await (v.)
early 13c., awaiten, from Old North French awaitier (Old French agaitier) "to lie in wait for, watch, observe," from a- "to" (see ad-) + waitier "to watch" (see wait (v.)). Originally especially with a hostile sense. Related: Awaited; awaiting.
awake (v.)
a merger of two Middle English verbs: 1. awaken, from Old English awæcnan (earlier onwæcnan; strong, past tense awoc, past participle awacen) "to awake, arise, originate," from a "on" + wacan "to arise, become awake" (see wake (v.)); and 2. awakien, from Old English awacian (weak, past participle awacode) "to awaken, revive; arise; originate, spring from," from a "on" (see a (2)) + wacian "to be awake, remain awake, watch" (see watch (v.)).

Both originally were intransitive only; the transitive sense being expressed by Middle English awecchen (from Old English aweccan) until later Middle English. In Modern English, the tendency has been to restrict the strong past tense and past participle (awoke, awoken) to the original intransitive sense and the weak inflection (awakened) to the transitive, but this never has been complete (see wake (v.); also compare awaken).
awake (adj.)
"not asleep," c.1300, shortened from awaken, past participle of Old English awæcnan (see awaken).
awaken (v.)
Old English awæcnan (intransitive), "to spring into being, arise, originate," also, less often, "to wake up;" earlier onwæcnan, from a- (1) "on" + wæcnan (see waken). Transitive meaning "to rouse from sleep" is recorded from 1510s; figurative sense of "to stir up, rouse to activity" is from c.1600.

Originally strong declension (past tense awoc, past participle awacen), already in Old English it was confused with awake (v.) and a weak past tense awæcnede (modern awakened) emerged and has since become the accepted form, with awoke and awoken transferred to awake. Subtle shades of distinction determine the use of awake or awaken in modern English. Related: Awakening.
award (v.)
late 14c., "decide after careful observation," from Anglo-French awarder, from Old North French eswarder (Old French esguarder) "decide, examine" (after careful consideration), from es- "out" (see ex-) + warder "to watch" (see ward (n.)). Related: Awarded; awarding.
award (n.)
late 14c., "decision after consideration," from Anglo-French award, Old French esguard, from esguarder (see award (v.)). Meaning "something awarded" is first attested 1590s.
aware (adj.)
late Old English gewær, from Proto-Germanic *ga-waraz (cognates: Old Saxon giwar, Middle Dutch gheware, Old High German giwar, German gewahr), from *ga-, intensive prefix, + waraz "wary, cautious" (see wary).
awareness (n.)
1828, from aware + -ness.
awash (adj.)
1825, originally nautical, "on the level of, flush with," from a- (1) "on" + wash (n.). Figurative use by 1912.
away (adv.)
late Old English aweg, earlier on weg "on from this (that) place;" see a- (1) + way (n.). Colloquial use for "without delay" (fire away, also right away) is from earlier sense of "onward in time" (16c.). Intensive use (as in away back) is American English, first attested 1818.
awe (n.)
c.1300, earlier aghe, c.1200, from a Scandinavian source, such as Old Norse agi "fright;" from Proto-Germanic *agiz- (cognates: Old English ege "fear," Old High German agiso "fright, terror," Gothic agis "fear, anguish"), from PIE *agh-es- (cognates: Greek akhos "pain, grief"), from root *agh- "to be depressed, be afraid" (see ail). Current sense of "dread mixed with veneration" is due to biblical use with reference to the Supreme Being. Awe-inspiring is recorded from 1814.
awe (v.)
c.1300, from awe (n.); Old English had egan (v.). Related: Awed; awing.
aweigh (adj.)
"raised, perpendicular," 1620s, nautical, from a- (1) + weigh.
awesome (adj.)
1590s, "profoundly reverential," from awe (n.) + -some (1). Meaning "inspiring awe" is from 1670s; weakened colloquial sense of "impressive, very good" is recorded by 1961 and was in vogue from after c.1980. Related: Awesomely; awesomeness.
awestruck (adj.)
