alternate (adj.) Look up alternate at
"following each other by turns, reciprocal," 1510s, from Latin alternatus "one after the other," past participle of alternare "to do first one thing then the other; exchange parts," from alternus "one after the other, alternate, in turns, reciprocal," from alter "the other" (see alter).

Alternate means "by turns;" alternative means "offering a choice." Both imply two kinds or things. Alternation is the process of two things following one another regularly by turns (as night and day); an alternative is a choice of two things, the acceptance of one implying the rejection of the other. Related: Alternacy.
alternately (adv.) Look up alternately at
early 15c., from alternate (adj.) + -ly (2).
alternating (adj.) Look up alternating at
1550s, "occurring or acting by turns, one after the other," present participle adjective from alternate (v.). Electrical alternating current is recorded from 1839.
alternation (n.) Look up alternation at
mid-15c., from Old French alternacion "alternation," from Latin alternationem (nominative alternatio) "an interchanging," noun of action from past participle stem of alternare "do by turns" (see alternate (v.)).
alternative (n.) Look up alternative at
1620s, in rhetoric, "proposition involving two statements, the acceptance of one implying the rejection of the other," from noun use of Medieval Latin alternativus "do one thing and then another, do by turns," from Latin alternus "one after the other, alternate, in turns, reciprocal," from alter "the other" (see alter). Of courses of action, from 1814. Of objects, etc., "the other of two which may be chosen," by 1836.
alternative (adj.) Look up alternative at
1580s, "offering one or the other of two," from Medieval Latin alternativus, from Latin alternatus, past participle of alternare "do one thing and then another, do by turns," from alternus "one after the other, alternate, in turns, reciprocal," from alter "the other" (see alter). Meaning "purporting to be a superior choice to what is in general use" was current by 1970 (earliest reference is to the media); in popular music, by 1984 in reference to pirate radio. Alternative energy is from 1975. Related: Alternatively.
alternator (n.) Look up alternator at
1878, agent noun in Latin form from alternate (v.).
although (conj.) Look up although at
early 14c., althagh, contraction of all though, preserving the once-common emphatic use of all. "All though was originally more emphatic than though, but by 1400 it was practically only a variant of it, and all having thus lost its independent force, the phrase was written as one word" [OED]. The choice between though and although is often determined by rhythm.
alti- Look up alti- at
word-forming element meaning "high," sometimes also alto- (in cloud names, etc.), from Latin altus "high," literally "grown tall," from PIE root *al- (2) "to grow, nourish."
altimeter (n.) Look up altimeter at
"instrument for measuring altitudes," 1918, from alti- "high" + -meter.
altimetry (n.) Look up altimetry at
"the art of measuring heights," 1690s, from Medieval Latin altimetria, from Latin alti- "high" (see alti-) + Greek -metria "a measuring of" (see -metry). Related: Altimetric.
altitude (n.) Look up altitude at
late 14c., "elevation above the horizon" (of stars, planets), from Latin altitudinem (nominative altitudo) "height, altitude," from altus "high," literally "grown tall," from PIE root *al- (2) "to grow, nourish." General sense "space upward, height, vertical extent" is from early 15c. Related: Altitudinal; altitudinous.
alto (n.) Look up alto at
1784, "man with an alto voice," literally "high," from Italian alto (canto), from Latin altus "high," literally "grown tall," from PIE root *al- (2) "to grow, nourish." Originally a man's high voice; now more commonly applied to the lower range of women's voices (which is more strictly the contralto), an extension recorded by 1848. So called because higher than the tenor, which in old music had the melody.
