mid-14c., contraction of Old English phrase ealne weg "all the time; quite, perpetually," literally "all the way," with accusative of space or distance, though the oldest recorded usages refer to time; see all + way (n.). The adverbial genitive -s appeared early 13c., was rare before c. 1400, but is now standard, though the variant alway survived into 1800s. Meaning "every time" is from early 13c.
Entries linking to always
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 method continued to form new compound words throughout the history of English. 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 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.
Old English weg "road, path; course of travel; room, space, freedom of movement;" also, figuratively, "course of life" especially, in plural, "habits of life" as regards moral, ethical, or spiritual choices, from Proto-Germanic *wega- "course of travel, way" (source also of Old Saxon, Dutch weg, Old Norse vegr, Old Frisian wei, Old High German weg, German Weg, Gothic wigs "way"), from PIE root *wegh- "to go, move, transport in a vehicle."
From c. 1300 as "manner in which something occurs." Adverbial constructions attested since Middle English include this way "in this direction," that way "in that direction," both from late 15c.; out of the way "remote" (c. 1300). In the way "so placed as to impede" is from 1560s.
From the "course of life" sense comes way of life (c. 1600), get (or have) one's way (1590s), have it (one's) way (1709). From the "course of travel" sense comes the figurative go separate ways (1837); one way or (the) other (1550s); have it both ways (1847); and the figurative sense of come a long way (1922).
Adverbial phrase all the way "completely, to conclusion" is by 1915; sexual sense implied by 1924. Make way is from c. 1200. Ways and means "resources at a person's disposal" is attested from early 15c. (with mean (n.)). Way out "means of exit" is from 1926. Encouragement phrase way to go is short for that's the way to go.
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