- ashram (n.)
- "religious hermitage," 1917, from Sanskrit asramah, from a-, adnomial prefix, + sramah "effort, toll, fatigue."
- ashtray (n.)
- 1857 as a receptacle for smokers' ashes, from ash (n.1) + tray.
- Ashura (n.)
- Islamic fast on the 10th day of Muharram, Arabic Ashura', literally "tenth."
- ashy (adj.)
- late 14c., from ash (n.1) + -y (2).
- c. 1300, from Latin Asia, from Greek Asia, speculated to be from Akkadian asu "to go out, to rise," in reference to the sun, thus "the land of the sunrise."
- type of Italian cheese, by 1922, named for town of Asiago (German Schlägen) in the Veneto region of Italy.
- Asian (n.)
- late 14c., "inhabitant of Asia (Minor)," from Latin Asianus (adjective and noun, "belonging to the province of Asia;" "an inhabitant of Asia"), from Greek Asianos, from Asia (see Asia). Ousted Asiatic as the preferred term in Britain c. 1950.
The term "Asiatic" has come to be regarded with disfavour by those to whom it is applied, and they feel entitled to be brought into line with usage in regard to Europeans, Americans and Australians. ["Times Literary Supplement," Feb. 6, 1953]
As an adjective in English, by 1690s.
- Asiatic (adj.)
- 1630s, from Latin Asiaticus (surname of Latin Corn. Scipio), from Greek Asiatikos, from Asia (see Asia; also compare Asian). As a noun, by 1763. In ancient Rome, Asiatici oratores was florid and overly ornate prose.
- aside (adv.)
- c. 1300, "off to one side;" mid-14c., "to or from the side;" late 14c., "away or apart from others, out of the way," from a- (1) + side (n.). Noun sense of "words spoken so as to be (supposed) inaudible" is from 1727. Middle English had asidely "on the side, indirectly" (early 15c.) and asideward "sideways, horizontal" (late 14c.).
- asine (n.)
- 1530s, "she-ass," from French asine, from Latin asina (see ass (n.1)).
- asinine (adj.)
- c. 1600, "obstinate, stupid," from Latin asininus "stupid," literally "like an ass," from asinus "ass," also "dolt, blockhead" (see ass (n.1)). The literal sense in English is recorded from 1620s.
- ask (v.)
- Old English ascian "ask, call for an answer; make a request," from earlier ahsian, from Proto-Germanic *aiskon (source also of Old Saxon escon, Old Frisian askia "request, demand, ask," Middle Dutch eiscen, Dutch eisen "to ask, demand," Old High German eiscon "to ask (a question)," German heischen "to ask, demand"), from PIE *ais- "to wish, desire" (source also of Sanskrit icchati "seeks, desires," Armenian aic "investigation," Old Church Slavonic iskati "to seek," Lithuanian ieškau "to seek").
Form in English influenced by a Scandinavian cognate (such as Danish æske; the Old English would have evolved by normal sound changes into ash, esh, which was a Midlands and southwestern England dialect form). Modern dialectal ax is as old as Old English acsian and was an accepted literary variant until c. 1600. Related: Asked; asking. Old English also had fregnan/frignan which carried more directly the sense of "question, inquire," and is from PIE root *prek-, the common source of words for "ask" in most Indo-European languages (see pray). If you ask me "in my opinion" is attested from 1910. Asking price is attested from 1755.
- askance (adv.)
- 1520s, "sideways, asquint," of obscure origin. OED has separate listings for askance and obsolete Middle English askance(s) and no indication of a connection, but Barnhart and others derive the newer word from the older one. The Middle English word, recorded early 14c. as ase quances and found later in Chaucer, meant "in such a way that; even as; as if;" and as an adverb "insincerely, deceptively." It has been analyzed as a compound of as and Old French quanses (pronounced "kanses") "how if," from Latin quam "how" + si "if."
The E[nglish] as is, accordingly, redundant, and merely added by way of partial explanation. The M.E. askances means "as if" in other passages, but here means, "as if it were," i.e. "possibly," "perhaps"; as said above. Sometimes the final s is dropped .... [Walter W. Skeat, glossary to Chaucer's "Man of Law's Tale," 1894]
Also see discussion in Leo Spitzer, "Anglo-French Etymologies," Philological Quarterly 24.23 (1945), and see OED entry for askance (adv.) for discussion of the mysterious ask- word cluster in English. Other guesses about the origin of askance include Old French a escone, from past participle of a word for "hidden;" Italian a scancio "obliquely, slantingly;" or that it is a cognate of askew.
