- Eleusinian (adj.)
- 1640s, "pertaining to Eleusis," town outside Athens, site of the mystery associated with the cult of Demeter, goddess of harvests, and her daughter.
- eleutherian (adj.)
- 1620s, from Greek eleutherios "like a free man, noble-minded, frank, liberal," literally "freeing, delivering, releaser," also the title of Zeus as protector of political freedom, from eleutheria "freedom," from PIE *leu-dheros.
- elevate (v.)
- late 15c., "to raise above the usual position," from Latin elevatus, past participle of elevare "lift up, raise," figuratively, "to lighten, alleviate," from ex- "out" (see ex-) + levare "lighten, raise," from levis "light" in weight (see lever). Sense of "raise in rank or status" is from c. 1500. Moral or intellectual sense is from 1620s. Related: Elevated (which also was old slang for "drunk"); elevating.
- elevation (n.)
- late 14c., "a rising, height of something, height to which something is elevated," from Old French elevation and directly from Latin elevationem (nominative elevatio) "a lifting up," noun of action from past participle stem of elevare "lift up, raise" (see elevate). Meaning "act of elevating" is from 1520s.
- elevator (n.)
- 1640s, originally of muscles which raise a part of the body, from Latin elevator "one who raises up," agent noun from past participle stem of elevare (see elevate). As a name for a mechanical lift (originally for grain) attested from 1787. Elevator music is attested by 1963. Elevator as a lift for shoes is from 1940.
- eleven (n.)
- c. 1200, elleovene, from Old English enleofan, endleofan, literally "one left" (over ten), from Proto-Germanic *ainlif- (compare Old Saxon elleban, Old Frisian andlova, Dutch elf, Old High German einlif, German elf, Old Norse ellifu, Gothic ainlif), a compound of *ain "one" (see one) + PIE *leikw- "leave, remain" (source of Greek leipein "to leave behind;" see relinquish).
FIREFLY: Give me a number from 1 to 10.
Viking survivors who escaped an Anglo-Saxon victory were daroþa laf "the leavings of spears," while hamora laf "the leavings of hammers" was an Old English kenning for "swords" (both from "The Battle of Brunanburgh"). Twelve reflects the same formation. Outside Germanic the only instance of this formation is in Lithuanian, which uses -lika "left over" and continues the series to 19 (vienio-lika "eleven," dvy-lika "twelve," try-lika "thirteen," keturio-lika "fourteen," etc.). Meaning "a team or side" in cricket or football is from 1743.
- eleventh (adj.)
- late 14c., eleventhe, superseding earlier ellefte (c. 1300), enlefte (early 13c.), from Old English endleofta; see eleven + -th (1). Eleventh hour "last moment, just before it is too late" is in Old English, from the parable of the laborers in the vineyard (Matt. xx:1-16); as an adjective by 1829.
- elevon (n.)
- 1945, from elevator + aileron.
- elf (n.)
- "one of a race of powerful supernatural beings in Germanic folklore," Old English elf (Mercian, Kentish), ælf (Northumbrian), ylfe (plural, West Saxon) "sprite, fairy, goblin, incubus," from Proto-Germanic *albiz (cognates: Old Saxon alf, Old Norse alfr, German alp "evil spirit, goblin, incubus"), origin unknown; according to Watkins, possibly from PIE *albho- "white." Used figuratively for "mischievous person" from 1550s.
In addition to elf/ælf (masc.), Old English had parallel form *elfen (fem.), the plural of which was *elfenna, -elfen, from Proto-Germanic *albinjo-. Both words survived into Middle English and were active there, the former as elf (with the vowel of the plural), plural elves, the latter as elven, West Midlands dialect alven (plural elvene).
The Germanic elf originally was dwarfish and malicious (compare elf-lock "knot in hair," Old English ælfadl "nightmare," ælfsogoða "hiccup," thought to be caused by elves); in the Middle Ages they were confused to some degree with faeries; the more noble version begins with Spenser. Nonetheless a popular component in Anglo-Saxon names, many of which survive as modern given names and surnames, such as Ælfræd "Elf-counsel" (Alfred), Ælfwine "Elf-friend" (Alvin), Ælfric "Elf-ruler" (Eldridge), also women's names such as Ælfflæd "Elf-beauty." Elf Lock hair tangled, especially by Queen Mab, "which it was not fortunate to disentangle" [according to Robert Nares' glossary of Shakespeare] is from 1592.
