (n.1).
firewood (n.) Look up firewood at
also fire-wood, late 14c., from fire (n.) + wood (n.).
fireworks (n.) Look up fireworks at
also fire-works, "pyrotechnic contrivances," 1570s, from fire (n.) + works. Figurative use from 1660s.
firing (n.) Look up firing at
1540s, "action of applying fire or setting on fire," verbal noun from fire (v.). From c. 1600 as "act of discharging firearms." Firing squad is attested from 1891 in reference to military executions; earlier as "those selected to fire over the grave of anyone interred with military honors" (1864); earlier in both senses is firing-party (1798 in reference to military executions; 1776 in reference to military funerals).
firkin (n.) Look up firkin at
"small cask," late 14c., apparently from Middle Dutch *vierdekijn, diminutive of vierde, literally "fourth, fourth part" (see fourth); so called because it usually is the fourth part of a barrel.
firm (adj.) Look up firm at
late 14c., ferm, "strong, steady" (of things), "permanent, enduring" (of agreements), "steadfast, steady" (of persons), "sound, well-founded" (of arguments), from Old French ferm "strong, vigorous; healthy, sound; steadfast, loyal, faithful" (12c.), from Latin firmus "strong, steadfast, enduring, stable," figuratively "constant, steadfast, trusty, faithful," from PIE root *dher- (2) "to hold, support" (source also of Sanskrit dharmah "custom, law," Greek thronos "seat," Lithuanian dirzmas "strong," Welsh dir "hard," Breton dir "steel"). The spelling return to -i- in late 1500s was modeled on Latin. Related: Firmly; firmness.
firm (n.) Look up firm at
"business house," 1744, according to Barnhart from German Firma "a business, name of a business," originally "signature," from Italian firma "signature," from firmare "to sign," from Latin firmare "make firm, affirm," in Late Latin, "confirm (by signature)," from firmus "strong; stable," figuratively "constant, trusty" (see firm (adj.)).
firm (v.) Look up firm at
c. 1300, fermen "make firm, establish," from Old French fermer "consolidate; fasten, secure; build, set up; fortify" (12c.) or directly from Latin firmare "make firm; affirm; strengthen, fortify, sustain; establish, prove, declare," from firmus "strong, steadfast, stable" (see firm (adj.)). Intransitive use, "become firm" is from 1879; with up (adv.) from 1956. Related: Firmed; firming.
firmament (n.) Look up firmament at
mid-13c., from Old French firmament or directly from Latin firmamentum "firmament," literally "a support, a strengthening," from firmus "strong, steadfast, enduring" (see firm (adj.)). Used in Late Latin in the Vulgate to translate Greek stereoma "firm or solid structure," which translated Hebrew raqia, a word used of both the vault of the sky and the floor of the earth in the Old Testament, probably literally "expanse," from raqa "to spread out," but in Syriac meaning "to make firm or solid," hence the erroneous translation. Related: Firmamental.
firmware (n.) Look up firmware at
1968, from firm (adj.) + ending from software.
firn (n.) Look up firn at
"consolidated snow, the raw material of glaciers," 1839, literally "last year's snow, névé," from German Firn, from Swiss dialectal firn "of last year," from Middle High German virne "old," from Old High German firni, related to Old English fyrn "old," Gothic fairns "of last year," from Proto-Germanic *fur- "before" (see fore (adv.)).

The only living English relic of a useful word meaning "of last year" that was widespread in Indo-European languages (cognates: Lithuanian pernai "last year" (adv.), Greek perysi "a year ago, last year," Sanskrit parut "of last year;" also German Firnewein "wine of last year"). Old English had fyrngemynd "ancient history," more literally, "memory of long ago;" fyrnmann "man of old times;" fyrnnes "antiquity;" fyrnsægen "old saying." Middle English retained fern "long ago, formerly, of old," fern-days "days of old, former year, a year past."
first (n.) Look up first at
1560s, "that which is first," from first (adj.). Meaning "first day of the month" is by 1590s. In music, "instrument or voice that takes the highest or chief part of its class," 1774. From 1909 as the name of the lowest gear in an engine. In British schools colloquial use, "highest rank in an examination," 1850.
first (adj., adv.) Look up first at
Old English fyrst "foremost, going before all others; chief, principal," also (though rarely) as an adverb, "at first, originally," superlative of fore; from Proto-Germanic *furista- "foremost" (source also of Old Saxon fuirst "first," Old High German furist, Old Norse fyrstr, Danish første, Old Frisian ferist, Middle Dutch vorste "prince," Dutch vorst "first," German Fürst "prince"), from PIE *pre-isto-, superlative of *pre-, from root *per- (1) "forward, through" (see per).

