"terminal part of the leg of a vertebrate animal," Old English fot "foot," from Proto-Germanic *fōts (source also of Old Frisian fot, Old Saxon fot, Old Norse fotr, Danish fod, Swedish fot, Dutch voet, Old High German fuoz, German Fuß, Gothic fotus "foot"), from PIE root *ped- "foot." Plural form feet is an instance of i-mutation.
The linear measure was in Old English (the exact length has varied over time), this being considered the length of a man's foot; a unit of measure used widely and anciently. In this sense the plural is often foot. The current inch and foot are implied from measurements in 12c. English churches (Flinders Petrie, "Inductive Metrology"), but the most usual length of a "foot" in medieval England was the foot of 13.2 inches common throughout the ancient Mediterranean. The Anglo-Saxon foot apparently was between the two. All three correspond to units used by the Romans, and possibly all three lengths were picked up by the Anglo-Saxons from the Romano-Britons. "That the Saxon units should descend to mediæval times is most probable, as the Normans were a ruling, and not a working, class." [Flinders Petrie, 1877]. The medieval Paul's Foot (late 14c.) was a measuring standard cut into the base of a column at the old St. Paul's cathedral in London. The metrical foot (late Old English, translating Latin pes, Greek pous in the same sense) is commonly taken to represent one rise and one fall of a foot: keeping time according to some, dancing according to others.
In Middle English also "a person" (c. 1200), hence non-foot "nobody." Meaning "bottom or lowest part of anything eminent or upright" is from c. 1200. Of a bed, grave, etc., from c. 1300. On foot "by walking" is from c. 1300. To get off on the wrong foot is from 1905 (the right foot is by 1907); to put one's best foot foremost first recorded 1849 (Shakespeare has the better foot before, 1596); Middle English had evil-foot (adv.) "through mischance, unluckily." To put one's foot in (one's) mouth "say something stupid" is attested by 1942; the expression put (one's) foot in something "make a mess of it" is from 1823. To have one foot in the grave "be near death" is from 1844. Colloquial exclamation my foot! expressing "contemptuous contradiction" [OED] is attested by 1923, probably euphemistic for my ass in the same sense, which dates to 1796 (also see eyewash).
The first element probably is cognate with Old English haga "enclosure, portion of woodland marked off for cutting" (see hedge (n.)). Old Norse had tunriða and Old High German zunritha, both literally "hedge-rider," used of witches and ghosts. The second element in the prehistoric compound may be connected with Norwegian tysja "fairy; crippled woman," Gaulish dusius "demon," Lithuanian dvasia "spirit," from PIE *dhewes- "to fly about, smoke, be scattered, vanish."
One of the magic words for which there is no male form, suggesting its original meaning was close to "diviner, soothsayer," which were always female in northern European paganism, and hægtesse seem at one time to have meant "woman of prophetic and oracular powers" (Ælfric uses it to render the Greek "pythoness," the voice of the Delphic oracle), a figure greatly feared and respected. Later, the word was used of village wise women.
Haga is also the haw- in hawthorn, which is an important tree in northern European pagan religion. There may be several layers of folk etymology here. Confusion or blending with heathenish is suggested by Middle English hæhtis, hægtis "hag, witch, fury, etc.," and haetnesse "goddess," used of Minerva and Diana.
If the hægtesse once was a powerful supernatural woman (in Norse it is an alternative word for Norn, any of the three weird sisters, the equivalent of the Fates), it might originally have carried the hawthorn sense. Later, when the pagan magic was reduced to local scatterings, it might have had the sense of "hedge-rider," or "she who straddles the hedge," because the hedge was the boundary between the civilized world of the village and the wild world beyond. The hægtesse would have a foot in each reality. Even later, when it meant the local healer and root collector, living in the open and moving from village to village, it may have had the mildly pejorative Middle English sense of hedge- (hedge-priest, etc.), suggesting an itinerant sleeping under bushes. The same word could have contained all three senses before being reduced to its modern one.
Old English lætan (Northumbrian leta) "to allow; to leave behind, depart from; leave undone; bequeath," also "to rent, put to rent or hire" (class VII strong verb; past tense let, leort, past participle gelæten), from Proto-Germanic *letan (source also of Old Saxon latan, Old Frisian leta, Dutch laten, Old High German lazan, German lassen, Gothic letan "to leave, let"), from PIE *led-, extended form of root *lē- "to let go, slacken." If that derivation is correct, the etymological sense might be "let go through weariness, neglect."
