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    L — lag (v.)


    twelfth letter, Roman form of Greek lambda, which is from the Semitic lamed. The shape of the Roman letter is an early one in Greek, adopted in Italic before it was superseded in Greek by the inverted form which became the Greek lambda. In some words (ladder, lady, laughter, leap, listen, lid) it represents Old English hl-. As "building or extension in the shape of an L" from 1843. As an "alphabetic abbreviation" [OED] of elevated railway, from 1881 (compare el). The Three Ls in nautical navigation were "lead" (for sounding), "latitude" and "lookout."ETD L.2


    Proto-Indo-European root meaning "to let go, slacken."ETD *lē-.2

    It forms all or part of: alas; allegiance; lassitude; last (adj.) "following all others;" late; latter; lenient; lenitive; lenity; let (v.) "allow;" let (n.) "stoppage, obstruction;" liege.ETD *lē-.3

    It is the hypothetical source of/evidence for its existence is provided by: Greek ledein "to be weary;" Latin lenis "mild, gentle, calm," lassus "faint, weary;" Lithuanian lėnas "quiet, tranquil, tame, slow," leisti "to let, to let loose;" Old Church Slavonic lena "lazy," Old English læt "sluggish, slow," lætan "to leave behind."ETD *lē-.4


    abbreviation for Los Angeles, attested from 1949.ETD L.A..2

    la (3)

    Anglo-Saxon interjection of mild wonder or surprise, or grief; "oh, ah, indeed, verily."ETD la (3).2

    la (1)

    musical note (sixth note of the diatonic scale), early 14c., see gamut. It represents the initial syllable of Latin labii "of the lips." In French and Italian it became the name of the musical note A, which is the sixth of the natural scale (C major).ETD la (1).2

    la (2)

    fem. form of the French definite article, used in English in certain phrases and sometimes added ironically to a woman's name with a suggestion of "prima donna" (OED examples begin 1860s). See le.ETD la (2).2

    lab (n.)

    shortened form of laboratory, 1895.ETD lab (n.).2

    labarum (n.)

    the imperial standard adopted by Constantine, from Greek labaron, which is of unknown origin.ETD labarum (n.).2

    labefaction (n.)

    "process of shaking; downfall, overthrow," 1610s, noun of action from Latin labefactus, past participle of labefacere "to cause to totter, shake," literally and figuratively; also "to overthrow," from labare "to totter, stand unsteadily, be ready to fall, begin to sink, give way" (which is perhaps related to labi "to glide, slip, slide, sink, fall; see lapse (n.)) + facere "to make, do" (from PIE root *dhe- "to set, put").ETD labefaction (n.).2

    Alternative labefactation (from Latin labefactitionem "a shaking, loosening," noun of action from past-participle stem of labefacere) is attested from 1775. As a verb, labefact is from 1540s, labefy 1620s, labefactate from 1650s.ETD labefaction (n.).3

    label (n.)

    c. 1300, "narrow band or strip of cloth" (oldest use is as a technical term in heraldry), from Old French label, lambel, labeau "ribbon, fringe worn on clothes" (13c., Modern French lambeau "strip, rag, shred, tatter"). This is perhaps, with a diminutive suffix, from Frankish *labba or some other Germanic source (such as Old High German lappa "flap"), from Proto-Germanic *lapp-, forming words for loose cloth, etc. (see lap (n.1)).ETD label (n.).2

    Meanings "dangling strip of cloth or ribbon used as an ornament in dress," also "strip attached to a document to hold a seal" both are from early 15c. General meaning "tag, sticker, slip of paper" affixed to something to indicate its nature, contents, destination, etc. is from 1670s. Hence "circular piece of paper in the center of a gramophone record," containing information about the recorded music (1907), which led to the meaning "a recording company" (1947).ETD label (n.).3

    label (v.)

    "to affix a label to," c. 1600, see label (n.); figurative sense of "to categorize" is from 1853. Related: Labeled; labeling; labelled; labelling.ETD label (v.).2

    labia (n.)

    in anatomy and zoology, "lips or lip-like parts," a Modern Latin use of Latin labia "lips," plural of labium "lip" (see lip (n.)). Specifically as "the folds on either side of the vulva" (labia pudendi) from 1630s; further classified as labia majora (the outer folds, 1813; the singular is labium majus) and labia minora (inner folds, 1781; the singular is labium minus). The lips of the mouth are labium superior (upper) and labium inferiore (lower).ETD labia (n.).2

    labial (adj.)

