Almoravides Look up Almoravides at
Muslim Berber horde from the Sahara which founded a dynasty in Morocco (11c.) and conquered much of Spain and Portugal. The name is Spanish, from Arabic al-Murabitun, literally "the monks living in a fortified convent," from ribat "fortified convent."
almost (adv.) Look up almost at
Old English eallmæst "nearly all, for the most part," literally "mostly all;" see all + most. Modern form from 15c.
alms (n.) Look up alms at
Old English ælmesse "alms, almsgiving," from Proto-Germanic *alemosna (source also of Old Saxon alamosna, Old High German alamuosan, Old Norse ölmusa), an early borrowing of Vulgar Latin *alemosyna (source of Old Spanish almosna, Old French almosne, Italian limosina), from Church Latin eleemosyna (Tertullian, 3c.), from Greek eleemosyne "pity, mercy," in Ecclesiastical Greek "charity, alms," from eleemon "compassionate," from eleos "pity, mercy," which is of unknown origin, perhaps imitative of cries for alms. Spelling perversion in Vulgar Latin is perhaps by influence of alimonia.
almshouse (n.) Look up almshouse at
mid-15c., from alms + house (n.).
aloe (n.) Look up aloe at
Old English alewe "fragrant resin of an East Indian tree," a Biblical usage, from Latin aloe, from Greek aloe, translating Hebrew ahalim (plural, perhaps ultimately from a Dravidian language).

The Greek word probably was chosen for resemblance of sound to the Hebrew, because the Greek and Latin words referred originally to a genus of plants with spiky flowers and bitter juice, used as a purgative drug, a sense which appeared in English late 14c. The word was then misapplied to the American agave plant in 1680s. The "true aloe" consequently is called aloe vera.
aloft (adv.) Look up aloft at
c. 1200, from a Scandinavian source such as Old Norse a lopti "up above," literally "up in the air," from a "in, on" + lopt "sky, air, atmosphere; loft, upper room," from the general Germanic word for "air" (cognate with Gothic luftus, Old High German luft, Old English lyft "air;" see loft (n.)).
aloha Look up aloha at
1798, Hawaiian aloha, Maori aroha, an expression used in greeting or valediction, literally "love, affection, pity." Sometimes aloha 'oe, from 'oe "to you."
alone (adj., adv.) Look up alone at
c. 1300 contraction of all ane, from Old English all ana "unaccompanied, all by oneself," from all "all, wholly" (see all) + an "one" (see one). Similar compounds are found in German (allein) and Dutch (alleen).
along (prep.) Look up along at
Old English andlang "entire, continuous; extended; all day long; alongside of," from and- "opposite, against" (from Proto-Germanic *andi-, *anda-, from PIE *anti "against," locative singular of *ant- "front, forehead;" see ante) + lang "long" (see long (adj.)). Sense extended to "through the whole length of."
alongshore (adj.) Look up alongshore at
"existing or employed along a shore or coast," 1779, from along + shore (n.).
alongside (adv.) Look up alongside at
1707, from along + side (n.). A word formed from a phrase. Originally mostly nautical.
aloof (adj.) Look up aloof at
1530s, from a- (1) + Middle English loof "weather gage," also "windward direction," probably from Dutch loef (Middle Dutch lof) "the weather side of a ship." Originally a nautical order to keep the ship's head to the wind, thus to stay clear of a lee-shore or some other quarter; hence the figurative sense of "at a distance, apart" (1580s). Related: Aloofly; aloofness.
alot (n.) Look up alot at
misdivision of a lot (see lot (n.)).
aloud (adv.) Look up aloud at
late 14c., from a- (1) + loud.
