Asgard (n.) Look up Asgard at
in Norse religion, the home of the gods and goddesses and of heroes slain in battle, from Old Norse ass "god," which is related to Old English os, Gothic ans "god" (see Aesir) + Old Norse garðr "enclosure, yard, garden" (from PIE root *gher- (1) "to grasp, enclose").
ash (n.1) Look up ash at
"powdery remains of fire," Old English æsce "ash," from Proto-Germanic *askon (source also of Old Norse and Swedish aska, Old High German asca, German asche, Gothic azgo "ashes"), from PIE root *ai- (2) "to burn, glow" (source also of Sanskrit asah "ashes, dust," Armenian azazem "I dry up," Greek azein "to dry up, parch," Latin ardus "parched, dry"). Spanish and Portuguese ascua "red-hot coal" are Germanic loan-words.

Symbol of grief or repentance; hence Ash Wednesday (c. 1300), from custom introduced by Pope Gregory the Great of sprinkling ashes on the heads of penitents on the first day of Lent. Ashes meaning "mortal remains of a person" is late 13c., in reference to the ancient custom of cremation. Meaning "Finely pulverized lava thrown from a volcano" is from 1660s.
ash (n.2) Look up ash at
popular name of a common type of forest tree of Eurasia, North America, and North Africa, Old English æsc "ash tree," from Proto-Germanic *askaz, *askiz (source also of Old Norse askr, Old Saxon ask, Middle Dutch esce, German Esche), from PIE root *os- "ash tree" (source also of Armenian haci "ash tree," Albanian ah "beech," Greek oxya "beech," Latin ornus "wild mountain ash," Russian jasen, Lithuanian uosis "ash").

The close-grained wood of the ash is tough and elastic, and it was the preferred wood for spear-shafts, so Old English æsc sometimes meant "spear," as in æsc-here "company armed with spears," æsc-plega "war," literally "spear-play." Æsc also was the name of the Old English runic letter that begins the word.
ash-bin (n.) Look up ash-bin at
1847, from ash (n.1) + bin (n.).
ash-heap (n.) Look up ash-heap at
1640s, from ash (n.1) + heap (n.).
ash-pit (n.) Look up ash-pit at
1797, from ash (n.1) + pit (n.1). Older is ash-hole (1640s).
ash-tray (n.) Look up ash-tray at
also ashtray, "receptacle for smokers' ashes," 1851, from ash (n.1) + tray.
ashamed (adj.) Look up ashamed at
Old English asceamed "feeling shame, filled with shame," past participle of ascamian "to feel shame," from a- intensive prefix + scamian "be ashamed, blush; cause shame" (see shame (v.), and compare German erschämen). The verb is obsolete, but the past participle lives on. Meaning "reluctant through fear of shame" is c. 1300. Related: Ashamedly; ashamedness.
Ashanti (n.) Look up Ashanti at
also Ashantee, 1705, Asiantines, one of the Akan people of central Ghana; a native name. The language, part of the Niger-Congo family, is so called by 1874.
ashen (adj.2) Look up ashen at
"made of ash wood," c. 1300; see ash (n.2) + -en (2). Meaning "pertaining to the ash tree" is from 1560s.
ashen (adj.1) Look up ashen at
"ash-colored, whitish-gray, deadly pale," 1807, from ash (n.1) + -en (2).
Asher Look up Asher at
masc. proper name, biblical son of Jacob (also the name of a tribe descended from him), from Hebrew, literally "happy."
Asherah (n.) Look up Asherah at
wooden pillar used as symbol of Canaanite goddess Ashera, 1839, a name of unknown origin.
Ashkenazim (n.) Look up Ashkenazim at
(plural) "central and northern European Jews" (as opposed to Sephardim, the Jews of Spain and Portugal), 1839, from Hebrew Ashkenazzim, plural of Ashkenaz, eldest son of Gomer (Genesis x.3), also the name of a nation mentioned in Jeremiah li.27. Perhaps the people-name is akin to Greek skythoi "Scythians" (compare Akkadian ishkuzai), altered by folk etymology. They were identified historically with various peoples; in the Middle Ages especially with the Germans, hence the word came to be used for "Jews of Germany and Poland," who far outnumbered the Sephardim and differed from them in pronunciation of Hebrew and in customs but not in doctrine. Related: Ashkenazic.
ashlar (n.) Look up ashlar at
"square stone for building or paving," mid-14c., from Old French aisseler, Medieval Latin arsella "a little board or shingle," diminutive of Latin assis "a board, plank," also spelled axis, which is perhaps not the same axis that means "axle." De Vaan regards the spelling axis as a hyper-correction. The stone sense is peculiar to English. Meaning "thin slab of stone used as facing on a wall" is from 1823.
