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

    autophobia (n.) — ax (n.)

    autophobia (n.)

    "fear of referring to oneself," 1845 (as autophoby), from Greek autos "self" (see auto-) + -phobia "fear." Related: Autophobic; autophobe.ETD autophobia (n.).2

    autopilot (n.)

    also auto-pilot, 1917, originally in airplanes, from auto- + pilot (n.). The figurative use (of persons, behaviors) is by 1996.ETD autopilot (n.).2

    autopsy (n.)

    1650s, "an eye-witnessing, a seeing for oneself," from Modern Latin autopsia, from Greek autopsia "a seeing with one's own eyes," from autos- "self" (see auto-) + opsis "a sight" (from PIE root *okw- "to see"). The sense of "dissection of a body to determine cause of death" is recorded from 1670s, probably from the same sense in French autopsie (1570s). Related: Autopsic; autoptic. As a verb by 1895. Related: Autopsied.ETD autopsy (n.).2

    autosome (n.)

    "an ordinary (non-sex) chromosome," 1906, coined by U.S. cytologist T.H. Montgomery from auto- + -some (3). Related: Autosomal.ETD autosome (n.).2

    autosuggestion (n.)

    also auto-suggestion, "hypnotic or subconscious adoption of an idea by one's own effort," 1879, a hybrid from auto- + suggestion. The idea, and probably the model for the word, are from French.ETD autosuggestion (n.).2

    autotheism (n.)

    "self-deification," 1610s, from auto- + -theism. The religion of one who mistakes his own inner voices for God's voice in him. Also used in a theological sense (1580s) for "the regarding of the second person of the Trinity as God entire." Related: Autotheist; autotheistic.ETD autotheism (n.).2

    autumn (n.)

    season after summer and before winter, late 14c., autumpne (modern form from 16c.), from Old French autumpne, automne (13c.), from Latin autumnus (also auctumnus, perhaps influenced by auctus "increase"), which is of unknown origin.ETD autumn (n.).2

    Perhaps it is from Etruscan, but Tucker suggests a meaning "drying-up season" and a root in *auq- (which would suggest the form in -c- was the original) and compares archaic English sere-month "August." De Vaan writes, "Although 'summer', 'winter' and 'spring' are inherited IE words in Latin, a foreign origin of autumnus is conceivable, since we cannot reconstruct a PIE word for 'autumn'."ETD autumn (n.).3

    Harvest (n.) was the English name for the season until autumn began to displace it 16c. Astronomically, from the descending equinox to the winter solstice; in Britain, the season is popularly August through October; in U.S., September through November. Compare Italian autunno, Spanish otoño, Portuguese outono, all from the Latin word.ETD autumn (n.).4

    As de Vaan notes, autumn's names across the Indo-European languages leave no evidence that there ever was a common word for it. Many "autumn" words mean "end, end of summer," or "harvest." Compare Greek phthinoporon "waning of summer;" Lithuanian ruduo "autumn," from rudas "reddish," in reference to leaves; Old Irish fogamar, literally "under-winter."ETD autumn (n.).5

    autumnal (adj.)

    1570s, "maturing or blooming in autumn;" 1630s, "belonging to autumn," from Latin autumnalis "pertaining to autumn," from autumnus (see autumn). From 1650s in figurative sense "past the prime."ETD autumnal (adj.).2

    auxiliary (adj.)

    "assisting, giving support," hence "subsidiary, additional," c. 1600, from Latin auxiliaris "helpful, aiding," from auxilium "aid, help, support," related to auctus, past participle of augere "to increase" (from PIE root *aug- (1) "to increase").ETD auxiliary (adj.).2

    auxiliary (n.)

    c. 1600, "foreign troops in service of a nation at war," from auxiliary (adj.). The Latin adjective also was used as a noun in this sense. In grammar, "a verb used in forming phrases with other verbs and indicating mode or tense," 1762, from the adjective in this sense (1670s). Related: Auxiliaries.ETD auxiliary (n.).2

    auxin (n.)

    plant growth hormone, 1934, from German (1931), from Greek auxein "to increase" (from PIE root *aug- (1) "to increase") + chemical suffix -in (2).ETD auxin (n.).2


    abbreviation of Authorized Version (of the English Bible, 1611) attested from 1868; see authorize.ETD A.V..2


    "hail," also "farewell," early 13c. (in reference to the Ave Maria), from Latin ave, second person singular imperative of avere "to be or fare well."ETD ave.2

    available (adj.)

    mid-15c., "beneficial," also "valid, effective, capable of producing the desired effect," from avail + -able. The meaning "at one's disposal, capable of being made use of" is recorded from 1827. Related: Availably.ETD available (adj.).2

    availing (adj.)

