allowed (adj.) Look up allowed at
late 14c., "praised;" mid-15c., "assigned as a due share;" late 15c., "permitted," past participle adjective from allow.
alloy (n.) Look up alloy at
early 14c. "relative freedom of a noble metal from alloy or other impurities," from Anglo-French alai, Old French aloi, from aloiier (see alloy (v.)). Meaning " base metal alloyed with a noble metal" is from c. 1400. Modern spelling from late 17c.
alloy (v.) Look up alloy at
c. 1400, "mix with a baser metal," from Old French aloiier "assemble, join," from Latin alligare "bind to, tie to," compound of ad- "to" (see ad-) + ligare "to bind" (see ligament); hence "bind one thing to another." Related: Alloyed; alloying.
allright Look up allright at
see alright.
allspice (n.) Look up allspice at
spice made from the berry of the Jamaican pimento, 1620s, from all + spice (n.), "so called because supposed to combine the flavour of cinnamon, nutmeg, and cloves" [Weekley].
allude (v.) Look up allude at
1530s, "mock," from Middle French alluder or directly from Latin alludere "to play, sport, joke, jest," from ad- "to" (see ad-) + ludere "to play" (see ludicrous). Meaning "make an indirect reference, point in passing" is from 1570s. Related: Alluded; alluding.
allure (v.) Look up allure at
c. 1400, from Anglo-French alurer, Old French aleurer "to attract, captivate; train a falcon to hunt," from à "to" (see ad-) + loirre "falconer's lure," from a Frankish word (see lure), perhaps influenced by French allure "gait, way of walking." Related: Allured; alluring. The noun is first attested 1540s; properly this sense is allurement.
allurement (n.) Look up allurement at
1540s, "means of alluring;" see allure + -ment. Meaning "act of alluring" is recorded from 1560s.
alluring (n.) Look up alluring at
1530s, "action of attracting," verbal noun from allure (v.).
alluring (adj.) Look up alluring at
"appealing to desires," 1570s, present participle adjective from allure (v.). Related: Alluringly.
allusion (n.) Look up allusion at
1540s, from Latin allusionem (nominative allusio) "a playing with, a reference to," noun of action from past participle stem of alludere (see allude). An allusion is never an outright or explicit mention of the person or thing the speaker seems to have in mind.
allusive (adj.) Look up allusive at
c. 1600, from Latin allus-, past participle stem of alludere (see allude) + -ive. Related: Allusively; allusiveness.
alluvial (adj.) Look up alluvial at
1802, from Latin alluvius "alluvial" (see alluvium) + -al (1).
alluvium (n.) Look up alluvium at
"matter deposited by flowing water," 1660s, from Medieval Latin alluvium, neuter of alluvius "washed against," from Latin alluere "wash against," from ad- "to, against" (see ad-) + -luere, comb. form of lavere "to wash" (see lave).
ally (v.) Look up ally at
late 13c., "to join in marriage," from Old French alier "combine, unite," from a differentiated stem of aliier (from Latin alligare "bind to;" see alloy). Meaning "to form an alliance, join, associate" is late 14c. Related: allied; allying.
ally (n.) Look up ally at
late 14c., "relative, kinsman," from ally (v.); mid-15c. in the sense of "one united with another by treaty or league."
Alma Look up Alma at
fem. proper name, from Latin Alma "nourishing," fem. of almus; from alere "to nourish" (see old).
Alma Mater (n.) Look up Alma Mater at
late 14c., Latin, literally "bountiful mother," a title Romans gave to goddesses, especially Ceres and Cybele, from alma, fem. of almus "nourishing," from alere "to nourish" (see old) + mater "mother" (see mother (n.1)). First used 1710 in sense of "one's university or school" in reference to British universities.
almagest (n.) Look up almagest at
late 14c., title of a treatise on astronomy by Claudius Ptolemy of Alexandria, extended in Middle English to other works on astrology or astronomy, from Old French almageste (13c.), from Arabic al majisti, from al "the" + Greek megiste "the greatest (composition)," from fem. of megistos, superlative of megas "great" (see mickle). Originally titled in Greek Megale syntaxis tes astronomias "Great Composition on Astronomy;" Arab translators in their admiration altered this.
