Aleut Look up Aleut at
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.
alewife (n.) Look up alewife at
herring-like fish of North America, 1630s, named from the word for female tavern keepers (late 14c.), from ale + wife; the fish so called in reference to its large abdomen.
Alexander Look up Alexander at
masc. proper name, from Latin, from Greek Alexandros "defending men," from alexein "to ward off, keep off, turn (something) away, defend, protect" + aner (genitive andros) "man" (from PIE root *ner- (2) "man"). The first element perhaps is related to Greek alke "protection, help, strength, power, courage," alkimos "strong;" and cognate with Sanskrit raksati "protects," Old English ealgian "to defend." As a kind of cocktail, Alexander is attested from 1913.
Alexandria Look up Alexandria at
city in Egypt, founded 332 B.C.E. by Alexander the Great, for whom it is named. Also see -ia. Related: Alexandrian.
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).
alexia (n.) Look up alexia at
"inability to read" as a result of some mental condition, 1878, from Greek a- "not" (see a- (3)) + abstract noun from lexis "a speaking or reading," from legein "to speak," from PIE root *leg- (1) "to collect, gather," with derivatives meaning "to speak (to 'pick out words')."
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, said by Iberian sources to be 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" (from PIE root *re- "to reason, count"). Alfred the Great was king of the West Saxons 871-899. Related: Alfredian (1814).
alfresco Look up alfresco at
see al fresco.
alga (n.) Look up alga at
1550s, singular of algae (q.v.).
algae (n.) Look up algae at
(plural), 1794, from alga (singular), 1550s, from Latin alga "seaweed," which is of uncertain origin. Perhaps connected to Latin ulva "grass-like or rush-like aquatic plant," or perhaps from a PIE root meaning "to putrefy, rot," but de Vaan considers this unlikely and suggests it might be a foreign loan-word.
algal (adj.) Look up algal at
1846, from Latin alga (see algae) + -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 reducing fractions to integers in computation, used 9c. by Baghdad mathematician Abu Ja'far Muhammad ibn Musa al-Khwarizmi as the title of his famous treatise on equations ("al-mukhtasar fi hisab al-jabr wa al-muqabala" "the compendium on calculation by restoring and balancing"), which also introduced Arabic numerals to the West. From Arabic jabara "reintegrate, reunite, consolidate." John Dee (16c.) calls it algiebar and almachabel. The accent shifted 17c. from second syllable to first.

The same word was used in English 15c.-16c. to mean "bone-setting," as was Medieval Latin algebra, probably from Arab medical men in Spain.
algebraic (adj.) Look up algebraic at
1660s, from algebra + -ic. Earlier was algebraical (1570s); algebraically.
Algeria Look up Algeria at
North African country, named for Algiers, city chosen by the French as its capital when they colonized the region in 1830 + Latinate "country" suffix -ia. The city name is Arabic al-Jazair, literally "the islands" (plural of jezira) in reference to four islands formerly off the coast but joined to the mainland since 1525. Related: Algerian (1620s); a resident of the place (especially indigenous, as opposed to French colonists) also could be an Algerine (1650s), and that 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
variable star (Beta Persei) 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 holds, but probably it 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.
algolagnia (n.) Look up algolagnia at
"sado-masochism, sexuality that fetishizes violence and pain," 1900, Modern Latin, coined in German in 1892 by German doctor and paranormalist Albert von Schrenck-Notzing (1862-1929) from Greek algos "pain" (see -algia) + lagneia "lust," from lagnein "to lust," from PIE root *sleg- "be slack, be languid."
algologist (n.) Look up algologist at
"student of seaweed," 1830, from Latin alga (see algae) + -logist (see -logue). Related: Algology.
Algonquian Look up Algonquian at
also Algonkian, American-Indian people and language family, 1885, an ethnologist's word, from Algonquin, name of one of the tribes, + -ian. Both forms of the name have been used as adjectives and nouns. They originally were spread over a wide area of northeast and north-central North America, from Nova Scotia (Micmac) to Montana (Cheyenne). From 1890 in geology.
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 was the name taken late 19c. by ethnologists to describe a large group of North American Indian peoples, including this tribe. The Algonquin Hotel (59 W. 44th Street, Manhattan) opened 1902 and was named by manager Frank Case for the tribes 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."
algorism (n.) Look up algorism at
13c., early alternative form of algorithm (q.v.), from Old French algorisme. Related: Algorismic.
algorithm (n.) Look up algorithm at
1690s, "Arabic system of computation," 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" (modern Khiva in Uzbekistan), 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. Meaning broadened to any method of computation; from mid-20c. especially with reference to computing.
algorithmic (adj.) Look up algorithmic at
by 1799, "arithmetical," from algorithm + -ic. In reference to symbolic rules or language, by 1881.
Alhambra Look up Alhambra at
palace of the Moorish kings in Granada, built 13c. and early 14c., a Spanish rendering of 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. Related: Alhambresque.
alias (n.) Look up alias at
"assumed name," c. 1600, from alias (adv.).
alias (adv.) Look up alias at
mid-15c., "otherwise called," from Latin alias (adv.) "at another time," in Late Latin also "in another way, under other circumstances," from alius "another, other, different," from PIE root *al- (1) "beyond," which is the source also of English else.
alibi (n.) Look up alibi at
1743, "a plea of having been elsewhere when an action took place," from Latin alibi (adv.) "elsewhere, somewhere else," locative of alius "another, other, different," from PIE root *al- (1) "beyond." The weakened sense of "excuse" is attested since 1912, but technically any proof of innocence that doesn't involve being "elsewhere" is an excuse (n.) and 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. c. 1880-1920. "Alice's Adventures in Wonderland," published in 1865, was written for Alice Pleasance Liddell (1852-1934).
alien (n.) Look up alien at
"foreigner, citizen of a foreign land," early 14c., from alien (adj.) or from noun use of the adjective in French and Latin. In the science fiction sense "being from another planet," from 1953.
alien (adj.) Look up alien at
c. 1300, "strange, foreign," from Old French alien "strange, foreign;" as a noun, "an alien, stranger, foreigner," from Latin alienus "of or belonging to another, not one's own, foreign, strange," also, as a noun, "a stranger, foreigner," adjective from alius (adv.) "another, other, different," from PIE root *al- (1) "beyond."

