Dictionary: A – AB-A'LIEN-A-TING

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A is the first letter of the Alphabet in most of the known languages of the earth; in the Ethiopic however it is the thirteenth, and in the Runic the tenth. It is naturally the first letter, because it represents the first vocal sound naturally formed by the human organs: being the sound uttered with a mere opening of the mouth without constraint, and without any effort to alter the natural position or configuration of the lips. Hence this letter is found in many words first uttered by infants; which words are the names of the objects with which infants are first concerned, as the breast, and the parents. Hence in Hebrew אם am, is mother, and אב ab, is father. In Chaldee and Syriac abba is father; in Arabic, aba; in Ethiopic, abi; in Malayan and Bengalese, bappa; in Welsh, tad, whence we retain daddy; in Old Greek and in Gothic, atta; in Irish, aithair; in Cantabrian, aita; in Lapponic, atki; in Abyssinian, abba; in Amharic, aba; in Shilhic and Melindane, African dialects, baba; and papa is found in many nations. Hence the Latin mamma, the breast, which is, in popular use, the name of mother; in Swedish, amma, is a nurse. This list might be greatly extended; but these examples prove A to be the first natural vocal sound, and entitled to the first place in alphabets. The Hebrew name of this letter, aleph, signifies an ox or a leader. A has in English, three sounds; the long or slender, as in place, fate; the broad, as in wall, fall, which is shortened in salt, what; and the open, as in father, glass, which is shortened in rather, fancy. Its primitive sound was probably aw. A is also an abbreviation of the Saxon an or ane, one, used before words beginning with an articulation; as a table, instead of an table, or one table. This is a modern change; for in Saxon an was used before consonants as well as vowels, as an tid, a time, an gear, a year. [See An.] This letter serves as a prefix to many English words, as in asleep; awake; afoot; aground; agoing. In some cases this is a contraction of the Teutonic ge, as in asleep, aware from the Saxon geslapan, to sleep, gewarian, to beware; the Dutch gewaar. Sometimes it is a corruption of the Saxon on, as again from ongean, awake from onwacian, to watch or wake. Before participles, it may be a contraction of the Celtic ag, the sign of the participle of the present tense, as, ag-radh, saying; a-saying, a-going. Or this may be a contraction of on, or what is equally probable, it may have proceeded from a mere accidental sound produced by negligent utterance. In some words, a may be a contraction of at, of, in, to, or an. In some words of Greek original, a is privative, giving to them a negative sense, as in anonymous, from a and ονομα, name. Among the ancients, A was a numeral denoting 500; and with a dash Ā 5000. In the Hebrew, Syr. Ch. Sam, and Ar. it denotes one or unity. In the Julian Calendar, A is the first of the seven dominical letters. Among logicians, A, as an abbreviation, stands for a universal affirmative proposition. A asserts; E denies. Thus in barbara, a, thrice repeated, denotes so many of the propositions to be universal. The Romans used A to signify a negative or dissent in giving their votes; A. standing for antiquo, I oppose or object to the proposed law. Opposed to this letter were U. R. uti rogas, be it as you desire – the words used to express assent to a proposition. These letters were marked on wooden ballots, and each voter had an affirmative and a negative put into his hands, one of which at pleasure he gave as his vote. – In criminal trials, A. stood for absolvo, I acquit; C. for condemno, I condemn; and N. L. for non liquet, it is not evident; and the judges voted by ballots thus marked. – In inscriptions, A. stands for Augustus; or for ager, aiunt, aurum, argentum, &c. A is also used for anno, or ante; as in anno Domini, the year of our Lord; anno mundi, the year of the world; ante meridiem, before noon; and for arts, in artium magister, master of arts. Among the Romans, A. U. C. stood for anno ab urbe condita, from the building of the city of Rome. In algebra, a and the first letters of the alphabet represent known quantities – the last letters are sometimes used to represent unknown quantities. In music, A is the nominal of the sixth note in the natural diatonic scale – called by Guido la. It is also the name of one of the two natural moods; and it is the open note of the 2d string of the violin, by which the other strings are tuned and regulated. In pharmacy, a or aa, abbreviations of the Greek ana, signify of each separately, or that the things mentioned should be taken in quantities of the same weight or measure. In chimistry, A A A stand for amalgama, or amalgamation. In commerce, A. stands for accepted, as in case of a bill of exchange. Merchants also number their books by the letters, A, B, C, instead of figures. Public officers number their exhibits in the same manner; as the document A, or B. Alpha and Omega, the first and last letters of the Greek alphabet, are used in Scripture for the beginning and end – representative of Christ. In mathematics, letters are used as representatives of numbers, lines, angles and quantities. In arguments, letters are substituted for persons, in cases supposed, or stated for illustration, as A contracts with B to deliver property to D. – In the English phraseology, "a landlord has a hundred a year," "the sum amounted to ten dollars a man," a is merely the adjective one, and this mode of expression is idiomatic; a hundred in a [one] year; ten dollars to a [one] man.

