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    axe (v.) — æ (2)

    axe (v.)

    1670s, "to shape or cut with an axe," from axe (n.). Figurative meaning "to remove" (a person, from a position), "severely reduce" (expenses) is recorded by 1922. The axe in figurative sense of cutting of anything (expenses, workers, etc.), especially as a cost-saving measure, is from 1922, probably from the notion of the headman's literal axe (attested from mid-15c.). Related: Axed; axing.ETD axe (v.).2

    axe (n.)

    "edged instrument for hewing timber and chopping wood," also a battle weapon, Old English æces (Northumbrian acas) "axe, pickaxe, hatchet," later æx, from Proto-Germanic *akusjo (source also of Old Saxon accus, Old Norse ex, Old Frisian axe, German Axt, Gothic aqizi), from PIE *agw(e)si- "axe" (source also of Greek axine, Latin ascia).ETD axe (n.).2

    The meaning "musical instrument" is 1955, originally jazz slang for the saxophone; rock slang for "guitar" dates to 1967.ETD axe (n.).3

    To have an axe to grind is from a Sept. 7, 1810, essay in the Luzerne (Pennsylvania) "Gleaner" by U.S. editor and politician Charles Miner (1780-1865) in which a man flatters a boy and gets him to do the chore of axe-grinding for him, then leaves without offering thanks or recompense. It was published in a collection in 1815 titled "Essays From the Desk of Poor Robert the Scribe." The story ("Who'll Turn the Grindstone?") has been misattributed since late 19c. to Benjamin Franklin, a mistake continued in Weekley, OED print edition, "Century Dictionary," and many other sources (Bartlett's "Familiar Quotations" has gotten it right since 1870).ETD axe (n.).4

    axe-handle (n.)

    1800, from axe (n.) + handle (n.).ETD axe-handle (n.).2

    axel (n.)

    skating jump, 1930, named for Norwegian skater Axel Paulsen (1855-1938). The name is said to be derived from the Old Testament name Absalom.ETD axel (n.).2

    axis (n.)

    1540s, "imaginary motionless straight line around which a body (such as the Earth) rotates," from Latin axis "axle, pivot, axis of the earth or sky," from PIE *aks- "axis" (source also of Old English eax, Old High German ahsa "axle;" Greek axon "axis, axle, wagon;" Sanskrit aksah "an axle, axis, beam of a balance;" Lithuanian ašis "axle").ETD axis (n.).2

    The general sense of "straight line about which parts are arranged" is from 1660s. The figurative sense in world history of "alliance between Germany and Italy" (later extended unetymologically to include Japan) is from 1936. The original reference was to a "Rome-Berlin axis" in central Europe. The word later was used in reference to a London-Washington axis (World War II) and a Moscow-Peking axis (early Cold War).ETD axis (n.).3

    axial (adj.)

    "pertaining to or of the nature of an axis; situated in an axis" 1830, from axis + -al (1). Related: Axially.ETD axial (adj.).2

    axillary (adj.)

    "pertaining to the armpit or shoulder," 1610s, from Latin *axillaris, from axilla "armpit, upper arm, underpart of an upper wing" (see axle).ETD axillary (adj.).2

    axiom (n.)

    "statement of self-evident truth," late 15c., from French axiome, from Latin axioma, from Greek axioma "authority," literally "that which is thought worthy or fit," from axioun "to think worthy," from axios "worthy, worth, of like value, weighing as much" (from PIE adjective *ag-ty-o- "weighty," from root *ag- "to drive, draw out or forth, move").ETD axiom (n.).2

    axiomatic (adj.)

    "of the nature of a self-evident truth," 1797, from Greek axiomatikos, from axioma (genitive axiomatos); see axiom. The form axiomatical is attested from 1580s.ETD axiomatic (adj.).2

    axion (n.)

    in quantum physics, 1978, from axial + scientific suffix -on.ETD axion (n.).2

    axle (n.)

    "pole or pin upon which a wheel revolves" (properly, the round ends of the axle-tree which are inserted in the hubs or naves of the wheels), 1630s, from Middle English axel-, from some combination of Old English eax and Old Norse öxull "axis," both from Proto-Germanic *akhsulaz (source also of Old English eaxl "shoulder," oxta, ohsta "armpit," which survived as dialectal oxter; also Old Saxon ahsla, Old High German ahsala, German Achsel "shoulder"), from PIE *aks- "axis" (see axis, which is from the Latin cognate of this Germanic word). Before 14c. it was found only in the compound axle-tree.ETD axle (n.).2

    axle-tree (n.)

    also axletree, "bar or beam fitted crosswise under the body of a carriage and having wheels fitted to the ends," c. 1300; see axle (n.) + tree (n.).ETD axle-tree (n.).2

    axolotl (n.)

    genus of Mexican salamanders, 1786, from Spanish, from Nahuatl, literally "servant of water," from atl "water" + xolotl "slippery or wrinkled one, servant, slave" [see Frances Karttunen, "An Analytical Dictionary of Nahuatl"].ETD axolotl (n.).2

    axon (n.)

    1842, "skeletal axis of the vertebrate body," from Greek axon "axis" (see axis). From 1899 as a part of a nerve cell.ETD axon (n.).2

    axonometric (adj.)

