lease (n.)
late 14c., "legal contract conveying property, usually for a fixed period of time and with a fixed compensation," from Anglo-French les (late 13c.), Old French lais, lez "a lease, a letting, a leaving," verbal noun from Old French laissier "to let, allow, permit; bequeath, leave" (see lease (v.)). Figuratively from 1580s, especially of life. Modern French equivalent legs is altered by erroneous derivation from Latin legatum "bequest, legacy."
lease (v.)
late 15c., "to take a lease," from Anglo-French lesser (13c.), Old French laissier "to let, let go, let out, leave" "to let, allow, permit; bequeath, leave," from Latin laxare "loosen, open, make wide," from laxus "loose" (from PIE root *sleg- "be slack, be languid"). Medial -x- in Latin tends to become -ss- or -s- in French (compare cuisse from coxa). The Latin verb also is the source of Spanish laxar; Italian lasciare "leave," lassare "loosen."

Compare release (v.). Meaning "to grant the temporary possession of at a fixed rate" is from 1560s. Related: Leased; leasing. The form has been influenced by the noun, and the modern sense of "to take a lease" might be a new 19c. formation. Lessor, lessee in contract language preserve the Anglo-French vowel.
leasehold (n.)
also lease-hold, "a tenure by lease, real estate held under a lease," 1720, from lease (n.) + hold (n.). Related: Leaseholder.
leash (n.)
c. 1300, "thong for holding a dog or hound," from Old French lesse, laisse "hound's leash," ultimately from Latin laxus "loose" (see lax), perhaps via noun use of fem. form laxa. The notion seems to be of a string loosely held. Figurative sense attested from early 15c. The meaning "a set of three, three creatures of a kind" is from early 14c., originally in sporting language and especially of greyhounds, foxes, bucks, or hares.
leash (v.)
"to attach to or with a leash," 1590s, from leash (n.). Related: Leashed; leashing.
least (adj.)
Old English læst, earlier læsest "smallest, lowest in power or position" (superlative of little (adj.)), from Proto-Germanic superlative *laisista-, from PIE root *leis- (2) "small" (see less). Qualifying phrase at least "not to say more than is certainly true" is Middle English æt læstan, from the notion of "at the lowest degree." As a noun, "smallest admissible quantity or degree," from early 12c.; as an adverb, Old English læst "in the least degree."
leastways (adv.)
1825, obsolete colloquial, from least + way (n.). Regarded as vulgar, but simply a one-word form of Chaucer's leest weye (late 14c.). Compare leastwise (adv.) "in the least, at least," attested from 1610s, 1530s as two words.
leather (n.)
Old English leðer (only in compounds) "tanned or otherwise dressed hide or skin of an animal," from Proto-Germanic *lethran (source also of Old Norse leðr, Old Frisian lether, Old Saxon lethar, Middle Dutch, Dutch leder, Old High German ledar, German Leder), from PIE *letro- "leather" (source also of Old Irish lethar, Welsh lledr, Breton lezr). As an adjective from early 14c.; it acquired a secondary sense of "sado-masochistic" 1980s, having achieved that status in homosexual jargon in the 1970s.
In commercial and popular usage leather does not include skins dressed with the hair or fur on: such skins are usually distinguished by compounding the word skin with the name of the animal from which they are taken: as sealskin, bearskin, otter skin, etc. In the untanned state skins valued for their fur, hair, or wool and destined to be tawed and dressed for furriers' and analogous uses, are called pelts or peltry. [Century Dictionary, 1900]
leather-back (n.)
soft-shelled sea-turtle, 1855, from leather + back (n.). So called for its color.
leathern (adj.)
"of or like leather," Old English leðren, earlier liðerin; see leather + -en (2). Similar formation in Dutch lederen, Old High German lidirin, German ledern.
leatherneck (n.)
"U.S. Marine," 1914, Navy slang, from leather + neck (n.). So called for the leather collars of their early uniforms; earlier in British use (1890) it was a sailor's term for a soldier.
leatherstocking (n.)
also leather-stocking, 1701, "a sock made of leather," from leather (n.) + stocking (n.). As "a wearer of socks made of leather," usually meaning "an American frontiersman," 1823, in reference to Natty Bumppo, nicknamed "Leatherstocking," the central character in J.F. Cooper's "Leatherstocking Tales."
leathery (adj.)
1550s, from leather + -y (2). Related: Leatheriness.
leave (v.)
Old English læfan "to allow to remain in the same state or condition; to let remain, allow to survive; to have left (of a deceased person, in reference to heirs, etc.); to bequeath (a heritage)," from Proto-Germanic *laibijan (source also of Old Frisian leva "to leave," Old Saxon farlebid "left over"), causative of *liban "remain" (source of Old English belifan, German bleiben, Gothic bileiban "to remain"), from PIE root *leip- "to stick, adhere."

