Examples of arms
Examples of arms
Where does arms come from?
The word arm, as in those things you use to do “the wave” at sporting events, is a very old word in English—it’s found in Old English and comes from Germanic roots. Arms as in “weapons,” comes from the Latin arma, “tools of war,” which passed into English from French by the 13th century.
In the Middle Ages, arms referred to various weapons (e.g., bows and arrows, catapults) and equipment of war, including defensive shields and armor. In contemporary contexts, arms for weaponry can sound a little dated, except for expressions like arms race, first used in the 1920s for the competitive build-up of weapons between nations (e.g., nuclear arms race) and later extended as a metaphor for any competition.
Another common arms expressions is to take (up) arms, “to prepare for a (literal or figurative) fight.” Shakespeare’s Hamlet immortally used it in his famous To Be or Not To Be soliloquy … it’s a classic, OK.
To be, or not to be, that is the question:
Whether ’tis nobler in the mind to suffer
The slings and arrows of outrageous fortune,
Or to take Arms against a Sea of troubles,
And by opposing end them: to die, to sleep
The opposite, and just as familiar, expression is to lay down arms, or “surrender” or “stop fighting.” This is also used of actual or imaginary combat.
By the late 1600s, arms was narrowing to its current sense of firearms, such as pistols and rifles. These arms are at the center of the contentious language of the Second Amendment of the US Constitution adopted in 1791, with legal scholars and political pundits hotly debating its scope: “A well-regulated Militia, being necessary to the security of a free State, the right of the people to keep and bear Arms, shall not be infringed.”
To be up in arms, which dates back to the late 16th century, means “ready to fight” and later, “very upset.” The expression comes from raised fists, but it does also show how “limbs” arms can overlap with “weapons” arms.
Who uses arms?
Also expect to hear arms in its verbal form, to arm, or equip with a weapon (e.g., if a cop yells “He’s armed and dangerous!”). Armed, here, usually means carrying a gun.
Occasionally, people use arms as a modifier meaning “cruel, crazy, or cold-hearted behavior,” apparently playing on the notion of the deadliness of weapons (e.g., “That’s arms to make him walk home all alone like that in the rain.”). This dates back to at least 2002 and is relatively rare.
Arms is also the name of a 2017 Nintendo Switch game where players fight using springy, extendable arms. Here, arms are their arms.