masc. proper name, a familiar abbreviation of Edward. Related: Neddy. From 1790 as the "an ass or donkey."
Biblical prophet (wicked, but not false) whose story is told in Numbers xxii-xxiv; figurative of "one who makes profession of religion for the sake of gain" from 1640s. Balaam's ass speaks in a human voice in Numbers xxii ("And the ass said unto Balaam, Am not I thine ass, upon which thou hast ridden ever since I was thine unto this day? was I ever wont to do so unto thee? and he said, Nay."). In old newspaper jargon Balaam came to be used for paragraphs regarding marvelous or incredible events, used to fill out short columns (1826). The name is of uncertain origin.
collective name for the chief gods of the pagan Scandinavian religion, from Old Norse plural of āss "god," from Proto-Germanic *ansu- (source also of Old High German ansi, Old English os, Gothic ans "god"), from PIE root *ansu- "spirit" (source also of first element in Ahura Mazda (q.v.)).
Middle English, from Latin Assyria, from Greek Assyria, short for Assyria ge "the Assyrian land," from fem. of Assyrios "pertaining to Assyria," from Akkadian Ashshur, name of the chief city of the kingdom and also of a god, probably from Assyrian sar "prince." Compare Syria. Related: Assyrian.