Larger font
Smaller font
Etymology dictionary - Contents
  • Results
  • Related
  • Featured
No results found for: "".
  • Weighted Relevancy
  • Content Sequence
  • Relevancy
  • Earliest First
  • Latest First
    Larger font
    Smaller font

    ligament (n.) — limpet (n.)

    ligament (n.)

    band of tough tissue binding bones, late 14c., from Latin ligamentum "a band, bandage, tie, ligature," from ligare "to bind, tie," from PIE root *leig- "to tie, bind." Related: Ligamental; ligamentous; ligamentary.ETD ligament (n.).2

    ligand (n.)

    in chemistry, 1952, from Latin ligandus, gerundive of ligare "to bind" (from PIE root *leig- "to tie, bind").ETD ligand (n.).2

    ligation (n.)

    "a tying or binding, as with a ligature," 1590s, from French ligation, from Late Latin ligationem (nominative ligatio), noun of action from past-participle stem of ligare "to bind" (from PIE root *leig- "to tie, bind"). Liaison is the same word in French form.ETD ligation (n.).2

    ligate (v.)

    "bind with a ligature," 1590s, from Latin ligatus, past participle of ligare "to bind" (from PIE root *leig- "to tie, bind"). Related: Ligated; ligating.ETD ligate (v.).2

    ligature (n.)

    c. 1400, "something used in tying or binding," from Late Latin ligatura "a band," from Latin ligatus, past participle of ligare "to bind" (from PIE root *leig- "to tie, bind"). In modern musical notation, "group of notes slurred together," from 1590s; of letters joined in printing or writing from 1690s.ETD ligature (n.).2

    liger (n.)

    1938, the word, like the thing, a forced mating of lion and tiger.ETD liger (n.).2

    lights (n.)

    "the lungs," c. 1200, literally "the light (in weight) organs," from light (adj.1); also see lung. Obsolete now except in phrases like to knock (someone's) lights out.ETD lights (n.).2

    lightness (n.)

    "quality of having little weight," late Old English lihtnesse, from light (adj.1) + -ness.ETD lightness (n.).2

    light (n.)

    "brightness, radiant energy, that which makes things visible," Old English leht (Anglian), leoht (West Saxon), "light, daylight; spiritual illumination," from Proto-Germanic *leukhtam (source also of Old Saxon lioht, Old Frisian liacht, Middle Dutch lucht, Dutch licht, Old High German lioht, German Licht, Gothic liuhaþ "light"), from PIE root *leuk- "light, brightness."ETD light (n.).2

    The -gh- was an Anglo-French scribal attempt to render the Germanic hard -h- sound, which has since disappeared from this word. The figurative spiritual sense was in Old English; the sense of "mental illumination" is first recorded mid-15c. Meaning "something used for igniting" is from 1680s. Meaning "a consideration which puts something in a certain view" (as in in light of) is from 1680s. Short for traffic light from 1938. Quaker use is by 1650s; New Light/Old Light in church doctrine also is from 1650s. Meaning "person eminent or conspicuous" is from 1590s. A source of joy or delight has been the light of (someone's) eyes since Old English:ETD light (n.).3

    Phrases such as according to (one's) lights "to the best of one's natural or acquired capacities" preserve an older sense attested from 1520s. To figuratively stand in (someone's) light is from late 14c. To see the light "come into the world" is from 1680s; later as "come to full realization" (1812). The rock concert light-show is from 1966. To be out like a light "suddenly or completely unconscious" is from 1934.ETD light (n.).4

    light (adj.1)

    "not heavy, having little actual weight," from Old English leoht (West Saxon), leht (Anglian), "not heavy, light in weight; lightly constructed; easy to do, trifling; quick, agile," also of food, sleep, etc., from Proto-Germanic *lingkhtaz (source also of Old Norse lettr, Swedish lätt, Old Frisian, Middle Dutch licht, German leicht, Gothic leihts), from PIE root *legwh- "not heavy, having little weight." The adverb is Old English leohte, from the adjective.ETD light (adj.1).2

    Meaning "frivolous" is from early 13c.; that of "unchaste" from late 14c., both from the notion of "lacking moral gravity" (compare levity). Of literature from 1590s. Light industry (1919) makes use of relatively lightweight materials. The notion in make light of (1520s) is "unimportance." Alternative spelling lite, the darling of advertisers, is first recorded 1962. Light horse "light armed cavalry" is from 1530s. Light-skirts "woman of easy virtue" is attested from 1590s. Lighter-than-air (adj.) is from 1887.ETD light (adj.1).3

    light (v.1)