1630s, "overwhelmed by reverential fear," from awe (n.) + struck (see strike (v.)).
awful (adj.)
c.1300, agheful "worthy of respect or fear," from aghe, an earlier form of awe (n.), + -ful. Replaced Old English egefull. Weakened sense "very bad" is from 1809; weakened sense of "exceedingly" is by 1818.
awfully (adv.)
c.1300, "so as to inspire reverence," from awful + -ly (2). Meaning "dreadfully, so as to strike one with awe" is recorded from late 14c. As a simple intensifier, "very, exceedingly," recorded from c.1830.
awhile (adv.)
Old English ane hwile "(for) a while" (see while (n.)); usually written as one word since 13c.
awhirl (adj.)
1837, from a- (1) + whirl (v.).
awing (n.)
"action of inspiring with awe," 1650s, verbal noun from awe (v.).
awk (adj.)
mid-15c., "turned the wrong way," from Old Norse afugr "turned backwards, wrong, contrary," from Proto-Germanic *afug-, from PIE *apu-ko-, from root *apo- "off, away" (see apo-). Obsolete since 17c.
awkward (adj.)
mid-14c., "in the wrong direction," from awk "back-handed" + adverbial suffix -weard (see -ward). Meaning "clumsy" first recorded 1520s. Related: Awkwardly. Other formations from awk, none of them surviving, were awky, awkly, awkness.
awkwardness (n.)
1704, "lack of grace," from awkward + -ness. Meaning "physical clumsiness" is attested from c.1770; that of "social embarrassment" is from 1788.
awl (n.)
Old English æl "awl, piercer," from Proto-Germanic *ælo (cognates: Old Norse alr, Dutch aal, Middle Low German al, Old High German äla, German Ahle), of uncertain origin. Earliest references are to piercing of the ears, though later it was associated with shoemakers. Through misdivision, frequently written 15c.-17c. as nawl (for an awl; see N).
awn (n.)
"bristly fibers on grain of plants," c.1300, from Old Norse ögn, from Proto-Germanic *agano (cognates: Old English egenu, Old High German agana, German Ahne, Gothic ahana), from PIE *ak-ona- (cognates: Sanskrit asani- "arrowhead," Greek akhne "husk of wheat," Latin acus "chaff," Lithuanian akuotas "beard, awn"); suffixed form of PIE root *ak- "sharp" (see acrid).
awning (n.)
1624, origin uncertain (first recorded use is by Capt. John Smith), perhaps from Middle French auvans, plural of auvent "a sloping roof," "itself of doubtful etym[ology]" (OED). A nautical term only until sense of "cover for windows or porch" emerged 1852.
awoke
past tense of awake (v.), from Old English awoc; also see awaken. The tendency has been to restrict the strong past tense (awoke) to the original intransitive sense of awake and the weak inflection (awakened) to the transitive, but this never has been complete.
awoken
past participle of awake (v.); also see awaken. The tendency has been to restrict the strong past participle (awoken) to the original intransitive sense of awake and the weak inflection (awakened) to the transitive, but this never has been complete.
awol (adj.)
also a.w.o.l., military initialism (acronym) for absent without leave. The -o- seems to be there mostly so the assemblage can be pronounced as a word. In U.S. military use at least from World War II, popular use by 1960.
awry (adv.)
late 14c., "crooked, askew," from a- (1) "on" + wry (adj.).
aww
see aw.
ax (n.)
see axe (n.).
axe (n.)
Old English æces (Northumbrian acas) "axe, pickaxe, hatchet," later æx, from Proto-Germanic *akusjo (cognates: Old Saxon accus, Old Norse ex, Old Frisian axe, German Axt, Gothic aqizi), from PIE *agw(e)si- (cognates: Greek axine, Latin ascia).
