See also: Ether, éther, and eþer

English edit

Pronunciation edit

An old metal flask used to hold ether (sense 5) for anesthetic purposes, produced by E. R. Squibb & Sons, New York, USA

Etymology 1 edit

From Middle English ēther (the caelum aetherum of ancient cosmology in which the planets orbit; a shining, fluid substance described as a form of air or fire; air),[1] borrowed from Anglo-Norman ether and Middle French ether, ethere, aether, from Old French aether (highest and purest part of the atmosphere; medium supposedly filling the upper regions of space) (modern French éther), or directly from its etymon Latin aethēr (highest and purest part of the atmosphere; air; heavens, sky; light of day; ethereal matter surrounding a deity) (note also New Latin aethēr (chemical compound analogous to diethyl ether)), from Ancient Greek αἰθήρ (aithḗr, purer upper air of the atmosphere; heaven, sky; theoretical medium supposed to fill unoccupied space and transmit heat and light),[2][3] from αἴθω (aíthō, to burn, ignite; to blaze, shine), from Proto-Indo-European *h₂eydʰ- (to burn; fire).

The English word is cognate with Italian ether, ethera (both obsolete), etere, Middle Dutch ether (modern Dutch aether (obsolete), ether), German Äther, Ether, Portuguese éter, Spanish éter.[2]

Noun edit

ether (countable and uncountable, plural ethers)