- elfin (adj.)
- "of or pertaining to elves," 1590s, from elf; first found in Spenser, who also used it as a noun and might have been thinking of elven but the word also is a proper name in the Arthurian romances (Elphin).
- elfish (adj.)
- c. 1200, alvisc; see elf + -ish. Compare elvish. Related: Elfishly; elfishness.
- Elgin Marbles (n.)
- 1809, sculptures and marbles (especially from the frieze of the Parthenon) brought from Greece to England and sold to the British government by Thomas Bruce, 7th Earl of Elgin (1766-1841). The place is in Scotland, literally "little Ireland," from Ealg, an early Gaelic name for Ireland, with diminutive suffix -in. "The name would have denoted a colony of Scots who had emigrated here from Ireland ..." [Room].
- masc. proper name, in Old Testament, the name of a high priest of Israel, teacher of Samuel, from Hebrew, literally "high."
- Eliac (adj.)
- "pertaining to Elis," city in the Peloponnesus. The place name is of uncertain origin, perhaps related to Greek helos "marsh."
- elicit (v.)
- 1640s, from Latin elicitus, past participle of elicere "draw out, draw forth," from ex- "out" (see ex-) + -licere, comb. form of lacere "to entice, lure, deceive" (related to laqueus "noose, snare;" see lace (n.)). Related: Elicited; eliciting; elicits; elicitation.
- elide (v.)
- 1590s, a legal term, "to annul, do away with," from Middle French elider (16c.), from Latin elidere "strike out, force out," in grammar "suppress (a vowel)" from ex- "out" (see ex-) + -lidere, comb. form of laedere "to strike" (see collide). The Latin word in grammatical use translates Greek ekthlibein. Phonological sense "slurring over a sound or part of a word" in English is first recorded 1796. Related: Elided; eliding.
- eligibility (n.)
- 1640s, "worthiness to be chosen," from eligible + -ity. From 1715 as "legal qualification to be chosen."
- eligible (adj.)
- early 15c., "fit or proper to be chosen," from Old French eligible "fit to be chosen" (14c.), from Late Latin eligibilis "that may be chosen," from Latin eligere "choose" (see election). Related: Eligibly.
- masc. proper name, Hebrew, literally "he is my God."
- name of the great Old Testament prophet, from Hebrew Elijjah, literally "the Lord is God." The Greek form is Elias.
- eliminate (v.)
- 1560s, from Latin eliminatus, past participle of eliminare "thrust out of doors, expel," from ex limine "off the threshold," from ex "off, out" (see ex-) + limine, ablative of limen "threshold" (see limit (n.)).
Used literally at first; sense of "exclude" first attested 1714; sense of "expel waste from the body" is c. 1795. Related: Eliminated; eliminating; eliminative; eliminatory.
- elimination (n.)
- c. 1600, "a casting out," noun of action from eliminate. Meaning "expulsion of waste matter" is from 1855.
- surname, Old French diminutive of Elias (French Elie; see Elijah) + -ot. It absorbed the Anglo-Saxon proper names Æðelgeat and Ælfweald "Elf-ruler."
- masc. proper name, from Hebrew, literally "God is salvation," from El "God" + yesha "salvation."
- elision (n.)
- 1580s, from Latin elisionem (nominative elisio) "a striking out, a pressing out," in grammar, "the suppression of a vowel," noun of action from past participle stem of elidere (see elide).
- elite (n.)
- "a choice or select body, the best part," 1823, from French élite "selection, choice," from Old French eslite (12c.), fem. past participle of elire, elisre "pick out, choose," from Latin eligere "choose" (see election). Borrowed in Middle English as "chosen person" (late 14c.), especially a bishop-elect; died out mid-15c.; re-introduced by Byron's "Don Juan." As an adjective by 1852. As a typeface, first recorded 1920.
- elitism (n.)
- 1951; see elite + -ism.
- elitist (adj.)
- 1950; see elite + -ist. The original adjectival examples were Freud, Nietzsche, and Carlyle. As a noun by 1961.
- elixir (n.)