    "to touch down," as a bird from flight, "get down or descend," as a person from horseback, from Old English lihtan "to alight; to alleviate, make less heavy," from Proto-Germanic *linkhtijan, literally "to make light," from *lingkhtaz "not heavy" (see light (adj.1)). Apparently the etymological sense is "to dismount" (a horse, etc.), and thus relieve it of one's weight."ETD light (v.1).2

    Alight has become the more usual word. To light on "happen upon, come upon" is from late 15c. To light out "leave hastily, decamp" is 1866, from a nautical meaning "move out, move heavy objects" (1841), a word of unknown origin but perhaps belonging to this word (compare lighter (n.1)).ETD light (v.1).3

    light (adj.2)

    "not dark," Old English leoht (West Saxon), leht (Anglian), "luminous, bright, beautiful, shining; having much light," from Proto-Germanic *leuhta- (source also of Old Saxon and Old High German lioht, Old Frisian liacht, German licht "bright"), from the source of Old English leoht (see light (n.)). Meaning "pale-hued" is from 1540s; prefixed to other color adjectives from early 15c. In earlier Middle English in reference to colors it meant "bright, vivid" (early 14c.).ETD light (adj.2).2

    light (v.2)

    "to shed light; to set on fire," late Old English lihtan (Anglian), liehtan (West Saxon), originally transitive, "to ignite, set on fire," also in a spiritual sense, "to illuminate, fill with brightness." It is common Germanic (cognates: Old Saxon liohtian, Old High German liuhtan, German leuchten, Gothic liuhtjan "to light"), from the source of light (n.).ETD light (v.2).2

    Meaning "furnish light for" is from c. 1200; sense of "emit light, shed light, shine" is from c. 1300. Buck writes that light is "much more common than kindle even with fire, and only light, not kindle, with candle, lamp, pipe, etc." To light up is from c. 1200 as "give light to" (a room, etc.); 1861 in reference to a pipe, cigar, etc. Related: Lighted; lighting.ETD light (v.2).3

    lighting (n.)

    "shining, illumination," Old English lihting "shining, illumination; dawn; lightning," from leoht (see light (n.)).ETD lighting (n.).2

    light bulb (n.)

    also lightbulb, 1884, from light (n.) + bulb (n.). Changing one as figurative of something easy to do is from 1920s; jokes about how many of a certain type it takes to change one date from 1971.ETD light bulb (n.).2

    lighten (v.1)

    "to make less heavy, to lighten a load," mid-14c., lighten, lightnen, from light (adj.1) + -en (1). Figuratively "to make cheerful" from c. 1400. Intransitive sense "become less heavy" is from 1720. Related: Lightened; lightening.ETD lighten (v.1).2

    lighten (v.2)

    "shed light upon, illuminate, make light or bright," early 14c., from light (n.) + -en (1). Intransitive meaning "to become brighter" is late 14c.; of faces, expressions, etc., from 1795. Meaning "to flash lightning" is from mid-15c. Related: Lightened; lightening.ETD lighten (v.2).2

    lightening (n.)

    "the shedding of light," mid-14c., verbal noun from lighten (v.2). Meaning "alleviation of weight" (literal and figurative) is from 1520s, from lighten (v.1).ETD lightening (n.).2

    lighter (n.1)

    type of barge used in unloading, late 15c., agent noun from light (adj.1), with a sense of lightening a load, or else from or modeled on Dutch lichter, from lichten "to lighten, unload," on the same notion. They are used in loading or unloading ships that cannot approach a wharf. Related: Lighterman.ETD lighter (n.1).2

    lighter (n.2)

    "person who lights," 1550s, agent noun from light (v.2). From 1851 of devices or instruments to lighting gas-jets or candles (originally often a simple twist of paper rolled into a tapering tube); from 1895 of mechanical cigarette lighters.ETD lighter (n.2).2

    light-fingered (adj.)

    "thievish, dexterous in taking," 1540s, from light (adj.1) + finger (n.).ETD light-fingered (adj.).2

    lightfoot (adj.)

    "speedy, nimble," also a name for a ship or a rabbit, c. 1300 (c. 1200 as a surname) from light (adj.1) + foot (n.).ETD lightfoot (adj.).2

    light-headed (adj.)

    also lightheaded, 1530s, "dizzy," from light (adj.1) + -headed. Of persons or actions, "frivolous, vain, thoughtless," from 1570s. Related: Light-headedness.ETD light-headed (adj.).2

    light-hearted (adj.)

    also lighthearted, "cheerful," c. 1400, from light (adj.1) + -hearted. Related: Light-heartedly; light-heartedness.ETD light-hearted (adj.).2

    lighthouse (n.)

    tower exhibiting lights to warn mariners of rocks, shoals, etc., 1620s, from light (n.) + house (n.).ETD lighthouse (n.).2

    lightless (adj.)

