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    lepton (n.) — Leyden

    lepton (n.)

    elementary particle of small mass, 1948, from Greek leptos "small, slight, slender, delicate, subtle," literally "peeled," or "threshed out" (from lepein "to peel," from PIE *lep- (1), a root which yields words for "peel" as well as "small shaving, scale (of a fish)," hence used of things fine, delicate, or weak; see leper) + -on. In Greek it was the name of a small coin, from neuter of leptos. Related: Leptonic.ETD lepton (n.).2

    lere (v.)

    OE læran, Kentish leran "to teach" (cognate with Old Frisian lera, Old Saxon lerian, Dutch leeren, Old High German leran, German lehren "to teach"), literally "to make known;" see lore). From early 13c. as "to learn."ETD lere (v.).2


    also Lernean, from Latin Lernaeus, from Greek Lernaios, from Lerne, name of a marshy district and lake in Argolis, home of the Lernaean hydra.ETD Lernaean.2

    lesbianism (n.)

    1870, from lesbian (adj.) + -ism. See also tribadism.ETD lesbianism (n.).2

    lesbian (n.)

    1925, "female homosexual," from lesbian (adj.).ETD lesbian (n.).2

    lesbian (adj.)

    1590s, "pertaining to the island of Lesbos," from Latin Lesbius, from Greek lesbios "of Lesbos," Greek island in northeastern Aegean Sea (the name originally may have meant "wooded"), home of Sappho, great lyric poet whose erotic and romantic verse embraced women as well as men, hence meaning "relating to homosexual relations between women, characterized by erotic interest in other women" (in continuous use from 1890; the noun lesbianism from this sense is attested from 1870) and the noun, which is first recorded 1925.ETD lesbian (adj.).2

    Sappho's particular association with erotic love between women (with or without concurrent relations with men) dates to at least 1732 in writing in English, though the continuous use of lesbian and the modern words formed from it are from late 19c. The use of lesbian as a noun and an adjective in this sense seems to follow the same pattern.ETD lesbian (adj.).3

    Before this, the principal figurative use of Lesbian was lesbian rule (c. 1600 and especially common in 17c.) a mason's rule of lead, of a type used in ancient times on Lesbos, which could be bent to fit the curves of a molding; hence, figuratively, "pliant morality or judgment."ETD lesbian (adj.).4

    It also was used in English from 1775 in reference to wines from Lesbos. Though the specific "pertaining to female homosexuality" is recent, Lesbian had long before that a suggestion of "amatory, erotic," "From the reputed character of the inhabitants and the tone of their poetry" [Century Dictionary]. The island's erotic reputation was ancient; Greek had a verb lesbiazein "to imitate the Lesbians," which implied "sexual initiative and shamelessness" among women (especially fellatio), but not necessarily female homosexuality, and they did not differentiate such things the way we have.ETD lesbian (adj.).5


    by 1940, colloquial shortening of lesbian.ETD lesbo.2

    lese-majesty (n.)

    "offense against sovereign authority, treason," 1530s (mid-15c. as an Anglo-French word), from French lèse-majesté (15c.), from Latin laesa majestos "violated majesty," from laesus, past participle of laedere "to hurt, injure, damage, offend, insult," a word of unknown origin. Brachet calls French lèse "a latinism introduced by the lawyers."ETD lese-majesty (n.).2

    lesion (n.)

    early 15c., "damage, injury," from Old French lesion "hurt, offense, wrong, injury, wound" (12c.), from Latin laesionem (nominative laesio) "a hurting, injuring, personal attack," noun of action from past participle stem of laedere "to strike, hurt, damage," a word of unknown origin with no certain cognates. Originally in English with reference to any sort of hurt, whether physical or not.ETD lesion (n.).2


    Old English læs (adv.) "less, lest;" læssa (adj.) "less, smaller, fewer" (Northumbrian leassa), from Proto-Germanic *laisizan (source also of Old Saxon, Old Frisian les "less;" Middle Dutch lise "soft, gentle," German leise "soft"), from PIE root *leis- (2) "small" (source also of Lithuanian liesas "thin") + comparative suffix.ETD less.2

    From the first, the adverb has been used often with negatives (none the less). Much less "still more undesirable" is from 1630s. Formerly also "younger," as a translation of Latin minor, a sense now obsolete except in James the Less. Used as a comparative of little, but not related to it. The noun is Old English læsse.ETD less.3


    word-forming element meaning "lacking, cannot be, does not," from Old English -leas, from leas "free (from), devoid (of), false, feigned," from Proto-Germanic *lausaz (cognates: Dutch -loos, German -los "-less," Old Norse lauss "loose, free, vacant, dissolute," Middle Dutch los, German los "loose, free," Gothic laus "empty, vain"), from PIE root *leu- "to loosen, divide, cut apart." Related to loose and lease.ETD -less.2

    less (adv.)

    early 15c. as a shortening of unless. Extended contraction lessen, less'n, U.S. dialectal, is attested from 1881.ETD less (adv.).2

    lessee (n.)

