Middle English le, leoh, from Old English hleo "shelter, cover, defense, protection," from Proto-Germanic *khlewaz (source also of Old Norse hle, Danish læ, 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.
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.).
name of character in a series of novels by U.S. fiction writer Edgar Rice Burroughs (1875-1950), introduced 1914.
by 1917, American English, abbreviation of Masters of Business Administration, an educational degree attested by that name by 1912.
"sudden pitch to one side," 1784, from earlier lee-larches (1765), a nautical term for "the sudden roll which a ship makes to lee-ward in a high sea, when a large wave strikes her, and bears her weather-side violently up, which depresses the other in proportion" ["Complete Dictionary of Arts and Sciences," London 1765]. This is perhaps from French lacher "to let go," from Latin laxus (see lax).
When a Ship is brought by the Lee, it is commonly occaſsioned by a large Sea, and by the Neglect of the Helm's-man. When the Wind is two or three Points on the Quarter, the Ship taking a Lurch, brings the Wind on the other Side, and lays the Sails all dead to the Maſt; as the Yards are braced up, ſhe then having no Way, and the Helm being of no Service, I would therefore brace about the Head ſails ſharp the other Way .... [John Hamilton Moore, Practical Navigator, 8th ed., 1784]
c. 1300, "act or operation of burning," from Old English bryne, from the same source as burn (v.). Until mid-16c. the usual spelling was brenne. Meaning "mark or injury made by burning" is from 1520s. Slow burn is attested by 1938, in reference to U.S. movie actor Edgar Kennedy (1890-1948), who made it his specialty.