Abba Look up Abba at
title of honor, from Latin abba, from Greek abba, from Aramaic abba "the father, my father," emphatic of abh "father."
Abbassid Look up Abbassid at
dynasty of caliphs of Baghdad (750-1258) claiming descent from Abbas (566-652), uncle of Muhammad. For his name, see abbot.
abbe (n.) Look up abbe at
1520s, title given in France to "every one who wears an ecclesiastical dress," especially one having no assigned ecclesiastical duty, from French abbé, from Late Latin abbatem, accusative of abbas (see abbot).
abbess (n.) Look up abbess at
c. 1300, abbese, from Old French abbesse, from Late Latin abbatissa, fem. of abbas (see abbot). Replaced earlier abbotess.
abbey (n.) Look up abbey at
mid-13c., "convent headed by an abbot or abbess," from Anglo-French abbeie, Old French abaïe, from Late Latin abbatia, from abbas (genitive abbatis); see abbot.
abbot (n.) Look up abbot at
Old English abbod "abbot," from Latin abbatem (nominative abbas), from Greek abbas, from Aramaic abba, title of honor, literally "the father, my father," emphatic state of abh "father." The Latin fem. abbatissa is root of abbess.
abbreviate (v.) Look up abbreviate at
mid-15c., from Latin abbreviatus, past participle of abbreviare "to shorten" (see abbreviation). Also sometimes 15c. abbrevy, from Middle French abrevier (14c.), from Latin abbreviare. Related: Abbreviated; abbreviating.
abbreviation (n.) Look up abbreviation at
mid-15c., from Middle French abréviation (15c.), from Late Latin abbreviationem (nominative abbreviatio), noun of action from past participle stem of abbreviare "shorten, make brief," from Latin ad "to" (see ad-) + breviare "shorten," from brevis "short, low, little, shallow" (see brief (adj.)).
ABC (n.) Look up ABC at
"the alphabet," late 13c., abece. Sense "rudiments or fundamentals (of a subject)" is from late 14c. From 1944 (in a "Billboard" headline) as a shortening of American Broadcasting Company. Related: ABCs.
Abderian laughter (n.) Look up Abderian laughter at
from Abdera, in Thrace, whose citizens were proverbial as rustic simpletons who would laugh at anything or anyone they didn't understand (making their town the Hellenic equivalent of Gotham).
abdicate (v.) Look up abdicate at
1540s, "to disown, disinherit (children)," from Latin abdicatus, past participle of abdicare "to disown, disavow, reject" (specifically abdicare magistratu "renounce office"), from ab- "away" (see ab-) + dicare "proclaim" (see diction). Meaning "divest oneself of office" first recorded 1610s. Related: Abdicated; abdicating.
abdication (n.) Look up abdication at
1550s, "a disowning," from Latin abdicationem (nominative abdicatio) "renunciation, abdication," noun of action from past participle stem of abdicare (see abdicate); sense of "resignation of sovereignty" is from 1680s.
abdomen (n.) Look up abdomen at
1540s, "belly fat," from Latin abdomen "belly," which is of unknown origin, perhaps from abdere "conceal," with a sense of "concealment of the viscera," or else "what is concealed" by proper dress. De Vaan, however, finds this derivation "unfounded." Purely anatomical sense is from 1610s. Zoological sense of "posterior division of the bodies of arthropods" first recorded 1788.
abdominal (adj.) Look up abdominal at
1550s, from medical Latin abdominalis, from abdomen (genitive abdominis); see abdomen.
abdominals (n.) Look up abdominals at
short for "abdominal muscles," attested by 1980; see abdominal.
abduce (v.) Look up abduce at
"to draw away" by persuasion, 1530s, from Latin abductus, past participle of abducere "to lead away" (see abduction). Related: Abduced; abducing.
abducent (adj.) Look up abducent at
1713, from Latin abducentem (nominative abducens), present participle of abducere "to lead away" (see abduction).
abduct (v.) Look up abduct at
"to kidnap," 1834, probably a back-formation from abduction; also see abduce. Related: Abducted; abducting.