    "advantageous," early 15c., present-participle adjective from avail (v.). Related: Availingly.ETD availing (adj.).2

    avail (v.)

    c. 1300, availen, "to help (someone), assist; benefit, be profitable to; be for the advantage of; have force or efficacy, serve for a purpose," apparently an Anglo-French compound of Old French a- "to" (see ad-) + vaill-, present stem of valoir "be worth," from Latin valere "be strong, be worth" (from PIE root *wal- "to be strong"). Related: Availed; availing. As a noun, from c. 1400.ETD avail (v.).2

    availability (n.)

    "capability of advantageous use," 1803, from available + -ity.ETD availability (n.).2

    availment (n.)

    "successful issue; fact of being effective," 1690s, from avail (v.) + -ment.ETD availment (n.).2

    avalanche (n.)

    "fall or slide of a mass of snow on a mountain slope," 1763, from French avalanche (17c.), from Romansch (Swiss) avalantze "descent," altered (by metathesis of -l- and -v-, probably influenced by Old French avaler "to descend, go down," avalage "descent, waterfall, avalanche") from Savoy dialect lavantse, from Provençal lavanca "avalanche," perhaps from a pre-Latin Alpine language (the suffix -anca suggests Ligurian). It was later extended to falls of rock and landslides. As a verb, from 1872.ETD avalanche (n.).2


    French, literally "before," in various terms borrowed into English; cognate with Italian avanti, both from Late Latin abante, a compound of ab "from" (see ab-) and ante "before, in front of" (from PIE root *ant- "front, forehead," with derivatives meaning "in front of, before") which meant "from in front of," but in Vulgar Latin came to mean simply "before."ETD avant.2

    avant-garde (n.)

    also avant garde, avantgarde; French, literally "advance guard" (see avant + guard (n.)). Used in English 15c.-18c. in a literal, military sense; borrowed again 1910 as an artistic term for "pioneers or innovators of a particular period." Also used around the same time in a political sense in communist and anarchist publications. As an adjective, by 1925.ETD avant-garde (n.).2


    one of a Turkic people who made incursions in southeastern Europe 6c.-9c. Related: Avars.ETD Avar.2

    avarice (n.)

    c. 1300, "inordinate desire of gaining and possessing wealth," fifth of the seven deadly sins, from Old French avarice "greed, covetousness" (12c.), from Latin avaritia "greed, inordinate desire," from avarus "greedy, grasping," adjectival form of avere "crave, long for, be eager," from Proto-Italic *awe- "to be eager," from PIE *heu-eh- "to enjoy, consume" (source also of Sanskrit avasa- "refreshment, food," avisya- "gluttony;" Welsh ewyllys "will;" Armenian aviwn "lust").ETD avarice (n.).2

    In Middle English it also was used of immoderate desire for knowledge, glory, power, etc., but it "has become limited, except in figurative uses, so as to express only a sordid and mastering desire to get wealth" [Century Dictionary].ETD avarice (n.).3

    avaricious (adj.)

    late 14c., "miserly, stingy;" early 15c., "greedy, covetous," from Old French avaricios "greedy, covetous" (Modern French avaricieux), from avarice "greed" (see avarice). An Old English word for it was feoh-georn. Related: Avariciously; avariciousness.ETD avaricious (adj.).2

    avast (interj.)

    1680s, a nautical interjection, "hold! stop!" probably worn down from Dutch houd vast "hold fast." See hold (v.) + fast (adv.).ETD avast (interj.).2

    avatar (n.)

