- alb (n.)
- late Old English albe "white linen robe" worn by priests, converts, etc., from Late Latin alba (in tunica alba or vestis alba "white vestment"), fem. of albus "white," from PIE root *albho- "white" (source also of Greek alphos "white leprosy," alphiton "barley meal;" Old High German albiz, Old English elfet "swan," literally "the white bird;" Old Church Slavonic and Russian lebedi, Polish łabędź "swan;" Hittite alpash "cloud").
- albacore (n.)
- name given to a large type of tuna caught in the Tropics, 1570s, from Portuguese albacora, from Arabic al bakara "milk cow;" the fish so called for its size.
- Medieval Latin name of the country called by its inhabitants Shqipëri (literally "land of eagles," from shqiponje "eagle"), from Medieval Greek Albania, possibly from a pre-IE word *alb "hill" (also proposed as the source of Alps) or from the PIE root *albho- "white" (see alb). Roman Albania was a land by the Caspian Sea (modern Daghestan); in English Albania also was a sometime name for Scotland. Related: Albanian (1590s).
- albatross (n.)
- 1670s, probably from Spanish or Portuguese albatros, alteration of alcatraz "large, web-footed sea-bird; cormorant," originally "pelican" (16c.). This name is perhaps from Arabic al-ghattas "sea eagle" [Barnhart]; or from Portuguese alcatruz "the bucket of a water wheel" [OED], from Arabic al-qadus "machine for drawing water, jar" (which is from Greek kados "jar"). If the second, the name would be a reference to the pelican's pouch (compare Arabic saqqa "pelican," literally "water carrier").
The spelling was influenced by Latin albus "white." The name was extended by 17c. English sailors to a larger sea-bird (order Tubinares), which are not found in the North Atlantic. [In English the word also formerly was extended to the frigate-bird.] These albatrosses follow ships for days without resting and were held in superstitious awe by sailors. The figurative sense of "burden" (1936) is from Coleridge's "Rime of the Ancient Mariner" (1798) about a sailor who shoots an albatross and then is forced to wear its corpse as an indication that he alone, not the crew, offended against the bird. The prison-island of Alcatraz in San Francisco Bay is named for pelicans that roosted there. In Dutch, stormvogel; in German Sturmvogel "storm-bird."
- albedo (n.)
- in astronomy "proportion of light reflected from a surface," 1859, from scientific use of Latin albedo "whiteness," from albus "white" (see alb).
- albeit (conj.)
- late 14c., a contraction of al be it "al(though) it be (that);" see all be it. Chaucer also uses a past-tense form, al were it.
- masc. proper name, from German (the French form is Aubert), from Old High German Adalbert, literally "noble-bright," from Old High German adal "noble family," from Proto-Germanic *athala- (see atheling) + second element is from Proto-Germanic berhta- "bright," from PIE *bhereg- "to shine; bright, white" (see bright (adj.)).
The compound is cognate with Old English Æþelbeorht (which sometimes was metathesized as Æþelbriht, hence the surname Albright). As a kind of watch chain, from 1861 (see Prince Albert).
- Canadian province, founded in 1882 and named for Princess Louise Caroline Alberta (1848-1939), fourth daughter of Queen Victoria, wife of the governor general, John Douglas Sutherland Campbell, Marquess of Lorne. She was named for her father, Prince Albert.
- albescent (adj.)
- "becoming white," 1825, from Latin albescentem (nominative albescens), present participle of albescere "become white," inceptive of albere "be white" (from Latin albus "white;" see alb), with inchoative suffix -escere. Related: Albescence.
- Albigensian (adj.)
- c. 1600, "relating to the Albigenses," collective name for the Catharist religious reformers of southern France c.1020-1250, from Medieval Latin Albigenses (12c.), from French Albi, name of the town in Languedoc where they lived and first were condemned as heretics (1176) and vigorously persecuted (the Albigensian Crusade). The town name is from Roman personal name Albius, from Latin albus "white" (see alb). Also sometimes Albanesian.
