Monday, October 17, 2011

Word of the day: ceil

The word of the day is ceil:

Etymology:  Of ceil v. (recorded of date 1428) and the derived ceiling (1380), ceiled , with the cognate n. found as cyll n. in sense of ‘canopy’ c1500, celure , found as syllure , sylure ?a1400, the derivation is doubtful. The group is not very old in English, and traces of it in French are scanty.
Three sources have been suggested: (1) Latin cēlāre , French celer (11th cent. in Littré) to hide, conceal, cover up; (2) Latin cælāre to carve, engrave in relief; (3) Latin cælum sky, vault of heaven. If Latin cēlāre could be shown to have acquired in late Latin or Romanic the simple sense of ‘cover’, it would suitably explain the English words in all their uses; but such is not the case, and in particular, French celer does not appear to approach the required sense. In favour of Latin cælāre (compare cieler Godefroy) there are certainly early quotations (see sense 1, and ceiling n. 1) in which ‘carve’, ‘carving’, is a possible sense; but nothing of the kind occurs under celure n., and if ceil ever meant ‘carve’ this sense evidently soon entirely gave way to one congruous with that of celure n. On the other hand we have the known fact that medieval Latin cælum , Italian cielo , French ciel , acquired the sense of ‘canopy, vault, roof, tester of a bed, etc.’; and there are traces of a derived vb. cælāre to canopy or vault, whence cælātum , cœlātūra , in senses identical with or derived < cælum . Difficulties are that while ceil v. and celure were so common in 15–16th cent. English, and can hardly be connected with Latin exc. through French, their occurrence in Old French itself is extremely rare: a single instance of cielee past participle (with variants celee , chelee , couverte ) has been noted in Chrestien de Troyes, Ywain (ed. Förster 964). It is possible that *celeüre , *celure < Latin cælātūra was common in Anglo-Norman, and thence passed into English, but the whole subject remains for the present beset with conflicting difficulties; the apparently certain point being that we cannot separate the English words < cælum , ciel , canopy. See celure n.
1. trans. ? To furnish with a canopy, hangings, or a screen. Obs. Cf. celure n. 
2.a. To cover with a lining of woodwork, sometimes of plaster, etc. (the interior roof or walls of a house or apartment); to wainscot. Also with †over. Obs. 
b. To overlay (with gold, marble, etc.).
3. esp. To line the roof of, provide or construct an inner roof for (a building or apartment); usually, to plaster the roof. Cf. ceiling n. 5. 
4. Naut. To line (a ship, or a compartment in a ship). Cf. ceiling n. 4b. (OED)

"All over the face of the land is the one-room cabin,—now standing in the shadow of the Big House, now staring at the dusty road, now rising dark and sombre amid the green of the cotton-fields. It is nearly always old and bare, built of rough boards, and neither plastered nor ceiled."

 - W.E.B. DuBois, The Souls of Black Folk, 1903

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