late 13c., "sound made by the human mouth," from Old French voiz "voice, speech; word, saying, rumor, report" (Modern French voix), from Latin vocem (nominative vox) "voice, sound, utterance, cry, call, speech, sentence, language, word" (source also of Italian voce, Spanish voz), related to vocare "to call" (from PIE root *wekw- "to speak").
Replaced Old English stefn "voice," from Proto-Germanic *stemno, from PIE *stomen- (see stoma). Meaning "ability in a singer" is first attested c. 1600. Meaning "expression of feeling, etc." (in reference to groups of people, etc., such as Voice of America) is recorded from late 14c. Meaning "invisible spirit or force that directs or suggests," (especially in the context of insanity, as in hear voices in (one's) head, is from 1911.
late 14c., passif, of matter, "capable of being acted upon;" of persons, "receptive;" also in the grammatical sense "expressive of being affected by some action" (opposed to active), from Old French passif "suffering, undergoing hardship" (14c.) and directly from Latin passivus "capable of feeling or suffering," from pass-, past-participle stem of pati "to suffer" (see passion).
The meaning "not active or acting" is recorded from late 15c.; the sense of "unresisting, not opposing, enduring suffering without resistance" is from 1620s. Related: Passively. As a noun, late 14c. as "a capacity in matter for being acted upon;" also in grammar, "a passive verb."
Passive resistance is attested in 1819 in Scott's "Ivanhoe" and was used throughout 19c.; it was re-coined by Gandhi c. 1906 in South Africa. Passive-aggressive with reference to behavior or personality characterized by indirect resistance but avoidance of direct confrontation is attested by 1971.
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).
"voice intermediary between the soprano and the tenor, lowest female voice," 1730, contralt, from Italian contralto, from contra, from Latin contra "against, opposite" (see contra) + alto (see alto). As "person with a contralto voice," 1776; as an adjective, 1769.
In medieval music, in which the melody was either in a middle voice or passed from one voice to another, and which utilized only male singers, the upper voice was naturally called altus. As music for mixed voices developed, that female voice which was nearest the altus, and thus most contrasted with it, was called contr' alto. [Century Dictionary]
word-forming element meaning "sound, voice," from Greek phōno-, combining form of phōnē "voice, sound" of a human or animal, also "tone, voice, pronunciation, speech" (from PIE root *bha- (2) "to speak, tell, say").