almah (n.) Look up almah at
Egyptian dancing-girl, belly-dancer, 1814, perhaps from Arabic almah (fem. adjective), "learned, knowing," from alama "to know." Or perhaps from a Semitic root meaning "girl" (cognates: Hebrew alma "a young girl, a damsel").
almanac (n.) Look up almanac at
late 14c., attested in Anglo-Latin from mid-13c., via Old French almanach or directly from Medieval Latin almanachus, which is of uncertain origin. It is sometimes said to be from a Spanish-Arabic al-manakh "calendar, almanac" but possibly ultimately from Late Greek almenichiakon "calendar," which itself is said to be of Coptic origin. This word has been the subject of much speculation. Originally a book of permanent tables of astronomical data; one-year versions, combined with ecclesiastical calendars, date from 16c.; "astrological and weather predictions appear in 16-17th c.; the 'useful statistics' are a modern feature" [OED].
almighty (adj.) Look up almighty at
Old English ælmihtig "all-powerful," also a by-name of God; compound of æl (see all) + mihtig (see mighty); common Germanic (cognates: Old Saxon alomahtig, Old High German alamahtic, German allmächtig, Old Norse almattigr), perhaps an early Germanic loan-translation of Latin omnipotens (see omnipotent).
The almighty dollar, that great object of universal devotion throughout our land." [Washington Irving, 1836]
Related: Almightily.
Almohades Look up Almohades at
12c. Muslim religious power that ruled Spain and North Africa, founded by Mohammed ibn Abdullah, the name is literally "the Unitarians," short for Arabic al-muwahhidun "they who profess the unity (of God)," so called for their absolutist monotheism.
almond (n.) Look up almond at
c. 1300, from Old French almande, amande, from Vulgar Latin *amendla, *amandula, from Latin amygdala (plural), from Greek amygdalos "an almond tree," which is of unknown origin, perhaps a Semitic word. Altered in Medieval Latin by influence of amandus "loveable," and acquiring in French an excrescent -l- perhaps from Spanish almendra "almond," which got it via confusion with the Arabic definite article al-, which formed the beginnings of many Spanish words. Applied to eyes shaped like almonds, especially of certain Asiatic peoples, from 1870.
almoner (n.) Look up almoner at
"official distributor of alms on behalf of another," c. 1300 (mid-13c. as a surname), from Old French almosnier (12c.; Modern French aumônerie), from Vulgar Latin *almosinarius, from Late Latin elemosinarius (adj.) "connected with alms," from eleemosyna "alms" (see alms).
Almoravides Look up Almoravides at
Muslim Berber horde from the Sahara which founded a dynasty in Morocco (11c.) and conquered much of Spain and Portugal. The name is Spanish, from Arabic al-Murabitun, literally "the monks living in a fortified convent," from ribat "fortified convent."
almost (adv.) Look up almost at
Old English eallmæst "nearly all, for the most part," literally "mostly all;" see all + most. Modern form from 15c.
alms (n.) Look up alms at
Old English ælmesse "alms, almsgiving," from Proto-Germanic *alemosna (cognates: Old Saxon alamosna, Old High German alamuosan, Old Norse ölmusa), an early borrowing of Vulgar Latin *alemosyna (source of Old Spanish almosna, Old French almosne, Italian limosina), from Church Latin eleemosyna (Tertullian, 3c.), from Greek eleemosyne "pity, mercy," in Ecclesiastical Greek "charity, alms," from eleemon "compassionate," from eleos "pity, mercy," which is of unknown origin, perhaps imitative of cries for alms. Spelling perversion in Vulgar Latin is perhaps by influence of alimonia.
almshouse (n.) Look up almshouse at
mid-15c., from alms + house (n.).
aloe (n.) Look up aloe at
Old English alewe "fragrant resin of an East Indian tree," a Biblical usage, from Latin aloe, from Greek aloe, translating Hebrew ahalim (plural, perhaps ultimately from a Dravidian language).