    Old English leohtleas "dark, receiving no light;" see light (n.) + -less.ETD lightless (adj.).2

    lightly (adv.)

    Old English leohtlice "so as not to be heavy" (of material things, but also of sleep, blows, etc.), from light (adj.1) + -ly (2). Similar formation in Old Frisian lichtelik, Old High German lihtlihho, German leichtlich, Old Norse lettlega (see light (adj.1)). Meaning "frivolously, indifferently" is from early 13c. (compare Old English leohtmodnes "frivolity").ETD lightly (adv.).2

    lightning (n.)

    visible discharge of energy between cloud and cloud or cloud and ground, late Old English, "lightning, flash of lightning," verbal noun from lightnen "make bright," or else an extended form of Old English lihting, from leht (see light (n.)). The Old English word also meant "dawn, daybreak," and in Middle English "light of the sun, intense brightness, brilliance; the radiance of Christ." Another Middle English word for it was leven (mid-13c.), of uncertain origin, with no apparent source in Old English. (Old English had ligetung "lightning," from liget "lightning, flash of lightning." "Lightning" also was a specialized sense of lihting "lighting" and beorhtnes "brightness.")ETD lightning (n.).2

    Meaning "cheap, raw whiskey" is attested from 1781, also sometimes "gin." Lightning bug "firefly, phosphorescent beetle" is attested from 1778. Lightning rod from 1790.ETD lightning (n.).3

    lightweight (adj.)

    also light-weight, 1809, from the noun (1773 in horse-racing, also in pugilism), "man or animal of a certain weight prescribed by rule," from light (adj.1) + weight (n.). Figurative sense of "inconsequential" first attested 1809. The noun sense of "person of little importance or accomplishment" is from 1885.ETD lightweight (adj.).2

    light-year (n.)

    also lightyear, "distance light travels in one year" (about 5.87 trillion miles), 1888, from light (n.) + year.ETD light-year (n.).2

    ligneous (adj.)

    "woody," 1620s, from French ligneux (16c.) and directly from Latin ligneus, from lignum "wood, firewood" (see ligni-).ETD ligneous (adj.).2


    sometimes ligno-, word-forming element used from late 19c. and meaning "wood," from Latin lignum "wood (for fuel or construction), firewood," from PIE *leg-no-, literally "that which is collected," from root *leg- (1) "to collect, gather." Related: Lignify; lignification.ETD ligni-.2

    lignin (n.)

    organic substance forming the basis of wood-cells, 1821, from Latin lignum "wood" (see ligni-) + chemical suffix -in (2).ETD lignin (n.).2

    lignite (n.)

    "imperfectly formed coal," 1808, from French, from Latin lignum "wood" (see ligni-). Brown coal that still shows traces of the wood it once was. Probably directly from Lithanthrax Lignius, name given to woody coal by Swedish chemist Johan Gottschalk Wallerius (1709-1785) in 1775.ETD lignite (n.).2


    ancient coastal region in what is now Italy and France, including modern Genoa and Nice, from Latin Liguria, from Ligur/Ligus. Related: Ligurian.ETD Liguria.2

    like (n.)

    "a similar thing" (to another), late Old English, from like (adj.). From c. 1300 as "an equal, a match." The like "something similar" is from 1550s; the likes of is from 1630s.ETD like (n.).2

    likely (adj.)

    c. 1300, "having the appearance of truth or fact," perhaps from Old Norse likligr "likely," from likr "like" (see like (adj.)). Old English had cognate geliclic. Meaning "having the appearance of being strong and capable" is from mid-15c., though now mostly confined to American English; according to OED this sense is perhaps influenced by like (v.). Sense of "good-looking" ("such as may be liked") is from late 15c. Meaning "probable" is attested from late 14c., but said by OED to be now principally in American English. As an adverb, late 14c., from the adjective.ETD likely (adj.).2

    like (v.)

    Old English lician "to please, be pleasing, be sufficient," from Proto-Germanic *likjan (source also of Old Norse lika, Old Saxon likon, Old Frisian likia, Dutch lijken "to suit," Old High German lihhen, Gothic leikan "to please"), from *lik- "body, form; like, same."ETD like (v.).2

    The sense development is unclear; perhaps "to be like" (see like (adj.)), thus, "to be suitable." Like (and dislike) originally were impersonal and the liking flowed the other way: "The music likes you not" ["The Two Gentlemen of Verona"]. The modern flow began to appear late 14c. (compare please). Related: Liked; liking.ETD like (v.).3

    liking (n.)

