Alexandrine Look up Alexandrine at
in reference to a type of verse line, 1580s (adj.); 1660s (n.), said to be from Old French Roman d'Alexandre, name of a poem about Alexander the Great that was popular in the Middle Ages, which used a 12-syllable line of 6 feet (the French heroic verse); it was used in English to vary the heroic verse of 5 feet. The name also sometimes is said to be from Alexandre de Paris, 13c. French poet, who used such a line (and who also wrote one of the popular Alexander the Great poems).
Alexis Look up Alexis at
masc. proper name, from Greek alexis, from alexein "to ward off, keep, protect" (see Alexander). The Latin form was Alexius.
alfalfa (n.) Look up alfalfa at
1845, from Spanish alfalfa, earlier alfalfez, from Arabic al-fisfisa "fresh fodder."
Alfred Look up Alfred at
masc. proper name, Old English Ælfræd, literally "elf-counsel," from ælf (see elf) + ræd "counsel," which is related to read (v.).
alga (n.) Look up alga at
see algae.
algae (n.) Look up algae at
(plural), 1794, from alga (singular), 1550s, from Latin alga "seaweed," which is of uncertain origin, perhaps from a PIE root meaning "to putrefy, rot."
algal (adj.) Look up algal at
1846, see alga + -al (1).
algebra (n.) Look up algebra at
1550s, from Medieval Latin algebra, from Arabic al jabr ("in vulgar pronunciation, al-jebr" [Klein]) "reunion of broken parts," as in computation, used 9c. by Baghdad mathematician Abu Ja'far Muhammad ibn Musa al-Khwarizmi as the title of his famous treatise on equations ("Kitab al-Jabr w'al-Muqabala" "Rules of Reintegration and Reduction"), which also introduced Arabic numerals to the West. The accent shifted 17c. from second syllable to first. The word was used in English 15c.-16c. to mean "bone-setting," probably from Arab medical men in Spain.
algebraic (adj.) Look up algebraic at
1660s, from algebra + -ic. Earlier was algebraical (1570s).
Algeria Look up Algeria at
North African country, named for Algiers, city chosen by the French as its capital when they colonized it in 1830 + Latinate "country" suffix -ia. The city name is Arabic al-Jazair, literally "the islands," in reference to four islands formerly off the coast but joined to the mainland since 1525. A resident of the place formerly was an Algerine (1650s), and the word was practically synonymous with "pirate" in English and U.S. usage early 19c.
Algernon Look up Algernon at
masc. proper name, literally "with mustaches," from Old French als gernons, from a les "to the, with the" + gernon, variant of grenon "mustache," from Vulgar Latin *granonem, from a Germanic source (compare Old English granu "mustache").
Algol Look up Algol at
Beta Persei, variable star in the constellation Perseus, late 14c., literally "the Demon," from Arabic al-ghul "the demon" (see ghoul). It corresponds, in modern representations of the constellation, to the gorgon's head Perseus is holding, but it probably was so called because it visibly varies in brightness every three days, which sets it apart from other bright stars. The computer language (1959) is a contraction of algo(rithmic) l(anguage); see algorithm.
Algonquian Look up Algonquian at
also Algonkian, 1885, an ethnologist's word, modified from Algonquin + -ian. Both forms of the name have been used as adjectives and nouns. An American-Indian language family spread over a wide area of northeast and north-central North America, from Nova Scotia (Micmac) to Montana (Cheyenne).
Algonquin Look up Algonquin at
one of an Indian people living near the Ottawa River in Canada, 1620s, from French Algonquin, perhaps a contraction of Algoumequin, from Micmac algoomeaking "at the place of spearing fish and eels." But Bright suggests Maliseet (Algonquian) elægomogwik "they are our relatives or allies."

Algonquian (1885) was the name taken by ethnologists to describe a large group of North American Indian peoples, including this tribe. Algonquin Hotel (59 W. 44th St., Manhattan) opened 1902 and named by manager Frank Case for the tribe that had lived in that area. A circle of journalists, authors, critics, and wits began meeting there daily in 1919 and continued through the twenties; they called themselves "The Vicious Circle," but to others they became "The Round Table."
algorithm (n.) Look up algorithm at
1690s, from French algorithme, refashioned (under mistaken connection with Greek arithmos "number") from Old French algorisme "the Arabic numeral system" (13c.), from Medieval Latin algorismus, a mangled transliteration of Arabic al-Khwarizmi "native of Khwarazm," surname of the mathematician whose works introduced sophisticated mathematics to the West (see algebra). The earlier form in Middle English was algorism (early 13c.), from Old French.
algorithmic (adj.) Look up algorithmic at
by 1799, from algorithm + -ic. In reference to symbolic rules or language, by 1881.
