Americanism (n.) Look up Americanism at
1781, in reference to words or phrases distinct from British use, coined by John Witherspoon (1723-1794), president of Princeton College, from American + -ism. (American English "English language as spoken in the United States" is first recorded 1806, in Webster.) Americanism in the patriotic sense "attachment to the U.S." is attested from 1797, first found in the writings of Thomas Jefferson.
I have been not a little disappointed, and made suspicious of my own judgment, on seeing the Edinburgh Reviews, the ablest critics of the age, set their faces against the introduction of new words into the English language; they are particularly apprehensive that the writers of the United States will adulterate it. Certainly so great growing a population, spread over such an extent of country, with such a variety of climates, of productions, of arts, must enlarge their language, to make it answer its purpose of expressing all ideas, the new as well as the old. [Jefferson to John Waldo, Aug. 16, 1813]
Americanization (n.) Look up Americanization at
1816, noun of state or action from Americanize.
Americanize (v.) Look up Americanize at
1797, from American + -ize. Related: Americanized; Americanizing.
Amerind Look up Amerind at
1899, coined by Maj. John Wesley Powell (1834-1902) at the Bureau of American Ethnology, where he was director, from American + Indian.
Amerindian (adj.) Look up Amerindian at
1900; see Amerind, of which it is the derived adjective.
Ameslan (n.) Look up Ameslan at
1972, acronym of Ame(rican) S(ign) Lan(guage), known by that name since 1960, but its history goes back to 1817, evolving from French Sign Language (introduced at American School for the Deaf in Hartford, Conn.) and indigenous sign languages, especially that of Martha's Vineyard. [See "Everyone Here Spoke Sign Language," Nora Ellen Groce, Harvard University Press, 1985]
amethyst (n.) Look up amethyst at
violet quartz, late 13c., ametist, from Old French ametiste (Modern French améthyste) and directly from Medieval Latin amatistus, from Latin amethystus, from Greek amethystos "amethyst," literally "not intoxicating," from a- "not" + methyskein "make drunk," from methys "wine" (see mead (n.1)); based on the stone's ancient reputation for preventing drunkenness, which was perhaps sympathetic magic suggested by its wine-like color. People wore rings made of it before drinking. Spelling restored from Middle English ametist.
Amex Look up Amex at
blend of American Express, trademark registered in U.S. 1950 by American Express Co., originally an express mail service. Its credit card dates from 1958.
Amharic Look up Amharic at
principal language of Ethiopia, 1813, from Amhara, name of a central province in Ethiopia.
ami (n.) Look up ami at
14c., "friend lover," from Old French amy, ami (see Amy).
amiability (n.) Look up amiability at
1807; see amiable + -ity. Amiableness is recorded from 1530s.
amiable (adj.) Look up amiable at
mid-14c., from Old French amiable, from Late Latin amicabilis "friendly," from amicus "friend," related to amare "to love" (see Amy). The form confused in Old French with amable "lovable," from Latin amare. Reborrowed later in proper Latin form as amicable.
amicability (n.) Look up amicability at
1650s, see amicable + -ity.
amicable (adj.) Look up amicable at
early 15c., from Late Latin amicabilis "friendly," a word in Roman law, from Latin amicus "friend," related to amare "to love" (see Amy). Also see amiable.
amicably (adv.) Look up amicably at
1630s, from amicable + -ly (2).
amicus curiae Look up amicus curiae at
1610s, Latin, literally "friend of the court;" plural is amici curiae. From Latin amicus "friend," related to amare "to love" (see Amy) + curia "court" (see curia).
amid (prep.) Look up amid at
late 14c., from amidde (c. 1200), from Old English on middan "in the middle," from dative singular of midde "mid, middle" (see middle); the phrase evidently was felt as "in (the) middle" and thus followed by a genitive case, and if this had endured we would follow it today with of. (See amidst for further evolution along this line).

The same applies to equivalents in Latin (in medio) and Greek (en meso), both originally adjective phrases which evolved to take the genitive case. But in later Old English on middan also was treated as a preposition and followed by dative. Used in compounds from early 13c. (such as amidships, attested from 1690s and retaining the genitive, as the compounds usually did in early Middle English, suggesting this one is considerably older than the written record of it.)
amidst (prep.) Look up amidst at
a variant of amid (q.v.) with adverbial genitive -s and parasitic -t. Amidde became amyddes (13c.) and acquired a -t by 1560s, probably by association with superlatives in -st.