The Germanic root seems to have had only the sense "remain, continue" (which was in Old English as well but has since become obsolete), which also is in Greek lipares "persevering, importunate." But this usually is regarded as a development from the primary PIE sense of "adhere, be sticky" (compare Lithuanian lipti, Old Church Slavonic lipet "to adhere," Greek lipos "grease," Sanskrit rip-/lip- "to smear, adhere to."

Originally a strong verb (past participle lifen), it early switched to a weak form. Meaning "go away, take one's departure, depart from; leave behind" (c. 1200) comes from notion of "leave behind" (as in to leave the earth "to die;" to leave the field "retreat"). From c. 1200 as "to stop, cease; give up, relinquish, abstain from having to do with; discontinue, come to an end;" also "to omit, neglect; to abandon, forsake, desert; divorce;" also "allow (someone) to go."

Colloquial use for "let, allow" is by 1840, said by OED to be chiefly American English. Not related to leave (n.). To leave out "omit" is from late 15c. To leave (something) alone is from c. 1400; to leave (something) be is from 1825. To leave (something/nothing) to be desired is from 1780. To leave it at that is from 1902. Leave off is from c. 1400 as "cease, desist" (transitive); early 15c. as "stop, make an end" (intransitive).
leave (n.)
"permission, liberty granted to do something," Old English leafe "leave, permission, licence," dative and accusative of leaf "permission," from Proto-Germanic *laubo (source also of Old Norse leyfi "permission," and, with prefix, Old Saxon orlof, Old Frisian orlof, German Urlaub "leave of absence"), from PIE root *leubh- "to care, desire, love," the original idea being "approval resulting from pleasure." It is a noun relative of lief "dear" (adj.); and compare belief. In the military sense, it is attested from 1771.
leave-taking (n.)
late 14c., from the verbal phrase to take leave, originally "obtain or receive formal permission" in any sense (c. 1300); see take (v.) + leave (n.). Sense evolution was through "receive formal permission to depart;" by 16c. it had begun to mean "depart with an expression of farewell," and in some cases came to mean the farewell itself. Give (someone) leave (v.) "allow, permit" is from 12c.
leaved (adj.)
"having a leaf or leaves," past participle adjective from verb leave "to put forth leaves," mid-13c., from leaf (n.).
leaven (v.)
"excite fermentation in," c. 1400, leueyn, from leaven (n.). Figurative sense "work upon by invisible or powerful influence" is from 1540s. Related: Leavened; leavening.
leaven (n.)
mid-14c., "substance added to dough to produce fermentation," from Old French levain "leaven, sourdough" (12c.), from Latin levamen, which in literary use meant "alleviation, mitigation," but in Vulgar Latin it had a literal sense of "means of lifting, something that raises." It is from levare "to raise" (from PIE root *legwh- "not heavy, having little weight"). Figurative use is from late 14c., "[c]hiefly with allusion to certain passages of the gospels" [OED]. Related: Leavenous.
Lebanese (adj.)
1860; see Lebanon + -ese. As a noun from 1852. Old English had Libanisc.
Lebanon
name of a nation in western Asia, from Semitic root l-b-n "white," probably in reference to snow-capped peaks, or possibly to chalk or limestone cliffs. The Greek name of the island Lemnos is of Phoenician origin and from the same root.
lebensform (n.)
"any type of human activity that involves values" (Wittgenstein), 1937, from German Lebensform, from Leben "life" (see life) + Form (see form (n.)).
lebensraum (n.)
"territory needed for a nation's or people's natural development," 1905, from German, a compound of the genitive of leben "life" (see life) + Raum "space" (see room (n.)).
lecanomancy (n.)
"divination by inspection of water in a basin" (or perhaps "by throwing three stones into water in a basin and invoking the aid of a demon"), c. 1600, from Latinized form of Greek lekane "dish-pan" (from lekos "a dish, plate, pan") + -mancy.
lech (n.1)