    1784, "descent of a Hindu deity to earth in an incarnate or tangible form," from Sanskrit avatarana "descent" (of a deity to the earth in incarnate form), from ava- "off, down" (from PIE root *au- (2) "off, away") + base of tarati "(he) crosses over" (from PIE root *tere- (2) "cross over, pass through, overcome").ETD avatar (n.).2

    The meaning "concrete embodiment of something abstract" is from 1815. In computer use, it seems to trace to the novel "Snowcrash" (1992) by Neal Stephenson.ETD avatar (n.).3

    avaunt (interj.)

    late 15c., "begone," literally "move on," from Old French avant "forward!" It is a variant of avant (q.v.).ETD avaunt (interj.).2

    Ave Maria

    modified form of the angelic salutation to the Virgin (Luke i.28) used as a devotional recitation, early 13c., from the opening words ("Ave [Maria] gratia plena"). See ave + Maria.ETD Ave Maria.2

    avenge (v.)

    "vindicate by inflicting pain or evil on the wrongdoer," late 14c., from Anglo-French avenger, Old French avengier, from a- "to" (see ad-) + vengier "take revenge" (Modern French venger), from Latin vindicare "to claim, avenge, punish" (see vindication). See revenge (v.) for distinction of use. Related: Avenged; avenging. As a noun to go with it, 16c. English tried avenge, avengeance, avengement, avenging.ETD avenge (v.).2

    avenger (n.)

    "one who seeks or takes vengeance," late 14c., agent noun from avenge (v.). Spenser (1596) has fem. form avengeress.ETD avenger (n.).2

    avenue (n.)

    c. 1600, "a way of approach" (originally a military word), from French avenue "way of access" (16c.), from Old French avenue "act of approaching, arrival," noun use of fem. of avenu, past participle of avenir "to come to, arrive," from Latin advenire "to come to, reach, arrive at," from ad "to" (see ad-) + venire "to come" (from a suffixed form of PIE root *gwa- "to go, come").ETD avenue (n.).2

    The meaning was extended to "a way of approach to a country-house," usually a straight path bordered by trees, hence, "a broad, tree-lined roadway" (1650s), then to "wide, main street" (by 1846, especially in U.S.). By late 19c. in U.S. cities it was used to form the names of streets without reference to character.ETD avenue (n.).3

    aver (v.)

    late 14c., "assert the truth of," from Old French averer "verify, confirm, prove" (12c.), from Vulgar Latin *adverare "make true, prove to be true," from Latin ad "to" (see ad-) + verus "true" (from PIE root *were-o- "true, trustworthy"). From 1580s as "affirm with confidence." Related: Averred; averring.ETD aver (v.).2

    average (v.)

    1769, "to amount to," from average (n.). By 1831 as "find the arithmetical mean of unequal quantities;" 1914 as "divide among a number proportionately" (usually with out). Related: Averaged; averaging.ETD average (v.).2

    average (n.)

    late 15c., "any small charge over freight cost, payable by owners of goods to the master of a ship for his care of the goods," also "financial loss incurred through damage to goods in transit," from French avarie "damage to ship," and Italian avaria. A word from 12c. Mediterranean maritime trade (compare Spanish averia), of uncertain origin; sometimes traced to Arabic 'awariya "damaged merchandise." Dutch avarij, German haferei, etc., also are from Romanic languages. "Few words have received more etymological investigation" [OED].ETD average (n.).2

    The meaning developed to "equal sharing of loss by the interested parties." Transferred sense of "statement of a medial estimate, proportionate distribution of inequality among all," is first recorded 1735. The mathematical sense "a mean proportion arrived at by arithmetical calculation" is from 1755. Sports sense, of batting, attested by 1845, originally in cricket.ETD average (n.).3

    average (adj.)

    1770, "estimated by averaging," from average (n.). By 1803 as "equal in amount to the sum of all particular quantities divided by the number of them," hence "of medium character."ETD average (adj.).2


    volcanic lake in Campania, looked upon by the ancients as an entrance to Hell, usually derived from a Latinization of Greek aornos "without birds," from a- "not, without" (see a- (3)) + ornis "a bird" (see ornitho-), supposedly from the vapors which killed birds attempting to fly over it. Related: Avernal.ETD Avernus.2


    Latinization of name of Ibn Rushd (1126-1198) of Cordova, Arab philosopher and physician of Spain and Morocco. In attempting to purify the Arabic Aristotle of Neoplatonic influences, he greatly elevated Aristotle's importance and the reverence for his pagan doctrines to a degree that alarmed the orthodox devout among Christians and Muslims. His followers were particularly noted for their separation of philosophy from religion. Related: Averroist; Averoistic.ETD Averroes.2

    aversion (n.)