    "one to whom a lease is given," late 15c., from Anglo-French lesee, Old French lessé, past participle of lesser "to let, to leave" (10c., Modern French laisser), from Latin laxare, from laxus "loose" (see lax).ETD lessee (n.).2

    lessen (v.)

    "to become less," c. 1300, from less (adj.) + -en (1). Transitive sense "to make less" is from c. 1400. Related: Lessened; lessening.ETD lessen (v.).2

    lesser (adj.)

    early 13c., a double comparative, from less (adj.) + -er (2). Johnson calls it "a barbarous corruption of less, formed by the vulgar from the habit of terminating comparatives in -er." As an adverb from 1590s; now generally poetic or obsolete except in expressions such as lesser-known (1813) and lesser of two evils.ETD lesser (adj.).2

    lesson (n.)

    early 13c., "a reading aloud from the Bible," also "something to be learned by a student," from Old French leçon, from Latin lectionem (nominative lectio) "a reading," noun of action from past participle stem of legere "to read," from PIE root *leg- (1) "to collect, gather," with derivatives meaning "to speak (to 'pick out words')." Transferred sense of "an occurrence from which something can be learned" is from 1580s.ETD lesson (n.).2

    lessor (n.)

    "one who grants a lease," late 14c., from Anglo-French lessor (late 13c.), from verb lesser "to let, to leave" (10c., Modern French laisser), from Latin laxare, from laxus "loose" (from PIE root *sleg- "be slack, be languid").ETD lessor (n.).2

    lest (conj.)

    c. 1200, "that not," especially "for fear that" [OED calls it a negative particle of intention], from a contraction of the Old English phrase þy læs þe "the less that," from þy, instrumental case of demonstrative article þæt "that" + læs (see less) + conjunction þe (see the). The þy was dropped and the remaining two words contracted into early Middle English leste.ETD lest (conj.).2

    let (v.)

    Old English lætan (Northumbrian leta) "to allow; to leave behind, depart from; leave undone; bequeath," also "to rent, put to rent or hire" (class VII strong verb; past tense let, leort, past participle gelæten), from Proto-Germanic *letan (source also of Old Saxon latan, Old Frisian leta, Dutch laten, Old High German lazan, German lassen, Gothic letan "to leave, let"), from PIE *led-, extended form of root *‌‌lē- "to let go, slacken." If that derivation is correct, the etymological sense might be "let go through weariness, neglect."ETD let (v.).2

    He points to similar developments in French laisser "to let" from Latin laxare "to slacken," German lassen "to permit, to let," from dialectal lass "loose."ETD let (v.).3

    "The shortening of the root vowel ... has not been satisfactorily explained" [OED]. Of blood, from late Old English. Other Old and Middle English senses include "regard as, consider; behave toward; allow to escape; pretend;" to let (someone) know and to let fly (arrows, etc.) preserve the otherwise obsolete sense of "to cause to."ETD let (v.).4

    To let (someone) off "allow to go unpunished, excuse from service" is from 1814. To let on is from 1725 as "allow (something) to be known, betray one's knowledge of," 1822 as "pretend" (OED finds a similar use in the phrase never let it on him in a letter from 1637). To let out is late 12c. as "allow to depart" (transitive); intransitive use "be concluded," of schools, meetings, etc., is from 1888, considered by Century Dictionary (1895) to be "Rural, U.S." Of garments, etc., late 14c.ETD let (v.).5

    Let alone "abstain from interfering with" is in Old English; the phrase in the sense "not to mention, to say nothing of" is from 1812. To let (something) be "leave it alone" is from c. 1300; let it be "let it pass, leave it alone" is from early 14c. To let go is from c. 1300 as "allow to escape," 1520s as "cease to restrain," 1530s as "dismiss from one's thoughts." Let it go "let it pass, no matter" is as old as Chaucer's Wife of Bath: "But age allas Hath me biraft my beautee Lat it go, far wel, the deuel go ther with!" [c. 1395]. Let me see "show me" is from c. 1300.ETD let (v.).6

    let (n.)

