- abstinence (n.)
- mid-14c., "forbearance in indulgence of the appetites," from Old French abstinance (earlier astenance), from Latin abstinentia "abstinence, starvation; self-restraint, integrity," abstract noun from abstinentem (nominative abstinens), present participle of abstinere/abstenere "withhold, keep back, keep off," from assimilated form of ab "off, away from" (see ab-) + tenere "to hold," from PIE root *ten- "to stretch" (see tenet). Especially of sexual appetites but also in Middle English of food, fighting, luxury.
- abstinent (adj.)
- late 14c., "refraining from undue indulgence," especially in reference to food and drink, from Old French abstinent (earlier astenant) "moderate, abstemious, modest," from Latin abstinentem (nominative abstinens) "temperate, moderate," present participle of abstinere, abstenere "withhold, keep back, keep off," from assimilated form of ab "off, away from" (see ab-) + tenere "to hold," from PIE root *ten- "to stretch" (see tenet).
- abstract (adj.)
- late 14c., originally in grammar (in reference to certain nouns), from Latin abstractus "drawn away," past participle of abstrahere "to drag away, detach, pull away, divert;" also figuratively, from assimilated form of ab "off, away from" (see ab-) + trahere "to draw," from PIE root *tragh- "to draw, drag, move" (see tract (n.1)).
The meaning in philosophy, "withdrawn or separated from material objects or practical matters" (opposed to concrete) is from mid-15c. That of "difficult to understand, abstruse" is from c. 1400. In the fine arts, "characterized by lack of representational qualities" by 1914; it had been a term in music since at least 1877. Abstract expressionism as an American-based uninhibited approach to art exemplified by Jackson Pollock is from 1952, but the term itself had been used in the 1920s of Kandinsky and others.
Oswald Herzog, in an article on "Der Abstrakte Expressionismus" (Sturm, heft 50, 1919) gives us a statement which with equal felicity may be applied to the artistic attitude of the Dadaists. "Abstract Expressionism is perfect Expressionism," he writes. "It is pure creation. It casts spiritual processes into a corporeal mould. It does not borrow objects from the real world; it creates its own objects .... The abstract reveals the will of the artist; it becomes expression. ..." [William A. Drake, "The Life and Deeds of Dada," 1922]
Then, that art we have called "abstract" for want of any possible descriptive term, with which we have been patient, and, even, appreciative, getting high stimulation by the new Guggenheim "non-objective" Art Museum, is reflected in our examples of "surrealism," "dadaism," and what-not, to assert our acquaintance in every art, fine or other. [Report of the Art Reference Department of Pratt Institute Free Library for year ending June 30, 1937]
- abstract (n.)
- "abridgment or summary of a document," mid-15c., from abstract (adj.).
- abstract (v.)
- 1540s, "to draw away, withdraw, remove" (transitive), from Latin abstractus or else from abstract (adj.). From 1610s in the philosophical sense "consider as a general object or idea without regard to matter." Related: Abstracted; abstracting.
- abstracted (adj.)
- "absent in mind, distracted from present reality by intellectual activity," 1640s, past participle adjective from abstract (v.). Related: Abstractedly.
An absent man is one whose mind wanders unconsciously from his immediate surroundings, or from the topic which demands his attention; he may be thinking of little or nothing. An abstracted man is kept from what is present by thoughts and feelings so weighty or interesting that they engross his attention. [Century Dictionary]
- abstraction (n.)
- c. 1400, "a withdrawal from worldly affairs, asceticism," from Old French abstraction (14c.), from Late Latin abstractionem (nominative abstractio), noun of action from past participle stem of Latin abstrahere "to drag away, detach, pull away, divert;" also figuratively, from assimilated form of ab "off, away from" (see ab-) + trahere "to draw," from PIE root *tragh- "to draw, drag, move" (see tract (n.1)). Meaning "idea of something that has no actual existence" is from 1640s.
- abstractly (adv.)
- late 14c., "by itself, absolutely, unconnected with anything else," from abstract (adj.) + -ly (2).
- abstruse (adj.)
