acquittal (n.) Look up acquittal at
early 15c., "payment of debt or retribution;" see acquit + -al (2). Sense of "a release from debt or obligation" is from mid-15c.; that of "freeing from charge or offense" (by legal process) is from 1530s.
acquitted (adj.) Look up acquitted at
"freed, exonerated," 1670s, past participle adjective from acquit (v.). Formerly in this sense was acquit (late 14c.), perhaps on analogy of past participles such as hit.
acre (n.) Look up acre at
Old English æcer "tilled field, open land," from Proto-Germanic *akraz "field, pasture" (source also of Old Norse akr, Old Saxon akkar, Old Frisian ekker, Middle Dutch acker, Dutch akker, Old High German achar, German acker, Gothic akrs), from PIE *agro- "field" (source also of Latin ager "field, land," Greek agros, Sanskrit ajras "plain, open country").

Originally in English without reference to dimension; in late Old English the amount of land a yoke of oxen could plow in a day, afterward defined by statute as a piece 40 poles by 4, or an equivalent shape (5 Edw. I, 31 Edw. III, 24 Hen. VIII). Original sense retained in God's acre "churchyard."
acreage (n.) Look up acreage at
1859, from acre + -age.
acrid (adj.) Look up acrid at
1712, formed irregularly from Latin acer (fem. acris) "sharp, pungent, bitter, eager, fierce," from PIE *akri- "sharp," from root *ak- "be sharp, rise (out) to a point, pierce" (source also of Oscan akrid (ablative singular) "sharply;" Greek akis "sharp point," akros "at the farthest point, highest, outermost," akantha "thorn," akme "summit, edge;" also oxys "sharp, bitter;" Sanskrit acri- "corner, edge," acani- "point of an arrow," asrih "edge;" Lithuanian ašmuo "sharpness," akstis "sharp stick;" Old Lithuanian aštras, Lithuanian aštrus "sharp;" Old Church Slavonic ostru, Russian óstryj "sharp;" Old Irish er "high;" Welsh ochr "edge, corner, border;" Old Norse eggja "goad;" Old English ecg "sword"). The -id suffix probably is in imitation of acid. Acrious (1670s) is a correct formation, but seldom seen.
acrimonious (adj.) Look up acrimonious at
1610s, "acrid," from French acrimonieux, from Medieval Latin acrimoniosus, from Latin acrimonia "sharpness" (see acrimony). Of dispositions, debates, etc., from 1775. Related: Acrimoniously; acrimoniousness.
acrimony (n.) Look up acrimony at
1540s, "quality of being acrid," from Middle French acrimonie or directly from Latin acrimonia "sharpness, pungency of taste," figuratively "acrimony, severity, energy," from acer "sharp" (fem. acris, neuter acre; see acrid) + -monia suffix of action, state, condition. Figurative extension to "sharpness of temper" is first recorded 1610s.
acro- Look up acro- at
word-forming element meaning "highest, topmost, at the extremities," before vowels, acr-, from Greek akro- "pertaining to an end, extreme," comb. form of akros "at the end, at the top" (see acrid).
acrobat (n.) Look up acrobat at
1825, from French acrobate (14c.), "tightrope-walker," and directly from Greek akrobates "rope dancer, gymnastic performer," which is related to akrobatos "going on tip-toe, climbing up high," from akros "topmost, at the point end" (see acrid) + stem of bainein "walk, go" (see come).
acrobatic (adj.) Look up acrobatic at
1848; see acrobat + -ic. Related: Acrobatically.
acrobatics (n.) Look up acrobatics at
1859, from acrobatic; also see -ics. Also acrobatism (1864). In early 20c. acrobacy (from French acrobacie) sometimes was used.
acromegaly (n.) Look up acromegaly at
"gigantism due to activity of pituitary after normal growth has ceased," 1886, from French acromégalie, from medical Latin acromegalia, from Greek akron "extremity" (see acrid) + megas "great" (fem. megale; see mickle). Said in contemporary literature to have been coined 1885 by French physician Dr. Pierre Marie.
acronym (n.) Look up acronym at
word formed from the first letters of a series of words, 1943, American English coinage from acro- + -onym "name" (abstracted from homonym; see name (n.)). But for cabalistic esoterica and acrostic poetry, the practice was practically non-existent before 20c. For distinction of usage (not maintained on this site), see initialism.
acrophobe (n.) Look up acrophobe at
"one suffering from acrophobia," 1895, from acrophobia; also see -phobe.
acrophobia (n.) Look up acrophobia at
"morbid fear of heights," 1887, medical Latin, from Greek akros "at the end, the top" (see acrid) + -phobia "fear." Coined by Italian physician Dr. Andrea Verga in a paper describing the condition, from which Verga himself suffered.
