Merriam-Webster online dictionary says one of the meanings of "waste" is: a broad and empty expanse(as of water) http://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/waste
I'm interested in the origin of this meaning. Let me explain why.
Here's from Hamlet, Act 1, Scene 2.
In the dead wast and middle of the night
This is from Second Quarto and First Folio. In the modern spelling, "wast" is "waste".
However, in First Quarto, "wast" is replaced by "vast". My wild guess is that the pronunciation of "vast" and "wast" were the same in the Elizabethan English. Hence the printers of Hamlet at that time mistook "vast" as "wast". They say First Quarto is unreliable, but it's the oldest text of Hamlet.
In any case, my question is: What is the origin of the meaning of "waste" as a broad expanse?