"Celtic monumental stone," 1768, from Welsh llech, cognate with Gaelic and Irish leac (see cromlech).
lech (n.2)
"yen, strong desire" (especially sexual and sometimes implying perversion), 1796, variant of letch, but according to OED "now regarded as a back-formation" from lecher. Meaning "a lecher" is by 1943. As a verb by 1911. Related: Leched; leching.
lecher (n.)
"man given to excessive sexual indulgence," late 12c., from Old French lecheor (Modern French lécheur) "one living a life of debauchery," especially "one given to sexual indulgence," literally "licker," agent noun from lechier "to lick;" also "to live in debauchery or gluttony," from Frankish *likkon or some other Germanic source, from Proto-Germanic *likkojan "to lick" (from PIE root *leigh- "to lick"). The Old French feminine form was lechiere. Middle English, meanwhile, had lickestre "female who licks;" figuratively "a pleasure seeker," literally "lickster," with -ster.
lecherous (adj.)
c. 1300, probably from lecher + -ous; or else from rare Old French adjective lecheros. The nativized form is lickerish. Related: Lecherously; lecherousness.
lechery (n.)
"lewdness in living, habitual lustful indulgence," c. 1200, from Old French lecherie "gluttony, sensuality, lewdness," from lecheor "debauched man" (see lecher).
lecithin (n.)
fatty substance found in the yolks of eggs (among other places), 1853, from French lécithine (coined 1850 by French pharmacist Theodore N. Gobley), from Greek lekithos "egg yolk," + chemical suffix -ine (2). Greek lekithos is of unknown origin; Beekes writes that, "Because of the suffixes and the meaning, the word is clearly of Pre-Greek origin." Related: Lecithinase.
Lecompton
in U.S. history, a reference to the town in Kansas Territory where a constitution for statehood was drawn up in 1857 by pro-slavery men.
lectern (n.)
early 14c., lettorne, lettron, "reading-desk in a church," from Old French letron, from Medieval Latin lectrinum, from Late Latin lectrum "lectern," from root of Latin legere "to read," literally "to gather, choose," from PIE root *leg- (1) "to collect, gather," with derivatives meaning "to speak (to 'pick out words')." Half-re-Latinized in English in 15c. For form, OED compares mulctrum "milking-pail" from mulgere "to milk."
lectio difficilior
Latin, literally "harder reading," from phrase maxim difficilior lectio potior. In textual reconstruction (of the Bible, etc.) the rule that, of two alternative manuscript readings, the one whose meaning is less obvious is less likely to be a copyist's alteration, and therefore should be given precedence. From lectio, 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')."
lection (n.)
1530s, "a reading," from Old French lection, 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')." Meaning "a sacred writing to be read in a church" is from c. 1600; sense of "a particular reading of a text from a certain copy or edition" is from 1650s. Related: Lectionary (adj.).
lector (n.)
late 14c., "reader, a cleric in one of the minor orders appointed to read holy works to the people," from Late Latin lector "reader," agent noun from Latin legere "to read," from PIE root *leg- (1) "to collect, gather," with derivatives meaning "to speak (to 'pick out words')." Fem. forms were lectrice (1889, from French), lectress (1846). Related: Lectorship. Middle English also had lectory "a house for reading" (early 15c.).
lecture (v.)
1580s, "to read or deliver formal discourses," from lecture (n.). Transitive sense "instruct by oral discourse" is from 1680s. Meaning "to address severely and at length" is from 1706. Related: Lectured; lecturing.
lecture (n.)
c. 1300, "written works, literature;" late 14c., "learning from books," from Medieval Latin lectura "a reading," from Latin lectus, past participle of legere "to read," originally "to gather, collect, pick out, choose" (compare elect), from PIE root *leg- (1) "to collect, gather," with derivatives meaning "to speak (to 'pick out words')." To read is, perhaps, etymologically, to "pick out words."

