- 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 (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.
- 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.
- 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" (cf. 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 (e.g. Deut. xxvii:26, I Kings i:36; cf. 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" (cf. 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.)).
- 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 (cf. 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.
- 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]
- amethyst (n.)
- violet quartz, late 13c., ametist, from Old French ametiste (Modern French améthyste) and directly from Medieval Latin amatistus, from Latin amethystus, from Greek amethystos "amethyst," literally "not intoxicating," from a- "not" + methyskein "make drunk," from methys "wine" (see mead (n.1)); based on the stone's ancient reputation for preventing drunkenness, which was perhaps sympathetic magic suggested by its wine-like color. People wore rings made of it before drinking. Spelling restored from Middle English ametist.
- blend of American Express, trademark registered in U.S. 1950 by American Express Co., originally an express mail service. Its credit card dates from 1958.
- principal language of Ethiopia, 1813, from Amhara, name of a central province in Ethiopia.
- ami (n.)
- 14c., "friend lover," from Old French amy, ami (see Amy).
- amiability (n.)
- 1807; see amiable + -ity. Amiableness is recorded from 1530s.
- amiable (adj.)
- mid-14c., from Old French amiable, from Late Latin amicabilis "friendly," from amicus "friend," related to amare "to love" (see Amy). The form confused in Old French with amable "lovable," from Latin amare. Reborrowed later in proper Latin form as amicable.
- amicability (n.)
- 1650s, see amicable + -ity.
- amicable (adj.)
- early 15c., from Late Latin amicabilis "friendly," a word in Roman law, from Latin amicus "friend," related to amare "to love" (see Amy). Cf. also amiable.
- amicably (adv.)
- 1630s, from amicable + -ly (2).
- amicus curiae
- 1610s, Latin, literally "friend of the court;" plural is amici curiae. From Latin amicus "friend," related to amare "to love" (see Amy) + curia "court" (see curia).
- amid (prep.)
- late 14c., from amidde (c.1200), from Old English on middan "in the middle," from dative singular of midde "mid, middle" (see middle); the phrase evidently was felt as "in (the) middle" and thus followed by a genitive case, and if this had endured we would follow it today with of. (See amidst for further evolution along this line).
The same applies to equivalents in Latin (in medio) and Greek (en meso), both originally adjective phrases which evolved to take the genitive case. But in later Old English on middan also was treated as a preposition and followed by dative. Used in compounds from early 13c. (e.g. amidships, attested from 1690s and retaining the genitive, as the compounds usually did in early Middle English, suggesting this one is considerably older than the written record of it.)
- amidst (prep.)
- a variant of amid (q.v.) with adverbial genitive -s and parasitic -t. Amidde became amyddes (13c.) and acquired a -t by 1560s, probably by association with superlatives in -st.
There is a tendency to use amidst more distributively than amid, e.g. of things scattered about, or a thing moving, in the midst of others. [OED]
- amigo (n.)
- "friend, comrade," often a form of address, 1837, American English (first attested in the phrase adios, Amigo), from Spanish amigo, literally "friend," from Latin amicus "friend," related to amare "to love" (see Amy).
- amine (n.)
- "compound in which one of the hydrogen atoms of ammonia is replaced by a hydrocarbon radical," 1863, from ammonia + chemical suffix -ine (2).
- 1887, as an element in compound words involving chemicals, from comb. form of amine. Amino acid is attested from 1898.
- amir (n.)
- 1610s; the same word as emir (q.v.), but generally used of contemporary Indian or Afghan rulers as opposed to historical ones.
- Amish (adj.)
- 1844, American English, from the name of Jacob Amman, 17c. Swiss Mennonite preacher who founded the sect. Originally spelled Omish, which reflects the pronunciation in Pennsylvania German dialect. As a noun, by 1884.
- amiss (adv.)
- mid-13c., amis "off the mark," also "out of order," literally "on the miss," from a "in, on" (see a- (1)) + missen "fail to hit" (see miss (v.)). To take (something) amiss originally (late 14c.) was "to miss the meaning of" (see mistake). Now it means "to misinterpret in a bad sense."
- amity (n.)
- mid-15c., "friendly relations," from Old French amitie (13c.); earlier amistie (11c.), from Vulgar Latin *amicitatem (nominative *amicitas) "friendship," corresponding to Latin amicitia, from amicus (adj.) "friendly;" related to amare "to love" (see Amy).
- ammeter (n.)
- instrument for measuring the strength of electric currents, 1882, from ampere + -meter.