grammatical case whose primary function is to express destination or goal of motion, mid-15c., from Anglo-French accusatif, Old French acusatif, or directly from Latin (casus) accusativus "(case) of accusing," from accusatus, past participle of accusare "to call to account, make complaint against" (see accuse).
The Latin word was chosen somewhat inaccurately to translate Greek (ptōsis) aitiatikē "(case) of that which is caused" based on the similarity of the Greek word to the Greek verb aitiasthai "to accuse." Greek aitia is the root of both, and means "cause" as well as "accusation," hence the confusion of the Romans. A more correct translation would have been casus causativus.
Typically it is the case of the direct object, but also sometimes denoting "motion towards." Nouns and adjectives in French, Spanish, and Italian, languages from which English has borrowed heavily, generally were formed from the accusative case of a Latin word. Related: Accusatival; accusatively.
updated on September 13, 2022