The spelling ax is better on every ground, of etymology, phonology, and analogy, than axe, which became prevalent during the 19th century; but it is now disused in Britain. [OED]



The spelling ax, though "better on every ground, of etymology, phonology, & analogy" (OED), is so strange to 20th-c. eyes that it suggests pedantry & is unlikely to be restored. [Fowler]
Meaning "musical instrument" is 1955, originally jazz slang for the saxophone; rock slang for "guitar" dates to 1967. The axe in figurative sense of cutting of anything (expenses, workers, etc.), especially as a cost-saving measure, is from 1922, probably from the notion of the headman's literal axe (itself attested from mid-15c.). To have an axe to grind is from an 1815 essay by U.S. editor and politician Charles Miner (1780-1865) in which a man flatters a boy and gets him to do the chore of axe-grinding for him, then leaves without offering thanks or recompense. Misattributed to Benjamin Franklin in Weekley, OED print edition, and many other sources.
axe (v.)
1670s, "to shape or cut with an axe," from axe (n.). Meaning "to remove, severely reduce," usually figurative, recorded by 1922. Related: Axed; axing.
axel (n.)
skating jump, 1930, named for Norwegian skater Axel Paulsen (1855-1938).
axial (adj.)
"pertaining to an axis," by 1825, from axis + -al (1). Related: Axially.
axillary (adj.)
"pertaining to the armpit or shoulder," 1610s, from Latin *axillaris, from axilla "armpit, upper arm, wing" (see axle).
axiom (n.)
late 15c., from Middle French axiome, from Latin axioma, from Greek axioma "authority," literally "that which is thought worthy or fit," from axioun "to think worthy," from axios "worthy, worth, of like value, weighing as much," from PIE adjective *ag-ty-o- "weighty," from root *ag- "to drive, draw, move" (see act (n.)).
Axioms in philosophy are not axioms until they are proved upon our pulses. [Keats, letter, May 3, 1818]
axiomatic (adj.)
1797, from Greek axiomatikos, from axioma (genitive axiomatos); see axiom. Form axiomatical is attested from 1580s.
axion (n.)
1978, from axial + scientific suffix -on.
axis (n.)
1540s, "imaginary straight line around which a body (such as the Earth) rotates," from Latin axis "axle, pivot, axis of the earth or sky," from PIE *aks- "axis" (cognates: Old English eax, Old High German ahsa "axle;" Greek axon "axis, axle, wagon;" Sanskrit aksah "an axle, axis, beam of a balance;" Lithuanian aszis "axle"). Figurative sense in world history of "alliance between Germany and Italy" (later extended unetymologically to include Japan) is from 1936. Original reference was to a "Rome-Berlin axis" in central Europe. The word later was used in reference to a London-Washington axis (World War II) and a Moscow-Peking axis (early Cold War).
axle (n.)
"pole or pin upon which a wheel revolves," Middle English axel-, from some combination of Old English eax and Old Norse öxull "axis," both from Proto-Germanic *akhsulaz (cognates: Old English eaxl, Old Saxon ahsla, Old High German ahsala, German Achsel "shoulder"), from PIE *aks- "axis" (see axis). Found only in compound axletree before 14c.
axolotl (n.)
1786, genus of Mexican salamanders, from Spanish, from Nahuatl, literally "servant of water," from atl "water" + xolotl "slippery or wrinkled one, servant, slave" [see Frances Karttunen, "An Analytical Dictionary of Nahuatl"].
axon (n.)
"axis of the vertebrate body," 1842, from Greek axon "axis" (see axis).
axonometric (adj.)
1869, from axonometry (1865), from Greek axon (see axis) + metria "measurement" (see -metry).
ay
see aye.
ayah (n.)
"native nurse, children's governess," Anglo-Indian, 1782, from Portuguese aia, cognate with Spanish aya, Italian aja, etc., "nurse," from Latin avia "grandmother," fem. of avus "grandfather" (see uncle).
ayatollah (n.)
honorific title for an Iranian Shiite religious leader, 1950, from Persian, from Arabic ayatu-llah, literally "miraculous sign of God."
aye (interj.)
"assent," 1570s, of unknown origin, perhaps a variant of I, meaning "I assent;" or an alteration of Middle English yai "yes" (see yea), or from aye (adv.) "always, ever."
aye (adv.)
"always, ever," c.1200, from Old Norse ei "ever" (cognate with Old English a "always, ever"), from PIE *aiw- "vital force, life, long life, eternity" (cognates: Greek aion "age, eternity," Latin aevum "space of time;" see eon).