1620s, "greatly troubled by uncertainties," from Latin anxius "solicitous, uneasy, troubled in mind" (also "causing anxiety, troublesome"), from angere, anguere "to choke, squeeze," figuratively "to torment, cause distress" (from PIE root *angh- "tight, painfully constricted, painful"). The same image is in Serbo-Croatian tjeskoba "anxiety," literally "tightness, narrowness." Meaning "earnestly desirous" (as in anxious to please) is from 1742. Related: Anxiously; anxiousness.
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