- albinism (n.)
- 1836; see albino + -ism. Alternative form albinoism is recorded from 1849.
- albino (n.)
- 1777, from Spanish or Portuguese albino, from Latin albus "white" (see alb). Used by Portuguese of white-spotted African negroes. Extended 1859 to animals having the same peculiarity. As an adjective form albinotic is modeled on hypnotic and other words from Greek; albinistic also is used. A female form, if one is still wanted, was albiness (1808).
- ancient name of England, attested in Old English, from Latin, sometimes said to be from the non-Indo-European base *alb "mountain," which also is suggested as the source of Latin Alpes "Alps," Albania, and Alba, an Irish name for "Scotland." But more likely from Latin albus "white" (see alb), which would be an apt description of the chalk cliffs of the island's southern coast.
Breoton is garsecges ealond, ðæt wæs iu geara Albion haten. [translation of Bede's "Historia Ecclesiastica Gentis Anglorum," c.900 C.E.]Perfidious Albion, a reference to the supposedly treacherous policies of Britain when dealing with foreign powers, translates French rhetorical phrase la perfide Albion, said to have been in use since 16c. but popularized by Napoleon in the recruiting drive of 1813.
- album (n.)
- 1650s (albo) "souvenir book," from Latin album, which in classical times was the name of a blank tablet on which the Pontifex Maximus registered the principal events of the year, hence "a list of names." This Latin word was revived 16c. by German scholars, whose custom was to keep an album amicorum of colleagues' signatures; its meaning then expanded to "book with blank leaves meant to collect signatures and other souvenirs." Johnson  still defined it as "a book in which foreigners have long been accustomed to insert autographs of celebrated people."
Latin album is literally "white color, whiteness;" it is a noun use of the neuter of the adjective albus "white" (see alb). The English word in reference to bound photographic collections is recorded by 1859. Meaning "long-playing gramophone record" is by 1951, because the sleeves they came in resembled large albums.
- albumen (n.)
- 1590s, "white of an egg," from Latin albumen (ovi) "white (of an egg)," literally "whiteness," from the neuter of albus "white" (see alb). The organic substance (which exists nearly pure in egg whites) so called from 1800, also known as albumin (1869, from French albumine).
- albumin (n.)
- chemical substance named for the Latin word for "the whites of eggs," where it occurs naturally, 1869; see albumen.
- albuminous (adj.)
- 1791, from albumin, variant of albumen + -ous. Also sometimes albuminose, as if from Modern Latin albuminosus.
- city in New Mexico, founded 1706 and named for Spanish administrator and viceroy of Mexico Francisco Fernández de la Cueva, Duque de Alburquerque (1617-1676); the name subsequently was altered by association with Portuguese hero Alfonso de Albuquerque (1453-1515), famed as a great conqueror and champion of Christianity. Both men took their names from Alburquerque, a town in Spain near the Portuguese border, the name of which means "white oak;" it is said to be ultimately from Latin albus "white" (see alb) and quercus "oak" (see Quercus).
- prison-island in San Francisco Bay; see albatross.
- wife of Admetus, she offered her life for her husband and was rescued from the Underworld by Herakles, a Latinized form of Greek Alkestis, literally "valiant, courageous," from alke "protection, help, strength, power."
- alchemical (adj.)
- "relating to or produced by alchemy," 1580s; see alchemy + -ical. Related: Alchemistical (1550s); alchemically.
- alchemist (n.)
- 1510s, from Middle French alquemiste, from Medieval Latin alchimista, from Old French alchimie/Medieval Latin alkimia (see alchemy). Also see -ist. Earlier forms were alchemister (late 14c.), alkanamyer (late 15c.), with agent noun suffix -er.
- alchemy (n.)
