amalgamation (n.) Look up amalgamation at
1610s, noun of action from archaic amalgam (v.) "to alloy with mercury" (see amalgamate). Figurative, non-chemical sense of "a combining into one uniform whole" is attested from 1775.
amalgamize (v.) Look up amalgamize at
1590s, from amalgam + -ize. Related: Amalgamized; amalgamizing.
Amanda Look up Amanda at
fem. proper name, literally "worthy to be loved," fem. of Latin amandus "pleasing," gerundive of amare "to love" (see Amy). A top 10 list name for girls born in U.S. between 1976 and 1995.
amanuensis (n.) Look up amanuensis at
"one who takes dictation," 1610s, from Latin amanuensis "adjective used as a noun," from servus a manu "secretary," literally "servant from the hand," from a "from" + manu, ablative of manus "hand" (see manual (adj.)).
amaranth (n.) Look up amaranth at
1610s, from French amarante, from Latin amarantus, from Greek amarantos, name of an unfading flower, literally "everlasting," from a- "not" + stem of marainein "die away, waste away, quench, extinguish," from PIE *mer- "to rub away, harm" (see nightmare). In classical use, a poet's word for an imaginary flower that never fades. It was applied to a genus of ornamental plants 1550s. Ending influenced by plant names with Greek -anthos "flower."
amaranthine (adj.) Look up amaranthine at
1660s, "unfading, undying," poetic (apparently coined by Milton), also amarantine; see amaranth + -ine (1). Later used of a purple color.
Amaretto Look up Amaretto at
Italian almond-flavored liqueur, 1945 (the original brand, Amaretto di Saronno, dates to 1851), from the Italian word for almond (q.v.), which did not acquire the excrescent -l- of the English word. Sometimes confused with amoretto. Amoroso (literally "lover"), a type of sweetened sherry, is attested from c. 1870.
amarillo (n.) Look up amarillo at
name given to several species of American trees, from Spanish, from Arabic anbari "yellow, amber-colored," from anbar "amber" (see amber). The city Amarillo in Texas, U.S., may be so called from the color of the banks of a nearby stream.
amaryllis (n.) Look up amaryllis at
autumn-flowering bulbs, 1794, adopted by Linnaeus from Latin, from Greek Amaryllis, typical name of a country girl or shepherdess (in Theocritus, Virgil, Ovid, etc.).
amass (v.) Look up amass at
late 15c., "to heap up for oneself," from Old French amasser, from à "to" (see ad-) + masser (see mass (n.1)). Related: Amassed; amassing.
amastia (n.) Look up amastia at
medical Latin, from Greek amastos "without breasts," from privative prefix a- (see a- (3)) + mastos "breast" (see masto-) + abstract noun ending -ia.
amateur (n.) Look up amateur at
1784, "one who has a taste for (something)," from French amateur "lover of," from Latin amatorem (nominative amator) "lover," agent noun from amatus, past participle of amare "to love" (see Amy). Meaning "dabbler" (as opposed to professional) is from 1786. As an adjective, by 1838.
amateurish (adj.) Look up amateurish at
1863; from amateur + -ish. Related: Amateurishly; amateurishness.
amative (adj.) Look up amative at
1630s, "pertaining to love," from Latin amat-, past participle stem of amare "to love" (see Amy) + -ive.
amatory (adj.) Look up amatory at
1590s, "pertaining to love" (especially sexual love), from Latin amatorius "loving," from amatus, past participle of amare (see Amy).
amaze (v.) Look up amaze at
early 13c., amasian "stupefy, make crazy," from a-, probably used here as an intensive prefix, + -masian, related to maze (q.v.). Sense of "overwhelm with wonder" is from 1580s. Related: Amazed; amazing.
amazement (n.) Look up amazement at
1590s, "mental stupefaction," early use of the Latin suffix with a native verb, from amaze + -ment. Meaning "overwhelming wonder" is c. 1600.
amazing (adj.) Look up amazing at
early 15c., "stupefactive;" 1590s, "dreadful;" present participle adjective from amaze. Sense of "wonderful" is recorded from 1704. Related: Amazingly.
Amazon (n.) Look up Amazon at
late 14c., from Greek Amazon (mostly in plural Amazones) "one of a race of female warriors in Scythia," probably from an unknown non-Indo-European word, possibly from an Iranian compound *ha-maz-an- "(one) fighting together" [Watkins], but in folk etymology long derived from a- "without" + mazos "breasts," hence the story that the Amazons cut or burned off one breast so they could draw bowstrings more efficiently.