  1. (uncountable, literary or poetic) The substance formerly supposed to fill the upper regions of the atmosphere above the clouds, in particular as a medium breathed by deities.
    1. (by extension) The medium breathed by human beings; the air.
      • 1746 February 28, Criticus [pseudonym], “Dialogue on Women”, in [Mark Akenside], editor, The Museum: Or, The Literary and Historical Register, volume II, number XXV, London: Printed for R[obert] Dodsley [], →OCLC, page 389:
        On Wings the Birds through Æther glide, / And Fiſhes cut with Fins the Tide.
    2. (by extension) The sky, the heavens; the void, nothingness.
      • 2008 July 21, Steve Paulson, “Religion is Poetry”, in Salon[1], archived from the original on 30 August 2017:
        Take a snapshot of the conflicts around the world: Sunnis vs. Shiites, Israelis vs. Palestinians, Serbs vs. Kosovars, Indians vs. Pakistanis. They seem to be driven by religious hatred. It’s enough to make you wonder if the animosity would melt away if all religions were suddenly, somehow, to vanish into the ether. But James Carse doesn’t see them as religious conflicts at all. To him, they are battles over rival belief systems, which may or may not have religious overtones.
      • 2009 December, Sandra Tsing Loh, “On Being a Bad Mother: True Confessions”, in The Atlantic[2], →ISSN, archived from the original on 25 July 2018:
        In barely the blink of an eye, the perfectly healthy Judy entered a permanent vegetative state. [] What haunted me was the idea that one moment you’re gazing at your 2-year-old in her playroom and the next, you, the mother, have been whisked off into the ether forever.
      • 2018 May 7, Meg Downey, “Marvel’s Comic Soul Stone could Explain the Jump from Infinity War’s Ending to Avengers 4: A Brief History of Crazy Multidimensional Power”, in Polygon[3], archived from the original on 24 June 2018:
        There’s a very real chance that, rather than crumbling into the dust and floating off into the ether, Thanos’s victims [in the film Avengers: Infinity War] were actually sucked up into the Soul Stone.
  2. (uncountable, physics, historical) Often as aether and more fully as luminiferous aether: a substance once thought to fill all unoccupied space that allowed electromagnetic waves to pass through it and interact with matter, without exerting any resistance to matter or energy; its existence was disproved by the 1887 Michelson–Morley experiment and the theory of relativity propounded by Albert Einstein (1879–1955).
    • 1679 February 28, Thomas Birch, quoting Isaac Newton, “The Life of the Honourable Robert Boyle. [Letter from Isaac Newton to Robert Boyle.]”, in Robert Boyle, The Works of the Honourable Robert Boyle. In Five Volumes. To which is Prefixed the Life of the Author, volume I, London: Printed for A[ndrew] Millar, [], published 1744, →OCLC, page 70:
      I ſuppose this æther pervades all groſs bodies, but yet ſo as to ſtand rarer in their pores than in free ſpaces, and ſo much the rarer, as their pores are leſs. And this I ſuppose (with others) to be the cauſe, why light incident on thoſe bodies is refracted towards the perpendicular; [] I ſuppose the rarer æther within bodies, and then denſer without them, not to be terminated in a mathematical ſuperficies, but to grow gradually into one another; []
    • 1747, Bryan Robinson, A Dissertation on the Æther of Sir Isaac Newton, London: Printed for Charles Hitch [], →OCLC; quoted in “Literary Memoirs. A Dissertation on the Æther of Sir Isaac Newton, by Bryan Robinson, M.D. London, Printed for Charles Hitch, at the Red Lion in Pater-noster-Row, 1747. Containing 140 Pages in Octavo, Exclusive of a Short Preface.”, in The Museum: Or, The Literary and Historical Register, volume III, number XXVIII, London: Printed for R[obert] Dodsley [], 11 April 1747, →OCLC, pages 59–60:
      Having ſhewn how the Æther cauſes a great part of the Phænomena of Nature, it may be aſked, whence this general material Cauſe has its great Activity and Power? [] This Cauſe muſt be either Matter or Spirit, there being nothing in the Univerſe, which we know if, beſides theſe two. But this Cauſe cannot be Matter: for Matter is in own Nature inert, and has not any Activity in itſelf; and conſequently cannot communicate any Power to the Æther. And therefore the Cauſe, which gives the Æther its Activity and Power, muſt be Spirit. Spirit, which intercedes the Particles of Æther, and gives them a repulſive Power, and ordains and executes the Laws, by which Æther and Bodies act mutually on one another, muſt be preſent in all Parts of Space, where there is Æther.
    • 1770 November 1, “Investigator” [pseudonym], “Of the Causes of Attraction and Repulsion”, in Sylvanus Urban [pseudonym; Edward Cave], editor, The Gentleman’s Magazine, and Historical Chronicle, volume XL, London: Printed [], for D[avid] Henry; and sold by F[rancis] Newbery [], →OCLC, page 497, column 1:
      The whole matter of the univerſe may be divided into atoms and æther. [] The latter, æther, is a ſubtile elaſtic fluid, whoſe particles have a continual tendency to ſeparate or fly off every way, unleſs impreſſed by ſome body: This æther ſurrounds each atom like an atmoſphere, and preſſes equally towards the center of each.
