ghetto (n.) Look up ghetto at
1610s, "part of a city in which Jews are compelled to live," especially in Italy, from Italian ghetto "part of a city to which Jews are restricted," of unknown origin. The various theories trace it to: Yiddish get "deed of separation;" a special use of Venetian getto "foundry" (there was one near the site of that city's ghetto in 1516); a clipped form of Egitto "Egypt," from Latin Aegyptus (presumably in memory of the exile); or Italian borghetto "small section of a town" (diminutive of borgo, which is of Germanic origin; see borough). Extended by 1899 to crowded urban quarters of other minority groups (especially blacks in U.S. cities). As an adjective by 1903 (modern slang usage from 1999). Ghetto-blaster "large, portable stereo cassette-player" is from 1982.
Ghibelline (n.) Look up Ghibelline at
adherent of the emperor in medieval Italy (as opposed to the temporal power of the pope), 1570s, from Italian Ghibellino, Italianized form of German Waiblingen, in Württemberg, seat of the Hohenstaufens at the time war began between that house and the Guelphs (q.v.).
ghost (n.) Look up ghost at
Old English gast "breath; good or bad spirit, angel, demon; person, man, human being," in Biblical use "soul, spirit, life," from Proto-Germanic *gaistaz (source also of Old Saxon gest, Old Frisian jest, Middle Dutch gheest, Dutch geest, German Geist "spirit, ghost"). This is conjectured to be from a PIE root *gheis-, used in forming words involving the notions of excitement, amazement, or fear (source also of Sanskrit hedah "wrath;" Avestan zaesha- "horrible, frightful;" Gothic usgaisjan, Old English gæstan "to frighten").

Ghost is the English representative of the usual West Germanic word for "supernatural being." In Christian writing in Old English it is used to render Latin spiritus (see spirit (n.)), a sense preserved in Holy Ghost. Sense of "disembodied spirit of a dead person," especially imagined as wandering among the living or haunting them, is attested from late 14c. and returns the word toward its likely prehistoric sense.

Most Indo-European words for "soul, spirit" also double with reference to supernatural spirits. Many have a base sense of "appearance" (such as Greek phantasma; French spectre; Polish widmo, from Old Church Slavonic videti "to see;" Old English scin, Old High German giskin, originally "appearance, apparition," related to Old English scinan, Old High German skinan "to shine"). Other concepts are in French revenant, literally "returning" (from the other world), Old Norse aptr-ganga, literally "back-comer." Breton bugelnoz is literally "night-child." Latin manes probably is a euphemism.

The gh- spelling appeared early 15c. in Caxton, influenced by Flemish and Middle Dutch gheest, but was rare in English before mid-16c. Sense of "slight suggestion, mere shadow or semblance" (in ghost image, ghost of a chance, etc.) is first recorded 1610s; sense of "one who secretly does work for another" is from 1884. Ghost town is from 1908. Ghost story is by 1811. Ghost-word "apparent word or false form in a manuscript due to a blunder" is from 1886 (Skeat). Ghost in the machine was British philosopher Gilbert Ryle's term (1949) for "the mind viewed as separate from the body." The American Indian ghost dance is from 1890. To give up the ghost "die" was in Old English.
ghost (v.) Look up ghost at
"to ghost-write," 1922, back-formation from ghost-writing (1919) "article written by one man upon material supplied in interview or otherwise by a second and which appears in print over the signature of such second party" ["The Ghost Writer and His Story" [Graves Glenwood Clark, in "The Editor," Feb. 25, 1920], from ghost (n.) "one who secretly does work for another (1884). Related: Ghost-written. Ghost-writing also was used from c. 1902 for secret writing using lemon juice, etc. A late 19c. term for "one whose work is credited to another" was gooseberry-picker.
ghostly (adj.) Look up ghostly at
Old English gastlic "spiritual, holy, not of the flesh; clerical;" also "supernatural, spectral, pertaining to or characteristic of a ghost;" see ghost (n.) + -ly (1). Related: Ghostliness.
ghoul (n.) Look up ghoul at
1786, goul, in the English translation of William Beckford's Orientalist novel "Vathek" (which was written in French), from Arabic ghul, an evil spirit that robs graves and feeds on corpses, from ghala "he seized."
ghoulish (adj.) Look up ghoulish at
1840, from ghoul + -ish. Related: Ghoulishly; ghoulishness.
giant (n.) Look up giant at
c. 1300, "fabulous man-like creature of enormous size," from Old French geant, earlier jaiant "giant, ogre" (12c.), from Vulgar Latin *gagantem (nominative gagas), from Latin gigas "a giant," from Greek Gigas (usually in plural, Gigantes), one of a race of divine but savage and monstrous beings (personifying destructive natural forces), sons of Gaia and Uranus, eventually destroyed by the gods. The word is of unknown origin, probably from a pre-Greek language. Derivation from gegenes "earth-born" is considered untenable.
