- amelioration (n.)
- 1650s, "a making or becoming better," from French amélioration, from Old French ameillorer (12c.), from a "to" (see ad-) + meillior (Modern French meìlleur) "to better, repair, improve," from Late Latin meliorare "improve," from Latin melior "better," perhaps originally "stronger," and related to Greek mala "very, very much," from PIE *mel- (4) "strong, great" (see multi-).
- ameliorative (adj.)
- "tending to make better," 1796, from ameliorate + -ive.
- amen (interj.)
- Old English, from Late Latin amen, from Ecclesiastical Greek amen, from Hebrew amen "truth," used adverbially as an expression of agreement (as in Deuteronomy xxvii.26, I Kings i.36), from Semitic root a-m-n "to be trustworthy, confirm, support."
Compare similar use of Modern English certainly, absolutely. 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 to make answer or defense, accountable," from Anglo-French amenable, from Old French amener "bring, take, conduct, lead" (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.
- amenableness (n.)
- 1830, from amenable + -ness.
- amend (v.)
- early 13c., "to free from faults, rectify," from Old French amender "correct, set right, make better, improve" (12c.), from Latin emendare "to correct, free from fault," from ex "out" (see ex-) + menda "fault, blemish," from PIE root *mend- "physical defect, fault" (source also of Sanskrit minda "physical blemish," Old Irish mennar "stain, blemish," Welsh mann "sign, mark").
The spelling with a- is unusual but early and also is found in Provençal and Italian. In English it has been 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.
- amendable (adj.)
- 1580s, "capable of correction or repair;" see amend + -able. Related: Amendability.
- amendment (n.)
- early 13c., "betterment, improvement;" c. 1300, of persons, "correction, reformation," from Old French amendement "rectification, correction; advancement, improvement," 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., "recompense, compensation for loss or injury," collective singular, from Old French amendes "fine, penalty, reparation, compensation," 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 Latin amoenitatem (nominative amoenitas) "delightfulness, pleasantness," from amoenus "pleasant," which is perhaps related to amare "to love" (see Amy).
- amenorrhea (n.)
- suppression of menstruation, especially from a cause other than age or pregnancy, 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 for ab "away from" (see a- (2)) + mentem "mind," from PIE root *men- (1) "think, remember" (see mind (n.)).
- amentia (n.)
- "mental deficiency," late 14c., from Latin amentia "madness," from amentem "mad," from a for ab "away from" (see a- (2)) + mentem "mind," from PIE root *men- (1) "think, remember" (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.)
- "punishment by arbitrary or discretionary fine," 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 an adverbial phrase in legalese can become a verb (compare abandon).
Frans hom ne seit amerciez pour petit forfet. [Magna Charta]
Related: Amercement; amerciable/amerceable.
- 1507, "the western hemisphere, North and South America," 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 (Latin Vesputius, which might have yielded place-name Vesputia). The sense in English naturally was restricted toward the British colonies, then the United States.
The man's 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." is attested from 1969; the spelling is German but may also suggest the KKK.
It is a thousand pities that the puny witticisms of a few professional objectors should have the power to prevent, even for a year, the adoption of a name for our country. At present we have, clearly, none. There should be no hesitation about "Appalachia." In the first place, it is distinctive. "America" is not, and can never be made so. We may legislate as much as we please, and assume for our country whatever name we think right — but to use it will be no name, to any purpose for which a name is needed, unless we can take it away from the regions which employ it at present. South America is "America," and will insist upon remaining so. [Edgar Allan Poe, 1846]
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]
- American (n.)
- 1570s, originally "one of the aboriginal peoples discovered in the Western Hemisphere by Europeans," from Modern Latin Americanus, from America (q.v.). The original sense is now Native Americans; the sense of "resident of North America of European (originally British) descent" is from 1765.
- American (adj.)
- 1590s, "pertaining to the Western Hemisphere and its aboriginal inhabitants," from Modern Latin Americanus, from America (q.v.); the sense of "pertaining to the residents of North America of European (originally British) descent" is first recorded 1640s; later "pertaining to the United States." French Américain, Spanish and Italian Americano, German Amerikanisch. Fem. form Americaness attested from 1838. The American beauty rose so called from 1887. American English as a sub-language attested from 1806; Amerenglish is from 1974.
- 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 used in North America and 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 sense "attachment to or preference for 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.)