    • 1929, Sir Arthur Conan Doyle, When the World Screamed[4]:
      "The ether. The earth browses upon a circular path in the fields of space, and as it moves the ether is continually pouring through it and providing its vitality."
  3. (uncountable, colloquial) The atmosphere or space as a medium for broadcasting radio and television signals; also, a notional space through which Internet and other digital communications take place; cyberspace.
    • H. P. Lovecraft, At the Mountains of Madness
      He held some friendly chat with Pabodie over the ether, and repeated his praise of the really marvelous drills that had helped him make his discovery.
    • 2013 June 14, Jonathan Freedland, “Obama’s Once Hip Brand is Now Tainted [online version: Obama is Like Apple, Google and Facebook: A Once Hip Brand Tainted by Prism]”, in The Guardian Weekly[5], volume 189, number 1, London, archived from the original on 26 September 2018, page 18:
      Now we are liberal with our innermost secrets, spraying them into the public ether with a generosity our forebears could not have imagined. Where we once sent love letters in a sealed envelope, or stuck photographs of our children in a family album, now such private material is despatched to servers and clouds operated by people we don't know and will never meet.
  4. (uncountable, colloquial) A particular quality created by or surrounding an object, person, or place; an atmosphere, an aura.
  5. (uncountable, organic chemistry) Diethyl ether (C4H10O), an organic compound with a sweet odour used in the past as an anaesthetic.
    • 1759, M[atthew] Turner, An Account of the Extraordinary Medicinal Fluid, Called Æther, [Liverpool]: Printed by John Sadler, →OCLC, page 5:
      But the moſt valuable Qualities of the ÆTHER are it's medicinal ones; it having been found by repeated Experience to be an excellent Remedy in moſt nervous Diſeaſes; particularly in Fits of all ſorts, whether Epileptic, Convulſive, Hyſteric, Hypochondriac, or Paralytic: []
    • 1971, Hunter S. Thompson, Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas, New York: Popular Library, →ISBN, page 4:
      The only thing that really worried me was the ether. There is nothing in the world more helpless and irresponsible and depraved than a man in the depths of an ether binge.
  6. (countable, organic chemistry) Any of a class of organic compounds containing an oxygen atom bonded to two hydrocarbon groups.
    • 1838 March, “Action of Chlorine on Æthers”, in David Brewster, Richard Taylor, Richard Phillips, editors, The London and Edinburgh Philosophical Magazine and Journal of Science, volume XII (3rd Series), number 74, London: Printed by R[ichard] and J[ohn] E[dward] Taylor, [], →OCLC, page 297:
      M. Malaguti finds that dry chlorine, while acting in the dark upon oxacid æthers, always attacks, and in a uniform manner, the sulphuric æther which is the base of them. [] The action of potash on the compound chloridized æthers is also constant and uniform: the results are always chloride of potassium, acetate of potash, and an organic salt with a base of potash, the acid of which is that which existed in the compound chloridized æther.
    • 1851, A[uguste André Thomas] Cahours, “[Notices of Papers Contained in the Foreign Journals.] On Anisol and Phenetol”, in Henry Watts, editor, The Quarterly Journal of the Chemical Society of London, volume III, London: Hippolyte Bailliere, []; Paris: J. B. Baillière, []; Madrid: Bailly Baillière, [], →OCLC, page 78:
      When chlorine gas is passed in excess through salicylic ether (salicylae of ethyl) heated over a water-bath, a solid substance is formed which is soluble in hot alcohol, and crystallizes, on cooling, in beautiful colourless tables. This compound is bichloruretted salicylic ether, formed from salicylic ether (C18H10O6) by the substitution of 2 eq. chlorine for 2 eq. hydrogen: its composition is therefore C18H8Cl2O6.
    • 1858 October 15, M. Hanhart, “On Some New Æthers of Stearic and Margaric Acids”, in William Francis, editor, The Chemical Gazette, or, Journal of Practical Chemistry, in All Its Applications to Pharmacy, Arts and Manufactures, volume XVI, number CCCLXXXIV, London: Published by Taylor and Francis, [], page 384:
      [] I allude to the æthers formed by the union of fatty acids with different alcohols. [] With regard to the fatty æthers themselves, I prepared them generally by M. Berthelot's method, by heating the alcohol and the acid for a day at 392°F. in a tube hermetically sealed; the product was mixed with a little æther, and it was digested some time with slaked lime in the water-bath, to separate the free acid from the neutral compound.
  7. (uncountable) Starting fluid.
Alternative forms edit
Derived terms edit
Related terms edit
Descendants edit
  • Korean: 에테르 (etereu)
  • Chinese: 以太 (yǐtài)
Translations edit
See also edit
  • firmament (also with multiple senses ranging from "sky" to "atmosphere" to "upper atmosphere" to "heaven")
  • welkin (also with multiple senses ranging from "sky" to "atmosphere" to "upper atmosphere" to "heaven")

