Larger font
Smaller font
Etymology dictionary - Contents
  • Results
  • Related
  • Featured
No results found for: "".
  • Weighted Relevancy
  • Content Sequence
  • Relevancy
  • Earliest First
  • Latest First
    Larger font
    Smaller font

    alms (n.) — amalgamate (v.)

    alms (n.)

    "charitable relief of the poor," especially as a religious duty, also "that which is given to relieve the poor or needy," Old English ælmesse "almsgiving, act of relieving the needy," from Proto-Germanic *alemosna (source also of Old Saxon alamosna, Old High German alamuosan, Old Norse ölmusa), an early borrowing of Vulgar Latin *alemosyna (source of Old Spanish almosna, Old French almosne, Italian limosina).ETD alms (n.).2

    This was a variant of Church Latin eleemosyna (Tertullian, 3c.), from Greek eleēmosynē "pity, mercy," in Ecclesiastical Greek "charity, alms," from eleēmōn "compassionate," from eleos "pity, mercy," which is of unknown origin (Beekes gives it no etymology) and perhaps imitates cries of pleading. The spelling perversion in Vulgar Latin is perhaps by influence of alimonia (see alimony).ETD alms (n.).3


    fem. proper name, from Latin Alma "nourishing," fem. of almus; from alere "to suckle, nourish," from PIE root *al- (2) "to grow, nourish."ETD Alma.2

    Almagest (n.)

    late 14c., title of a treatise on astronomy by Claudius Ptolemy of Alexandria, from Old French almageste (13c.), from Arabic al majisti, from al "the" + Greek megiste "the greatest (composition)," from fem. of megistos, superlative of megas "great" (from PIE root *meg- "great").ETD Almagest (n.).2

    Originally titled in Greek Mathematike syntaxis ("Mathematical Composition"), commonly called Megale syntaxis "Great Composition" (Greek megale is the fem. of megas); Arab translators in their admiration altered this. The name was extended in Middle English to other works on astrology or astronomy.ETD Almagest (n.).3

    almah (n.)

    in reference to Egypt and other nearby regions, "dancing-girl, belly-dancer," 1814, perhaps from Arabic almah (fem. adjective), "learned, knowing," in reference to their training, from alama "to know." Or perhaps from a Semitic root meaning "girl" (source also of Hebrew alma "a young girl, a damsel"). Her occupation was performance to amuse company in wealthy private homes and to sing at funerals, with higher status than the ghawazee (dancing girls), but the word was used broadly in English.ETD almah (n.).2

    Alma Mater (n.)

    late 14c., Latin, literally "nurturing mother," a title given by Romans to certain goddesses, especially Ceres and Cybele, from alma, fem. of almus "nourishing," from alere "to nourish, rear, support, maintain" (from PIE root *al- (2) "to grow, nourish") + māter "mother" (see mother (n.1)). The use of the Latin phrase for "one's university or school" is attested from 1710.ETD Alma Mater (n.).2

    almanac (n.)

    late 14c., "book of permanent tables of astronomical data," attested in Anglo-Latin from mid-13c., via Old French almanach or directly from Medieval Latin almanachus, a word of uncertain origin and the subject of much speculation. The Latin word is often said to be ultimately from Arabic somehow, but an exact phonological and semantic fit is wanting.ETD almanac (n.).2

    OED connects it to a supposed Spanish-Arabic al-manakh "calendar, almanac," which is possibly ultimately from Late Greek almenichiakon "calendar," which itself is said to be of Coptic origin. The author of English words of Arabic Ancestry makes a detailed case "that the word almanac was pseudo-Arabic and was generated within the circle of astronomers in Paris in the mid 13th century."ETD almanac (n.).3

    One-year versions, showing correspondence of days of the week and month, ecclesiastical calendars, etc., date from 16c.; "astrological and weather predictions appear in 16-17th c.; the 'useful statistics' are a modern feature" [OED].ETD almanac (n.).4

    almighty (adj.)

    Old English ælmihtig "all-powerful," also a by-name of God; compound of æl (see all) + mihtig (see mighty); common Germanic (cognates: Old Saxon alomahtig, Old High German alamahtic, German allmächtig, Old Norse almattigr), perhaps an early Germanic loan-translation of Latin omnipotens (see omnipotent). Originally only of deities; general use is by late 14c.ETD almighty (adj.).2

    Related: Almightily; almightiness. A 15c. text translates omnipotencia with allmyghtyhede "almightihood."ETD almighty (adj.).3


    12c. Muslim religious power that ruled Spain and North Africa, founded by Mohammed ibn Abdullah, the name is literally "the Unitarians," short for Arabic al-muwahhidun "they who profess the unity (of God)," so called for their absolutist monotheism.ETD Almohades.2

    almoner (n.)