The idea of slackening lies at the root of both applications of the term. When we speak of letting one go, letting him do something, we conceive him as previously restrained by a band, the loosening or slackening of which will permit the execution of the act in question. ... At other times the slackness is attributed to the agent himself, when let acquires the sense of being slack in action, delaying or omitting to do. [Hensleigh Wedgwood, "A Dictionary of English Etymology," 1859]
He points to similar developments in French laisser "to let" from Latin laxare "to slacken," German lassen "to permit, to let," from dialectal lass "loose."
"The shortening of the root vowel ... has not been satisfactorily explained" [OED]. Of blood, from late Old English. Other Old and Middle English senses include "regard as, consider; behave toward; allow to escape; pretend;" to let (someone) know and to let fly (arrows, etc.) preserve the otherwise obsolete sense of "to cause to."
To let (someone) off "allow to go unpunished, excuse from service" is from 1814. To let on is from 1725 as "allow (something) to be known, betray one's knowledge of," 1822 as "pretend" (OED finds a similar use in the phrase never let it on him in a letter from 1637). To let out is late 12c. as "allow to depart" (transitive); intransitive use "be concluded," of schools, meetings, etc., is from 1888, considered by Century Dictionary (1895) to be "Rural, U.S." Of garments, etc., late 14c.
Let alone "abstain from interfering with" is in Old English; the phrase in the sense "not to mention, to say nothing of" is from 1812. To let (something) be "leave it alone" is from c. 1300; let it be "let it pass, leave it alone" is from early 14c. To let go is from c. 1300 as "allow to escape," 1520s as "cease to restrain," 1530s as "dismiss from one's thoughts." Let it go "let it pass, no matter" is as old as Chaucer's Wife of Bath: "But age allas Hath me biraft my beautee Lat it go, far wel, the deuel go ther with!" [c. 1395]. Let me see "show me" is from c. 1300.
c. 1200, from Old Norse geta (past tense gatum, past participle getenn) "to obtain, reach; to be able to; to beget; to learn; to be pleased with," a word of very broad meaning, often used almost as an auxilliary verb, also frequently in phrases (such as geta rett "to guess right"). This is from Proto-Germanic *getan (source also of Old Swedish gissa "to guess," literally "to try to get"), from PIE root *ghend- "to seize, take."
Old English, as well as Dutch and Frisian, had the verb almost exclusively in compounds (such as begietan, "to beget;" forgietan "to forget"). Vestiges of an Old English cognate *gietan remain obliquely in modern past participle gotten and original past tense gat, also Biblical begat.
In compound phrases with have and had it is grammatically redundant, but often usefully indicates possession, obligation, or necessity, or gives emphasis. The word and phrases built on it take up 29 columns in the OED 2nd edition; Century Dictionary lists seven distinct senses for to get up.
"I GOT on Horseback within ten Minutes after I received your Letter. When I GOT to Canterbury I GOT a Chaise for Town. But I GOT wet through before I GOT to Canterbury, and I HAVE GOT such a Cold as I shall not be able to GET rid of in a Hurry. I GOT to the Treasury about Noon, but first of all I GOT shaved and drest. I soon GOT into the Secret of GETTING a Memorial before the Board, but I could not GET an Answer then, however I GOT Intelligence from the Messenger that I should most likely GET one the next Morning. As soon as I GOT back to my Inn, I GOT my Supper, and GOT to Bed, it was not long before I GOT to Sleep. When I GOT up in the Morning, I GOT my Breakfast, and then GOT myself drest, that I might GET out in Time to GET an Answer to my Memorial. As soon as I GOT it, I GOT into the Chaise, and GOT to Canterbury by three: and about Tea Time, I GOT Home. I HAVE GOT No thing particular for you, and so Adieu." [Philip Withers, "Aristarchus, or the Principles of Composition," London, 1789, illustrating the widespread use of the verb in Modern English]
As a command to "go, be off" by 1864, American English. Meaning "to seize mentally, grasp" is from 1892. Get wind of "become acquainted with" is from 1840, from earlier to get wind "to get out, become known" (1722). To get drunk is from 1660s; to get religion is from 1772; to get better "recover health" is from 1776. To get ready "prepare oneself" is from 1890; to get going "begin, start doing something" is by 1869 in American English; get busy "go into action, begin operation" is from 1904. Get lost as a command to go away is by 1947. To get ahead "make progress" is from 1807. To get to (someone) "vex, fret, obsess" is by 1961, American English (get alone as "to puzzle, trouble, annoy" is by 1867, American English). To get out of hand originally (1765) meant "to advance beyond the need for guidance;" sense of "to break free, run wild" is from 1892, from horsemanship. To get on (someone's) nerves is attested by 1970.