Alhambra Look up Alhambra at
palace of the Moorish kings in Granada, Spanish, from Arabic (al kal'at) al hamra "the red (castle)," from fem. of ahmuru "red." So called for the sun-dried bricks of which its outer walls were built.
alias (adv.) Look up alias at
mid-15c., "otherwise called," from Latin alias "at another time, in another way," from alius "(an)other," from PIE *al- (1) "beyond" (cognates: Sanskrit anya "other, different," Avestan anya-, Armenian ail, Greek allos "another," Gothic aljis "other," Old English elles "otherwise, else," Modern English else).
alias (n.) Look up alias at
"assumed name," c. 1600, from alias (adv.).
alibi (n.) Look up alibi at
1743, "the plea of having been elsewhere when an action took place," from Latin alibi "elsewhere, somewhere else," locative of alius "(an)other" (see alias (adv.)). The weakened sense of "excuse" is attested since 1912, but technically any proof of innocence that doesn't involve being "elsewhere" is an excuse, not an alibi.
Alice Look up Alice at
fem. proper name, from Old French Aliz, from Old High German Adalhaid, literally "nobility, of noble kind" (see Adelaide). Among the top 20 most popular names for girls born in the U.S. from c. 1880-1920. "Alice's Adventures in Wonderland" published 1865.
alien (adj.) Look up alien at
mid-14c., "strange, foreign," from Old French alien "alien, strange, foreign; an alien, stranger, foreigner," from Latin alienus "of or belonging to another, foreign, alien, strange," also, as a noun, "a stranger, foreigner," adjectival form of alius "(an)other" (see alias (adv.)). Meaning "not of the Earth" first recorded 1920. An alien priory (c. 1500) is one owing obedience to a mother abbey in a foreign country.
alien (n.) Look up alien at
"foreigner, citizen of a foreign land," from alien (adj.). In the science fiction sense, from 1953.
alienable (adj.) Look up alienable at
"that can be surrendered or given up," 1610s; see alien (adj.) + -able. Related: Alienability.
alienate (v.) Look up alienate at
1540s, "make estranged" (in feelings or affections), from Latin alienatus, past participle of alienare "to make another's, estrange," from alienus "of or belonging to another person or place," from alius "(an)other" (see alias (adv.)). Related: Alienated; alienating.
alienation (n.) Look up alienation at
"transfer of ownership," late 14c., from Old French alienacion and directly from Latin alienationem (nominative alienatio) "a transfer, surrender," noun of action from past participle stem of alienare (see alienate). It also meant "loss or derangement of mental faculties, insanity" (late 15c.), hence alienist. Phrase alienation of affection as a U.S. legal term in divorce cases for "falling in love with someone else" dates to 1861.
alienist (n.) Look up alienist at
"one who treats mental illness, 'mad doctor,' " 1864, from French aliéniste, from alienation in the sense of "insanity, loss of mental faculty," a sense attested in English from late 15c. (see alienate).
alight (v.) Look up alight at
"to descend, dismount," Old English alihtan, originally "to lighten, take off, take away," from a- "down, aside" (see a- (1)) + lihtan "get off, make light" (see light (v.)). The notion is of getting down off a horse or vehicle, thus lightening it. Of aircraft (originally balloons) from 1786. Related: Alighted; alighting.
alight (adj.) Look up alight at
"on fire," early 15c., apparently from Middle English aliht, past participle of alihton (Old English on-lihtan) "to light up," also "to shine upon" (see light (n.)).
align (v.) Look up align at
early 15c., "to copulate" (of wolves, dogs), literally "to range (things) in a line," from Middle French aligner, from Old French alignier "set, lay in line," from à "to" (see ad-) + lignier "to line," from Latin lineare, from linea (see line (n.)). Transitive or reflexive sense of "to fall into line" is from 1853. International political sense is attested from 1934. No justification for the French spelling, and aline was an early native form. Related: Aligned; aligning.