The usual Old English superlative word was not fyrst, but forma, which shows more clearly the connection to fore. Forma became Middle English firme "first, earliest," but this has not survived.

First aid is that given at the scene, pending the arrival of a doctor. First Lady as an informal title for the wife of a U.S. president was in use by 1908, short for First lady of the land (by 1863 with reference to the president's wife); the earlier title was simply Lady (1841). First name is attested from mid-13c. First base "a start" in any sense (1938) is a figurative use from baseball.

First-fruits is from late 14c. as "earliest productions of the soil;" 1590s as "first results" of any activity or endeavor. First love is from 1741 as "one's first experience of romantic love;" 1971 as "one's favorite occupation or pastime." First-floor is from 1660s as "story built on or just above the ground" (now U.S.); 1865 as "story built next above the ground."
first-born (adj., n.) Look up first-born at
mid-14c., from first (adj.) + born.
first-class (adj.) Look up first-class at
"of the highest class" with reference to some standard of excellence, 1837, from first (adj.) + class (n.). Specifically in reference to conveyances for travel, 1846. In reference to U.S. Mail, 1875.
first-hand (adj.) Look up first-hand at
also firsthand, "direct from the source or origin," 1690s, from the image of the "first hand" as the producer or maker of something.
first-rate (adj.) Look up first-rate at
"of the highest excellence," 1660s, from first (adj.) + rate (n.) in a specific sense "class of warships in the British Navy." As a mere emphatic statement expressing excellence, by 1812. Colloquially, as a quasi-adverb, 1844.
first-timer (n.) Look up first-timer at
"rookie, one doing something for the first time," 1888, from first time; see first (adj.) + time (n.).
firstly (adv.) Look up firstly at
"in the first place, before anything else," 1530s, but never a common word (simple first usually serving its place), from first + -ly (2).
firth (n.) Look up firth at
"arm of the sea, estuary of a river," early 15c., Scottish, from Old Norse fjörðr (see fjord).
fiscal (adj.) Look up fiscal at
1560s, "pertaining to public revenue," from Middle French fiscal, from Late Latin fiscalis "of or belonging to the state treasury," from Latin fiscus "state treasury," originally "money bag, purse, basket made of twigs (in which money was kept)," which is of unknown origin. The etymological notion is of the public purse. The general sense of "financial" (1865, American English) was abstracted from phrases fiscal calendar, fiscal year, etc. Related: Fiscally.
fish (n.) Look up fish at
Old English fisc "fish," from Proto-Germanic *fiskaz (source also of Old Saxon, Old Frisian, Old High German fisc, Old Norse fiskr, Middle Dutch visc, Dutch vis, German Fisch, Gothic fisks), from PIE *peisk- "fish" (source also of Latin piscis, Irish iasc, and, via Latin, Italian pesce, French poisson, Spanish pez, Welsh pysgodyn, Breton pesk).

