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An Etymological Dictionary of Modern English, Vol. 2

An Etymological Dictionary of Modern English, Vol. 2

by Ernest Weekley

See All Formats & Editions

The compiler of this dictionary of word and phrase origins and history was not only a linguist and a philologist but also a man of culture and wit. When he turned his attention, therefore, to the creation of an etymological dictionary for both specialists and non-specialists, the result was easily the finest such work ever prepared.
Weekley's Dictionary is a


The compiler of this dictionary of word and phrase origins and history was not only a linguist and a philologist but also a man of culture and wit. When he turned his attention, therefore, to the creation of an etymological dictionary for both specialists and non-specialists, the result was easily the finest such work ever prepared.
Weekley's Dictionary is a work of thorough scholarship. It contains one of the largest lists of words and phrases to be found in any singly etymological dictionary — and considerably more material than in the standard concise edition, with fuller quotes and historical discussions. Included are most of the more common words used in English as well as slang, archaic words, such formulas as "I. O. U.," made-up words (such as Carroll's "Jabberwock"), words coined from proper nouns, and so on. In each case, roots in Anglo-Saxon, Old Norse, Greek or Latin, Old and modern French, Anglo-Indian, etc., are identified; in hundreds of cases, especially odd or amusing listings, earliest known usage is mentioned and sense is indicated in quotations from Dickens, Shakespeare, Chaucer, "Piers Plowman," Defoe, O. Henry, Spenser, Byron, Kipling, and so on, and from contemporary newspapers, translations of the Bible, and dozens of foreign-language authors.

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An Etymological Dictionary of Modern English

By Ernest Weekley

Dover Publications, Inc.

Copyright © 1967 Dover Publications, Inc.
All rights reserved.
ISBN: 978-0-486-12286-1



L. Fifty. From Roman symbol resembling, but not ident. with, L.

la. Interj. See law.

la [mus.]. See gamut.

laager. SAfrDu. lager, camp, Du. leger; cf. leaguer.

labarum [hist.]. Imperial standard of Constantine the Great (337 A.D.), with Christian symbols added to orig. Roman. G. [TEXT NOT REPRODUCIBLE IN ASCII] of unknown origin.

labdanum. MedL. form of ladanum, resinous gum, L., G. [TEXT NOT REPRODUCIBLE IN ASCII], from [TEXT NOT REPRODUCIBLE IN ASCII], mastic, Pers. ladan.

labefaction. From L. labefacere, to cause to totter, labare.

label. OF. (cf. F. lambeau, shred), narrow strip, fillet (her.),? dim. from OHG. lappa, shred, rag; cf. lappet. Current sense is developed from that of strip of parchment to bear seal attached to document.

labial. MedL. labialis, from labium, lip. Hence labialization (phon.), influence of labial consonant on adjacent vowel, e.g. the -u- of F. buvant, for OF. bev-, L. bib-, is "rounded" by influence of lip-consonants b and v.

labile. Easily displaced. L. labilis, from labi, to slip. Cf. lapse.

laboratory. MedL. laboratorium, from laborare, to work; cf. F. laboratoire, It. Sp. laboratorio. Elaboratory is also found (17 cent.).

labour. F., L. labor-em, toil, distress,? cogn. with labare, to sink, totter. For med. sense cf. travail. Pol. sense from c. 1880. Labour lost is in Piers Plowm. With labour of love (1 Thess. i. 3) cf. It. con amore. F. labour, labourer, like their Rom. cognates, are chiefly used of agricultural toil, esp. ploughing. This is also the oldest E. sense of the verb, still conspicuous in AV., and may be the source of naut. tolabour, pitch and roll heavily. To labour a point, laboured style, are aphet. for obs. elabour, F. élaborer.

elabourer: to elaborate; labour painfully, travell thoroughly; to worke exactly, doe a thing fully, and finely (Cotg.).

labret. Savage ornament for lip. Dim. from L. labrum.

laburnum. L. (Pliny), cogn. with labrusca, wild vine.

labyrinth. L., G. [TEXT NOT REPRODUCIBLE IN ASCII], spec. the Cretan labyrinth of Daedalus. See clew. Prob. not of G. origin.

lac. Resin. Hind. lakh, Prakrit lakkha, Sanskrit laksha. Cf. shellac, lake, lacquer.

lac2, lakh [Anglo-Ind.]. One hundred thousand, now esp. of rupees. Hind. lakh, Sanskrit laksha. Cf. crore.

