late 14c., draggen, "to draw a grapnel along the bottom of a river, lake, etc., in search of something;" late 15c., "to draw away by force, pull haul," from Old Norse draga, or a dialectal variant of Old English dragan "to draw," both from Proto-Germanic *draganan "to draw, pull," perhaps from a PIE *dhregh- "to draw, drag on the ground" (source also of Sanskrit dhrajati "pulls, slides in," Russian drogi "wagon," doroga "way;" connection to Latin trahere "to draw" is possible but problematic).
Meaning "draw (feet, tails, etc.) along slowly" is from 1580s; intransitive sense of "move heavily or slowly, hang with its weight while moving or being moved" is by 1660s. Meaning "to take a puff" (of a cigarette, etc.) is from 1914. Related: Dragged; dragging. Drag-out "violent fight" is from c. 1859. To drag (one's) feet (1946 in the figurative sense "delay deliberately") supposedly is from logging, from a lazy way to use a two-man saw.
c. 1300, dragge, "dragnet," perhaps from a Scandinavian source (compare Old Norse dragga "a load," Swedish dragg "grapnel") or from Old English dræge "dragnet," related to dragan "to draw" (see drag (v.)).
From 1708 as "anything attached to a moving body that retards its progress." As the name of a device for retarding or stopping the rotation of wheels, 1795. Sense of "annoying, boring person or thing" is 1813, perhaps from the mechanical senses or the notion of something that must be dragged as an impediment.
Sense of "women's clothing worn by a man" is by 1870, perhaps originally theater slang, from the sensation of long skirts trailing on the floor (another guess is Yiddish trogn "to wear," from German tragen); drag queen "male transvestite or cross-dresser" is from 1941.
Drag racing (1947), is said to be from thieves' slang drag "automobile" (1935), perhaps ultimately from slang sense of "wagon, buggy" (1755), because a horse would drag it. By 1851 this was transferred to "street," as in the phrase main drag (which some propose as the source of the racing sense).
In addition to the time trials there are a number of "drag races" between two or more cars. They are run, not for record, but to satisfy the desire of most Americans to see who can get from here to there in the fastest time. [Popular Mechanics, January 1947]
Old English mægen (Mercian megen) "power, bodily strength; force, violent effort; strength of mind or will; efficacy; supernatural power," from Proto-Germanic *maginam "power" (source also of Old High German megin "strength, power, ability"), suffixed form of PIE root *magh- "to be able, have power."
Original sense of "power" is preserved in phrase might and main. Also used in Middle English for "royal power or authority" (c. 1400), "military strength" (c. 1300), "application of force" (c. 1300). Meaning "chief or main part" (c. 1600) now is archaic or obsolete. Meaning "principal duct, pipe, or channel in a utility system" is first recorded 1727 in main drain.
Used since 1540s for "continuous stretch of land or water;" in nautical jargon used loosely for "the ocean," but in Spanish Main the word is short for mainland and refers to the coast between Panama and Orinoco (as contrasted to the islands of the West Indies).
early 13c., "notably large, bulky, or strong" (a sense now obsolete), from Old English mægen- "power, strength, force," used in compounds (such as mægensibb "great love," mægenbyrðen "heavy burden;" see main (n.)), probably also in part from or influenced by cognate Old Norse megenn (adj.) "strong, powerful, mighty."
Sense of "chief, principal, prime" is from c. 1400. That of "principal or chief in size or extent" is from 1590s. Main chance "opportunity of enriching oneself" is by 1570s, from the game of hazard. Main course in the meal sense attested from 1829. Main man "favorite male friend; hero" is by 1967, African-American vernacular.
"principal line of a railway," 1841, from main (adj.) + line (n.). Meaning "affluent area of residence" is by 1917, originally (with capitals) that west of Philadelphia, from the "main line" of the Pennsylvania Railroad which added local stops to a string of backwater towns west of the city late 19c. that helped turn them into fashionable suburbs.
The Main Line, Philadelphia's most famous suburban district, was deliberately conceived in the 1870's and 1880's by the [Pennsylvania] Railroad, which built high-toned housing developments, ran hotels, more or less forced its executives to plunk their estates out there, and created a whole series of somewhat spurious Welsh towns along the railroad tracks. ... Now everybody assumes these all date from 1682, like the Robertses; but as Chestnut Hill people like to say, "nobody but Welsh peasants lived on the Main Line till the Railroad built it up." [Nathaniel Burt, "The Perennial Philadelphians," 1963]
The original station stops were, in order out from the city, Overbrook, Merion, Narberth, Wynnewood, Ardmore, Haverford, Bryn Mawr, Paoli. The train line for commuters along it is the Paoli Local.
"principal street of a (U.S.) town," 1810, from main (adj.) + street. Used allusively to indicate "mediocrity, small-town materialism" from late 19c., a sense reinforced by the publication of Sinclair Lewis's novel "Main Street" (1920).
But a village in a country which is taking pains to become altogether standardized and pure, which aspires to succeed Victorian England as the chief mediocrity of the world, is no longer merely provincial, no longer downy and restful in its leaf-shadowed ignorance. It is a force seeking to dominate the earth, to drain the hills and sea of color, to set Dante at boosting Gopher Prairie, and to dress the high gods in Klassy Kollege Klothes. Sure of itself, it bullies other civilizations, as a traveling salesman in a brown derby conquers the wisdom of China and tacks advertisements of cigarettes over arches for centuries dedicate to the sayings of Confucius. ["Main Street"]
"to carry or drag," 1922 (in Joyce's "Ulysses"), from Yiddish shlepen "to drag," from Middle High German sleppen, which is related to Old High German sleifen "to drag," and slifan "to slide, slip" (cognate with Middle English slippen; see slip (v.)). Related: Schlepped; schlepping.