Popularly, since Old English, "any animal that lives entirely in the water," hence shellfish, starfish (an early 15c. manuscript has fishes bestiales for "water animals other than fishes"). The plural is fishes, but in a collective sense, or in reference to fish meat as food, the singular fish generally serves for a plural. In reference to the constellation Pisces from late 14c. Fish (n.) for "person" is from 1750 in the faintly dismissive sense; earlier it was used in reference to a person considered desirable to 'catch' (1722). Figurative sense of fish out of water first recorded 1610s. To drink like a fish is from 1744. Fish-story attested from 1819, from the tendency to exaggerate the size of the catch (or the one that got away).
Do not tell fish stories where the people know you; but particularly, don't tell them where they know the fish. [Mark Twain]
To have other fish to fry "other objects which invite or require attention" is from 1650s. Fish-eye as a type of lens is from 1961. Fish-and-chips is from 1876; fish-fingers from 1962. Fish-food is from 1936 as "food for (pet or hobby) fish."
fish (v.) Look up fish at
Old English fiscian "to fish, to catch or try to catch fish" (cognates: Old Norse fiska, Old High German fiscon, German fischen, Gothic fiskon), from the root of fish (n.). Related: Fished; fishing.
fish-hook Look up fish-hook at
late 14c., from fish (n.) + hook (n.).
fish-tail (n.) Look up fish-tail at
1840, "the tail of a fish," from fish (n.) + tail (n.). As a verb, also fishtail, 1927, originally of aircraft, later automobiles. Related: Fishtailed; fishtailing.
fish-tank (n.) Look up fish-tank at
1921 as an ornamental object, from fish (n.) + tank (n.).
fisher (n.) Look up fisher at
Old English fiscere "fisherman; kingfisher," agent noun from fish (v.). It began to be used of certain animals, hence perhaps the rise of the formation fisherman (1520s). Similar formation in Old Saxon fiskari, Old Frisian fisker, Dutch visscher, German Fischer, Old Norse fiskari.
fisherman (n.) Look up fisherman at
1520s, from fisher + man (n.).
fishery (n.) Look up fishery at
"business of fishing," 1670s; "place where fish are caught," 1690s; see fish (v.) + -ery. Related: Fisheries.
fishing (n.) Look up fishing at
"the art or practice of trying to catch fish," c. 1300, fysschynge, verbal noun from fish (v.). Figurative use from 1540s. The Old English noun was fiscað.
[O]f all diversions which ingenuity ever devised for the relief of idleness, fishing is the worst qualified to amuse a man who is at once indolent and impatient. [Scott, "Waverly," 1814]
Fishing-boat is from 1732. Fishing rod (1550s) is older than fishing pole (1791). To "go fishing" is as old as Old English on fiscoð gan.
fishmonger (n.) Look up fishmonger at
also fish-monger, mid-15c., from fish (n.) + monger (n.).
fishnet (n.) Look up fishnet at
"net used to catch fish," Old English fiscnett; see fish (n.) + net (n.). From 1881 in reference to a type of stitch that resembles fishnet. By 1912 in reference to women's hosiery.
There has been considerable misconception as to the purpose of the fishnet hose imported by the ECONOMIST and illustrated on page 177. The newspaper representatives who viewed it at the ECONOMIST'S fashion exhibition used it as a pretext for many humorous articles and conveyed the impression that it was to be worn next the skin. The purpose is to use it over white or colored hose, to produce an unusual effect. Every store should have one or more pairs for exhibition purposes, if for no other reason. ["Dry Goods Economist," June 22, 1912]
fishpond (n.) Look up fishpond at
also fish-pond, mid-15c., from fish (n.) + pond (n.).
fishwife (n.) Look up fishwife at
1520s, from fish (n.) + wife (n.) in the "woman" sense. Also fish-fag.
fishy (adj.) Look up fishy at
late 15c., "fish-like, slimy," from fish (n.) + -y (2). In reference to taste, from 1540s. Sense of "shady, questionable" is first recorded 1840, perhaps from the notion of "slipperiness," or of giving off a bad odor.
fisk (v.) Look up fisk at
2002, an Internet argument tactic involving a reprinting of a text, interlarded with rebuttals and refutations. Named for English journalist Robert Fisk (b.1946), Middle East correspondent for the "Independent," whose writing often criticizes America and Israel and is somewhat noted for looseness with details. Critics responded in this style. Related: Fisked; fisking.
fissile (adj.) Look up fissile at
1660s, from Latin fissilis "that which may be cleft or split," from fissus, past participle of findere "cleave, split, separate, divide" (see fissure).