There is a tendency to use amidst more distributively than amid, e.g. of things scattered about, or a thing moving, in the midst of others. [OED]
amigo (n.) Look up amigo at
"friend, comrade," often a form of address, 1837, American English (first attested in the phrase adios, Amigo), from Spanish amigo, literally "friend," from Latin amicus "friend," related to amare "to love" (see Amy).
amine (n.) Look up amine at
"compound in which one of the hydrogen atoms of ammonia is replaced by a hydrocarbon radical," 1863, from ammonia + chemical suffix -ine (2).
amino- Look up amino- at
1887, as an element in compound words involving chemicals, from comb. form of amine. Amino acid is attested from 1898.
amir (n.) Look up amir at
1610s; the same word as emir (q.v.), but generally used of contemporary Indian or Afghan rulers as opposed to historical ones.
Amish (adj.) Look up Amish at
1844, American English, from the name of Jacob Amman, 17c. Swiss Mennonite preacher who founded the sect. Originally spelled Omish, which reflects the pronunciation in Pennsylvania German dialect. As a noun, by 1884.
amiss (adv.) Look up amiss at
mid-13c., amis "off the mark," also "out of order," literally "on the miss," from a "in, on" (see a- (1)) + missen "fail to hit" (see miss (v.)). To take (something) amiss originally (late 14c.) was "to miss the meaning of" (see mistake). Now it means "to misinterpret in a bad sense."
amity (n.) Look up amity at
mid-15c., "friendly relations," from Old French amitie (13c.); earlier amistie (11c.), from Vulgar Latin *amicitatem (nominative *amicitas) "friendship," corresponding to Latin amicitia, from amicus (adj.) "friendly;" related to amare "to love" (see Amy).
ammeter (n.) Look up ammeter at
instrument for measuring the strength of electric currents, 1882, from ampere + -meter.
ammo (n.) Look up ammo at
1917, shortened form of ammunition.
ammonia (n.) Look up ammonia at
1799, Modern Latin, coined 1782 by Swedish chemist Torbern Bergman (1735-1784) for gas obtained from sal ammoniac, salt deposits containing ammonium chloride found near temple of Jupiter Ammon (from Egyptian God Amun) in Libya, from Greek ammoniakos "belonging to Ammon." The shrine was ancient already in Augustus' day, and the salts were prepared "from the sands where the camels waited while their masters prayed for good omens" [Shipley].

There also was a gum form of sal ammoniac, from a wild plant that grew near the shrine, and across North Africa and Asia. A less likely theory traces the name to Greek Armeniakon "Armenian," because the substance also was found in Armenia. Also known as spirit of hartshorn and volatile or animal alkali.
ammonite (n.) Look up ammonite at
"cephalopod mollusk," 1758, from French (Breyn, 1732), "better established" [Century Dictionary] by French zoologist Jean Guillaume Bruguière (c. 1750-1798) in 1789, from Medieval Latin (cornu) Ammonis "horn of Ammon," the Egyptian god of life and reproduction, who was depicted with ram's horns, which the fossils resemble. The resemblance also was noted in ancient times.
ammunition (n.) Look up ammunition at
1620s, from French soldiers' faulty separation of Middle French la munition into l'ammunition; from Latin munitionem (nominative munitio) "a fortifying" (see munition), and at first meaning all military supplies in general. The mistake in the word perhaps was by influence of French a(d)monition "warning." The error was corrected in French (Modern French munition), but retained in English.
amnesia (n.) Look up amnesia at
"loss of memory," 1786 (as a Greek word in English from 1670s), Modern Latin, coined from Greek amnesia "forgetfulness," from a-, privative prefix, "not" (see a- (3)) + stem from mnasthai "to recall, remember," related to mnemnon "mindful," mneme "memory;" from PIE root *men- "to think, remember" (see mind (n.)).
amnesiac (n.) Look up amnesiac at
"one affected by amnesia," 1913, from amnesia (q.v.).
