- The cardinal number equal to 10 + 1.
- The 11th in a set or sequence.
- Something with 11 parts or members, especially a football team.
Origin of eleven
Middle English elleven from
Old English endleofan
; see oi-no-
in Indo-European roots.
Related Forms:Word History:
It is fairly easy to see how the words for the numbers thirteen through nineteen are related to the numbers three through nine. The thir-
for example, sounds somewhat like three,
and the suffix -teen
But what about the words eleven
and twelve? Eleven
doesn't sound anything like one,
and although twelve
is spelled with the same tw-
found in two, twice,
what is the -elve?
English probably inherited all the words for the numbers eleven through nineteen from Germanic, the protolanguage that is the common ancestor of English and its close relatives, the other Germanic languages like Dutch, German, and the Scandinavian languages. The English words that end in -teen
descend from compounds formed in the Germanic protolanguage from the words for the numbers three through nine added to a form of the Germanic word for ten. This form of the word for ten eventually evolved into Modern English -teen.
The Modern English words eleven
descend from ancient Germanic compounds, too, and the speakers of the Germanic protolanguage would have recognized the meaningful parts of the compounds just as easily as English speakers recognize the meaningful parts of thirteen
Modern English eleven
descends from Old English endleofan,
and related forms in the various Germanic languages point back to an original Germanic compound *ainlif,
is composed of *ain-,
“one,” the same as our one,
and the suffix *-lif
from the Germanic root *lib-,
“to adhere, remain, remain left over.” Thus, eleven
is literally “one-left” (over, that is, past ten). Similarly, twelve
comes from an ancient Germanic *twalif,
“two-left” (over past ten). However, as Germanic evolved into Old English, and Old English into Modern English, changes in pronunciation obscured the meaningful elements in these compounds so that it was no longer possible to see how eleven
was related to one.