- 1590s, "remote from comprehension," from Middle French abstrus (16c.) or directly from Latin abstrusus "hidden, concealed, secret," past participle of abstrudere "conceal, hide," literally "to thrust away," from assimilated form of ab "off, away from" (see ab-) + trudere "to thrust, push," from PIE root *treud- "to press, push, squeeze" (see threat). Related: Abstrusely; abstruseness.
- absurd (adj.)
- "plainly illogical," 1550s, from Middle French absurde (16c.), from Latin absurdus "out of tune, discordant;" figuratively "incongruous, foolish, silly, senseless," from ab- "off, away from," here perhaps an intensive prefix, + surdus "dull, deaf, mute," which is possibly from an imitative PIE root meaning "to buzz, whisper" (see susurration). Thus the basic sense is perhaps "out of tune," but de Vaan writes, "Since 'deaf' often has two semantic sides, viz. 'who cannot hear' and 'who is not heard,' ab-surdus can be explained as 'which is unheard of' ..." The modern English sense is the Latin figurative one, perhaps "out of harmony with reason or propriety." Related: Absurdly; absurdness.
- absurdity (n.)
- late 15c., "that which is absurd," from Middle French absurdité, from Late Latin absurditatem (nominative absurditas) "dissonance, incongruity," noun of state from Latin absurdus "out of tune;" figuratively "incongruous, silly, senseless" (see absurd).
- abuilding (adj.)
- "in the process of being built," 1530s, from a- (1) + building (n.) in the "process of construction" sense.
- abundance (n.)
- "copious quantity or supply," mid-14c., from Old French abondance and directly from Latin abundantia "fullness, plenty," abstract noun from abundant-, past participle stem of abundans "overflowing, full," present participle of abundare "to overflow" (see abound).
- abundant (adj.)
- "present in great quantity, plentiful," late 14c., from Old French abundant and directly from Latin abundantem (nominative abundans) "overflowing, full; rich, abounding," present participle of abundare "to overflow, flow in profusion, have in excess" (see abound). Related: Abundantly.
- abuse (v.)
- early 15c., "to misuse, misapply" (power, money, etc.), from Old French abuser "deceive, abuse, misuse" (14c.), from Vulgar Latin *abusare, from Latin abusus "an abusing; a using up," past participle of abuti "use up, consume," also "misuse, abuse, misapply, outrage," from ab "off, away from" (see ab-) + uti "use" (see use).
Also in reference to forbidden sexual situations from early 15c., but originally meaning incest, masturbation (self-abuse), homosexuality, prostitution, etc. From 1550s specifically as "to misuse sexually, ravish," but OED 2nd ed. marks this obsolete and the modern use "subject (someone) to unwanted sexual activity" is likely a fresh coinage from late 20c. Specifically of drugs, from 1968. Meaning "attack with harsh language, revile" is from c. 1600. Related: Abused; abusing.
- abuse (n.)
- mid-15c., "improper practice," from Old French abus (14c.), from Latin abusus "a using up" (see abuse (v.)). From 1570s as "violation, defilement" (surviving in self-abuse "masturbation," if at all). In reference to drugs by 1961. Modern use in reference to unwanted sexual activity is from late 20c. Earlier in Middle English was abusion "wicked act or practice, shameful thing, violation of decency" (early 14c.), "an insult" (mid-14c.), from Old French abusion, from Latin abusio.
- abuser (n.)
- mid-15c., "one who uses (something) improperly," agent noun from abuse (v.). From c. 1600 as "a ravisher;" 1836 as "one who abuses in speech or words."
- abusive (adj.)
- 1530s (implied in abusively) "improper," from Middle French abusif, from Latin abusivus "misapplied, improper," from abus-, past participle stem of abuti "misuse," literally "use up" (see abuse (v.)). Meaning "full of abuse" is from 1580s. Abuseful was used 17c., and Shakespeare has abusious ("Taming of the Shrew," 1594). Related: Abusiveness. Abuseful "abounding in reproaches" was in use 17c.-19c.
- abut (v.)