    "official distributor of alms on behalf of another," c. 1300 (mid-13c. as a surname), from Old French almosnier "alms-giver" (12c.; Modern French aumônier), from Vulgar Latin *almosinarius, from Late Latin elemosinarius (adj.) "connected with alms," from eleemosyna "alms" (see alms). OED notes, "the Renascence brought up a number of artificial spellings," and Middle English Compendium lists aumener, aum(s)ner, a(u)moner, aumerer, aumbrer, amener, ambner, aumoiner, almoiner, almer, and halner.ETD almoner (n.).2

    almond (n.)

    kernel of the fruit of the almond tree, c. 1300, from Old French almande, amande, earlier alemondle "almond," from Vulgar Latin *amendla, *amandula, from Latin amygdala (plural), from Greek amygdalos "an almond tree," a word of unknown origin, perhaps from Semitic. Late Old English had amygdales "almonds."ETD almond (n.).2

    It was altered in Medieval Latin by influence of amandus "loveable." In French it acquired an unetymological -l-, perhaps from Spanish almendra "almond," which got it by influence of the many Spanish words beginning with the Arabic definite article al-. Perhaps through similar confusion, Italian has dropped the first letter entirely (mandorla). As an adjective, applied to eyes shaped like almonds, especially of certain Asiatic peoples, from 1849.ETD almond (n.).3

    almonry (n.)

    "place where alms are distributed," mid-15c., aumeneri, from Old French aulmosnerie; see almoner + -ery.ETD almonry (n.).2


    Muslim Berber horde from the Sahara which founded a dynasty in Morocco (11c.) and conquered much of Spain and Portugal. The name is Spanish, from Arabic al-Murabitun, literally "the monks living in a fortified convent," from ribat "fortified convent."ETD Almoravides.2

    almost (adv.)

    Old English eallmæst "nearly all, for the most part," literally "mostly all;" see all + most. The modern form is from 15c. The original sense is now typically expressed by almost all; the sense of "very nearly, all but" is from c. 1200.ETD almost (adv.).2

    alms-house (n.)

    also almshouse, "poorhouse, building where lodging and maintenance is provided for the poor," late 14c., from alms + house (n.).ETD alms-house (n.).2

    aloe (n.)

    name of a group of shrubs or herbs with spiky flowers and thick leaves, yielding bitter juice which was used as a purgative drug, late 14c., originally in reference to the drug, from Latin aloe, from Greek aloē, which is of uncertain origin, probably a loan-word from an Oriental language.ETD aloe (n.).2

    A secondary sense is older in English: "Fragrant resin or heartwood of an East Indian tree" (Old English alewe, aloe), which is from misuse of Latin/Greek aloe in Biblical translations for Hebrew akhalim (plural), which ultimately is perhaps from a Dravidian language. OED says the Greek word probably was chosen for sound-resemblance to the Hebrew one.ETD aloe (n.).3

    The word then was misapplied in 1680s to the American agave plant, which has a similar appearance (and also a Greek name) but is unrelated. The "true aloe" (producing the drug) consequently is called aloe vera (with Latin vera "true;" see very). Related: Aloetic.ETD aloe (n.).4

    aloft (adv.)

    "on high, in the air," c. 1200, from a Scandinavian source such as Old Norse a lopt "up above," literally "up in the air," from a "in, on" (see on) + lopt "sky, air, atmosphere; loft, upper room," from the general Germanic word for "air" (cognate with Gothic luftus, Old High German luft, Old English lyft "air;" see loft (n.)). Scandinavian -pt- was pronounced as -ft-. The Old English equivalent was on þa lyft.ETD aloft (adv.).2

    aloha (interj.)

    Hawaiian expression used in greeting or parting, 1825, from Hawaiian aloha, literally "love, affection, pity." Sometimes aloha 'oe, with 'oe "to you."ETD aloha (interj.).2

    alone (adj., adv.)

    "unaccompanied, solitary; without companions," c. 1300, a contraction of all ane, from Old English all ana "unaccompanied, all by oneself," literally "wholly oneself," from all "all, wholly" (see all) + an "one" (see one). It preserves the old pronunciation of one.ETD alone (adj., adv.).2

    Similar compounds are found in German (allein) and Dutch (alleen). The sense of "and nothing else" is from c. 1200, as in "Man does not live by bread alone" (Matthew iv.4, KJV; there Tyndale has "man shall not lyve by brede onlye"). Related: Aloneness. Adverbial alonely seems to have become obsolete 17c.ETD alone (adj., adv.).3

    along (adv., prep.)