- mid-13c., from Medieval Latin elixir "philosopher's stone," believed by alchemists to transmute baser metals into gold and/or to cure diseases and prolong life, from Arabic al-iksir "the philosopher's stone," probably from late Greek xerion "powder for drying wounds," from xeros "dry" (see xerasia). Later in medical use for "a tincture with more than one base." General sense of "strong tonic" is 1590s; used for quack medicines from at least 1630s.
- fem. proper name, Biblical name of the wife of Aaron, from Late Latin Elisabeth, from Greek Eleisabeth, Eleisabet, from Hebrew Elishebha "God is an oath," the second element said by Klein to be related to shivah (fem. sheva) "seven," and to nishba "he swore," originally "he bound himself by (the sacred number) seven." Has never ranked lower than 26th in popularity among the names given to baby girls in the U.S. in any year since 1880, the oldest for which a reliable list is available. The city in New Jersey is named for Lady Elizabeth Carteret (d.1697), wife of one of the first proprietors of the colony.
- Elizabethan (adj.)
- "belonging to the period of Queen Elizabeth I" (1558-1603) of England, 1807 (Elizabethean); Coleridge (1817) has Elizabethian, and Carlyle (1840) finally attains the modern form. The noun is first attested 1859.
John Knox, one of the exiles for religion in Switzerland, publiſhed his "Firſt Blaſt of the Trumpet againſt the Government of Women," in this reign [of Elizabeth]. It was lucky for him that he was out of the queen's reach when he ſounded the trumpet. [The Rev. Mr. James Granger, "A Biographical History of England," 1769]
- elk (n.)
- late Old English elch, from Old Norse elgr or from an alteration of Old English elh, eolh (perhaps via French scribes), or possibly from Middle High German elch (OED's suggestion), all from Proto-Germanic *elkh- (source also of Old High German elaho). The modern word "is not the normal phonetic representative" of the Old English one [OED].
The Germanic words are related to the general word for "deer" in Balto-Slavic (such as Russian losu, Czech los; also see eland), from PIE *olki-, perhaps with reference to the reddish color from root *el- (2) "red, brown" (in animal and tree names); compare Sanskrit harina- "deer," from hari- "reddish-brown." Greek alke and Latin alces probably are Germanic loan-words. Applied to similar-looking but unrelated animals in North America. Benevolent and Protective Order of Elks founded N.Y.C. 1868, originally a society of actors and writers.
- ell (n.2)
- name of the letter -L- in Latin; in reference to a type of building, 1773, American English; so called for resemblance to the shape of the alphabet letter.
- ell (n.1)
- unit of measure, Old English eln, originally "forearm, length of the arm" (as a measure, anywhere from a foot and a half to two feet), from PIE *el- (1) "elbow, forearm" (cognates: Greek olene "elbow," Latin ulna, Armenian uln "shoulder," Sanskrit anih "part of the leg above the knee," Lithuanian alkune "elbow").
The exact distance varied, in part depending on whose arm was used as the base and whether it was measured from the shoulder to the fingertip or the wrist: the Scottish ell was 37.2 inches, the Flemish 27 inches. Latin ulna also was a unit of linear measure, and compare cubit. The modern English unit of 45 inches seems to have been set in Tudor times.
Whereas shee tooke an inche of liberty before, tooke an ell afterwardes [Humfrey Gifford, "A Posie of Gilloflowers," 1580].
- fem. proper name, when not a diminutive of Eleanor it is from Old High German Alia, from al "all."
- fem. proper name, an older form of Helen (q.v.). Its popularity among U.S. birth names peaked in 1880s and 1940s.
- ellipse (n.)
- 1753, from French ellipse (17c.), from Latin ellipsis "ellipse," also, "a falling short, deficit," from Greek elleipsis (see ellipsis). So called because the conic section of the cutting plane makes a smaller angle with the base than does the side of the cone, hence, a "falling short." The Greek word was first applied by Apollonius of Perga (3c. B.C.E.). to the curve which previously had been called the section of the acute-angled cone, but the word earlier had been technically applied to a rectangle one of whose sides coincides with a part of a given line (Euclid, VI. 27).
- ellipsis (n.)
- 1560s, "an ellipse," from Latin ellipsis, from Greek elleipsis "a falling short, defect, ellipse in grammar," noun of action from elleipein "to fall short, leave out," from en- "in" (see en- (1)) + leipein "to leave" (see relinquish). Grammatical sense in English first recorded 1610s. Related: Elipticity.
