late 14c., "particular mode of pronunciation," from Old French acent "accent" (13c.), from Latin accentus "song added to speech," from ad "to" (see ad-) + cantus "a singing," past participle of canere "to sing" (from PIE root *kan- "to sing").
The Latin word was a loan-translation of Greek prosōidia, from pros- "to" + ōidē "song," which apparently described the pitch scheme in Greek verse.
The meaning "effort in utterance making one syllable stronger than another in pitch or stress" is attested from 1580s; as "mark or character used in writing to indicate accent," it is recorded by 1590s. The decorative-arts sense of "something that emphasizes or highlights" is from 1972.
The soundest distinction perhaps is that "accent" refers to the habitual stress laid on a syllable in ordinary pronunciation ; "stress" to a syllable specially accented for this or that reason, logical, rhetorical, or prosodic purely. [George Saintsbury, "Historical Manual of English Prosody," 1914]
"pronounce with accent or stress," 1520s, from French accenter, from Old French acenter "accentuate, stress," from acent (see accent (n.)). The meaning "mark with an accent sign" is from 1660s (implied in accented); the figurative sense of "mark emphatically" is by 1650s. Related: Accenting.
updated on December 03, 2022
Dictionary entries near accent