In þat tyme wer here non hauntes Of no men bot of geauntes. [Wace's Chronicle, c. 1330]
It replaced Old English ent, eoten, also gigant (from Latin). The Greek word was used in Septuagint to refer to men of great size and strength, hence the expanded use in modern languages; in English of very tall and unusually large persons from 1550s; of persons who have any quality in extraordinary degree from 1530s. As a class of stars, from 1912. As an adjective from early 15c. Giant-killer is from 1726.
giantess (n.) Look up giantess at
late 14c., from giant + -ess.
giaour (n.) Look up giaour at
1560s, Turkish term of contempt for non-Muslims, from Turkish pronunciation of Persian gaur, variant of gabr "infidel, fire-worshipper," originally applied to the adherents of the Zoroastrian religion. Used by the Turks especially of Christians, "and so commonly that it does not necessarily imply an insult" [Century Dictionary].
gib (n.) Look up gib at
1560s, type of iron hook, of unknown origin. As a piece of wood or metal to hold something else in place, from 1795. There are other mechanical senses, but it is not clear how, or if, the all are related. Compare jib, gibbet.
Gib Look up Gib at
masc. proper name, a familiar abbreviation of Gilbert. As a typical name for a cat from c. 1400; hence gib-cat "a cat" (1590s), especially an old, castrated male, but also used as a term of reproach to an old woman.
gibber (v.) Look up gibber at
"speak rapidly and inarticulately," c. 1600, probably a back-formation from gibberish. Related: Gibbered; gibbering.
gibberish (n.) Look up gibberish at
"rapid and inarticulate speech; talk in no known language," 1550s, imitative of the sound of chatter, probably influenced by jabber. Used early 17c. of the language of rogues and gypsies.
gibbet (n.) Look up gibbet at
early 13c., "gallows," from Old French gibet "gallows; a bent stick, small stick with a cross" (13c.), diminutive of gibe "club; hoe," perhaps from Frankish *gibb "forked stick." "Originally synonymous with GALLOWS sb., but in later use signifying an upright post with projecting arm from which the bodies of criminals were hung in chains or irons after execution" [OED].
gibbet (v.) Look up gibbet at
"to kill by hanging," 1590s, from gibbet (n.). Also "to hang a dead body in a public place for the sake of infamous exposure;" hence, figuratively "expose to ridicule" (1640s). Related: Gibbeted; gibbeting.
gibbon (n.) Look up gibbon at
long-armed ape of the East Indies, 1770, from French gibbon (18c.), supposedly from a word in the French colonies of India but not found in any language there. Brought to Europe by Marquis Joseph-François Dupleix (1697-1763), French governor general in India 1742-54. The surname is Old French Giboin, from Frankish *Geba-win "gift-friend," or in some cases a diminutive of Gibb, itself a familiar form of Gilbert.
gibbous (adj.) Look up gibbous at
c. 1400, "bulging, convex," from Late Latin gibbus "hunchbacked," from Latin gibbus "a hump, a hunch," as an adjective, "bulging," from Proto-Italic *gifri- "hump," *gifro- "hump-backed," of uncertain origin. De Vaan suggests a PIE *geibh-, with possible cognates in Lithuanian geibus "gawky, plump," geibstu "become weak;" Norwegian dialect keiv "slanted, wrong," keiva "left hand," perhaps united by a general sense of "bodily defect." Of the moon from early 15c.; also used from 15c. of hunchbacks. Related: Gibbosity.
gibe (n.) Look up gibe at
"a taunt," 1570s, from gibe (v.) "speak sneeringly" (1560s), of uncertain origin; perhaps from Middle French giber "to handle roughly," or an alteration of gaber "to mock."
giblet (n.) Look up giblet at
see giblets.
giblets (n.) Look up giblets at
"edible entrails of a fowl, parts removed or trimmed from a fowl when it is prepared for roasting," mid-15c. (in singular, gybelet), earlier "unnecessary appendage" (c. 1300), from Old French gibelet "game stew," a cookery word of uncertain origin; perhaps from Frankish *gabaiti "hunting with falcons," related to Old High German beizan "to fly a falcon," literally "to cause to bite," from bizzan "to bite."
Gibraltar Look up Gibraltar at
1590s, ancient Calpe, captured 710 C.E. by Saracen leader Tariq, renamed Jebel el Tarik "the Mountain of Tarik," hence the English name. A British possession since 1704. Figurative of impregnability by 1856. Formerly also the name of a kind of rock-candy (1831).
