ab ovo

adverb
\ ab-ˈō-(ˌ)vō \

Definition of ab ovo 

: from the beginning

Get Poetic With ab ovo

Ab ovo usque ad mala. That phrase translates as "from the egg to the apples," and it was penned by the Roman poet Horace. He was alluding to the Roman tradition of starting a meal with eggs and finishing it with apples. Horace also applied ab ovo in an account of the Trojan War that begins with the mythical egg of Leda from which Helen (whose beauty sparked the war) was born. In both cases, Horace used ab ovo in its literal sense, "from the egg," but by the 16th century Sir Philip Sidney had adapted it to its modern English sense, "from the beginning": "If [the dramatic poets] wil represent an history, they must not (as Horace saith) beginne Ab ouo: but they must come to the principall poynt of that one action."

First Known Use of ab ovo

1583, in the meaning defined above

History and Etymology for ab ovo

Latin, literally, from the egg

Keep scrolling for more

Learn More about ab ovo

Listen to Our Podcast about ab ovo

Statistics for ab ovo

Look-up Popularity

Time Traveler for ab ovo

The first known use of ab ovo was in 1583

See more words from the same year

More from Merriam-Webster on ab ovo

Britannica.com: Encyclopedia article about ab ovo

Comments on ab ovo

What made you want to look up ab ovo? Please tell us where you read or heard it (including the quote, if possible).

WORD OF THE DAY

to deposit or conceal in a hiding place

Get Word of the Day daily email!

Test Your Vocabulary

Name that Food Quiz

Name That Thing

Test your visual vocabulary with our 10-question challenge!

TAKE THE QUIZ
Citation

Test Your Knowledge - and learn some interesting things along the way.

TAKE THE QUIZ

Love words? Need even more definitions?

Subscribe to America's largest dictionary and get thousands more definitions and advanced search—ad free!