- ellipsoid (n.)
- 1721; see ellipse + -oid. From 1861 as an adjective (earlier adjective was ellipsoidal, 1831).
- elliptic (adj.)
- 1726, from Greek elleiptikos "pertaining to an ellipse," from elleipein (see ellipsis). Mostly in technical use; the common word is elliptical.
- elliptical (adj.)
- 1650s, "elliptic in shape;" see elliptic + -al (1). Grammatical sense of "missing essential words or phrases" is recorded from 1778 (see ellipsis). Related: Elliptically.
- Ellis Island
- sandy island in mouth of Hudson River, said to have been called "Gull Island" by local Indians and "Oyster Island" by the Dutch, renamed "Gull Island" after the British took over, then "Gibbet Island" because pirates were hanged there. Sold to Samuel Ellis in 1785, who made it a picnic spot and gave it his name. Sold by his heirs in 1808 to New York State and acquired that year by the U.S. War Department for coastal defenses. Vacant after the American Civil War until the government opened an immigration station there in 1892 to replace Castle Island.
- elm (n.)
- Old English elm, from Proto-Germanic *elmaz (cognates: Danish elm, Old Norse almr, Old High German elme), perhaps from PIE root *el- (2) "red, brown" (see elk); cognate with Latin ulmus, Old Irish lem. German Ulme, Dutch olm are from or influenced by the Latin word. The toughest native European wood, used for ship-building, wheel-naves, etc. Middle English had adjective forms elmen, elmin, which survived longer in poetry. New Haven was informally the Elm City (1871).
- of St. Elmo's Fire (for which see saint (n.)); probably from Greek elene "torch," via an apocryphal saint (Bishop of Formiae in Italy, who died c.304 and was invoked in the Mediterranean by sailors during storms).
- elocution (n.)
- mid-15c., from Late Latin elocutionem (nominative elocutio) "voice production, a speaking out, utterance, manner of expression," in classical Latin especially "rhetorical utterance, oratorical expression," noun of action from past participle stem of eloqui "speak out" (see eloquence). Related: Elocutionary; elocutionist.
- a name of God in the Bible, c. 1600, from Hebrew, plural (of majesty?) of Eloh "God" (cognate with Allah), a word of unknown etymology, perhaps an augmentation of El "God," also of unknown origin. Generally taken as singular, the use of this word instead of Yahveh is taken by biblical scholars as an important clue to authorship in the Old Testament, hence Elohist (1862; Elohistic is from 1841), title of the supposed writer of passages of the Pentateuch where the word is used.
- eloign (v.)
- 1530s, intransitive, "to remove to a distance" (especially in an effort to avoid the law), from Anglo-French eloign, Old French esloigner (Modern French éloigner), from Late Latin exlongare "remove, keep aloof, prolong, etc." (see elongation). Transitive use from 1550s. Related: Eloignment.
- elongate (v.)
- "to make long or longer," 1530s, from Late Latin elongatus, past participle of elongare "to prolong, protract" (see elongation). Earlier in the same sense was elongen (mid-15c.). Related: Elongated; elongating.
- elongation (n.)
- late 14c., from Medieval Latin elongationem (nominative elongatio), noun of action from past participle stem of Late Latin elongare "remove to a distance," from Latin ex- "out" (see ex-) + longus "long" (see long (adj.)).
- elope (v.)
- 1590s, "to run off," probably from Middle Dutch (ont)lopen "run away," from ont- "away from" (from Proto-Germanic *und- which also gave the first element in until) + lopen "to run," from Proto-Germanic *hlaupan (source also of Old English hleapan; see leap (v.)). Sense of "run away in defiance of parental authority to marry secretly" is 19c.
In support of this OED compares Old English uðleapan, "the technical word for the 'escaping' of a thief." However there is an Anglo-French aloper "run away from a husband with one's lover" (mid-14c.) which complicates this etymology; perhaps it is a modification of the Middle Dutch word, with Old French es-, or it is a compound of that and Middle English lepen "run, leap" (see leap (v.)).
The oldest Germanic word for "wedding" is represented by Old English brydlop (cognates: Old High German bruthlauft, Old Norse bruðhlaup), literally "bride run," the conducting of the woman to her new home. Related: Eloped; eloping.