    1590s, "a turning away from;" 1650s in the figurative sense of "mental attitude of repugnance or opposition," from French aversion (16c.) and directly from Latin aversionem (nominative aversio), noun of action from past-participle stem of aversus "turned away, backwards, behind, hostile," itself past participle of avertere "to turn away" (see avert). Aversion therapy in psychology is from 1946.ETD aversion (n.).2

    averse (adj.)

    mid-15c., "turned away in mind or feeling, disliking, unwilling," from Old French avers "hostile, antagonistic" and directly from Latin aversus "turned away, turned back," past participle of avertere "to turn away," from ab "off, away from" (see ab-) + vertere "to turn" (see versus). Originally and usually in English in the mental sense, while averted is used in a physical sense.ETD averse (adj.).2

    avert (v.)

    mid-15c., transitive, "turn (something) away, cause to turn away," from Old French avertir "turn, direct; avert; make aware" (12c.), from Vulgar Latin *advertire, from Latin avertere "to turn away; to drive away; shun; ward off; alienate," from ab "off, away from" (see ab-) + vertere "to turn" (from PIE root *wer- (2) "to turn, bend"). The meaning "ward off, prevent the occurrence of" is from 1610s. Related: Averted; averting.ETD avert (v.).2

    Avestan (n.)

    Eastern Iranian language that survived in sacred texts centuries after it went extinct, from Persian Avesta "sacred books of the Parsees," earlier Avistak, literally "books."ETD Avestan (n.).2


    U.S. car rental company, according to company history founded 1946 at Willow Run Airport in Detroit by U.S. businessman Warren Avis and named for him.ETD Avis.2

    avian (adj.)

    "resembling or pertaining to birds," 1861, from Latin avis "bird" (from PIE root *awi- "bird") + -an.ETD avian (adj.).2

    aviary (n.)

    "large cage or building where birds are reared or kept," 1570s, from Latin aviarium "place in which birds are kept," neuter of aviarius "of birds," from avis "bird" (from PIE root *awi- "bird").ETD aviary (n.).2

    aviator (n.)

    "aircraft pilot," 1887, from French aviateur, from Latin avis "bird" (from PIE root *awi- "bird") + -ateur. Also used c. 1891 in a sense of "aircraft, flying-machine." Feminine form aviatrix is from 1927; earlier aviatrice (1910), aviatress (1911).ETD aviator (n.).2

    aviation (n.)

    "art or act of flying," 1866, from French aviation, noun of action from stem of Latin avis "bird" (from PIE root *awi- "bird"). Coined in 1863 by French aviation pioneer Guillaume Joseph Gabriel de La Landelle (1812-1886) in "Aviation ou Navigation aérienne."ETD aviation (n.).2


    Latinization of name of Ibn Sina (980-1037), Persian philosopher and physician. Full name Abū 'Alī al-Husayn ibn 'Abd Allāh ibn Sīnā al-Balkhī.ETD Avicenna.2

    avicide (n.)

    "slaughter of birds," 1834, from Latin avis "bird" (from PIE root *awi- "bird") + -cide.ETD avicide (n.).2

    aviculture (n.)

    "care and breeding of birds in domestication or captivity," 1876, from French aviculture, from Latin avis "bird" (from PIE root *awi- "bird") + cultura "cultivation" (see culture (n.)). Related: Aviculturist.ETD aviculture (n.).2

    avid (adj.)

    "eager; greedy," 1769, from French avide (15c.), from Latin avidus "longing eagerly, desirous, greedy," from avere "to desire eagerly" (see avarice). Also in part a back-formation from avidity. Related: Avidly.ETD avid (adj.).2

    avidity (n.)

    mid-15c., avidite, "eagerness, zeal," from Old French avidite "avidity, greed" or directly from Latin aviditatem (nominative aviditas) "eagerness, avidity," noun of quality from past-participle stem of avere "to desire eagerly" (see avarice).ETD avidity (n.).2

    aviform (adj.)

    "bird-shaped, resembling a bird," 1885, from Latin avis "bird" (from PIE root *awi- "bird") + -form.ETD aviform (adj.).2

    avionics (n.)

