awfully (adv.) Look up awfully at
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," is attested from c. 1830.
awhile (adv.) Look up awhile at
"for a space of time," Old English ane hwile "(for) a while" (see while (n.)); usually written as one word since 13c.
awhirl (adv.) Look up awhirl at
"whirling," 1837, from a- (1) + whirl (v.).
awing (n.) Look up awing at
"action of inspiring with awe," 1650s, verbal noun from awe (v.).
awk (adj.) Look up awk at
mid-15c., "turned the wrong way," from Old Norse afugr "turned backwards, wrong, contrary," from Proto-Germanic *afug- (source also of Old Saxon aboh, Old High German apuh, Middle Dutch avesch, Dutch aafsch), from PIE *apu-ko-, from root *apo- "off, away." Obsolete since 17c.
awkward (adv., adj.) Look up awkward at
mid-14c. (adv.), "in the wrong direction," from awk "back-handed" + adverbial suffix -weard (see -ward). The original sense is obsolete. As an adjective, "turned the wrong way," 1510s. Meaning "clumsy, wanting ease and grace in movement" recorded by 1520s. Of persons, the meaning "embarrassed, ill-at-ease" is from 1713s. Related: Awkwardly. Other 15c.-17c. formations from awk, none of them surviving, were awky, awkly, awkness.
awkwardness (n.) Look up awkwardness at
1704, "lack of grace, inelegance," from awkward + -ness. Meaning "physical clumsiness" is attested from 1770; that of "social embarrassment" by 1788.
awl (n.) Look up awl at
"pointed instrument for piercing small holes in leather, wood, etc.," Old English æl "awl, piercer," from Proto-Germanic *ælo (source also of Old Norse alr, Dutch aal, Middle Low German al, Old High German äla, German Ahle), which is of uncertain origin.

Earliest references are to piercing of the ears, though later it was the characteristic tool of a shoemaker. Through misdivision, frequently written 15c.-17c. as nawl (for an awl; see N). Old French alesne, French alêne, Italian lesina, Old Spanish alesna, Spanish lesna are from Germanic.
awn (n.) Look up awn at
"bristly fibers on grain of plants," c. 1300, from Old Norse ögn, from Proto-Germanic *agano (source also of Old English egenu, Old High German agana, German Ahne, Gothic ahana), from PIE *ak-ona- (source also of Sanskrit asani- "arrowhead," Greek akhne "husk of wheat," Latin acus "chaff," Lithuanian akuotas "beard, awn"); suffixed form of root *ak- "be sharp, rise (out) to a point, pierce."
awning (n.) Look up awning at
"movable roof-like covering of canvas for a window, etc., as a protection from the sun's rays," 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 Look up awoke at
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 Look up awoken at
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.) Look up awol at
also a.w.o.l., military initialism (acronym) for absent without leave. In U.S. military use by 1917. According to the "Dictionary of Contemporary American Usage" (1957), pronounced as four letters in World War I, as a word in World War II.
awry (adv.) Look up awry at
late 14c., "crooked, askew, turned or twisted to one side," from a- (1) "on" + wry (adj.).
aww Look up aww at
see aw.
ax (n.) Look up ax at
see axe (n.).
axe (n.) Look up axe at
"edged instrument for hewing timber and chopping wood," also a battle weapon, Old English æces (Northumbrian acas) "axe, pickaxe, hatchet," later æx, from Proto-Germanic *akusjo (source also of Old Saxon accus, Old Norse ex, Old Frisian axe, German Axt, Gothic aqizi), from PIE *agw(e)si- "axe" (source also of 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. To have an axe to grind is from a Sept. 7, 1810, essay in the Luzerne (Pennsylvania) "Gleaner" 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. It was published in a collection in 1815 titled "Essays From the Desk of Poor Robert the Scribe." The story ("Who'll Turn the Grindstone?") has been misattributed since late 19c. to Benjamin Franklin, a mistake continued in Weekley, OED print edition, "Century Dictionary," and many other sources (Bartlett's "Familiar Quotations" has gotten it right since 1870).
axe (v.) Look up axe at
1670s, "to shape or cut with an axe," from axe (n.). Figurative meaning "to remove" (a person, from a position), "severely reduce" (expenses) is recorded by 1922. 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 (attested from mid-15c.). Related: Axed; axing.
axe-handle (n.) Look up axe-handle at
1800, from axe (n.) + handle (n.).
axel (n.) Look up axel at
skating jump, 1930, named for Norwegian skater Axel Paulsen (1855-1938). The name is said to be derived from the Old Testament name Absalom.
axial (adj.) Look up axial at
"pertaining to or of the nature of an axis; situated in an axis" 1830, from axis + -al (1). Related: Axially.
axillary (adj.) Look up axillary at
"pertaining to the armpit or shoulder," 1610s, from Latin *axillaris, from axilla "armpit, upper arm, underpart of an upper wing" (see axle).
axiom (n.) Look up axiom at
"statement of self-evident truth," 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 out or forth, move."