- mid-13c., "to end at, to border on, touch at the end," from Old French aboter, abuter "join end to end, touch with an end" (13c.), and abouter "join end to end," from à "to" (see ad-) + but "end," bout "end" (see butt (n.3)). Related: Abutted; abutting.
- abutment (n.)
- 1640s, from abut (v.) + -ment. Originally any junction; the architectural usage, "solid structure where one arch of a bridge, etc., meets another" is attested from 1793 (the notion is of the meeting-place of the arches of a bridge, etc.).
- abuzz (adv.)
- "filled with buzzing sound," 1859, from a- (1) + buzz (n.). First recorded in Dickens.
- abysm (n.)
- "bottomless gulf, greatest depths," c. 1300, from Old French abisme "chasm, abyss, depths of ocean, Hell" (12c., Modern French abîme), from Vulgar Latin *abyssimus (source also of Spanish and Portuguese abismo), which represents perhaps a superlative of Latin abyssus or a formation on analogy of Greek-derived words in -ismus; see abyss. It survived only as a poetic variant of abyss; as late as early 17c. it was pronounced to rhyme with time.
- abysmal (adj.)
- 1650s, "pertaining to an abyss," formed in English from abysm + -al (1). Perhaps only a dictionary word before 19c. Weakened sense of "extremely bad" is first recorded 1904, perhaps from abysmal ignorance (suggestive of its "depth"), an expression attested from 1847. Related: Abysmally.
- abyss (n.)
- late 14c. in Latin form abyssus, "depths of the earth or sea; primordial chaos;" early 14c. as abime "depths of the earth or sea; bottomless pit, Hell" (from Old French; see abysm). Both are from Late Latin abyssus "bottomless pit," from Greek abyssos (limne) "bottomless (pool)," from abyssos "bottomless, unfathomed," hence, generally, "enormous, unfathomable," also as a noun, he abyssos "the great depth, the underworld, the bottomless pit." This is a compound of a- "without" (see a- (3)) + byssos "bottom," a word of uncertain origin possibly related to bathos "depth" [Liddell & Scott]. Watkins suggests a connection with the root of bottom (n.); Beekes suggests it is pre-Greek.
The current form in English is a 16c. partial re-Latinization. Greek abyssos was used in Septuagint to translate Hebrew tehom "original chaos" and was used in the New Testament for "Hell." OED notes, "the word has had five variants, abime, abysm, abysmus, abyssus, abyss; of which abyss remains as the ordinary form, and abysm as archaic or poetic." In reference to a seemingly bottomless gulf from 1630s.
- abyssal (adj.)
- 1690s, "unfathomable, unsearchably deep, like an abyss," from abyss + -al (1). Since 19c. mainly "inhabiting or belonging to the depths of the ocean" (used especially of the zone of ocean water below 300 fathoms), though in 19c. abysmal was more common in oceanography.
- Abyssinia (n.)
- old name for Ethiopia, 1630s, from Modern Latin Abyssinia, from Arabic Habasah, the name for the region, said to be from Amharic hbsh "mixed" or Arabic habash "mixture," in reference to the different races dwelling there. In 1920s-30s popular as a slang pun for the parting salutation "I'll be seeing you." Related: Abyssinian (1620s; as a breed of domestic cat, 1876). In early use also Abyssine.
- abbreviation of air conditioning, by 1966.
- AC/DC (adj.)
- electronics abbreviation of alternating current/direct current, by 1898. As slang for "bisexual," 1959, said to have been in use orally from c. 1940; the notion is of working both ways.
- acacia (n.)
- 1540s, type of shrub or tree fund in warm climates of Africa and Australia, from Latin acacia, from Greek akakia "thorny Egyptian tree," a word of uncertain origin. Perhaps it is related to Greek ake "point, thorn" (from PIE root *ak- "be sharp;" see acro-), or perhaps it is a Hellenization of some Egyptian word. Beekes suggests it is probably a word from a pre-Greek Mediterranean language and finds "no reason for an Oriental origin." Greek kaktos also has been compared. From late 14c. in English as the name of a type of gum used as an astringent, etc. Extended 17c. to North American trees.
- Academe (n.)
