Entries linking to apace
prefix or inseparable particle, a relic of various Germanic and Latin elements.
In words derived from Old English, it commonly represents Old English an "on, in, into" (see on (prep.)), as in alive, above, asleep, aback, abroad, afoot, ashore, ahead, abed, aside, obsolete arank "in rank and file," etc., forming adjectives and adverbs from nouns, with the notion "in, at; engaged in." In this use it is identical to a (2).
It also can represent Middle English of (prep.) "off, from," as in anew, afresh, akin, abreast. Or it can be a reduced form of the Old English past participle prefix ge-, as in aware.
Or it can be the Old English intensive a-, originally ar- (cognate with German er- and probably implying originally "motion away from"), as in abide, arise, awake, ashamed, marking a verb as momentary, a single event. Such words sometimes were refashioned in early modern English as though the prefix were Latin (accursed, allay, affright are examples).
In words from Romanic languages, often it represents reduced forms of Latin ad "to, toward; for" (see ad-), or ab "from, away, off" (see ab-); both of which by about 7c. had been reduced to a in the ancestor of Old French. In a few cases it represents Latin ex.
[I]t naturally happened that all these a- prefixes were at length confusedly lumped together in idea, and the resultant a- looked upon as vaguely intensive, rhetorical, euphonic, or even archaic, and wholly otiose. [OED]
late 13c., "a step in walking," also "rate of motion; the space traveled by the foot in one completed movement in walking," from Old French pas "a step, pace, trace," and directly from Latin passus, passum "a step, pace, stride," noun use of past participle of pandere "to stretch (the leg), spread out," probably from PIE *pat-no-, nasalized variant form of root *pete- "to spread."
It also was, from late 14c., a lineal measurement of vague and variable extent, representing the space naturally traversed by the adult human foot in walking. In some places and situations it was reckoned as the distance from the place where either foot is taken up, in walking, to that where the same foot is set down again (a great pace), usually 5 feet or a little less. The pace of a single step (military pace) is about 2.5 feet.
To keep pace (with) "maintain the same speed, advance at an equal rate" is from 1580s. Pace-setter "one who establishes trends in fashion," is by 1895; it also had literal meanings.
It is customary for the contractor to employ some expert as a pace setter. A man who can thin an acre of beets a day commands as high as $2.00 per day as a pace setter. The other employees are paid in the proportion their work bears to that of the pace setter. The weak, lazy and unskillful get the smallest wage. Besides that the contractor runs a commissary department and feeds the gang. They sleep in tents or in the shade of trees near where they work. [report on Oxnard, Calif., beet harvesting in "The Louisiana Planter and Sugar Manufacturer," May 13, 1899]