abduction (n.) Look up abduction at
1620s, "a leading away," from Latin abductionem (nominative abductio), noun of action from past participle stem of abducere "to lead away, take away" (often by force), from ab- "away" (see ab-) + ducere "to lead" (see duke (n.)). The illegal activity so called from 1768; before that the word also was a term in surgery and logic. In the Mercian hymns, Latin abductione is glossed by Old English wiðlaednisse.
abeam (adv.) Look up abeam at
"at right angles to the mainmast," 1826, nautical, literally "on beam;" see a- (1) + beam (n.).
abecedary (n.) Look up abecedary at
"primer, alphabet table," mid-15c., from Medieval Latin abecedarium "an ABC book," neuter of adjective abecedarius, used as a noun, from the first four letters of the Latin alphabet. Abecedarian (adj.) is attested from 1660s.
abed (adv.) Look up abed at
Old English on bedde "in bed," from a- (1) + bed (n.). As one word from 17c.
Abel Look up Abel at
masc. proper name, in Old Testament, second son of Adam and Eve, from Hebrew Hebhel, literally "breath," also "vanity."
Abenaki Look up Abenaki at
see Abnaki.
Aberdeen Look up Aberdeen at
literally "mouth of the (River) Don," from Gaelic aber "(river) mouth," from Celtic *ad-ber-o-, from *ad- "to" (see ad-) + *ber- "to carry," from PIE root *bher- (1) "to carry" (see infer). Compare Inverness.
aberrant (adj.) Look up aberrant at
1798, originally in natural history, from Latin aberrantem (nominative aberrans), present participle of aberrare "to wander away, go astray" (see aberration).
aberration (n.) Look up aberration at
1590s, "a wandering, straying," from Latin aberrationem (nominative aberratio) "a wandering," noun of action from past participle stem of aberrare "to wander out of the way, lose the way, go astray," from ab- "away" (see ab-) + errare "to wander, stray, roam, rove" (see err). Meaning "deviation from the normal type" first attested 1846.
abet (v.) Look up abet at
late 14c. (implied in abetting), from Old French abeter "to bait, to harass with dogs," literally "to cause to bite," from a- "to" (see ad-) + beter "to bait," from Frankish or some other Germanic source, perhaps Low Franconian betan "incite," or Old Norse beita "cause to bite," from Proto-Germanic *baitjan, from PIE root *bheid- "to split" (see fissure). Related: Abetted; abetting.
abeyance (n.) Look up abeyance at
1520s, from Anglo-French abeiance "suspension," also "expectation (especially in a lawsuit)," from Old French abeance "aspiration, desire," noun of condition of abeer "aspire after, gape" from à "at" (see ad-) + ba(y)er "be open," from Latin *batare "to yawn, gape" (see abash).

Originally in French a legal term, "condition of a person in expectation or hope of receiving property;" it turned around in English law to mean "condition of property temporarily without an owner" (1650s). Root baer is also the source of English bay (n.2) "recessed space," as in "bay window."
abhor (v.) Look up abhor at
mid-15c., from Latin abhorrere "shrink back from, have an aversion for, shudder at," from ab- "away" (see ab-) + horrere "tremble at, shudder," literally "to bristle, be shaggy," from PIE *ghers- "start out, stand out, rise to a point, bristle" (see horror). Related: Abhorred; abhorring.
abhorrence (n.) Look up abhorrence at
1650s; see abhorrent + -ence.
abhorrent (adj.) Look up abhorrent at
1610s, "in a position or condition to recoil," usually with from; from Latin abhorentem (nominative abhorrens), present participle of abhorrere; see abhor. Meaning "repugnant" is from 1650s. Earlier was abhorrable (late 15c.).
abidance (n.) Look up abidance at
1640s, from abide + -ance.
abide (v.) Look up abide at
Old English abidan, gebidan "remain, wait, delay, remain behind," from ge- completive prefix (denoting onward motion; see a- (1)) + bidan "bide, remain, wait, dwell" (see bide). Originally intransitive (with genitive of the object: we abidon his "we waited for him"); transitive sense emerged in Middle English. Meaning "to put up with" (now usually negative) first recorded 1520s. Related: Abided; abiding. The historical conjugation is abide, abode, abidden, but the modern formation is now generally weak.
abiding (adj.) Look up abiding at
late 14c., "enduring," present participle adjective from abide (v.).