Meaning "residing in a country not of one's birth" is from mid-15c. Sense of "wholly different in nature" is from 1670s. Meaning "not of this Earth" first recorded 1920. An alien priory (c. 1500) is one owing obedience to a mother abbey in a foreign country.
alienable (adj.) Look up alienable at
"that can be surrendered or given up," 1610s; see alien (adj.) + -able. Related: Alienability.
alienage (n.) Look up alienage at
"state of being alien," 1753, from alien (adj.) + -age. Other abstract noun forms include alienship (1846); alienness (1881).
alienate (v.) Look up alienate at
"make estranged" (in feelings or affections), 1540s, from Latin alienatus, past participle of alienare "to make another's, part with; estrange, set at variance," from alienus "of or belonging to another person or place," from alius "another, other, different," from PIE root *al- (1) "beyond." Related: Alienated; alienating.

In Middle English the verb was simply alien "to estrange from," late 14c., from Old French aliener and directly from Latin alienare.
alienation (n.) Look up alienation at
late 14c., "transfer of ownership, action of estranging," from Old French alienacion and directly from Latin alienationem (nominative alienatio) "a transfer, surrender, separation," noun of action from past participle stem of alienare "to make another's, part with; estrange, set at variance," from alienus "of or belonging to another person or place," from alius "another, other, different," from PIE root *al- (1) "beyond."

Middle English alienation also meant "deprivation of mental faculties, insanity" (early 15c.), from Latin alienare in a secondary sense "deprive of reason, drive mad;" 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 scientifically treats or studies mental illness," 1864, from French aliéniste, from alienation in the sense of "insanity, loss of mental faculty" (compare alienation, since 15c. as "loss or derangement of mental faculties, insanity"), from Latin alienare "deprive of reason, drive mad," literally "to make another's, estrange" (see alienate).
alight (v.) Look up alight at
"to descend (from horseback, etc.), dismount," Old English alihtan "alight," 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 an adjectival use of Middle English aliht, past participle of verb alihton (Old English on-lihtan, obsolete from 17c.) "to light up, set light to," also "to shine upon" (see a- (1) + light (n.)). Now regarded as parallel to afire, ablaze, etc.
align (v.) Look up align at
early 15c., "to copulate" (of wolves, dogs), literally "to range (things) in a line," from Old French alignier "set, lay in line" (Modern French aligner), from from à "to" (see ad-) + lignier "to line," from Latin lineare "reduce to a straight line," from linea (see line (n.)). Transitive or reflexive sense of "to fall into line" is from 1853. International political sense is attested from 1934. The French spelling with -g- is unetymological, and aline was an early form in English. Related: Aligned; aligning.
alignment (n.) Look up alignment at
1790, "arrangement in a line," from French alignement, from aligner "to arrange in a line" (see align). Political sense is from 1933.
alike (adj.) Look up alike at
"like one another, very similar," c. 1300, aliche, ylike, ilike, from Old English anlig, onlic "similar, resembling;" from Old English an, on (see a- (1) + like (adj.), which is related to Old English lic "body, corpse."

The notion is "having a corresponding form (body)." The more usual Germanic compound is represented by Old English gelic, from Proto-Germanic *galikam "associated form" (source also of Old Frisian gelik, Dutch gelijk, German gleich, Gothic galeiks, Old Norse glikr). As an adverb, late Old English onlice, gelice.
aliment (n.) Look up aliment at
"food, nutriment," late 15c., from Latin alimentum "nourishment," in plural, "food, provisions," from alere "to suckle, nourish," from PIE root *al- (2) "to grow, nourish." Related: Alimental.
alimentary (adj.) Look up alimentary at
"pertaining to nutrition," 1610s, from Medieval Latin alimentarius "pertaining to food," from Latin alimentum "nourishment, food," from alere "to nourish, rear, support, maintain," from PIE root *al- (2) "to grow, nourish."
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, rear, support, maintain" (from PIE root *al- (2) "to grow, nourish") + -monia suffix signifying action, state, condition (cognate with Greek -men). Derived form palimony coined 1979, from pal (n.). Related: Alimonious.
Aline Look up Aline at
fem. proper name, French, short for Adeline.
Alison Look up Alison at
also Allison, fem. proper name popular in England and Scotland 13c.-17c., from French Alison, a pet form of Alice. As a surname, from this or representing "Alice's son" or in some cases "Alan's son."
alit Look up alit at
poetic past tense and past participle of alight (v.).
alive (adj.) Look up alive at
c. 1200, "in life, living," contraction of Old English on life "in living, not dead," from a- (1) + dative of lif "life" (see life). The full form on live was still current 17c. Of abstract things (love, lawsuits, etc.) "in a state of operation, unextinguished," c. 1600. From 1709 as "active, lively;" 1732 as "attentive, open" (usually with to). Used emphatically, especially with man (n.); 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 it was abstracted as an expletive, man alive! (1845). Alive and kicking "alert, vigorous," attested from 1823; Farmer says "The allusion is to a child in the womb after quickening," but kicking in the sense "lively and active" is recorded from 1550s (e.g. "the wanton or kicking flesh of yong maydes," "Lives of Women Saints," c. 1610).
aliveness (n.) Look up aliveness at
1853, from alive + -ness.