The river in South America (originally called by the Spanish Rio Santa Maria de la Mar Dulce) rechristened by Francisco de Orellana, 1541, after an encounter with female warriors of the Tapuyas (or, as some say, beardless, long-haired male tribesmen; still others hold that the name is a corruption of a native word in Tupi or Guarani meaning "wave").
ambagious (adj.) Look up ambagious at
1650s, from French ambagieux, from Latin ambagiosus, from ambages "circuits, circumlocutions," from amb- "about" (see ambi-) + agere "to drive" (see act (n.)).
ambassador (n.) Look up ambassador at
late 14c., also embassador, from Middle French ambassadeur, from Old French embassator, via Provençal or Old Spanish from Latin ambactus "a servant, vassal," from Celtic amb(i)actos "a messenger, servant," from PIE *ambhi- "about" (see ambi-) + *ag- "drive, lead" (see act (v.)). Compare embassy. Forms in am- and em- were used indiscriminately 17c.-18c.
ambassadorial (adj.) Look up ambassadorial at
1759, from ambassador + -al (1).
amber (n.) Look up amber at
mid-14c., "ambergris, perfume made from ambergris," from Old French ambre, from Medieval Latin ambar "ambergris," from Arabic 'anbar "ambergris." In Europe, the sense was extended, inexplicably, to fossil resins from the Baltic (late 13c. in Anglo-Latin; c. 1400 in English), which has become the main sense as the use of ambergris has waned. This formerly was known as white or yellow amber to distinguish it from ambergris, which word entered English early 15c. from French, which distinguished the two substances as ambre gris and amber jaune. The classical word for Baltic amber was electrum (compare electric).
ambergris (n.) Look up ambergris at
early 15c., from Middle French ambre gris "gray amber" (see amber), "a wax-like substance of ashy colour, found floating in tropical seas, a morbid secretion from the intestines of the sperm-whale. Used in perfumery, and formerly in cookery" [OED]. Its origin was a mystery in Johnson's day, and he records nine different theories. King Charles II's favorite dish was said to be eggs and ambergris [Macauley, "History of England"]. French gris is from Frankish *gris or some other Germanic source (cognates: Dutch grijs, Old High German gris; see gray (adj.)).
Praise is like ambergris; a little whiff of it, by snatches, is very agreeable; but when a man holds a whole lump of it to his nose, it is a stink and strikes you down. [Pope, c. 1720]
ambi- Look up ambi- at
word-forming element meaning "both, on both sides," from Latin ambi- "around, round about," from PIE *ambhi "around" (cognates: Greek amphi "round about;" Sanskrit abhitah "on both sides," abhi "toward, to;" Avestan aibi; Old English ymbe, German um; Gaulish ambi-, Old Irish imb- "round about, about;" Old Church Slavonic oba; Lithuanian abu "both"). The PIE root probably is an ablative plural of *ant-bhi "from both sides," from *ant- "front, forehead" (see ante).
ambiance (n.) Look up ambiance at
1923, a reborrowing of the French form of ambience, used in art writing as a term meaning "atmospheric effect of an arrangement" (see ambient).
ambidexterity (n.) Look up ambidexterity at
1650s, from obsolete adjective ambidexter "two-sided, using both hands with equal facility," also "double-dealing," from Medieval Latin ambidexter (see ambidextrous) + -ity.
ambidextrous (adj.) Look up ambidextrous at
1640s, with -ous, from ambidexter (adj.) "double-dealing" (1610s), from French ambidextre or directly from Latin ambidexter, literally "right-handed on both sides," from ambi- "both" (see ambi-) + dexter "right-handed" (see dexterity). Its opposite, ambilevous "left-handed on both sides, clumsy" (1640s) is rare. Ambidexter as a noun, "one who takes bribes from both sides," is attested from 1530s and is the earliest form of the word in English; its sense of "one who uses both hands equally well" appears by 1590s.
Ambien Look up Ambien at
trade name for prescription medication Zolpidem, registered 1993 in U.S., no doubt suggested by ambient or words like it in French.
ambience (n.) Look up ambience at
1797, from French ambiance (see ambient). Compare ambiance.
ambient (adj.) Look up ambient at
1590s, "surrounding, encircling," from Latin ambientem (nominative ambiens) "going round," present participle of ambire "to go around," from amb- "around" (see ambi-) + ire "go" (see ion). The ground sense of "revolving" led to "encircling, lying all around."
ambiguity (n.) Look up ambiguity at
c. 1400, "uncertainty, doubt, indecision, hesitation," also from Medieval Latin ambiguitatem (nominative ambiguitas) "double meaning, equivocalness, double sense," noun of state from ambiguus (see ambiguous).
ambiguous (adj.) Look up ambiguous at
1520s, from Latin ambiguus "having double meaning, shifting, changeable, doubtful," adjective derived from ambigere "to dispute about," literally "to wander," from ambi- "about" (see ambi-) + agere "drive, lead, act" (see act). Sir Thomas More (1528) seems to have first used it in English, but ambiguity dates back to c. 1400. Related: Ambiguously; ambiguousness.
ambisexual (adj.) Look up ambisexual at
"unisex" (of clothing), also "bisexual," 1912 in the jargon of psychology, from ambi- + sexual. As a humorous coinage based on ambidextrous, ambisextrous is recorded from 1929.
ambisexuality (n.) Look up ambisexuality at
1916, from ambisexual + -ity.
ambit (n.) Look up ambit at
late 14c., "space surrounding a building or town; precinct;" 1590s, "a circuit," from Latin ambitus "a going round," past participle of ambire "to go round, to go about" (see ambient).
ambition (n.) Look up ambition at
mid-14c., from Middle French ambition or directly from Latin ambitionem (nominative ambitio) "a going around," especially to solicit votes, hence "a striving for favor, courting, flattery; a desire for honor, thirst for popularity," noun of action from past participle stem of ambire "to go around" (see ambient).

