"diminish, become less, shrink," 1590s (Shakespeare), apparently diminutive and frequentative of dwine "waste or pine away," from Middle English dwinen "waste away, fade, vanish," from Old English dwinan, from Proto-Germanic *dwinana (source also of Dutch dwijnen "to vanish," Old Norse dvina, Danish tvine "to pine away," Low German dwinen), from PIE *dheu- (3) "to die" (see die (v.)). Related: Dwindled; dwindling.
Meaning "to glide away like a stream, vanish imperceptibly" is from c. 1200; hence "to fade, to vanish" (1570s). Related: Fleeted; fleeting.
early 15c., disaperen, "cease to be visible, vanish from sight, be no longer seen," from dis- "do the opposite of" + appear. Earlier was disparish (early 15c.), from French disparaiss-, stem of desapparoistre (Modern French disparaître).
Transitive sense, "cause to disappear," is from 1897 in chemistry; by 1948 of inconvenient persons. Related: Disappeared; disappearing; disappears. Slang disappearing act "fact of absconding, action of getting away," is attested by 1884, probably originally a reference to magic shows.
early 15c., dissipaten, "scatter or drive off in all directions," from Latin dissipatus, past participle of dissipare "to spread abroad, scatter, disperse; squander, disintegrate," from dis- "apart" (see dis-) + supare "to throw, scatter," which is apparently from a PIE *supi- "to throw, sling, cast" (source also of Lithuanian supu, supti "to swing, rock," Old Church Slavonic supo "to strew").
Intransitive sense of "become scattered or dispersed, vanish through diffusion" is from 1620s; that of "expend wastefully, scatter by foolish outlay" is from 1680s. Related: Dissipated; dissipates; dissipating.
indefinite article, form of an used before consonants, mid-12c., a weakened form of Old English an "one" (see an). The disappearance of the -n- before consonants was mostly complete by mid-14c. After c. 1600 the -n- also began to vanish before words beginning with a sounded -h-; it still is retained by many writers before unaccented syllables in h- or (e)u- but is now no longer normally spoken as such. The -n- also lingered (especially in southern England dialect) before -w- and -y- through 15c.
It also is used before nouns of singular number and a few plural nouns when few or great many is interposed.