Roget's 21st Century Thesaurus, Third Edition Copyright © 2013 by the Philip Lief Group.


And I was within an ace of becoming an ornament of the British peerage.

If she had the ace of trumps in her hand at whist, she wouldn't say anything, child.

Colonel Chinn, you have overlooked that small wager on the ace.

I took, as I remember now, an ace of hearts off the table and threw it into the air.

And, besides, I might very well have won, for I still had an ace left.'

I was within an ace of succeeding, yet he avoided me, and doubled back.

His thin lips tightened; the sternness of his ace increased.

I looked into his smug face, and I was within an ace of striking him.

He had been within an ace of abandoning his historical mission.

Four cards more, and still no ace; I had only eight cards left.


c.1300, "one at dice," from Old French as "one at dice," from Latin as "a unit, one, a whole, unity;" also the name of a small Roman coin ("originally one pound of copper; reduced by depreciation to half an ounce" [Lewis]), perhaps originally Etruscan and related to Greek eis "one" (from PIE *sem- "one, as one"), or directly from the Greek word.

In English, it meant the side of the die with only one mark before it meant the playing card with one pip (1530s). Because this was the lowest roll at dice, ace was used metaphorically in Middle English for "bad luck" or "something of no value;" but as the ace is often the highest playing card, the extended senses based on "excellence, good quality" arose 18c. as card-playing became popular. Ace in the hole in the figurative sense of "concealed advantage" is attested from 1904, from crooked stud poker deals.

Meaning "outstanding pilot" dates from 1917 (technically, in World War I aviators' jargon, one who has brought down 10 enemy planes, though originally in reference to 5 shot down), from French l'ace (1915), which, according to Bruce Robertson (ed.) "Air Aces of the 1914-1918 War" was used in prewar French sporting publications for "top of the deck" boxers, cyclists, etc. Sports meaning of "point scored" (1819) led to that of "unreturnable serve" (1889).


Roget's 21st Century Thesaurus, Third Edition Copyright © 2013 by the Philip Lief Group.