acquit (v.) Look up acquit at
early 13c., "to satisfy a debt" (either for oneself or on behalf of another), from Old French aquiter, acquiter "pay, pay up, settle a claim" (12c., Modern French acquitter), from a- "to" (see ad-) + quite "free, clear" (see quit (adj.)). Meanings "set free from charges" and "discharge one's duty" both recorded from late 14c. Related: Acquitted; acquitting.
acquittal (n.) Look up acquittal at
early 15c., "payment of debt or retribution;" see acquit + -al (2). Sense of "a release from debt or obligation" is from mid-15c.; that of "freeing from charge or offense" (by legal process) is from 1530s.
acquittance (n.) Look up acquittance at
"legal settlement" of a debt, obligation, etc., early 14c., aquitaunce, from Old French aquitance and Medieval Latin acquietantia; see acquit + -ance.
acquitted (adj.) Look up acquitted at
"freed, exonerated," 1670s, past participle adjective from acquit (v.). Formerly in this sense was acquit (late 14c.).
acre (n.) Look up acre at
Old English æcer "tilled field, open land," from Proto-Germanic *akraz "field, pasture" (source also of Old Norse akr, Old Saxon akkar, Old Frisian ekker, Middle Dutch acker, Dutch akker, Old High German achar, German acker, Gothic akrs), from PIE root *agro- "field."

"[O]riginally 'open country, untenanted land, forest'; ... then, with advance in the agricultural state, pasture land, tilled land, an enclosed or defined piece of land" [OED]. In English at first without reference to dimension; in late Old English the amount of land a yoke of oxen could plow in a day, afterward defined by statute 13c. and later as a piece 40 poles by 4, or an equivalent shape [OED cites 5 Edw. I, 31 Edw. III, 24 Hen. VIII]. The older sense is retained in God's acre "churchyard." Adopted early in Old French and Medieval Latin, hence the Modern English spelling, which by normal development would be *aker (compare baker from Old English bæcere).
acreage (n.) Look up acreage at
"number of acres in a tract of land," 1795, from acre + -age.
acrid (adj.) Look up acrid at
1712, "sharp and bitter to the taste," formed irregularly (perhaps by influence of acrimonious) from Latin acer (fem. acris) "sharp to the senses, pungent, bitter, eager, fierce," also figuratively, of qualities, "active, ardent, spirited," also "hasty, quick, passionate;" of mind "violent, vehement; subtle, penetrating," from PIE *akri- "sharp," from root *ak- "be sharp, rise (out) to a point, pierce." Of feelings, temper, etc., in English from 1781. The -id suffix probably is in imitation of acid. Acrious (1670s) is a correct formation, but seldom seen. Related: Acridly.
acridity (n.) Look up acridity at
1799, from acrid + -ity. Acridness (1759) is older.
acrimonious (adj.) Look up acrimonious at
1610s, "acrid," from French acrimonieux, from Medieval Latin acrimoniosus, from Latin acrimonia "sharpness" (see acrimony). Now usually figurative, of dispositions, debates, etc., "bitter, irritating in manner" (1775). Related: Acrimoniously; acrimoniousness.
acrimony (n.) Look up acrimony at
1540s, "quality of being sharp or pungent in taste," from Middle French acrimonie or directly from Latin acrimonia "sharpness, pungency of taste," figuratively "acrimony, severity, energy," abstract noun from acer "sharp" (fem. acris), from PIE root *ak- "be sharp, rise (out) to a point, pierce") + -monia suffix of action, state, condition. Figurative extension to personal sharpness or bitterness is by 1610s.
acro- Look up acro- at
word-forming element meaning "highest, topmost, at the extremities," before vowels acr-, from Latinized form of Greek akro- "pertaining to an end, extreme," from akros "at the end, at the top, outermost; consummate, excellent" from PIE *akri-, from root *ak- "be sharp, rise (out) to a point, pierce."
acrobat (n.) Look up acrobat at
1845, from French acrobate "tightrope-walker" (14c.) and directly from a Latinized form of Greek akrobates "rope dancer, gymnastic performer," which is related to akrobatos "going on tip-toe, climbing up high," from akros "topmost, at the point end" (from PIE root *ak- "be sharp, rise (out) to a point, pierce") + Greek agential element -bates "one that goes, one that treads (in some manner), one that is based," from -batos, verbal adjective from stem of bainein "to go, walk, step," from PIE root *gwa- "to go, come."
