ab ovo

\ ab-ˈō-(ˌ)vō How to pronounce ab ovo (audio) \

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 late 16th century it had been adapted to its modern English meaning of "from the beginning," perhaps for the first time by Sir Philip Sidney in his An Apology for Poetry: "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."

Examples of ab ovo in a Sentence

Recent Examples on the Web Stevens came by his affinity with the downtrodden virtually ab ovo. Fergus M. Bordewich, WSJ, 5 Mar. 2021

These example sentences are selected automatically from various online news sources to reflect current usage of the word 'ab ovo.' Views expressed in the examples do not represent the opinion of Merriam-Webster or its editors. Send us feedback.

First Known Use of ab ovo

1583, in the meaning defined above

History and Etymology for ab ovo

Latin, literally, from the egg

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Dictionary Entries Near ab ovo

above the law

ab ovo

ab ovo usque ad mala

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Cite this Entry

“Ab ovo.” Merriam-Webster.com Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, https://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/ab%20ovo. Accessed 26 May. 2022.

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More from Merriam-Webster on ab ovo

Britannica.com: Encyclopedia article about ab ovo


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