Gibson girl (n.) Look up Gibson girl at
"woman considered stylish at the turn of the 20th century," 1894, named for U.S. artist and illustrator Charles Dana Gibson (1867-1944), whose main model was his wife, Irene Langhorne (1873-1956). The Gibson cocktail (gin, vermouth, and a pearl onion) is attested by 1914, in some stories ascribed to him but the origin of the term is unknown.
"She looks like a Gibson girl" is not an uncommon saying; and to look like a Gibson girl, is not without its merits. Although our artist has expressed in his drawings disapproval of women usurping the spheres of men, his girls suggest intellectuality. He has none of the doll-like inanely pretty faces which artists used to give women in olden days. His girls look as if they would have opinions of their own and would act with discrimination in the affairs of life. They are tall and graceful and although not in the least like fashion plates, their clothes are becoming and fit perfectly. [National Magazine, May 1898]
giclee (n.) Look up giclee at
c. 1991, from French giclée, from gicler "to squirt, spurt, spray."
giddily (adv.) Look up giddily at
mid-13c., "madly, foolishly, in a flighty or foolish manner," from giddy + -ly (2). Meaning "dizzily" is by 1729.
giddiness (n.) Look up giddiness at
late 13c., "thoughtless folly, flightiness," from giddy + -ness. Meaning "dizziness, vertigo" is from late 14c.
giddy (adj.) Look up giddy at
Old English gidig, variant of gydig "insane, mad, stupid," perhaps literally "possessed (by a spirit)," if it is from Proto-Germanic *gud-iga- "possessed by a god," from *gudam "god" (see god (n.)) + *-ig "possessed." Meaning "having a confused, swimming sensation" is from 1560s (compare sense evolution of dizzy). Meaning "elated" is from 1540s. Related: Giddily; giddiness.
giddy-up (interj.) Look up giddy-up at
command to a horse to go, 1909, probably an extended form of earlier giddap (1867), itself probably from get up. Compare gee.
The terms used to start horses in harness and to urge them to a better appreciation of the value of time comprise vulgar corruptions of ordinary speech and peculiar inarticulate sounds. Throughout England and the United States drivers start their horses by picking up the reins, drawing them gently against the animals' mouths, and exclaiming go 'long and get up; the latter appears in the forms get ap (a as in hat), giddap, and gee-hup or gee-up. [H. Carrington Bolton, "Talking to Domestic Animals," in "The American Anthropologist," March 1897]
Gideon Look up Gideon at
masc. proper name, name of an Israelite judge and warrior [Judges vi:11-viii:25], from Hebrew Gidh'on, literally "feller," from stem of gadha "he cut off, hewed, felled." In reference to the Bible propagation society, 1906, formally Christian Commercial Young Men's Association of America, founded 1899. The hotel room Gideon Bible so called by 1922.
gif (n.) Look up gif at
1987, acronym from Graphics Interchange Format.
gift (n.) Look up gift at
mid-13c. "that which is given" (c. 1100 in surnames), from a Scandinavian source such as Old Norse gift, gipt "gift; good luck," from Proto-Germanic *giftiz (source also of Old Saxon gift, Old Frisian jefte, Middle Dutch ghifte "gift," German Mitgift "dowry"), from PIE root *ghabh- "to give or receive" (see habit). For German Gift, Dutch, Danish, Swedish gift "poison," see poison (n.).

Sense of "natural talent" (regarded as conferred) is from c. 1300, perhaps from earlier sense of "inspiration, power miraculously bestowed" (late 12c.), as in the Biblical gift of tongues. Old English cognate gift is recorded only in the sense "bride-price, marriage gift (by the groom), dowry" (hence gifta (pl.) "a marriage, nuptials"). The Old English noun for "a giving, gift" was giefu, which is related to the Old Norse word. Sense of "natural talent" is c. 1300, perhaps from earlier sense of "inspiration" (late 12c.). The proverbial gift horse was earlier given horse:
No man ought to looke a geuen hors in the mouth. [Heywood, 1546]
The modern form perhaps traces to Butler's "Hudibras" (1663), where the tight iambic tetrameter required a shorter phrase:
He ne'er consider'd it, as loth
To look a Gift-horse in the mouth.
gift (v.) Look up gift at
"bestow a gift," 16c., from gift (n.). Related: Gifted; gifting.
gift-wrap (v.) Look up gift-wrap at
1928, from gift (n.) + wrap (n.). Related: Gift-wrapped.
gifted (adj.) Look up gifted at
"talented, endowed by nature with some skill or power," 1640s, past participle adjective from gift (v.). Related: Giftedness.
