akimbo Look up akimbo at Dictionary.com
c. 1400, in kenebowe, of unknown origin, perhaps from Middle English phrase in keen bow "at a sharp angle," or from a Scandinavian word akin to Icelandic kengboginn "bow-bent," but this seems not to have been used in this exact sense. Many languages use a teapot metaphor for this, such as French faire le pot a deux anses "to play the pot with two handles."
akin (adj.) Look up akin at Dictionary.com
1550s, from phrase of kin; see kin.
Akita Look up Akita at Dictionary.com
type of dog, named for a prefecture in northern Japan.
Akkadian Look up Akkadian at Dictionary.com
1855, from Akkad (Sumerian Agde, Biblical Acca), name of city founded by Sargon I in northern Babylonia, which is of unknown origin; applied by modern scholars to the east Semitic language spoken there (c. 2300-2100 B.C.E.) and preserved in cuneiform inscriptions.
al dente Look up al dente at Dictionary.com
1935, Italian, literally "to the tooth," from Latin dent (see tooth).
al fresco (adv.) Look up al fresco at Dictionary.com
1753, Italian, literally "in the fresh (air)." Italian al represents a contraction of words from Latin ad "to" (see ad-) + ille "that." Alfresco also meant "painted on plaster that was still fresh or moist" (1764; see fresco).
al Qaeda Look up al Qaeda at Dictionary.com
alternative Latin alphabet transliteration of Arabic al Qaida (q.v.).
al Qaida Look up al Qaida at Dictionary.com
also Al-Qaeda; name of a loosely structured jihadist movement founded c. 1989 by Osama bin Laden; from Arabic, literally "the base." A common Arabic term among Muslim radicals from the wider Islamic world who came to Afghanistan in 1980s and fought alongside local rebels against the Soviets, and who regarded themselves and their struggle not merely in Afghan terms but as the "base" or foundation of a wider jihad and revival in Islam. Used by Bin Laden's mentor, Abdallah Azzam (1941-1989), who referred to the "vanguard" which "constitutes the strong foundation [al-qaida al-sulbah] for the expected society." In U.S., the term first turns up in a CIA report in 1996.
Every Muslim, from the moment they realise the distinction in their hearts, hates Americans, hates Jews, and hates Christians. This is a part of our belief and our religion. For as long as I can remember, I have felt tormented and at war, and have felt hatred and animosity for Americans. [Osama bin Laden, interview aired on Al-Jazeera, December 1998]
Alabama Look up Alabama at Dictionary.com
created and named as a U.S. territory 1817 by a division of Mississippi Territory; ultimately named for one of the native peoples who lived there, who speak Muskogean. Their name probably is from a Choctaw term meaning "plant-cutters." Related: Alabamian.
alabaster (n.) Look up alabaster at Dictionary.com
translucent whitish kind of gypsum used for vases, ornaments, and busts, late 14c., from Old French alabastre (12c., Modern French albâtre), from Latin alabaster "colored rock used to make boxes and vessels for unguents," from Greek alabastros (earlier albatos) "vase for perfumes," perhaps from Egyptian 'a-labaste "vessel of the goddess Bast." Used figuratively for whiteness and smoothness from 1570s. "The spelling in 16-17th c. is almost always alablaster ..." [OED].
alabastrine (adj.) Look up alabastrine at Dictionary.com
1590s, from Medieval Latin alabastrinus, from alabaster (see alabaster).
alack Look up alack at Dictionary.com
late 15c., from ah, lack, from lack in Middle English sense of "loss, failure, reproach, shame." Originally an expression of dissatisfaction, later of regret or unpleasant surprise.
alacrity (n.) Look up alacrity at Dictionary.com
mid-15c., from Latin alacritatem (nominative alacritas) "liveliness, ardor, eagerness," from alacer (genitive alacris) "cheerful, brisk, lively;" which is of uncertain origin, perhaps cognate with Gothic aljan "zeal," Old English ellen "courage, zeal, strength," Old High German ellian.
Aladdin Look up Aladdin at Dictionary.com
name of a hero in stories from the Arabian Nights, from Arabic Ala' al Din, literally "nobility of faith."
