Word Origin & History
early 13c., from O.Fr. aise "comfort, pleasure," of unknown origin, despite attempts to link it to various L. verbs. The earliest senses in French appear to be 1. "elbow-room" (from an 11th century Hebrew-French glossary) and 2. "opportunity." This led Sophus Bugge to suggest an origin in V.L. asa, a
shortened form of L. ansa "handle," which could be used in the figurative sense of "opportunity, occasion," as well as being a possible synonym for "elbow," since L. ansatus "furnished with handles" also was used to mean "having the arms akimbo." OED editors report this theory, and write, "This is not very satisfactory, but it does not appear that any equally plausible alternative has yet been proposed." The verb meaning "to give ease" is from mid-14c.; the sense of "to relax one's efforts" is from 1863. Farmer reports ease in a slang sense of to content a woman sexually, with an 1861 date. Related: Eased; easing.