- ambit (n.)
- 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.)
- 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.)
- late 14c., from Latin ambitiosus "going around to canvass for office," from ambitio (see ambition). Related: Ambitiously.
- ambivalence (n.)
- "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.)
- 1916, originally a term in psychology; back-formation from ambivalence. In general use by 1929.
- ambivert (n.)
- "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.)
- 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.)
- late 14c., agent noun from amble (v.).
- amblosis (n.)
- "abortion, miscarriage," 1706, Modern Latin, from Greek amblosis "abortion," noun of action from ambloesthai "to come to nought." Related: Amblotic.
- amblyopia (n.)
- 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.
- 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.)
- 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.)
- 1590s, "immortal, divine," from Latin ambrosius, from Greek ambrosios (see ambrosia).
- ambrotype (n.)
- 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.)
- 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.
- ambulant (adj.)
- 1610s, from Latin ambulantem (nominative ambulans), present participle of ambulare (see amble). Of diseases, denoting cases in which the patient may be up and around, by 1913.
- ambulate (v.)
- 1620s, from Latin ambulatus, past participle of ambulare "to walk" (see amble). Related: Ambulated; ambulating.
- ambulation (n.)
- 1540s, from Latin ambulationem (nominative ambulatio), noun of action from past participle stem of ambulare (see amble).
- ambulatory (n.)
- from Medieval Latin ambulatorium, from Latin ambulatorius "movable," from ambulare (see amble).
- ambulatory (adj.)
- "pertaining to walking;" also "shifting, not permanent," 1620s, from Latin ambulatorius "of or pertaining to a walker; movable," from ambulator, agent noun from past participle stem of ambulare "to walk" (see amble). Middle English had ambulary "movable" (mid-15c.).
- ambuscade (n.)
- 1580s, essentially a variant form of ambush (n.), representing a reborrowing of that French word after it had been Italianized. Ambuscade is from French embuscade (16c.), Gallicized from Italian imboscata, literally "a hiding in the bush," compounded from the same elements as Old French embuscher. Sometimes in English as ambuscado, with faux Spanish ending of the sort popular in 17c.
- ambush (n.)
- late 15c., embushe, from the English verb or from Middle French embusche, from Old French embuscher (see ambush (v.)). Earlier was ambushment (late 14c.). Figurative use by 1590s.
- ambush (v.)
- c. 1300, from Old French embuscher (13c., Modern French embûcher) "to lay an ambush," from en- "in" + busch "wood," apparently from Frankish *busk "bush, woods" (see bush (n.)). Related: Ambushed; ambushing.
- ame damnee (n.)
- "devoted adherent, toady," 1823, from French âme damnée "familiar spirit," literally "damned soul," originally a soul damned by compact with a controlling demon.
- fem. proper name, of Germanic origin, literally "laborious" (cognates: Old Norse ama "to trouble"), later assimilated with Roman gens name Aemilia.
- ameliorate (v.)
- 1728, perhaps a back-formation from amelioration on pattern of French améliorer. The simpler form meliorate was used in Middle English. Related: Ameliorated; ameliorating.
- amelioration (n.)
- 1650s, from French amélioration, from Old French ameillorer (12c.), from a "to" (see ad-) + meillior (Modern French meìlleur) "to better," from Late Latin meliorare "improve," from Latin melior "better," perhaps originally "stronger," and related to Greek mala "very, very much," from PIE *mel- "strong, great" (see multi-).
- ameliorative (adj.)
- 1796, from ameliorate + -ive.
- Old English, from Late Latin amen, from Ecclesiastical Greek amen, from Hebrew amen "truth," used adverbially as an expression of agreement (as in Deut. xxvii:26, I Kings i:36; compare Modern English verily, surely, absolutely in the same sense), from Semitic root a-m-n "to be trustworthy, confirm, support." Used in Old English only at the end of Gospels, otherwise translated as Soðlic! or Swa hit ys, or Sy! As an expression of concurrence after prayers, it is recorded from early 13c.
- amenability (n.)
- 1761; see amenable + -ity.
- amenable (adj.)
- 1590s, "liable," from Anglo-French amenable, Middle French amener "answerable" (to the law), from à "to" (see ad-) + mener "to lead," from Latin minare "to drive (cattle) with shouts," variant of minari "threaten" (see menace (n.)). Sense of "tractable" is from 1803, from notion of disposed to answer or submit to influence. Related: Amenably.
- amend (v.)
- early 13c., "to free from faults, rectify," from Old French amender (12c.), from Latin emendare "to correct, free from fault," from ex- "out" (see ex-) + menda "fault, blemish," from PIE *mend- "physical defect, fault" (cognates: Sanskrit minda "physical blemish," Old Irish mennar "stain, blemish," Welsh mann "sign, mark").
Supplanted in senses of "repair, cure" by its shortened offspring mend (v.). Meaning "to add to legislation" (ostensibly to correct or improve it) is recorded from 1777. Related: Amended; amending.
- amendment (n.)
- early 13c., "betterment, improvement;" c. 1300, of persons, "correction, reformation," from Old French amendment, from amender (see amend). Sense expanded to include "correction of error in a legal process" (c. 1600) and "alteration of a writ or bill" to remove its faults (1690s).
- amends (n.)
- early 14c., "restitution," collective singular, from Old French amendes "fine, penalty," plural of amende "reparation," from amender "to amend" (see amend).
- amenities (n.)
- "creature comforts of a town, house, etc." 1908, plural of amenity. Latin amoena, plural of amoenus, also was used as a noun with a sense of "pleasant places."
