"at leisure, not occupied, unmarried," from æmetta
"leisure," from æ
"not" + -metta,
"to have" (see might
). The -p-
is a euphonic insertion. Sense evolution from "at leisure" to "empty" is paralleled in several languages, cf. Mod.Gk. adeios
"empty," originally "freedom from fear," from deios
"fear." "The adj. adeios
must have been applied first to persons who enjoyed freedom from duties, leisure, and so were unoccupied, whence it was extended to objects that were unoccupied" [Buck]. The adj. also became the v. in 16c., replacing M.E. empten,
from O.E. geæmtigian.
Figurative sense of empty-nester
first attested 1987. Empty-handed
attested from 1613.