- askew (adv.)
- 1570s, of uncertain etymology; perhaps literally "on skew" (see skew), or from the Old Norse form, a ska. Earlier askoye is attested in the same sense (early 15c.).
- aslant (adv.)
- early 14c., o-slant, literally "on slant," from on + slant (v.). As a preposition from c. 1600.
- asleep (adj.)
- c. 1200, aslepe, o slæpe, from Old English on slæpe (see sleep). The parallel form on sleep continued until c. 1550. Of limbs, "numb through stoppage of circulation," from late 14c. Meaning "inattentive, off guard" is from mid-14c.
- evil spirit, prince of demons, from Latin Asmodaeus, from Greek Asmodaios, from Talmudic Hebrew Ashmeday, from Avestan Aeshma-dæva, "Aeshma the deceitful," from aeshma "anger," daeva- "spirit, demon."
- asocial (adj.)
- 1883, "antagonistic to society or social order," from a- "not" + social (adj.); also compare antisocial.
- asp (n.)
- poisonous snake, 1520s, earlier aspis (mid-14c.), from Old French aspe "asp" (13c.) or directly from Latin aspidem (nominative aspis), from Greek aspis "an asp, Egyptian viper," literally "shield;" the serpent so called probably in reference to its neck hood.
- asparagus (n.)
- late 14c., aspergy; late Old English sparage, from Latin asparagus (in Medieval Latin often sparagus), from Greek asparagos, which is of uncertain origin; probably from PIE root *sp(h)er(e)g- "to spring up" (though perhaps not originally a Greek word).
In Middle English, asperages sometimes was regarded as a plural, with false singular aspergy. By 16c. the word had been Englished as far as sperach, sperage. It was respelled by c. 1600 to conform with classical Latin, but in 17c. the folk-etymologized variant sparrowgrass took hold, persisting into 19c., during which time asparagus had "an air of stiffness and pedantry" [John Walker, "Critical Pronouncing Dictionary," 1791]. Known in Old English as eorðnafela.
- aspartame (n.)
- commercial name of an artificial sweetener, 1973, from aspartic acid (1836), formed irregularly from asparagine (1813), a compound found in asparagus, beet-root, etc., which was named from asparagus + chemical suffix -ine (2). The reason for -ame is unknown.
- beautiful and capable Milesian consort of Pericles, proper name from fem. of Greek aspasios "welcome," related to aspazesthai "to welcome," which is of uncertain origin.
- aspect (n.)
- late 14c., an astrological term, "relative position of the planets as they appear from earth" (i.e., how they "look at" one another); later also "way of viewing things," from Latin aspectus "a seeing, looking at, sight, view, countenance, appearance," from past participle of aspicere "to look at," from ad- "to" (see ad-) + specere "to look" (see scope (n.1)). Meaning "the look one wears, the appearance of things" attested by early 15c.
- aspen (n.)
- late 14c., from adjective or genitive form of Old English æspe "aspen tree, white poplar," from Proto-Germanic *aspo- (source also of Old Norse ösp, Middle Dutch espe, Old High German aspa, German Espe), from PIE *apsa "aspen" (source also of Lithuanian opuse). The current form in English probably arose from phrases such as aspen leaf, aspen bark (see -en (2)). Its leaves have been figurative of tremulousness and quaking since at least early 15c. (an Old English name for it was cwicbeam, literally "quick-tree").
- asperate (v.)
- 1650s, "make rough," from Latin asperatus, past participle of asperare "to roughen, make rough, exasperate," from asper "rough" (see asperity). Related: Asperated; asperating.
- asperation (n.)
- 1721, noun of action from asperate (v.). Asperacioun "harshness" is attested from early 15c.
- Asperger's Syndrome (n.)
- 1981, named for the sake of Austrian pediatrician Hans Asperger (1906-1980), who described it in 1944 (and called it autistic psychopathy; German autistischen psychopathen). A standard diagnosis since 1992; recognition of Asperger's work was delayed, perhaps, because his school and much of his early research were destroyed by Allied bombing in 1944.
The example of autism shows particularly well how even abnormal personalities can be capable of development and adjustment. Possibilities of social integration which one would never have dremt of may arise in the course of development. [Hans Asperger, "Autistic psychopathy in Childhood," 1944]
- Asperges (n.)