Ashley Look up Ashley at
fem. proper name, all but unknown before c. 1965; one of the most popular names for girls born in U.S. from c. 1980; evidently inspired by the surname Ashley, Ashleigh (attested from 12c.), which means "clearing among the ash trees," from Old English æsc (see ash (n.2)) + leah (see lea).
ashore (adv.) Look up ashore at
1580s, "toward the shore," from a- (1) + shore (n.). Meaning "on the shore" is from 1630s. Middle English had ashore (late 15c.), but it meant "on a slant," literally "propped up," from shore (v.).
ashram (n.) Look up ashram at
"religious hermitage," 1900, from Sanskrit asramah, from a-, adnomial prefix (from PIE adverbial particle ē), + sramah "effort, toll, fatigue."
Ashura (n.) Look up Ashura at
Islamic voluntary fast on the 10th day of Muharram, Arabic Ashura', literally "tenth," from 'ashara "ten."
ashy (adj.) Look up ashy at
late 14c., asshi, "strewn with ashes" (as a sign of mourning), from ash (n.1) + -y (2). From early 15c. as "grayish, of the color of ash."
Asia Look up Asia at
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." Used by the early Greeks of what later was known as Asia Minor; by Pliny of the whole continent.
Asiago Look up Asiago at
type of Italian cheese, by 1922, named for town of Asiago (German Schlägen) in the Veneto region of Italy.
Asian (n.) Look up Asian at
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 "Asiatic," from Asia (see Asia). Ousted Asiatic as the preferred term mid-20c.
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, "of or pertaining to Asia," from 1560s; common from c. 1930. Related: Asianic (1879).
Asiatic (adj.) Look up Asiatic at
"belonging to or characteristic of Asia," 1630s, from Latin Asiaticus (surname of general Lucius Cornelius Scipio), from Greek Asiatikos, from Asia (see Asia; also compare Asian). As a noun, "native or inhabitant of Asia," by 1763. In ancient Rome, Asiatici oratores was florid and overly ornate prose.
aside (adv.) Look up aside at
c. 1300, "off to one side;" mid-14c., "to or from the side;" late 14c., "away or apart from a normal direction or position, out of the way," from a- (1) "on" + 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.). Used colloquially as a preposition from 1590s.
asine (n.) Look up asine at
"she-ass," 1530s, from Middle French asine (Old French asin), from Latin asina (see ass (n.1)).
asinine (adj.) Look up asinine at
c. 1600, "obstinate, stupid, offensively silly," 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. Related: Asininity.
ask (v.) Look up ask at
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.
askance (adv.) Look up askance at
1520s, "sideways, asquint, out of the corner of the eye," 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.
asker (n.) Look up asker at
"questioner," late 14c., agent noun from ask (v.).
askew (adv.) Look up askew at
"in an oblique position," 1570s, of uncertain etymology; perhaps literally "on skew" (see a- (1) "on" + skew), or from the Old Norse form, a ska. Earlier askoye is attested in the same sense (early 15c.). Compare askance.
asking (adj.) Look up asking at
c. 1200 (replacing Old English ascunge), present-participle adjective from ask (v.). Asking price is attested from 1755. To be asking for it (it = "trouble, injury," etc.) is from 1909.
aslant (adv.) Look up aslant at
"in a sloping direction, not permendicular or at right angles," early 14c., o-slant, literally "on slant," from a- (1) "on" + slant (v.). As a preposition from c. 1600.
asleep (adj.) Look up asleep at
c. 1200, aslepe, o slæpe, "in or into a state of slumber," from Old English on slæpe (see a- (1) + sleep (n.)). The parallel form on sleep continued until c. 1550. In religious literature sometimes euphemistic or figurative for "dead" (late 13c.). Meaning "inattentive, off guard" is from mid-14c. Of limbs, "numb and having a prickly feeling through stoppage of circulation," from late 14c.