The Greek word probably was chosen for resemblance of sound to the Hebrew, because the Greek and Latin words referred originally to a genus of plants with spiky flowers and bitter juice, used as a purgative drug, a sense which appeared in English late 14c. The word was then misapplied to the American agave plant in 1680s. The "true aloe" consequently is called aloe vera.
aloft (adv.) Look up aloft at
c. 1200, from a Scandinavian source such as Old Norse a lopti "up above," literally "up in the air," from a "in, on" + lopt "sky, air, atmosphere; loft, upper room" (cognates: Gothic luftus, Old High German luft, Old English lyft "air;" see loft).
aloha Look up aloha at
1798, Hawaiian aloha, Maori aroha, an expression used in greeting or valediction, literally "love, affection, pity." Sometimes aloha 'oe, from 'oe "to you."
alone (adj., adv.) Look up alone at
c. 1300 contraction of all ane, from Old English all ana "unaccompanied, all by oneself," from all "all, wholly" (see all) + an "one" (see one). Similar compounds are found in German (allein) and Dutch (alleen).
along (prep.) Look up along at
Old English andlang "entire, continuous; extended; all day long; alongside of," from and- "opposite, against" (from Proto-Germanic *andi-, *anda-, from PIE *anti "against," locative singular of *ant- "front, forehead;" see ante) + lang "long" (see long (adj.)). Sense extended to "through the whole length of."
alongshore (adj.) Look up alongshore at
1779, from along + shore (n.).
alongside (adv.) Look up alongside at
1707, from along + side (n.). A word formed from a phrase. Originally mostly nautical.
aloof (adj.) Look up aloof at
1530s, from a- (1) + Middle English loof "weather gage," also "windward direction," probably from Dutch loef (Middle Dutch lof) "the weather side of a ship." Originally a nautical order to keep the ship's head to the wind, thus to stay clear of a lee-shore or some other quarter; hence the figurative sense of "at a distance, apart" (1580s). Related: Aloofly; aloofness.
aloud (adv.) Look up aloud at
late 14c., from a- (1) + loud.
Aloysius Look up Aloysius at
masc. proper name, from Medieval Latin Aloisius, from Old French Loois (see Louis).
alp (n.) Look up alp at
1590s, "any high, snow-capped mountain," from Alps, from French Alpes, from Latin Alpes "the Alps," perhaps from altus "high," or albus "white" or from a Celtic word (according to Servius), or a pre-Indo-European root. Alps, the European mountain range, attested by that name in English from 1550s.
alpaca (n.) Look up alpaca at
1792, from Spanish alpaca, probably from Aymara allpaca, related to Quechua p'ake "yellowish-red." The al- is perhaps from influence of Arabic definite article (see almond). Attested in English from 1753 in the form pacos.
Alpenstock (n.) Look up Alpenstock at
"long iron-pointed staff used for hiking in mountains," 1829, German, literally "Alpine stick."
alpha (n.) Look up alpha at
c. 1300, from Latin alpha, from Greek alpha, from Hebrew or Phoenician aleph (see aleph). The Greeks added -a because Greek words cannot end in most consonants. Sense of "beginning of anything" is from late 14c., often paired with omega (last letter in the Greek alphabet) as "the end." Sense of "first in a sequence" is from 1620s. Alpha male was in use by c. 1960 among scientists studying animals; applied to humans in society from c. 1992.
alphabet (n.) Look up alphabet at
1570s, from Late Latin alphabetum (Tertullian), from Greek alphabetos, from alpha + beta. Alphabet soup first attested 1907. Words for it in Old English included stæfræw, literally "row of letters," stæfrof "array of letters."
It was a wise though a lazy cleric whom Luther mentions in his "Table Talk,"--the monk who, instead of reciting his breviary, used to run over the alphabet and then say, "O my God, take this alphabet, and put it together how you will." [William S. Walsh, "Handy-Book of Literary Curiosities," 1892]
alphabetical (adj.) Look up alphabetical at
1560s, from alphabet + -ical. Related: Alphabetically.
alphabetize (v.) Look up alphabetize at
1866, from alphabet + -ize. Related: Alphabetized; alphabetizing.
alphanumeric (adj.) Look up alphanumeric at
1912, contracted from alphabet + numeric (see numerical).
Alphonso Look up Alphonso at
masc. proper name, from Spanish Alfonso, from a Germanic source (compare Old High German Adalfuns, from adal "noble;" see atheling + funs "ready"). The Alphonsine tables are named for Alphonso the Wise, 13c. king of Castile.
Alpine (adj.) Look up Alpine at
"of the Alps," early 15c., from Latin Alpinus; see Alp. Earlier was Alpish (1590s).
Alps Look up Alps at
see Alp.