    Middle English, from Old English andlang "entire, continuous; extended" (adj.); also "alongside of" (prep.); from and- "opposite, against" (from Proto-Germanic *andi-, *anda-, from PIE *anti "against," locative singular of root *ant- "front, forehead") + lang "long" (see long (adj.)).ETD along (adv., prep.).2

    Reinforced by its Old Norse cognate endlang. The prepositional sense was extended in Old English to "through the whole length of." Of position, "lengthwise," from c. 1200; of movement, "onward," from c. 1300. The meaning "in company, together" is from 1580s. All along "throughout" is attested from 1690s.ETD along (adv., prep.).3

    alongshore (adj.)

    "existing or employed along a shore or coast," 1779, from along + shore (n.). Compare along-ships (adv.) "lengthwise to the ship" (1680s), alongside.ETD alongshore (adj.).2

    alongside (adv.)

    1707, "parallel to the side of," a contraction of the prepositional phrase; see along + side (n.). Originally mostly nautical. As a preposition from 1793.ETD alongside (adv.).2

    aloof (adv.)

    1530s, "to windward," from a- (1) "on" + Middle English loof "windward direction," which is probably from Dutch loef (Middle Dutch lof) "the weather side of a ship" (see luff (n.)).ETD aloof (adv.).2

    Originally in nautical orders to keep the ship's head to the wind, and thus stay clear of a lee-shore or some other quarter; hence "at a distance but within view" (1530s) and, figuratively, "apart, withdrawn, without community spirit" (with verbs stand, keep, etc.). As an adjective from c. 1600. Related: Aloofly; aloofness.ETD aloof (adv.).3

    alopecia (n.)

    late 14c., allopicia, "falling of the hair," also a form of leprosy involving loss of facial hair, from Medieval Latin alopecia, from Greek alōpekia, a disease of the skin, also alōpekiasis, from alōpēx, alōpekos "fox." Also known as fox-sickness. Usually explained as transferred to the human condition from the animal's susceptibility to mange.ETD alopecia (n.).2

    Other theories are that it is so named "from the fox's being supposed to lose its hair sooner than any other quadruped" [Hoblyn's "Dictionary of Terms Used in Medicine"].ETD alopecia (n.).3

    alot (n.)

    a misdivision of a lot (see lot (n.)), in which sense it begins to turn up in print transcripts c. 1960. It also can be an alternative spelling of allot.ETD alot (n.).2

    aloud (adv.)

    late 13c., "with a loud voice;" c. 1300, "audibly, not whispered;" a contraction of on loude; see a- (1) + loud.ETD aloud (adv.).2

    alouette (n.)

    "skylark," from French alouette, diminutive of Old French aloe, from Latin alauda "the lark" (source of Italian aloda, Spanish alondra, Provençal alauza), which is said to be from Gaulish (Celtic). The primitive form has vanished in French, leaving the diminutive to serve in its place. The popular song dates from the later 19c.ETD alouette (n.).2

    alow (adv.)

    "low down," mid-13c.; see a- (1) + low (adj.). Older than below. Nautical use is by c. 1500.ETD alow (adv.).2


    masc. proper name, from Medieval Latin Aloisius, from Old French Loois (see Louis).ETD Aloysius.2

    alp (n.)

    "high, snow-capped mountain," especially in Switzerland, 1590s, from Alps, from French Alpes, from Latin Alpes "the Alps," which is perhaps from altus "high," or albus "white" or from a Celtic word (according to Maurus Servius Honoratus the grammarian), or a borrowing from a non-Indo-European language. Alps, the central European mountain range, is attested by that name in English from late 14c.ETD alp (n.).2


    mountain range in central Europe, late 14c.; see Alp.ETD Alps.2

    alpaca (n.)

    Andean mammal valued for its wool, 1792, from Spanish alpaca, probably from Aymara allpaca, which is related to Quechua (Inca) p'ake "yellowish-red." The unetymological al- is perhaps from influence of the many words in Spanish that contain the Arabic definite article (compare almond). The word is attested in English from c. 1600 in the form pacos.ETD alpaca (n.).2

    alpenglow (n.)

    rose-colored light on high mountains before dawn or after dusk, 1871, translating German Alpenglühen; see Alp + glow (v.).ETD alpenglow (n.).2

    alpenhorn (n.)

    "long, powerful horn," formerly used to convey messages across valleys, 1864, from German, literally "horn of the Alps;" see Alp + horn (n.).ETD alpenhorn (n.).2

    alpenstock (n.)