Abigail Look up Abigail at
fem. proper name, in Old Testament, Abigail the Carmelitess, a wife of David, from Hebrew Abhigayil, literally "my father is rejoicing," from abh "father" + gil "to rejoice." Used in general sense of "lady's maid" (1660s) from character of that name in Beaumont & Fletcher's "The Scornful Lady." The waiting maid association perhaps begins with I Sam. xxv, where David's wife often calls herself a "handmaid." Her male counterpart was Andrew.
ability (n.) Look up ability at
late 14c., from Old French ableté "expert at handling (something)," from Latin habilitatem (nominative habilitas) "aptitude," noun of quality from habilis "easy to manage, handy" (see able). One case where a Latin silent -h- failed to make a return in English (despite efforts of 16c.-17c. scholars); see H.
abiotic (adj.) Look up abiotic at
"without life," 1870, from a- (3) + biotic.
Abitur (n.) Look up Abitur at
German final secondary school exam, 1863, short for abiturium, from Modern Latin abitorire "to wish to leave," desiderative of Latin abire (neuter plural abitum) "to go away," from ab- "away" (see ab-) + ire "to go" (see ion).
abject (adj.) Look up abject at
early 15c., "cast off, rejected," from Latin abiectus, past participle of abicere "to throw away, cast off; degrade, humble, lower," from ab- "away, off" (see ab-) + iacere "to throw" (past participle iactus; see jet (v.)). Figurative sense of "downcast, brought low" first attested 1510s. Related: Abjectly; abjectness.
abjection (n.) Look up abjection at
early 15c., from Old French abjection (14c.), from Latin abjectionem (nominative abjectio) "dejection, despondency," literally "a throwing away," noun of action from past participle stem of abicere (see abject).
abjuration (n.) Look up abjuration at
mid-15c., from Latin abjurationem (nominative abjuratio) "a denying on oath," noun of action from past participle stem of abjurare (see abjure).
abjure (v.) Look up abjure at
early 15c., from Middle French abjurer or directly from Latin abiurare "deny on oath," from ab- "away" (see ab-) + iurare "to swear," related to ius (genitive iuris) "law" (see jurist). Related: Abjured; abjuring.
ablation (n.) Look up ablation at
early 15c., from Latin ablationem (nominative ablatio), "a taking away," noun of action from past participle stem of auferre "to carry away," from ab- "off" (see ab-) + ferre (past participle latum; see oblate) "to bear, carry."
ablative (n.) Look up ablative at
mid-15c., from Middle French ablatif, from Latin (casus) ablativus "(case) of removal," expressing direction from a place or time, coined by Julius Caesar from ablatus "taken away," past participle of auferre "carrying away," from ab- "away" (see ab-) + irregular verb ferre (past participle latum; see oblate) "to carry, to bear" (see infer). The Latin case of adverbial relation, typically expressing the notion "away from," or the source or place of an action.
ablaut (n.) Look up ablaut at
"systematic vowel alteration in the root of a word to indicate shades of meaning or tense," a characteristic of Indo-European languages, 1849, from German Ablaut, literally "off-sound," coined by J.P. Zweigel in 1568 from ab "off" + Laut "sound, tone," from Old High German hlut (see listen (v.)). Popularized by Jacob Grimm.
ablaze (adv.) Look up ablaze at
late 14c., from a "on" (see a- (1)) + blaze (n.).
able (adj.) Look up able at
early 14c., from Old French (h)able (14c.), from Latin habilem, habilis "easily handled, apt," verbal adjective from habere "to hold" (see habit (n.)). "Easy to be held," hence "fit for a purpose." The silent h- was dropped in English and resisted academic attempts to restore it 16c.-17c. (see H), but some derivatives (such as habiliment, habilitate) acquired it via French.
Able-whackets - A popular sea-game with cards, in which the loser is beaten over the palms of the hands with a handkerchief tightly twisted like a rope. Very popular with horny-fisted sailors. [Smyth, "Sailor's Word-Book," 1867]
able-bodied (adj.) Look up able-bodied at
1620s; see able + body.
ablution (n.) Look up ablution at
"ritual washing," late 14c., from Latin ablutionem (nominative ablutio), noun of action from past participle stem of abluere "to wash off," from ab- "off" (see ab-) + luere "wash," related to lavere (see lave).