Etymology – D

D – shape of the letter resembles an outline of an archway or door; from Phoenician and Hebrew “daleth”, door

Daedalus – Greek “daidalos”, cunningly made

Daffodil – legend says that daffodils were white before Persephone was captured by Pluto

Daisy – from Old English word for “day’s eye” because it closes its flower at night

Damocles’s Sword –  impending danger or disaster; Damocles was invited to a banquet by Dionysus of Syracuse, he sat under a hanging sword which caused him torment throughout the meal

Damon and Pythias – model of devoted friendship; story goes that Pythias was condemned to death, Damon posted his own life as bail, in the end both were freed because the king was amazed when Pythias came back

Dark Ages – period between end of Roman Empire in 476 to 800, generally 500-1000

Dark and Bloody Ground – Kentucky; Native Americans fought hard for their land in this region 

D’Artagnan – hero of Dumas’s The Three Musketeers along with Athos, Porthos, and Aramis

Date – from Latin “datus”, given

David – from Herbrew “dawid”, loved one; later became king of Israel

Day – days start at different times for different peoples: Jews at sunset, Persians at sunrise, ancient Egyptians and modern astronomers at noon, and midnight for Romans

Day of Atonement – Hebrew “yom kippur”

De facto – Latin “in fact”; as opposed to “de jure”, in law

Deadline – originated from Civil War camps at which a line was drawn that when crossed by a prisoner would signal a deadline round to be shot

Dead Man’s Hand – combination of aces and eights in poker; so called because Sheriff Wild Bill Hickock was shot dead in Deadwood, SD while holding that hand

Dean – from Latin “decanus”, one set over ten; a term originally used for a dignitary who presided over ten canons in the church

Death from Unusual Causes – see for yourself

Death Knell – tolling of a bell to mark a person’s death

Deathwatch Beetle – the adult makes a sound of a watch ticking, presages death

Debt – the debt of nature is to die because life is a loan

Decalogue – from Greek “deka logos”, ten words; name given by Greek Fathers for Ten Commandments

Decisive Battles – see Dictionary

Decuman Gate – from Latin “decimus”, tenth; the far-side entrance in a Roman camp guarded by the tenth legion

Deer – supposed by poets to shed tears

Deianeira – wife of Hercules and the cause of his death 

Deiphobus – third husband of Helen of Troy after Paris–his brother–and Menelaus–his murderer

Delenda est Carthago – Latin for “Carthage must be destroyed” uttered by Cato the Elder after every Senate address in fear of Carthage’s growth and power

Delirium – Latin “delirare”, to swerve from the furrow”; one who couldn’t plow straight was crazy

Demeter – from Greek “da”, O Earth and “meter”, mother; Earth Mother….Mother Earth

Demi-vierge – French for “half-virgin”; one who engages in sexual activity but does not lose her virginity

Demiurge  – from Greek “demiourgos”, artisan or one who works for the people; in Platonic philosophy it was the agent that made the world and all it contains

Democratic Party – oldest continuous party in USA founded in 1792 by Thomas Jefferson and James Madison as the Democratic-Republican Party; symbol is the donkey

Democritus – Greek for “people’s choice”; a Greek philosopher that put out his eyes so that he would think more deeply

Denarius – Roman silver coin originally equal to ten asses (Latin “deni”, ten each)

Denim – originally produced in Southern French town “serge de Nimes”

Derringer – short-barreled pistol that was used to shoot Lincoln by Booth; first made by Henry Deringer; double r is the accepted spelling that is actually that of counterfeits as to circumvent patent laws

Deseret – word appearing in the Book of Mormon (Ether 2:3) with a meaning of honeybee, the original name for Utah

Deus ex machina  – Latin “god out of the machine”; early plays used this figure to sort a problem in the plot of the play, a literal God-like character would appear on a pulley-like machine

Deuteronomy – Greek “second law” because of its repetition of the Decalogue and Exodus

Devil – called by rabbinical writers a “seirizzim”, goat; why he has cloven feet

Devil sick would be a monk – said when people make pious promises in times of sickness or danger but forget them when recovered

Dexter – Latin “to the right-hand side”

Diadem – Greek “to bind round”; ancient headbands worn by kings asa sign of royalty