    "electronics applied to aviation," 1949, from aviation + electronics.ETD avionics (n.).2

    avise (v.)

    obsolete form of advise. Related: Avisement.ETD avise (v.).2

    avocation (n.)

    1610s, "a calling away from one's occupation;" 1640s, "that which calls one away from one's proper business," from Latin avocationem (nominative avocatio) "a calling away, distraction, diversion," noun of action from past-participle stem of avocare "to call off, call away," from ab "off, away from" (see ab-) + vocare "to call," which is related to vox (genitive vocis) "voice" (from PIE root *wekw- "to speak"). Commonly, but improperly, "one's regular business, vocation" (1660s). Earlier (1520s) in a legalistic sense "calling to a higher court."ETD avocation (n.).2

    avocado (n.)

    edible, oily fruit of a tree common in the American tropics, 1763, from Spanish avocado, altered (by folk etymology influence of earlier Spanish avocado "lawyer," from same Latin source as advocate (n.)) from earlier aguacate, from Nahuatl (Aztecan) ahuakatl "avocado" (with a secondary meaning "testicle" probably based on resemblance), from proto-Nahuan *pawa "avocado."ETD avocado (n.).2

    As a color-name, it is attested by 1945. The English corruption alligator (pear) is 1763, from Mexican Spanish alvacata, alligato.ETD avocado (n.).3

    avoidance (n.)

    late 14c., "action of emptying," from avoid + -ance. The sense of "action of dodging or shunning" is recorded from early 15c.; it also meant "action of making legally invalid" (1620s), and, of an office, etc., "becoming vacant" (mid-15c.).ETD avoidance (n.).2

    avoid (v.)

    late 14c., "shun (someone), refrain from (something), have nothing to do with (an action, a scandal, etc.), escape, evade," from Anglo-French avoider "to clear out, withdraw (oneself)," partially Englished from Old French esvuidier "to empty out," from es- "out" (see ex-) + vuidier "to be empty," from voide "empty, vast, wide, hollow, waste," from Latin vocivos "unoccupied, vacant," related to vacare "be empty" (from PIE *wak-, extended form of root *eue- "to leave, abandon, give out").ETD avoid (v.).2

    In Middle English with a wide range of meanings now obsolete: "to empty, rid, take out, remove, discharge from the body, send away; eject or banish; destroy, erase; depart from or abandon, go away." The current sense corresponds to Old French eviter with which it perhaps was confused. Related: Avoided; avoiding.ETD avoid (v.).3

    avoidable (adj.)

    "capable of being avoided," mid-15c., from avoid + -able. Related: Avoidably.ETD avoidable (adj.).2

    avoirdupois (n.)

    1650s, misspelling (with French du for de) of Middle English avoir-de-peise, the Norman form of Old French avoir de pois "goods of weight" (equivalent to Medieval Latin averia ponderis), from aveir "property, goods" (noun use of aveir "have," from Latin habere; from PIE root *ghabh- "to give or receive") + peis "weight," from Latin pensum, neuter of pendere "to hang, cause to hang; weigh; pay" (from PIE root *(s)pen- "to draw, stretch, spin").ETD avoirdupois (n.).2

    The oldest sense in English is "goods sold by weight" (early 14c.). It is attested from late 15c. as a system of weights in which 1 pound = 16 ounces; introduced into England from Bayonne, from late 15c. it was the standard system of weights used in England for all goods except precious metals, precious stones, and medicine.ETD avoirdupois (n.).3


    English river name, from Celtic abona "river," from *ab- "water" (see afanc). Of the at least four rivers in England and two in Scotland that bear the name, Shakespeare's is the Warwickshire Avon.ETD Avon.2

    avouch (v.)

    1550s, "affirm, acknowledge openly;" 1590s, "make good, answer for," from French avochier "call upon as authority," in Old French "call (to court), advocate, plead (a case)," from Latin advocare "call to" as a witness (see advocate (n.)).ETD avouch (v.).2

    Related: Avouched; avouching.ETD avouch (v.).3

    avow (v.)

    c. 1300, "uphold, support, approve; stand by, back up (someone); declare openly, take sides openly, affirm;" mid-14c. "admit openly," from Anglo-French avouer, Old French avoer "acknowledge, accept, recognize," especially as a protector (12c., Modern French avouer), from Latin advocare "to call, summon, invite" (see advocate (n.)). A synonym of avouch (q.v.), which tends to contain the more technical, legal aspect of the word. Related: Avowed; avowing.ETD avow (v.).2

    avowal (n.)