    "fact of being to one's taste," Old English licung, verbal noun from like (v.).ETD liking (n.).2

    like (adj.)

    "having the same characteristics or qualities" (as another), c. 1200, lik, shortening of y-lik, from Old English gelic "like, similar," from Proto-Germanic *(ga)leika- "having the same form," literally "with a corresponding body" (source also of Old Saxon gilik, Dutch gelijk, German gleich, Gothic galeiks "equally, like").ETD like (adj.).2

    This is a compound of *ga- "with, together" + the Germanic root *lik- "body, form; like, same" (source also of Old English lic "body, corpse;" see lich). Etymologically analogous to Latin conform. The modern form (rather than *lich) may be from a northern descendant of the Old English word's Norse cognate, glikr.ETD like (adj.).3

    Formerly with comparative liker and superlative likest (still in use 17c.). The preposition (c. 1200) and the adverb (c. 1300) both are from the adjective. As a conjunction, first attested early 16c., short for like as, like unto. Colloquial like to "almost, nearly" ("I like to died laughing") is 17c., short for was like to/had like to "come near to, was likely." To feel like "want to, be in the mood for" is 1863, originally American English. Proverbial pattern as in like father, like son is recorded from 1540s.ETD like (adj.).4

    Meaning "such as" ("A Town Like Alice") attested from 1886. The word has been used as a postponed filler ("going really fast, like") from 1778; as a presumed emphatic ("going, like, really fast") from 1950, originally in counterculture slang and bop talk. Phrase more like it "closer to what is desired" is from 1888.ETD like (adj.).5

    likeness (n.)

    "representation of an object, that which resembles another, a like shape or form," Old English (Northumbrian) licnes "likeness, similarity; figure, statue, image," shortened from gelicness; see like (adj.) + -ness. Similar formation in Old Saxon gelicnass, Dutch gelijkenis, German Gleichnes.ETD likeness (n.).2

    likes (n.)

    "predilections, preferences," 1851, plural of like (n.), which was earlier used in the singular in this sense (early 15c.).ETD likes (n.).2

    likeable (adj.)

    also likable, 1730, a hybrid from like (v.) + -able. Related: Likeableness. Middle English had likeworthy (from Old English licwyrðe "agreeable, acceptable").ETD likeable (adj.).2

    likeliness (n.)

    late 14c., "resemblance," also "probability," from likely + -ness.ETD likeliness (n.).2

    likelihood (n.)

    late 14c., "resemblance, similarity," from likely + -hood. Meaning "probability, state of being like or probable" is from mid-15c.ETD likelihood (n.).2

    like-minded (adj.)

    also likeminded, "with like purpose or disposition," 1520s, from like (adj.) + -minded. One word from 19c.ETD like-minded (adj.).2

    liken (v.)

    late 13c., "to represent or describe as like, compare," from like (adj.) + -en (1). Related: Likened; likening.ETD liken (v.).2

    likewise (adv.)

    mid-15c., from the phrase in like wise "in the same manner" (mid-15c.), from like (adj.) + wise (n.).ETD likewise (adv.).2

    Likud (n.)

    nationalist coalition party formed in Israel 1973, from Hebrew, literally "union, combination."ETD Likud (n.).2


    Sanskrit lila "play, sport, amusement."ETD Lila.2

    lilac (n.)

    1590s, shrub of genus Syringa with mauve flowers, with French lilac, Spanish lilac from Turkish leylak (the tree reached Western Europe via Istanbul), perhaps from a native Balkan name. Attested from 1791 as a color name; as a scent, from 1895. As an adjective, "pale pinkish-purple," from 1801. Related: Lilaceous.ETD lilac (n.).2

    lily (n.)

    Old English lilie, from Latin lilia, plural of lilium "a lily," cognate with Greek leirion, both perhaps borrowed from a corrupted pronunciation of an eastern Mediterranean word (de Vaan compares Coptic hreri, hleli "lily"). Used in Old Testament to translate Hebrew shoshanna and in New Testament to translate Greek krinon. As an adjective, 1530s, "white, pure, lovely;" later "pale, colorless" (1580s).ETD lily (n.).2

    Figurative of whiteness, fairness, purity. The Latin word has become the general word in languages across Europe: German lilie, Dutch lelie, Swedish lilja, French lis, Spanish lirio, Italian giglio, Polish lilija, Russian liliya. The French word is contracted from Latin lilius, a rare surviving nominative form in French. In Old French lilie (12c.) also existed. Related: Lilied; lilaceous.ETD lily (n.).3

    The lily of the valley translates Latin lilium convallium (Vulgate), a literal rendition of the Hebrew term in Song of Solomon ii:1; in modern times the name was applied to a particular plant (Convallaria majalis) apparently first by 16c. German herbalists. Lily pad is from 1834, American English. For gild the lily see gilded.ETD lily (n.).4


    female evil spirit, in medieval Hebrew folklore the first wife of Adam, from Hebrew Lilith, from Akkadian Lilitu, which is connected by folk etymology with Hebrew laylah "night."ETD Lilith.2

    Lilliputian (adj.)

