: from the beginning

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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 examples are programmatically compiled from various online sources to illustrate current usage of the word 'ab ovo.' Any opinions expressed in the examples do not represent those of Merriam-Webster or its editors. Send us feedback about these examples.

Word History


Latin, literally, from the egg

First Known Use

1583, in the meaning defined above

Time Traveler
The first known use of ab ovo was in 1583


Dictionary Entries Near ab ovo

Cite this Entry

“Ab ovo.” Merriam-Webster.com Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, https://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/ab%20ovo. Accessed 9 Dec. 2023.

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