    "stoppage, obstruction" (obsolete unless in legal contracts), late 12c., from archaic verb letten "to hinder," from Old English lettan "hinder, delay, impede," etymologically "make late," from Proto-Germanic *latjan (source also of Old Saxon lettian "to hinder," Old Norse letja "to hold back," Old High German lezzen "to stop, check," Gothic latjan "to hinder, make late"), related to *lata-, source of late (adj.), from PIE root *‌‌lē- "to let go, slacken."ETD let (n.).2


    diminutive noun-forming element, Middle English, from Old French -elet, which often is a double-diminutive. It consists of Old French diminutive -et, -ette (see -et) added to nouns in -el, which in many cases represents Latin diminutive -ellus; see -el (2)). "The formation did not become common until the 18th c." [OED].ETD -let.2

    letting (n.)

    "action of allowing movement or passage of something," early 15c., verbal noun from let (v.). Archaic or legalese meaning "delay, hindrance" is late Old English, from let (n.).ETD letting (n.).2

    letch (n.)

    "craving, longing, strong desire," 1796 [Grose], perhaps a back-formation from lecher, or deformed from a figurative use of latch (v.) in a secondary sense of "grasp, grasp on to." Or perhaps from letch (v.), a variant of leach.ETD letch (n.).2

    let-down (n.)

    also letdown, "a disappointment," 1768, from let (v.) + down (adv.). The verbal phrase is from mid-12c. in a literal sense "cause to be lowered," of drawbridges, etc.; figuratively by 1754.ETD let-down (n.).2


    mythical river of Hades (whose water when drunk caused forgetfulness of the past), in Homer, a place of oblivion in the lower world; from Greek lēthē, literally "forgetfulness, oblivion," from PIE root *ladh- "be hidden" (see latent). Related to lēthargos "forgetful" and cognate with Latin latere "to be hidden." Also the name of a personification of oblivion, a daughter of Eris. Related: Lethean.ETD Lethe.2

    lethal (adj.)

    "causing or resulting in death," 1580s, from Late Latin lethalis, alteration of Latin letalis "deadly, fatal," from lethum/letum "death," a word of uncertain origin. According to de Vaan, from Proto-Italic *leto-, which is perhaps a noun from a PIE past participle of a verb meaning "let, let go," on the notion of death as "a letting go." If so, related to Old Church Slavonic leto "summer, year" (from notion of "going"), Russian leto "summer," (pl.) "age, years;" Russian let' (archaic) "it is possible, allowed;" Old Norse lað, Old English læð "land," Gothic unleds "poor." The form altered in Late Latin by association with lethes hydor "water of oblivion" in Hades in Greek mythology, from Greek lethe "forgetfulness" (see Lethe).ETD lethal (adj.).2

    lethality (n.)

    "deadliness," 1650s, from lethal + -ity.ETD lethality (n.).2

    lethargic (adj.)

    late 14c., litargik, "morbidly drowsy, manifesting lethargy," from Latin lethargicus "affected with lethargy," from Greek lethargikos "drowsy," from lethargos "forgetful; inactive" (see lethargy). From 1590s as "pertaining to lethargy." Related: Lethargically. In 17c. also with a verb form, lethargize, and a noun, letharge "lethargic patient."ETD lethargic (adj.).2

    lethargy (n.)

    late 14c., litarge, "state of prolonged torpor or inactivity, inertness of body or mind," from Medieval Latin litargia, from Late Latin lethargia, from Greek lēthargia "forgetfulness," from lēthargos "forgetful," apparently etymologically "inactive through forgetfulness," from lēthē "a forgetting, forgetfulness" (see latent) + argos "idle" (see argon). The form with -th- is from 1590s in English. The Medieval Latin word also is the source of Old French litargie (Modern French léthargie), Spanish and Italian letargia.ETD lethargy (n.).2


    fem. proper name, literally "gladness," from Latin laetitia "joy, exultation, rejoicing, gladness, pleasure, delight," from laetus "glad, happy; flourishing, rich," a word of unknown origin. On the assumption that "fat, rich" is the older meaning, this word has been connected to lardus "bacon" and largus "generous," but de Vaan finds this "a very artificial reconstruction." In 17c. English had a verb letificate "make joyful" (1620s), and Middle English had letification "action of rejoicing" (late 15c.).ETD Letitia.2


    in Greek mythology, mother of Apollo and Artemis by Zeus. She gave birth to them on the island of Delos. Roman Latona.ETD Leto.2

    Lett (n.)

    1831, from German Lette, from Old High German liuti "people" (German Leute), perhaps a German folk-etymologizing of the native name, Latvji (see Latvia). Combining form Letto-. Related: Lettic (1840); Lettish (1794).ETD Lett (n.).2

    letter (v.)