- "The Academy," as a place where arts and sciences were taught, 1580s, from phrase groves of Academe (translating Horace's silvas Academi), the name of the public gymnasium and gardens near Athens where Plato taught, from Greek he Akademeia (see academy).
Latin academia also was used in reference to Plato's doctrines. Academe in a modern, general sense of "the world of universities and scholarship" is attested in English from 1849. (academia in the sense of "academic community" is from 1956.)
Academe properly means Academus (a Greek hero); & its use as a poetic variant for academy, though sanctioned by Shakespeare, Tennyson & Lowell, is a mistake; the grove of A., however, (Milton) means rightly The Academy. [Fowler]
- academia (n.)
- "the academic community, the world of colleges and universities," 1956, Modern Latin, from Academe (q.v.). Related modern coinages include academize (1966); academese (1937).
- academic (adj.)
- 1580s, "relating to an academy," also "collegiate, scholarly," from Latin academicus "of the (classical Athenian) Academy," from Academia, name of the place where Plato taught (see academy).
From 1610s in English in the sense "belonging to the classical Academy in Athens." Meaning "theoretical, not practical, not leading to a decision" (such as university debates or classroom legal exercises) is from 1886. In the arts, "rigidly conforming to academic style," 1889. Academic freedom "liberty of a teacher to state opinions openly without fear of retribution," is attested from 1901. Related: Academical; academically; academicalism (1874); Johnson has academial.
As a noun, "student in college or university life," 1580s (Latin academicus, Greek akademikoi meant "Academic philosopher"). Also academian (1590s), while academician (1746) mostly was confined to members of the old societies for the promotion of sciences and arts.
- academy (n.)
- late 15c., "the classical Academy," properly the name of the public garden where Plato taught his school, from French Académie, from Latin Academia, from Greek Akademeia "The Academy; the grove of Akademos," a legendary Athenian of the Trojan War tales (his name, Latinized as Academus) apparently means "of a silent district"), original estate-holder of the site.
The A[cademy], the Garden, the Lyceum, the Porch, the Tub, are names used for the five chief schools of Greek philosophy, their founders, adherents, & doctrines: the A., Plato, the Platonists & Platonism; the Garden, Epicurus, the Epicureans, & Epicureanism; the Lyceum, Aristotle, the Aristotelians, & Aristotelianism; the Porch, Zeno, the Stoics, & Stoicism; the Tub, Antisthenes, the Cynics, & Cynicism. [Fowler]
Compare lyceum. By 1540s the word in English was being used for any school or training place for arts and sciences or higher learning. "In the 18th century it was frequently adopted by schools run by dissenters, and the name is often found attached to the public schools in Scotland and Northern Ireland" [Encyclopaedia Britannica," 1941]; hence, in the U.S., a school ranking between an elementary school and a university. "In England the word has been abused, and is now in discredit in this sense" [OED]. By 1560s it was used for "a place of training" in any sense (riding schools, army colleges).
The word also was used of associations of adepts for the cultivation and promotion of some science or art, whether founded by governments, royalty, or private individuals. Hence Academy award (1939), so called for their distributor, the U.S.-based Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences (founded 1927).
- Acadian (n.)
- "native or inhabitant of the French colony of Acadia" in what is now the Canadian Maritimes, 1705, from Acadia, Latinized form of Acadie, French name of Nova Scotia, probably from Archadia, the name given to the region by Verrazano in 1520s, from Greek Arkadia, then emblematic in pastoral poetry of a place of rural peace (see Arcadian); the name may have been suggested to Europeans by the native Micmac (Algonquian) word akadie "fertile land." The Acadians, expelled by the English in 1755, settled in large numbers in Louisiana, and were known there as Acadians by 1803 (see Cajun, which is a corruption of Acadian).
- acajou (n.
- acajou (n.)
- "cashew," the full form of the word, from French acajou, from older Portuguese acajú from Tupi (Brazil) acajuba, name of the tree that produces the nut.
- acanthocephalous (adj.)
- in zoology, "having a spiny head," 1847, from acantho- (see acanthus) + Latinized adjectival form of Greek kephale "head" (see cephalo-).
