- fourth month, c. 1300, aueril, from Old French avril (11c.), from Latin (mensis) Aprilis, second month of the ancient Roman calendar, from a stem of uncertain origin and meaning, with month-name suffix -ilis as in Quintilis, Sextilis (the old names of July and August).
Perhaps based on Apru, an Etruscan borrowing of Greek Aphrodite. Or perhaps *ap(e)rilis "the following, the next," from its place as the second month of the old Roman calendar, from Proto-Italic *ap(e)ro-, from PIE *apo- "away, off" (see apo-; compare Sanskrit aparah "second," Gothic afar "after"). Old folk etymology connected it with Latin aperire "to open."
In English in Latin form from mid-12c.; it replaced Old English Eastermonað, which was named for a fertility goddess (see Easter). Re-spelled in Middle English on Latin model (apprile, first attested late 14c.).
- April fool (n.)
- 1680s; April-gowk (from Old Norse gaukr "a cuckoo") is a northern variant. April Fool's Day customs of sending people on false errands seem to have come to England from France late 17c.; originally All Fool's Day (1712). In Cumberland, Westmorland and northern parts of Lancashire and Yorkshire, however, May 1 was the day for hoaxing, and the fool was a May gosling. That custom was first attested 1791.
- apron (n.)
- "apparel for covering the front of a person" (especially while at work, to keep clothes clean), mid-15c., faulty separation (as also in adder, auger, umpire) of a napron (c. 1300), from Old French naperon "small table-cloth," diminutive of nappe "cloth," from Latin mappa "napkin." Napron was still in use as recently as late 16c. The shift of Latin -m- to -n- was a tendency in Old French (conter from computare, printemps from primum, natte "mat, matting," from matta).
Extended 17c. to things which resemble or function like an apron. Symbolic of "wife's business" from 1610s; apron-string tenure was in reference to property held in virtue of one's wife, or during her lifetime only.
Even at his age, he ought not to be always tied to his mother's apron string. [Anne Brontë, "The Tenant of Wildfell Hall," 1848]
- apropos (adv.)
- 1660s, "opportunely," from French à propos "to the purpose," from propos "thing said in conversation, talk; purpose, plan," from Latin propositium "purpose," past participle of proponere "to set forth, propose" (see propound). Meaning "as regards, with reference to" (with of) is 1761, from French. As an adjective, "to the point or purpose," from 1690s.
- apse (n.)
- "semicircular extension at the end of a church," 1846, from Latin apsis "an arch, a vault," from Greek hapsis (Ionic apsis) "loop, arch," originally "a fastening, felloe of a wheel," from haptein "fasten together," which is of unknown origin. The original sense in Greek seems to have been the joining of the arcs to form a circle, especially in making a wheel. The architectural term is earlier attested in English in the Latin form (1706). Related: Apsidal.
- apsis (n.)
- "perigree of the moon, perihelion of a planet" (plural apsides), 1650s, from Latin apsis "arch, vault" (see apse).
- apt (adj.)
- mid-14c., "inclined, disposed;" late 14c., "suited, fitted, adapted, possessing the necessary qualities for the purpose," from Old French ate "fitting, suitable, appropriate" (13c., Modern French apte), or directly from Latin aptus "fit, suited, proper, appropriate," adjectival use of past participle of *apere "to attach, join, tie to," from PIE root *ap- (1) "to grasp, take, reach" (source also of Sanskrit apnoti "he reaches," Latin apisci "to reach after, attain," Hittite epmi "I seize"). Elliptical sense of "becoming, appropriate" is from 1560s.
- apterous (adj.)
- "wingless," 1775, from a- "not, without" (see a- (3)) + pterous, from Greek pteryx "wing" (see pterodactyl).
- apteryx (n.)
- "kiwi," zoological name for the flightless birds of New Zealand, 1813, Modern Latin, from Greek a- "without" (see a- (3)) + pteryx "wing" (see pterodactyl).
- aptitude (n.)