    "open declaration, frank acknowledgment," 1716, from avow + -al (2).ETD avowal (n.).2

    avowed (adj.)

    "declared, open," mid-14c., past-participle adjective from avow. Related: Avowedly.ETD avowed (adj.).2

    avuncular (adj.)

    "of or pertaining to an uncle," 1789, from Latin avunculus "maternal uncle," diminutive of avus (see uncle) + -ar. Used humorously for "of a pawnbroker" (uncle was slang for "pawnbroker" from c. 1600 through 19c.).ETD avuncular (adj.).2

    awful (adj.)

    c. 1300, agheful, aueful, "worthy of respect or fear, striking with awe; causing dread," from aghe, an earlier form of awe (n.), + -ful. The Old English word was egefull. The weakened sense of "very bad" is by 1809; the weakened sense of "excessively; very great" is by 1818. It formerly also was occasionally used in a sense of "profoundly reverential, full of awe" (1590s).ETD awful (adj.).2

    awing (n.)

    "action of inspiring with awe," 1650s, verbal noun from awe (v.).ETD awing (n.).2

    aw (interj.)

    expression of mild disappointment, sympathy, etc.; recorded in this form by 1888.ETD aw (interj.).2

    awe (n.)

    c. 1300, aue, "fear, terror, great reverence," earlier aghe, c. 1200, from a Scandinavian source, such as Old Norse agi "fright;" from Proto-Germanic *agiz- (source also of Old English ege "fear," Old High German agiso "fright, terror," Gothic agis "fear, anguish"), from PIE *agh-es- (source also of Greek akhos "pain, grief"), from root *agh- (1) "to be depressed, be afraid" (see ail).ETD awe (n.).2

    The current sense of "dread mixed with admiration or veneration" is due to biblical use with reference to the Supreme Being. To stand in awe (early 15c.) originally was simply to stand awe.ETD awe (n.).3

    Awe-inspiring is recorded from 1814.ETD awe (n.).4

    awe (v.)

    "inspire with fear or dread," c. 1300, from awe (n.); Old English had egan (v.). Related: Awed; awing.ETD awe (v.).2

    AWACS (n.)

    1966, initialism (acronym) for "Airborne Warning and Control Systems."ETD AWACS (n.).2

    away (adv.)

    Middle English awei, from late Old English aweg, earlier on weg "on from this (that) place;" see a- (1) + way (n.).ETD away (adv.).2

    The meaning "from one's own or accustomed place" is from c. 1300; that of "from one state or condition to another" is from mid-14c.; that of "from one's possession (give away, throw away) is from c. 1400. Colloquial use for "without delay" (fire away, also right away) is from the earlier sense of "onward in time" (16c.). The meaning "at such a distance" (a mile away) is by 1712. Intensive use (as in away back) is American English, attested by 1818. Of sporting events played at the other team's field or court, by 1893.ETD away (adv.).3

    await (v.)

    mid-13c., awaiten, "to wait for," from Old North French awaitier (Old French agaitier) "to lie in wait for, watch, observe," from a- "to" (see ad-) + waitier "to watch" (see wait (v.)). Originally especially "wait for with hostile intent, wait to ambush or spy upon." Related: Awaited; awaiting.ETD await (v.).2

    awake (v.)

    "cease to sleep, come out of sleep," a merger of two Middle English verbs: 1. awaken, from Old English awæcnan (earlier onwæcnan; strong, past tense awoc, past participle awacen) "to awake, arise, originate," from a "on" + wacan "to arise, become awake;" and 2. awakien, from Old English awacian (weak, past participle awacode) "to awaken, revive; arise; originate, spring from," from a "on" + wacian "to be awake, remain awake, watch." For the first element, see a (1); the second element in both is common Proto-Germanic (from PIE root *weg- "to be strong, be lively").ETD awake (v.).2

    Both originally were intransitive only; the transitive sense "arouse from sleep" generally being expressed by Middle English awecchen (from Old English aweccan) until later Middle English. In Modern English, the tendency has been to restrict the strong past tense and past participle (awoke, awoken) to the original intransitive sense and the weak inflection (awaked) to the transitive, but this never has been complete. For distinctions of usage, see wake (v.); also compare awaken.ETD awake (v.).3

    awake (adj.)