Aloysius Look up Aloysius at
masc. proper name, from Medieval Latin Aloisius, from Old French Loois (see Louis).
alp (n.) Look up alp at
1590s, "any high, snow-capped mountain," from Alps, from French Alpes, from Latin Alpes "the Alps," perhaps from altus "high," or albus "white" or from a Celtic word (according to Servius), or a pre-Indo-European root. Alps, the European mountain range, attested by that name in English from 1550s.
alpaca (n.) Look up alpaca at
1792, from Spanish alpaca, probably from Aymara allpaca, related to Quechua p'ake "yellowish-red." The al- is perhaps from influence of Arabic definite article (see almond). Attested in English from 1753 in the form pacos.
Alpenstock (n.) Look up Alpenstock at
"long iron-pointed staff used for hiking in mountains," 1829, German, literally "Alpine stick."
alpha (n.) Look up alpha at
c. 1300, from Latin alpha, from Greek alpha, from Hebrew or Phoenician aleph (see aleph). The Greeks added -a because Greek words cannot end in most consonants. Sense of "beginning of anything" is from late 14c., often paired with omega (last letter in the Greek alphabet) as "the end." Sense of "first in a sequence" is from 1620s. Alpha male was in use by c. 1960 among scientists studying animals; applied to humans in society from c. 1992.
alphabet (n.) Look up alphabet at
1570s, from Late Latin alphabetum (Tertullian), from Greek alphabetos, from alpha + beta. Alphabet soup first attested 1907. Words for it in Old English included stæfræw, literally "row of letters," stæfrof "array of letters."
It was a wise though a lazy cleric whom Luther mentions in his "Table Talk,"--the monk who, instead of reciting his breviary, used to run over the alphabet and then say, "O my God, take this alphabet, and put it together how you will." [William S. Walsh, "Handy-Book of Literary Curiosities," 1892]
alphabetical (adj.) Look up alphabetical at
1560s, from alphabet + -ical. Related: Alphabetically.
alphabetize (v.) Look up alphabetize at
1866, from alphabet + -ize. Related: Alphabetized; alphabetizing.
alphanumeric (adj.) Look up alphanumeric at
1912, contracted from alphabet + numeric (see numerical).
Alphonso Look up Alphonso at
masc. proper name, from Spanish Alfonso, from a Germanic source (compare Old High German Adalfuns, from adal "noble;" see atheling + funs "ready"). The Alphonsine tables are named for Alphonso the Wise, 13c. king of Castile.
Alpine (adj.) Look up Alpine at
"of the Alps," early 15c., from Latin Alpinus; see Alp. Earlier was Alpish (1590s).
Alps Look up Alps at
see Alp.
already (adv.) Look up already at
c. 1300, compound of all + ready (adj.); literally "fully ready." Compare Norwegian, Danish allerede "already." Colloquial use in U.S. as a terminal emphatic (as in enough, already!) is attested from 1903, translating Yiddish shoyn, which is used in same sense. The pattern also is attested in Pennsylvania German and in South African.
alright Look up alright at
frequent spelling of all right, attested from 1893.
There are no such forms as all-right, or allright, or alright, though even the last, if seldom allowed by the compositors to appear in print, is often seen ... in MS. [Fowler]
Alsace Look up Alsace at
region between France and Germany (disputed by them 18c.-19c.), Medieval Latin Alsatia, from Old High German *Ali-sazzo "inhabitant of the other (bank of the Rhine)," from Proto-Germanic *alja "other" + Old High German -sazzo "inhabitant," literally "one who sits." Alsatian was adopted 1917 by the Kennel Club for "German Shepherd dog" to avoid the wartime associations of German; the breed has no connection with Alsace.
also (adv.) Look up also at
Old English eallswa "just as, even as, as if, so as, likewise," compound of all + so. The demonstrative sense of "similarly" weakened to "in addition to" in 12c., replacing eke. The compound has parallel forms in German also, Dutch alzoo.
also-ran (n.) Look up also-ran at
1896, originally in reference to horse-races, from also + past tense of run (v.). Probably from the way non-placing horses were listed in race results.
Altaic Look up Altaic at
1832 as a linguistic family, from French Altaïque, from Altaïen, from Altai, name of a mountain range in Asia.