Ditta Mull, and Choga Lall, and Amir Nath, and—oh, lakhs of my friends (Kipling, Tods' Amendment).

lace. OF. laz (lacs), L. laqueus, noose, cf. It. laccio, Sp. lazo (see lasso). With to lace, beat, cf. lash. Lace, a dash of spirits in coffee, etc., was orig. applied to sugar, app. in sense of accessory; cf. trimmings of a leg of mutton.

Lo, alle thise folk so caught were in hir las

(Chauc. A. 1951).

lacerate. From L. lacerare, to tear, from lacer, torn, G. [TEXT NOT REPRODUCIBLE IN ASCII], from [TEXT NOT REPRODUCIBLE IN ASCII], a rent.

lacertian, lacertine. Of the lizard, L. lacerta, whence lacertus, upper arm (cf. muscle).

laches [leg.]. Negligence. F. lâchesse, from lâche, lax, L. laxus. Cf. riches.

lachryma Christi. It. wine. L., for It. lacrima di Cristo, tear of Christ. Cf. Ger. liebfraumilch, Virgin's milk, a Rhinewine. Lacry-matory shell, causing partial blindness, is a product of Kultur. L. lacrima, lacruma, is a Sabine form for OL. dacruma, cogn. with G. [TEXT NOT REPRODUCIBLE IN ASCII] and E. tear.

laciniate [bot. & zool.]. Jagged. From L. lacinia, lappet, etc.

lack. Need. First (12 cent.) as verb. Cf. obs. Du. laken, to be wanting, with LG. cognates, also ON. lakr, inferior. Lacklustre is after As You Like It, ii. 7.

lack. Interj. Only in archaic good lack! Perh. connected with alack (q.v.); but cf. lawks.

lackadaisical. From despondent lack-a-day, for adack-aday. See alack.

lacker. See lacquer.

lackey, lacquey. In 16 cent. esp. running footman, camp-follower, F. laquais, perh. orig. adj., as in valet laquais (15 cent.); cf. Sp. Port. lacayo. OF. alacays (whence obs. Sc. allakey), Catalonian alacayo, suggest Arab. origin with def. art. prefixed. Sard. allecaju, a striped fish, E. lackey moth, also striped, may point to costume as orig. sense (cf. tiger).

laconic. Of Spartan brevity. G. [TEXT NOT REPRODUCIBLE IN ASCII], of Laconia or Lacedaemonia.

lacquer. Earlier (16 cent.) lacker, OF. lacre, Port. lacre, sealing-wax, var. of laca, lac.

lacrosse. F. jeu de la crosse, the crook (see crosier). The Canadian game is mentioned in 1763.

lacrym-. See lachrym-.

lacteal. From L. lac, lact-, milk.

lacuna. L., pit, hole, from lacus, lake. Cf. Ger. lücke, lacuna, cogn. with loch, hole. See lagoon.

lacustrine [scient.]. Irreg. formation from L. lacus, lake, after L. paluster, from palus, marsh.

lad. ME. ladde, servant, varlet.? Corrupt. of ON. lithi, follower, from lith, people, host. I am led to make this unphonetic conjecture by the fact that the surname Summerlad is undoubtedly for ON. sumar-lithi, viking, summer adventurer, a common ON. personal name, found also (Sumerled, Sumerleda, Sumerluda, etc.) in E. before the Conquest. The corresponding Winterlad once existed, but is now app. obs. Ladda also occurs, like boy (q.v.), as surname earlier than as common noun. Another conjecture is that it may be for Norw. askeladd, male Cinderella in Norw. fairy-tales, or tusseladd, nincompoop, in which the second element means hose.

ladanum. See labdanum.

ladder. AS. hlœ.d (d)er; cf. Du. ladder, leer (dial. leder), Ger. leiter; cogn. with to lean and ult. with G. [TEXT NOT REPRODUCIBLE IN ASCII], ladder. Fig. of means of rising, e.g. to draw up (kick down) the ladder, educational ladder, which has been defined as "the broad highway into a cul de sac."

lade. Mill-race, watercourse. AS. lad, way, course, cogn. with lead, leat, lode.

lade. To load. AS. hladan. Com. Teut.; cf. Du. Ger. laden, ON. hlatha, Goth. hlathan (in compds.). Now usu. replaced, exc. p.p. laden, by load (q.v.). See also last.

la-di-da, lardy-dardy.? Imit. of affected, haw-haw, type of speech. Dates from the sixties, but its great vogue was due to a music-hall song of 1880—He wears a penny flower in his coat, La-di-da!