- acanthus (n.)
- type of tall herb or shrub native to the Mediterranean regions, 1660s, from Latin acanthus, name of the plant, from Greek akanthos, from ake "point, thorn" (see acro-) + anthos "flower" (see anther). So called for its large spiny leaves. A conventionalized form of the leaf is used in Corinthian capitals. Related: Acanthaceous.
- in full, Acapulco de Juarez, resort town in western Mexico, from Nahuatl (Aztecan) acapulco "place of the large canes," from aca(tl) "cane (plant)" + -pul "large" + -co "place." Acapulco gold as the name of a local grade of potent marijuana is attested from 1965.
- acatholic (adj.)
- "non-Catholic," 1809, from a- (3) + Catholic.
- accede (v.)
- "come to or arrive at" (a state, position, office, etc.), early 15c., from Latin accedere "approach, go to, come near, enter upon," from assimilated form of ad "to" (see ad-) + cedere "go, move, withdraw," from PIE root *ked- "go, yield" (see cede). Latin ad- usually became ac- before "k" sounds. Related: Acceded; acceding.
- accelerando (adv.)
- musical instruction indicating a passage to be played with increasing speed, 1842, from Italian accelerare, from Latin accelerare "to hasten, quicken" (see accelerate).
- accelerant (n.)
- "that which hastens," especially combustion, 1854, from Latin accelerantem (nominative accelerans), present participle of accelerare "to hasten, quicken" (see accelerate). As an adjective from 1890.
- accelerate (v.)
- 1520s, "hasten the occurrence of;" 1590s, "make quicker" (implied in accelerating), from Latin acceleratus, past participle of accelerare "to hasten, quicken" (trans.), "make haste" (intrans.), from ad "to" (see ad-) + celerare "hasten," from celer "swift," which is perhaps from PIE root *kel- (3) "to drive, set in swift motion" (see celerity). Intransitive sense of "go faster, become faster" in English is from 1640s. Related: Accelerated; accelerative.
- acceleration (n.)
- "act or condition of going faster," 1530s, from Latin accelerationem (nominative acceleratio) "a hastening," noun of action from past participle stem of accelerare "to hasten, quicken" (see accelerate).
- accelerator (n.)
- 1610s, "a hastener," from Latin accelerator, agent noun from accelerare "to hasten; make haste" (see accelerate). Motor vehicle sense of "pedal which operates the throttle and thus modulates engine speed" is from 1900; particle physics sense is from 1931.
- accent (n.)
- late 14c., "particular mode of pronunciation," from Old French acent "accent" (13c.), from Latin accentus "song added to speech," from ad "to" (see ad-) + cantus "a singing," past participle of canere "to sing" (see chant (v.)).
The Latin word was a loan-translation of Greek prosoidia, from pros- "to" + oide "song," which apparently described the pitch scheme in Greek verse. Meaning "effort in utterance making one syllable stronger than another in pitch or stress" is from 1580s; as "mark or character used in writing to indicate accent," 1590s. The decorative-arts sense of "something that emphasizes or highlights" is from 1972.
- accent (v.)
- "to pronounce with accent or stress," 1520s, from Middle French accenter, from Old French acenter "accentuate, stress," from acent (see accent (n.)). Meaning "mark with an accent sign" is from 1660s (implied in accented); figurative sense "mark emphatically" is from 1650s. Related: Accenting.
- accentual (adj.)
- "pertaining to accent," c. 1600, from Latin accentus (see accent (n.)) + -al (1). Related: Accentually; accentuality.
- accentuate (v.)
- 1731, "pronounce with an accent," from Medieval Latin accentuatus, past participle of accentuare "to accent," from Latin accentus (see accent (n.)). Figurative meaning "emphasize, place an accent or emphasis on" is recorded from 1865.
You've got to accentuate the positive
Related: Accentuated; accentuating.
Eliminate the negative
Latch on to the affirmative
Don't mess with Mister In-Between
["Ac-Cent-Tchu-Ate the Positive," 1944, music by Harold Arlen, lyrics by Johnny Mercer]