- sprinkling ritual of the Catholic church, 1550s, from Late Latin asperges, noun use of 2nd person singular future indicative of Latin aspergere "to scatter, strew upon, sprinkle," from ad "to" (see ad-) + spargere "to sprinkle" (see sparse). The word is taken from the phrase Asperges me, Domine, hyssopo et mundabor, from Psalm 51 (Vulgate), sung during the rite of sprinkling a congregation with holy water.
- asperity (n.)
- c. 1200, asprete "hardship, harshness of feelings," a figurative use, from Old French asperité "difficulty, painful situation, harsh treatment" (12c., Modern French âpreté), from Latin asperitatem (nominative asperitas) "roughness," from asper "rough, harsh," which is of unknown origin; in Latin used also of sour wine, bad weather, and hard times. Figurative meaning "harshness of feeling" in English is attested from early 15c.
- asperse (v.)
- late 15c., "to besprinkle," from Latin aspersus, past participle of aspergere "besprinkle, bespatter" (see aspersion). Meaning "to bespatter someone's character with rumor and false reports" is recorded from 1610s.
- aspersion (n.)
- mid-15c., from Latin aspersionem (nominative aspersio) "a sprinkling," noun of action from past participle stem of aspergere "to sprinkle on," from ad- "to" (see ad-) + spargere "sprinkle, strew" (see sparse). Originally in theology, the shedding of Christ's blood. Modern sense of "a bespattering with slander" first attested 1590s. To cast aspersions was in Fielding (1749).
- asphalt (n.)
- early 14c., "hard, resinous mineral pitch found originally in Biblical lands," from Late Latin asphaltum, from Greek asphaltos "asphalt, bitumen," probably from a non-Greek source, possibly Semitic [Klein, citing Lewy, 1895]. Another theory holds it to be from Greek a- "not" + *sphaltos "able to be thrown down," taken as verbal adjective of sphallein "to throw down," in reference to a use of the material in building.
Meaning "paving composition" dates from 1847 and its popular use in this sense established the modern form of the English word, displacing in most senses asphaltum, asphaltos. As a verb meaning "to cover with asphalt," from 1872. Related: Asphaltic.
- aspheterism (n.)
- doctrine that there ought to be no private property, 1794, from Greek a- "not," privative prefix (see a- (3)), + spheteros "one's own," from sphetrisomos "appropriation."
- asphodel (n.)
- late 14c., from Latin asphodelus, from Greek asphodelos "asphodel, king's spear, plant of the lily kind," which is of unknown origin (see daffodil). It was the peculiar plant of the dead; and in Greek mythology and English poetic use it overspreads the Elysian meadows.
To embathe In nectared lavers strewed with asphodel. [Milton, "Comus," 1634]
- asphyxia (n.)
- 1706, "stoppage of pulse, absence of pulse," from Modern Latin, from Greek asphyxia "stopping of the pulse," from a- "not" (see a- (3)) + sphyzein "to throb." Obsolete in its original sense; the transferred sense of "suffocation" is from 1778, but it is a "curious infelicity of etymology" [OED] because victims of suffocation have a pulse for some time after breathing has stopped.
- asphyxiate (v.)
- 1818, "to suffocate" (someone or something), from asphyxia + -ate (2). Related: Asphyxiated; asphyxiating.
- asphyxiation (n.)
- 1866, noun of action from asphyxiate (v.).
- aspic (n.)
- "savory meat jelly," 1789, from French aspic "jelly" (18c.), literally "asp," from Old French aspe (see asp) + ending from basilisc "basilisk" (the two creatures sometimes were confused with one another). The foodstuff said to be so called from its coldness (froid comme un aspic is said by Littré to be a proverbial phrase), or the colors in the gelatin, or the shape of the mold. It also was a French word for "lavendar spike" and might refer to this as a seasoning element.
- aspirant (n.)
- "one who aspires," 1738, from French aspirant, from Latin aspirantem (nominative aspirans), present participle of aspirare (see aspire).
- aspirate (n.)
- 1725, "sound of the letter 'H'," especially at the beginning of a word, from Latin aspiratio "a breathing, exhalation; the pronunciation of the letter H" (see aspire).
- aspirate (v.)
- "to pronounce with audible breath," 1700; perhaps a back-formation from aspiration (n.2), or from French aspirer or directly from Latin aspiratus, past participle of aspirare (see aspire). Related: Aspirated; aspirating.
- aspiration (n.1)
- 1530s, "action of breathing into," from Latin aspirationem (nominative aspiratio) "a breathing on, a blowing upon; rough breathing; influence," noun of action from past participle stem of aspirare (see aspire). Meaning "steadfast longing for a higher goal, earnest desire for something above one" is recorded from c. 1600 (sometimes collectively, as aspirations).