AAM, n. [Ch. אמה, or אמא, a cubit, a measure containing five or six palms.]

A measure of liquids among the Dutch equal to 288 English pints.


Pertaining to Aaron, the Jewish high priest, or to the priesthood of which he was the head. – Doddridge.

AB, n.1 [or A.B.]

In English names, is an abbreviation of Abbey or Abbot; as Abbington, Abbey-town, Abbeyhill, Abbot-town.

AB, n.2

A prefix to words of Latin origin, and a Latin preposition, as in abscond, is the Greek απ, and the Eng. of, Ger. ab, D. af, Sw. Dan. af, written in ancient Latin af. It denotes from, separating or departure.

AB, n.3

The Hebrew name of Father. [See Abba.]

AB, n.4

The eleventh month of the Jewish civil year, and the fifth of the ecclesiastical year, answering to a part of July, and a part of August. In the Syriac Calendar, Ab is the name of the last summer month.

AB'A-CA, n.

A plant of East India.


In ancient architecture, The square compartments of Mosaic pavements.

A'BA-CIST, n. [from abacus.]

One that casts accounts; a calculator.

A-BACK', adv. [a and back, Sax. on bæc; at, on or toward the back. See Back.]

Toward the back; on the back part; backward. In seamen's language it signifies the situation of the sails, when pressed back against the mast by the wind. Taken aback, is when the sails are carried back suddenly by the wind. Laid aback, is when the sails are purposely placed in that situation to give the ship sternway. – Mariner's Dict.

AB'A-COT, n.

The cap of state, formerly used by English kings, wrought into the figure of two crowns.

A-BAC'TOR, n. [Latin from abigo, ab and ago, to drive.]

In law, one that feloniously drives away or steals a herd or numbers of cattle at once, in distinction from one that steals a sheep or two.

AB'A-CUS, n. [L. abacus, any thing flat, as a cupboard, a bench, a slate, a table or board for games; Gr. αβαξ. Usually deduced from the Oriental, אבק abak, dust, because the ancients used tables covered with dust for making figures and diagrams.]

  1. Among the Romans, a cupboard or buffet.
  2. An instrument to facilitate operations in arithmetic; on this are drawn lines; a counter on the lowest line, is one; on the next, ten; on the third, a hundred, &c. On the spaces, counters denote half the number of the line above. Other schemes are called by the same name. The name is also given to a table of numbers cast up, as, an abacus of addition; and by analogy, to the art of numbering, as in Knighton's Chronicon. – Encyc.
  3. In architecture, a table constituting the upper member or crowning of a column and its capital. It is usually square, but sometimes its sides are arched inwards. The name is also given to a concave molding on the capital of the Tuscan pedestal; and to the plinth above the boultin in the Tuscan and Doric orders. – Encyc.


The structure and disposition of the keys of a musical instrument.


A trough used in mines to wash ore in. – Encyc.


The multiplication table, invented by Pythagoras.

AB'A-DA, n.

A wild animal of Africa, of the size of a steer, or half grown colt, having two horns on its forehead and a third on the nape of the neck. Its head and tail resemble those of an ox, but it has cloven feet, like the stag. – Cyc.

A-BAD'DON, n. [Heb. Ch. Syr. Sam. אבד, abad, to be lost, or destroyed, to perish.]

  1. The destroyer, or angel of the bottomless pit. – Rev. ix.
  2. The bottomless pit. – Milton.

A-BAFT', adv. [or prep. Sax. eft, or æft, again. Hence efter or æfter, after, subsequent; Sax. æftan, behind in place; to which word be is prefixed – beæftan, behind, and this word is corrupted into abaft.]

A sea-term, signifying in or at the hinder part of a ship, or the parts which lie towards the stern; opposed to afore. Relatively it denotes further aft or towards the stern; as, abaft the mainmast. Abaft the beam is in that arch of the horizon which is between a line drawn at right angles with the keel, and the point to which the stern is directed. It is often contracted into aft. – Mar. Dict.

AB'A-GUN, n.

The name of a fowl in Ethiopia, remarkable for its beauty and for a sort of horn, growing on its head. The word signifies stately abbot. – Crabbe.


AB-A'LIEN-ATE, v.t. [See Alienate, Alien.]

To transfer the title of property from one to another – a term of the civil law – rarely or never used in common law proceedings.


Transferred from one to another.


Transferring from one to another.