The alto in a man is totally distinct from the contralto in a woman. The tone is utterly different -- the best notes of the one are certainly not the best notes of the other; and although in certain cases a contralto may sing with good effect music written for a male alto (e.g. in some oratorios), yet the converse is scarcely ever true. ["How to Sing," 1890]
As a type of saxophone, from 1869. Also an old name for the viola (1833), from Italian.
alto-rilievo (n.) Look up alto-rilievo at
also also-relievo, 1717, from Italian, literally "high-relief" in sculpture, from alto "high," from Latin altus (see alti-) + rilievo, from rilevare "to raise," from Latin relevare "to raise, lighten" (see relieve).
altogether (adv.) Look up altogether at
"wholly, entirely, completely," early 13c., altogedere, a strengthened form of all (also see together); used in the sense of "a whole" from 1660s. OED notes, "There is a common tendency to write altogether where all together is logically preferable," and gives examples from 1765. The altogether "a condition of nakedness" is from 1894.
altruism (n .) Look up altruism at
1853, "unselfishness, devotion to the welfare of others, opposite of egoism," from French altruisme, coined or popularized 1830 by French philosopher Auguste Comte (1798-1857), with -ism + autrui (Old French altrui) "of or to others," from Latin alteri, dative of alter "other" (see alter). The -l- is perhaps an etymological reinsertion from the Latin word.
There is a fable that when the badger had been stung all over by bees, a bear consoled him by a rhapsodic account of how he himself had just breakfasted on their honey. The badger replied peevishly, "The stings are in my flesh, and the sweetness is on your muzzle." The bear, it is said, was surprised at the badger's want of altruism. ["George Eliot," "Theophrastus Such," 1879]
altruist (n.) Look up altruist at
"person devoted to the welfare of others," 1842, from French altruiste; see altruism + -ist.
altruistic (adj.) Look up altruistic at
"having regard for the interest and well-being of others," 1853, from altruist + -ic. Related: Altruistically.
alum (n.) Look up alum at
"whitish mineral salt used as an astringent, dye, etc.," late 14c., from Old French alum, alun, from Latin alumen "alum," literally "bitter salt," cognate with Greek aludoimos "bitter" and perhaps with English ale. The Slavic words are said to be from Germanic.
aluminium (n.) Look up aluminium at
1812, chiefly British form of aluminum (q.v.).
aluminum (n.) Look up aluminum at
1812, coined by English chemist Sir Humphry Davy (1778-1829), from alumina, alumine, name given by French chemists late 18c. to aluminum oxide, from Latin alumen "alum" (see alum). Davy originally called it alumium (1808), then amended this to aluminum, which remains the U.S. word, but British editors in 1812 further amended it to aluminium, the modern preferred British form, to better harmonize with other metallic element names (sodium, potassium, etc.).
Aluminium, for so we shall take the liberty of writing the word, in preference to aluminum, which has a less classical sound. ["Quarterly Review," 1812]
Aluminum foil attested by 1859; popularized in food packaging from c. 1950.
alumna (n.) Look up alumna at
"female pupil or graduate of a school," 1860, fem. of alumnus (q.v.).
alumnae (n.) Look up alumnae at
fem. plural of alumnus (q.v.).
alumni (n.) Look up alumni at
plural of alumnus (q.v.).
alumnus (n.) Look up alumnus at
"pupil or graduate of a school," 1640s, from Latin alumnus "a pupil," literally "foster son," vestigial present passive participle of alere "to suckle, nourish," from PIE root *al- (2) "to grow, nourish." With ending akin to Greek -omenos. Plural is alumni. The fem. form is alumna (1882), plural alumnae.
alveolar (adj.) Look up alveolar at
1799, "pertaining to the sockets of the teeth," from a modern medical use of Latin alveolus "socket, small hollow or cavity" (see alveolus) + -ar. Sense extended 19c. to other anatomical hollows.
alveolus (n.) Look up alveolus at
1706, "a hollow," especially "the socket of a tooth," from Latin alveolus "a tray, trough, basin; bed of a small river; small hollow or cavity," diminutive of alvus "belly, stomach, paunch, bowels; hold of a ship," from PIE root *aulo- "hole, cavity" (source also of Greek aulos "flute, tube, pipe;" Serbo-Croatian, Polish, Russian ulica "street," originally "narrow opening;" Old Church Slavonic uliji, Lithuanian aulys "beehive" (hollow trunk), Armenian yli "pregnant"). The word was extended in 19c. anatomy to other small pits, sockets, or cells.
