Middle English droppen, from Old English dropian "to fall in drops, fall in small portions or globules, as a liquid." The word is part of a related series of verbs in Proto-Germanic that also yielded Old Saxon driopan, Old Frisian driapa, Dutch druipen, Old High German triufan, German triefen, and in English drip, droop, and obsolete dreep and dripe. Related: Dropped; dropping.
In reference to a solid object, "to fall vertically" from late 14c. The transitive sense "allow to fall" is from mid-14c. To drop in "visit casually" is from c. 1600; drop-in (n.) "a casual visit" is attested by 1819. The notion in drop (someone) a line "write a letter" (1769) is of dropping a message into a letter-box. Exclamation drop dead to express emphatic dislike or scorn is from 1934; as an adjective meaning "stunning, excellent" it is recorded by 1970 (compare killing, etc.).
Middle English ded, from Old English dead "having ceased to live," also "torpid, dull;" of water, "still, standing," from Proto-Germanic *daudaz (source also of Old Saxon dod, Danish død, Swedish död, Old Frisian dad, Middle Dutch doot, Dutch dood, Old High German tot, German tot, Old Norse dauðr, Gothic dauþs "dead"), a past-participle adjective based on *dau-, which is perhaps from PIE *dheu- (3) "to die" (see die (v.)).
Meaning "insensible, void of perception" is from early 13c. Of places, "inactive, dull," from 1580s. Of sound, "muffled," 1520s. Used from 16c. as "utter, absolute, quite" (as in dead drunk, 1590s); from 1590s as "quite certain, sure, unerring;" by 1881 as "direct, straight." To be dead-set against "wholly opposed to" (1843) is from earlier noun phrase a dead-set in reference to resolute opposition (1787). Dead heat, a race in which more than one competitor reaches the goal at the same time, is from 1796. The dead-nettle (c. 1400) resembles the nettle but does not sting.
Dead on is 1889, from marksmanship. Dead duck "person defeated or soon to be, useless person" is by 1844, originally in U.S. politics. Dead letter is from 1703, used of laws lacking force as well as uncollected mail. Dead soldier "emptied liquor bottle" is from 1913; the image is older (compare dead men "bottles emptied at a banquet," c. 1700). Dead man's hand in poker, "pair of aces and pair of eights," is supposedly what Wild Bill Hickock held when Jack McCall shot him in 1876. Expression not be (seen/found/caught) dead "have nothing to do with" is by 1915.
"in a dead or dull manner, as if dead," also "entirely," late 14c., from dead (adj.). As "directly," by 1800.
Old English, "a dead person; the dead collectively, those who have died," noun use of dead (adj.). As "the most intense or culminating point" of anything (usually something low, flat, still, or cold, as night, winter) from 1540s. To leave (someone) for dead is from late 14c.
Middle English drope, from Old English dropa "a small, spherical mass of liquid," from Proto-Germanic *drupon (source also of Old Saxon dropo, Old Norse dropi, Dutch drop, Old High German tropfo, German Tropfen (n.)); see drop (v.).
Sense of "minute quantity of anything, least possible amount" is from c. 1200. Meaning "an act of dropping" is from 1630s; of immaterial things (prices, temperatures, etc.) from mid-19c. Meaning "lozenge, hard candy" is 1723, from resemblance in shape. Meaning "secret place where things can be left illicitly and picked up later" is from 1931. Theatrical meaning "painted curtain dropped between scenes to conceal the stage from the audience" is by 1779.
Drop in the bucket (late 14c.) is from Isaiah xl.15 [KJV]. At the drop of a hat "suddenly" is from 1854. To get the drop on "be prepared before one's antagonist" originally was Old West gunslinger slang (1869).
Who would linger by the fire, nor from toil an hour snatch
When villages play football in a merry monster match;
E'en a mere ale-drinking Saxon feels some fervour in his soul
As he watches and bets glasses on a drop-kick at the goal.
[from "A Lay of English Field Sports," by "Colonel Chasse," in The Sporting Review, June 1849]
"ascertaining of the position of a ship by measurement of the distance run" (without observation of heavenly bodies), 1610s, perhaps from nautical abbreviation ded. ("deduced") in log books, but it also fits dead (adj.) in the sense of "unrelieved, absolute."