almost (adv.) Look up almost at Dictionary.com
Old English eallmæst "nearly all, for the most part," literally "mostly all;" see all + most. Modern form is from 15c. The original sense is now typically expressed by almost all; sense of "very nearly, all but" is from c. 1200.
alms (n.) Look up alms at Dictionary.com
"charitable relief of the poor," especially as a religious duty, also "that which is given to relieve the poor or needy," Old English ælmesse "almsgiving, act of relieving the needy," 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).

This was a variant of 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 and perhaps imitates cries of pleading. Spelling perversion in Vulgar Latin is perhaps by influence of alimonia (see alimony).
alms-house (n.) Look up alms-house at Dictionary.com
also almshouse, "poorhouse, building where lodging and maintenance is provided for the poor," late 14c., from alms + house (n.).
aloe (n.) Look up aloe at Dictionary.com
name of a group of shrubs or herbs with spiky flowers and thick leaves, yielding bitter juice which was used as a purgative drug, late 14c., originally in reference to the drug, from Latin aloe, from Greek aloe, which is of uncertain origin, probably a loan-word from an Oriental language.

A secondary sense is older in English: "Fragrant resin or heartwood of an East Indian tree" (Old English alewe, aloe), which is from misuse of Latin/Greek aloe in Biblical translations for Hebrew akhalim (plural), which ultimately is perhaps from a Dravidian language. OED says the Greek word probably was chosen for sound-resemblance to the Hebrew one.

The word was then misapplied in 1680s to the American agave plant, which is similar but unrelated. The "true aloe" (producing the drug) consequently is called aloe vera (with Latin vera "true;" see very). Related: Aloetic.
aloft (adv.) Look up aloft at Dictionary.com
"on high, in the air," c. 1200, from a Scandinavian source such as Old Norse a lopt "up above," literally "up in the air," from a "in, on" (see 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.)). Scandinavian -pt- pronounced like -ft-. The Old English equivalent was on þa lyft.
aloha (interj.) Look up aloha at Dictionary.com
Hawaiian expression used in greeting or parting, 1825, from Hawaiian aloha, literally "love, affection, pity." Sometimes aloha 'oe, with 'oe "to you."
alone (adj., adv.) Look up alone at Dictionary.com
"unaccompanied, solitary; without companions, solitary," c. 1300 contraction of all ane, from Old English all ana "unaccompanied, all by oneself," literally "wholly oneself," from all "all, wholly" (see all) + an "one" (see one). It preserves the old pronunciation of one. Similar compounds are found in German (allein) and Dutch (alleen). Sense of "and nothing else" ("Man shall not live on bread alone") is from c. 1200. Related: Aloneness. Adverbial alonely seems to be obsolete since 17c.
along (adv., prep.) Look up along at Dictionary.com
Old English andlang "entire, continuous; extended" (adj.); "alongside of" (prep.), 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.)). Reinforced by Old Norse cognate endlang. Prepositional sense extended in Old English to "through the whole length of." Of position, "lengthwise," c. 1200; of movement, "onward," c. 1300. Meaning "in company, together" is from 1580s. All along "throughout" is from 1690s.
alongshore (adj.) Look up alongshore at Dictionary.com
"existing or employed along a shore or coast," 1779, from along + shore (n.). Compare along-ships (adv.) "lengthwise to the ship" (1680s).
alongside (adv.) Look up alongside at Dictionary.com
1707, "parallel to the side of," contraction of the prepositional phrase; see along + side (n.). Originally mostly nautical. As a preposition from 1793.
aloof (adv.) Look up aloof at Dictionary.com
1530s, "to windward," from a- (1) "on" + Middle English loof "windward direction," probably from Dutch loef (Middle Dutch lof) "the weather side of a ship" (see luff (n.)). Originally in nautical orders to keep the ship's head to the wind, thus to stay clear of a lee-shore or some other quarter; hence "at a distance but within view" (1530s) and, figuratively, "apart, withdrawn, without community spirit" (with verbs stand, keep, etc.). As an adjective from c. 1600. Related: Aloofly; aloofness.
alot (n.) Look up alot at Dictionary.com
misdivision of a lot (see lot (n.)); also an alternative spelling of allot.
aloud (adv.) Look up aloud at Dictionary.com
late 13c., "with a loud voice;" c. 1300, "audibly, not whispered;" contraction of on loude; see a- (1) + loud.
alouette (n.) Look up alouette at Dictionary.com
"skylark," from French alouette, diminutive of Old French aloe, from Latin alauda "the lark" (source of Italian aloda, Spanish alondra, Provençal alauza), which is said to be from Gaulish (Celtic). The primitive form has vanished in French, leaving the diminutive to serve in its place. The popular song dates from the later 19c.
alow (adv.) Look up alow at Dictionary.com
"low down," mid-13c.; see a- (1) + low (adj.). Older than below. Nautical use from c. 1500.