- "medieval chemistry; the supposed science of transmutation of base metals into silver or gold" (involving also the quest for the universal solvent, quintessence, etc.), mid-14c., from Old French alchimie (14c.), alquemie (13c.), from Medieval Latin alkimia, from Arabic al-kimiya, from Greek khemeioa (found c.300 C.E. in a decree of Diocletian against "the old writings of the Egyptians"), all meaning "alchemy," and of uncertain origin.
Perhaps from an old name for Egypt (Khemia, literally "land of black earth," found in Plutarch), or from Greek khymatos "that which is poured out," from khein "to pour," related to khymos "juice, sap" [Klein, citing W. Muss-Arnolt, calls this folk etymology]. The word seems to have elements of both origins.
Mahn ... concludes, after an elaborate investigation, that Gr. khymeia was probably the original, being first applied to pharmaceutical chemistry, which was chiefly concerned with juices or infusions of plants; that the pursuits of the Alexandrian alchemists were a subsequent development of chemical study, and that the notoriety of these may have caused the name of the art to be popularly associated with the ancient name of Egypt. [OED]The al- is the Arabic definite article, "the." The art and the name were adopted by the Arabs from Alexandrians and entered Europe via Arabic Spain. Alchemy was the "chemistry" of the Middle Ages and early modern times, involving both occult and natural philosophy and practical chemistry and metallurgy. After c. 1600 the strictly scientific sense went with chemistry, and alchemy was left with the sense "pursuit of the transmutation of baser metals into gold, search for the universal solvent and the panacea."
- alcohol (n.)
- 1540s (early 15c. as alcofol), "fine powder produced by sublimation," from Medieval Latin alcohol "powdered ore of antimony," from Arabic al-kuhul "kohl," the fine metallic powder used to darken the eyelids, from kahala "to stain, paint." The al- is the Arabic definite article, "the."
Definition broadened 1670s to "any sublimated substance, the pure spirit of anything," including liquids. Sense of "intoxicating ingredient in strong liquor" is first recorded 1753, short for alcohol of wine, which was extended to "the intoxicating element in fermented liquors." In organic chemistry, the word was extended 1850 to the class of compounds of the same type as this.
- alcoholic (adj.)
- 1790, "of or pertaining to alcohol;" see alcohol + -ic. Meaning "caused by drunkenness" is attested by 1872; meaning "habitually drunk" by 1910. Noun sense of "one who is addicted to drinking in excess, chronic drunkard, old rounder" is recorded from 1891; an earlier term for one was alcoholist (1877 in clinical writing, earlier in temperance literature this word simply meant "a drinker of alcohol"). Alcoholics Anonymous founded 1935 in Akron, Ohio, U.S.
- alcoholism (n.)
- "disease of alcohol addiction," by 1882, from alcohol + -ism, or else from Modern Latin alcoholismus, coined in 1852 by Swedish professor of medicine Magnus Huss (1807-1890) to mean what we now would call "alcohol poisoning, effects of excessive ingestion of alcohol." In earlier times, alcohol addiction would have been called habitual drunkenness or some such term.
- Alcoran (n.)
- older form of Koran, mid-14c., from Old French alcoran, from Arabic al-quran "the Koran," literally "the Book," with the definite article (al-) taken as part of the name.
- alcove (n.)
- "vaulted recess," 1670s, from French alcôve (17c.), from Spanish alcoba, from Arabic al-qobbah "the vaulted chamber," from Semitic base q-b-b "to be bent, crooked, vaulted." The al- is the Arabic definite article, "the."
- brightest of the Pleiades (Eta Tauri), in Greek myth a daughter of Aeolus; Latinized form of Greek Aklyone, from alkyon "kingfisher," a word of unknown origin.
- bright star in Taurus, late 14c., from Arabic Al Dabaran "the follower" (of the Pleiades, which rise shortly before it does), from dabara "he followed." The al- is the Arabic definite article, "the."
- aldehyde (n.)