Altair Look up Altair at
bright star in the constellation Aquila, 16c., from Arabic Al Nasr al Tair "the Flying Eagle," from tair, participle of tara "it flew."
altar (n.) Look up altar at
Old English alter, altar, from Latin altare (plural altaria) "high altar, altar for sacrifice to the great gods," perhaps originally meaning "burnt offerings" (compare Latin adolere "to worship, to offer sacrifice, to honor by burning sacrifices to"), but influenced by Latin altus "high." In Middle English, often auter, from Old French auter. Reintroduced from Latin 1500s. As a symbol of marriage, by 1820.
alter (v.) Look up alter at
late 14c., "to change (something)," from Old French alterer "change, alter," from Medieval Latin alterare "to change," from Latin alter "the other (of the two)," from PIE *al- "beyond" (see alias (adv.)) + comparative suffix -ter (as in other). Intransitive sense "to become otherwise" first recorded 1580s. Related: Altered; altering.
alter ego Look up alter ego at
1530s, from Latin phrase (used by Cicero), "a second self, a trusted friend" (compare Greek allos ego); see alter and ego.
alterable (adj.) Look up alterable at
1520s, from alter + -able. Related: Alterably; alterability.
alteration (n.) Look up alteration at
late 14c., "action of altering," from Old French alteracion (14c.) "change, alteration," and directly from Medieval Latin alterationem (nominative alteratio), noun of action from past participle stem of Late Latin alterare (see alter). Meaning "change in character or appearance" is from 1530s; that of "change in ready-made clothes to suit a customer's specifications" is from 1901. Related: Alterations.
altercate (v.) Look up altercate at
1520s, "to contend with words," from Latin altercatus, past participle of altercari (see altercation).
altercation (n.) Look up altercation at
late 14c., from Old French altercacion (12c.) and directly from Latin altercationem (nominative altercatio) "a dispute, debate, discussion," noun of action from past participle stem of altercari "to dispute (with another)," from alter "other" (see alter).
alternate (adj.) Look up alternate at
1510s, from Latin alternatus "one after the other," past participle of alternare "to do first one thing then the other; exchange parts," from alternus "one after the other, alternate, in turns, reciprocal," from alter "the other" (see alter). Alternate means "by turns;" alternative means "offering a choice." Both imply two kinds or things.
alternate (v.) Look up alternate at
1590s, from Latin alternatus, past participle of alternare (see alternate (adj.)). Replaced Middle English alternen "to vary, alternate" (early 15c.). Related: Alternated; alternating.
alternate (n.) Look up alternate at
1718, "that which alternates (with anything else)," from alternate (adj.). Meaning "a substitute" is first attested 1848.
alternately (adv.) Look up alternately at
early 15c., from alternate (adj.) + -ly (2).
alternating (adj.) Look up alternating at
1550s, present participle adjective from alternate (v.). Alternating current is recorded from 1839.
alternation (n.) Look up alternation at
mid-15c., from Old French alternacion, from Latin alternationem (nominative alternatio), noun of action from past participle stem of alternare (see alternate (v.)).
alternative (adj.) Look up alternative at
1580s, "offering one or the other of two," from Medieval Latin alternativus, from Latin alternatus, past participle of alternare (see alternate (v.)). Meaning "purporting to be a superior choice to what is in general use" was current by 1970 (earliest reference is to the media). Alternative energy is from 1975. Related: Alternatively.
alternative (n.) Look up alternative at
1620s, in rhetoric, from Medieval Latin alternativus (see alternative (adj.)). Of courses of action, from 1814. Of objects, etc., "the other of two which may be chosen," by 1838.
alternator (n.) Look up alternator at
1878, agent noun in Latin form from alternate (v.).
although (conj.) Look up although at
early 14c., althagh, compound of all + though, showing once-common emphatic use of all. "All though was originally more emphatic than though, but by 1400 it was practically only a variant of it, and all having thus lost its independent force, the phrase was written as one word" [OED].