gig (n.1) Look up gig at
"light, two-wheeled carriage, usually drawn by one horse" (1791), also "small boat," 1790, perhaps imitative of bouncing. There was a Middle English ghyg "spinning top" (in whyrlegyg, mid-15c.), also "giddy girl" (early 13c., also giglet), from Old Norse geiga "turn sideways," or Danish gig "spinning top." Similar to words in continental Germanic for "fiddle" (such as German Geige); the connecting sense might be "rapid or whirling motion."
gig (n.2) Look up gig at
"job," originally in the argot of jazz musicians, attested from 1915 but said to have been in use c. 1905; of uncertain origin. As a verb, by 1939. Among the earlier meanings of gig was "combination of numbers in betting games" (1847). Related: Gigged; gigging.
giga- Look up giga- at
word-forming element meaning "billion" (U.S.) in the metric system, 1947, formed arbitrarily from Greek gigas "giant" (see giant).
gigabyte (n.) Look up gigabyte at
1982, from giga- "billion" + byte.
gigantic (adj.) Look up gigantic at
1610s, "pertaining to giants," from Latin gigant- stem of gigas "giant" (see giant) + -ic. Replaced earlier gigantine (c. 1600), gigantical (c. 1600), giantlike (1570s). The Latin adjective was giganteus. Of material or immaterial things, actions, etc., "of extraordinary sine or proportions," by 1797.
gigantism (n.) Look up gigantism at
medical condition causing abnormal increased size, 1854, from Latin gigant- "giant" (see gigantic) + -ism.
gigaton (n.) Look up gigaton at
by 1977, from giga- + ton.
giggle (v.) Look up giggle at
c. 1500, probably imitative. Related: Giggled; giggling; giggly. As a noun from 1570s.
giglot (n.) Look up giglot at
"lewd, wanton woman" (mid-14c.); later "a giddy, romping girl;" of unknown origin; compare gig (n.1).
gigolo (n.) Look up gigolo at
"professional male escort or dancing partner, young man supported financially by an older woman in exchange for his attentions," 1922, from French gigolo, formed as a masc. of gigole "tall, thin woman; dancing girl; prostitute," perhaps from verb gigoter "to move the shanks, hop," from gigue "shank" (12c.), also "fiddle," Old French giga from Frankish *giga- or some other Germanic word (compare German Geige "fiddle"). This is perhaps the same word that was borrowed earlier as Middle English giglot (early 14c.) "lewd, wanton girl," which was later applied to males (mid-15c.) with the sense "villainous man." It is perhaps related to a number of words in Germanic meaning "dance, gambol," and "fiddle," perhaps connected by the notion of "rapid, whirling motion" (see gig (n.1)). Middle English gigletry meant "lasciviousness, harlotry" (late 14c.).
Naturally, no decent French girl would have been allowed for a single moment to dance with a gigolo. But America, touring Europe like mad after years of enforced absence, outnumbered all other nations atravel ten to one. [Edna Ferber, "Gigolo," 1922]
gila monster (n.) Look up gila monster at
"poisonous lizard of the American southwest" (Heloderma suspectum), 1877, American English, from Gila River, which runs through its habitat in Arizona. The river name probably is from an Indian language, but it is unknown now which one, or what the word meant in it.
Gilbert Look up Gilbert at
masc. proper name, from Old French Guillebert (from Old High German Williberht, literally "a bright will") or Old French Gilebert, from Gisilbert, literally "a bright pledge," from Old High German gisil "pledge," a Celtic loan-word (compare Old Irish giall "pledge") + beorht "bright" (see Albert). It was the common name for a male cat (especially in short form Gib) from c. 1400 (see Tom). As a unit of magneto-motive force, it honors English physicist William Gilbert (1544-1603). For the Gilbert Islands, see Kiribati.
gild (v.) Look up gild at
Old English gyldan "to gild, to cover with a thin layer of gold," from Proto-Germanic *gulthjan (source also of Old Norse gylla "to gild," Old High German ubergulden "to cover with gold"), from *gulthan "gold" (see gold). Related: Gilded; gilding. Figuratively from 1590s.
gilded (adj.) Look up gilded at
1560s, past participle adjective from gild (v.). Late Old English had gegylde; Middle English had gilden (adj.). In modern use the more dignified past participle of gild, alternative to gilt. Shakespeare's lilies were never gilded; the quote ("King John," iv.2) is, "To gild refined gold, to paint the lily." Gilded Age as an era in U.S. history (roughly 1870-1900) is from the novel "The Gilded Age" by Mark Twain and Charles Dudley Warner, published in 1873.
gilding (n.) Look up gilding at
mid-15c., "action of gilding;" 1630s, "golden surface produced by gilding;" verbal noun from gild (v.).
Gilead Look up Gilead at
Biblical site (Gen. xxxi:21, etc.), traditionally from the name of a grandson of Manasseh, perhaps from Aramaic gal "heap of stones."