Alamo Look up Alamo at Dictionary.com
nickname of Franciscan Mission San Antonio de Valeroin (begun 1718, dissolved 1793) in San Antonio, Texas; American Spanish, literally "poplar" (in New Spain, also "cottonwood"), from alno "the black poplar," from Latin alnus "alder" (see alder).

Perhaps so called in reference to trees growing nearby (compare Alamogordo, New Mexico, literally "big poplar," and Spanish alameda "a public walk with a row of trees on each side"); but the popular name seems to date from the period 1803-13, when the old mission was the base for a Spanish cavalry company from the Mexican town of Alamo de Parras in Nueva Vizcaya.
Alan Look up Alan at Dictionary.com
masc. proper name, 1066, from Old Breton Alan, name of a popular Welsh and Breton saint; brought to England by the large contingent of Bretons who fought alongside William the Conqueror.
alar (adj.) Look up alar at Dictionary.com
"wing-like," c. 1840; "of or pertaining to wings," 1847, from Latin alaris, from ala "wing, armpit, wing of an army" (source of Spanish ala, French aile), from *axla, originally "joint of the wing or arm;" from PIE *aks- (see axis).
Alaric Look up Alaric at Dictionary.com
Visigothic masc. proper name, literally "all-ruler," from Proto-Germanic *ala- "all" (see all) + *rikja "rule" (see rich).
alarm (n.) Look up alarm at Dictionary.com
early 14c., from Old French alarme (14c.), from Italian all'arme "to arms!" (literally "to the arms"). An interjection that came to be used as the word for the call or warning (compare alert). Extended 16c. to "any sound to warn of danger or to arouse." Weakened sense of "apprehension, unease" is from 1833. Variant alarum is due to the rolling -r- in the vocalized form. Sometimes in early years Englished as all-arm. Alarm clock is attested from 1690s (as A Larum clock).
alarm (v.) Look up alarm at Dictionary.com
1580s, from alarm (n.). Related: Alarmed; alarming.
alarmed (adj.) Look up alarmed at Dictionary.com
"disturbed by prospects of peril," 1640s, past participle adjective from alarm (v.).
alarmingly (adv.) Look up alarmingly at Dictionary.com
1787, from alarming, present participle adjective from alarm (v.), + -ly (2).
alarmist (n.) Look up alarmist at Dictionary.com
"one addicted to sounding alarms," 1793, from alarm (n.) + -ist.
alarum (n.) Look up alarum at Dictionary.com
obsolete and poetic spelling of alarm (n.).
alas Look up alas at Dictionary.com
mid-13c., from Old French ha, las (later French hélas), from ha "ah" + las "unfortunate," originally "tired, weary," from Latin lassus "weary" (see late). At first an expression of weariness rather than woe.
Alaska Look up Alaska at Dictionary.com
name first applied 18c. by Russian explorers, from Aleut alaxsxaq, literally "the object toward which the action of the sea is directed" [Bright]. Baked Alaska attested by 1896, so called either for its whiteness or from being cold inside.
Alastor Look up Alastor at Dictionary.com
in Greek tradition, son of Neleus, brother of Nestor, slain by Herakles. The name is perhaps literally "not to forget," from privative prefix a- "not" + root of lathein "to forget" (see Lethe), hence its use figuratively in sense of "an avenging spirit." Or else it might be connected with alaomai "to wander, roam," figuratively "to be distraught."
alb (n.) Look up alb at Dictionary.com
late Old English albe, from Late Latin alba (in tunica alba or vestis alba "white vestment"), fem. of albus "white," from PIE root *albho- "white" (source also of Greek alphos "white leprosy," alphiton "barley meal;" Old High German albiz, Old English elfet "swan," literally "the white bird;" Old Church Slavonic and Russian lebedi, Polish łabędź "swan;" Hittite alpash "cloud").
albacore (n.) Look up albacore at Dictionary.com
large variety of tuna, 1570s, from Portuguese albacora, from Arabic al bakara "milk cow;" the fish so called for its size.
