- asphodel (n.)
- late 14c., from Latin asphodelus, from Greek asphodelos, also sphodelos, spodelos, "asphodel, king's spear, plant of the lily kind," which is of unknown origin; "A substrate word, as is shown by the variants" [Beekes]. Compare 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 asphyxia "stopping of the pulse," from Greek asphyxia "stopping of the pulse," from a- "not" (see a- (3)) + sphyzein "to throb, to beat violently," which is of unknown origin.
Obsolete in its original sense; the transferred sense of "suffocation, extreme condition caused by lack of oxygen in the blood" 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. Formerly sometimes nativized as asphyxy. Related: Asphyctic; asphyxial.
- asphyxiate (v.)
- 1818, "to suffocate" (someone or something), "produce asphyxia," from asphyxia in its transferred sense + -ate (2). Related: Asphyxiated; asphyxiating.
- asphyxiation (n.)
- "act of causing asphyxia," 1849, noun of action from asphyxiate (v.).
- aspic (n.)
- type of savory meat jelly, 1789, from French aspic "jelly" (18c.), apparently from Old French aspe "asp" (see asp). 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 "lavender spike" and might refer to lavender as a seasoning element in the jelly.
- aspirant (n.)
- "one who aspires, one who seeks advancement," 1738, from French aspirant "a candidate," noun use of a present participle, from Latin aspirantem (nominative aspirans), present participle of aspirare "breathe at, blow upon," figuratively strive for, aspire to" (see aspire).
- aspirate (n.)
- 1725, "a sound of or resembling or involving the letter 'H'," especially at the beginning of a word, from Latin aspirationem (nominative aspiratio) "a breathing, exhalation; the pronunciation of the letter H," from aspirare (see aspire).
- aspirate (v.)
- "to pronounce with audible breath," 1660s (implied in aspirated); perhaps a back-formation from aspiration (n.2), or from French aspirer or directly from Latin aspiratus, past participle of aspirare "breathe at, blow upon" (see aspire). Related: 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 "strive for, seek to reach," literally "breathe at, blow upon" (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, a spirant letter or sound," noun of action from aspirate (v.).
- aspirational (adj.)
- "characterized by steadfast desire for a higher position," 1860, from aspiration (n.1) + -al (1). Earlier adjectives were aspirant "aspiring, ambitious" (1814); aspiring "animated by ardent desire" (1570s).
- aspirator (n.)
- "apparatus for drawing air or gas through a tube," 1863, agent noun from Latin aspirare (see aspire (v.)).
- aspire (v.)
- "strive for, seek eagerly to attain, long to reach," 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. Literal sense of "breathe, exhale" (1530s) is rare in English. 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) "a carrying away," noun of action from past participle stem of asportare "to carry off," from abs- "away" (see ab-) + portare "to carry" (see port (n.1)).
- asquat (adj.)
- 1748, from a- (1) "on" + squat (n.).
- asquint (adv.)
- early 13c., "obliquely, with a sidelong glance," of uncertain etymology; from a- (1) "on" + "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." Squint is not found in Middle English, and appears to be from this word.
- 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- is attested in other words (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.
I must to the barber's, mounsieur; for me thinks I am marvellous hairy about the face; and I am such a tender ass, if my hair do but tickle me, I must scratch. [Bottom]
Meaning "woman regarded as a sexual object" is from 1942 (piece of ass). 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 1946; to laugh (one's) ass off "laugh very much" is by 1972 (implied from 1965). Ass-kissing (adj.) "currying favor" is by 1974.
- ass (n.1)
- solid ungulate quadruped beast of burden of the horse kind, but smaller and with long ears and a short mane, native to southwest Asia, Old English assa (Old Northumbrian assal, assald) "he-ass." The English word is cognate with Old Saxon esil, Dutch ezel, Old High German esil, German Esel, Gothic asilus, and, beyond Germanic, Lithuanian asilas, Old Church Slavonic osl, Russian oselŭ, etc. All probably are ultimately from Latin asinus. De Vaan says the form of asinus suggests it was a loan-word into Latin, and adds, "Most IE words for 'ass' are loanwords."