Last May we went to Newmarket, we had a festive day,

With a decentish cold luncheon in a tidy one-horse shay;

With our lardy-dardy garments we were really "on the spot"

And Charley Vain came out so grand in a tall white chimney-pot (A. C. Hilton, Light Green, 1873).

Ladin [ling.]. Rom. lang. of the Engadine. It. Ladino,L. Latinus. Cf. Romansh.

ladle. AS. hlœdel, from lade, in obs. sense of baling. Cf. shovel.

lady. ME. levedy, AS. hlœfdige, from hlaf, loaf, and an obs. verb, to knead, cogn. with dough (q.v.). Orig. meaning was something like housewife. Cf. lord, dairy. Applied already in AS. to the Holy Virgin; hence Lady Day, Lady chapel, lady-bird (cf. Ger. Marienkäfer, lit. Mary's chafer), and many plant-names (lady's garter, bedstraw, etc.). In the oldest of these compds. (e.g. lady smock) the absence of 's is a survival of the AS. genitive of fem. nouns; cf. Thursday, from Thor (m.), but Friday, from Freia (f.). The lady of a lobster is supposed to resemble in form a seated female figure. The loafer who says Carry your bag, lady? preserves the Chaucerian method of address, which has now given way to the borrowed madam. Old lady of Threadneedle Street, for Bank of England, is due to Cobbett, who likened the directors to Mrs Partington.

lag. As noun and verb from 16 cent. Of obscure origin, but app. connected with delay (q.v.). In childish sense of last it may be an arbitrary perversion of that word (fog, seg, ... lag, first, second, ... last, in game counting), and this accounts for some meanings. In sense of convict under sentence of transportation it comes from an obs. lag, to carry off, steal (Tusser). It has also been associated with lack.

Superfluous lags the veteran on the stage

(Johnson, Vanity of Human Wishes).

lagan [hist.]. Goods or wreckage lying on bed of sea. OF., MedL. laganum, prob. cogn. with lie. Cf. flotsam, jetsam.

lager-beer. Ger. lager-bier, brewed for keeping, from lager, store, ident. in origin with laager, leaguer (q.v.).

lagoon. F. lagune, It. laguna, L. lacuna, from lacus, lake. Esp. in ref. to Venice.

laic. Late L. laicus. See lay.

laidly [archaic. Northern var. of loathly.

lair. AS. leger, couch, burial-place, etc., cogn. with lie. Cf. laager, leaguer. Now usu. of wild beast, but still applied to a pen or shed for cattle on their way to market.

laird. Sc. form of lord; cf. leddy for lady. Regularly written lard in Privy Council Acts, c. 1550.

laissez-aller, laissez-faire. F., let go, let do. The latter, in pol. sense now somewhat discredited, was originated by F. free-trade economists of 18 cent.

laity. AF. laité, from lay (q.v.) after other words in -té, -ty; cf. duty.

lake. Of water. F. lac, L. lacus, G. [TEXT NOT REPRODUCIBLE IN ASCII], pit, pond. Prob. confused also with dial. lake, stream, AS. lacu, cogn. with leak. The Lake school (Coleridge, Southey, Wordsworth) is mentioned by Edinburgh Review in 1817. Lakeland was app. coined by Southey.

lake. Pigment. Var. of lac (q.v.).

lakh. See lac.

lam. Cf. AS. lemian, to lame, cripple; but, the verb not being recorded in ME., lam is perh. of imit. origin (cf. bang, slam).

lama. Buddhist priest. Tibetan blama, with silent b-. Quot. 2 (from Yule) shows an odd confusion with llama (q.v.). See also Dalai-lama.

A certain high priest, whom they call Dalae-Lama, or Lama-lamalow (NED. 17 cent.).

The landlord prostrated himself as reverently, if not as lowly, as a Peruvian before his Grand Llama

(Novel reviewed in Academy, May 17, 1879).

lamantin [zool.]. F., manatee (q.v.).

Lamarckian. Of Lamarck, F. biologist (1829).

lamasery. F. lamaserie, Buddhist monastery, irreg. from lama.

lamb. AS. lamb. Com. Teut.; cf. Du. lam, Ger. lamm, ON. Goth. lamb. Lamb of God, after John, i. 29, is found in AS. With fig. ironic application in Kirk's Lambs (Monmouth's Rebellion), from Paschal Lamb on their banner, cf. Nottingham Lambs, i.e. roughs.

lambent. From pres. part. of L. lambere, to lick, used also of flames playing over surface.? Later sense associated with G. [TEXT NOT REPRODUCIBLE IN ASCII], to shine.

lambrequin [archaic]. Scarf worn over helmet. In US. scalloped drapery. F., in both senses, obs. Du. lamperkin, dim. of same origin as label.