    "write in letters," 1660s, from letter (n.1). Earlier it was used in a now obsolete sense "instruct" (mid-15c.). Related: Lettered; lettering.ETD letter (v.).2

    lettering (n.)

    1640s, "act of writing;" 1811, "act of putting letters on something;" 1796, "the letters marked or written on something," verbal noun from letter (v.).ETD lettering (n.).2

    letter (n.2)

    "one who lets" in any sense, c. 1400, agent noun from let (v.).ETD letter (n.2).2

    lettered (adj.)

    "literate, learned in letters," c. 1300, from letter (n.1). Meaning "inscribed" is from 1660s, from letter (v.).ETD lettered (adj.).2

    letters (n.)

    "the profession of authorship or literature," mid-13c., from plural of letter (n.); as in Latin, French. Man of letters attested from 1640s.ETD letters (n.).2

    letter (n.1)

    c. 1200, "graphic symbol, alphabetic sign, written character conveying information about sound in speech," from Old French letre "character, letter; missive, note," in plural, "literature, writing, learning" (10c., Modern French lettre), from Latin littera (also litera) "letter of the alphabet," also "an epistle, writing, document; literature, great books; science, learning;" a word of uncertain origin.ETD letter (n.1).2

    According to Watkins, perhaps via Etruscan from Greek diphthera "tablet" (with change of d- to l- as in lachrymose), from a hypothetical root *deph- "to stamp." In this sense it replaced Old English bocstæf, literally "book staff" (compare German Buchstabe "letter, character," from Old High German buohstab, from Proto-Germanic *bok-staba-m).ETD letter (n.1).3

    Latin littera also meant "a writing, document, record," and in plural litteræ "a letter, epistle, missive communication in writing," a sense passed through French and attested in English letter since early 13c. (replacing Old English ærendgewrit "written message," literally "errand-writing"). The Latin plural also meant "literature, books," and figuratively "learning, liberal education, schooling" (see letters).ETD letter (n.1).4

    The custom of giving the school letter as an achievement award in sports, attested by 1908, is said to have originated with University of Chicago football coach Amos Alonzo Stagg. Earlier in reference to colleges it meant "university degree or honor that adds initials to a name" (1888). Expression to the letter "precisely" is from 1520s (earlier after the letter, mid-14c.). Letter-quality (adj.) "suitable for (business) letters" is from 1977. For letters patent (with French word order) see patent (n.).ETD letter (n.1).5

    letter-bag (n.)

    1781, from letter (n.1) + bag (n.).ETD letter-bag (n.).2

    letter-box (n.)

    1782, from letter (n.1) + box (n.1).ETD letter-box (n.).2

    letter-carrier (n.)

    1550s, from letter (n.1) + carrier.ETD letter-carrier (n.).2

    letter-head (n.)

    also letterhead, "sheet of paper with a printed or engraved logo or address," 1868, short for letterheading (1867); from letter (n.1) + heading (n.) in the printing sense. So called because it was printed at the "head" of the sheet of paper.ETD letter-head (n.).2

    letter-man (n.)

    of college athletes, 1913, from letter (n.1) in the sports sense + man (n.).ETD letter-man (n.).2

    letter-opener (n.)

    1864 as a device to slit open letter envelopes, from letter (n.1) + opener. Earlier as a government or other official on continental Europe in charge of opening and reading private mails of suspected persons and censoring them (1847).ETD letter-opener (n.).2

    letter-perfect (adj.)

    1833, in reference to exact memorization, from letter (n.1) + perfect (adj.).ETD letter-perfect (adj.).2

    letter-press (adj.)

    in reference to matter printed from relief surfaces, 1840, from letter (n.1) "a type character" + press (n.). Earlier "text," as opposed to copper-plate illustration (1771).ETD letter-press (adj.).2

    letter-rack (n.)

    1849, from letter (n.1) + rack (n.1).ETD letter-rack (n.).2

    lettuce (n.)

    garden herb extensively cultivated for use as a salad, late 13c., letuse, probably somehow from Old French laitues, plural of laitue "lettuce" (cognate with Spanish lechuga, Italian lattuga), from Latin lactuca "lettuce," from lac (genitive lactis) "milk" (from PIE root *g(a)lag- "milk"); so called for the milky juice of the plant. Old English had borrowed the Latin word as lactuce.ETD lettuce (n.).2

    let-up (n.)

