Word Origin & History
O.E. weall "rampart" (natural as well as man-made), also "defensive fortification around a city, side of a building, interior partition," an Anglo-Frisian and Saxon borrowing (cf. O.S., O.Fris., M.L.G., M.Du. wal) from L. vallum "wall, rampart, row or line of stakes," apparently a collective form of
vallus "stake." Swed. vall, Dan. val are from Low Ger. In this case, Eng. uses one word where many languages have two, e.g. Ger. Mauer "outer wall of a town, fortress, etc.," used also in ref. to the former Berlin Wall, and wand "partition wall within a building" (cf. the distinction, not always rigorously kept, in It. muro/parete, Ir. mur/fraig, Lith. muras/siena, etc.). The verb meaning "to enclose in a wall" is late O.E. *weallian. Wallpaper is attested from 1827. Phrase up the wall "angry, crazy" is from 1951; off the wall "unorthodox, unconventional" is recorded from 1966, Amer.Eng. student slang. Wall-to-wall (adj.) recorded 1953, of carpeting; metaphoric use (usually disparaging) is from 1967.