    "pertaining to the lips," 1590s, from Medieval Latin labialis "having to do with the lips," from Latin labium "lip" (see lip (n.)). The noun meaning "a labial sound" (one accomplished by complete closure of the lips) is from 1660s, from the adjective in this sense (1590s). Related: Labially.ETD labial (adj.).2

    labialize (v.)

    1856, from labial + -ize. Related: Labialized; labializing.ETD labialize (v.).2

    labiate (adj.)

    "having a lip or lip-like part," 1706, from Modern Latin labiatus "lipped," from Latin labium "lip" (see lip (n.)).ETD labiate (adj.).2

    labile (adj.)

    mid-15c., "prone to lapse," from Latin labilis, from labi "to slip" (see lapse (n.)). Hence, in chemistry, "prone to undergo displacement" (c. 1600).ETD labile (adj.).2


    word-forming element in medical use since 17c., taken as a combining form of Latin labium "lip" (see lip (n.)).ETD labio-.2

    labium (n.)

    "lip or lip-like part," 1590s, plural labia (q.v.), from Latin labium "lip" (see lip (n.)).ETD labium (n.).2

    labonza (n.)

    "belly," 1943, American English slang, probably from dialectal pronunciation of Italian la pancia "the belly," with the definite article absorbed, from Latin pantex (genitive panticis) "belly" (see paunch).ETD labonza (n.).2

    laborer (n.)

    mid-14c., "manual worker," especially an unskilled one, agent noun from labor (v.). Meaning "member of the working class, member of the lowest social rank" is from c. 1400 (compare labour).ETD laborer (n.).2

    labor (v.)

    late 14c., "perform manual or physical work; work hard; keep busy; take pains, strive, endeavor" (also "copulate"), from Old French laborer "to work, toil; struggle, have difficulty; be busy; plow land," from Latin laborare "to work, endeavor, take pains, exert oneself; produce by toil; suffer, be afflicted; be in distress or difficulty," from labor "toil, work, exertion" (see labor (n.)).ETD labor (v.).2

    The verb in modern French, Spanish, and Portuguese means "to plow;" the wider sense being taken by the equivalent of English travail. Sense of "endure pain, suffer" is early 15c., especially in phrase labor of child (mid-15c.). Meaning "be burdened" (with trouble, affliction, etc., usually with under) is from late 15c. The transitive senses have tended to go with belabor. Related: Labored; laboring.ETD labor (v.).3

    labored (adj.)

    also laboured, "learned," mid-15c., past-participle adjective from labor (v.). Meaning "done with much labor" is from c. 1600.ETD labored (adj.).2

    labor (n.)

    c. 1300, "a task, a project" (such as the labors of Hercules); later "exertion of the body; trouble, difficulty, hardship" (late 14c.), from Old French labor "toil, work, exertion, task; tribulation, suffering" (12c., Modern French labeur), from Latin labor "toil, exertion; hardship, pain, fatigue; a work, a product of labor," a word of uncertain origin. Some sources venture that it could be related to labere "to totter" on the notion of "tottering under a burden," but de Vaan finds this unconvincing. The native word is work.ETD labor (n.).2

    Meaning "body of laborers considered as a class" (usually contrasted to capitalists) is from 1839; for the British political sense see labour. Sense of "physical exertions of childbirth" is attested from 1590s, short for labour of birthe (early 15c.); the sense also is found in Old French, and compare French en travail "in (childbirth) suffering" (see travail). Labor Day was first marked 1882 in New York City. The prison labor camp is attested from 1900. Labor-saving (adj.) is from 1776. Labor of love is by 1797.ETD labor (n.).3

    laboratory (n.)

    c. 1600, "room or building set apart for scientific experiments," from Medieval Latin laboratorium "a place for labor or work," from Latin laboratus, past participle of laborare "to work" (see labor (v.)). Figurative use by 1660s.ETD laboratory (n.).2

    laboriously (adv.)

    early 15c., "slowly and with difficulty," from laborious + -ly (2). Meaning "earnestly, strongly" is from c. 1500.ETD laboriously (adv.).2

    laborious (adj.)

    late 14c., "hard-working, industrious," from Old French laborios "arduous, wearisome; hard-working" (12c., Modern French laborieux), from Latin laboriosus "toilsome, wearisome, troublesome," also "inclined to labor, industrious," from labor "toil, exertion" (see labor (n.)). Meaning "costing much labor, burdensome" is from early 15c.; meaning "resulting from hard work" is mid-15c. Related: Laboriousness.ETD laborious (adj.).2

    labourer (n.)