Asmodeus Look up Asmodeus at
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" (from PIE *eismo-, suffixed form of root *eis- (1), found in words denoting passion; see ire) + daeva- "spirit, demon" (from PIE *deiwos "god," from root *dyeu- "to shine," in derivatives "sky, heaven, god."
asocial (adj.) Look up asocial at
1883, "antagonistic to society or social order," from a- (3) "not" + social (adj.); also compare antisocial.
asp (n.) Look up asp at
"very poisonous snake of Egypt," 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 "a round shield;" the serpent so called probably in reference to its neck hood. As to the etymology of the Greek word, Beekes finds that "No remotely convincing suggestions have been made." The name was subsequently applied to the common vipers and adders of Europe, which however are only slightly poisonous.
asparagus (n.) Look up asparagus at
plant cultivated for its edible shoots, late 14c., aspergy; late Old English sparage, from Latin asparagus (in Medieval Latin often sparagus), from Greek asparagos/aspharagos, which is of uncertain origin; perhaps with euphonic a- + PIE root *sp(h)er(e)g- "to spring up," but Beekes suggests "it is rather a substrate word," based in part on the p/ph variation.

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. The classical Latin form of the word is attested in English from mid-16c., but was limited at first to herbalists and botanists; the common form from 17c.-19c. was the folk-etymologized variant sparrowgrass, during which time asparagus had "an air of stiffness and pedantry" [John Walker, "Critical Pronouncing Dictionary," 1791]. Known in Old English as eorðnafela. Related: Asparaginous.
aspartame (n.) Look up aspartame at
commercial name of an artificial sweetener, 1973, from aspartic acid (1836), formed irregularly from asparagine (1813, earlier in French), a crystalline compound found in asparagus, beet-root, etc., which was named from asparagus + chemical suffix -ine (2). The -ame is perhaps because aspartamine is an amide.
Aspasia Look up Aspasia at
beautiful and capable Milesian consort of Pericles; her name is from fem. of Greek aspasios "welcome," related to aspazesthai "to welcome," which is of uncertain origin.
aspect (n.) Look up aspect at
late 14c., an astrological term, "relative position of the planets as they appear from earth" (i.e., how they "look at" one another); also "one of the ways of viewing something," from Latin aspectus "a seeing, looking at, sight, view; countenance; appearance," from past participle of aspicere "to look at, look upon, behold; observe, examine," figuratively "consider, ponder," from ad "to" (see ad-) + specere "to look" (from PIE root *spek- "to observe"). Meanings "the look one wears; the appearance of things" are attested by early 15c. Sense of "a facing in a given direction" is from 1660s.
aspen (n.) Look up aspen at
European tree of the poplar family, late 14c., from adjectival 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 *apsā- "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.) Look up asperate at
"make rough," 1650s, from Latin asperatus, past participle of asperare "to roughen, make rough," figuratively "exasperate," from asper "rough" (see asperity). Related: Asperated; asperating.
asperation (n.) Look up asperation at
early 15c., asperacioun "harshness," from Latin asperationem; meaning "a making rough" is 1721, noun of action from asperate (v.).
Asperger's Syndrome (n.) Look up Asperger's Syndrome at
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.) Look up asperges at
sprinkling ritual of the Catholic church, also an antiphon intoned or sung during this, 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 the 51st Psalm (Vulgate), sung during the rite of sprinkling a congregation with holy water.
asperity (n.) Look up asperity at
c. 1200, asprete "hardship," from Old French asperité "difficulty, painful situation, harsh treatment" (12c., Modern French âpreté), a figurative use, from Latin asperitatem (nominative asperitas) "roughness," from asper "rough, harsh," which is of unknown origin. The Latin adjective was used also of sour wine, bad weather, and hard times. Figurative meaning "harshness of feeling" in English is attested from 1660s; literal sense of "roughness of surface" is from early 15c.
asperse (v.) Look up asperse at
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.) Look up aspersion at
mid-15c., originally in theology, "the shedding of Christ's blood," 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). Non-theological sense of "a bespattering with slander, derogatory criticism" is attested from 1590s. To cast aspersions was in Fielding (1749).
asphalt (n.) Look up asphalt at
early 14c., "hard, resinous mineral pitch found originally in Biblical lands," from Late Latin asphaltum, from Greek asphaltos "asphalt, bitumen," often said to be from Greek a- "not" + *sphaltos "able to be thrown down," taken as verbal adjective of sphallein "to throw down," according to Beekes "under the assumption that it denoted the material that protects walls from tumbling down," but he finds this proposed etymology "weak." Perhaps from Semitic [Klein, citing Lewy, 1895] or another non-Greek source.

Meaning "paving composition of tar and gravel" 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.