The earliest appearance in English of the word bracket was in architectural use. It was a projection that acted as a ledge. Brackets usually had a practical supporting use, but sometimes they were merely decorative.
The word seems to have come from a Latin term that meant codpiece or trousers. The suggestion is that a supporting apparatus shaped like limbs set at an angle provokes an image of legs at their juncture.
The word bracket had many uses over the centuries:
• a small shelf or set of shelves
• in shipbuilding, a support consisting of two pieces of wood or metal joined at an angle
• one of two sidepieces of a gun carriage
• a metal pipe projecting from a wall to support and supply gas lamps
• in math, enclosure marks that signal the order of operations
• the distance between a pair of shots fired – one long and one short of a target – to find the range for artillery
• a class of persons grouped according to income
• in skating, a series of turns resembling a bracket
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