    "diminutive, tiny," literally "pertaining to Lilliput," the fabulous island whose inhabitants were six inches high, a name coined by Jonathan Swift in "Gulliver's Travels" (1726). Swift left no explanation of the origin of the word.ETD Lilliputian (adj.).2

    lilt (v.)

    1510s, "to lift up" (the voice), probably from West Midlands dialect lulten "to sound an alarm" (late 14c.), a word of unknown origin. Possible relatives include Norwegian lilla "to sing" and Low German lul "pipe;" the whole loose group might be imitative. Sense of "sing in a light manner" is first recorded 1786. Related: Lilted; lilting. As a noun, 1728, "lilting song," from the verb. As "a rhythmical cadence," 1840.ETD lilt (v.).2

    lily-livered (adj.)

    "cowardly," 1605, in "Macbeth;" from lily (in its color sense of "pale, bloodless") + liver (n.1), which was a supposed seat of love and passion. A healthy liver is typically dark reddish-brown. Other similar expressions: lily-handed "having white, delicate hands," lily-faced "pale-faced; affectedly modest or sensitive."ETD lily-livered (adj.).2

    lily-pad (n.)

    "broad leaf of the water-lily," 1834, American English, from lily (n.) + pad (n.).ETD lily-pad (n.).2

    lily-white (adj.)

    early 14c., from lily + white (adj.); from 1903 with reference to whites-only segregation; 1961 as "irreproachable."ETD lily-white (adj.).2


    Peruvian capital, founded 1535 by Pizarro, from Spanish corruption of Quechua (Inca) Rimak, name of a god and his temple, from rima "to speak" (perhaps a reference to priests who spoke from concealed places in statues of the gods).ETD Lima.2

    lima bean (n.)

    1756, associated with Lima, Peru, from which region the plant (Phaseolus lunatus) was introduced to Europe c. 1500. Among the earliest New World crops to be known in the Old World, Simmonds' "Dictionary of Trade" (1858) describes it as "esteemed," but it has the consistency of a diseased dog kidney.ETD lima bean (n.).2

    limaceous (adj.)

    "pertaining to slugs," 1650s, with -ous + Latin limax (genitive limacis) "snail, slug," from Greek leimax, from PIE root *(s)lei- "slime" (see slime (n.)). The Greek word is cognate with Russian slimák "snail," Lithuanian sliekas "earthworm," and the first element in Old English slaw-wyrm "slow-worm."ETD limaceous (adj.).2

    limb (n.2)

    late 14c., "edge of a quadrant or other instrument," from Latin limbus "ornamental border, hem, fringe, edge," a word of uncertain origin. Klein suggests it is cognate with Sanskrit lambate "hang down limply" and English limp (adj.). Tucker writes that "the sense appears to be that of something which twists, goes round, or binds ... not of something which hangs loose," and suggests cognates in Lithuanian linta "ribbon," Old Norse linnr "whether." De Vaan tends to agree with Klein and writes, "In view of the phoneme *b, the very specific meaning of limbus and its absence from the oldest literature, the etymology remains uncertain." Astronomical sense of "edge of the disk of a heavenly body" first attested 1670s. Related: Limbal.ETD limb (n.2).2

    limb (n.1)

    "part or member," Old English lim "limb of the body; any part of an animal body, distinct from the head and trunk;" main branch of a tree," from Proto-Germanic *limu- (source also of Old Norse limr "limb," lim "small branch of a tree"), a variant of *lithu- (source of Old English liþ, Old Frisian lith, Old Norse liðr, Gothic liþus "a limb;" and with prefix ga-, source of German Glied "limb, member").ETD limb (n.1).2

    The unetymological -b began to appear late 1500s for no etymological reason (perhaps by influence of limb (n.2)). The Old English plural was often limu; limen and other plural forms in -n lasted into Middle English. Since c. 1400 especially of a leg; in Victorian English this usage was somewhat euphemistic, "out of affected or prudish unwillingness to use the word leg" [Century Dictionary]. However in Old and Middle English, and until lately in dialects, it could mean "any visible body part":ETD limb (n.1).3

    Hence, limb-lifter "fornicator" (1570s). Limb of the law was 18c. derisive slang for a lawyer or police officer. To go out on a limb in figurative sense "enter a risky situation" is from 1897. Alliterative life and limb in reference to the body inclusively is from c. 1200. Obsolete limb-meal (adv.) "limb-from-limb, piecemeal" is from late Old English lim-mælum.ETD limb (n.1).4

    limbate (adj.)

