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Historical Origins of English Words and Phrases

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fine [Dec. 15th, 2009|03:33 pm]
Historical Origins of English Words and Phrases


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fine, adj. & n. [fahyn, fīn]
-Depending on its part of speech, fine can have seemingly very different definitions, though their histories meet up in one common ancestor. Starting with the adjective, fine 'of high quality, superior' was first recorded in English around 1250 CE as Middle English as fin 'free of blemish, refined, pure.' It was directly borrowed from Old French fin 'perfected, of highest quality,' which itself came from Latin finis 'the end, limit' in the sense of 'peak, acme, supreme state.' Scholars have also found traces of this Romantic root in Old High German fin and Middle Dutch fijn. The history of the noun form of fine, defined as 'money paid in penalty,' follows the exact same path through French and Latin but took a slightly different interpretation of the Latin base. Starting with the meaning of Latin finis as 'the end, the limit,' Old French adapted it to the noun form of fin 'the end, the conclusion.' Once again around 1250, the first known usage of Middle English fin 'ending, termination' was recorded. By 1399, it had developed from a general meaning of payment (to end a deal or interaction) to our modern sense of 'payment as punishment for an offense.'

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[User Picture]From: gwoman
2009-12-16 11:41 pm (UTC)
my pleasure!
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[User Picture]From: sillyweasel
2009-12-16 12:23 am (UTC)
And suddenly, "Damn that girl's fine" makes so much more sense.
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[User Picture]From: gwoman
2009-12-16 11:42 pm (UTC)
lol right?
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[User Picture]From: okroginator
2009-12-16 12:31 am (UTC)
What about "fine" as in "a fine-toothed comb," or "fine hairs," or "sliced finely," as in really thin?
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[User Picture]From: gwoman
2009-12-16 11:46 pm (UTC)
"fine" in that sense is related to the meaning 'utmost, farthest limit.' think of how skinny fine hair is, and how it would be hard to get any skinnier.
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[User Picture]From: kuzjavyj
2009-12-16 02:32 am (UTC)
"A fine fine I got to pay" :)

Request: it'd be interesting to read about "mettle" (as in "try your mettle")
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[User Picture]From: gwoman
2009-12-16 11:47 pm (UTC)
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[User Picture]From: boywithumbrella
2009-12-16 02:58 pm (UTC)
that's interesting =)
I thought, they were simple homonyms, but now I see they are closely related.
I suppose, the word fin (a fish body extremity) is also related to them then?
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[User Picture]From: gwoman
2009-12-16 11:49 pm (UTC)
actually, fin is thought to come from Latin "pinna" 'feather' or "spina" 'spine, thorn.' good thought, though!
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[User Picture]From: k1d_v1d
2009-12-16 11:37 pm (UTC)
Not to mention the meaning given when a girlfriend/wife/woman says everything is "fine."

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[User Picture]From: gwoman
2009-12-16 11:50 pm (UTC)
i tried SO hard to find the etymology for that meaning, but nothing came up. :(
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