always (adv.) Look up always at
mid-14c., contraction of Old English phrase ealne weg "all the time; quite, perpetually," literally "all the way," with accusative of space or distance, though the oldest recorded usages refer to time; see all + way (n.). The adverbial genitive -s appeared early 13c., was rare before c. 1400, but is now standard, though the variant alway survived into 1800s. Meaning "every time" is from early 13c.
alyssum (n.) Look up alyssum at
type of European flowering plant, 1550s, from Latin alysson, from Greek alysson, which is perhaps the neuter of adjective alyssos "curing madness," from a- "not, without" (see a- (3)) + lyssa "madness, martial rage, fury," an abstract word probably literally "wolf-ness" and related to lykos "wolf" (see wolf (n.)); but some see a connection with "light" words, in reference to the glittering eyes of the mad.
Alzheimer's disease (n.) Look up Alzheimer's disease at
senium præcox, 1912, the title of article by S.C. Fuller published in "Journal of Nervous and Mental Diseases;" named for German neurologist Alois Alzheimer (1864-1915). The disease name was not common before 1970s; shortened form Alzheimer's first recorded 1954. The surname is from the place name Alzheim, literally "Old Hamlet."
am (v.) Look up am at
first person singular present indicative of be (q.v.); Old English eom "to be, to remain," (Mercian eam, Northumbrian am), from Proto-Germanic *izm(i)-, from PIE *esmi- (source also of Old Norse emi, Gothic im, Hittite esmi, Old Church Slavonic jesmi, Lithuanian esmi), first person singular form of root *es- "to be."

In Old English it formed only present tenses, all other forms being expressed in the W-BASE (see were, was). This cooperative verb is sometimes referred to by linguists as *es-*wes-. Until the distinction broke down 13c., *es-*wes- tended to express "existence," with beon meaning something closer to "come to be."

Old English am had two plural forms: 1. sind/sindon, sie and 2. earon/aron. The s- form (also used in the subjunctive) fell from English in the early 13c. (though its cousin continues in German sind, the 3rd person plural of "to be") and was replaced by forms of be, but aron (see are) continued, and as am and be merged it encroached on some uses that previously had belonged to be. By the early 1500s it had established its place in standard English.
amable (adj.) Look up amable at
early 15c., "friendly, courteous," from Old French amable "loving; worthy of love, amicable, pleasant," from Latin amabilem "lovely," from amare "to love" (see Amy). Related: Amably; amability.
amah (n.) Look up amah at
"wet-nurse," 1839, Anglo-Indian, from Portuguese ama "nurse," from Medieval Latin amma "mother," from PIE root *am-, forming nursery words. Or from or combined with amma "mother" in Telegu, etc.
amain (adv.) Look up amain at
"with violence, strength, or force," 1530s, from main (adj.) by analogy with other words in a- (such as afoot).
amalgam (n.) Look up amalgam at
c. 1400, "a blend of mercury with another metal; soft mass formed by chemical manipulation," from Old French amalgame or directly from Medieval Latin amalgama, "alloy of mercury (especially with gold or silver)," an alchemists' word of uncertain origin.

Perhaps an alteration of Latin malagma "poultice, plaster," probably from Arabic al-malgham "an emollient poultice or unguent for sores (especially warm)" [Francis Johnson, "A Dictionary of Persian, Arabic, and English"], perhaps from Greek malagma "softening substance," from malassein "to soften," from malakos "soft" (from PIE *meldh-, from from root *mel- (1) "soft"). Figurative meaning "compound of different things" is from 1790.
amalgamate (v.) Look up amalgamate at
1650s, "mix (a metal) with mercury," a back-formation from amalgamation, or else from obsolete adjective amalgamate (1640s) from amalgam (q.v.). Originally in metallurgy; figurative transitive sense of "to unite" (races, etc.) is attested from 1802; intransitive sense "to combine, unite into one body" is from 1797. Related: Amalgamated; amalgamating. Earlier verbs were amalgam (1540s); amalganize (1590s).
amalgamation (n.) Look up amalgamation at
1610s, "act of compounding mercury with another metal," noun of action from archaic amalgam (v.) "to alloy with mercury" (see amalgamate). Figurative, non-chemical sense of "a combining of different things into one uniform whole" is attested from 1775. Especially of the union or merger of corporations under one direction.
amalgamize (v.) Look up amalgamize at
1590s, "reduce to a soft mass by combination with mercury," from amalgam + -ize. Related: Amalgamized; amalgamizing.
