alone (adj., adv.)
"unaccompanied, solitary; without companions," c. 1300, a contraction of all ane, from Old English all ana "unaccompanied, all by oneself," literally "wholly oneself," from all "all, wholly" (see all) + an "one" (see one). It preserves the old pronunciation of one.
Similar compounds are found in German (allein) and Dutch (alleen). The sense of "and nothing else" is from c. 1200, as in "Man does not live by bread alone" (Matthew iv.4, KJV; there Tyndale has "man shall not lyve by brede onlye"). Related: Aloneness. Adverbial alonely seems to have become obsolete 17c.
Entries linking to alone
Old English eall "every, entire, the whole quantity of" (adj.), "fully, wholly, entirely" (adv.), from Proto-Germanic *alnaz (source also of Old Frisian, Old High German al; German all, alle; Old Norse allr; Gothic alls), with no certain connection outside Germanic. As a noun, in Old English, "all that is, everything."
Combinations with all meaning "wholly, without limit" were common in Old English (such as eall-halig "all-holy," eall-mihtig "all-mighty") and the habit has continued. Middle English had al-wher "wherever; whenever" (early 14c.); al-soon "as soon as possible," al-what (c. 1300) "all sorts of things, whatever."
Of the common modern phrases with it, at all "in any way" is from mid-14c., and all "and everything (else)" is from 1530s, all but "everything short of" is from 1590s. First record of all out "to one's full powers" is by 1880. All clear as a signal of "no danger" is recorded from 1902. All right, indicative of assent or approval, is attested by 1837; the meaning "satisfactory, acceptable" is by 1939, from the notion of "turning out well."
The use of a, a' as an abbreviation of all (as in Burns' "A Man's a Man for A' that") is a modern Scottishism but has history in English to 13c.
"being but a single unit or individual; being a single person, thing, etc. of the class mentioned;" as a pronoun, "a single person or thing, an individual, somebody;" as a noun, "the first or lowest of the cardinal numerals; single in kind, the same; the first whole number, consisting of a single unit; unity; the symbol representing one or unity;" c. 1200, from Old English an (adjective, pronoun, noun) "one," from Proto-Germanic *ainaz (source also of Old Norse einn, Danish een, Old Frisian an, Dutch een, German ein, Gothic ains), from PIE root *oi-no- "one, unique."
Originally pronounced as it still is in only, atone, alone, and in dialectal good 'un, young 'un, etc.; the now-standard pronunciation "wun" began c. 14c. in southwest and west England (Tyndale, a Gloucester man, spells it won in his Bible translation), and it began to be general 18c. Its use as indefinite pronoun was influenced by unrelated French on and Latin homo.
Before the name of a person, indicating "hitherto unknown" or not known to the speaker.
One and only "sweetheart" is from 1906. Slang one-arm bandit for a type of slot machine is recorded by 1938. One-night stand is 1880 in performance sense; 1963 in sexual sense. One of the boys "ordinary amiable fellow" is from 1893. One-track mind "mind capable of only one line of thought or action" is by 1915. Drinking expression one for the road is from 1950 (as a song title). One-man band is by 1909 in a literal sense, 1914 figurative. One of those things "unpredictable occurrence" is from 1934 (Cole Porter's song is from 1935).
The conscience clause is one of the weaknesses of the Bill. It is one of those things which tend to create the bitterness. The conscience clause is one of those things which are inseparable from a Bill like this. It is one of those things which divides the sheep from the goats—members can pick them out for themselves—in the playground, in the school. ["Religious Exercises in School Bills," New Zealand Parliamentary Debates, Aug. 13, 1926]
updated on September 18, 2022
cannot live by bread alone
she alone believed him
I want to be alone
could be alone in a crowded room
was alone with her thoughts
she is alone much of the time
he was alone when we met him
the burden of proof rests on the prosecution alone