Etymology
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H 

eighth letter of the alphabet; it comes from Phoenician, via Greek and Latin. In Phoenician it originally had a rough guttural sound like German Reich or Scottish loch. In Greek at first it had the value of Modern English -h-, and with this value it passed into the Latin alphabet via Greek colonies in Italy. Subsequently in Greek it came to be used for a long "e" sound; the "h" sound being indicated by a fragment of the letter, which later was reduced to the aspiration mark.

In Germanic it was used for the voiceless breath sound when at the beginning of words, and in the middle or at the end of words for the rough guttural sound, which later came to be written -gh.

The sound became totally silent in Vulgar Latin and in the languages that emerged from it; thus the letter was omitted in Old French and Italian, but it was restored pedantically in French and Middle English spelling, and often later in English pronunciation. Thus Modern English has words ultimately from Latin with missing -h- (able, from Latin habile); with a silent -h- (heir, hour); with a formerly silent -h- now often vocalized (humble, humor, herb); and even a few with an unetymological -h- fitted in confusion to words that never had one (hostage, hermit). Relics of the formerly unvoiced -h- persist in pedantic insistence on an historical (object) and in obsolete mine host.

The pronunciation "aitch" was in Old French (ache "name of the letter H"), and is from a presumed Late Latin *accha (compare Italian effe, elle, emme), with the central sound approximating the rough, guttural value of the letter in Germanic. In earlier Latin the letter was called ha. The use in digraphs (as in -sh-, -th-) goes back to the ancient Greek alphabet, which used it in -ph-, -th-, -kh- until -H- took on the value of a long "e" and the digraphs acquired their own characters. The letter passed into Roman use before this evolution, and thus retained there more of its original Semitic value.

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ha (interj.)
natural expression of surprise, distress, etc.; early 14c., found in most European languages (including Latin and Old French) but not in Old English (which did, however, have ha-ha).
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habanera (n.)
type of Cuban dance, 1874, literally "of Havana."
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habeas corpus (n.)
writ requiring a person to be brought before a court, mid-15c., Latin, literally "(you should) have the person," in phrase habeas corpus ad subjiciendum "produce or have the person to be subjected to (examination)," opening words of writs in 14c. Anglo-French documents to require a person to be brought before a court or judge, especially to determine if that person is being legally detained. From habeas, second person singular present subjunctive of habere "to have, to hold" (from PIE root *ghabh- "to give or receive") + corpus "person," literally "body" (see corporeal). In reference to more than one person, habeas corpora.
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haberdasher (n.)
early 14c. (late 13c. as a surname), "seller of small articles of trade" (caps, purses, beads, thread, stationery, etc.), from Anglo-French, where apparently it was an agent noun formation from hapertas "small wares," also a kind of fabric, a word of unknown origin. Sense of "dealer in men's wares" is 1887 in American English, via intermediate sense of "seller of caps." Middle English haberdash (n.) "small articles of trade sold by a haberdasher" appears to be a back-formation from this word, and the verb haberdash is late (1630s) and rare.
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haberdashery (n.)
early 15c., Anglo-French, "goods sold by a haberdasher," from haberdasher + -y (2). Meaning "a haberdasher's shop" is recorded from 1813, with perceived meaning shading to -ery.
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habiliment (n.)

often habiliments, early 15c., ablement, "munitions, weapons," from Old French habillement, abillement, from abiller "prepare or fit out," probably from abile, habile "fit, suitable," from Latin habilem, habilis "easily handled, apt," verbal adjective from habere "to hold" (from PIE root *ghabh- "to give or receive"). An alternative etymology [Barnhart, Klein] makes the French verb originally mean "reduce a tree by stripping off the branches," from a- "to" + bille "stick of wood." Sense of "clothing, dress" developed late 15c., by association with habit (n.).

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habilitate (v.)
c. 1600 (transitive) "to qualify," from Medieval Latin habilitatus, past participle of habilitare, from habile "fit, suitable" (see able). Intransitive meaning "obtain necessary qualifications" is from 1881. Related: Habilitated; habilitation.
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hability (n.)
obsolete variant form of ability (see H).
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habit (v.)
mid-14c., "to dwell, reside; dwell in" (obsolete), from Old French habiter, abiter "to dwell, inhabit; have dealings with," from Latin habitare "to live, dwell; stay, remain," frequentative of habere "to have, to hold, possess" (from PIE root *ghabh- "to give or receive"). Meaning "to dress" is from 1580s. Related: Habited; habiting.
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