- aspiration (n.2)
- late 14c., "action of aspirating," noun of action from aspirate (v.).
- aspirational (adj.)
- by 1985, from aspiration (n.1) + -al (1).
- aspire (v.)
- "strive for," c. 1400, from Old French aspirer "aspire to; inspire; breathe, breathe on" (12c.), from Latin aspirare "to breathe upon, blow upon, to breathe," also, in transferred senses, "to be favorable to, assist; to climb up to, to endeavor to obtain, to reach to, to seek to reach; infuse," from ad- "to" (see ad-) + spirare "to breathe" (see spirit (n.)). The notion is of "panting with desire," or perhaps of rising smoke. Related: Aspired; aspiring.
- aspirin (n.)
- coined 1899 by German chemist Heinrich Dreser (1860-1924) in German as a trademark name, from Latin Spiraea (ulmaria) "meadow-sweet," the plant in whose flowers or leaves the processed acid in the medicine is naturally found, + common chemical ending -in (see -ine (2)). Spiraea (Tournefort, 1700) is from Latinized form of Greek speiraia "meadow-sweet," so called from the shape of its follicles (see spiral (adj.)). The initial -a- is to acknowledge acetylation; Dreser said the word was a contraction of acetylierte spirsäure, the German name of the acid, which now is obsolete, replaced by salicylic acid.
Die Bezeichnung Aspirin ist abgeleitet aus "Spirsäure" -- alter Name der Salicylsäure und A = Acetyl; statt" Acetylirte Spirsäure, kurzweg "Aspirin". [H, Dreser, "Pharmakologisches über Aspirin (Acetylsalicylsäure)," in "Archiv für die Gesammte Physiologie des Menschen und der Thiere," 1899, p.307]
The custom of giving commercial names to medicinal products began in Germany in the late 19th century, when nascent pharmaceutical firms were discovering medical uses for common, easily made chemicals. To discourage competitors they would market the substance under a short trademarked name a doctor could remember, rather than the long chemical compound word. German law required prescriptions to be filled exactly as written.
- asportation (n.)
- "a carrying away or off" (legal), c. 1500, from Latin asportationem (nominative asportatio), noun of action from past participle stem of asportare "to carry off," from abs- "away" (see ab-) + portare "to carry" (see port (n.1)).
- asquint (adv.)
- early 13c., "obliquely, with a sidelong glance," of uncertain etymology; from a- (1) + "a word corresponding to Du. schuinte 'slope, slant' of the independent use of which no instances survive ..." [OED]. "Middle English Dictionary" compares French équinter "cut to a point;" French dialectal (e)squintar "cast a glance, look furtively."
- ass (n.1)
- beast of burden, Old English assa (Old Northumbrian assal, assald) "he-ass," probably from Old Celtic *as(s)in "donkey," which (with German esel, Gothic asilus, Lithuanian asilas, Old Church Slavonic osl) ultimately is from Latin asinus, which is probably of Middle Eastern origin (compare Sumerian ansu).
For al schal deie and al schal passe, Als wel a Leoun as an asse. [John Gower, "Confessio Amantis," 1393]
Since ancient Greek times, in fables and parables, the animal typified clumsiness and stupidity (hence asshead, late 15c., etc.). To make an ass of oneself is from 1580s. Asses' Bridge (c. 1780), from Latin Pons Asinorum, is fifth proposition of first book of Euclid's "Elements." In Middle English, someone uncomprehending or unappreciative would be lik an asse that listeth on a harpe. In 15c., an ass man was a donkey driver.
- ass (n.2)
- slang for "backside," first attested 1860 in nautical slang, in popular use from 1930; chiefly U.S.; from dialectal variant pronunciation of arse (q.v.). The loss of -r- before -s- attested in several other words (such as burst/bust, curse/cuss, horse/hoss, barse/bass, garsh/gash). Indirect evidence of the change from arse to ass can be traced to 1785 (in euphemistic avoidance of ass "donkey" by polite speakers) and perhaps to Shakespeare, if Nick Bottom transformed into a donkey in "A Midsummer Night's Dream" (1594) is the word-play some think it is.
Meaning "woman regarded as a sexual object" is from 1942. To have (one's) head up (one's) ass "not know what one is doing" is attested by 1969. Colloquial (one's) ass "one's self, one's person" attested by 1958. To work (one's) ass off "work very much" is by 1951; to laugh (one's) ass off "laugh very much" is by 1972.