air

Definitions

General English

  • noun a mixture of gases which cannot be seen, but which is all around us and which every animal breathes
  • noun the space around things and above the ground
  • noun an appearance or feeling
  • verb to make a room or clothes fresh by giving them more air

General Science

  • noun a mixture of gases forming the Earth’s atmosphere, which cannot be seen

Cars & Driving

  • noun the mixture of gases which form the atmosphere

Commerce

  • noun a method of travelling or sending goods using aircraft

Construction

  • In construction, shortened term for air-conditioning.
  • Sometimes used to refer to the oxygen used in an oxygen/ acetylene torch system.

Electronics

  • The mixture of gases that comprise the earth's atmosphere. Its composition varies depending on various factors, such as altitude, water vapor present, and contaminants at the site where the sample is taken. The main components of dry air at sea level, and their approximate proportion by volume, are: nitrogen (78%), oxygen (21%), and argon (0.9%). Other components include carbon dioxide, neon, helium, methane, and krypton.

Media Studies

  • verb to broadcast a radio or television programme or to be broadcast
  • acronym forAverage Issue Readership
    (written as AIR)
  • noun an estimate of the number of people who have read or looked at a publication during its issue period.

Medical

  • noun a mixture of gases, mainly oxygen and nitrogen, which cannot be seen, but which exists all around us and which is breathed

Military

  • adjective relating to the use of aircraft
  • noun a place where aircraft or birds can fly

Publishing

  • noun the white space on a printed page

Sports

  • noun a trick performed with the whole board or both the skates off the ground

Origin & History of “air”

Modern English air is a blend of three strands of meaning from, ultimately, two completely separate sources. In the sense of the gas we breathe it goes back via Old French air and Latin āēr to Greek ā́ēr ‘air’ (whence the aero-compounds of English; see (aeroplane)). Related words in Greek were ā́ērni ‘I blow’ and aúrā ‘breeze’ (from which English acquired aura in the 18th century), and cognates in other Indo-European languages include Latin ventus ‘wind’, English wind, and nirvana ‘extinction of existence’, which in Sanskrit meant literally ‘blown out’.

In the 16th century a completely new set of meanings of air arrived in English: ‘appearance’ or ‘demeanour’. The first known instance comes in Shakespeare’s 1 Henry IV, IV, i: ‘The quality and air of our attempt brooks no division’ (1596). this air was borrowed from French, where it probably represents an earlier, Old French, aire ‘nature, quality’, whose original literal meaning ‘place of origin’ (reflected in another derivative, eyrie) takes it back to Latin ager ‘place, field’, source of English agriculture and related to acre. (The final syllable of English debonair (13th c.) came from Old French aire, incidentally; the phrase de bon aire meant ‘of good disposition’.)

The final strand in modern English air comes via the Italian descendant of Latin āēr, aria. This had absorbed the ‘nature, quality’ meanings of Old French aire, and developed them further to ‘melody’ (perhaps on the model of German weise, which means both ‘way, manner’ and ‘tune’ – its English cognate wise, as in ‘in no wise’, meant ‘song’ from the 11th to the 13th centuries). It seems likely that English air in the sense ‘tune’ is a direct translation of the Italian. here again, Shakespeare got in with it first – in A Midsummer Night’s Dream, I, i: ‘Your tongue’s sweet air more tunable than lark to shepherd’s ear’ (1590). (Aria itself became an English word in the 18th century.).
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