Word of the Day : January 25, 2017

ab ovo

adverb ab-OH-voh


: from the beginning

Did You Know?

"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."


"Given Arthur's fondness for approaching a problem ab ovo, without reference to previous results, and adding to it a certain obscurity of presentation that even I, who knew him well, had found disturbing, it was a wonder that he had done as well as he had." — Charles Sheffield, "A Braver Thing," 1990

"'Peter and the Starcatcher'—a show that exalts that ephemeral space where actor and audience embrace, time out of time—promises to stand for many years as a worthy legacy to Rees: the superb actor, brilliant director, and absolutely marvelous man who was there ab ovo." — Judith Newmark, The St. Louis Post-Dispatch, 10 Dec. 2015

Test Your Vocabulary

Fill in the blanks to complete another 2-word Latin phrase beginning with ab that means "from the beginning": ab  _ n _ t _ _.



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