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in reference to the branch of Turks which founded and ruled the Ottoman Empire, 1580s (n.), c. 1600 (adj.), from French Ottoman via Italian Ottomano, ultimately from Arabic ‘Uthmani “of or belonging to ‘Uthman,” Arabic masc. proper name, which in Turkish is pronounced Othman (see Osmanli). The founder of the dynasty reigned 1259-1326. Because -i was a plural inflection in Italian, the ending of the word was altered by formation of a new false singular. Byron used the more correct form Othman (perhaps for the sake of metrics as well as accuracy), and a few writers have followed him.
The type of couch or cushioned seat without back or arms (used in drawing-rooms and sitting-rooms) was so called by 1806, because one reclines on it, which was associated with Eastern customs (see couch (n.1)). By 1849 the word was extended to a small version of this used as a footstool or low seat.
1792, “an Ottoman Turk,” especially a member of the ruling dynasty; as an adjective by 1829, “relating to the empire of Turkey,” from Turkish Osmanli “of or pertaining to Osman,” founder of the Ottoman dynasty (he reigned 1259-1326); his name is the Turkish pronunciation of Arabic Uthman. This is the native word where English generally uses Ottoman. In early use as a noun in English often mistakenly regarded as a plural.
“Ottoman court at Constantinople,” c. 1600, from French, in full, la Sublime Porte, literally “the high gate,” translation of Arabic al-Bab al-‘Ali, “lofty gate,” official name of the central office of the Ottoman government (compare Vatican for “the Papacy,” White House for “the United States”). Compare also Mikado. The name supposedly is a relic of the ancient custom of holding royal audience in the doorway of a king’s palace or tent.
1727, former title of the emperor of Japan, from mi “honorable” + kado “gate, portal.” Similar to Sublime Porte, old title of the Ottoman emperor/government, and Pharaoh, which literally means “great house.”
former title of appointed Ottoman governors of Moldavia and Wallachia, 1680s, from Old Church Slavonic gospodi “lord, master,” literally “lord of strangers,” from gosti “guest, friend,” from PIE *ghostis- “stranger” (from root *ghos-ti- “stranger, guest, host”); second element from PIE root *poti- “powerful; lord.” Compare host (n.1).
Turk (n.)c. 1300, from French Turc, from Medieval Latin Turcus, from Byzantine Greek Tourkos, Persian turk, a national name, of unknown origin. Said to mean “strength” in Turkish. Compare Chinese tu-kin, recorded from c. 177 B.C.E. as the name of a people living south of the Altai Mountains (identified by some with the Huns). In Persian, turk, in addition to the national name, also could mean “a beautiful youth,” “a barbarian,” “a robber.”
In English, the Ottoman sultan was the Grand Turk (late 15c.), and the Turk was used collectively for the Turkish people or for Ottoman power (late 15c.). From 14c. and especially 16c.-18c. Turk could mean “a Muslim,” reflecting the Turkish political power’s status in the Western mind as the Muslim nation par excellence. Hence Turkery “Islam” (1580s); turn Turk “convert to Islam.”
Meaning “person of Irish descent” is first recorded 1914 in U.S., apparently originating among Irish-Americans; of unknown origin (Irish torc “boar, hog” has been suggested). Young Turk (1908) was a member of an early 20c. political group in the Ottoman Empire that sought rejuvenation of the Turkish nation. Turkish bath is attested from 1640s; Turkish delight from 1877.
from 330 C.E. to 1930 the name of what is now Istanbul and formerly was Byzantium, the city on the European side of the Bosphorus that served as the former capital of the Byzantine and Ottoman empires, from Greek Konstantinou polis “Constantine’s city,” named for Roman emperor Flavius Valerius Aurelius Constantinus (see Constantine), who transferred the Roman capital there.
1580s, “expressing lofty ideas in an elevated manner,” from French sublime (15c.), or directly from Latin sublimis “uplifted, high, borne aloft, lofty, exalted, eminent, distinguished,” possibly originally “sloping up to the lintel,” from sub “up to” (see sub-) + limen “lintel, threshold, sill” (see limit (n.)). The sublime (n.) “the sublime part of anything, that which is stately or imposing” is from 1670s. For Sublime Porte, former title of the Ottoman government, see Porte.
title of a military commander in Muslim north Africa, 1650s, from Turkish dai “maternal uncle,” a friendly title used of older men, especially by the Janissaries of Algiers of their commanding officers. As these often became rulers in the colony it was used in English as the title of governor of Algiers under Ottoman rule, There were also deys in Tunis and Tripoli.