    "long iron-pointed staff used for hiking in mountains," 1829, German, literally "Alpine stick;" see Alp + stock (n.1).ETD alpenstock (n.).2

    alpha (n.)

    c. 1300, from Latin alpha, from Greek alpha, from Hebrew or Phoenician aleph (see aleph). The Greeks added -a because Greek words cannot end in most consonants.ETD alpha (n.).2

    The sense of "beginning" of anything is from late 14c., and in this it is often paired with omega (the last letter in the Greek alphabet, representing "the end"). The sense of "first in a sequence" is from 1620s. In astronomy, the designation of the brightest star of each constellation (the use of Greek letters in star names began with Bayer's atlas in 1603). Alpha male was in use by c. 1960 among scientists studying animals; applied to humans in society from c. 1992.ETD alpha (n.).3

    alphabet (n.)

    "letters of a language arranged in customary order," 1570s, from Late Latin alphabetum (Tertullian), from Greek alphabetos, from alpha + beta.ETD alphabet (n.).2

    It also is attested from early 15c. in a sense of "learning or lore acquired through reading." Words for it in Old English included stæfræw, literally "row of letters," stæfrof "array of letters," and compare ABC.ETD alphabet (n.).3

    Alphabet soup is attested by 1907.ETD alphabet (n.).4

    alphabetical (adj.)

    "pertaining to an alphabet; in the order of the alphabet," 1560s, from alphabet + -ical. Alphabetary (adj.) also is from 1560s; alphabetic is from 1640s. Related: Alphabetically.ETD alphabetical (adj.).2

    alphabetize (v.)

    1848, "arrange alphabetically," from alphabet + -ize. The older verb was simply alphabet (1700). From 1854 as "express by alphabetic letters." Related: Alphabetized; alphabetizing.ETD alphabetize (v.).2

    alphabetization (n.)

    "act of arranging alphabetically; fact of being alphabetically arranged," 1864, noun of action from alphabetize (v.).ETD alphabetization (n.).2

    alphanumeric (adj.)

    "using both letters and numbers," 1912, contracted from alphabet + numeric (see numerical).ETD alphanumeric (adj.).2


    masc. proper name, from Spanish Alfonso, from a Germanic source (compare Old High German Adalfuns, from adal "noble;" see atheling + funs "ready"). The Alphonsine tables (1670s) are named for Alphonso the Wise, 13c. king of Castile, who had them compiled.ETD Alphonso.2

    Alpine (adj.)

    "of the Alps," early 15c., from Latin Alpinus; see Alp. Other adjectives were Alpish (1590s), Alpian (c. 1600), Alpsian (c. 1600). With a small a-, "pertaining to very high mountains," 1845.ETD Alpine (adj.).2

    al Qaeda

    alternative Latin alphabet transliteration of Arabic al Qaida (q.v.).ETD al Qaeda.2

    al Qaida

    also Al-Qaeda; name of a loosely structured jihadist movement founded c. 1989 by Osama bin Laden; from Arabic, literally "the base." A common Arabic term among Muslim radicals from the wider Islamic world who came to Afghanistan in 1980s and fought alongside local rebels against the Soviets, and who regarded themselves and their struggle not merely in Afghan terms but as the "base" or foundation of a wider jihad and revival in Islam. Used by Bin Laden's mentor, Abdallah Azzam, who referred to the "vanguard" which "constitutes the strong foundation [al-qaida al-sulbah] for the expected society." In U.S., the term first turns up in a CIA report in 1996.ETD al Qaida.2

    already (adv.)

    c. 1300, "in a state of readiness" (an adjectival sense, now obsolete), literally "fully ready, quite prepared," a contraction of all ready; see all + ready (adj.). Compare Norwegian, Danish allerede "already." As an adverb, "by this time, previous to some specified time," late 14c. The colloquial use in U.S. as a terminal emphatic (as in enough, already!) is attested from 1903, translating Yiddish shoyn, which is used in same sense. The pattern also is attested in Pennsylvania German and in South African.ETD already (adv.).2


    frequent spelling of all right, attested in print by 1884.ETD alright.2


    region between France and Germany (given to France 1648 at the settlement of the Thirty Years' War and disputed over ever since), from Medieval Latin Alsatia, explained as from Old High German *Ali-sazzo "inhabitant of the other (bank of the Rhine)," from Proto-Germanic *alja "other" (from PIE root *al- (1) "beyond") + Old High German -sazzo "inhabitant," literally "one who sits."ETD Alsace.2


    from the Latin form of Alsace. Alsatian was adopted 1917 by the Kennel Club for "German Shepherd dog" to avoid the wartime associations of German; the breed has no connection with Alsace. Alsatia was an old popular name for the White Friars district of London (1680s), which drew disreputable inhabitants owing to the privilege of sanctuary from a 13c. church and convent there; the image was of "debatable ground" (as Alsatia was between France and Germany). Hence Alsatian "London criminal," 1690s.ETD Alsatian.2

    also (adv., conj.)