    "not asleep, roused from sleep," c. 1300, shortened from awaken, original past participle of Old English awæcnan (see awaken). Figurative use is by 1610s.ETD awake (adj.).2

    awaken (v.)

    Middle English awakenen, from Old English awæcnan (intransitive), "to spring into being, arise, originate," also, less often, "to wake up;" earlier onwæcnan, from a- (1) "on" + wæcnan (see waken). The transitive meaning "to rouse from sleep" is recorded from 1510s; the figurative sense of "stir up, rouse to activity" is from c. 1600.ETD awaken (v.).2

    Originally with a strong declension (past tense awoc, past participle awacen), already in Old English it was confused with awake (v.) and a weak past tense awæcnede (modern awakened) emerged and has since become the accepted form, with awoke and awoken transferred to awake. Subtle shades of distinction determine the use of awake or awaken in modern English. For distinctions of usage, see wake (v.). Related: Awakening.ETD awaken (v.).3

    awareness (n.)

    "state of being aware," 1828, from aware + -ness. Earlier was awaredom (1752).ETD awareness (n.).2

    aware (adj.)

    Middle English aware, from late Old English gewær "watchful, vigilant," from Proto-Germanic *ga-waraz (source also of Old Saxon giwar, Middle Dutch gheware, Old High German giwar, German gewahr), from *ga-, intensive prefix, + *waraz "wary, cautious" (from PIE root *wer- (3) "perceive, watch out for").ETD aware (adj.).2

    award (v.)

    late 14c., awarden, "decide after careful observation," from Anglo-French awarder, from Old North French eswarder (Old French esgarder) "decide, judge, give one's opinion" (after careful consideration), from es- "out" (see ex-) + warder "to watch," a word from Germanic (see ward (n.)). Related: Awarded; awarding.ETD award (v.).2

    award (n.)

    late 14c., award, "decision after consideration," from Anglo-French award, Old French esgard, from esgarder (see award (v.)). The meaning "something awarded" is attested from 1590s.ETD award (n.).2

    awash (adj.)

    1825, originally nautical, "on the level of, flush with" the water, from a- (1) "on" + wash (n.). The figurative use is by 1912.ETD awash (adj.).2

    aweigh (adv., adj.)

    of an anchor, "raised, perpendicular," 1620s, nautical, from a- (1) + weigh.ETD aweigh (adv., adj.).2

    awesome (adj.)

    1590s, "profoundly reverential," from awe (n.) + -some (1). The meaning "inspiring awe or dread" is from 1670s; the weakened colloquial sense of "impressive, very good" is recorded by 1961 and was in vogue after c. 1980. Related: Awesomely; awesomeness.ETD awesome (adj.).2

    awestruck (adj.)

    also awestruck, "overwhelmed by reverential fear," 1630s (Milton), from awe (n.) + struck (see strike (v.)). Perhaps coined to cut a path between the contemporary senses of awesome ("reverential") and awful ("causing dread"). Awe-strike (v.) is not recorded until much later (1832), has always been rare, and is perhaps a back-formation.ETD awestruck (adj.).2

    awfully (adv.)

    c. 1300, "so as to inspire reverence," from awful + -ly (2). The meaning "dreadfully, so as to strike one with awe" is recorded from late 14c. As a simple intensifier, "very, exceedingly," it is attested from c. 1830.ETD awfully (adv.).2

    awhile (adv.)

    "for a space of time," c. 1300, from contraction of Old English ane hwile "(for) a while" (see while (n.)).ETD awhile (adv.).2

    awhirl (adv.)

