‘[Middle English] A pencil once denoted a fine paintbrush. It comes from Old French pincel, from a diminutive of Latin peniculus ‘brush’, itself a diminutive of penis ‘tail’. The verb was originally used in the 16th century in the sense ‘paint with a fine brush’.’
‘[Middle English] This was a word in Middle English for a person of low intelligence: it came via Old French from Latin idiota ‘ignorant person’, […].’ From the Ancient Greek ἰδιώτης (idiotes) meaning a private person who is not engaged or interested in public and political affairs.
‘[Old English] Old English duce describing this swimming bird, is from the Germanic base of the verb duck ‘to dip under’. It is sometimes used as a term of endearment (Shakespeare Midsummer Night’s Dream: “O dainty duck, o deare!” Dickens Old Curiosity Shop: “How is he now my duck of diamonds”).
The use of the word in cricket to signify no score, is short for a duck’s egg, because of the similarity in shape between the egg’s outline and the figure zero.’
‘[Middle English] In early use, this word referred to a child or young person of either sex. It is perhaps related to Low German gör ‘child’. In the late 18th century gal started to be used occasionally, representing a particular pronunciation. The phrase the girl next door to describe an ordinary and likable young women arose in film contexts in the 1950s.’
‘This word which originally denoted either of the two categories, male and female, is from Old French sexe or Latin sexus. Sex denoting sexual intercourse dates from the 1920s; the adjective in this phrase (mid 17th century sexual) is from the late Latin sexualis, from late Latin sexus.’
‘A load of codswallop is an informal way of saying ‘lot of nonsense’; the origin of the first element of the word is sometimes said to be the name Hiram Codd who, in 1878, invented a bottle of fizzy drinks; this theory has not been confirmed. The element wallop may be from a colloquial use of the word from the 1930s for ‘beer’ or any alcoholic drink.’