    Old English eallswa "just as, even as, as if, so as, likewise," contraction of eal swa, from all "altogether" + so. Originally an emphatic form of so.ETD also (adv., conj.).2

    The sense of "wholly so" weakened to "in addition to, in the same way," replacing eke. It was used in Old English to introduce a sequel to a preceding statement, "and so, then, therefore." It was used from c. 1200 in connecting sentences, "in addition, moreover." The compound has parallel forms in German also, Dutch alzoo. English as is a shortened form of it.ETD also (adv., conj.).3

    also-ran (n.)

    1896, originally in reference to horse-races, from the verbal phrase, from also + past tense of run (v.). Probably from the wording of the listings given to non-placing horses in race results.ETD also-ran (n.).2

    alt (1)

    in Internet use (for example alt.right), it is from alt.* in the newsgroups naming system in Usenet. The term was introduced in 1987 and is said to be short for alternative, as it was meant to be outside the usual newsgroup administrative controls and thus include groups on controversial topics and pornography.ETD alt (1).2

    alt (2)

    "high tone," 1530s, originally in music, ultimately from Latin altus "high" (literally "grown tall;" from PIE root *al- (2) "to grow, nourish").ETD alt (2).2

    Altaic (adj.)

    1801 of the mountains; 1850 as an ethnic and linguistic family (comprising Turkish, etc.), from French Altaïque, from Altaïen, from Altai, name of a mountain range in Asia between Russia and China, a name of uncertain origin.ETD Altaic (adj.).2


    bright star in the constellation Aquila, 16c., from Arabic Al Nasr al Tair "the Flying Eagle," from tair, participle of tara "it flew."ETD Altair.2

    altar (n.)

    Old English alter, altar "altar," from Latin altare (plural altaria) "high altar, altar for sacrifice to the great gods," perhaps originally meaning "burnt offerings" (compare Latin adolere "to worship, to offer sacrifice, to honor by burning sacrifices to"), but influenced by Latin altus "high."ETD altar (n.).2

    In Middle English, often auter, from Old French auter. The Latin spelling was restored 1500s. As a symbol of marriage, by 1820. Altar-cloth is from c. 1200. Altar-piece is from 1640s; altar-boy from 1772.ETD altar (n.).3

    alterable (adj.)

    "capable of being varied or made different," 1520s, from alter + -able or else from French altérable. Related: Alterably; alterability.ETD alterable (adj.).2

    alter (v.)

    late 14c., "to change (something), make different in some way," from Old French alterer "to change, alter," from Medieval Latin alterare "to change," from Latin alter "the other (of the two)," from PIE root *al- (1) "beyond" + comparative suffix -ter (as in other). Intransitive sense "to become otherwise" first recorded 1580s. Related: Altered; altering.ETD alter (v.).2

    alteration (n.)

    late 14c., alteracioun, "change, transformation, action of altering," from Old French alteracion "change, alteration" (14c.), and directly from Medieval Latin alterationem (nominative alteratio), noun of action from past-participle stem of Late Latin alterare "to change," from Latin alter "the other (of the two)," from PIE root *al- (1) "beyond" + comparative suffix -ter (as in other).ETD alteration (n.).2

    The meaning "change in character or appearance" is from 1530s; that of "change in ready-made clothes to suit a customer's specifications" is from 1901. Related: Alterations.ETD alteration (n.).3

    altercation (n.)

    late 14c., altercacioun, "angry contention with words," from Old French altercacion "altercation" (12c.) and directly from Latin altercationem (nominative altercatio) "a dispute, debate, discussion," noun of action from past-participle stem of altercari "to dispute (with another)," from alter "the other" (see alter). The notion perhaps is of "speaking alternately."ETD altercation (n.).2

    altercate (v.)

    "to contend with words," 1520s, a back-formation from altercation, or else from Latin altercatus, past participle of altercari "to dispute (with another)," from alter "the other" (see alter).ETD altercate (v.).2

    alter ego (n.)

    "second self, counterpart," 1530s, a Latin phrase (used by Cicero), "a second self, a trusted friend" (compare Greek allos ego); see alter and ego.ETD alter ego (n.).2

    alternating (adj.)

    1550s, "occurring or acting by turns, one after the other," present-participle adjective from alternate (v.). Electrical alternating current is recorded from 1839, an electrical current which flows alternately in opposite directions without interruption.ETD alternating (adj.).2

    alternate (v.)