- amenity (n.)
- late 14c., "quality of being pleasant or agreeable," from Old French amenite, from Latin amoenitatem (nominative amoenitas) "delightfulness, pleasantness," from amoenus "pleasant," perhaps related to amare "to love" (see Amy).
- amenorrhea (n.)
- 1804, Modern Latin, from Greek privative prefix a- "not" (see a- (3)) + men "month" (see moon (n.)) + rhein "to flow" (see rheum). Related: amenorrheal.
- ament (n.)
- "person born an idiot," 1894, from Latin amentia "madness," from amentem "mad," from a- "away from" + mentem "mind" (see mind (n.)).
- amentia (n.)
- "mental deficiency," late 14c., from Latin amentia "madness," from amentem "mad," from a- "away from" + mentem "mind" (see mind (n.)) + abstract noun ending -ia.
- 1966, noun and adjective, from American + Asian; coined in reference to children fathered by U.S. servicemen stationed in Asia during the Cold War.
- amerce (v.)
- 1215, earlier amercy, Anglo-French amercier "to fine," from merci "mercy, grace" (see mercy). The legal phrase estre a merci "to be at the mercy of" (a tribunal, etc.) was corrupted to estre amercié in an example of how a legalese adverbial phrase can become a verb (see abandon). The sense often was "to fine arbitrarily."
Frans hom ne seit amerciez pour petit forfet. [Magna Charta]
Related: Amercement; amerciable.
- 1507, in Cartographer Martin Waldseemüller's treatise "Cosmographiae Introductio," from Modern Latin Americanus, after Amerigo Vespucci (1454-1512) who made two trips to the New World as a navigator and claimed to have discovered it. His published works put forward the idea that it was a new continent, and he was first to call it Novus Mundus "New World." Amerigo is more easily Latinized than Vespucci.
The name Amerigo is Germanic, said to derive from Gothic Amalrich, literally "work-ruler." The Old English form of the name has come down as surnames Emmerich, Emery, etc. The Italian fem. form merged into Amelia.
Colloquial pronunciation "Ameri-kay," not uncommon 19c., goes back to at least 1643 and a poem that rhymed the word with away. Amerika "U.S. society viewed as racist, fascist, oppressive, etc." first attested 1969; the spelling is German, but may also suggest the KKK.
It is interesting to remember that the song which is essentially Southern -- "Dixie" -- and that which is essentially Northern -- "Yankee Doodle" -- never really had any serious words to them. ["The Bookman," June 1910]
FREDONIA, FREDONIAN, FREDE, FREDISH, &c. &c.
These extraordinary words, which have been deservedly ridiculed here as well as in England, were proposed sometime ago, and countenanced by two or three individuals, as names for the territory and people of the United States. The general term American is now commonly understood (at least in all places where the English language is spoken,) to mean an inhabitant of the United States; and is so employed, except where unusual precision of language is required. [Pickering, 1816]
- 1570s (n.); 1590s (adj.), from Modern Latin Americanus, from America (q.v.); originally in reference to what now are called Native Americans; the sense of "resident of North America of European (originally British) descent" is first recorded 1640s (adj.); 1765 (n.).
- American dream
- coined 1931 by James Truslow Adams (1878-1949), U.S. writer and popular historian (unrelated to the Massachusetts Adamses), in "Epic of America."
[The American Dream is] that dream of a land in which life should be better and richer and fuller for everyone, with opportunity for each according to ability or achievement. It is a difficult dream for the European upper classes to interpret adequately, and too many of us ourselves have grown weary and mistrustful of it. It is not a dream of motor cars and high wages merely, but a dream of social order in which each man and each woman shall be able to attain to the fullest stature of which they are innately capable, and be recognized by others for what they are, regardless of the fortuitous circumstances of birth or position. [Adams]
Others have used the term as they will.
- Americanism (n.)
- 1781, in reference to words or phrases distinct from British use, coined by John Witherspoon (1723-1794), president of Princeton College, from American + -ism. (American English "English language as spoken in the United States" is first recorded 1806, in Webster.) Americanism in the patriotic sense "attachment to the U.S." is attested from 1797, first found in the writings of Thomas Jefferson.
I have been not a little disappointed, and made suspicious of my own judgment, on seeing the Edinburgh Reviews, the ablest critics of the age, set their faces against the introduction of new words into the English language; they are particularly apprehensive that the writers of the United States will adulterate it. Certainly so great growing a population, spread over such an extent of country, with such a variety of climates, of productions, of arts, must enlarge their language, to make it answer its purpose of expressing all ideas, the new as well as the old. [Jefferson to John Waldo, Aug. 16, 1813]
- Americanization (n.)
- 1816, noun of state or action from Americanize.
- Americanize (v.)
- 1797, from American + -ize. Related: Americanized; Americanizing.
- 1899, coined by Maj. John Wesley Powell (1834-1902) at the Bureau of American Ethnology, where he was director, from American + Indian.
- Amerindian (adj.)
- 1900; see Amerind, of which it is the derived adjective.
- Ameslan (n.)
- 1972, acronym of Ame(rican) S(ign) Lan(guage), known by that name since 1960, but its history goes back to 1817, evolving from French Sign Language (introduced at American School for the Deaf in Hartford, Conn.) and indigenous sign languages, especially that of Martha's Vineyard. [See "Everyone Here Spoke Sign Language," Nora Ellen Groce, Harvard University Press, 1985]