A

abate: To reduce in amount, degree, intensity. Old French “abatre” < “a-“=to + Latin “batuere”=to beat down or slaughter (c.f. abattoir).

abecedary: A teacher (c17th). From Latin “abecedarium”=alphabet book or primer < sound of “ABCD” + “-arium”=connected with or about.

abject: Most unfortunate or miserable. Middle French “abject”=wretched, despicable < Latin “ab-“=away, off + “iacere”=to throw.

abrogate: To revoke formally. Latin “abrogare”=to repeal, cancel, revoke, or take away < “ab-“=away + “rogare”=to ask.

abstruse: Incomprehensible to one of ordinary understanding or knowledge. Latin “abstrudere” < “abs”=away + “trudere”=to thrust.

a capella: Singing without instruments. From Italian “a”=as + “cappella”=chapel. Literally “in the style of the chapel.

absonant: Sounding harsh and inharmonious; discordant. From Latin “ab-“-off + “sonantem”=sounding < “sonare”=to sound.

accolade: Great praise or award for a person. Latin “accollare”=neck embrace < “ad-“=to + “col”=neck + “ade”=noun-forming suffix.

acme: Highest point, both geographically or socially. From Greek “akme”=highest point.

acolyte: An attendant or follower. From Greek “a-”=with + “kolouthos”=journey. Literally a traveling companion.

acolyte: Someone who follows or assists, typically in a religious sense. From Greek “akolouthos” < “a-”=together with + “keleuthose”=a way.

acquiesce: Give in to someone; accept though in disagreement. Middle French “acquiescer” < Latin “ad”=at/to + “quiescere”=to rest.

adjective: Word which often modifies a noun to denote a quality of the thing named.From Latin “ad-”=to + “jacere”=to throw (near to).

admonish: Take to task; tell someone off for doing wrong. Old French “amonester” < Latin “admonestare” < “ad-“=to + “monere”=warn.

adorn: To enhance the appearance of people or thing, usually by adding ornaments. From Latin “ad”=to + “ornare”=to furnish or deck out.

adulation: Servile flattery; exaggerated and hypocritical praise. Old French “adulacion” < Latin “adulari” = to fawn upon.

aegis: Zeus’ Shield. Protection, oft used in the phrase “under the aegis of” meaning “protected by.” From Greek “aigis”=the shield of Zeus.

aeroplane: Flying vehicle with wings and at least one engine. From Greek “aero”=air + French “planer”=soar < Latin “planus”=flat (as a wing).

aesthetic: Connected with beauty and the study of beauty. From Greek “aisthetikos”=sensitive < “aisthanesthai”=to feel or perceive.

aficionado: Ardent follower of a subject. Spanish “aficionado”=amateur, devotee of bull fighting < Latin “affectio”=feeling toward something.

afternoon: Time from mid-day to evening. Old English “aefter”=following + “noon”=9th hour < Latin “nona hora”=ninth hour.

agony: Originally mental suffering but used for bodily suffering in 1607. From Greek “agonia”=struggle for victory, especially in contests.

ailurophobia: Fear of cats. From Greek “ailuros”=type of cat + “phobia”=fear of.

airplane: American rendering of “aeroplane” (around 1907). From Greek “aero”=air + French “planer”=soar < Latin “planus”=flat (as a wing).

affidavit: Legal sworn statement in writing. From Latin “affidavit”=he has made an oath “affidare”=to swear < “ad-“=to + “fidare”=to trust.

alabaster: White stone used for vases/statues, used as adj. to mean “white.” From Greek “alabastros”=box/casket from Egyptian town Alabasta.

Albuquerque: City in New Mexico, USA, named after town in Spain close to Portuguese border. From Latin “albus”=white + “quercus”=oak.

alert: On the lookout, watchful. From Italian “all’ erta” < “alla”=on the + “erta”=watchtower or look-out post < Latin “eregire”=to erect.

alien: Someone not a legal resident of the country in which they are living. From Old French “alien” < Latin “ali-us”=other or another.

allegory: Story using symbolic items/characters. From Greek “allegoria”=speak other than what one seems < “allos”=other + “agoria”=speaking.

allude: To make an indirect reference to something else. From Middle French “alluder” < Latin “ad-“=to + “ludere”=to play.

allure: Charm and attractiveness, capable of holding attention. From Old French “aluerrer”=to attract < “a”+”loire”=a falconer’s lure.

altercation: A dispute or argument; arguing from the other side. From Latin “altercatus”=other (side) +” “-ion”=act of.

altruism: Unselfish devotion to others. Coined by Auguste Comte from Old French “altrui”=to others < Latin “alteri huic”=to this other.

amalgam: Mixture of two things, usually metals. From Latin “malagma”=poultice < Greek “malassein”=to soften < ?Arabic “al-malagma”=softner.

amazon: Member of a race of Greek mythological female warriors. From Greek “a”=without + “mazos”=breast; they removed a breast to draw a bow.

ambrosia: food of the gods; something tasting delicious. From Greek “a-”=not + “mbrotos”= mortal.

amnesia: Medical condition of not being able to remember anything. From Greek “amnesia”=forgetfulness < “a”=not + “mimneskesthai “=memory.

anathema: Something hated or cursed. From Greek “anathema”=a thing cursed but originally “a thing devoted” < “ana”=up + “tithema”=to place.

anecdotist: Someone good at telling stories. From Greek “anekdota”=things unpublished < “an-“=negative marker + “ekthithonai”=to publish.