In this paper, read somewhat over a year ago at the congress of alienists at Pavia, the author makes confession of his own extreme dread of high places. Though fearless of the contagion of cholera, he has palpitations on mounting a step-ladder, finds it unpleasant to ride on the top of a coach or to look out of even a first-story window, and has never used an elevator. ["American Journal of Psychology," Nov. 1888, abstract of Verga's report]
acropolis (n.) Look up acropolis at
1660s, from Latinized form of Greek akropolis "citadel" (especially that of Athens), from akros "highest, upper" (see acrid) + polis in its older sense of "citadel; enclosed space, often on high ground" (see polis).
across (adv.) Look up across at
early 14c., acros, earlier a-croiz (c. 1300), from Anglo-French an cros "in a crossed position," literally "on cross" (see cross (n.)). Prepositional meaning "from one side to another" is first recorded 1590s; meaning "on the other side (as a result of crossing)" is from 1750. Phrase across the board originally is from horse-racing, in reference to a bet of the same amount of money on a horse to win, place, or show.
acrostic (n.) Look up acrostic at
short poem in which the initial letters of the lines, taken in order, spell a word or phrase, 1580s, from Medieval Latin acrostichis, from Greek akrostikhis, from akros "at the end, outermost" (see acrid) + stikhos "line of verse," literally "row" (see stair).
acrylic (adj.) Look up acrylic at
1855, "of or containing acryl," name of a radical from acrolein (1843), the name of a liquid in onions and garlic that makes eyes tear, from Latin acer "sharp" (see acrid) + olere "to smell" (see odor) + -in (see -ine (2)). With adjectival suffix + -ic. Modern senses often short for acrylic fiber, acrylic resin, etc.
act (n.) Look up act at
late 14c., "a thing done," from Old French acte "(official) document," and directly from Latin actus "a doing, a driving, impulse; a part in a play, act," and actum "a thing done," originally a legal term, both from agere "to do, set in motion, drive, urge, chase, stir up," from PIE root *ag- "to drive, draw out or forth, move" (source also of Greek agein "to lead, guide, drive, carry off," agon "assembly, contest in the games," agogos "leader;" Sanskrit ajati "drives," ajirah "moving, active;" Old Norse aka "to drive;" Middle Irish ag "battle").

Theatrical ("part of a play," 1510s) and legislative (early 15c.) senses of the word also were in Latin. Meaning "display of exaggerated behavior" is from 1928. In the act "in the process" is from 1590s, perhaps originally from the 16c. sense of the act as "sexual intercourse." Act of God "uncontrollable natural force" recorded by 1726.
An act of God is an accident which arises from a cause which operates without interference or aid from man (1 Pars. on Cont. 635); the loss arising wherefrom cannot be guarded against by the ordinary exertions of human skill and prudence so as to prevent its effect. [William Wait, "General Principles of the Law," Albany, 1879]
act (v.) Look up act at
mid-15c., "to act upon or adjudicate" a legal case; 1590s in the theatrical sense, from Latin actus, past participle of agere (see act (n.)). To act up "be unruly" is from 1903. To act out "behave anti-socially" (1974) is from psychiatric sense of "expressing one's unconscious impulses or desires." Related: Acted; acting.
Actaeon Look up Actaeon at
in Greek mythology, the name of the hunter who discovered Artemis bathing and was changed by her to a stag and torn to death by his hounds. The name is of unknown origin. Sometimes used figuratively in 17c. for "a cuckold" (because of his "horns").
acting (adj.) Look up acting at
1590s, "putting forth activity," present participle adjective from act (v.). Meaning "performing temporary duties" is from 1797.
acting (n.) Look up acting at
c. 1600, "performance of deeds;" 1660s, "performance of plays;" verbal noun from present participle of act (v.). Acting out in psychology is from 1945.
actinium (n.) Look up actinium at
radioactive element discovered in 1899, from Greek actin-, comb. form of aktis (genitive aktinos) "ray, radiance" (see actino-) + chemical suffix -ium.
actino- Look up actino- at
before vowels actin-, word-forming element meaning "pertaining to rays," from Greek aktis (genitive aktinos) "ray, radiance;" perhaps cognate with Sanskrit aktuh "light, ray," Gothic uhtwo "dawn, daybreak," Lithuanian anksti "early."
action (n.) Look up action at
mid-14c., "cause or grounds for a lawsuit," from Anglo-French accioun, Old French accion (12c.) "action, lawsuit, case," from Latin actionem (nominative actio) "a putting in motion; a performing, doing," noun of action from past participle stem of agere "to do" (see act (n.)). Sense of "something done, an act, deed" is late 14c. Meaning "fighting" is from c. 1600. As a film director's command, it is attested from 1923. Meaning "excitement" is recorded from 1968. Phrase actions speak louder than words is attested from 1731.
