One of the mysteries of the English language finally explained.
Action at a distance.
Early 18th century. Originally from post-classical Latin actio in distans from classical Latin āctiō + in + distāns. In some forms probably reflecting the variant actio ad distans, showing classical Latin ad.
actio in distans/ˌaktɪəʊ ɪn ˈdɪstanz/
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