    chiefly British English spelling of laborer; for suffix, see -or.ETD labourer (n.).2


    chiefly British English spelling of labor (q.v.); for spelling, see -or. With capital L-, short for "the British Labour Party," it is attested from 1892; the party name itself is from 1886.ETD labour.2


    large province of eastern Canada, probably from Portuguese Lavrador, which is of uncertain origin. Among the theories advanced, W.F. Ganong identifies as "The generally accepted and altogether probable one" that "it was originally 'Terra Laboratoris,' land of the laborer because Cortereal brought fifty men thence to Europe, who were described as well fitted for slaves. This is sustained by all the evidence of old maps." Gasper Cortereal was a Portuguese navigator who explored the coast for the Portuguese crown in 1500 and brought home captives. He returned for more in 1501, but was never heard from again. But a Portuguese map of 1520 has the name Lavrador applied to Greenland, while the coast of Labrador and Newfoundland is called Bacalhaos, which is "codfish" in Basque.ETD Labrador.2

    One of them [Room] is that the sense of the name is "landholder" and is a reference to 15c. Portuguese explorer João Fernandes, called Llavrador, who was a landholder in the Azores and had sailed as far as Iceland and Greenland. John Cabot met Fernandes when he was in Spain and Portugal in the spring of 1498, recruiting sailors for an Atlantic voyage, and he advised Cabot that this was a good way to get to Asia. The breed of retriever dog so called from 1815. Related: Labradorian.ETD Labrador.3

    labret (n.)

    ornament inserted into a lip, 1843 (first reference is to Eskimo men), from Latin labrum "a lip" (cognate with labium "lip;" see lip (n.)) + -et.ETD labret (n.).2

    labrum (n.)

    lip or lip-like part, 1816, in various anatomical and zoological uses, from Latin labrum "a lip," cognate with labium "lip" (see lip (n.)). The same word is also noted in Middle English as the name of some herb.ETD labrum (n.).2

    laburnum (n.)

    small, leguminous tree native to the Alps, 1570s, from Latin laburnum (Pliny), a word of unknown origin; perhaps from Etruscan.ETD laburnum (n.).2

    labyrinth (n.)

    c. 1400, laberynthe (late 14c. in Latinate form laborintus) "labyrinth, maze, great building with many corridors and turns," figuratively "bewildering arguments," from Latin labyrinthus, from Greek labyrinthos "maze, large building with intricate passages," especially the structure built by Daedelus to hold the Minotaur, near Knossos in Crete, a word of unknown origin.ETD labyrinth (n.).2

    Apparently from a pre-Greek language; traditionally connected to Lydian labrys "double-edged axe," symbol of royal power, which fits with the theory that the original labyrinth was the royal Minoan palace on Crete. It thus would mean "palace of the double-axe." But Beekes finds this "speculative" and compares laura "narrow street, narrow passage, alley, quarter," also identified as a pre-Greek word. Used in English for "maze" early 15c., and in figurative sense of "confusing state of affairs" (1540s). As the name of a structure of the inner ear, the essential organ of hearing, from 1690s.ETD labyrinth (n.).3

    labyrinthine (adj.)

    1630s; see labyrinth + -ine (1). Figurative use by 1831. Earlier adjective forms were labyrinthian/labyrinthean (1580s), labyrinthial (1540s), labyrinthical (1620s), labyrinthic (1640s).ETD labyrinthine (adj.).2

    lac (n.)

    "red resinous substance," 1550s, perhaps immediately from French lacce, displacing or absorbing earlier lacca (early 15c.), from Medieval Latin lacca. All these are from Persian lak, from Hindi lakh (Prakrit lakkha), from Sanskrit laksha "red dye," which is of uncertain origin.ETD lac (n.).2

    According to Klein, it means literally "one hundred thousand" and is a reference to the insects that gather in great numbers on the trees and create the resin. But others say lakh is perhaps an alteration of Sanskrit rakh, from an IE root word for "color, dye" [Watkins]. Still another guess is that Sanskrit laksha is related to English lax, lox "salmon," and the substance perhaps was so called from being somewhat the color of salmon [Barnhart]. Also see shellac (n.).ETD lac (n.).3

    lace (n.)

    early 13c., laz, "cord made of braided or interwoven strands of silk, etc.," from Old French laz "a net, noose, string, cord, tie, ribbon, or snare" (Modern French lacs), from Vulgar Latin *lacium, from Latin laqueum (nominative laqueus) "a noose, a snare" (source also of Italian laccio, Spanish lazo, English lasso), a trapping and hunting term, probably from Italic base *laq- "to ensnare" (compare Latin lacere "to entice").ETD lace (n.).2