- "render American in character," 1797, from American + -ize. Related: Americanized; Americanizing.
- Americanness (n.)
- "American quality, origination, or nature," 1860, from American (adj.) + -ness.
Our legislator took to Congress several securities against erroneous action, several securities of largeness, liberality, American-ness, if I may be suffered thus to coin a word. [Robert B. Warden, "Life and Character of Stephen Arnold Douglas," Columbus, 1860]
- word-forming element used since late 18c. as "of or about America."
- americum (n.)
- artificial radioactive element, 1946, from America + metallic element ending -ium.
- Amerind (n.)
- 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, rough acronym from American Sign Language, which was 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-colored quartz, late 13c., amatist, from Old French ametiste (12c., Modern French améthyste) and directly from Medieval Latin amatistus, from Latin amethystus, from Greek amethystos "amethyst," noun use of an adjective, literally "not intoxicating; not drunken," from a- "not" + methyskein "make drunk," from methys "wine," from PIE root *medhu- "honey; mead" (see mead (n.1)).
The stone had a reputation among the ancients for preventing drunkenness; this was perhaps sympathetic magic suggested by its wine-like color. When drinking, people wore rings made of it to ward off the effects. The spelling was restored in early Modern English.
- 1970, contraction of American Express, a trademark registered in U.S. 1950 by American Express Co., originally an express mail service. Its credit card dates from 1958.
- Amharic (n.)
- principal language of Ethiopia, 1813, from Amhara, name of a central province in Ethiopia. It is in the Semitic family.
- ami (n.)
- "friend, lover," c. 1300, from Old French amy, ami "friend, lover, beloved; kinsman" (11c.), from Latin amicus (see Amy).
- amiability (n.)
- "quality of being friendly and agreeable," 1779, from amiable + -ity. Amiableness is recorded from 1530s.
- amiable (adj.)
- late 14c., "kindly, friendly," also "worthy of love or admiration," from Old French amiable "pleasant, kind; worthy to be loved" (12c.), from Late Latin amicabilis "friendly," from Latin amicus "friend, loved one," noun use of an adjective, "friendly, loving," from amare "to love" (see Amy).
The form and sense were confused in Old French with amable "lovable" (from Latin amare "to love"), and by 16c. the English word also had a secondary sense of "exciting love or delight," especially by having an agreeable temper and a kind heart. The word was subsequently reborrowed by English in Latin form without the sense contamination as amicable.
- amicability (n.)
- "friendliness," 1650s, from amicable + -ity.
- amicable (adj.)
- early 15c., "pleasant," from Late Latin amicabilis "friendly," a word in Roman law, from Latin amicus "friend," ultimately from amare "to love" (see Amy). In modern use "characterized by friendliness, free from hard feelings, peaceable, socially harmonious." Compare amiable, which is the same word through French. Related: Amicableness.
- 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). A person not interested or employed in a cause who wishes to make a suggestion to the court.
- amid (adv., prep.)
- late 14c., from amidde (c. 1200), from Old English on middan "in the middle," from dative singular of midde "mid, middle" (see middle); also see a- (1). 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.
- amidships (adv.)
- "in or toward the middle of a ship," 1690s, from amid + ship (n.). It retains the genitive -s of compounds of amid in Middle English, suggesting this one is older than the written record of it.
- amidst (prep.)
- a variant of amid (q.v.) with adverbial genitive -s and unetymological -t. Amidde became amyddes (13c.) and acquired the -t from mid-15c., probably by association with superlatives in -st; the pattern also yielded amongst, against, betwixt, whilst, also archaic alongst (13c.-17c.).
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]
- cathedral city in northeastern France, Roman Ambianum, named for the Celtic people known as the Ambiani, whose name is from Gaulish *ambe "river" (in reference to the Somme).
- amigo (n.)
- "friend, comrade," also 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 in chemistry, 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. The surname is a contraction of Old High German ambahtman, title of an official in the German Swiss cantons, from ambet "office" (German Amt; see amt), a Celtic borrowing related to the beginning of ambassador) + man "man." Originally also spelled Omish, which reflects the pronunciation in Pennsylvania German dialect. As a noun, by 1884. Other early names for the sect were Ammanite and, in a European context, Upland Mennonite.
- 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.)). From late 14c. as "improper, wrong, faulty;" to take (something) amiss originally (late 14c.) was "to miss the meaning of" (see mistake). Now it means "to misinterpret in a bad sense."