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.).
"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]
"situated away from the wind, on the side opposite the weather side of a ship, pertaining to the quarter toward which the wind blows," 1660s, from lee + -ward. Also as an adverb. Similar formation in Dutch lijwaarts, German leewärts, Swedish lävart. The Leeward Islands are so called in reference to prevailing northeasterly trade winds.
kelə-, Proto-Indo-European root meaning "warm." It forms all or part of: caldera; calid; Calor; caloric; calorie; calorimeter; cauldron; caudle; chafe; chauffeur; chowder; coddle; lee; lukewarm; nonchalant; scald (v.) "afflict painfully with hot liquid or steam."
It is the hypothetical source of/evidence for its existence is provided by: Sanskrit carad- "harvest," literally "hot time;" Latin calor "heat," calidus "warm," calere "be hot;" Lithuanian šilti "become warm," šilus "August;" Old Norse hlær, Old English hleow "warm."
Old English leah "open field, meadow, piece of untilled grassy ground," earlier læch, preserved in place names, from Proto-Germanic *lauhaz (source also of Old High German loh "clearing," and probably also Flemish -loo, which forms the second element in Waterloo), from PIE *louko- "light place" (source also of Sanskrit lokah "open space, free space, world," Latin lucus "grove, sacred grove, wood," Lithuanian laukas "open field, land"), from root *leuk- "to shine, be bright." The dative form is the source of many of the English surnames Lee, Leigh.
Originally in nautical orders to keep the ship's head to the wind, and thus stay clear of a lee-shore or some other quarter; hence "at a distance but within view" (1530s) and, figuratively, "apart, withdrawn, without community spirit" (with verbs stand, keep, etc.). As an adjective from c. 1600. Related: Aloofly; aloofness.