Etymology 2 edit

From “Ether” (2001), a song by the American hip hop recording artist Nas (born 1973). According to Nas, the song, a diss track aimed at fellow artist Jay-Z (born 1969), was thus named because he was once told that ghosts and spirits do not like the fumes from ether (noun, sense 5), and he viewed the song as affecting Jay-Z in a similar way. The song contains the lines “I fuck with your soul like ether” and “That ether, that shit that make your soul burn slow”.

Verb edit

ether (third-person singular simple present ethers, present participle ethering, simple past and past participle ethered)

  1. (transitive, slang) To viciously humiliate or insult.
    Synonyms: see Thesaurus:abash
    The battle rapper ethered his opponent and caused him to slink away in shame.
    • 2014 February 26, Tom Ley, “HS Coach Gets Ethered by Girlfriend on FB, Resigns Amid Investigation”, in Deadspin[6], archived from the original on 22 October 2018:
      HS Coach Gets Ethered By Girlfriend On FB, Resigns Amid Investigation [article title] [] On Monday, a woman living in Bowling Green, Ky., used her Facebook page to unleash one of the coldest, boyfriend-crushingest Dear John letters you'll ever read.
    • 2015 August 15, “Pass the Remote: What is a Popular Show Everyone Loves but You Hate?”, in[7], archived from the original on 20 December 2018:
      Cory Barker: Game of Thrones is the easiest answer for me, but MaryAnn [Sleasman] did a fine job of ethering that overrated hunk of junk, so I'm free to take a few shots at Sherlock.
    • 2015 September 15, Kirsten Yoonsoo Kim, “Steven Soderbergh Ethers James Cameron to Promote His Brandy”, in Complex[8], archived from the original on 19 September 2015:
      Best of all, [Steven] Soderbergh, a shade queen of our time!!!, slyly ethers James Cameron: []
    • 2016 February 25, Rohan Nadkarni, “How does Kanye West Tweet So Fast?: Some Working Theories—because these Rants are Coming at a Record Speed”, in GQ[9], archived from the original on 28 February 2016:
      On Wednesday, I found myself nodding along vigorously to the latest Kanye West Twitter screed, as this particular iteration included a call for more inclusion at the Grammys and one extremely polite ethering of Macklemore.
Translations edit

Etymology 3 edit

Noun edit

ether (plural ether)

  1. (cryptocurrencies) Alternative letter-case form of Ether
    • 2018, Andreas M. Antonopoulos, Gavin Wood, Mastering Ethereum: Building Smart Contracts and DApps[10], O'Reilly Media, →ISBN:
      Gas is not ether–it's a separate virtual currency with its own exchange rate against ether.

References edit

  1. ^ ēther, n.”, in MED Online, Ann Arbor, Mich.: University of Michigan, 2007, retrieved 19 December 2018.
  2. 2.0 2.1 ether, n.”, in OED Online  , Oxford, Oxfordshire: Oxford University Press, March 2014.
  3. ^ ether”, in Lexico,; Oxford University Press, 2019–2022.

Further reading edit

Anagrams edit

Dutch edit

Etymology edit

From Middle Dutch ether, from Latin aethēr, from Ancient Greek αἰθήρ (aithḗr).

Pronunciation edit

Noun edit

ether m (plural ethers)

  1. (broadcasting, uncountable) air, broadcasting
    De televisieaanbieder gaat digitale televisie via de ether uitzenden.
    The television provider is going to broadcast digital television over the air.
  2. (organic chemistry) ether (organic compound containing an oxygen atom bonded to two hydrocarbon groups)
  3. (historical) ether (fifth element of Aristotelian natural philosophy, supposed to be the building block of the heavens)
    Synonym: kwintessens
  4. (historical, physics) ether (luminiferous aether, medium in which electromagnetic waves were supposed to occur)

Derived terms edit

Descendants edit

Anagrams edit

Portuguese edit

Noun edit

ether m (plural etheres)

  1. Pre-reform spelling (until Brazil 1943/Portugal 1911) of éter.