bachelor: Man who has never married. From Old French “bacheler”=knight bachelor < Latin “baculum”=stick (knight trained with a stick.
bailiwick: District under the control of a bailiff. From Old French “bailiff” < Latin “bajulus”=carrier, manager + Old English “wic”=village
ballot: Piece of paper or a card used to cast or register a vote. From Italian “ballotta”=small ball used to register a vote.
bamboozle: To deceive by trickery or mystify someone. Slang coined in 1700’s and possibly from Scottish dialect “bumbaze”=to confuse.
banal: Common, trivial, trite. From French “banal”=feudal service < Latin “bannum”=assembly of vassals, whose ovens were open to their lord.
bane: Something that causes harm, trouble, or ruin. Old English “bana”=death, murder.
bandit: A robber, usually in a gang, or an outlaw in general. From Italian “banditi”=outlaw < “bandire”=to proscribe or banish.
barbershop: Unaccompanied singing by four people. From Latin “barba”=beard + Old English “scoppa”=shed for working in.
barmy: Silly, stupid, or crazy. From Old English “beorma”=froth on top of fermented liquors. Hence, “barmy”=head full of barm or frothing.
barrel: Metal, cylindrical part of a firearm through which a bullet travels. From Old French “baril”=round vessel.
basilisk: Mythical serpent that could kill by breath or gaze. Greek “basilislos”=princeling < “basileus”=king + “‘iskos”=diminutive suffix.
bastard: (a) Child born outside wedlock; (b) disliked person. Old French “fils de bast”=son born on a saddle + pejorative suffix “-ard.”
bathos: Sudden change in style from lofty and elevated to commonplace; an anticlimax. From Greek “bathos”=deep.
batraquomancy: reading the future using frogs, typically by croaks and color. From Greek “batraxos”=frog + “manteia”=prophet/soothsayer.
beach: Area of sand or small stones at the edge of the sea or a lake. From Old English “bece”=stream. Perhaps from Old Norse “bakki”=bank
beak: Hard, horny projection on a bird’s head used for tearing and eating. From Middle English “bec” < Latin “beccus”=beak or bill.
beast: An animal, especially a large or dangerous one. From Old French “beste”=animal < Latin “bestia”=beast, wild animal.
beauty: Quality that people, places, or things have that makes them attractive. From Old French “biauté” < Latin “bellus”=handsome, charming
bedlam: Madness, chaos, confusion. Shortened from name of London asylum founded 1330 “Hospital of St Mary of Bethlehem.”
beer: Alcoholic drink made from cereal grain, flavored by hops. From Old English “beor”=beer. Possibly from Latin “biber”=to drink.
beguiled: Attracted to someone by trickery or as if by magic. From Old English “be-“=surround with + “guile” < “wil(e)”=trickery or deceit.
bell: Hollow cup-shaped instrument of metal, rung by an internal clapper. From Old English “bellan”=to roar.
bemoan: regret strongly; to be disappointed. From Old English “bemanen” < “be-“=around + “moan”=a lament or complaint.
berate: To chide or scold. Old English “be-“=intensifying meaning “excessively” + ?Old French “reter”=to blame or accuse.
biannual: Occurring twice in a year. From latin “bi-“=two or double + “annus”=year.
bicker: To argue constantly over trivial things. From Middle English “biker”=argue < ?Middle Dutch “bicken”=to attack or cut.
biennial: Occurring every two years. From Latin “biennium”=two-year period.
bimonthly: Occurring every two months OR twice in one month! Former preferred. From Latin “bi-“=two + Old English “monath”=month.
bizarre: Odd, strange, extraordinary. From French “bizarre” < Basque “bizar”=beard – the notion of odd-looking when bearded.
blackberry: Black or dark purple juicy but seedy edible fruit from bramble bush. From Old English “blak”=black + “berie”=grapes.
blackjack: US name for Vingt-et-un (21). In the US, to promote the game, ace + a black jack got paid 10-to-1. Blackjack=that hand’s name.
blasphemy: Irreverence toward something considered sacred or inviolable. From Greek “blasphemia”=evil speaking (“-phemos”=speaking)
bloated: Full of food e.g. after Christmas lunch. From Old Norse “blautr”=soft after soaking (from the process of curing fish)
blues: Feeling of sadness or depression: From phrase “blue devils”=depression < “blue”=color of burning brimstone i.e. the Devil
bogus: Fake, originally counterfeit money. Uncertain origin, possibly shortened from a c19th Vermont (USA) slang “tantrabogus”=fake.
bomb: An explosive device fused to detonate under specified condition. From Greek “bombos”=deep, hollow sound. Onomatopoeia for “boom”?
bombastic: Using inflated or turgid language. From Latin “bombax”=cotton < corruption of Greek “bombus”=silk. Literally spoken “stuffing.”
bonkers: Crazy or mad. Unknown origin but appeared 1945 and thought to be from “bonk”=sound of blow to the head (leading to craziness).
book: Paper pages fastened along one side and encased between covers. From Old English “boc”=beech (on which runes were inscribed).
booty: Goods taken as plunder; a pirate’s stolen property; a rich prize. From Old French “butin” < Germanic “bute”=exchange.
bovine: Referring to cows or any other cattle. Also descriptive of a dull person. From Latin “bos”=cow/ox + “-ine”=pertaining to.
bowdlerize: to censor text by removing “offensive” material. From Thomas Bowdler (1754-1825), editor of an expurgated edition of Shakespeare.
boycott: Refuse to buy or take part in something as a protest. From c19th Charles “Boycott,” Irish land agent against whom people protested.
brand: Mark on the skin made by a hot iron; usually marks ownership. From Old English “brond”=flame or fire < “brinnen”=to burn.
breakfast: Morning meal. From Old English “brecan”=to break + “fasten”=an incident of fasting.
browse: To look through books, magazines, journals, or, more recently, web pages. From Old French “broster”=to sprout or bud.
bubulcitate: To cry, or act, like a cowherd. Latin “bubulcitare” < “bubulcus”=cowherd.
buccaneer: Pirate, original name for French settlers in Spanish West Indies. From French “boucanier”=someone using a “boucan”=grill.
buffet: Meal at which people serve themselves from a table and then move away to eat. From French “buffet”=table, hence meal from a table.
bullet: Metal projectile in the shape of a pointed cylinder or ball that is fired from a gun. From Latin “bulla”=round object.
bumbershoot: Slang (US) for umbrella (orig. 1896). From “bumber”=humorous alteration of “umbrella” + “shoot”=altered “chute” (< parachute.)
burlesque: Literary/dramatic work that ridicules via grotesque exaggeration or comic imitation. From Italian “burlesco” < “burla”=mockery
burrito: Flour tortilla with meat/veg filling. Folded end looks like little donkey’s ear, hence from Spanish “burro”=donkey + “-ito”=little.
busy: engaged in action; occupied. From Old English “bisig”=occupied. Similar to Middle Low German “besich”=busy.