- early 15c., "tendency, likelihood," from Late Latin aptitudo (genitive aptitudinis) "fitness," noun of quality from Latin aptus "joined, fitted" (see apt). Meaning "natural capacity to learn" is 1540s; that of "state or quality of being fit (for a purpose or position)" is from 1640s. Related: Aptitudinal. A doublet of attitude.
- aptly (adv.)
- early 15c., "by natural means;" 1540s, "in a suitable manner," from apt + -ly (2).
- aptness (n.)
- 1530s, from apt + -ness.
- aqua (n.)
- "water," late 14c.; see aqua-. Used in late Middle English in combinations from old chemistry and alchemy to mean "decoction, solution" (as in aqua regia, a mix of concentrated acids, literally "royal water," so called for its power to dissolve gold and other "noble" metals). As the name of a light greenish-blue color, 1936.
- aqua fortis (n.)
- also aquafortis, old commercial name for "diluted nitric acid," c. 1600, Latin, literally "strong water;" see aqua- + fort. So called for its power of dissolving metals (copper, silver) which are unaffected by other agents.
- aqua vitae (n.)
- also aqua-vitae, early 15c., Latin, literally "water of life," an alchemical term for unrefined alcohol. Applied to brandy, whiskey, etc. from 1540s. See aqua- + vital. Compare whiskey, also French eau-de-vie "spirits, brandy," literally "water of life."
- word-forming element meaning "water," from Latin aqua "water; the sea; rain," cognate with Proto-Germanic *akhwo (source of Old English ea "river," Gothic ahua "river, waters," Old Norse Ægir, name of the sea-god, Old English ieg "island"), from PIE root *akwā- "water" (source also of Sanskrit ap "water," Hittite akwanzi "they drink," Lithuanian uppe "a river").
- aquacade (n.)
- "aquatic entertainment," 1937, American English, from aqua- + ending abstracted from cavalcade (q.v.).
- aquaculture (n.)
- 1867; see aqua- "water" + culture (n.) "cultivating, cultivation." Attested from 1862 in French. Aquiculture "fish-breeding" is recorded from 1867; aquariculture is from 1890.
- aqualung (n.)
- "portable air tanks and apparatus for breathing underwater," 1950, from aqua- + lung. Developed 1943 by Jacques Cousteau and Emile Gagnan.
- aquamarine (n.)
- 1590s, agmarine, "bluish-green type of beryl," from French or Provençal, from Latin aqua marina "sea water," from aqua "water" (see aqua-) + marina, fem. of marinus "of the sea" (see marine (adj.)). Apparently first used as a description of a bluish-green color by John Ruskin, 1846. Abbreviation aqua is attested from 1936.
- aquanaut (n.)
- 1881, "underwater explorer," in a futuristic novel, from aqua- "water" + ending from Greek nautes "sailor" (see naval).
- aquarelle (n.)
- "thin water-color painting," 1855, from French aquarelle (18c.), from Italian acquerella "water-color," diminutive of acqua, from Latin aqua "water" (see aqua-).
- Aquarian (adj.)
- "pertaining to the zodiacal sign of Aquarius," 1940 in reference to the astrological Age of Aquarius (see Aquarius + -ian). Earlier, "one who uses water instead of wine at the Eucharist" (1580s).
- aquarium (n.)
- 1830, noun use of neuter of Latin aquarius "pertaining to water," as a noun, "water-carrier," genitive of aqua "water" (see aqua-). The word existed in Latin, but there it meant "drinking place for cattle." Originally especially for an artificial pond growing aquatic plants. An earlier attempt at a name for "fish tank" was marine vivarium.
- faint constellation and 11th zodiac sign, late Old English, from Latin aquarius, literally "water carrier," properly an adjective, "pertaining to water" (see aquarium); a loan-translation of Greek Hydrokhoos "the water-pourer," the old Greek name of this constellation.
Aquarians were a former Christian sect that used water instead of wine at the Lord's Supper. Aquarian Age (alluded to from 1913) is an astrological epoch (based on precession of the equinoxes) supposed to have begun in the 20th century (though in one estimate, 1848), embodying the traits of this sign and characterized by world peace and human brotherhood. It would last approximately 2,160 years. The term and the concept probably got a boost in popular use from the rock song Age of Aquarius (1967) and when An Aquarian Exposition was used as the sub-name of the Woodstock Music & Art Fair (1969).