alignment (n.) Look up alignment at
1790, "arrangement in a line," from French alignement, from aligner (see align). Political sense is from 1933.
alike (adj.) Look up alike at
c. 1300, aliche, from Old English gelic and/or onlice "similar," from Proto-Germanic *galikam "associated form" (cognates: Old Frisian gelik, German gleich, Gothic galeiks, Old Norse glikr; see like (adj.)).
aliment (n.) Look up aliment at
"food," late 15c., from Latin alimentum "nourishment," in plural, "food, provisions," from alere "to nourish" (see alimentary).
alimentary (adj.) Look up alimentary at
1610s, from Medieval Latin alimentarius "pertaining to food," from Latin alimentum "nourishment," from alere "to nourish, rear, support, maintain," from PIE root *al- "to grow, nourish" (see old).
alimony (n.) Look up alimony at
1650s, "nourishment," also "allowance to a wife from a husband's estate, or in certain cases of separation," from Latin alimonia "food, support, nourishment, sustenance," from alere "to nourish" (see old) + -monia suffix signifying action, state, condition (cognate with Greek -men). Derived form palimony coined 1979.
Aline Look up Aline at
fem. proper name, French, short for Adeline.
Alison Look up Alison at
fem. proper name, from French Alison, a diminutive of Alice.
alit Look up alit at
poetic past tense and past participle of alight (v.).
alive (adj.) Look up alive at
c. 1200, from Old English on life "in living." The fuller form on live was still current 17c. Alive and kicking "alert, vigorous," attested from 1859; "The allusion is to a child in the womb after quickening" [Farmer]. Used emphatically, especially with man; as in:
[A]bout a thousand gentlemen having bought his almanacks for this year, merely to find what he said against me, at every line they read they would lift up their eyes, and cry out betwixt rage and laughter, "they were sure no man alive ever writ such damned stuff as this." [Jonathan Swift, Bickerstaff's Vindication, 1709]
Thus abstracted as an expletive, man alive! (1845).
aliveness (n.) Look up aliveness at
1853, from alive + -ness.
alkahest (n.) Look up alkahest at
"universal solvent sought by alchemists," 1640s, from French alcahest, from Medieval Latin alcahest, a pseudo-Arabic word coined by Paracelsus (see alchemy).
alkali (n.) Look up alkali at
late 14c., "soda ash," from Medieval Latin alkali, from Arabic al-qaliy "the ashes, burnt ashes" (of saltwort, a plant growing in alkaline soils), from qala "to roast in a pan." The modern chemistry sense is from 1813.
alkaline (adj.) Look up alkaline at
1670s, "pertaining to alkalis," from alkali + -ine (1). Of soils, attested from 1850.
alkaloid (n.) Look up alkaloid at
1831, from alkali (q.v.) + -oid. "A general term applied to basic compounds of vegetable origin, bitter in taste, and having powerful effects on the animal system" [Flood]. As an adjective by 1859.
alkanet (n.) Look up alkanet at
"dye material from bugloss plant roots," early 14c., from Spanish alcaneta, diminutive of alcana, from Arabic al-hinna (see henna). As the name of the plant itself, from 1560s.
all Look up all at
Old English eall "all, every, entire," from Proto-Germanic *alnaz (cognates: Old Frisian, Old High German al, Old Norse allr, Gothic alls), with no certain connection outside Germanic.

Combinations with all meaning "wholly, without limit" were common in Old English (such as eall-halig "all-holy," eall-mihtig "all-mighty") and the method continued to form new compound words throughout the history of English. First record of all out "to one's full powers" is 1880. All-terrain vehicle first recorded 1968. All clear as a signal of "no danger" is recorded from 1902. All right, indicative of approval, is attested from 1953.
all-American Look up all-American at
1888, as the name of a barnstorming baseball team composed of players from various teams across the United States. From all + American.
all-fired (adj.) Look up all-fired at
1837, U.S. slang euphemism for hell-fired.
all-inclusive (adj.) Look up all-inclusive at
1813, from all + inclusive. Related: All-inclusively; all-inclusiveness.
all-over (adj.) Look up all-over at
"covering every part," 1859, from all + over. All-overish "generally, indefinitely indisposed" is from 1820.