acrobatic (adj.) Look up acrobatic at
1848; see acrobat + -ic, probably modeled on French acrobatique. Related: Acrobatically.
acrobatics (n.) Look up acrobatics at
1859, "acrobatic performances or feats," from acrobatic; also see -ics. Also acrobatism (1864). Acrobacy (1918, from French acrobatie) sometimes was used. Figurative use by 1915.
acromegaly (n.) Look up acromegaly at
"gigantism due to activity of pituitary after normal growth has ceased," 1886, from French acromégalie, from medical Latin acromegalia, from Greek akron "extremity, highest point, mountain peak, headland," neuter of akros "at the furthest point" (from PIE root *ak- "be sharp, rise (out) to a point, pierce") + megas "great" (fem. megale; from PIE root *meg- "great"). Said in contemporary literature to have been coined 1885 by French physician Dr. Pierre Marie.
acronym (n.) Look up acronym at
word formed from the first letters of a series of words, 1943, American English coinage from acro- + -onym "name" (abstracted from homonym; see name (n.)). With the exception of cabalistic esoterica and acrostic poetry, this way of forming words was exceedingly uncommon before 20c. For distinction of usage (regretfully ignored on this site), see initialism.
acrophobe (n.) Look up acrophobe at
"one suffering from a morbid fear of heights," 1895, from acrophobia; also see -phobe. Related: Acrophobic.
acrophobia (n.) Look up acrophobia at
"morbid fear of heights," 1887, medical Latin, from Greek akros "at the end, topmost" (from PIE root *ak- "be sharp, rise (out) to a point, pierce") + -phobia "fear." Coined by Italian physician Dr. Andrea Verga in a paper describing the condition, from which Verga himself suffered.
In this paper, read somewhat over a year ago at the congress of alienists at Pavia, the author makes confession of his own extreme dread of high places. Though fearless of the contagion of cholera, he has palpitations on mounting a step-ladder, finds it unpleasant to ride on the top of a coach or to look out of even a first-story window, and has never used an elevator. [abstract of Verga's report in "American Journal of Psychology," November 1888]
acropolis (n.) Look up acropolis at
"elevated part of a Greek city," often the site of original settlement and usually a citadel, 1660s, from Latinized form of Greek akropolis "citadel" (especially, with capital A-, that of Athens), from akros "highest, upper" (from PIE root *ak- "be sharp, rise (out) to a point, pierce") + polis "city" (see polis). The plural would be acropoles.
across (adv./prep.) Look up across at
c. 1200, o cros, "in the shape of a cross;" c. 1300, a-croiz, "in a crossed position;" early 14c., acros, "from one side to another;" a contraction of Anglo-French an cros, literally "on cross;" see a- (1) + cross (n.)).

Meaning "on the other side (as a result of crossing)" is from 1750. In crossword puzzle clues from 1924. Spelling acrost, representing a dialectal or vulgar pronunciation, is attested by 1759. Phrase across the board "embracing all categories" (1945) is said to be originally from horse-racing, in reference to a bet of the same amount of money on a horse to win, place, or show. To get (something) across "make (something) understood or appreciated" is by 1913, probably from earlier theater expression get (something) across the footlights, perform it so as to be received by the audience (1894).
acrostic (n.) Look up acrostic at
short poem in which the initial letters of the lines, taken in order, spell a word or phrase, 1580s, from Medieval Latin acrostichis, from Greek akrostikhis, from akros "at the end, outermost" (from PIE root *ak- "be sharp, rise (out) to a point, pierce") + stikhos "line of verse," literally "row, line," from PIE root *steigh- "to stride, step, rise" (see stair). The second element is properly -stich, but it has been assimilated to workds in -ic. As an adjective from 1680s.
acrylic (adj.) Look up acrylic at
1843, "of or containing acryl," the name of a radical derived from acrolein (1843), the name of a liquid in onions and garlic that makes eyes tear, from Latin acer "sharp" (from PIE root *ak- "be sharp, rise (out) to a point, pierce") + olere "to smell" (see odor) + -in (see -ine (2)). With adjectival suffix -ic. Modern senses often short for acrylic fiber, acrylic resin, etc.
act (v.) Look up act at
mid-15c., "to act upon or adjudicate" a legal case, from Latin actus, past participle of agere "to set in motion, drive, drive forward," hence "to do, perform," also "act on stage, play the part of; plead a cause at law" (from PIE root *ag- "to drive, draw out or forth, move"). Most of the modern senses in English probably are from the noun. General sense of "to do, perform, transact" is from c. 1600. Of things, "do something, exert energy or force," by 1751. In the theater from 1590s as "perform as an actor" (intransitive), 1610s as "represent by performance on the stage" (transitive). Meaning "perform specific duties or functions," often on a temporary basis, is by 1804.