- aquatic (adj.)
- late 15c., "pertaining to water," from Old French aquatique (13c.), from Latin aquaticus "growing in water; bringing rain," from aqua "water" (see aqua-). From 1640s as "living in water."
- aquatint (n.)
- also aqua-tint, 1782, "engraving made with aqua fortis," from Italian acquatinta, from Latin aqua tincta "dyed water;" see aqua- + tinct. The spaces are bitten, instead of the lines as in etching.
- aqueduct (n.)
- "artificial water channel," 1530s, from Latin aquaeductus, properly aquae ductus "a conveyance of water," from aquae, genitive of aqua "water" (see aqua-), + ductus "a leading, conducting," past participle of ducere "to lead" (see duke (n.)).
- aqueous (adj.)
- "of the nature of or abounding in water," 1640s, from Latin aqua "water" (see aqua-) on analogy of French aqueux "watery" (16c., which, however, is from Late Latin aquosus "abounding in water"). Or by analogy of Latin terreus "earthy," from terra "earth." Aqueous humor is the original use in English. Related: Aqueousness.
- aquifer (n.)
- "water-bearing layer of rock," 1897, from Latin aqui-, comb. form of aqua "water" (see aqua-) + -fer "bearing," from ferre "to bear, carry" (see phoresy).
- northern constellation, late 14c., from Latin aquila "eagle" (see aquiline).
- aquiline (adj.)
- "curved like an eagle's beak," 1640s, originally in English in reference to long, hooked noses, from Latin aquilinus "of or like an eagle," from aquila "eagle," a word of uncertain origin, usually explained as "the dark bird;" compare aquilus "blackish, swarthy, of the color of darkness," but some suggest the color word is from the bird.
De Vaan writes, "It is possible that 'eagle' was derived from aquilus 'dark' when this had received its colour meaning. It may not be the only dark bird, but it is certainly one of the biggest and most majestic of them." As for aquilus, "The Romans derived this colour from aqua 'water', which [Etymologicum Magnum] reject because they cannot imagine water being black. Still, this seems a more likely derivation to me than from aquila 'eagle' ...."
Meaning "pertaining to an eagle" is from 1650s; that of "eagle-like" is by 1742.
- historical duchy in southwestern France, from Latin Aquitania, the first element from aqua "water" (see aqua-), the second probably meaning "land, province." Related: Aquitanian.
- aquiver (adv.)
- 1864, from a- (1) + quiver (v.).
- form of ad- before -r-.
- Arab (n.)
- "one of the native people of Arabia and surrounding regions," late 14c. (Arabes, a plural form), from Old French Arabi, from Latin Arabs (accusative Arabem), from Greek Araps (genitive Arabos), from Arabic 'arab, indigenous name of the people, perhaps literally "inhabitant of the desert" and related to Hebrew arabha "desert."
Meaning "homeless little wanderer, child of the street" is from 1848 (Arab of the city, but the usual form was city arab), in reference to the nomadic ways of the Bedouin. Arab League formed in Cairo, March 22, 1945.
- arabesque (n.)
- 1786, "Moorish or Arabic ornamental design," from French arabesque (16c.), from Italian arabesco, from Arabo "Arab" (see Arab), with reference to Moorish architecture. In reference to an ornamented theme or passage in piano music it is attested by 1853, originally the title given in 1839 by Robert Schumann to one of his piano pieces ("Arabeske in C major"). As a ballet pose, first attested 1830.
The name arabesque applied to the flowing ornament of Moorish invention is exactly suited to express those graceful lines which are their counterpart in the art of dancing. ["A Manual of the Theory and Practice of Classical Theatrical Dancing," 1922]
- 1711; see Arab + -ia. The older name for "the country of Arabia" was Araby (late 13c.).
- c. 1300, adjective and noun; see Arab + -ian. As a prized type of horse, it is attested from 1660s. The Arabian bird was the phoenix.
- Arabic (adj.)