angel: Supernatural being acting as intermediary between heaven and earth. From Greek “angelos”=messenger.

angry: Feeling of wrath, annoyance, spite. From Old Norse “angre”=trouble, affliction + “-y”=suffix meaning full of or having qualities of.

anthroponymy: The study of people’s names. From Greek “anthropos”=man + “onuma”=name.

anthropophagite: Eater of human flesh; a cannibal. From Greek “anthropos”=man + “phagein”= to eat.

antonym: Word tha means the opposite of another e.g. happy/sad; dead/alive. From Greek “anti-“=opposite + “onyma”=name.

annul: To put an end to; to declare invalid. Old French “annuler” < Latin “annularer”=make into nothing < “ad-“=to” + “nullus”=nothing.

apathy: State of indifference or uncaring; mental indolence. Latin “apathia” < Greek “apatheia” < “a-“=without + “pathos+’passion.

apex: Highest point; the tip or the vertex. From Latin “apex”=summit or peak.

aphesis: Shortening a word by taking the beginning away e.g. “droid” from “android.” From Greek “apo”=away + “hiemi”=send.

apocalypse: End of the world, or a terrifying, destructive event. From Greek “apo-“=from + “kalyptein”=to cover. Literally an uncovering.

apocope: Shortening a word by taking the ending off e.g. “teen” from “teenager.” From Greek “apokope”=to cut off.

Apollo: Son of Zeus and Leto, brother of Artemis (Diana). God of the sun, prophecy, and arts. From Greek “Apollon”=?strength (Indo-European).

apophenia: Perceiving patterns where none exist. Favored by conspiracy theorists and zealots. From Greek “apo”=off + “pheno”=appearance.

aporkalypse: Acts of overreaction to swine flu e.g. removing kisses from Mexican soaps. From Greek “apocalypsis=revelation

apostle: (a) Someone sent on a mission, or (b) a supporter of an idea or person. From Greek “apo-”=away + “stellein”=to send.

apostrophe: (‘) punctuation symbol used to mark something is missing. From Greek “apostrophos” > “apo-“=away + “strophe”=a turning away.

apothecary: Seller/preparer of medicines. From Latin “apotheca” < Greek “apothiki”-storehouse < “apo-“=away + “tithenai”=to put/lay away.

appease: To bring to peace, pacify. Old French “apeser” < “à”=to(ward) + “paix”=peace < Latin “pacem”=peace.

apposite: Well-said; suitable and appropriate to a discussion. From Latin “apponere”=put near < “ad”=near + “ponere”=to place.

appraise: To estimate the value of something. Old French “apriser”=to price < Latin “ad”=to + “pretium”=price.

apprise: To inform someone; notify. Old French “aprendre” < Latin “adprendere”=to lay hold of (with the mind), teach or inform.

appropriate: To take into one’s possession. From Latin “adpropriare” < “ad”=to + “propriare”=take as one’s own < “proprius”=one’s own.

appurtenance: Something subordinate to another. From Latin “adpertinere”=belong to (as a part) < “ad”=to + “per+=through + “tenere”=to hold.

arcane: Hidden, secret, or concealed – usually referring to knowledge. Latin “arcanus” < “arcare”=to shut up < “arca”=a chest.

arduous: Difficult, laborious, hard to accomplish. From Latin “ardus”=steep, high, difficult + “-ous”=full of, abounding in.

argonaut: Greek heroic sailor on the Argo, searching for the Golden Fleece. From Greek “argos”=fast + “nautes”=sailor.

Armageddon: Mythic biblical final battle at the end of the word. From Hebrew “Har Megiddon”=Mount of Megiddo – assumed site of that battle.

arrogant: Aggressively assertive or presumptuous. Disposed to exaggerate one’s own worth or importance. From Latin “arrogare”=to claim.

arsonist: One who starts fires maliciously. From Old French “arson”=to burn < Latin “ardere”=to burn + “-ist”=suffix to indicate a person.

ascetic: Person who practices severe abstinence, usually for religious reasons. From Greek “askitos”=monk < “askein”=to train.

ash: Soft gray powder that remains after something has been burned. From Middle English “asshe” < Old English “aesce”=ashes.

assuage: To soften, mitigate, mollify, appease; release from pain. From Latin “assuaviare” < “ad-“=to + “suavis”=sweet and agreeable.

asterisk: (*) Punctuation symbol like a star. From Greek “asterikos”=little star < “aster”=star + diminutive suffix “-ikos.”

astronaut: One who flies into space – sailor of the stars. Coined 1927 French “astronautique” < Greek “astro”=star + “nautes”=sailor.

astute: Able to understand situations or behavior very well and very quickly. Latin “astutus,” longer form of “astus” = crafty, cunning.

Asvattha: Tree of Life in Hindu mythology. From Sanskrit “asvasta”=horse + “stha”=to stand; literally “under which horses stand.”

atheism: Disbelief in the existence of a deity. From Middle French “atheisme” < Greek “a-“=without + “theos”=god.

atrocious: Excessively, wantonly cruel; wicked. From Latin “atrox”=fierce or cruel < “ater”=black + “oc-“=to do with eye + “ous”=full of.

attitude: The opinions and feelings someone has about something. From Italian “attitudine”=disposition < Latin “aptitudo”=fit for a purpose.

avarice: Intense desire for acquiring and hoarding wealth. From Latin “avaritia”=greed < “avarus”=greedy.

avatar: manifestation of a Hindu deity. More recently, someone’s image in a virtual world. From Sanskrit “ava”=down + “tarati”=he crosses.