Axioms in philosophy are not axioms until they are proved upon our pulses. [Keats, letter, May 3, 1818]
axiomatic (adj.) Look up axiomatic at
"of the nature of a self-evident truth," 1797, from Greek axiomatikos, from axioma (genitive axiomatos); see axiom. Form axiomatical is attested from 1580s.
axion (n.) Look up axion at
in quantum physics, 1978, from axial + scientific suffix -on.
axis (n.) Look up axis at
1540s, "imaginary motionless 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" (source also of 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").

General sense of "straight line about which parts are arranged" is from 1660s. 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.) Look up axle at
"pole or pin upon which a wheel revolves" (properly, the round ends of the axle-tree which are inserted in the hubs or naves of the wheels), 1630s, from Middle English axel-, from some combination of Old English eax and Old Norse öxull "axis," both from Proto-Germanic *akhsulaz (source also of Old English eaxl, Old Saxon ahsla, Old High German ahsala, German Achsel "shoulder"), from PIE *aks- "axis" (see axis, which is from the Latin cognate of this Germanic word). Found only in compound axle-tree before 14c.
axle-tree (n.) Look up axle-tree at
also axletree, "bar or beam fitted crosswise under the body of a carriage and having wheels fitted to the ends," c. 1300, from axle (n.) + tree (n.).
axolotl (n.) Look up axolotl at
genus of Mexican salamanders, 1786, 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.) Look up axon at
1842, "skeletal axis of the vertebrate body," from Greek axon "axis" (see axis). From 1899 as a part of a nerve cell.
axonometric (adj.) Look up axonometric at
1869, from axonometry "art of making a perspective representation of figures based on coordinate points" (1865), from Greek axon "axis, axle" (see axis) + metria "a measuring of" (see -metry).
ay (interj.) Look up ay at
see aye.
ayah (n.) Look up ayah at
"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.) Look up ayatollah at
honorific title for an Iranian Shiite religious leader, 1950, from Persian, from Arabic ayatu-llah, literally "miraculous sign of God."
aye (adv.) Look up aye at
"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" (source also of Greek aion "age, eternity," Latin aevum "space of time;" see eon).
aye (interj.) Look up aye at
word of assent to a question, 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."
Ayurvedic (adj.) Look up Ayurvedic at
"pertaining to traditional Hindu science of medicine," 1917, from Sanskrit Ayurveda "science of life," from ayur "life" (from PIE *oyus-, suffixed form of *oyu- "life everlasting," from variant form of root *aiw- "vital force, life; long life, eternity;" see eon) + veda "knowledge" (see Veda).
azalea (n.) Look up azalea at
type of flowering shrub, 1753, Modern Latin, coined by Linnaeus from the fem. of Greek azaleos "dry," related to azein "to dry up," which Beekes suggests is connected to Hittite hassa- "hearth;" Sanskrit asa- "ashes, dust;" Latin arere "to be dry," ara "altar." The plant thrives in sandy soil.
Azerbaijan Look up Azerbaijan at
country name, of unknown origin, perhaps from Old Persian Aturpatakan, from Greek Atropatene, from the Persian satrap Atropates, who ruled there in the time of Alexander the Great; or from local azer "fire" + baydjan (Iranian baykan) "guardian," in reference to fire-worship. Related: Azerbaijani.
azimuth (n.) Look up azimuth at
"arc marking the distance of a star from the north or south point of the meridian," late 14c., from Old French azimut, from Arabic as-sumut "the ways," plural of as-samt "the way, direction" (see zenith). Related: Azimuthal.
azo- Look up azo- at
before vowels az-, word-forming element denoting the presence of nitrogen, used from late 19c. as comb. form of azote (1791), the old term for "nitrogen" (from Greek a- "not, without" (see a- (3)) + zoion "a living being," from PIE root *gwei- "to live"), which was coined in French by Lavoisier & de Morveau because living things cannot survive in the pure gas.
azoic (adj.) Look up azoic at
"pertaining to the period of Earth's history before life appeared," 1843, with -ic + Greek azoos, from a- "not, without" (see a- (3)) + zoon "animal," here used in the sense "life," from PIE root *gwei- "to live."
Azores Look up Azores at
island group in the Atlantic about 800 miles west of Portugal, discovered by the Portuguese in 1492, from Portuguese azor "a hawk;" so called for the abundance of hawks or buzzards there.
azotemia (n.) Look up azotemia at
"presence of excess nitrogen in the blood," 1894, also azotaemia, from azote "nitrogen" (see azo-) + -emia "blood." Related: Azotemic.
Aztec Look up Aztec at
"one of the native people who dominated the central highlands of Mexico in 1519 at the time of the Spanish invasion, 1787, from Spanish Azteca, from Nahuatl aztecatl (plural aztecah), meaning "coming from Aztlan," name of their legendary place of origin, usually said to lie somewhere in what is now southwestern U.S. Related: Aztecan.
azure (n.) Look up azure at
"sky-blue color; pigment or paint made of powdered lapis lazuli," early 14c., from Old French azur, asur, a color name (12c.), from a false separation of Medieval Latin lazur, lazuri (as though the -l- were the French article l'), which comes from Greek lazour, from Persian lajward, from Lajward, a place in Turkestan mentioned by Marco Polo, where the stone was collected.