    "cessation, restraint, relaxation, intermission," 1837, from verbal phrase let up "cease, stop" (1787). In Old English the phrase meant "to put ashore" (let out meant "put to sea"). Bartlett (1848) says the noun is "an expression borrowed from pugilists."ETD let-up (n.).2


    Proto-Indo-European root meaning "to loosen, divide, cut apart."ETD *leu-.2

    It forms all or part of: absolute; absolution; absolve; analysis; analytic; catalysis; catalyst; catalytic; dialysis; dissolve; electrolysis; electrolyte; forlorn; Hippolytus; hydrolysis; -less; loess; loose; lorn; lose; loss; Lysander; lysergic; lysis; -lysis; lyso-; lysol; lytic; -lytic; palsy; paralysis; pyrolusite; resolute; resolution; resolve; soluble; solute; solution; solve; solvent.ETD *leu-.3

    It is the hypothetical source of/evidence for its existence is provided by: Sanskrit lunati "cuts, cuts off," lavitram "sickle;" Greek lyein "to loosen, untie, slacken," lysus "a loosening;" Latin luere "to loose, release, atone for, expiate;" Old Norse lauss "loose, free, unencumbered; vacant; dissolute;" Old English losian "be lost, perish."ETD *leu-.4

    leu (n.)

    monetary unit of Romania, introduced 1867, literally "lion." Monetary names in the Balkans often translate as "lion" because Dutch gold coins stamped with lions circulated widely in the region in the 17c. and the word for "lion" came to be a word for "money" in some languages there.ETD leu (n.).2


    Proto-Indo-European root meaning "to care, desire, love."ETD *leubh-.2

    It forms all or part of: belief; believe; furlough; leave (n.) "permission, liberty granted to do something;" leman; libido; lief; livelong; love; lovely; quodlibet.ETD *leubh-.3

    It is the hypothetical source of/evidence for its existence is provided by: Sanskrit lubhyati "desires," lobhaya- "to make crazy;" Persian ahiftan "to be tangled, be hit down, be in love;" Latin lubet, later libet "pleases," libido, lubido "desire, longing; sensual passion, lust;" Old Church Slavonic l'ubu "dear, beloved," ljubiti, Russian ljubit' "to love;" Lithuanian liaupsė "song of praise;" Old English lufu "feeling of love; romantic sexual attraction," German Liebe "love," Gothic liufs "dear, beloved."ETD *leubh-.4

    leucocyte (n.)

    see leukocyte.ETD leucocyte (n.).2


    *leuə-, Proto-Indo-European root meaning "to wash."ETD *leue-.2

    It forms all or part of: ablution; alluvium; deluge; dilute; elution; lather; latrine; launder; lautitious; lavage; lavation; lavatory; lave; lavish; lotion; lye.ETD *leue-.3

    It is the hypothetical source of/evidence for its existence is provided by: Greek louein "to wash, bathe;" Latin lavare "to wash," luere "to wash;" Old Irish loathar "basin," Breton laouer "trough;" Old English leaþor "lather," læg "lye."ETD *leue-.4


    Proto-Indo-European root meaning "light, brightness."ETD *leuk-.2

    It forms all or part of: allumette; elucidate; illumination; illustration; lea; leukemia; leuko-; light (n.) "brightness, radiant energy;" lightning; limn; link (n.2) "torch of pitch, tow, etc.;" lucent; lucid; Lucifer; luciferase; luciferous; lucifugous; lucubrate; lucubration; luculent; lumen; Luminal; luminary; luminate; luminescence; luminous; luna; lunacy; lunar; Lunarian; lunate; lunation; lunatic; lune; lunette; luni-; luster; lustrum; lux; pellucid; sublunary; translucent.ETD *leuk-.3

    It is the hypothetical source of/evidence for its existence is provided by: Sanskrit rocate "shines;" Armenian lois "light," lusin "moon;" Greek leukos "bright, shining, white;" Latin lucere "to shine," lux "light," lucidus "clear;" Old Church Slavonic luci "light;" Lithuanian laukas "pale;" Welsh llug "gleam, glimmer;" Old Irish loche "lightning," luchair "brightness;" Hittite lukezi "is bright;" Old English leht, leoht "light, daylight; spiritual illumination," German Licht, Gothic liuhaþ "light."ETD *leuk-.4

    leukaemia (n.)

    alternative spelling of leukemia.ETD leukaemia (n.).2

    leukemic (adj.)

    also leukaemic, leucemic, 1852; see leukemia + -ic.ETD leukemic (adj.).2

    leukemia (n.)

    progressive blood disease characterized by abnormal accumulation of leucocytes, 1851, on model of German Leukämie (1848), coined by R. Virchow from Greek leukos "clear, white" (from PIE root *leuk- "light, brightness") + haima "blood" (see -emia). Formerly also leucemia.ETD leukemia (n.).2


    before vowels leuk-, also sometimes in Latinized form leuco-/leuc-, word-forming element used from 19c. and meaning "white" (or, in medicine, "leukocyte"), from Greek leukos "clear, white," from PIE *leuko-, suffixed form of root *leuk- "light, brightness."ETD leuko-.2

    leukocyte (n.)

