c. 1300, aue, "fear, terror, great reverence," earlier aghe, c. 1200, from a Scandinavian source, such as Old Norse agi "fright;" from Proto-Germanic *agiz- (source also of Old English ege "fear," Old High German agiso "fright, terror," Gothic agis "fear, anguish"), from PIE *agh-es- (source also of Greek akhos "pain, grief"), from root *agh- (1) "to be depressed, be afraid" (see ail).
The current sense of "dread mixed with admiration or veneration" is due to biblical use with reference to the Supreme Being. To stand in awe (early 15c.) originally was simply to stand awe.
Al engelond of him stod awe.
["The Lay of Havelok the Dane," c. 1300]
Awe-inspiring is recorded from 1814.
updated on October 01, 2022