    Later also "net, noose, snare" (c. 1300); and "piece of cord used to draw together the edges of slits or openings in an article of clothing" (late 14c., as preserved in shoelace). In Middle English it mostly had the sense "cord, thread," especially for tying or binding. It was used of fishing lines and perhaps the gallows rope, crossbeams in architecture, and the net Vulcan used to catch Venus in adultery. Death's lace was the icy grip of Death, and Love's lace was a binding love.ETD lace (n.).3

    From 1540s as "ornamental cord or braid," hence the meaning "fabric of fine threads in a patterned ornamental open net" (1550s), which soon became the main meaning of the English word. "Century Dictionary" (1902) describes by name 87 varieties. As an adjective, lace-curtain "middle class" (or lower-class with middle-class pretensions), often used in reference to Irish-Americans, is attested by 1928.ETD lace (n.).4

    lace (v.)

    c. 1200, "fasten (clothing, etc.) with laces and ties," from Old French lacier "entwine, interlace, fasten with laces, lace on; entrap, ensnare," from laz "net, noose, string, cord" (see lace (n.)). From early 14c. as "tighten (a garment) by pulling its laces." From 1590s as "to adorn with lace;" the meaning "to intermix (coffee, etc.) with a dash of liquor" (1670s) originally also was used of sugar, and comes via the notion of "to ornament or trim," as with lace. Meaning "beat, lash, mark with the lash" is from 1590s, from the pattern of streaks. Related: Laced; lacing. Laced mutton was "an old word for a whore" [Johnson].ETD lace (v.).2

    Lacedaemonian (adj.)

    "pertaining to Sparta," 1709, from Latin Lacedaemonius, from Greek Lakedaimonios, from Lakedaimon, an ancient Greek name for Sparta as the capital of Lakonia (see laconic). From 1713 as a noun.ETD Lacedaemonian (adj.).2


    see lacy.ETD lacey.2

    laceman (n.)

    dealer in laces, 1660s, from lace (n.) + man.ETD laceman (n.).2

    laceration (n.)

    1590s, "act of lacerating;" 1630s, "breach or rend made by tearing;" from French lacération, from Latin lacerationem (nominative laceratio) "a tearing, rending, mutilation," noun of action from past-participle stem of lacerare "tear to pieces, mangle; slander, abuse" (see lacerate).ETD laceration (n.).2

    lacerate (v.)

    "to tear roughly," early 15c., from Latin laceratus, past participle of lacerare "tear to pieces, mangle," figuratively, "to slander, censure, abuse," from lacer "torn, mangled," from PIE root *lek- "to rend, tear" (source also of Greek lakis "tatter, rag," lakizein "to tear to pieces;" Latin lacinia "flap of a garment," lancinare "to pierce, stab;" Russian lochma "rag, tatter, scrap;" Albanian l'akur "naked"). Figurative sense in English is from 1640s. Related: Lacerated; lacerating.ETD lacerate (v.).2

    lacertine (adj.)

    "lizard-like," 1841, from Latin lacerta (see lizard). Other adjectives from the early years of dinosaur paleontology were lacertian (1841), lacertilian (1848). In decorative arts, lacertine work (1854) consists of intertwined serpents.ETD lacertine (adj.).2

    lace-up (adj.)

    1831, originally of boots, from the verbal phrase, from lace (v.) + up (adv.).ETD lace-up (adj.).2

    lace-wing (n.)

    also lacewing, type of insect, 1847; see lace (n.) + wing (n.). Earlier was lace-winged fly (1826), and the shorter for might be from this.ETD lace-wing (n.).2

    laches (n.)

    "negligence in performance of legal duty," 1570s, earlier simply "slackness, negligence, want of zeal" (late 14c.), from Anglo-French laches, Old French lachesse "lawlessness, remissness," from Old French lasche "lax, remiss" (Modern French lâche), verbal adjective from lascher, from Vulgar Latin *lascare, classical laxare "to slacken, relax," from laxus "loose; yielding; indulgent" (from PIE root *sleg- "be slack, be languid"). Compare riches.ETD laches (n.).2

    lachrymal (adj.)

    also lachrimal, lacrymal, early 15c., from Medieval Latin lacrimalis "pertaining to tears," from Latin lacrima, lacryma "a tear" (see lachrymose). The corrupted spelling with -ch- began in Medieval Latin. Hence French larme, Spanish lagrima "a tear," French larmoyer "to shed tears."ETD lachrymal (adj.).2

    lachrymose (adj.)