    "edged, bordered," in botany, of flowers in which one color is edged by another, 1826, from Late Latin limbatus, from Latin limbus "border, hem, fringe, edge" (see limb (n.2)). Related: Limbation.ETD limbate (adj.).2

    limber (n.)

    "detachable forepart of a field-gun carriage," 1620s, alteration of Middle English lymer (early 15c.), earlier lymon (c. 1400), probably from Old French limon "shaft," a word perhaps of Celtic origin, or possibly from Germanic and related to limb (n.1). Compare related Spanish limon "shaft," leman "helmsman."ETD limber (n.).2

    The nautical limber "hole cut in floor timbers to allow water to drain" (1620s), however, appears to be unrelated; perhaps from French lumière "hole, perforation," literally "light."ETD limber (n.).3

    limber (v.)

    "make pliant or supple," 1748, from limber (adj.). Related: Limbered; limbering. With up (adv.) by 1901. The military sense "attach a limber to a gun" (1783) is from limber (n.).ETD limber (v.).2

    limber (adj.)

    "pliant, flexible," 1560s, of uncertain origin, possibly from limb (n.1) on notion of supple boughs of a tree [Barnhart], or from limp (adj.) "flaccid" [Skeat], or somehow from Middle English lymer "shaft of a cart" (see limber (n.)), but the late appearance of the -b- in that word argues against it. Related: Limberness. Dryden used limber-ham (see ham (n.1) in the "joint" sense) as a name for a character "perswaded by what is last said to him, and changing next word."ETD limber (adj.).2

    limbic (adj.)

    "pertaining to or characteristic of a border," 1879, in anatomy, in reference to the brain, from French limbique (1878, Broca), from limbe (14c.), from Latin limbus "edge" (see limb (n.2)). Limbic system is attested from 1950.ETD limbic (adj.).2

    limbless (adj.)

    1590s, from limb (n.1) + -less. Related: Limblessness.ETD limbless (adj.).2

    limbo (n.1)

    region supposed to exist on the border of Hell, reserved for pre-Christian saints (Limbus patrum) and unbaptized infants (Limbus infantum);" c. 1300, from Latin limbo, ablative singular of limbus "edge, border" (see limb (n.2)). In frequent use in Latin phrases such as in limbo (patrum), which is entirely Latin, but the in was taken as English and hence the Latin ablative became the English noun. Figurative sense of "condition of neglect or oblivion, place of confinement" is from 1640s.ETD limbo (n.1).2

    limbo (n.2)

    dance in which the dancer bends backward and passes under a bar, 1956, of West Indian origin, probably an alteration of limber (adj.).ETD limbo (n.2).2

    limbus (n.)

    Latin, literally "edge, border" (see limb (n.2)). Used in English in various senses; in Medieval Latin the name of the region on the border of Hell, and thus sometimes used in very correct English for limbo (n.1).ETD limbus (n.).2

    Limburger (n.)

    famously pungent type of cheese, 1870, short for Limburger cheese (1817), from Limburg, province in northeast Belgium, where the cheese is made. The place name is from Germanic *lindo "lime tree" (see linden) + *burg "fortification."ETD Limburger (n.).2

    lime (n.2)

    "greenish-yellow citrus fruit," 1630s, probably via Spanish lima or Portuguese limão, said to be via Arabic lima "citrus fruit," from Persian limun, in reference to the Persian lime, which might be a hybrid of the "Key" lime and the lemon.ETD lime (n.2).2

    The word is perhaps from or related to Sanskrit nimbu "lime." The Key lime is indigenous to India and the Malay archipelago (Arabs introduced it to the Levant, North Africa, Spain, and Persia in the Middle Ages); compare Malay (Austronesian) limaw "lime," also, generically, "citrus fruit," which might be the ultimate source. Yule and Burnell think the English got the word from the Portuguese in India. Lime-green as a color is by 1883.ETD lime (n.2).3

    lime (n.1)

