Now mostly superseded by its diminutive form baby. Used figuratively for “a childish person” from 1520s. Meaning “attractive young woman” is 1915, college slang. Babe in the woods is from 1795.
fem. proper name, biblical ancestor of David, from Hebrew Ruth, probably a contraction of reuth “companion, friend, fellow woman.”
“sorrow for the misery of another; repentance, regret,” c.1200, ruthe, from Old Norse hryggð “ruth, sorrow,” from hryggr “sorrowful, grieved” (see rue (v.)) + Proto-Germanic abstract noun suffix *-itho (see -th (2)). Or else formed in English from reuwen “to rue” on the model of true/truth, etc. The Old English word was rue (n.2).
The great-grandmother of King David, known for her kindness and faithfulness. Not an Israelite herself, she married an Israelite who had come to her country with his family. Ruth’s husband died, and her mother-in-law, Naomi, set out to return to the country of the Israelites. Ruth insisted on accompanying Naomi, saying, “ Whither thou goest, I will go; and where thou lodgest, I will lodge.” In the country of the Israelites, Ruth married Boaz, a rich relative of her dead husband; Boaz had been attracted to Ruth by her generosity. Her story is told in the Book of Ruth in the Old Testament.