    also lacrymose, 1660s, "tear-like," from Latin lacrimosus "tearful, sorrowful, weeping," also "causing tears, lamentable," from lacrima, lacryma "a tear," a dialect-altered borrowing of Greek dakryma "a tear," from dakryein "to shed tears, weep, lament with tears," from dakry "a tear" (from PIE *dakru- "tear;" see tear (n.1)). Meaning "given to tears, tearful" is first attested 1727; meaning "of a mournful character" is from 1822. Related: Lachrymosely.ETD lachrymose (adj.).2

    The -d- to -l- alteration in Latin is the so-called "Sabine -L-"; compare Latin olere "smell," from root of odor, and Ulixes, the Latin form of Greek Odysseus. The Medieval Latin practice of writing -ch- for -c- before Latin -r- also altered anchor, pulchritude, sepulchre. The -y- is pedantic, from the former belief that the word was pure Greek. Earlier in the same sense was lachrymental (1620s). Middle English had lacrymable "tearful" (mid-15c.).ETD lachrymose (adj.).3

    lacy (adj.)

    1804, from lace (n.) in the decorative sense + -y (2).ETD lacy (adj.).2

    laciniate (adj.)

    in botany, "irregularly cut in narrow lobes, jagged," literally "adorned with fringes," 1760, from Latin lacinia "a flap" (see lacerate).ETD laciniate (adj.).2

    lack (v.)

    "be wanting or deficient" (intransitive), late 12c., perhaps from Middle Dutch laken "to be wanting," from lak (n.) "deficiency, fault," or an unrecorded native cognate word (see lack (n.)). Transitive sense "be in want of" is from early 13c. Related: Lacked; lacking.ETD lack (v.).2

    lack (n.)

    c. 1300, "absence, want; shortage, deficiency," not found in Old English, of uncertain origin. Perhaps it is from an unrecorded Old English *lac, or else borrowed from Middle Dutch lak "deficiency, fault;" in either case probably from Proto-Germanic *lek- (source also of Old Frisian lek "disadvantage, damage," Old Norse lakr "lacking" (in quality), "deficient" (in weight)), from PIE *leg- (2) "to dribble, trickle" (see leak (v.)). Middle English also had lackless "without blame or fault."ETD lack (n.).2


    see lackadaisical.ETD lackaday.2

    lackadaisical (adj.)

    "sentimentally woebegone" [Century Dictionary], 1768, lack-adaysical (Sterne), from interjection lackadaisy "alas, alack" (1748), a ludicrous alteration of lack-a-day (1690s), an exclamation of sorrow or regret, from alack the day (1590s). Hence, "given to crying 'lack-a-day,' vapidly sentimental." Sense probably altered by influence of lax. Related: Lackadaisically.ETD lackadaisical (adj.).2

    lackey (n.)

    1520s, "footman, running footman, valet," from French laquais "foot soldier, footman, servant" (15c.), a word of unknown origin; perhaps from Old Provençal lacai, from lecai "glutton, covetous," from lecar "to lick." The alternative etymology is that it comes via Old French laquay, from Catalan alacay, from Arabic al-qadi "the judge." Yet another guess traces it through Spanish lacayo, from Italian lacchè, from Modern Greek oulakes, from Turkish ulak "runner, courier." This suits the original sense better, but OED says Italian lacchè is from French. Sense of "servile follower" appeared 1580s. As a political term of abuse it dates from 1939 in communist jargon.ETD lackey (n.).2

    lackluster (adj.)

    also lack-luster, c. 1600, "dull, wanting brightness" (originally of eyes), first attested in "As You Like It," from lack (v.) + luster (n.1). Such combinations with lack- were frequent once: Shakespeare alone also has lack-love, lack-beard, lack-brain, lack-linen. Outside Shakespeare there was lackland (1590s), of a landless man; lack-Latin (1530s), of an ignorant priest; lack-learning (1590s), lack-wit (Dryden), lack-thought (1829), lack-life (1889), and the comprehensive lack-all (1850).ETD lackluster (adj.).2

    lacklustre (adj.)

    also lack-lustre, chiefly British English spelling of lackluster (q.v.); for spelling, see -re.ETD lacklustre (adj.).2

    laconic (adj.)

    "concise, abrupt," 1580s, literally "of or pertaining to the region around ancient Sparta" in Greece, probably via Latin Laconicus "of Laconia," from Greek Lakonikos "Laconian, of Laconia," adjective from Lakon "person from Lakonia," the district around Sparta in southern Greece in ancient times.ETD laconic (adj.).2

    The Spartans famously cultivated the skill of saying much in few words. When Philip of Macedon threatened them with, "If I enter Laconia, I will raze Sparta to the ground," the Spartans' reply was, "If." An earlier form was laconical (1570s). Related: Laconically.ETD laconic (adj.).3

    Laconian (adj.)