amnesic (adj.) Look up amnesic at
"pertaining to amnesia," 1863; see amnesia + -ic.
amnestic (adj.) Look up amnestic at
"causing loss of memory," 1879, from Greek amnestia "oblivion, forgetfulness;" see amnesia.
amnesty (n.) Look up amnesty at
"pardon of past offenses," 1570s, from French amnestie "intentional overlooking," from Latin amnestia, from Greek amnestia "forgetfulness (of wrong); an amnesty," from a-, privative prefix, "not" (see a- (3)), + mnestis "remembrance," related to mnaomai "I remember" (see mind (n.)). As a verb, from 1809. Amnesty International founded 1961 as Appeal for Amnesty. The name was changed 1963.
amniocentesis (n.) Look up amniocentesis at
1958, Modern Latin, from amnion (see amniotic) + centesis "surgical puncture," from Greek kentesis "a pricking," from kentein "to prick," related to kontos "pole" (see center (n.)).
amnion (n.) Look up amnion at
1660s, Modern Latin, from Greek amnion "membrane around a fetus," said to be originally "bowl in which the blood of victims was caught" [Liddell & Scott], which is variously said to be of unknown origin, from ame "bucket," or a diminutive of amnos "lamb."
amniotic (adj.) Look up amniotic at
1822, from Modern Latin amnion (see amnion) + -ic.
amoeba (n.) Look up amoeba at
1855, from Modern Latin Amoeba, genus name (1841), from Greek amoibe "change," related to ameibein "to change, exchange," from PIE *e-meigw-, extended form of root *mei- (1) "to change, go, move" (see mutable). So called for its constantly changing shape. Related: Amoebaean; amoebic.
amoebae Look up amoebae at
classical plural of amoeba; see -ae.
amok (adv.) Look up amok at
in verbal phrase run amok first recorded 1670s, from Malay amuk "attacking furiously." Earlier the word was used as a noun or adjective meaning "a frenzied Malay," originally in the Portuguese form amouco or amuco.
There are some of them [the Javanese] who ... go out into the streets, and kill as many persons as they meet. ... These are called Amuco. ["The Book of Duarte Barbosa: An Account of the Countries Bordering on the Indian Ocean and Their Inhabitants," c. 1516, English translation]
Compare amuck.
amole (n.) Look up amole at
1831, from Mexican Spanish amole, from Nahuatl (Aztecan) amolli "soap-root."
among (prep.) Look up among at
early 12c., from Old English onmang, from phrase on gemang "in a crowd," from gemengan "to mingle" (see mingle). Collective prefix ge- dropped 12c. leaving onmong, amang, among. Compare Old Saxon angimang "among, amid;" Old Frisian mong "among."
amongst (prep.) Look up amongst at
mid-13c., amonges, from among with adverbial genitive. Parasitic -t first attested 16c. (see amidst). It is well established in the south of England, but not much heard in the north. By similar evolutions, alongst also existed in Middle English.
amontillado (n.) Look up amontillado at
a variety of sherry wine, 1825, from Spanish amontillado, from a "from" (from Latin ad; see ad-) + Montilla, name of a town in the province of Cordova. Formerly the name of a regional wine, now of a type of sherry.
amoral (adj.) Look up amoral at
"ethically indifferent," 1882, a hybrid formed from Greek privative prefix a- "not" (see a- (3)) + moral, which is derived from Latin. First used by Robert Louis Stephenson (1850-1894) as a differentiation from immoral.
amoretto (n.) Look up amoretto at
1590s, from Italian, literally "little love," a diminutive of amore "love" (see Amy). This word was variously applied to love sonnets, cupids, etc. Also compare Amaretto.
amorous (adj.) Look up amorous at
c. 1300, from Old French amorous (Modern French amoureux), from Late Latin amorosum, from amor "love," from amare "to love" (see Amy). Related: Amorously; amorousness.
amorphous (adj.) Look up amorphous at
"shapeless," 1731, from Modern Latin amorphus, from Greek amorphos "without form, shapeless, deformed," from a- "without" (see a- (3)) + morphe "form" (see Morpheus). Related: Amorphously; amorphousness.
amortisation (n.) Look up amortisation at
chiefly British English spelling of amortization; see -ize.