How did ‘already’ semantically shift from ‘all ready’ to indicate completed action?

Etymonline proclaims that ‘already’ did literally mean ‘all ready’.

c. 1300, “in a state of readiness” (an adjectival sense, now obsolete), literally “fully ready, quite prepared,” a contraction of all + ready (adj.).

So what semantic notions underlie it and Definition 2 below from OED?

2. South African. Used redundantly, esp. after a word or phrase, for emphasis, or in order to indicate the completed action of a verb.

Readiness and completion are unmistakably distinct notions. E.g. at the starting line marathoners were ALL READY to run, but if there’s thunder and the race gets cancelled, they didn’t ALREADY run.


Etymonline suggests that the contraction of all + ready as a state of readiness was extant in 1300. But, that the modern sense of by this time existed in Norwegian and Danish allrede as early as the late 14th c.

See also Wiktionary. It seems that the word is present in Middle English with the same sense as Dutch, and many other languages.

It’s likely that this semantic shift was due to a similar adverb existing with a more utile meaning.

Looking at the etymology of ready also gives us a sense of currently prepared. So, all ready meaning all currently prepared is an easy shift to at this point.

The American sense of “enough already” is attested in the earlier part of the 20th century. Also per etymonline, Yiddish and Germanic languages have a similar sense. Given the waves of immigration at the time in the United States, it stands to reason that these languages influenced this usage.

Source : Link , Question Author : NNOX Apps , Answer Author : David M

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