    "of or pertaining to the region around Sparta," 1570s, from Latin Laconia (from Greek Lakonia; see laconic) + -ian. As a noun from c. 1600.ETD Laconian (adj.).2


    Paris-based high-end apparel company, founded 1933, named for company co-founder René Lacoste (1904-1996).ETD Lacoste.2

    lacquer (n.)

    1570s, "dye obtained from lac;" 1670s as "gold-colored solution of shellac," from obsolete French lacre, name for a kind of sealing wax, from Portuguese lacre, unexplained variant of lacca "resinous substance," from Arabic lakk, from Persian lak (see lac).ETD lacquer (n.).2

    lacquer (v.)

    "cover or coat with laqueur," 1680s, from lacquer (n.). Related: Lacquered; lacquering.ETD lacquer (v.).2

    lacrosse (n.)

    1850, American English, from Canadian French jeu de la crosse (18c.), literally "game of the hooked sticks," from crosse "hooked stick," such as that used in the game to throw the ball. This French word is, perhaps via a Gallo-Romance *croccia, from Proto-Germanic *kruk- (see crook (n.)). Originally a North American Indian game; the native name is represented by the Ojibwa (Algonquian) verb baaga'adowe "to play lacrosse." Modern form and rules of the game were laid down 1860 in Canada.ETD lacrosse (n.).2

    lacrymatory (n.)

    "small, slender glass vessel," of a type found in ancient sepulchers, 1650s, from Medieval Latin lacrimatorium, noun use of neuter of adjective lacrimatorius "pertaining to tears," from Latin lacrima "a tear" (see lachrymose). "It seems established that in some of them, at least, the tears of friends were collected to be buried with the dead" [Century Dictionary]. As an adjective 1849; the older adjective is lacrymary "designed to contain tears" (1705).ETD lacrymatory (n.).2

    lactate (n.)

    salt of lactic acid, 1790, from French (1789), from stem of lactic + -ate (1).ETD lactate (n.).2

    lactate (v.)

    "secrete milk from the breasts," 1889, probably a back-formation from lactation. The Latin verb was lactare. Related: Lactated; lactating.ETD lactate (v.).2

    lactation (n.)

    1660s, "process of suckling an infant," from French lactation, from Late Latin lactationem (nominative lactatio) "a suckling," noun of action from past-participle stem of lactare "to suckle," from lac (genitive lactis) "milk" (from PIE root *g(a)lag- "milk"). The meaning "process of secreting milk from the breasts" is recorded by 1857. Related: Lactational.ETD lactation (n.).2

    lacteal (adj.)

    1650s, "pertaining to milk," earlier "milk-white" (1630s), from Latin lacteus "milky" (from lac "milk," from PIE root *g(a)lag- "milk") + -al (1). Other 17c. attempts at an adjective in English yielded lactary, lactaceous, lacteant, lacteous, lactescent, and, in a specialized sense ("milk-producing"), lactific.ETD lacteal (adj.).2

    lactescence (n.)

    "milky appearance," 1680s, from lactescent "becoming milky" (1660s), from Latin lactescentem (nominative lactescens), present participle of lactescere, inchoative of lactere "to be milky," from lac "milk" (from PIE root *g(a)lag- "milk").ETD lactescence (n.).2

    lactic (adj.)

    1790, "procured from milk," in the chemical name lactic acid, which is so called because it was obtained from sour milk. From French lactique, from Latin lactis, genitive of lac "milk" (from PIE root *g(a)lag- "milk.") + French -ique (see -ic).ETD lactic (adj.).2

    lactivorous (adj.)

    1824; see lacto- "milk" + -vorous "devouring."ETD lactivorous (adj.).2


    before vowels, lac-, word-forming element used in chemistry and physiology from 19c. and meaning "milk," from Latin lac (genitive lactis) "milk," from Proto-Italic *(g)lagt-, from PIE root *g(a)lag- "milk." This and the separate root *melg- (source of milk (n.)) account for words for "milk" in most of the Indo-European languages. The absence of a common word for it is considered a mystery. Middle Irish lacht, Welsh llaeth "milk" are loan words from Latin.ETD lacto-.2

    lactose (n.)

    sugar from milk, 1843, from French, coined 1843 by French chemist Jean Baptiste André Dumas (1800-1884) from Latin lac (genitive lactis) "milk" (from PIE root *g(a)lag- "milk") + chemical suffix -ose (2).ETD lactose (n.).2

    lacuna (n.)