    1590s, "do by turns" (transitive), from Latin alternatus, past participle of alternare "do one thing and then another, do by turns," from alternus "one after the other, alternate, in turns, reciprocal," from alter "the other" (see alter). Replaced Middle English alternen "to vary, alternate" (early 15c.). Transitive meaning "interchange reciprocally" is from 1850; intransitive sense "follow one another in time or place" is from c. 1700; that of "pass back and forth between actions, conditions, etc." is by 1823. Related: Alternated; alternating.ETD alternate (v.).2

    alternate (n.)

    1718, "that which alternates (with anything else)," from alternate (adj.). Meaning "a substitute, one authorized to take the place of another," especially in political bodies, is first attested 1848.ETD alternate (n.).2

    alternation (n.)

    "act of alternating; state of being alternate," mid-15c., alternacioun, from Old French alternacion "alternation," from Latin alternationem (nominative alternatio) "an interchanging," noun of action from past-participle stem of alternare "to do first one thing then the other; exchange parts," from alternus "one after the other, alternate, in turns, reciprocal," from alter "the other" (see alter).ETD alternation (n.).2

    alternative (adj.)

    1580s, "offering one or the other of two," from Medieval Latin alternativus, from Latin alternatus, past participle of alternare "do one thing and then another, do by turns," from alternus "one after the other, alternate, in turns, reciprocal," from alter "the other" (see alter). The meaning "purporting to be a superior choice to what is in general use" was current by 1970 (earliest reference is to the media); in popular music, by 1984 in reference to pirate radio. Alternative energy is from 1975. Related: Alternatively.ETD alternative (adj.).2

    alternately (adv.)

    "in an alternate manner," early 15c., from alternate (adj.) + -ly (2).ETD alternately (adv.).2

    alternative (n.)

    1620s, in rhetoric, "proposition involving two statements, the acceptance of one implying the rejection of the other," from noun use of Medieval Latin alternativus "do one thing and then another, do by turns," from Latin alternus "one after the other, alternate, in turns, reciprocal," from alter "the other" (see alter). Of courses of action, from 1814. Of objects, etc., "the other of two which may be chosen," by 1836.ETD alternative (n.).2

    alternator (n.)

    1878, "dynamo-electric machine which produces an alternating current," agent noun in Latin form from alternate (v.).ETD alternator (n.).2

    alternate (adj.)

    "following each other by turns, reciprocal," 1510s, from Latin alternatus "one after the other," past participle of alternare "to do first one thing then the other; exchange parts," from alternus "one after the other, alternate, in turns, reciprocal," from alter "the other" (see alter).ETD alternate (adj.).2

    Alternate means "by turns;" alternative means "offering a choice." Both imply two kinds or things. Alternation is the process of two things following one another regularly by turns (as night and day); an alternative is a choice of two things, the acceptance of one implying the rejection of the other. Related: Alternacy.ETD alternate (adj.).3

    although (conj.)

    early 14c., althagh, "admitting that, in spite of the fact that," a contraction of all though, preserving the once-common emphatic use of all. "All though was originally more emphatic than though, but by 1400 it was practically only a variant of it, and all having thus lost its independent force, the phrase was written as one word" [OED]. The choice between although and though often is determined by metrics.ETD although (conj.).2


    word-forming element meaning "high," sometimes also alto- (in cloud names, etc.), from Latin altus "high," literally "grown tall," from PIE root *al- (2) "to grow, nourish."ETD alti-.2

    altimeter (n.)

    "instrument for measuring altitudes," 1918, from alti- "high" + -meter.ETD altimeter (n.).2

    altimetry (n.)

    "the art of measuring heights," 1690s, from Medieval Latin altimetria, from Latin alti- "high" (see alti-) + Greek -metria "a measuring of" (see -metry). Related: Altimetric.ETD altimetry (n.).2

    altitude (n.)

    late 14c., "elevation above the horizon" (of stars, planets), from Latin altitudinem (nominative altitudo) "height, altitude," from altus "high" (literally "grown tall," from PIE root *al- (2) "to grow, nourish"). The general sense of "space upward, height, vertical extent" is from early 15c. Related: Altitudinal; altitudinous.ETD altitude (n.).2

    alto (n.)

    1784, "man with an alto voice," literally "high," from Italian alto (canto), from Latin altus "high" (literally "grown tall," from PIE root *al- (2) "to grow, nourish"). Originally a man's high voice; now more commonly applied to the lower range of women's voices (which is more strictly the contralto), an extension attested by 1848. It is so called because higher than the tenor, which in old music had the melody.ETD alto (n.).2

    As a type of saxophone, from 1869. Also an old name for the viola (1833), from Italian.ETD alto (n.).3

    altogether (adv.)