Together with Greek onos it is conjectured to be from a language of Asia Minor (compare Sumerian ansu). The initial vowel of the English word might be by influence of Celtic forms (Irish and Gaelic asal), from Old Celtic *as(s)in "donkey." In Romanic tongues the Latin word has become Italian asino, Spanish asno, Old French asne, French âne.
In familiar use, the name ass is now to a great extent superseded by donkey (in Scotland cuddie); but ass is always used in the language of Scripture, Natural History, proverb, and fable; also, in ordinary use, in Ireland. [OED]
Sure-footed and patient in domestication, since ancient Greek times, in fables and parables, the animal has typified clumsiness and stupidity (hence ass-head, late 15c., etc.). To make an ass of oneself is from "A Midsummer Night's Dream" (1590). 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.
For al schal deie and al schal passe, Als wel a Leoun as an asse. [John Gower, "Confessio Amantis," 1393]
- ass-head (n.)
- also asshead, "stupid person, dullard," late 15c., asse hede, from ass (n.1) + head (n.). Related: Ass-headed.
- ass-hole (n.)
- also asshole, 20c., perhaps 1880s, American English variant of arsehole (also see ass (n.2)). Meaning "contemptible person" is from mid-1930s. Earlier the word was a Northern English and Scottish dialectal variant of ash-hole "receptacle for ashes beneath a grate." Wright's "English Dialect Dictionary" (1898) lists many examples, such as, "Tell'd her a hunderd times nivver to put t'poaker i' t'ass-hoil" [West Yorkshire].
- assail (v.)
- "attack violently," c. 1200, from Old French assalir "attack, assault, assail" (12c., Modern French assaillir), from Vulgar Latin *adsalire "to leap at," from Latin ad "to, toward" (see ad-) + salire "to leap" (see salient (adj.)). Figurative use, of mental states, emotiuons, etc., is from mid-14c.; meaning "attack with arguments, abuse, criticism, etc." is from c. 1400. Related: Assailed; assailing; assailable.
- assailant (n.)
- "one who assails," 1530s, from French assailant, noun use of present participle of assailir (see assail). Earlier in same sense was assailer (c. 1400).
- assassin (n.)
- 1530s (in Anglo-Latin from mid-13c.), via French and Italian, from Arabic hashishiyyin "hashish-users," plural of hashishiyy, from the source of hashish (q.v.).
A fanatical Ismaili Muslim sect of the mountains of Lebanon in the time of the Crusades, under leadership of the "Old Man of the Mountains" (translates Arabic shaik-al-jibal, name applied to Hasan ibu-al-Sabbah), they had a reputation for murdering opposing leaders after intoxicating themselves by eating hashish. The plural suffix -in was mistaken in Europe for part of the word (compare Bedouin). Middle English had the word as hassais (mid-14c.), from Old French hassasis, assasis, which is from the Arabic word.
- assassinate (v.)
- 1610s, from past participle stem of Medieval Latin assassinare (see assassin). "Assassinate means to kill wrongfully by surprise, suddenly, or by secret assault" [Century Dictionary]. Of reputations, characters, etc., from 1620s. Related: Assassinated; assassinating.
- assassination (n.)
- "act of assassinating," c. 1600, noun of action from assassinate (v.). Earlier was assassinment (1570s).
- assault (n.)
- late 14c., earlier asaut (c. 1200), "physical attack (on a person), sudden violent onslaught (on a place)," from Old French asaut, assaut "an attack, an assault, attacking forces" (12c.), from Vulgar Latin *adsaltus "attack, assault," from ad "to" (see ad-) + Latin saltus "a leap," from salire "to leap, spring" (see salient (adj.)). The -l- was restored, as in fault (n.), vault (n.1). In law by 1580s; historically, assault includes menacing words or actions coupled with present means to effect them; battery is an actual blow.
- assault (v.)
- "attack physically," early 15c., from Middle French asauter, assauter, from Vulgar Latin *assaltare (see assault (n.)). Related: Assaulted; assaulting.
