The word alibi was first attested in Edward Grimestone's 1612 General History of Spain, in which it had the same definition as today. Possibly through Dutch, it comes from Latin, where it literally translated to "elsewhere" or "another place". That comes from the adjective alius, meaning "other", and alius ultimately derives from Proto-Italic aljos and Proto-Indo-European hel, both with the same definition. Alius has had a sizeable impact on the English language: it also gave us the words alias ("otherwise named"), alien ("belonging to another"), and the phrase inter alia ("between others"), in addition to being a distant relative of words like else, other, and ulterior. According to Google Ngram Viewer, literary usage of alibi has been steadily increasing since its introduction, with a peak in 2017.
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Hello! I'm Adam Aleksic, a senior studying government and linguistics at Harvard University, where I co-founded the Harvard Undergraduate Linguistics Society. In addition to etymology, I also really enjoy trivia, politics, vexillology, geography, board games, conlanging, art history, and law.