Aloysius Look up Aloysius at Dictionary.com
masc. proper name, from Medieval Latin Aloisius, from Old French Loois (see Louis).
alp (n.) Look up alp at Dictionary.com
"high, snow-capped mountain," especially in Switzerland, 1590s, 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 the grammarian), or a borrowing from a non-Indo-European language. Alps, the central European mountain range, attested by that name in English from late 14c.
alpaca (n.) Look up alpaca at Dictionary.com
Andean mammal valued for its wool, 1792, from Spanish alpaca, probably from Aymara allpaca, related to Quechua p'ake "yellowish-red." The al- is perhaps from influence of the Arabic definite article being a common element in Spanish words (compare almond). Attested in English from c. 1600 in the form pacos.
alpenglow (n.) Look up alpenglow at Dictionary.com
rose-colored light on high mountains before dawn or after dusk, 1871, translating German Alpenglühen; see Alp + glow (v.).
alpenhorn (n.) Look up alpenhorn at Dictionary.com
"long, powerful horn," formerly used to convey messages across valleys, 1864, from German, literally "horn of the Alps;" see Alp + horn (n.).
alpenstock (n.) Look up alpenstock at Dictionary.com
"long iron-pointed staff used for hiking in mountains," 1829, German, literally "Alpine stick;" see Alp + stock (n.1).
alpha (n.) Look up alpha at Dictionary.com
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 (the last letter in the Greek alphabet, representing "the end"); sense of "first in a sequence" is from 1620s. In astronomy, the designation of the brightest star of each constellation (the use of Greek letters in star names began with Bayer's atlas in 1603). 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 Dictionary.com
"letters of a language arranged in customary order," 1570s, from Late Latin alphabetum (Tertullian), from Greek alphabetos, from alpha + beta. Attested from early 15c. in a sense "learning or lore acquired through reading." Words for it in Old English included stæfræw, literally "row of letters," stæfrof "array of letters," and compare ABC.
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]
Alphabet soup first attested 1907.
alphabetical (adj.) Look up alphabetical at Dictionary.com
"pertaining to an alphabet; in the order of the alphabet," 1560s, from alphabet + -ical. Alphabetary (adj.) also is from 1560s; alphabetic is from 1640s. Related: Alphabetically.
alphabetization (n.) Look up alphabetization at Dictionary.com
1864, noun of action from alphabetize (v.).
alphabetize (v.) Look up alphabetize at Dictionary.com
1848, "arrange alphabetically," from alphabet + -ize. The older verb was simply alphabet (1700). From 1854 as "express by alphabetic letters." Related: Alphabetized; alphabetizing.
alphanumeric (adj.) Look up alphanumeric at Dictionary.com
"using both letters and numbers," 1912, contracted from alphabet + numeric (see numerical).
Alphonso Look up Alphonso at Dictionary.com
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 (1670s) are named for Alphonso the Wise, 13c. king of Castile, who had them compiled.
Alpine (adj.) Look up Alpine at Dictionary.com
"of the Alps," early 15c., from Latin Alpinus; see Alp. Other adjectives were Alpish (1590s), Alpian (c. 1600), Alpsian (c. 1600). With a small a-, "pertaining to very high mountains," 1845.
Alps Look up Alps at Dictionary.com
mountain range in central Europe, late 14c.; see Alp.
already (adv.) Look up already at Dictionary.com
c. 1300, "in a state of readiness" (an adjectival sense, now obsolete), literally "fully ready, quite prepared," a contraction of all + ready (adj.). Compare Norwegian, Danish allerede "already." As an adverb, "by this time, previous to some specified time," late 14c. 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 Dictionary.com
frequent spelling of all right, attested in print by 1884.