    also leucocyte, "white blood cell, white or colorless corpuscle of the blood or lymph," 1860, via French leucocyte, from leuco-, a Latinized combining form of Greek leukos "white, clear," from PIE root *leuk- "light, brightness" + -cyte "cell."ETD leukocyte (n.).2

    lev (n.)

    monetary unit of Bulgaria, introduced 1881, literally "lion" (compare leu).ETD lev (n.).2


    "Mediterranean lands east of Italy," especially the coastal region and islands of Asia Minor, Syria, and Lebanon, late 15c., from French levant "the Orient" (12c.), from present participle of lever "to rise" (from Latin levare "to raise," from PIE root *legwh- "not heavy, having little weight"). So called because the region was (from Western Europe) in the direction of sunrise. Related: Levanter.ETD Levant.2

    Levantine (adj.)

    "of or pertaining to the Levant," 1640s, from Levant + -ine (1).ETD Levantine (adj.).2

    levari facias

    old type of writ of execution against goods and profits of a debtor, legal Latin, literally "cause to be levied;" passive of levare "to raise" (from PIE root *legwh- "not heavy, having little weight") + second person singular present subjunctive of facere "to make, do" (from PIE root *dhe- "to set, put")ETD levari facias.2

    levator (n.)

    1610s in anatomy, "type of muscle that raises or elevates," from medical Latin levator (plural levatores) "a lifter," from Latin levatus, past participle of levare "to raise, lift up; make lighter" (from PIE root *legwh- "not heavy, having little weight"). Opposed to depressor.ETD levator (n.).2

    levee (n.1)

    1719, "natural or artificial embankment to prevent overflow of a river," from New Orleans French levée "a raising, a lifting; an embankment," from French levée, literally "a rising" (as of the sun), noun use of fem. past participle of lever "to raise," from Latin levare "to raise, lift up; make lighter" (from PIE root *legwh- "not heavy, having little weight"). They also were used as landing places.ETD levee (n.1).2

    levee (n.2)

    "morning assembly held by a prince or king" (originally upon rising from bed), 1670s, a spelling intended to represent the pronunciation of French lever "a raising," noun use of verb meaning "to raise" (see levee (n.1)), or else from a variant form of levée in French, which, however, "has not the meaning 'a reception'" [Century Dictionary]. By mid-18c. the word in English was used of assemblies or receptions held at any hour.ETD levee (n.2).2

    level (adj.)

    early 15c., "having an even surface," from level (n.). Meanings "lying on or constituting a horizontal surface" and "lying in the same horizontal plane" (as something else) are from 1550s. To do one's level best is U.S. slang from 1851, from level in the sense "well-aimed, direct, straight." Level playing field as a figure of equality of opportunity is from 1981. Related: Levelly.ETD level (adj.).2

    level (n.)

    mid-14c., "tool to indicate a horizontal line," from Old French livel "a level" (13c.), ultimately from Latin libella "a balance, level" (also a monetary unit), diminutive of libra "balance, scale, unit of weight" (see Libra). Spanish nivel, Modern French niveau are from the same source but altered by dissimilation.ETD level (n.).2

    Meaning "position as marked by a horizontal line" (as in sea-level) is from 1530s; meaning "flat surface" is from 1630s; meaning "level tract of land" is from 1620s. Figurative meaning in reference to social, moral, or intellectual condition is from c. 1600. Figurative phrase on the level "fair, honest" is from 1872; earlier it meant "moderate, without great ambition" (1790).ETD level (n.).3

    level (v.)

    mid-15c., "to make level" (transitive), from level (n.). From c. 1600 as "to bring to a level." Intransitive sense "cease increasing" is from 1958. Meaning "to aim (a gun)" is late 15c. Slang sense of "tell the truth, be honest" is from 1920. To level up "to rise" is attested by 1863.ETD level (v.).2

    Modern use is mostly from computer gaming (2001). To level off "cease rising or falling" is from 1920, originally in aviation. Related: Leveled; leveling.ETD level (v.).3

    leveller (n.)

    also leveler, 1590s, someone or something that levels or makes even; agent noun from level (v.). In English history, from 1640s (with initial capital) as the name of a political party of the time of Charles I that advocated abolishing all differences of position and rank.ETD leveller (n.).2

    level-headed (adj.)

    also levelheaded, "sensible, shrewd," 1869, from level (adj.) + -headed. The notion is of "mentally balanced." Related: Levelheadedness.ETD level-headed (adj.).2

    lever (n.)