    "wholly, entirely, completely," early 13c., altogedere, a strengthened form of all (also see together); used in the sense of "a whole" from 1660s. OED notes, "There is a common tendency to write altogether where all together is logically preferable," and gives examples from 1765. The altogether "a condition of nakedness" is from 1894, probably from the notion of "completely" naked.ETD altogether (adv.).2

    alto-rilievo (n.)

    also alto-relievo, "a form in relief in which the objects stand out very much from the background," 1717, from Italian, literally "high-relief" in sculpture, from alto "high," from Latin altus (see alti-) + rilievo, from rilevare "to raise," from Latin relevare "to raise, lighten" (see relieve).ETD alto-rilievo (n.).2

    altruism (n.)

    1853, "unselfishness, devotion to the welfare of others, the opposite of egoism," from French altruisme, coined or popularized 1830 by French philosopher Auguste Comte, with -ism + autrui (Old French altrui) "of or to others," from Latin alteri, dative of alter "other" (see alter). The -l- in the French coinage perhaps is an etymological reinsertion from the Latin word.ETD altruism (n.).2

    altruistic (adj.)

    "having regard for the interest and well-being of others," 1853, from altruist + -ic. Related: Altruistically.ETD altruistic (adj.).2

    altruist (n.)

    "person devoted to the welfare of others," 1842, from French altruiste; see altruism + -ist.ETD altruist (n.).2

    alum (n.)

    "whitish mineral salt used as an astringent, dye, etc.," late 14c., from Old French alum, alun, from Latin alumen "alum," also "the alum plant," from Proto-Italic *alu- "bitter substance" literally "bitter salt," cognate with Greek aludoimos "bitter" and perhaps with English ale and some Balto-Slavic words for "beer" (such as Lithuanian alus). The plant's medicinal use on wounds was known to Pliny.ETD alum (n.).2

    aluminium (n.)

    1812, chiefly British form of aluminum (q.v.).ETD aluminium (n.).2

    aluminum (n.)

    1812, coined by English chemist Sir Humphry Davy, from alumina, alumine, the name given by French chemists late 18c. to aluminum oxide, from Latin alumen "alum" (see alum). Davy originally called it alumium (1808), then amended this to aluminum, which remains the U.S. word. British editors in 1812 further amended it to aluminium, the modern preferred British form, to better harmonize with other metallic element names (sodium, potassium, etc.).ETD aluminum (n.).2

    Aluminum foil attested by 1859; popularized in food packaging from c. 1950.ETD aluminum (n.).3

    alumna (n.)

    "female pupil or graduate of a school," 1860, fem. of alumnus (q.v.).ETD alumna (n.).2

    alumnae (n.)

    "female pupils or graduates of a school," fem. plural of alumnus (q.v.).ETD alumnae (n.).2

    alumni (n.)

    "pupils or graduates of a school," plural of alumnus (q.v.).ETD alumni (n.).2

    alumnus (n.)

    "pupil or graduate of a school," 1640s, from Latin alumnus "a pupil," literally "foster son," vestigial present passive participle of alere "to suckle, nourish" (from PIE root *al- (2) "to grow, nourish"). With ending akin to Greek -omenos. Plural is alumni. The fem. form is alumna (1882), plural alumnae.ETD alumnus (n.).2

    alveolar (adj.)

    1799, "pertaining to the sockets of the teeth," from a modern medical use of Latin alveolus "socket, small hollow or cavity" (see alveolus) + -ar. Sense extended 19c. to other anatomical hollows.ETD alveolar (adj.).2

    alveolus (n.)

    1706, "a hollow," especially "the socket of a tooth," from Latin alveolus "a tray, trough, basin; bed of a small river; small hollow or cavity," diminutive of alvus "belly, stomach, paunch, bowels; hold of a ship," from PIE root *aulo- "hole, cavity" (source also of Greek aulos "flute, tube, pipe;" Serbo-Croatian, Polish, Russian ulica "street," originally "narrow opening;" Old Church Slavonic uliji, Lithuanian aulys "beehive" (hollow trunk), Armenian yli "pregnant"). The word was extended in 19c. anatomy to other small pits, sockets, or cells.ETD alveolus (n.).2

    always (adv.)

    mid-14c., contraction of Old English phrase ealne weg "all the time; quite, perpetually," literally "all the way," with accusative of space or distance, though the oldest recorded usages refer to time; see all + way (n.). The adverbial genitive -s appeared early 13c., was rare before c. 1400, but is now standard, though the variant alway survived, archaic, into the 1800s for the sake of poetry (as in "I Would Not Live Alway"). Meaning "every time" is from early 13c.ETD always (adv.).2

    alyssum (n.)