Dialectical Materialism – every society contains the means of its own destruction (thesis and antithesis); from Marxist philosophy

Diamond – from Latin “adamas”, hardest steel

Diana – from Latin “divius”, divine; Roman equivalent to Artemis

Dice – representing the plural of die, “dies”; invented in China by Chen Su-Wang in 3rd century

Didymus – Greek word for twin; St. Thomas so called as Thomas is the Aramaic word for twin

Dildo – the word may derive from Italian “diletto”, delight

Dinosaur – Greek for “terrible lizard”; coined around 1840 by Richard Owen

Diogenes – Greek “born of Zeus”; philosophical founder of Cynic sect

Diomedes – Greek “thought of Zeus”; hero of Troy only behind Achilles

Diphtheria – from Greek “diphthera”, leather; infectious disease causing a false membrane

Diplomat – literally a person presented with a diploma (Greek, “letter folded double” to preserve its contents) authorizing them to represent the government abroad

Dirt – Old Norse “drit”, excrement

Disciples – from Latin “discipulus”, pupil; Jesus’ Disciples were Peter, James, John, Andrew, Philip, Bartholemew, Matthew, Thomas, James (the Less), Jude, Simon, and Judas Iscariot

Discord – Latin for “severance of hearts”

Dismas – name of the thief that suffered and died with Christ at the crucifixion

Ditto – Italian “detto”, said

Divine Comedy – written by Dante between 1309 and 1320

Divinity in odd numbers – Falstaff finds divinity in lots of areas with odd numbers: the Holy Trinity, three-headed Greek gods, Neptune’s trident, three Furies, three Fates, “beginning, middle, and end”, five vowels, five lines in music, seven strings on a harp, seven musical notes, etc.

Division – the division sign was first introduced by John Pell in 1643

Docetes – from Greek “dokein”, to seem; gnostic sect that held that Christ was divine only and that his living form was an illusion, merely a phantom body

Doctor  – Latin “teacher”

Dodo – from Portuguese “doudo”, silly

Dog Days– Romans called the hottest weeks of summer “caniculares dies” thinking that the Dog Star rose with the Sun and added to its heat

Dogs in classics – see Dictionary

Dogie – a neglected calf in the Western US

Dolby  – trade name of noise-reduction system; it reduces hiss by compressing sound range during recording and decoding the signal by expansion during playback at a level greater than the level of background hiss

Dolly – name of first cloned sheep born in 1996; named after Dolly Parton because the cells from which the cloned DNA was extracted was taken from the sheep’s udder

Donzel – a squire not yet knighted; from Italian “donzello”, lord

Doom – Old English “dom”, law or judgement

The Doors of Perception – described by Aldous Huxley as increased sensitivity from taking certain drugs

Double – from Latin “duplus”, twofold

Double Entendre – from French “double entente”, two intents

Douglas – Scottish family name meaning “black stream”; from Gaelic “dubh”, black and “glais”, stream

Doxology – from Greek “doxologos”, uttering praise; the Greater Doxology is “Gloria in Excelsis” and the Lesser Doxology is the “Gloria Patri”

Dozen – from French “douzaine” itself from Latin “duodecim” both meaning twelve

Draconian Code – severe code written by Draco in 7th century BC; nearly every violation called for capital punishment

Dragon – from Greek word “drakos”, eye; legends of the dragon that would watch and guard the golden apples of Hesperides

Dragon’s Blood – in German legend, Siegfreid bathed in Dragon’s Blood in order to make him immune from injury but a leaf fell on him and the place it covered remained vulnerable (similar to story of Achilles’s Heel)

Druid – from Irish “draoi”, magician

Dual Monarchy – when two states share the same monarchy but remain politically separate such as England and Scotland since 1603

Il Duce – Italian “the leader”; adopted by Benito Mussolini, dictator of Italy from 1922 to 1943

Duke – Old French, from Latin “dux”, leader

Dum Spiro Spero – Latin “While I breathe, I hope”; motto of many British families

Dun cow – a savage beast slain by Guy of Warwick; a tusk claiming to be that of the beast (probably of an elephant) is still shown at the Warwick Castle

Dunce – so named after John Duns Scotus who pushed forward modern theology; anyone who opposes such progress is called a dunce

Durga – in Hindu mythology, the goddess of death and destruction; cult name is Kali