    1869, from axonometry "art of making a perspective representation of figures based on coordinate points" (1865), from Greek axon "axis, axle" (see axis) + metria "a measuring of" (see -metry).ETD axonometric (adj.).2

    ay (interj.)

    see aye.ETD ay (interj.).2

    aye (adv.)

    "always, ever," c. 1200, from Old Norse ei "ever" (cognate with Old English a "always, ever"), from Proto-Germanic *aiwi-, extended form of PIE root *aiw- "vital force, life; long life, eternity" (source also of Greek aiōn "age, eternity," Latin aevum "space of time").ETD aye (adv.).2

    aye (interj.)

    word of assent to a question, 1570s, of unknown origin; perhaps a variant of I, meaning "I assent;" or an alteration of Middle English yai "yes" (see yea); or from aye (adv.) "always, ever."ETD aye (interj.).2

    ayah (n.)

    "native nurse, children's governess," Anglo-Indian, 1782, from Portuguese aia, cognate with Spanish aya, Italian aja, etc., "nurse," from Latin avia "grandmother," fem. of avus "grandfather" (see uncle).ETD ayah (n.).2

    ayatollah (n.)

    honorific title for an Iranian Shiite religious leader, 1950, from Persian, from Arabic ayatu-llah, literally "miraculous sign of God."ETD ayatollah (n.).2

    Ayurvedic (adj.)

    "pertaining to traditional Hindu science of medicine," 1917, from Sanskrit Ayurveda "science of life," from ayur "life" (from PIE *oyus-, suffixed form of *oyu- "life everlasting," from variant form of root *aiw- "vital force, life; long life, eternity") + veda "knowledge" (see Veda).ETD Ayurvedic (adj.).2

    azalea (n.)

    type of flowering shrub, 1753, Modern Latin, coined by Linnaeus from the fem. of Greek azaleos "dry," related to azein "to dry up," which is probably from PIE root *as- "to burn, glow." The plant thrives in sandy soil.ETD azalea (n.).2


    country name, of unknown origin, perhaps from Old Persian Aturpatakan, from Greek Atropatenē, from the Persian satrap Atropates, who ruled there in the time of Alexander the Great; or from local azer "fire" + baydjan (Iranian baykan) "guardian," in reference to fire-worship. Related: Azerbaijani.ETD Azerbaijan.2

    azimuth (n.)

    "arc marking the distance of a star from the north or south point of the meridian," late 14c., from Old French azimut, from Arabic as-sumut "the ways," plural of as-samt "the way, direction" (see zenith). Related: Azimuthal.ETD azimuth (n.).2


    before vowels az-, word-forming element denoting the presence of nitrogen, used from late 19c. as combining form of azote (1791), the old term for "nitrogen," from Greek a- "not, without" (see a- (3)) + zoion "a living being" (from PIE root *gwei- "to live"). Azote was coined in French by Lavoisier & de Morveau because living things cannot survive in the pure gas.ETD azo-.2

    azoic (adj.)

    "pertaining to the period of Earth's history before life appeared," 1843, with -ic + Greek azōos, from a- "not, without" (see a- (3)) + zōon "animal," here used in the sense "life" (from PIE root *gwei- "to live").ETD azoic (adj.).2


    island group in the Atlantic about 800 miles west of Portugal, discovered by the Portuguese in 1492, said to be from Portuguese azor açor "a hawk, goshawk," and called for the abundance of hawks or buzzards there, but this is likely folk-etymology.ETD Azores.2

    azotemia (n.)

    also azotaemia, "presence of excess nitrogen in the blood," 1894, from azote "nitrogen" (see azo-) + -emia "blood." Related: Azotemic.ETD azotemia (n.).2


    "one of the native people who dominated the central highlands of Mexico in 1519 at the time of the Spanish invasion," 1787, from Spanish Azteca, from Nahuatl aztecatl (plural aztecah), meaning "coming from Aztlan," name of their legendary place of origin, which is usually said to lie somewhere in what is now southwestern U.S. Related: Aztecan.ETD Aztec.2

    azure (n.)

    "sky-blue color; pigment or paint made of powdered lapis lazuli," early 14c., from Old French azur, asur, a color name (12c.), from a false separation of Medieval Latin lazur, lazuri (as though the -l- were the French article l'), which comes from Greek lazour, from Persian lajward, from Lajward, a place in Turkestan mentioned by Marco Polo, where the stone was collected.ETD azure (n.).2

    æ (1)

    digraph in certain Greek or Latin words; it developed in later Latin where classical Latin used separate letters. The Latin digraph also was used to transliterate Greek -ai- (as in aegis). When Latinate words flooded English in the 16c. it came with them, but as an etymological device only, and it was pronounced simply "e" and eventually reduced to that letter in writing (as in eon, Egypt) in most cases, excepting (until recently) proper names (Cæsar, Æneas, Æsculapius, Æsop). When divided and representing two syllables (aerate, aerial) it sometimes is written .ETD æ (1).2

    æ (2)

    Anglo-Saxon alphabetic character representing a simple vowel corresponding to the short "a" in glad or the long one in dare, ultimately from Latin and used by scribes writing Old English because it represented roughly the same sound as Latin æ (see æ (1)). In Middle English the vowel tended to become -a- when short (glad, sad, from Old English glæd, sæd, etc.), -e- when long.ETD æ (2).2

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