    "blank or missing portion in a manuscript," 1660s, from Latin lacuna "hole, pit," figuratively "a gap, void, want," diminutive of lacus "pond, lake; hollow, opening" (see lake (n.1)). The Latin plural is lacunae. The word has also been used in English from c. 1700 in the literal Latin sense in anatomy, zoology, botany. The adjectival forms have somewhat sorted themselves: Mathematics tends to use lacunary (1857), natural history lacunose (1816), and lacunar (n.) is used in architecture of paneled ceilings (1690s), so called for their sunken compartments. Leaving lacunal (1846) for the manuscript sense.ETD lacuna (n.).2


    plural of lacuna (q.v.).ETD lacunae.2

    lacustrine (adj.)

    "of or pertaining to lakes," 1826, irregularly formed from Latin lacus "lake" (see lake (n.1)).ETD lacustrine (adj.).2

    lad (n.)

    c. 1300, ladde "foot soldier," also "young male servant" (attested as a surname from late 12c.), possibly from a Scandinavian language (compare Norwegian -ladd, in compounds for "young man"), but of obscure origin in any case. OED hazards a guess on Middle English ladde, plural of the past participle of lead (v.), thus "one who is led" (by a lord). Liberman derives it from Old Norse ladd "hose; woolen stocking." "The development must have been from 'stocking,' 'foolish youth' to 'youngster of inferior status' and (with an ameliorated meaning) to 'young fellow.'" He adds, "Words for socks, stockings, and shoes seem to have been current as terms of abuse for and nicknames of fools." Meaning "boy, youth, young man" is from mid-15c.ETD lad (n.).2

    ladder (n.)

    Old English hlæder "ladder, steps," from Proto-Germanic *hlaidri (source also of Old Frisian hledere, Middle Dutch ledere, Old High German leitara, German Leiter), from suffixed form of PIE root *klei- "to lean" (source also of Greek klimax "ladder"). In late Old English, rungs were læddrestæfæ and the side pieces were ledder steles. The belief that bad things happen to people who walk under ladders is attested from 1787, but its origin likely is more scientific than superstitious.ETD ladder (n.).2

    ladder-back (adj.)

    1898 as a type of chair, from ladder (n.) + back (n.).ETD ladder-back (adj.).2

    laddie (n.)

    1540s, Scottish English diminutive form of lad, also a term of endearment.ETD laddie (n.).2

    laddish (adj.)

    1841, from lad (n.) + -ish.ETD laddish (adj.).2

    lade (v.)

    Old English hladan (past tense hlod, past participle gehladen) "to load, heap up, burden" (the general Germanic sense), also "to draw or take up water" (a meaning peculiar to English), from Proto-Germanic *hlathan- (source also of Old Norse hlaða "to pile up, load, especially a ship," Old Saxon hladan, Middle Dutch and Dutch laden, Old Frisian hlada "to load," Old High German hladen, German laden), from PIE *klā- "to spread out flat" (source also of Lithuanian kloti "to spread," Old Church Slavonic klado "to set, place").ETD lade (v.).2

    In modern use restricted to the loading of ships; past participle laden was active in the language longer, but in 20c. was displaced by loaded (but a distinct word in the literal sense would be useful) except in particular phrases. Compare Lading.ETD lade (v.).3

    lading (n.)

    early 15c., "act of loading a boat," verbal noun from lade (v.). From 1520s as "that which constitutes a load."ETD lading (n.).2

    laden (adj.)

    "loaded, weighted down," 1590s, adjective from the original past participle of lade.ETD laden (adj.).2

    lady (n.)

    c. 1200, lafdi, lavede, from Old English hlæfdige (Northumbrian hlafdia, Mercian hlafdie), "mistress of a household, wife of a lord," apparently literally "one who kneads bread," from hlaf "bread" (see loaf (n.)) + -dige "maid," which is related to dæge "maker of dough" (which is the first element in dairy; see dey (n.1)). Also compare lord (n.)). Century Dictionary finds this etymology "improbable," and OED rates it "not very plausible with regard to sense," but no one seems to have a better explanation.ETD lady (n.).2

    The medial -f- disappeared 14c. (compare woman, head, had). The word is not found outside English except where borrowed from it. The sense of "woman of superior position in society" is c. 1200; that of "woman whose manners and sensibilities befit her for high rank in society" is from 1861 (ladylike suggesting this sense is attested from 1580s, and ladily from c. 1400). The meaning "woman chosen as an object of chivalrous love" is from early 14c. Used commonly as an address to any woman since 1890s.ETD lady (n.).3