A pair of Gobelins lambrequins yesterday, at Christie's, fetched £3780 (Daily Chron. Nov. 6, 1919).

lame. AS. lama. Com. Teut., exc. Goth., which has halts only (see halt); cf. Du. lam, Ger. lahm, ON. lame. Orig. of gen. weakness of limbs, paralysis. Cf. Ger. gelahmt, paralysed.

lamella [biol.]. Thin plate. L., dim. of lamina.

lament. F. lamenter, L. lamentari, from lamentum, cry of mourning, from imit. la! Cf. latrare, to bark.

lamia. L., witch sucking children's blood, G. [TEXT NOT REPRODUCIBLE IN ASCII], vampire, etc. In Wyc. (Is. xxxiv. 15, Lam. iv. 3).

lamina. L., plate, layer, whence F. lame, blade, etc.

Lammas [archaic]. Harvest festival (Aug. I) with consecration of loaves. AS. hla fmœsse, loaf mass. With latter Lammas, never, cf. Greek calends.

lammergeyer. Ger. lämmergeier, lambs-vulture. Second element prob. belongs to Ger. gier, greed (see yearn).

lamp. F. lampe, L., G. [TEXT NOT REPRODUCIBLE IN ASCII], from [TEXT NOT REPRODUCIBLE IN ASCII], to shine. To smell of the lamp was said by Pytheas (Plutarch) of preparation of speeches by Demosthenes. New lamps for old is from story of Aladdin.

lampas1 [vet.]. Mouth-disease of horses. F. (in OF. also meaning throat, as in humecter le lampas, to wet one's whistle). App. connected with lamper, to guzzle, nasalized form of laper, to lap (q.v.).

lampas. Chinese flowered silk. Cf. F. lampas, in same sense. Origin obscure. It may be from lampas, the pattern being compared to the swellings of the disease (cf. fraise, frill, tripe).

lampion. F., It. lampione, from lampa, lamp.

lampoon. F. lampon, from lampons, let us guzzle, used as refrain of scurrilous songs. Cf. vamose. For F. verb lamper see lampas.

lamprey. F. lamproie; cf. MedL. lampreda, whence AS. lamprede, limpet, OHG. lam-preta (lamprete), lamprey. Earlier is MedL. lampetra, explained as lick-rock, L. lambere and petra, from lamprey's habit of clinging to stones by a sucker. The use of the same word for the limpet (v.s.) makes this plausible. Earliest E. ref. is to death of Henry I.

lance. F., L. lancea,? of Celt. origin; cf. It. lancia, Sp. lanza, Du. lans, Ger. lanze, etc., partly replacing Teut. spear. Lance-corporal is a half adaptation of obs. lance–pesade, OF. lance-pessade (anspessade), It. lancia spezzata, broken lance, exact application of which is unknown. To break a lance is from the tourney. The Lancers (dance) was introduced by Laborde (1836). Lancet is F. dim. lancette.

lanceolate [scient.]. Late L. lanceolatus, from lanceola, small lance.

lancet. See lance.

lancinating. Acute (of pain). After F. lan-cinant, from L. lancinare, to rend, pierce.

land. AS. land. Com. Teut.; cf. Du. Ger. ON. Goth. land; cogn. with Welsh llann, enclosure, church, Breton lann, heath, whence F. lande, moor. With how the land lies (naut.) cf. coast is clear. Landfall, sighting of land, is from fall in sense of hap. The Ir. Land league was founded by Parnell (1879). Landlord, AS. landhladford, land-owner, has reached sense of innkeeper via that of master of the house, host. For naut. landsman (earlier landman) as opposed to seaman cf. huntsman, streersman, etc. Verb to land is for earlier lend, AS. lendan, from land, Some fig. senses, e.g. to land a fortune, are app. from angling. To land (a person) one in the eye is for earlier lend, used playfully for give. The landing of a flight of stairs is characteristic of our love of naut. metaphor. So also a sea-plane "lands" on the water.

If thou dost any more, I shall lend thee a knock


landamman [hist.]. Swiss magistrate. Ger. landamtmann. See ambassador.

landau. First built (18 cent.) at Landau (Bavaria). Ger. term is landauer (wagen). Cf. berline.

Im geöffneten wagen, er war in Landau verfertigt

(Goethe, Hermann und Dorothea, i. 56).


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