    "simple machine consisting of a rigid piece acted upon at different points by two forces," c. 1300, from Old French levier (12c.) "a lifter, a lever, crowbar," agent noun from lever "to raise" (10c.), from Latin levare "to raise," from levis "light" in weight, "not heavy," also, of motion, "quick, rapid, nimble;" of food, "easy to digest;" figuratively "slight, trifling, unimportant; fickle, inconsistent;" of punishments, etc., "not severe," from PIE root *legwh- "not heavy, having little weight." As a verb, 1856, from the noun.ETD lever (n.).2

    leverage (n.)

    1724, "action of a lever," from lever (n.) + -age. Meaning "power or force of a lever" is from 1827; figurative sense "advantage for accomplishing a purpose" is from 1858. The financial sense is attested by 1933, American English; as a verb in the financial sense by 1956. Related: Leveraged; leverages; leveraging.ETD leverage (n.).2

    leveret (n.)

    "young hare," early 15c., from Old French levrat, diminutive of levre (12c., Modern French lièvre) "hare," from Latin lepore, from lepus "a hare." "According to Pliny, [Greek leberis] 'rabbit' is from Massilia. This has given rise to the idea that lepus is an Iberian loanword in Latin, which is possible but not certain." [de Vaan]ETD leveret (n.).2

    Levis (n.)

    1926, American English, originally Levi's, from the name of the original manufacturer, Levi Strauss and Company of San Francisco. The Bavarian-born Strauss had been a dry-goods merchant in San Francisco since 1853; his innovation was the copper rivets at strain points, patented in 1873 according to the company. A cowboy's accessory at first, hip or fashionable from c. 1940s.ETD Levis (n.).2


    masc. proper name, biblical son of Jacob by Leah, from Hebrew lewi, literally "joining, pledging, attached," from stem of lawah "he joined."ETD Levi.2

    levy (n.2)

    1829, colloquial shortening of elevenpence (see eleven). In U.S. before c. 1860, a Spanish real or an equivalent amount of some other money (about 12 and a half cents).ETD levy (n.2).2

    levy (v.)

    early 13c., "to raise or collect" (by authority or compulsion), from Anglo-French leve, from Old French levée "act of raising," noun use of fem. past participle of lever "to raise" (from PIE root *legwh- "not heavy, having little weight;" compare levee). Originally of taxes, later of men for armies (c. 1500). Related: Levied; levying.ETD levy (v.).2

    levy (n.1)

    "an act of levying, a raising or collecting of anything" (a tax, debt, fine, etc.), early 15c., from Anglo-French leve (mid-13c.), Old French levée "a raising, lifting; levying," noun use of fem. past participle of lever "to raise" (from PIE root *legwh- "not heavy, having little weight").ETD levy (n.1).2

    leviathan (n.)

    late 14c., "sea monster, sea serpent," sometimes regarded as a form of Satan, from Late Latin leviathan, from Hebrew livyathan "dragon, serpent, huge sea animal," of unknown origin, perhaps from root l-w-h- "to wind, turn, twist," on the notion of a serpent's coils. If so, related to Hebrew liwyah "wreath," Arabic lawa "to bend, twist." Of powerful persons or things from c. 1600. Hobbes's use is from 1651.ETD leviathan (n.).2

    levirate (n.)

    custom by which the male next-of-kin of a dead man was bound to marry his widow, 1725, with -ate (2) + Latin levir "brother-in-law," from PIE *daiwer- "husband's brother" (source also of Greek daer, Sanskrit devara, Old English tacor, Old High German zeihhur). Related: Leviratic; leviratical.ETD levirate (n.).2

    levitation (n.)

    1660s, noun of action from Latin levitas "lightness" (see levitate) + -ion.ETD levitation (n.).2

    levitate (v.)

    1670s, "to rise by virtue of lightness" (intransitive), from Latin levitas "lightness," on the model of gravitate (compare levity). Transitive sense of "raise (a person) into the air, cause to become buoyant" (1870s) is mainly from spiritualism. Related: Levitated; levitating.ETD levitate (v.).2

    Levite (n.)

    c. 1300, "descendant of Levi in the Old Testament, one of the tribe of Levi," a portion of which acted as assistant priests in the Temple, from Late Latin Levites, from Greek Leuites (see Leviticus). Related: Levitic; levitical.ETD Levite (n.).2

    levity (n.)