    "whirling," 1837, from a- (1) + whirl (v.).ETD awhirl (adv.).2


    Proto-Indo-European root meaning "bird." It also might be the source of *woyo, *oyyo, Proto-Indo-European words for "egg."ETD *awi-.2

    It forms all or part of: auspex; auspices; auspicious; avian; aviary; aviation; aviator; avicide; aviculture; aviform; caviar; cockney; egg (n.); ocarina; oo-; oocyte; oolite; oology; osprey; ostrich; oval; ovary; ovate (adj.); oviform; oviparous; ovoviviparous; ovoid; ovulate; ovulation; ovule; ovum.ETD *awi-.3

    It is the hypothetical source of/evidence for its existence is provided by: Sanskrit vih, Avestan vish, Latin avis "bird;" Greek aietos "eagle;" Old Church Slavonic aja, Russian jajco, Breton ui, Welsh wy, Greek ōon, Latin ovum, Old Norse egg, Old High German ei, Gothic ada all meaning "egg."ETD *awi-.4

    awk (adj.)

    mid-15c., "turned the wrong way," from Old Norse afugr "turned backwards, wrong, contrary," from Proto-Germanic *afug- (source also of Old Saxon aboh, Old High German apuh, Middle Dutch avesch, Dutch aafsch), from PIE *apu-ko-, from root *apo- "off, away." Obsolete since 17c.ETD awk (adj.).2

    awkward (adv., adj.)

    mid-14c. (adv.), "in the wrong direction," from awk "back-handed" + adverbial suffix -weard (see -ward). The original sense is obsolete. As an adjective, "turned the wrong way," 1510s. The meaning "clumsy, wanting ease and grace in movement" is recorded by 1520s. Of persons, "embarrassed, ill-at-ease," from 1713s. Related: Awkwardly. Other 15c.-17c. formations from awk, none of them surviving, were awky, awkly, awkness.ETD awkward (adv., adj.).2

    awkwardness (n.)

    1704, "lack of grace, inelegance," from awkward + -ness. The meaning "physical clumsiness" is attested from 1770; that of "social embarrassment" by 1788.ETD awkwardness (n.).2

    awl (n.)

    "pointed instrument for piercing small holes in leather, wood, etc.," Old English æl "awl, piercer," from Proto-Germanic *ælo (source also of Old Norse alr, Dutch aal, Middle Low German al, Old High German äla, German Ahle), which is of uncertain origin.ETD awl (n.).2

    The earliest English references are to piercing of the ears, though later it was the characteristic tool of a shoemaker. Through misdivision, it was frequently written 15c.-17c. as nawl (for an awl; see N). Old French alesne, French alêne, Italian lesina, Old Spanish alesna, Spanish lesna are from Germanic.ETD awl (n.).3

    awning (n.)

    "movable roof-like covering of canvas for a window, etc., as a protection from the sun's rays," 1624, a word of uncertain origin (first recorded use is by Capt. John Smith), perhaps from French auvans, plural of auvent "a sloping roof," "itself of doubtful etym[ology]" (OED). A nautical term only until the sense of "cover for windows or porch" emerged 1852.ETD awning (n.).2

    awn (n.)

    "bristly fibers on grain of plants," c. 1300, from Old Norse ögn, from Proto-Germanic *agano (source also of Old English egenu, Old High German agana, German Ahne, Gothic ahana), from PIE *ak-ona- (source also of Sanskrit asani- "arrowhead," Greek akhne "husk of wheat," Latin acus "chaff," Lithuanian akuotas "beard, awn"); suffixed form of root *ak- "be sharp, rise (out) to a point, pierce."ETD awn (n.).2


    past tense of awake (v.), from Old English awoc; also see awaken. The tendency has been to restrict the strong past tense (awoke) to the original intransitive sense of awake and the weak inflection (awakened) to the transitive, but this never has been complete.ETD awoke.2


    past participle of awake (v.); also see awaken. The tendency has been to restrict the strong past participle (awoken) to the original intransitive sense of awake and the weak inflection (awakened) to the transitive, but this never has been complete.ETD awoken.2

    awol (adj.)

    also a.w.o.l., military initialism (acronym) for absent without leave (the phrase itself is attested by 1767 in a military context). In U.S. military use by 1917. According to the "Dictionary of Contemporary American Usage" (1957), it was pronounced as four letters in World War I, as a word in World War II.ETD awol (adj.).2

    awry (adv.)

    late 14c., "crooked, askew, turned or twisted to one side," from a- (1) "on" + wry (adj.).ETD awry (adv.).2


    see aw.ETD aww.2

    ax (n.)

    see axe (n.).ETD ax (n.).2

    Larger font
    Smaller font