mid-14c., ambre grice "ambergris; perfume made from ambergris," from the phrase in Old French (13c.) and Medieval Latin, from Arabic 'anbar "ambergris, morbid secretion of sperm-whale intestines used in perfumes and cookery" (see ambergris), which was introduced in the West at the time of the Crusades. Arabic -nb- often is pronounced "-mb-."
In Europe, the word amber was extended to fossil resins from the Baltic (late 13c. in Anglo-Latin; c. 1400 in English), and this has become the main sense as the use of ambergris has waned. Perhaps the perceived connection is that both were found washed up on seashores. Or perhaps it is a different word entirely, of unknown origin. Formerly they were distinguished as white or yellow amber for the Baltic fossil resin and ambergris "gray amber;" French distinguished the two substances as ambre gris and ambre jaune.
Remarkable for its static electricity properties, Baltic amber was known to the Romans as electrum (compare electric). Amber as an adjective in English is from c. 1500; as a color name 1735. In the Old Testament it translates Hebrew chashmal, a shining metal.
name of several species of American trees, from Spanish, from Arabic anbari "yellow, amber-colored," from anbar "amber" (see amber). The city Amarillo in Texas, U.S., may be so called from the color of the banks of a nearby stream.
late 15c., pomendambre, "mix of aromatic herbs in a bag or perforated apple-shaped shell, carried or worn around the neck as a preservative against infection," from Old French pomme d'embre (13c.), from pome "apple" (from Latin pomum; see Pomona) + ambre "amber" (see amber). By mid-20c. the word was used for an orange stuck with cloves and hung in a wardrobe or placed in a drawer with clothing.
early 15c., from Old French ambre gris "gray amber," "a wax-like substance of ashy colour, found floating in tropical seas, a morbid secretion from the intestines of the sperm-whale. Used in perfumery, and formerly in cookery" [OED], via Medieval Latin from Arabic 'anbar (see amber).
Its origin was known to Constantinus Africanus (obit c. 1087), but it was a mystery in Samuel Johnson's day, and he records nine different theories; "What sort of thing is Ambergrease?" was a type of a puzzling question beyond conjecture. King Charles II's favorite dish was said to be eggs and ambergris [Macauley, "History of England"].
PUT on your silks ; and piece by piece
Give them the scent of Amber-Greece :
[Herrick, "To His Mistresses"]
Praise is like ambergris; a little whiff of it, by snatches, is very agreeable; but when a man holds a whole lump of it to his nose, it is a stink and strikes you down. [Pope, c. 1720]
French gris is from Frankish *gris or some other Germanic source (cognates: Dutch grijs, Old High German gris; see gray (adj.)).
1816, "amber-colored mineral," from -ite (1) + Latin succinum "amber," which Klein calls a loan word from a Northern European language that has been assimilated in form to Latin succus, sucus "juice, sap." Related: Succinic, from French succinique.
"alloy of gold and up to 40% silver," late 14c. (in Old English elehtre), from Latin electrum "alloy of gold and silver," also "amber" (see electric). So called probably for its pale yellow color. "A word used by Greek and Latin authors in various meanings at various times" [Century Dictionary"]. In Greek, usually of amber but also of pure gold. The Romans used it of amber but also of the alloy. The sense of "amber" also occasionally is found in English. "At all times, and especially among the Latin writers, there is more or less uncertainty in regard to the meaning of this word" ["Century Dictionary"].
1640s, first used in English by physician Sir Thomas Browne (1605-1682), apparently coined as Modern Latin electricus (literally "resembling amber") by English physicist William Gilbert (1540-1603) in treatise "De Magnete" (1600), from Latin electrum "amber," from Greek ēlektron "amber" (Homer, Hesiod, Herodotus), also "pale gold" (a compound of 1 part silver to 4 of gold); which is of unknown origin.
Vim illam electricam nobis placet appellare [Gilbert]
Originally the word described substances which, like amber, attract other substances when rubbed. Meaning "charged with electricity" is from 1670s; the physical force so called because it first was generated by rubbing amber. In many modern instances, the word is short for electrical. Figurative sense is attested by 1793. Electric light is from 1767. Electric toothbrush first recorded 1936; electric blanket in 1930. Electric typewriter is from 1958. Electric guitar is from 1938; electric organ coined as the name of a hypothetical future instrument in 1885.
c. 1400, "bright light, dazzling glitter," from glare (v.); especially in reference to light reflected off some surface (17c.). From 1660s in sense of "fierce look." Old English glær (n.) meant "amber."
Old English glæs "glass; a glass vessel," from Proto-Germanic *glasam "glass" (source also of Old Saxon glas, Middle Dutch and Dutch glas, German Glas, Old Norse gler "glass, looking glass," Danish glar), from PIE root *ghel- (2) "to shine," with derivatives denoting bright colors or materials. The PIE root also is the ancestor of widespread words for gray, blue, green, and yellow, such as Old English glær "amber," Latin glaesum "amber" (which might be from Germanic), Old Irish glass "green, blue, gray," Welsh glas "blue."
Restricted sense of "drinking glass" is from early 13c. and now excludes other glass vessels. Meaning "a glass mirror" is from 14c. Meaning "glass filled with running sand to measure time" is from 1550s; meaning "observing instrument" is from 1610s.
"sulfur in a solidified state," Old English brynstan, from brin- stem of brinnen "to burn" (from Proto-Germanic *brennan "to burn," from PIE root *gwher- "to heat, warm") + stan (see stone (n.)). In Middle English the first element also is recorded as brem-, brom-, brum-, bren-, brin-, bron-, brun-, bern-, born-, burn-, burned-, and burnt-. Formerly "the mineral sulfur," it is now restricted to biblical usage.
The Lord reynede vpon Sodom and Gomor brenstoon and fier. [Wycliff's rendition (1382) of Genesis xix.24]
The Old Norse cognate compound brennusteinn meant "amber," as does German Bernstein.