Albania Look up Albania at Dictionary.com
Medieval Latin name of the country called by its inhabitants Shqipëri (literally "land of eagles," from shqiponje "eagle"), from Medieval Greek Albania, possibly from a pre-IE word *alb "hill" (also proposed as the source of Alps) or from the PIE root *albho- "white" (see alb). Roman Albania was a land by the Caspian Sea (modern Daghestan); in English Albania was occasionally also a name for Scotland.
albatross (n.) Look up albatross at Dictionary.com
1670s, probably from Spanish or Portuguese alcatraz "pelican" (16c.), perhaps derived from Arabic al-ghattas "sea eagle" [Barnhart]; or from Portuguese alcatruz "the bucket of a water wheel" [OED], from Arabic al-qadus "machine for drawing water, jar" (from Greek kados "jar"), in reference to the pelican's pouch (compare Arabic saqqa "pelican," literally "water carrier"). Either way, the spelling was influenced by Latin albus "white." The name was extended, through some mistake, by English sailors to a larger sea-bird (order Tubinares).

Albatrosses were considered good luck by sailors; figurative sense of "burden" (1936) is from Coleridge's "Rime of the Ancient Mariner" (1798) about the bad luck of a sailor who shoots an albatross and then is forced to wear its corpse as an indication that he, not the whole ship, offended against the bird. The prison-island of Alcatraz in San Francisco Bay is named for pelicans that roosted there.
albedo (n.) Look up albedo at Dictionary.com
"ratio of light reflected from a surface," 1859, from Latin albedo, literally "whiteness," from albus "white" (see alb).
albeit (conj.) Look up albeit at Dictionary.com
late 14c., a contraction of al be it "al(though) it be (that)."
Albert Look up Albert at Dictionary.com
masc. proper name, from German (the French form is Aubert), from Old High German Adalbert, cognate of Old English Æþelbeorht "Noble-bright" (which was sometimes metathesized as Æþelbriht, hence the surname Albright). Second element is from Proto-Germanic berhta- "bright," from PIE *bhereg- "to shine; bright, white" (see bright). It also figures in the names Egbert, Gilbert, Herbert, Hubert, Lambert. As a kind of watch chain, from 1861 (see Prince Albert).
Alberta Look up Alberta at Dictionary.com
Canadian province, founded in 1882 and named for Princess Louise Caroline Alberta (1848-1939), fourth daughter of Queen Victoria, wife of the governor general, John Douglas Sutherland Campbell, Marquess of Lorne. She was named for her father, Prince Albert.
Albigensian Look up Albigensian at Dictionary.com
c. 1600, "relating to the Albigenses," Catharist religious reformers of southern France c.1020-1250, Medieval Latin Albigenses (12c.), from French Albi, name of the town in Languedoc where they lived and were first condemned as heretics (1176). The town name is from Roman personal name Albius, from Latin albus "white" (see alb).
albinism (n.) Look up albinism at Dictionary.com
1836; see albino + -ism. Alternative form albinoism is recorded from 1868.
albino (n.) Look up albino at Dictionary.com
1777, from Spanish or Portuguese albino, from Latin albus "white" (see alb). Used by Portuguese of white-spotted African negroes. Extended 1859 to animals having the same peculiarity. A female albino formerly was an albiness (1808).
Albion Look up Albion at Dictionary.com
ancient name of England, Old English, from Latin, sometimes said to be from the non-Indo-European base *alb "mountain," which also is suggested as the source of Latin Alpes "Alps," Albania, and Alba, an Irish name for "Scotland." But more likely from Latin albus "white" (see alb), which would be an apt description of the chalk cliffs of the island's southern coast.
Breoton is garsecges ealond, ðæt wæs iu geara Albion haten. [translation of Bede's "Historia Ecclesiastica Gentis Anglorum," c.900 C.E.]
