- follow (v.)
- Middle English folwen, from Old English folgian, fylgian, fylgan "to accompany (especially as a disciple), move in the same direction as; follow after, pursue, move behind in the same direction," also "obey (a rule or law), conform to, act in accordance with; apply oneself to (a practice, trade, or calling)," from Proto-Germanic *fulg- (cognates: Old Saxon folgon, Old Frisian folgia, Middle Dutch volghen, Dutch volgen, Old High German folgen, German folgen, Old Norse fylgja "to follow"). Probably originally a compound, *full-gan, with a sense of "full-going," the sense then shifting to "serve, go with as an attendant" (compare fulfill). Related: Followed; following.
Sense of "accept as leader or guide, obey or be subservient to" was in late Old English. Meaning "come after in time" is from c.1200; meaning "to result from" (as effect from cause) is from c.1200. Meaning "to keep up with mentally, comprehend" is from 1690s. Intransitive sense "come or go behind" is from mid-13c. To follow one's nose "go straight on" first attested 1590s. "The full phrase is, 'Follow your nose, and you are sure to go straight.' " [Farmer]. The children's game follow my leader is attested by that name from 1812 (as follow the leader by 1896).