    "chalky, sticky mineral used in making mortar," from Old English lim "sticky substance, birdlime;" also "mortar, cement, gluten," from Proto-Germanic *leimaz (source also of Old Saxon, Old Norse, Danish lim, Dutch lijm, German Leim "birdlime"), from PIE root *(s)lei- "slime, slimy, sticky" (source also of Latin limus "slime, mud, mire," linere "to smear;" see slime (n.)).ETD lime (n.1).2

    Bird-lime is prepared from the bark of the holly, it was spread on twigs and used for catching small birds. The lime used in building, etc. is made by putting limestone or shells in a red heat, which burns off the carbonic acid and leaves a brittle white solid which dissolves easily in water. Hence lime-kiln (late 13c.), lime-burner (early 14c.). As a verb, c. 1200, from the noun.ETD lime (n.1).3

    lime (n.3)

    "linden tree," 1620s, earlier line (c. 1500), from Middle English lynde (early 14c.), from Old English lind "lime tree" (see linden). Klein suggests the change of -n- to -m- began in compounds whose second element began in a labial (such as line-bark, line-bast). An ornamental European tree, it is unrelated to the tree that produces the citrus fruit.ETD lime (n.3).2

    limeade (n.)

    1833, from lime (n.2) with ending as in lemonade. Earlier was lime punch (1774).ETD limeade (n.).2

    limey (n.)

    1888, Australian, New Zealand, and South African slang for "English immigrant," short for lime-juicer (1857), a nickname given in derisive reference to the British Navy's policy (begun 1795) of issuing lime (n.2) juice on ships to prevent scurvy among sailors. U.S. use is attested from 1918, originally "British sailor, British warship;" extended to "any Englishman" by 1924.ETD limey (n.).2

    lime-juicer (n.)

    "British sailor; English person," 1857; see limey. In reference to lime-juice "the juice of the lime" (1704), which was popular 19c. as an antiscorbutic and stocked on vessels bound on long voyages. Lime-water (1670s) was the usual word for "solution of lime (n.1) in water."ETD lime-juicer (n.).2

    limelight (n.)

    1826, popular name for Drummond light or calcium light, a brilliant light created by the incandescence of lime (n.1); adopted for lighthouses and later for the Victorian stage, where it illuminated the principal actors, hence the figurative use of the phrase in the limelight "on stage, at the center of attention" (1877).ETD limelight (n.).2

    limerick (n.)

    type of nonsense verse of five lines, 1896, perhaps from the county and city of Limerick in Ireland, but if so the connection is obscure. Often (after OED's Murray) attributed to a party game in which each guest in turn made up a nonsense verse and all sang a refrain with the line "Will you come up to Limerick?" but he reported this in 1898 and earlier evidence is wanting. Or perhaps from Learic, from Edward Lear (1812-1888) English humorist who popularized the form. Earliest examples are in French, which further complicates the quest for the origin. OED's first record of the word is in a letter of Aubrey Beardsley.ETD limerick (n.).2

    The place name is literally "bare ground," from Irish Liumneach, from lom "bare, thin." It was famous for hooks.ETD limerick (n.).3

    limestone (n.)

    late 14c., from lime (n.1) + stone (n.). So called because it yields lime when burnt. Another name for it, mostly in American English, is limerock.ETD limestone (n.).2

    limy (adj.)

    1550s, "resembling or coated with lime," from lime (n.1) + -y (2). Of soil, etc., "containing lime," 1670s. Related: Liminess.ETD limy (adj.).2

    liminal (adj.)

    "of or pertaining to a threshold," 1870, from Latin limen "threshold, cross-piece, sill" (see limit (n.)) + -al (1). Related: Liminality.ETD liminal (adj.).2

    limit (v.)

    late 14c., "set limits to, restrict within limits" (also "prescribe, fix, assign"), from Old French limiter "mark (a boundary), restrict; specify" (14c.), from Latin limitare "to bound, limit, fix," from limes "boundary, limit" (see limit (n.)). From early 15c. as "delimit, appoint or specify a limit." Related: limited; limiting; limitable.ETD limit (v.).2

    limit (n.)

    c. 1400, "boundary, frontier," from Old French limite "a boundary," from Latin limitem (nominative limes) "a boundary, limit, border, embankment between fields," which is probably related to limen "threshold," and possibly from the base of limus "transverse, oblique," which is of uncertain origin. Originally of territory; general sense from early 15c. Colloquial sense of "the very extreme, the greatest degree imaginable" is from 1904.ETD limit (n.).2

    limitation (n.)

    late 14c., from Old French limitacion "restriction, legal limitation," and directly from Latin limitationem (nominative limitatio), noun of action from past-participle stem of limitare "to bound, limit, fix," from limes "boundary, limit" (see limit (n.)). Phrase statute of limitations is attested by 1768; it fixes and limits the period within which an action must be brought.ETD limitation (n.).2

    limited (adj.)