Rarely used in the literal sense in English, where it carries the secondary Latin sense of "eager or inordinate desire of honor or preferment." In early use always pejorative, of inordinate or overreaching desire; ambition was grouped with pride and vainglory.
ambitious (adj.) Look up ambitious at
late 14c., from Latin ambitiosus "going around to canvass for office," from ambitio (see ambition). Related: Ambitiously.
ambivalence (n.) Look up ambivalence at
"simultaneous conflicting feelings," 1924 (1912 as ambivalency), from German Ambivalenz, coined 1910 by Swiss psychologist Eugen Bleuler (1857-1939) on model of German Equivalenz "equivalence," etc., from Latin ambi- "both" (see ambi-) + valentia "strength," from present participle of valere "be strong" (see valiant). A psychological term that by 1929 had taken on a broader literary and general sense.
ambivalent (adj.) Look up ambivalent at
1916, originally a term in psychology; back-formation from ambivalence. In general use by 1929.
ambivert (n.) Look up ambivert at
"person exhibiting features of an extrovert and an introvert," coined by Kimball Young in "Source Book for Social Psychology" (1927), from ambi- "about, around" + Latin vertere, as in introvert. Related: Ambiversion.
amble (v.) Look up amble at
early 14c., from Old French ambler "walk as a horse does," from Latin ambulare "to walk, to go about, take a walk," perhaps a compound of ambi- "around" (see ambi-) and -ulare, from PIE root *el- "to go" (cognates: Greek ale "wandering," alaomai "wander about;" Latvian aluot "go around or astray"). Until 1590s used only of horses or persons on horseback. Related: Ambled; ambling. As a noun, from late 14c.
ambler (n.) Look up ambler at
late 14c., agent noun from amble (v.).
amblosis (n.) Look up amblosis at
"abortion, miscarriage," 1706, Modern Latin, from Greek amblosis "abortion," noun of action from ambloesthai "to come to nought." Related: Amblotic.
amblyopia (n.) Look up amblyopia at
1706, "weakening of the eyesight," medical Latin, from Greek amblyopia "dim-sightedness," noun of action from amblys "dulled, blunt" + ops "eye" (see eye (n.)) + abstract noun ending -ia. Related: Amblyopic.
Ambrose Look up Ambrose at
masc. proper name, from Latin Ambrosius, from Greek ambrosios "immortal, belonging to the immortals" (see ambrosia). The Ambrosian Library in Milan is named for Saint Ambrose (d.397), bishop of Milan.
ambrosia (n.) Look up ambrosia at
1550s, "favored food or drink of the gods," from Latin ambrosia, from Greek ambrosia "food of the gods," fem. of ambrosios, probably literally "of the immortals," from a- "not" (see a- (3)) + mbrotos, related to mortos "mortal," from PIE *mer- "to die" (see mortal (adj.)). Applied to certain herbs by Pliny and Dioscorides; used of various foods for mortals since 1680s (originally of fruit drinks); used figuratively for "anything delightful" by 1731.
ambrosial (adj.) Look up ambrosial at
1590s, "immortal, divine," from Latin ambrosius, from Greek ambrosios (see ambrosia).
ambrotype (n.) Look up ambrotype at
1855, American English, apparently from Greek ambrotos "immortal, imperishable" (see ambrosia), with second element from daguerreotype. A type of photograph on glass with lights given by silver and shades by a dark background showing through.
This invention consists in an improved process of taking photographic pictures upon glass, and also of beautifying and preserving the same, which process I have styled "ambrotype." My improved process has reference to the art of taking pictures photographically on a film of collodion upon the surface of a sheet of glass, the collodion being suitably prepared for the purpose. By the use of the said process, the beauty and permanency of such pictures are greatly increased, and I have on this account styled the process "ambrotype," from the Greek word ambrotos, immortal. ["Specification of the Patent granted to James A. Cutting, of Boston, in the United States of America, Photographer, for an Improved Process of taking Photographic Pictures upon Glass and also of Beautifying and Preserving the same. Dated London, July 26, 1854," printed in "Journal of the Franklin Institute," September 1855]
ambulance (n.) Look up ambulance at
1798, "mobile or field hospital," from French (hôpital) ambulant, literally "walking (hospital)," from Latin ambulantem (nominative ambulans), present participle of ambulare "to walk" (see amble).
AMBULANCE, s. f. a moveable hospital. These were houses constructed in a manner so as to be taken to pieces, and carried from place to place, according to the movements of the army; and served as receptacles in which the sick and wounded men might be received and attended. ["Lexicographica-Neologica Gallica" (The Neological French Dictionary), William Dupré, London, 1801]
The word was not common in English until the meaning transferred from "field hospital" to "vehicle for conveying wounded from field" (1854) during the Crimean War. In late 19c. U.S. the word was used dialectally to mean "prairie wagon." Ambulance-chaser as a contemptuous term for a type of lawyer dates from 1897.