- assay (n.)
- mid-14c., "trial, test of quality, test of character," from Anglo-French assai, ultimately from Late Latin exagium "a weighing" (see essay (n.)). Meaning "trial of purity of a metal" is from late 14c.
- assay (v.)
- c. 1300, "to try, endeavor, strive; test the quality of," from Anglo-French assaier, from assai (n.), from Old French assai, variant of essai "trial" (see essay (n.)). Related: Assayed; assaying.
- assemblage (n.)
- 1704, "a collection of individuals," from French assemblage "gathering, assemblage," from assembler (see assemble). Earlier English words in the same sense include assemblement, assemblance (both late 15c.). Meaning "act of coming together" is from 1730; that of "act of fitting parts together" is from 1727.
- assemble (v.)
- early 14c., transitive ("collect into one place") and intransitive ("meet or come together"), from Old French assembler "come together, join, unite; gather" (11c.), from Latin assimulare "to make like, liken, compare; copy, imitate; feign, pretend," later "to gather together," from assimilated form of ad "to" (see ad-) + simulare "to make like," from stem of similis "like, resembling, of the same kind" (see similar). In Middle English and in Old French it also was a euphemism for "to couple sexually." Meaning "to put parts together" in manufacturing is from 1852. Related: Assembled; assembling. Assemble together is redundant.
- assembly (n.)
- c. 1300, "a gathering of persons, a group gathered for some purpose," from Old French as(s)emblee "assembly, gathering; union, marriage," noun use of fem. past participle of assembler "to assemble" (see assemble). Meaning "a gathering together" is recorded from early 15c.; that of "act of assembling parts or objects" is from 1914, as is assembly line.
Perhaps the most interesting department in the whole factory, to the visitor, is the final assembly. In this division, all the assembled units meet the assembly conveyor at the point where they are needed. At the start of the track a front axle unit, a rear axle unit and a frame unit are assembled. This assembly is then started in motion by means of a chain conveyor, and as it moves down the room at a constant speed of eight feet per minute, each man adds one part to the growing chassis or does one operation, which is assigned to him, so that when the chassis reaches the end of the line, it is ready to run on its own power. ["The Story of an Automobile Factory," in "Universal Book of Knowledge and Wonders," 1917]
School sense, "gathering of all students for a presentation" is from 1932. From mid-14c. as "a gathering for deliberation," hence it is the name of the lower house in state (earlier colonial) legislatures in America (1680s). In 17c.-18c. assemblies "dancing balls 'among polite persons of both sexes,' often paid for by subscription of the participants" were a prominent feature of social life.
- assent (n.)
- early 14c., "consent, approval," from Old French assent, a back-formation from assentir "to agree" (see assent (v.)). "Assent is primarily an act of the understanding; consent is distinctly the act of the will: as, I assent to that proposition; I consent to his going" [Century Dictionary].
- assent (v.)
- c. 1300, "agree to, approve;" late 14c. "admit as true," from Old French assentir "agree; get used to" (12c.), from Latin assentare/adsentare, frequentative of assentire "agree with, approve," from ad "to" (see ad-) + sentire "to feel, think" (see sense (n.)). Related: Assented; assenting.
- assert (v.)
- c. 1600, "declare;" 1640s, "vindicate, maintain, or defend by words or measures," from Latin assertus, past participle of asserere/adserere "to claim, lay claim to, appropriate," from ad "to" (see ad-) + serere "join" (see series). Related: Asserted; asserting. To assert oneself "stand up for one's rights or authority" is recorded from 1879.
- assertion (n.)
- early 15c., assercioun, "a declaration, confirmation" from Old French assercion (14c.) or directly from Late Latin assertionem (nominative assertio), noun of action from past participle stem of Latin asserere/adserere "to claim, lay claim to, appropriate," from ad "to" (see ad-) + serere "join" (see series). By "joining oneself" to a particular view, one "claimed" or "maintained" it. From mid-15c. as "an unsupported statement."
- assertive (adj.)