    type of European flowering plant, 1550s, from Latin alysson, from Greek alysson, which is perhaps the neuter of adjective alyssos "curing madness," from a- "not, without" (see a- (3)) + lyssa "madness, martial rage, fury," an abstract word probably literally "wolf-ness" and related to lykos "wolf" (see wolf (n.)); but some see a connection with "light" words, in reference to the glittering eyes of the mad.ETD alyssum (n.).2

    Alzheimer's disease (n.)

    senium præcox, 1912, the title of article by S.C. Fuller published in "Journal of Nervous and Mental Diseases;" named for German neurologist Alois Alzheimer (1864-1915). The disease name was not common before 1970s; shortened form Alzheimer's is recorded from 1954. The surname is from the place name Alzheim, literally "Old Hamlet."ETD Alzheimer's disease (n.).2

    amative (adj.)

    1630s, "disposed to love or sexual passion," from Latin amat-, past-participle stem of amare "to love" (see Amy) + -ive. Related: Amativeness.ETD amative (adj.).2


    also a.m., 1762 in reference to hours, an abbreviation of Latin ante meridiem "before noon" (q.v.). Synonymous with "morning" by 1776. AM as a type of radio wave broadcast, 1921, abbreviation of amplitude modulation (see amplitude). Affixed to a name, an abbreviation of artium magister "Master of Arts," an abbreviation preferable in a purely Latin idiom; British English preferred M.A. (magister artium, 1730). In some old chronologies, a.m. is anno mundi "year of the world."ETD a.m..2

    am (v.)

    first-person singular present indicative of be (q.v.); Old English eom "to be, to remain," (Mercian eam, Northumbrian am), from Proto-Germanic *izm(i)-, from PIE *esmi- (source also of Old Norse emi, Gothic im, Hittite esmi, Old Church Slavonic jesmi, Lithuanian esmi), first-person singular form of the root *es- "to be."ETD am (v.).2

    In Old English it formed only present tenses, other forms being expressed in the "W-base" (see were, was). This cooperative verb is sometimes referred to by linguists as *es-*wes-. Until the distinction broke down 13c., *es-*wes- tended to express "existence," with beon meaning something closer to "come to be."ETD am (v.).3

    Old English am had two plural forms: 1. sind/sindon, sie and 2. earon/aron. The s- form (also used in the subjunctive) fell from English in the early 13c. (though its cousin continues in German sind, the third-person plural of "to be") and was replaced by forms of be, but aron (see are) continued, and as am and be merged it encroached on some uses that previously had belonged to be. By the early 1500s it had established its place in standard English.ETD am (v.).4

    amable (adj.)

    early 15c., "friendly, courteous," from Old French amable "loving; worthy of love, amicable, pleasant," from Latin amabilem "lovely," from amare "to love" (see Amy). Related: Amably; amability.ETD amable (adj.).2

    amah (n.)

    "wet-nurse," 1839, Anglo-Indian, from Portuguese ama "nurse," from Medieval Latin amma "mother" (from PIE root *am-, forming nursery words); no doubt also from or combined with amma "mother" in Telegu, etc.ETD amah (n.).2

    amain (adv.)

    "with violence, strength, or force," 1530s, from main (adj.) by analogy with other words in a- (such as afoot).ETD amain (adv.).2

    amalgam (n.)

    c. 1400, "a blend of mercury with another metal; soft mass formed by chemical manipulation," from Old French amalgame or directly from Medieval Latin amalgama, "alloy of mercury (especially with gold or silver)," c. 1300, an alchemists' word, probably from Arabic al-malgham "an emollient poultice or unguent for sores (especially warm)" [Francis Johnson, "A Dictionary of Persian, Arabic, and English"], which is itself perhaps from Greek malagma "softening substance," from malassein "to soften," from malakos "soft" (from PIE *meldh-, from root *mel- (1) "soft"). The figurative meaning "compound of different things" is from 1790.ETD amalgam (n.).2

    amalgamate (v.)

    1650s, "mix (a metal) with mercury," a back-formation from amalgamation, or else from the obsolete adjective amalgamate (1640s) from amalgam (q.v.). Originally in metallurgy. The figurative transitive sense of "to unite" (races, etc.) is attested from 1802; the intransitive sense of "to combine, unite into one body" is from 1797. Related: Amalgamated; amalgamating. Earlier verbs were amalgam (1540s); amalgamize (1590s).ETD amalgamate (v.).2

    Larger font
    Smaller font