Amanda Look up Amanda at
fem. proper name, literally "worthy to be loved," fem. of Latin amandus "pleasing," gerundive of amare "to love" (see Amy). A top 10 list name for girls born in U.S. between 1976 and 1995.
amanuensis (n.) Look up amanuensis at
"one who takes dictation or copies what is written by another," 1610s, from Latin amanuensis "adjective used as a noun," an alteration of (servus) a manu "secretary," literally "servant from the hand;" from a for ab "from, of," here used as a designation of office (see ab-), + manu, ablative of manus "hand" (from PIE root *man- (2) "hand"). With -ensis, for which see -ese.
amaranth (n.) Look up amaranth at
1610s, from French amarante, from Latin amarantus/amaranthus, from Greek amarantos, name of a mythical unfading flower, literally "unfading, undecaying," from a- "not" (see a- (3)) + stem of marainein "die away, waste away, decay, wither; quench, extinguish," from PIE root *mer- "to rub away, harm" (also "to die" and forming words referring to death and to beings subject to death). In classical use, a poet's word for an imaginary flower that never fades. It was applied to a genus of ornamental plants 1550s. Ending influenced by plant names with Greek -anthos "flower."
amaranthine (adj.) Look up amaranthine at
1660s, "unfading, undying," poetic (apparently coined by Milton), also amarantine; see amaranth, name of a mythical unfading flower + -ine (1). From late 19c. of a purple color similar to that of the flowers of the ornamental plant so-called.
Amaretto Look up Amaretto at
Italian almond-flavored liqueur, 1945 (the original brand, Amaretto di Saronno, dates to 1851), from the Italian word for almond (q.v.), which did not acquire the unetymological -l- of the English word. Sometimes confused with amoretto. Amoroso (literally "lover"), a type of sweetened sherry, is attested from c. 1870.
amarillo (n.) Look up amarillo at
name of several species of American trees, from Spanish, from Arabic anbari "yellow, amber-colored," from anbar "amber" (see amber). The city Amarillo in Texas, U.S., may be so called from the color of the banks of a nearby stream.
amaryllis (n.) Look up amaryllis at
autumn-flowering bulb, 1794, adopted by Linnaeus from Latin, from Greek Amaryllis, typical name of a country girl or shepherdess (in Theocritus, Virgil, Ovid, etc.), from amaryssein "to sparkle, twinkle, glance," as the eye, a word which according to Beekes "may well be of Pre-Greek origin."
amass (v.) Look up amass at
late 15c., "to heap up for oneself," from Old French amasser "bring together, assemble, accumulate" (12c.), from à "to" (see ad-) + masser, from masse "lump, heap, pile" (from PIE root *mag- "to knead, fashion, fit"). Related: Amassed; amassing; amassable.
amastia (n.) Look up amastia at
"complete failure of one or both breasts, including the nipple, to develop," 1878, medical Latin, from German amastia (1841), from Greek amastos "without breasts," from privative prefix a- "not, without" (see a- (3)) + mastos "breast" (see masto-) + abstract noun ending -ia.
amaterialistic (adj.) Look up amaterialistic at
1878, from a- (3) "not" + materialistic.
amateur (n.) Look up amateur at
1784, "one who has a taste for some art, study, or pursuit, but does not practice it," from French amateur "one who loves, lover" (16c., restored from Old French ameour), from Latin amatorem (nominative amator) "lover, friend," agent noun from amatus, past participle of amare "to love" (see Amy).

Meaning "one who cultivates and participates (in something) but does not pursue it professionally or with an eye to gain" (as opposed to professional) is from 1786, often with disparaging shades, "dabbler, dilettante," except in athletics, where the tinge formerly shaded the professional. As an adjective, by 1838.
amateurish (adj.) Look up amateurish at
"having the faults and deficiencies of a non-professional," 1863; from amateur + -ish. Related: Amateurishly; amateurishness.