To act on "exert influence on" is from 1810. To act up "be unruly" is from 1903. To act out "behave anti-socially" (1974) is from psychiatric sense of "expressing one's unconscious impulses or desires" (acting out is from 1945). Related: Acted; acting.
act (n.) Look up act at
late 14c., "a thing done," from Latin actus "a doing; a driving, impulse, a setting in motion; a part in a play," and actum "a thing done" (originally a legal term), both from agere "to set in motion, drive, drive forward," hence "to do, perform," figuratively "incite to action; keep in movement, stir up," a verb with a broad range of meaning in Latin, including "act on stage, play the part of; plead a cause at law; chase; carry off, steal;" from PIE root *ag- "to drive, draw out or forth, move."

Theatrical ("part of a play," 1510s) and legislative (early 15c.) senses of the word also were in Latin. Meaning "one of a series of performances in a variety show" is from 1890. Meaning "display of exaggerated behavior" is from 1928, extended from the theatrical sense. In the act "in the process" is from 1590s, perhaps originally from late 16c. sense of the act as "sexual intercourse." Act of God "uncontrollable natural force" recorded by 1726.
An act of God is an accident which arises from a cause which operates without interference or aid from man (1 Pars. on Cont. 635); the loss arising wherefrom cannot be guarded against by the ordinary exertions of human skill and prudence so as to prevent its effect. [William Wait, "General Principles of the Law," Albany, 1879]
To get into the act "participate" is from 1947; to get (one's) act together "organize one's (disorderly) life" is by 1976.
Actaeon Look up Actaeon at
in Greek mythology, the name of the hunter who discovered Artemis bathing and was changed by her to a stag and torn to death by his hounds. The name is of unknown origin. Sometimes used figuratively in 17c. for "a cuckold" (because of his "horns").
acting (n.) Look up acting at
c. 1600, "performance of deeds;" 1660s, "performance of plays;" verbal noun from present participle of act (v.). Acting out "abnormal behavior caused by unconscious influences" is from 1945 in psychiatry.
acting (adj.) Look up acting at
1590s, "putting forth activity, active," present participle adjective from act (v.). Meaning "performing temporary duties" is from 1797.
actinium (n.) Look up actinium at
radioactive element discovered in 1899; see actino- "pertaining to rays" + chemical suffix -ium. It emits beta rays. The name was given earlier to a supposed new element (1881).
actino- Look up actino- at
before vowels actin-, word-forming element meaning "pertaining to rays," from Latinized form of Greek aktis (genitive aktinos) "ray of light, beam of light; spoke of a wheel;" of unknown etymology. It is perhaps cognate with Sanskrit aktuh "light, ray," Gothic uhtwo "dawn, daybreak," Lithuanian anksti "early."
action (n.) Look up action at
mid-14c., "cause or grounds for a lawsuit," from Anglo-French accioun, Old French accion, action (12c.) "action; lawsuit, case," from Latin actionem (nominative actio) "a putting in motion; a performing, a doing; public acts, official conduct; lawsuit, legal action" (source also of Spanish accion, Italian azione), noun of action from past participle stem of agere "to do" (from PIE root *ag- "to drive, draw out or forth, move").

Meaning "active exertion, activity" is from late 14c. Sense of "something done, an act, deed" is late 14c. Meaning "military fighting" is from 1590s. Meaning "way in which (a firearm, etc.) acts" is from 1845. As a film director's command, it is attested from 1923. Meaning "noteworthy or important activity" is from 1933, as in the figurative phrase a piece of the action (1966). Meaning "excitement" is recorded from 1968. In action "in a condition of effective operation" is from 1650s. Phrase actions speak louder than words is attested from 1731. Action-packed is attested from 1953, originally of movies.
actionable (adj.) Look up actionable at
"furnishing sufficient grounds for a (legal) action," 1590s; from action + -able. Related: Actionably.
activate (v.) Look up activate at
1620s, "make active, intensify;" see active + -ate (2). Meaning "put into action" is from 1902, originally in chemistry. Related: Activated; activating.
activation (n.) Look up activation at
1906, noun of action from activate (v.).
active (adj.) Look up active at
mid-14c., "given to worldly activity" (opposed to contemplative or monastic), from Old French actif (12c.) and directly from Latin activus, from actus "a doing" (from PIE root *ag- "to drive, draw out or forth, move").