- 1560s, "declaratory, positive, full of assertion," from assert (v.) + -ive. Meaning "insisting on one's rights or authority" is short for self-assertive.
- assertively (adv.)
- mid-15c., assertiveli; see assertive + -ly (2).
- assertiveness (n.)
- "tendency toward self-assertion," 1867, short for self-assertiveness (1855); see assertive + -ness.
- assess (v.)
- early 15c., "to fix the amount (of a tax, fine, etc.)," from Anglo-French assesser, from Medieval Latin assessare "fix a tax upon," originally frequentative of Latin assessus "a sitting by," past participle of assidere/adsidere "to sit beside" (and thus to assist in the office of a judge), "sit with in counsel or office," from ad "to" (see ad-) + sedere "to sit," from PIE root *sed- (1) "to sit."
One job of the judge's assistant was to fix the amount of a fine or tax. Meaning "to estimate the value of property for the purpose of taxing it" is from 1809; transferred sense of "to judge the value of" (a person, idea, etc.) is from 1934. Related: Assessed; assessing.
- assessable (adj.)
- mid-15c., from assess + -able.
- assessment (n.)
- 1530s, "value of property for tax purposes," from assess + -ment. Meaning "act of determining or adjusting of tax rate, charges, damages, etc., to be paid" is from 1540s (earlier in this sense was assession, mid-15c.). General sense of "estimation" is recorded from 1620s; in education jargon from 1956.
- assessor (n.)
- late 14c., "assistant or adviser to a judge or magistrate," from Old French assessor "assistant judge, assessor (in court)" (12c., Modern French assesseur) and directly from Latin assessor "an assistant, aid; an assistant judge," in Late Latin "one who assesses taxes," literally "a sitter-by, one who sits by (another)," agent noun from past participle stem of assidere "to sit beside" (see assess). From 1610s as "one who assesses taxes." Milton uses it in the literal Latin sense in "Paradise Lost," calling Christ the Assessor of God's throne.
- asset (n.)
- a 19c. artificial singular of assets (q.v.).
- assets (n.)
- 1530s, "sufficient estate," from Anglo-French assetz, asetz (singular), from Old French assez "sufficiency, satisfaction; compensation" (11c.), noun use of adverb meaning "enough, sufficiently; very much, a great deal," from Vulgar Latin *ad satis "to sufficiency," from Latin ad "to" (see ad-) + satis "enough," from PIE root *sā- "to satisfy" (see sad).
At first a legal word meaning "sufficient estate" (to satisfy debts and legacies), it passed into a general sense of "property," especially "any property that theoretically can be converted to ready money" by 1580s. Figurative use from 1670s. Asset is a 19c. artificial singular. Corporate asset stripping is attested from 1972.
- asseverate (v.)
- "affirm positively or solemnly," 1791, from Latin asseveratus/adseveratus, past participle of asseverare/adseverare "to affirm, insist on, maintain," from ad "to" (see ad-) + severus "serious, severe" (see severe). Related: Asseverated; asseverating.
- asseveration (n.)
- "an emphatic assertion," 1550s, from Latin asseverationem (nominative asseveratio) "vehement assertion, protestation," noun of action from past participle stem of asseverare/adseverare "affirm, insist on" (see asseverate).
- assibilate (v.)
- in language, "to change to a hissing sound," 1844, from assimilated form of ad- "to" + sibilant (n.) "hissing sound." Latin assibilare meant "to whisper to." Related: Assibilated; assibilating; assibilation (1850, by 1828 in German, translating Ansausung).
- assiduity (n.)
- "diligence," early 15c., from Latin assiduitatem (nominative assiduitas) "continual presence," noun of quality from assiduus "continually present" (see assiduous).
Industry keeps at work, leaving no time idle. Assiduity (literally, a sitting down to work) sticks quietly to a particular task, with the determination to succeed in spite of its difficulty, or to get it done in spite of its length. Application, literally, bends itself to its work, and is, more specifically than assiduity, a steady concentration of one's powers of body and mind .... [Century Dictionary]