A Dictionary of the English Language
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Air (noun)

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Air n.s. [air, Fr. aër, Lat.]

  1. The element encompassing the terraqueous globe.

    If I were to tell what I mean by the word air, I may say, it is that fine matter which we breathe in and breathe out continually; or it is that thin fluid body, in which the birds fly, a little above the earth; or it is that invisible matter, which fills all places near the earth, or which immediately encompasses the globe of earth and water. Watt's Logick.

  2. The state of the air; or the air considered with regard to health.

    There be many good and healthful airs, that do appear by habitation and other proofs, that differ not in smell from other airs. Bacon's Natural History, № 904.

  3. Air in motion; a small gentle wind.

                Fresh gales, and gentle airs,
    Whisper'd it to the woods, and from their wings
    Flung rose, flung odours from the spicy shrub
    Disporting!
    Milton's Paradise Lost, b. viii. l. 515.

    But safe repose, without an air of breath,
    Dwells here, and a dumb quiet next to death.
    Dryden.

    Let vernal airs through trembling osiers play,
    And Albion's cliffs resound the rural lay.
    Pope's Pastorals.

  4. Blast.

    All the stor'd vengeancies of heaven fall
    On her ingrateful top! strike her young bones,
    You taking airs, with lameness.
    Shakesp. King Lear.

  5. Any thing light or uncertain; that is as light as air.

    O momentary grace of mortal men,
    Which we more hunt for than the grace of God!
    Who builds his hope in air of your fair looks,
    Lives like a drunken sailor on a mast,
    Ready, with ev'ry nod, to tumble down
    Into the fatal bowels of the deep.
    Shakesp. Rich. III.

  6. The open weather; air unconfined.

    The garden was inclos'd within the square,
    Where young Emilia took the morning air.
    Dryd. Fables.

  7. Vent; utterance; emission into the air.

    I would have ask'd you, if I durst for shame,
    If still you lov'd? you gave it air before me.
    But ah! why were we not both of a sex?
    For then we might have lov'd without a crime.
    Dryd. D. Seb.

  8. Publication; exposure to the publick view and knowledge.

    I am sorry to find it has taken air, that I have some hand in these papers. Pope's Letters.

  9. Intelligence; information.

    It grew also from the airs, which the princes and states abroad received from their ambassadors and agents here; which were attending the court in great number. Bacon's Henry VII.

  10. Poetry; a song.

                          And the repeated air
    Of sad Electra's poet, had the pow'r
    To save th' Athenian walls from ruin bare.
    Parad. Regain.

  11. Musick, whether light or serious.

    This musick crept by me upon the waters,
    Allaying both their fury and my passion,
    With its sweet air.
    Shakespeare's Tempest.

    Call in some musick; I have heard, soft airs
    Can charm our senses, and expel our cares.
    Denh. Sophy.

    The same airs, which some entertain with most delightful transports, to others are importune. Glanville's Scepsis Scient.

    Since we have such a treasury of words, so proper for the airs of musick, I wonder that persons should give so little attention. Addison, Spectator, № 406.

    Born on the swelling notes, our souls aspire,
    While solemn airs improve the sacred fire;
    And angels lean from heav'n to hear!
    Pope's St. Cæcilia.

    — When the soul is sunk with cares,
    Exalts her in enliv'ning airs.
    Pope's Cæcilia.

  12. The mien, or manner, of the person.

    Her graceful innocence, her ev'ry air,
    Of gesture, or least action, over-aw'd
    His malice.
    Milton's Paradise Lost, b. ix. l. 459.

                  For the air of youth
    Hopeful and chearful, in thy blood shall reign
    A melancholy damp of cold and dry,
    To weigh thy spirits down; and last consume
    The balm of life.
    Milt. Par. Lost, b. xi. l. 452.

    But, having the life before us, besides the experience of all they knew, it is no wonder to hit some airs and features, which they have missed. Dryden on Dramatick Poetry.

    There is something wonderfully divine in the airs of this picture. Addison on Italy.

    Yet should the Graces all thy figures place,
    And breathe an air divine on ev'ry face.
    Pope.

  13. An affected or laboured manner or gesture; as, a lofty air, a gay air.

    Whom Ancus follows, with a fawning air;
    But vain within, and proudly popular.
    Dryd. Æn. vi.

    There are of these sort of beauties, which last but for a moment; as, the different airs of an assembly, upon the sight of an unexpected and uncommon object, some particularity of a violent passion, some graceful action, a smile, a glance of an eye, a disdainful look, a look of gravity, and a thousand other such like things. Dryden's Dufresnoy.

    Their whole lives were employed in intrigues of state, and they naturally give themselves airs of kings and princes, of which the ministers of other nations are only the representatives. Addison's Remarks on Italy.

                      To curl their waving hairs,
    Assist their blushes, and inspire their airs.
    Pope.

    He assumes and affects an entire set of very different airs; he conceives himself a being of a superiour nature. Swift.

  14. Appearance.

    As it was communicated with the air of a secret, it soon found its way into the world. Pope's Ded. to Rape of the Lock.

  15. [In horsemanship.] Airs denote the artificial or practised motions of a managed horse. Chambers.

Sources: Addison, Joseph (408) · Bacon, Francis (396) · Chambers, Ephraim (20) · Denham, John (75) · Dryden, John (788) · Glanvill, Joseph (53) · Shakespeare's King Lear (144) · Milton, John (449) · Pope, Alexander (393) · Shakespeare's Richard III (63) · Spectator (140) · Swift, Jonathan (306) · Shakespeare's Tempest (50) · Watts, Isaac (117)

Attributes: French (385) · Latin (690) · Noun Substantive (1269)

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Cite this page: Johnson, Samuel. "Air (noun)." A Dictionary of the English Language: A Digital Edition of the 1755 Classic by Samuel Johnson. Edited by Brandi Besalke. Last modified: January 25, 2014. http://johnsonsdictionaryonline.com/?p=2014.


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