[‘A container for storing books, a bookcase; (occas.)
a room where books or other documents are stored, a library, an archive.
Formerly also: †a repository or compendium of knowledge, such as a chronicle or commentary (obs.). Now hist. (chiefly in the form almery) and rare.’]
Forms: α. ME almar,
Etymology: < (i) Anglo-Norman almarie, almari, almerie, aumerie, aumere, aumer, Anglo-Norman and Old French almarie, Anglo-Norman and Old French, Middle French armarie (also Old French, Middle French armaire, Middle French, French armoire) niche, cabinet, cupboard, closet, bookcase, library, chest (12th cent.),
and its etymon (ii) classical Latin armārium (in post-classical Latin also almarium and almaria (frequently from 13th cent. in British and continental sources)) cabinet, cupboard, bookcase, in post-classical Latin also recess in a wall (12th cent. in a British source), shelf (1440 in a British glossarial source) < arma gear, tools, arms (see ARM n.2) + -ārium -ARIUM suffix.
Compare Old Occitan armari, Catalan armari (13th cent.), Spanish armario, (now rare) almario (13th cent.), Portuguese armário, (now rare)almário (14th cent.), Italian †armario (13th cent.), armadio (14th cent.). Compare ARMOIRE n., ARMOURY n. Compare also ALMIRAH n.
Forms with initial al- probably result ultimately from consonantal dissimilation. The form nalmry at α forms shows metanalysis. The δ. forms show the development of an excrescent consonant. Perhaps sometimes associated by folk etymology with ALMONRY n., as if a place for alms (compare also discussion at ALMONRY n.).
For possible early use in surnames see note at ALMONRY n.
N.E.D. (1884) enters this under the double headword ambry, aumbry and gives the pronunciation as (ɑ•mbri) /ˈɑːmbrɪ/, /ˈæmbrɪ/.
1. A container for storing books, a bookcase; (occas.) a room where books or other documents are stored, a library, an archive. Formerly also: †a repository or compendium of knowledge, such as a chronicle or commentary (obs.). Now hist. (chiefly in the form almery) and rare.
In some instances perhaps simply a contextual use of sense 2a.
2. More generally.
a. A place for storing things, as a cupboard, locker, safe, press, etc.; a repository; (in later use) esp. a niche or recess in a wall used for storage. Formerly also (occas.): †a storeroom or storehouse (obs.). Now somewhat rare in general sense.
Earliest recorded in attrib. use.
From about the 17th cent. the general sense became restricted to Scottish and northern English (see also sense 3a); it continued in technical use with reference to aumbries in ancient buildings, etc., and has retained some currency in historical contexts.
In N.E.D. quot. 1573 at γ. was interpreted as evidence for a sense ‘a hutch for live-stock’, for which however other evidence is lacking.