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