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 Dictionary.com
region between France and Germany (given to France 1648 at the settlement of the Thirty Years' War and disputed over ever since), from 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 Look up Alsatian at Dictionary.com
from the Latin form of Alsace. 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. Alsatia was an old popular name for the White Friars district of London (1680s), which drew disreputable inhabitants owing to the privilege of sanctuary from a 13c. church and convent there; the image was of "debatable ground" (as Alsatia was between France and Germany). Hence Alsatian "London criminal," 1690s.
also (adv., conj.) Look up also at Dictionary.com
Old English eallswa "just as, even as, as if, so as, likewise," contraction of eal swa, from all "altogether" + so. Originally an emphatic form of so. The sense of "wholly so" weakened to "in addition to, in the same way," replacing eke. Used in Old English to introduce a sequel to a preceding statement, "and so, then, therefore." Used from c. 1200 in connecting sentences, "in addition, moreover." The compound has parallel forms in German also, Dutch alzoo. English as is a shortened form of it.
Early ME has the phrase as well as the compound. The reduced forms alse, als, as gradually become established in certain constructions, the fuller also in others .... The clear distinction between also and as is not attained until the 15th century. ["Middle English Dictionary," University of Michigan]
also-ran (n.) Look up also-ran at Dictionary.com
1896, originally in reference to horse-races, from the verbal phrase, from also + past tense of run (v.). Probably from the way non-placing horses were listed in race results.
alt (1) Look up alt at Dictionary.com
in Internet use (for example alt.right), from the use of alt.* in the newsgroups naming system in Usenet. The term was introduced in 1987 and is said to be short for alternative, as it was meant to be outside the usual newsgroup administrative controls and thus include groups on controversial topics and pornography.
alt (2) Look up alt at Dictionary.com
"high tone," 1530s, originally in music, ultimately from Latin altus "high," literally "grown tall," from PIE root *al- (3) "to grow, nourish" (see old).
Altaic (adj.) Look up Altaic at Dictionary.com
1801 of the mountains; 1850 as an ethnic and linguistic family (comprising Turkish, etc.), from French Altaïque, from Altaïen, from Altai, name of a mountain range in Asia between Russia and China, a name of uncertain origin.
Altair Look up Altair at Dictionary.com
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 Dictionary.com
Old English alter, altar "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. Latin spelling restored 1500s. As a symbol of marriage, by 1820. Altar-piece is from 1640s; altar-boy from 1772.
alter (v.) Look up alter at Dictionary.com
late 14c., "to change (something), make different in some way," from Old French alterer "to change, alter," from Medieval Latin alterare "to change," from Latin alter "the other (of the two)," from PIE *al- (1) "beyond" (see alias (adv.)) + comparative suffix -ter (as in other). Intransitive sense "to become otherwise" first recorded 1580s. Related: Altered; altering.
alter ego (n.) Look up alter ego at Dictionary.com
"second self, counterpart," 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 Dictionary.com
1520s, from alter + -able or else from French altérable. Related: Alterably; alterability.
alteration (n.) Look up alteration at Dictionary.com
late 14c., "change, transformation, action of altering," from Old French alteracion "change, alteration" (14c.), 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 Dictionary.com
"to contend with words," 1520s, a back-formation from altercation, or else from Latin altercatus, past participle of altercari "to dispute (with another);" see altercation.
altercation (n.) Look up altercation at Dictionary.com
late 14c., "angry contention with words," from Old French altercacion "altercation" (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 "the other" (see alter). The notion perhaps is of "speaking alternately."
alternate (adj.) Look up alternate at Dictionary.com
"following each other by turns, reciprocal," 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. Related: Alternacy.
alternate (v.) Look up alternate at Dictionary.com
1590s, "do by turns" (transitive), from Latin alternatus, past participle of alternare "do one thing and then another, do by turns," from alternus "one after the other, alternate, in turns, reciprocal," from alter "the other" (see alter). Replaced Middle English alternen "to vary, alternate" (early 15c.). Transitive meaning "interchange reciprocally" is from 1850; intransitive sense "follow one another in time or place" is from c. 1700; that of "pass back and forth between actions, conditions, etc." is by 1823. Related: Alternated; alternating.
alternate (n.) Look up alternate at Dictionary.com
1718, "that which alternates (with anything else)," from alternate (adj.). Meaning "a substitute, one authorized to take the place of another," especially in political bodies, is first attested 1848.