As "capable of acting" (opposed to passive), from late 14c. Meaning "energetic, lively" is from 1590s; that of "working, effective, in operation" (opposed to inactive) is from 1640s. Active voice is recorded from 1765; grammatical use of active, signifying performance and not endurance of an action, dates from mid-15c. (opposed to passive or reflexive).
actively (adv.) Look up actively at
c. 1400, "secularly," from active + -ly (2). Meaning "vigorously" is early 15c.
activeness (n.) Look up activeness at
c. 1600, from active + -ness.
activism (n.) Look up activism at
1920 in the political sense of "advocating energetic action;" see active + -ism. Earlier (1907) it was used in reference to a philosophical theory. Compare activist.
activist (n.) Look up activist at
"one who advocates a doctrine of direct action" in any sense, 1915; from active + -ist. Originally in reference to a political movement in Sweden advocating abandonment of neutrality in World War I and active support for the Central Powers. The word was used earlier in philosophy (1907).
activities (n.) Look up activities at
in schoolwork sense, 1923, American English, from activity.
activity (n.) Look up activity at
c. 1400, "active or secular life," from Old French activité, from Medieval Latin activitatem (nominative activitas), a word in Scholastic philosophy, from Latin activus "active" (see active). Meaning "state of being active, briskness, liveliness" recorded from 1520s; that of "capacity for acting on matter" is from 1540s. As "an educational exercise," 1923.
actor (n.) Look up actor at
late 14c., "an overseer, guardian, steward," from Latin actor "an agent or doer; a driver (of sheep, etc.)," in law, "accuser, plaintiff," also "theatrical player, orator," from past participle stem of agere "to set in motion, drive, drive forward," hence "to do, perform," also "act on stage, play the part of; plead a cause at law" (from PIE root *ag- "to drive, draw out or forth, move"). In English from mid-15c. as "a doer, maker," also "a plaintiff at law." Sense of "one who performs in plays" is 1580s, originally applied to both men and women. Related: Actorish; actorly; actory.
actress (n.) Look up actress at
1580s, "female who does something;" see actor + -ess; stage sense is from 1700. Sometimes French actrice was used. Related: Actressy.
Acts Look up Acts at
1530s, short for Acts of the Apostles in the New Testament.
actual (adj.) Look up actual at
early 14c., "pertaining to acts or an action;" late 14c. in the broader sense of "real, existing" (as opposed to potential, ideal, etc.); from Old French actuel "now existing, up to date" (13c.), from Late Latin actualis "active, pertaining to action," adjectival form of Latin actus "a doing" (from PIE root *ag- "to drive, draw out or forth, move").
actualisation (n.) Look up actualisation at
chiefly British English spelling of actualization; for suffix, see -ize.
actualise (v.) Look up actualise at
chiefly British English spelling of actualize. For suffix, see -ize. Related: Actualised; actualising.
actuality (n.) Look up actuality at
late 14c., "power, efficacy," from Medieval Latin actualitatem (nominative actualitas), from Late Latin actualis "pertaining to action," from Latin actus "a doing" (from PIE root *ag- "to drive, draw out or forth, move"). A Latin loan-translation of Greek energeia "activity, action, operation" (see energy). Meaning "state of being real" is from 1670s (actualities "existing conditions" is from 1660s).
Mod. use of actuality in the sense of realism, contact with the contemporary, is due to Fr. actualité, from actuel, which does not mean actual, real, but now existing, up to date. [Weekley]
actualization (n.) Look up actualization at
"a making real," 1824, noun of action from actualize.
actualize (v.) Look up actualize at
"to make actual," 1810, first attested in Coleridge, from actual + -ize. Related: Actualized; actualizing.
actually (adv.) Look up actually at
early 15c., "in fact, in reality" (as opposed to "in possibility"), from actual + -ly (2). Meaning "actively, vigorously" is from mid-15c.; that of "at this time, at present" is from 1660s. As an intensive added to a statement and suggesting "as a matter of fact, really, in truth" it is attested from 1762, often used as an expression of mild wonder or surprise.