- first oxidation product of alcohol, 1833, discovered in 1774 by German-born Swedish chemist Carl Wilhelm Scheele (1742-1786), the name said to have been coined by German chemist Justus von Liebig (1803-1873) from abbreviation of Modern Latin alcohol dehydrogenatum "dehydrogenated alcohol." Related: Aldehydic.
- alder (n.)
- tree related to the birch, Old English alor "alder," from Proto-Germanic *aliso (source also of Old Norse ölr, Danish elle, Swedish al, Dutch els, German erle), from the ancient PIE name of the tree (source also of Russian olicha, Polish olcha, Latin alnus (French aune), Lithuanian alksnis), from root *el- (2) "red, brown," used in forming animal and tree names (see elk).
The unetymological -d- was added 14c.; the historical form aller survived until 18c. in literary English and persists in dialects, such as Lancashire owler, which is partly from Norse.
- alderman (n.)
- Old English aldormonn (Mercian), ealdormann (West Saxon) "Anglo-Saxon ruler, prince, chief; chief officer of a shire," from aldor, ealder "patriarch" (comparative of ald "old;" see old) + monn, mann "man" (see man (n.1)).
Presumably originally of elders of the clan or tribe, but already in Old English used for king's viceroys, regardless of age. In later Old English a more specific title, "chief magistrate of a county," having both civic and military duties. The word yielded under Canute to eorl (see earl), and after the Norman Conquest to count (n.). Having lost its specific sense, alderman was then applied to any head man; meaning "headman of a guild" (early 12c.) passed to "magistrate of a city" (c. 1200) as the guilds became identified with municipal government. Related: Aldermancy; aldermanic.
- Aldine (n.)
- type font, 1837, from Aldus Manutius (1450-1515), Venetian printer who used it in his popular editions of Greek and Roman classics. His name is a Latinized form of Italian Aldo Manuzio; the first name is short for Teobaldo (see Theobald), and, like many Italian masc. given names, of Germanic origin. The device characteristic of Aldine books is a figure of a dolphin on an anchor.
- aldosterone (n.)
- isolated 1953, named with -one + comb. forms of aldehyde and sterol.
- ale (n.)
- "intoxicating liquor made by malt fermentation," Old English ealu "ale, beer," from Proto-Germanic *aluth- (source also of Old Saxon alo, Old Norse öl), which is of uncertain origin. Perhaps from a PIE root meaning "bitter" (source also of Latin alumen "alum"), or from PIE *alu-t "ale," from root *alu-, which has connotations of "sorcery, magic, possession, and intoxication" [Watkins]. The word was borrowed from Germanic into Lithuanian (alus) and Old Church Slavonic (olu).
In the fifteenth century, and until the seventeenth, ale stood for the unhopped fermented malt liquor which had long been the native drink of these islands. Beer was the hopped malt liquor introduced from the Low Countries in the fifteenth century and popular first of all in the towns. By the eighteenth century, however, all malt liquor was hopped and there had been a silent mutation in the meaning of the two terms. For a time the terms became synonymous, in fact, but local habits of nomenclature still continued to perpetuate what had been a real difference: 'beer' was the malt liquor which tended to be found in towns, 'ale' was the term in general use in the country districts. [Peter Mathias, "The Brewing Industry in England," Cambridge University Press, 1959]Meaning "festival or merry-meeting at which much ale was drunk" was in Old English (see bridal).
- ale-conner (n.)
- late 13c. as a surname, from ale + conner, from Old English cunnere "examiner, inspector," agent noun from cunnan "to know, know how" (see can (v.1)).
- aleatory (adj.)
- "of uncertain outcome, depending on a contingent event," literally "depending on the throw of a die," 1690s, from Latin aleatorius "pertaining to a gamester," from aleator "a dice player," from alea "a game with dice; chance, hazard, risk; a die, the dice;" perhaps literally "a joint-bone" (marked knuckle-bones used as early dice), "a pivot-bone," and related to axis. Aleatoric "incorporating chance and randomness" was used as a term in the arts from 1961.