actionable (adj.) Look up actionable at
1590s; from action + -able.
activate (v.) Look up activate at
1620s; see active + -ate (2). Related: Activated; activating.
activation (n.) Look up activation at
1906, noun of action from activate (v.).
active (adj.) Look up active at
mid-14c., "given to worldly activity" (opposed to contemplative or monastic), from Old French actif (12c.) or directly from Latin activus, from actus (see act (n.)). As "capable of acting" (opposed to passive), from late 14c. Meaning "energetic, lively" is from 1590s; that of "working, effective, in operation" is from 1640s. Active voice is recorded from 1765 (grammatical use of active dates from mid-15c.).
actively (adv.) Look up actively at
c. 1400, "secularly," from active + -ly (2). Meaning "vigorously" is early 15c.
activism (n.) Look up activism at
1920 in the political sense; see activist + -ism. Earlier (1907) it was used in reference to a philosophical theory.
activist (n.) Look up activist at
"one who advocates a doctrine of direct action," 1915; from active + -ist. Originally in reference to political forces in Sweden advocating abandonment of neutrality in World War I and active support for the Central Powers.
activities (n.) Look up activities at
in schoolwork sense, 1923, American English, from activity.
activity (n.) Look up activity at
c. 1400, "active or secular life," from Old French activité, from Medieval Latin activitatem (nominative activitas), a word in Scholastic philosophy, from Latin activus (see active). Meaning "state of being active, briskness, liveliness" recorded from 1520s; that of "capacity for acting on matter" is from 1540s.
actor (n.) Look up actor at
late 14c., "an overseer, guardian, steward," from Latin actor "an agent or doer," also "theatrical player," from past participle stem of agere (see act (n.)). Mid-15c. as "a doer, maker," also "a plaintiff." Sense of "one who performs in plays" is 1580s, originally applied to both men and women.
actress (n.) Look up actress at
1580s, "female who does something;" see actor + -ess; stage sense is from 1700. Sometimes French actrice was used.
Acts Look up Acts at
short for "Acts of the Apostles" in New Testament, from 1530s.
actual (adj.) Look up actual at
early 14c., "pertaining to an action," from Old French actuel "now existing, up to date" (13c.), from Late Latin actualis "active, pertaining to action," adjectival form of Latin actus (see act (n.)). The broader sense of "real, existing" (as opposed to potential, ideal, etc.) is from late 14c.
actuality (n.) Look up actuality at
late 14c., "power, efficacy," from Old French actualite and directly from Medieval Latin actualitatem (nominative actualitas), from Late Latin actualis (see actual). A Latin loan-translation of Greek energeia. Meaning "state of being real" is from 1670s (actualities "existing conditions" is from 1660s).
Mod. use of actuality in the sense of realism, contact with the contemporary, is due to Fr. actualité, from actuel, which does not mean actual, real, but now existing, up to date. [Weekley]
actualization (n.) Look up actualization at
1824, noun of action from actualize.
actualize (v.) Look up actualize at
1810, first attested in Coleridge, from actual + -ize. Related: Actualized; actualizing.
actually (adv.) Look up actually at
early 15c., "in fact, in reality" (as opposed to in possibility), from actual + -ly (2). Meaning "actively, vigorously" is from mid-15c.; that of "at this time, at present" is from 1660s. As an intensive added to a statement and suggesting "as a matter of fact, really, in truth" it is attested from 1762.
actuarial (adj.) Look up actuarial at
1853, from actuary + -al (1). Related: Actuarially.
actuary (n.) Look up actuary at
1550s, "registrar, clerk," from Latin actuarius "copyist, account-keeper," from actus "public business" (see act (n.)). Modern insurance office meaning first recorded 1849.
actuate (v.) Look up actuate at
1590s, from Medieval Latin actuatus, past participle of actuare, from Latin actus (see act (n.)). Related: Actuated; actuating.
acuity (n.) Look up acuity at
early 15c., from Middle French acuité (16c.) or directly from Medieval Latin acuitatem (nominative acuitas) "sharpness," from Latin acuere "to sharpen," related to acus "needle," acuere "to sharpen," from PIE root *ak- "rise to a point, be sharp" (see acrid).
acumen (n.) Look up acumen at
1530s, from Latin acumen "a point, sting," hence "mental sharpness, shrewdness," from acuere "to sharpen" (see acuity).
acupressure (n.) Look up acupressure at
1859, from Latin acus "needle" (see acuity) + pressure (n.).