Perfidious Albion translates French rhetorical phrase la perfide Albion, said to have been in use since 16c. but popularized by Napoleon I in the recruiting drive of 1813, a reference to the supposedly treacherous policies of Britain when dealing with foreign powers.
album (n.) Look up album at Dictionary.com
1650s, from Latin album "white color, whiteness," neuter of albus "white" (see alb). In classical times "a blank tablet on which the Pontifex Maximus registered the principal events of the year; a list of names." Revived 16c. by German scholars whose custom was to keep an album amicorum of colleagues' signatures; meaning then expanded into "book to collect souvenirs." According to Johnson, "a book in which foreigners have long been accustomed to insert autographs of celebrated people." Photographic albums first recorded 1859. Meaning "long-playing gramophone record" is by 1951, because the sleeves they came in resembled large albums.
albumen (n.) Look up albumen at Dictionary.com
1590s, "white of an egg," from Latin albumen "white of an egg," literally "whiteness," from albus "white" (see alb). The organic substance (which exists nearly pure in egg whites) so called from 1800, also known as albumin (1869, from French albumine).
albumin Look up albumin at Dictionary.com
see albumen.
albuminous (adj.) Look up albuminous at Dictionary.com
1791, from albumen + -ous.
Albuquerque Look up Albuquerque at Dictionary.com
city in New Mexico, U.S., founded 1706 and named for Spanish administrator and viceroy of Mexico Francisco Fernández de la Cueva, Duque de Alburquerque (1617-1676); name altered by association with Portuguese soldier Alfonso de Albuquerque (1453-1515), both named from Alburquerque, a town in Spain close to the Portuguese border, meaning "white oak;" ultimately from Latin albus "white" and quercus "oak."
Alcatraz Look up Alcatraz at Dictionary.com
see albatross.
Alcestis Look up Alcestis at Dictionary.com
wife of Admetus, she offered her life for her husband and was rescued from the Underworld by Herakles, from Greek Alkestis, literally "valiant, courageous," from alke "protection, help, strength, power."
alchemical (adj.) Look up alchemical at Dictionary.com
1580s; see alchemy + -ical.
alchemist (n.) Look up alchemist at Dictionary.com
1510s, from Middle French alquemiste, from Medieval Latin alchimista (see alchemy). Earlier forms were alchemister (late 14c.), alkanamyer (late 15c.).
alchemy (n.) Look up alchemy at Dictionary.com
mid-14c., from Old French alchimie (14c.), alquemie (13c.), from Medieval Latin alkimia, from Arabic al-kimiya, from Greek khemeioa (found c.300 C.E. in a decree of Diocletian against "the old writings of the Egyptians"), all meaning "alchemy." Perhaps from an old name for Egypt (Khemia, literally "land of black earth," found in Plutarch), or from Greek khymatos "that which is poured out," from khein "to pour," related to khymos "juice, sap" [Klein, citing W. Muss-Arnolt, calls this folk etymology]. The word seems to have elements of both origins.
Mahn ... concludes, after an elaborate investigation, that Gr. khymeia was probably the original, being first applied to pharmaceutical chemistry, which was chiefly concerned with juices or infusions of plants; that the pursuits of the Alexandrian alchemists were a subsequent development of chemical study, and that the notoriety of these may have caused the name of the art to be popularly associated with the ancient name of Egypt. [OED]
The al- is the Arabic definite article, "the." The art and the name were adopted by the Arabs from Alexandrians and thence returned to Europe via Spain. Alchemy was the "chemistry" of the Middle Ages and early modern times; since c. 1600 the word has been applied distinctively to the pursuit of the transmutation of baser metals into gold, which, along with the search for the universal solvent and the panacea, were the chief occupations of early chemistry.
alcohol (n.) Look up alcohol at Dictionary.com
1540s (early 15c. as alcofol), "fine powder produced by sublimation," from Medieval Latin alcohol "powdered ore of antimony," from Arabic al-kuhul "kohl," the fine metallic powder used to darken the eyelids, from kahala "to stain, paint." The al- is the Arabic definite article, "the."

"Powdered cosmetic" was the earliest sense in English; definition broadened 1670s to "any sublimated substance, the pure spirit of anything," including liquids. Modern sense of "intoxicating ingredient in strong liquor" is first recorded 1753, short for alcohol of wine, which was extended to "the intoxicating element in fermented liquors." In organic chemistry, the word was extended 1850 to the class of compounds of the same type as this.