    Applied since Old English to the Holy Virgin, hence many extended usages in plant names, place names, etc., from genitive singular hlæfdigan, which in Middle English merged with the nominative, so that lady- often represents (Our) Lady's, as in ladybug.ETD lady (n.).4

    Lady Day (late 13c.) was the festival of the Annunciation of the Virgin Mary (March 25). Ladies' man first recorded 1784; lady-killer "man supposed to be dangerously fascinating to women" is from 1811. Lady of pleasure recorded from 1640s. Lady's slipper as a type of orchid is from 1590s.ETD lady (n.).5

    ladies (n.)

    plural of lady (q.v.). Ladies' night (1880) originally was any event to which women were invited at an all-male club.ETD ladies (n.).2

    la-di-da (interj.)

    mocking affected gentility, 1874, a derisive imitation of the "swell" way of talking. Compare lardy-dardy (1859).ETD la-di-da (interj.).2

    Ladin (n.)

    Rhaeto-Romanic dialect spoken in Switzerland and Tyrol, 1873, from Rhaeto-Romanic Ladin (Italian Ladino), from Latin Latinus "Latin" (see Latin (adj.)).ETD Ladin (n.).2

    Ladino (n.)

    1889, a jargon of Spanish mixed with Hebrew, Arabic, and other elements, written in Hebrew characters, spoken by Sephardim in Turkey, Greece, etc.; from Spanish Ladino "Latin," from Latin Latinus (see Latin. The Spanish word also had a sense of "sagacious, cunning, crafty," on the notion of "knowing Latin." The Spanish word also appeared in American English in its Central American sense, "mestizo, lighter-skinned mixed race person" (1850).ETD Ladino (n.).2

    ladle (v.)

    "to lift or dip with a ladle," 1758, from ladle (n.). Related: Ladled; ladling.ETD ladle (v.).2

    ladle (n.)

    "large, long-handled spoon for drawing liquids," late Old English hlædel "ladle" (glossing Latin antlia), from hladan "to load; to draw up water" (see lade) + instrumental suffix -el (1) expressing "appliance, tool" (compare handle (n.)).ETD ladle (n.).2

    ladybird (n.)

    also lady-bird, 1590s, "sweetheart," a term of endearment, from lady + bird (n.2). As the name of a type of beetle, 1670s, the earlier form of ladybug.ETD ladybird (n.).2

    ladybug (n.)

    also lady-bug, 1690s, from lady + bug (n.). The "lady" is the Virgin Mary (compare German cognate Marienkäfer). In Britain, usually ladybird or lady-bird (1670s), supposedly through aversion to the word bug due to overtones of sodomy, however this seems to be the older form of the word. Also known 17c.-18c. as lady-cow or lady-fly.ETD ladybug (n.).2

    ladyfinger (n.)

    also lady-finger, used of anything long, slender, and suggestive of grace, 1660s, originally of a type of plant; 1820 in reference to a kind of long, slender confection; see lady + finger (n.).ETD ladyfinger (n.).2

    ladylike (adj.)

    also lady-like, 1580s, "refined, well-bred, courteous;" see lady + like (adj.). Middle English had ladily "queenly, exalted" (late 14c.).ETD ladylike (adj.).2

    lady-love (n.)

    "woman who is the object of one's affections," 1733; see lady + love (n.).ETD lady-love (n.).2

    ladyship (n.)

    "rank or dignity of a lady," early 13c.; see lady + -ship.ETD ladyship (n.).2


    king of Ithaca, father of Odysseus, his name is Greek, literally "gatherer of the people," or "urging the men," from laos "people" (see lay (adj.)) + eirein "to fasten together" (see series (n.)) or eirein "to speak, say" (see verb).ETD Laertes.2


    see levo-ETD laevo-.2

    lag (n.)

    in the mechanical sense "retardation of movement," 1855, from lag (v.). Also noted in Farmer and Henley ("Slang and Its Analogues") as American theatrical slang for "a wait," with an attestation from 1847. First record of lag time is from 1951.ETD lag (n.).2

    lag (v.)

    "move slowly, fail to keep pace," 1520s, earlier as a noun meaning "last person" (1510s), later also as an adjective, "slow, tardy, coming behind" (1550s, as in lag-mon "last man"). All are of uncertain relationship and origin, possibly from a Scandinavian source (compare Norwegian lagga "go slowly"), or some dialectal version of last, lack, or delay. Related: Lag; lagging.ETD lag (v.).2

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