late 14c., "length; height," also "astronomical or geographic longitude," a measure of the east-west distance of the dome of the sky or the surface of the earth, from Latin longitudo "length, long duration," from longus "long" (see long (adj.)). For explanation of the geographical sense, see latitude.
Entries linking to longitude
Old English lang "having a great linear extent, that extends considerably from end to end; tall; lasting," from Proto-Germanic *langa- (source also of Old Frisian and Old Saxon lang, Old High German and German lang, Old Norse langr, Middle Dutch lanc, Dutch lang, Gothic laggs "long").
The Germanic words perhaps are from PIE *dlonghos- (source also of Latin longus "long, extended; further; of long duration; distant, remote," Old Persian darga-, Persian dirang, Sanskrit dirghah "long"), from root *del- (1) "long" (source also of Greek dolikhos "long," endelekhes "perpetual"). Latin longus (source of prolong, elongate, longitude, etc.) thus is probably cognate with, but not the source of, the Germanic words. The word illustrates the Old English tendency for short "a" to become short "o" before -n- (also retained in bond/band and West Midlands dialectal lond from land and hond from hand).
Also in Old English in reference to time, "drawn out in duration," with overtones of "serious." The old sense of "tall" now appears to be dialectal only, or obsolete. For long "during a long time" is from c. 1300. To be long on something, "have a lot" of it, is from 1900, American English slang. A long vowel (c. 1000) originally was pronounced for an extended time. Mathematical long division is from 1808. Sporting long ball is from 1744, originally in cricket. Long jump as a sporting event is attested from 1864. A long face, one drawn downward in expression of sadness or solemnity, is from 1786. Long in the tooth (1841 of persons) is from horses showing age by recession of gums (but not in this sense until 1870). Long knives, name Native Americans gave to white settlers (originally in Virginia/Kentucky) is from 1774, perhaps a reference to their swords. Long time no see, supposedly imitative of American Indian speech, is first recorded 1919 as Chinese English.
late 14c., "breadth," from Old French latitude (13c.) and directly from Latin latitudo "breadth, width, extent, size," from lātus (adj.) "wide, broad, extensive" Old Latin stlatus, from PIE *stleto-, suffixed form of root *stele- "to spread, to extend" (source also of Old Church Slavonic steljo "to spread out," Armenian lain "broad").
Geographical and astronomical senses also are from late 14c., literally "breadth" of a map of the known world. Figurative sense of "allowable degree of variation, extent of deviation from a standard" is early 15c. Related: Latitudinal "pertaining to geographic latitude" (1777); latitudinous "having broadness of interpretation" (1829, American English).
The ancients supposed the torrid and the frigid zones to be uninhabitable and even impenetrable by man, but while the earth, as known to them, was bounded westwardly by the Atlantic Ocean, it extended indefinitely towards the east. The dimensions of the habitable world then (and ancient geography embraced only the home of man ....,) were much greater, measured from west to east, than from south to north. Accordingly, early geographers called the greater dimension, or the east and west line, the length, longitudo, of the earth, the shorter dimension, or the north and south line, they denominated its breadth, latitudo. These Latin terms are retained in the modern geography of most European nations, but with a modified meaning. [George P. Marsh, "Lectures on the English Language," 1882]
updated on August 19, 2016