    1560s, "want of seriousness, frivolity," from French levite, from Latin levitatem (nominative levitas) "lightness," literal and figurative; "light-mindedness, frivolity," from levis "light" in weight, from PIE root *legwh- "not heavy, having little weight." In old science (16c.-17c.), the name of a force or property of physical bodies, the opposite of gravity, causing them to tend to rise.ETD levity (n.).2


    third book of the Pentateuch, c. 1400, from Late Latin Leviticus (liber), literally "book of the Levites," from Greek to Leuitikon biblion, from Leuites, from Hebrew Lewi (see Levi). Properly the part of the Pentateuch dealing with the function of the priests who were of the tribe of Levi (a portion of the tribe acted as assistants to the priests in the temple-worship). The Hebrew title is Torath Kohanim, literally "the law of the priests."ETD Leviticus.2


    used figuratively for "generic suburban tract housing," American English, from the vast planned real estate developments built by the firm Levitt & Sons Inc., the first on Long Island, 1946-51 (more than 17,000 homes), the second north of Philadelphia (1951-55).ETD Levittown.2


    also laevo-, word-forming element meaning "toward the left," from French lévo-, from Latin laevus "left," from PIE *laiwo- "left" (see left (adj.)).ETD levo-.2

    levulose (n.)

    old name of the sugar isomeric with dextrose but distinguished from it by turning the plane of polarization to the left, 1865 (1864 in German) from Latin laevus "left" (from PIE *laiwo- "left;" see left (adj.)) + sugar ending -ose (2).ETD levulose (n.).2

    lewd (adj.)

    Middle English leued, from Old English læwede "nonclerical, unlearned," of uncertain origin but according to OED probably ultimately from Vulgar Latin *laigo-, from Late Latin laicus "belonging to the people" (see lay (adj.)).ETD lewd (adj.).2

    Sense of "unlettered, uneducated" (early 13c.) descended to "coarse, vile, lustful" by late 14c. In Middle English often paired alliteratively with learned. It also was a noun in Old English, "layman;" for nouns, Elizabethan English made lewdster, lewdsby. Related: Lewdly; lewdness.ETD lewd (adj.).3


    masc. proper name, Anglo-French form of French Louis (see Louis).ETD Lewis.2

    lexeme (n.)

    1937, from lexicon + -eme, ending abstracted from morpheme. Related: Lexemic.ETD lexeme (n.).2

    lexical (adj.)

    "relating to the vocabulary of a language," 1833, from a Latinized form of Greek lexikos "pertaining to words" (see lexicon) + -al (1). Related: Lexically.ETD lexical (adj.).2


    word-forming element, "pertaining to words or lexicons; lexical and," from Latinized form of Greek lexikos "pertaining to words" (see lexicon).ETD lexico-.2

    lexicographer (n.)

    "a dictionary-writer," 1650s, perhaps based on French lexicographe "lexicographer," from a Latinized form of Greek lexikographos, from lexikon "wordbook" (see lexicon) + -graphos "writer," from graphein "to write" (see -graphy).ETD lexicographer (n.).2

    lexicography (n.)

    "the writing of dictionaries," 1670s, from lexico- + -graphy. Related: Lexicographic; lexicographical.ETD lexicography (n.).2

    lexicology (n.)

    "the study of words," including form, history, and sense, 1828, from lexico- + -logy. Related: Lexicology; lexicologist.ETD lexicology (n.).2

    lexicon (n.)

    c. 1600, "a dictionary, a word-book," from French lexicon or directly from Modern Latin lexicon, from Greek lexikon (biblion) "word (book)," from neuter of lexikos "pertaining to words," from lexis "a word, a phrase; reason; way of speech, diction, style," from legein "to say" (from PIE root *leg- (1) "to collect, gather," with derivatives meaning "to speak (to 'pick out words')").ETD lexicon (n.).2

    Especially of dictionaries of Greek, Syriac, Hebrew, or Arabic, because these typically were written in Latin, and in Modern Latin lexicon (not dictionarius) was the preferred name for a word-book. The modern sense of "vocabulary proper to some sphere of activity" (1640s) is a figurative extension.ETD lexicon (n.).3

    lex talionis (n.)

    1590s, legal Latin, "law of retaliation," an eye for an eye, a tooth for a tooth, from lex "law" (see legal) + talionis, genitive of talio "exaction of payment in kind" (see retaliation). Not related to talon. Other legal Latin phrases include lex domicilii "the law of the place where the person resides," lex fori "law of the place in which an action is brought."ETD lex talionis (n.).2


    modern Leiden, city in Holland, said to be from Germanic *leitha- "canal." Leyden jar, phial used for accumulating and storing static electricity (1755), so called because it was first described (in 1746) by physicist Pieter van Musschenbroek (1692-1761) of Leyden.ETD Leyden.2

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