1914, “to divide into small and mutually hostile groups,” as was the political condition of the Balkans; it is said to have been coined by English editor James Louis Garvin, but A.J. Toynbee (1922) credited it to “German Socialists” describing the results of the treaty of Brest-Litovsk. Either way, the reference is to the political situation in the Balkans c. 1878-1913, when the European section of the Ottoman Empire split up into small, warring nations. Balkanized and Balkanization both also are from 1920.
“fate, destiny,” 1834, from Turkish qismet, from Arabic qismah, qismat “portion, lot, fate,” from root of qasama “he divided.”
From a nation of enthusiasts and conquerors, the Osmanlis became a nation of sleepers and smokers. They came into Europe with the sword in one hand and the Koran in the other: were they driven out of their encampment, it would be with the Koran in one hand and the pipe in the other, crying: ‘Kismet! Kismet! Allah kehrim!’ (God hath willed it! God is great!) [Dr. James O. Noyes, “The Ottoman Empire,” “The Knickerbocker,” October 1858]
Popularized as the title of a novel in 1877.
mid-14c., “a bed,” from Old French couche “a bed, lair” (12c.), from coucher “to lie down,” from Latin collocare (see couch (v.)). From mid-15c. as “a long seat upon which one rests at full length.” Traditionally, a couch has the head end only raised, and only half a back; a sofa has both ends raised and a full back; a settee is like a sofa but may be without arms; an ottoman has neither back nor arms, nor has a divan, the distinctive feature of which is that it goes against a wall.
As symbolic of a psychiatric treatment or psychoanalysis, by 1952. Couch potato first recorded 1979.
Kaffir (n.)1790, “infidel,” earlier and also caffre (1670s), from Arabic kafir “unbeliever, infidel, impious wretch,” with a literal sense of “one who does not admit (the blessings of God),” from kafara “to cover up, conceal, deny, blot out.”
Technically, “a non-Muslim,” but in Ottoman times it came to be used there almost exclusively as the disparaging word for “Christian.” It also was used by Muslims in East Africa of the pagan black Africans; English missionaries then picked it up as an equivalent of “heathen” to refer to Bantus in South Africa (1731), from which use in English it came generally to mean “South African black” regardless of ethnicity, and to be a term of abuse at least since 1934.
“absolute ruler,” 1560s, in Italian form dispotto (1580s as despot); from Medieval Latin despota, from Greek despotēs “master of a household, lord, absolute ruler,” from PIE *dems-pota- “house-master,” from the genitive of the root *dem- “house, household” + second element from PIE root *poti- “powerful; lord.” The compound might be prehistoric; compare Sanskrit dampati- “lord.”
Originally in English in reference to Byzantine rulers or Christian rulers in Ottoman provinces and often neutral. But it had been faintly pejorative in Greek (ruler of an un-free people), and it was used in various languages for Roman emperors. It became fully negative with the French Revolution, where it was applied to Louis XVI. In English the sense of “one who governs according to his own will, under a recognized right but uncontrolled by constitutional restrictions or the wishes of his subjects” is by 1610s; by c. 1800 it was used generally for “a tyrant, an oppressor.”
The Greek female equivalent was despoina “lady, queen, mistress,” source of the fem. proper name Despina.
1540s, originally “guinea fowl” (Numida meleagris), a bird imported from Madagascar via Turkey, and called guinea fowl when brought by Portuguese traders from West Africa. The larger North American bird (Meleagris gallopavo) was domesticated by the Aztecs, introduced to Spain by conquistadors (1523) and thence to wider Europe. The word turkey first was applied to it in English 1550s because it was identified with or treated as a species of the guinea fowl, and/or because it got to the rest of Europe from Spain by way of North Africa, then under Ottoman (Turkish) rule. Indian corn was originally turkey corn or turkey wheat in English for the same reason.
The Turkish name for it is hindi, literally “Indian,” probably influenced by French dinde (c. 1600, contracted from poulet d’inde, literally “chicken from India,” Modern French dindon), based on the then-common misconception that the New World was eastern Asia.
After the two birds were distinguished and the names differentiated, turkey was erroneously retained for the American bird, instead of the African. From the same imperfect knowledge and confusion Melagris, the ancient name of the African fowl, was unfortunately adopted by Linnæus as the generic name of the American bird. [OED]
The New World bird itself reputedly reached England by 1524 at the earliest estimate, though a date in the 1530s seems more likely. The wild turkey, the North American form of the bird, was so called from 1610s. By 1575, turkey was becoming the usual main course at an English Christmas. Meaning “inferior show, failure,” is 1927 in show business slang, probably from the bird’s reputation for stupidity. Meaning “stupid, ineffectual person” is recorded from 1951. Turkey shoot “something easy” is World War II-era, in reference to marksmanship contests where turkeys were tied behind a log with their heads showing as targets. To talk turkey (1824) supposedly comes from an old tale of a Yankee attempting to swindle an Indian in dividing up a turkey and a buzzard as food.