Word Origin & History
"act of running," c.1300, from O.N. ras "running, rush (of water)," cognate with O.E. ræs, which became M.E. resen "attack, incursion," but did not survive into Mod.Eng. Both O.N. and O.E. are from P.Gmc. *ræs- (cf. M.Du. rasen "to rave, rage," Ger. rasen). Originally a northern word, it
became general in English c.1550. Meaning "contest of speed" first recorded 1510s (the verb in this sense is from 1670s). Race-horse is from 1620s. Meaning "strong current of water" is from late 14c., possibly influenced by O.Fr. raz, which had a similar meaning, and is probably from Breton raz "a strait, narrow channel;" this French source also may have given race its meaning of "channel of a stream" (especially an artificial one to a mill), recorded from 1560s. The verb, in reference to an engine, is from 1862.
"people of common descent," c.1500, from M.Fr. razza "race, breed, lineage," possibly from It. razza, of unknown origin (cf. Sp., Port. raza). Original senses in Eng. included "wines with characteristic flavor" (1520), "group of people with common occupation" (c.1500), and "generation" (c.1560). Meaning
"tribe, nation, or people regarded as of common stock" is from c.1600. Modern meaning of "one of the great divisions of mankind based on physical peculiarities" is from 1774 (though even among anthropologists there never has been an accepted classification of these). Klein suggests these derive from Arabic ra's "head, beginning, origin" (cf. Heb. rosh). O.E. þeode meant both "race" and "language;" as a verb, geþeodan, it meant "to unite, to join." Racial is first attested 1862. Race-riot attested from 1890.
"Just being a Negro doesn't qualify you to understand the race situation any more than being sick makes you an expert on medicine." [Dick Gregory, 1964]