The sense "a reading aloud, action of reading aloud" (either in divine worship or to students) in English emerged early 15c. That of "a discourse on a given subject before an audience for purposes of instruction" is from 1530s. Meaning "admonitory speech given with a view to reproof or correction" is from c. 1600. Lecture-room is from 1793; lecture-hall from 1832. In Greek the words still had the double senses relating to "to speak" and "to gather" (apologos "a story, tale, fable;" elaiologos "an olive gatherer").
lecturer (n.)
1580s, as a class of preachers, agent noun from lecture (v.). From 1610s as "one who gives formal lectures."
LED (n.)
1968, initialism (acronym) from light-emitting diode.
led
past tense and past participle of lead (v.). As an adjective, often with the implication of subjection or sycophancy.
Leda
in Greek mythology, wife of Tyndareus, a king of Sparta; she was mother of Clytaemnestra, Helen, Castor, and Pollux.
lede (n.1)
by 1965, alternative spelling of lead (n.2) in the newspaper journalism sense, to distinguish this specialized sense from other possible meanings of the written word, perhaps especially the molten lead (n.1) used in 20c. typesetting machines.
lede (n.2)
"a people, nation, race; the subjects of a lord or sovereign; persons collectively" (as in all lede "all the world"); obsolete, from Old English leod "nation, people," leode (Northumbrian lioda "men, people," cognate with German Leute "nation, people;" Old High German liut "person, people," from PIE root *leudh- (2) "people" (source also of Old Church Slavonic ljudu, Lithuanian liaudis "nation, people").
lederhosen (n.)
leather shorts worn in Alpine regions, 1937, from German Lederhosen, literally "leather trousers" (see leather and hose). Old English had cognate leðerhose. German hosen displaced Old High German bruch, which is from the basic Germanic word for "trousers" (see breeches).
ledge (n.)
late 13c., "crossbar on a door," perhaps [OED] from the Middle English verb leggen "to place, lay" (see lay (v.), and compare ledger). Others suggest a Scandinavian source cognate with Swedish lagg "the rim of a cask." Sense of "narrow shelf" is first recorded 1550s; that of "shelf-like projection of rock" is from 1550s.
ledger (n.)
c. 1400, " a book that lies permanently in some specified place" (especially a large copy of a breviary in a church), noun from leggen "to place, lay" (see lay (v.)). Perhaps formed on the model of a Dutch word; the -er seems to indicate "that which has been." Commercial sense of "book of accounts" is first attested 1580s, short for ledger-book (1550s). Ledger (adj.) "remaining in a place, permanent, stationary" is attested from 1540s; compare ledger-bait "fishing bait made to stay in one place" (1650s).

The surname, however, is via the Normans, from St. Leger, a 7c. bishop whose memory was popular in France and Normandy. The name is Germanic, *Leodegar, literally "people-spear."
lee (n.)
Middle English le, leoh, from Old English hleo "shelter, cover, defense, protection," from Proto-Germanic *khlewaz (source also of Old Norse hle, Danish , Old Saxon hleo, Dutch lij "lee, shelter"). The original sense is uncertain; it might have been "warm" (compare German lau "tepid," Old Norse hly "shelter, warmth"), and Watkins traces it to a PIE *kle-wo-, a suffixed variant form of the root *kele- (1) "warm."

Nautical sense "that part of the hemisphere to which the wind is directed" (c. 1400) is of Scandinavian origin, from the notion of the side of the ship opposite that which receives the wind as the sheltered side. As an adjective, 1510s, from the noun. The lee shore is that toward which the wind blows. Middle English also had lewth "warmth, shelter," Old English hleowþ, with Proto-Germanic abstract noun suffix *-itho (see -th (2)). Also compare lukewarm.
Lee-Enfield
type of rifle used by the British army early 20c., 1902 (adj.); 1910 (n.), named for J.P. Lee (1831-1904), U.S. designer of bolt action + Enfield (q.v.).
leech (n.1)
"bloodsucking aquatic worm," from Old English læce (Kentish lyce), of unknown origin (with a cognate in Middle Dutch lake). Commonly regarded as a transferred use of leech (n.2), but according to OED the Old English forms suggest this is a distinct word, which has been assimilated to leech (n.2) by folk etymology. Figuratively applied to human parasites since 1784.
leech (v.)
"to cure, heal," c. 1200, from Old English also had a verb læcnian, from the source of leech (n.2). Meaning "to apply leeches medicinally" is from 1802 (implied in leeching), from leech (n.1). Related: Leeched.