    "circumscribed within definite limits," c. 1600, past-participle adjective from limit (v.). The word was used earlier in a now-obsolete sense "appointed, fixed" (1550s). Limited edition is from 1869; limited monarchy from 1640s; limited war is from 1947. As a noun in railroading, 1878, short for limited express train (1875). In British company names, Limited (abbrev. Ltd.), 1855, is short for limited company, one formed under a law limiting the liability of the members for debts or obligations incurred by the company to a specific amount, usually the amount of their capital investment.ETD limited (adj.).2

    limitary (adj.)

    1610s, from Latin limitaris, from limes (genitive limitis) "boundary, limit" (see limit (n.)). Other adjectives in English included limital (1877), limitaneous (1721), limitative (1520s). Related: Limitarian.ETD limitary (adj.).2

    limitless (adj.)

    1580s, from limit (n.) + -less. Related: Limitlessly; limitlessness.ETD limitless (adj.).2

    limn (v.)

    early 15c., "to illuminate" (manuscripts), altered from Middle English luminen, "to illuminate manuscripts" (late 14c.), from Old French luminer "light up, illuminate," from Latin luminare "illuminate, burnish," from lumen (genitive luminis) "radiant energy, light," related to lucere "to shine," from PIE *leuk-smen-, suffixed form of root *leuk- "light, brightness." Figurative sense of "portray, depict" first recorded 1590s. Related: Limned; limner.ETD limn (v.).2


    word-forming element used scientifically, "of or pertaining to lakes and fresh water," from Greek limne "pool of standing water, tidal pool, marsh, lake," a word of uncertain origin; the most likely guess is that it is related to Latin limus "mud," from PIE root *(s)lei- "slime" (see slime (n.)), via the notion of "moistness, standing water" [Beekes].ETD limno-.2

    limnology (n.)

    study of lakes and fresh water, 1892; see limno- + -logy. The science founded and the name probably coined by Swiss geologist François-Alphonse Forel (1841-1912). Related: Limnological; limnologist.ETD limnology (n.).2

    limo (n.)

    abbreviation of limousine, by 1959, American English.ETD limo (n.).2

    Limoges (n.)

    painted porcelain or enamel from Limoges in France, 1838; for place name see Limousine.ETD Limoges (n.).2

    limousine (n.)

    1902, "enclosed automobile with open driver's seat," from French limousine, from Limousin, region in central France (see Limousine). The automobile meaning is from a perceived similarity of the car's profile to a type of hood worn by the inhabitants of that province. Since 1930s, it has been synonymous in American English with "luxury car." The word was applied from 1959 to vehicles that take people to and from large airports. Limousine liberal first attested 1969 (in reference to New York City Mayor John Lindsay).ETD limousine (n.).2


    region in central France, originally an adjective referring to its chief city, Limoges, from Latin Lemovices, name of a people who lived near there, who were perhaps so called in reference to their elm spears or bows. The Latin adjective form of the name, Lemovicinus, is the source of French Limousin.ETD Limousine.2

    limp (adj.)

    "flaccid, drooping, lacking stiffness or firmness," 1706, of obscure origin, apparently from the first element in Old English lemphealt (see limp (v.)). Related: Limply; limpness. A limp wrist as indicative of male effeminate homosexuality is from 1960.ETD limp (adj.).2

    limp (v.)

    "move with a halting or jerky step," 1560s, of unknown origin, not found in Old or Middle English; perhaps related to Middle English lympen "to fall short" (c. 1400), which probably is from Old English lemphealt "halting, lame, limping," the first element of which is itself obscure.ETD limp (v.).2

    OED notes that German lampen "to hang limp" (Middle High German limphin) "has been compared." Perhaps it is from a PIE root meaning "slack, loose, to hang down" (source also of Sanskrit lambate "hangs down," Middle High German lampen "to hang down"). Related: Limped; limping. Limpen in Middle English was a different verb, "to happen, befall, fall to the lot of," from Old English limpan, which might ultimately be from the same root.ETD limp (v.).3

    limp (n.)

    1818, from limp (v.).ETD limp (n.).2

    limpet (n.)

    type of marine gastropod mollusk, early 14c., earlier lempet (early 14c.), alteration of Old English lempedu, which apparently originally meant "a lamprey" (both cling by sucking), from Medieval Latin lampreda "lamprey; limpet," from Late Latin lampetra "lamprey" (see lamprey). Limpin was a 16c. variant that survived in dialects.ETD limpet (n.).2

    Larger font
    Smaller font