- cheek (n.) O.E. ceace, cece "jaw, jawbone," also "the fleshy wall of the mouth." Perhaps from the root of O.E. ceowan "chew" (see CHEW (Cf. chew)), or from P.Gmc. *kaukon (Cf. M.L.G. kake "jaw, jawbone," M.Du. kake "jaw," Du. kaak), not found outside West Germanic. Words for "cheek," "jaw," and "chin" tend to run together in IE languages (Cf. PIE *genw-, source of Gk. genus "jaw, cheek," geneion "chin," and English CHIN (Cf. chin)); Aristotle considered the chin as the front of the "jaws" and the cheeks as the back of them. The other Old English word for "cheek" was ceafl (see JOWL (Cf. jowl)).A thousand men he [Samson] slow eek with his hond,And had no wepen but an asses cheek.[Chaucer, "Monk's Tale"]Sense of "insolence" is from 1840, perhaps from a notion akin to that which led to jaw "insolent speech," mouth off, etc. To turn the other cheek is an allusion to Matt. v:39 and Luke vi:29.
Etymology dictionary. 2014.