- lark (n.1)
- songbird of the Old World, early 14c., earlier lauerche (c. 1200), from Old English lawerce (late Old English laferce), from Proto-Germanic *laiw(a)rikon (source also of Old Saxon lewerka, Frisian liurk, Old Norse lævirik, Dutch leeuwerik, German Lerche), a word of unknown origin.
Old English and Old Norse forms suggest a contracted compound, perhaps meaning "treason-worker," but "nothing is known in folklore to account for such a designation" [OED]. Noted for its early song and high flying (in contrast to its low nest). When the sky falls, we shall catch larks was an old proverb mocking foolish optimism.
- lark (n.2)
- "spree, frolic, merry adventure," 1811, slang, of uncertain origin. Possibly a shortening of skylark (1809), sailors' slang for "play rough in the rigging of a ship" (larks were proverbial for high-flying). Or perhaps it is an alteration of English dialectal or colloquial lake/laik "to play, frolic, make sport" (c. 1300, from Old Norse leika "to play," from PIE *leig- (3) "to leap") with intrusive -r- common in southern British dialect. The verb lake, considered characteristic of Northern English vocabulary, is the opposite of work but lacks the other meanings of play. As a verb, from 1813. Related: Larked; larking.
- lark (v.)
- "to play tricks, frolic," 1813; see lark (n.2). Related: Larked; larking.