Word Origin & History
c.1400, "to bathe in a steam bath," from O.Fr. estuver (Fr. étuver) "bathe, stew," of uncertain origin. Common Romanic (cf. Sp. estufar, It. stufare), possibly from V.L. *extufare "evaporate," from ex- "out" + *tufus "vapor, steam," from Gk. typhos "smoke." Cf. O.E. stuf-bæþ "hot-air
bath;" see stove
. Meaning "to boil slowly, to cook meat by simmering it in liquid" is attested from c.1420. The meaning "to be left to the consequences of one's actions" is from 1656, from fig. expression to stew in one's own juices. Slang stewed "drunk" first attested 1737.
c.1300, "vessel for cooking," from stew
(v.). Later "heated room" (late 14c.). The noun meaning "stewed meat with vegetables" is first recorded 1756; Irish stew is attested from 1814. The obsolete slang meaning "brothel" (mid-14c., usually plural, stews) is from an earlier
sense of "public bath house," carried over from O.Fr. and reflecting the reputation of such houses.