- alectryomachy (n.)
- also alectoromachy, "cock-fighting," 1650s, from Latinized form of Greek alektryon "cock" (see alectryomancy) + -machy.
- alectryomancy (n.)
- "divination by means of a cock and grains of corn," 1680s, from -mancy "divination" + Latinized form of Greek alektryon "cock," literally "warder-off, fighter," related to alexein "to ward off, drive or keep off" (see Alexander, and compare Alekto, name of one of the three Furies). Perhaps originally a personal name, applied at first to the fighting cock, then to cocks generally. Earlier form of the word in English was alectoromancy (1650s). Letters of the alphabet were traced on the ground and a grain of corn was placed on each.
- alee (adv.)
- late 14c., from a- (1) + lee (n.). Nautical, opposed to awheather.
- alehouse (n.)
- also ale-house, Old English ealahus; see ale + house (n.). In the same sense Old English also had ealusele. An alehouse "is distinguished from a tavern, where they sell wine" [Johnson].
- name of a Germanic tribe or confederation from the Elbe River region that in late Roman times settled along the upper Rhine in Alsace and part of Switzerland, from Proto-Germanic *Alamanniz, probably meaning "all-man" (see all + man (n.)) and likely denoting a coalition or alliance of tribes rather than a single group.
But on another theory perhaps meaning rather "foreign men" (compare Allobroges, name of a Celtic tribe in what is now Savoy, in Latin literally "the aliens," in reference to their having driven out the original inhabitants), in which case the al- is cognate with the first element in Latin alius "the other" and English else.
The defeat of the Alemanni by a Frank-led army at Strasburg in 496 C.E. led to the conversion of Clovis and the rise of Frankish political power. The Alemanni were absorbed into the Frankish Kingdom in 796. Not historically important, but through proximity and frequent conflict with the Franks their name became the source of French Allemand, the usual word for "German, a German," and Allemagne "Germany." In modern use, Alemannish, Alemannic refers to the dialects of modern southwestern Germany; Alamannic refers to the ancient tribes and their language.
- alembic (n.)
- "distillation vessel used in old chemistry," late 14c., earlier limbeck (mid-14c.), from Old French alambic (13c.), via Old Spanish, from Arabic al-anbiq "distilling flask," via Persian, from Greek ambix "cup," a word of unknown, possibly Semitic, origin. Often spelled limbeck 15c.-17c. The al- is the Arabic definite article, "the."
- aleph (n.)
- name for the Hebrew and Phoenician first letter, ancestor of A, c. 1300, from Semitic languages, pausal form of eleph "ox" (the character might have developed from a hieroglyph of an ox's head); also see alphabet.
- alert (adv.)
- "on the watch," 1610s, from French alerte "vigilant" (17c.), from prepositional phrase à l'erte "on the watch," from Italian all'erta "to the height." Second element from erta "lookout, high tower," noun use of fem. of erto, past participle of ergere "raise up," from Latin erigere "raise" (see erect (adj.)).
The adjective is attested from 1712; the noun is from 1796 as "attitude of vigilance" (as in on the alert); 1803 as "a warning report." The verb is from 1868. Related: Alerted; alerting.
- alertly (adv.)
- 1787, from alert (adj.) + -ly (2).
- alertness (n.)
- 1714, from alert (adj.) + -ness.
- fem. proper name, from Greek aletheia "truth, truthfulness," from alethes "true," literally "not concealing," from privative prefix a- "not" (see a- (3)) + lethe "forgetfulness, oblivion, concealment," from PIE root *ladh- "be hidden" (see latent).
- native of the Aleutian Islands, 1780, of unknown origin, probably from a native word. First applied by Russian explorers c. 1750, perhaps from Alut, name of a coastal village in Kamchatka [Bright]. Their name for themselves is unangax. Related: Aleutian.