- "belonging to Arabia," early 14c., from Old French arabique (13c.) and directly from Latin Arabicus "Arabic" (see Arab). Old English used Arabisc "Arabish." Originally in reference to gum arabic. The noun meaning "Arabic language" (a Semitic tongue, the language of the Arabs and the Quran) is from late 14c.
Arabic numerals (actually Indian) first attested 1727; they were introduced in Europe by Gerbert of Aurillac (later Pope Sylvester II) after a visit to Islamic Spain in 967-970. A prominent man of science, he taught in the diocesan school at Reims, but the numbers made little headway against conservative opposition in the Church until after the Crusades. The earliest depiction of them in English, in "The Crafte of Nombrynge" (c. 1350) correctly identifies them as "teen figurys of Inde."
- arable (adj.)
- early 15c., "suitable for plowing" (as opposed to pasture- or wood-land), from Old French arable (12c.), from Latin arabilis, from arare "to plow," from PIE root *are- "to plow" (source also of Greek aroun, Old Church Slavonic orja, Lithuanian ariu "to plow;" Gothic arjan, Old English erian, Middle Irish airim, Welsh arddu "to plow;" Old Norse arþr "a plow"). By late 18c. it replaced native erable, from Old English erian "to plow," from the same PIE source. Related: Arability.
- arachnid (n.)
- 1854, "a spider," from French arachnide (1806) or Modern Latin Arachnida (plural), the zoological name for the class of arthropods including spiders, scorpions, and mites, introduced as a class-name 1815 by French biologist Jean Baptiste Pierre Antoine de Monet de Lamarck (1744-1829), from Latinized form of Greek arakhne (fem.) "spider; spider's web," which probably is cognate with Latin aranea "spider, spider's web," from aracsna, of unknown origin.
The Latin word could be a borrowing of the Greek one, or both could be from a common root. Beekes writes, "As the word looks non-IE and since it is limited to these two languages, it is probably a borrowing." Latin aranea is the source of common words for "spider" in French (araignée, Old French araigne), Spanish (araña), Italian (aragna), etc. It also was borrowed in Old English as renge "spider;" Middle English had araine "spider" (late 14c., from Old French), which survived in dialect as arain, noted in John Ray's "Collection of English Words" (1768) as a Nottinghamshire word for "the larger kind of spiders." Also compare araneology.
Earlier noun forms were arachnidian (1828), arachnidan (1843). As adjectives, arachnidean (1853), arachnidian (1854), arachnidial (1877), arachnidal (1850), arachnidous (1833) have been used.
- arachnoid (adj.)
- "cobweb-like," especially of the membrane around the brain and spinal cord, 1789, from Modern Latin arachnoides, from Greek arakhnoeides "cobweb-like," from arakhne "cobweb" (see arachnid) + -oeides (see -oid).
- arachnologist (n.)
- "student of arachnids," 1806; see arachnid + -ology. Related: Arachnology (1850).
- arachnophobia (n.)
- "morbid fear of spiders," 1925, from comb. form of arachnid + -phobia "fear."
- medieval northern Spanish kingdom, named for a river that runs through it, probably from a PIE root meaning "water." Related: Aragonese (late 14c., Arragounneys); Middle English also had as a noun Aragoner.
- Aramaean (adj.)
- "belonging to the people of Aram," 1816, from Greek aramaios, from Aramaia (see Aramaic).
- Aramaic (adj.)
- 1824, in reference to the northern branch of the Semitic language group, from Greek Aramaia, the biblical land of 'Aram, roughly corresponding to modern Syria. The place name probably is related to Hebrew and Aramaic rum "to be high," thus originally "highland." As a noun, "the Aramaic langue," from 1833; Aramaic was the lingua franca of the Assyrian empire, the official language of the Persian kingdom, and the daily language of the Jews at the time of Christ.
- araneology (n.)
- "study of spiders," 1798, from araneae, zoological name of the order of spiders, from Latin aranea "spider" (source French (araignée, Spanish (araña, Italian aragna; see arachnid) + -ology. Related: Araneous (ad.), 1650s; araneidan (n.), 1835; araneologist.
- arational (adj.)
- also a-rational, "not purporting to be governed by laws of reason," 1935; see a- (2) + rational.