late 14c., "praise" (a sense now obsolete), from Old French aloance "sanction, granting, allocation," from aloer "allot, apportion, assign" (see allow). As with allow, the English word involves senses of two different French words.
The meaning "sanction, approval, tolerance" is from 1550s. The sense of "a sum allotted to meet expenses" is from c. 1400. In accounts, the meaning "a sum placed to one's credit" is attested from 1520s. The mechanical meaning "permissible deviation from a standard" is from 1903. To make allowances is to add or deduct a sum from someone's account for some special circumstance; figurative use of the phrase is attested from 1670s.
updated on September 17, 2022