Etymology
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make out (v.)

c. 1600, "get along, succeed," from make (v.) + out (adv.). Sense of "obtain a clear understanding of" is from 1640s; that of "discern or discover visually" is by 1754; sense of "have sexual relations with" is attested by 1939.

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make (v.)

Old English macian "to give being to, give form or character to, bring into existence; construct, do, be the author of, produce; prepare, arrange, cause; behave, fare, transform," from West Germanic *makōjanan "to fashion, fit" (source also of Old Saxon makon, Old Frisian makia "to build, make," Middle Dutch and Dutch maken, Old High German mahhon "to construct, make," German machen "to make"), from PIE root *mag- "to knead, fashion, fit." If so, sense evolution perhaps is via prehistoric houses built of mud. It gradually replaced the main Old English word, gewyrcan (see work (v.)).

Meaning "to arrive at" (a place), first attested 1620s, originally was nautical. Formerly used in many places where specific verbs now are used, such as to make Latin (c. 1500) "to write Latin compositions." This broader usage survives in some phrases, such as make water "to urinate" (c. 1400), make a book "arrange a series of bets" (1828), make hay "to turn over mown grass to expose it to sun." Make the grade is 1912, perhaps from the notion of railway engines going up an incline.

Read the valuable suggestions in Dr. C.V. Mosby's book — be prepared to surmount obstacles before you encounter them — equipped with the power to "make the grade" in life's climb. [advertisement for "Making the Grade," December 1916]

But the phrase also was in use in a schoolwork context at the time.

To make friends is from late 14c.; to make good "make right" is from early 15c.  To make do "manage with what is available" is attested by 1867; to make for "direct one's course to, proceed toward" is from 1580s, but "Not frequent before the 19th c." [OED]. To make of  "think, judge" is from c. 1300. To make off  "run away, depart suddenly" is from 1709; to make off with "run away with (something) in one's possession" is by 1820. To make way is from c. 1200 as "cut a path," early 14c. as "proceed, go."

Make time "go fast" is 1849; make tracks in this sense is from 1834. To make a federal case out of  (something) was popularized in 1959 movie "Anatomy of a Murder;" to make an offer (one) can't refuse is from Mario Puzo's 1969 novel "The Godfather." To make (one's) day is by 1909; menacing make my day is from 1971, popularized by Clint Eastwood in film "Sudden Impact" (1983). Related: Made; making.

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make (n.)

"match, mate, companion" (now archaic or dialectal), from Old English gemaca "mate, equal; one of a pair, comrade; consort, husband, wife," from Proto-Germanic *gamakon- (source also of Old Saxon gimaco, Old High German gimahho, Old Norse maki), related to Old English gemæcc "well-matched, suitable," macian "to make" (see make (v.)). Meaning "manner in which something is made, form, shape, design, construction" is from c. 1300. Slang phrase on the make "intent on profit or advancement" is from 1869.

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out-and-out 

c. 1300 as an adverbial phrase, "completely, thoroughly, to the utmost degree," from out (adv.). Adjective usage is attested by 1813.

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out- 

in Old English a common prefix with nouns, adjectives, adverbs, and verbs, "out, outward, outer; forth, away," from out (adv.). The use was even more common in Middle English, and also with the senses "outer, outside, on the outside, from without, external, externally; apart; greatly, extremely; completely, thoroughly, to completion." Other senses of out that extended into the use as a prefix include "beyond the surface or limits; to the utmost degree; to an explicit resolution."

In composition out has either its ordinary adverbial sense, as in outcast, outcome, outlook, etc., or a prepositional force, as in outdoors, or forms transitive verbs denoting a going beyond or surpassing of the object of the verb, in doing the act expressed by the word to which it is prefixed, as in outrun, outshine, outvenom, etc. In the last use especially out may be used with almost any noun or verb. [Century Dictionary]
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out (n.)

late 15c., "egress," from out (adj). From 1620s, "a being out" (of something), from out (adv.). From 1764 in politics as "the party which is out of office." From 1860 in the baseball sense "act of getting an opposing player out of active play." From 1919 as "means of escape; alibi."

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out (v.)

Old English utian "expel, put out," from the source of out (adv.). It has been used in many specific senses over the years; the meaning "disclose to public view, reveal, make known" is by mid-14c.

Eufrosyne preyde Þat god schulde not outen hire to nowiht. ["Legendary of St. Euphrosyne," c. 1350]

Meaning "to expose as a closet homosexual" is first by 1990 (as an adjective meaning "openly avowing one's homosexuality" it dates from 1970s; see closet). To come out "declare oneself publicly as homosexual" is from 1968 and probably short for come out of the closet. Related: Outed; outing. Compare outen.

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out (adj.)

late Old English, "outer," from out (adv.). From mid-13c. as "that is or lies on the outside, exterior." Of a light or candle, "extinguished, no longer burning," c. 1300.  Sense of "no longer secret" is by 1713. Sense in baseball (1860) was earlier in cricket (1746). Meaning "unconscious" is attested from 1898, originally in boxing from the notion of "defeated ('out') by failing to rise within a 10-count." To be out on one's feet is from 1952. From 1966 as "unfashionable, not stylish, popular, or modern."

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out (adv.)

expressing motion or direction from within or from a central point, also removal from proper place or position, Old English ut "out, without, outside," from Proto-Germanic *ūt- (Old Norse, Old Frisian, Old Saxon, Gothic ut, Middle Dutch uut, Dutch uit, Old High German uz, German aus), from PIE root *uidh- "up, out, up away, on high" (source also of Sanskrit ut "up, out," uttarah "higher, upper, later, northern;" Avestan uz- "up, out," Old Irish ud- "out," Latin usque "all the way to, continuously, without interruption," Greek hysteros "the latter," Russian vy- "out").

Sense of "to a full end, completely, to a conclusion or finish" is from c. 1300. Meaning "so as to be no longer burning or alight; into darkness" is from c. 1400. Of position or situation, "beyond the bounds of, not within," early 15c. Meaning "into public notice" is from 1540s; that of "away from one's place of residence," c. 1600. The political sense of "not in office, removed or ejected from a position" is from c. 1600. Meaning "come into sight, become visible" (of stars, etc.) is by 1610s. In radio communication, a word indicating that the speaker has finished speaking, by 1950.

As a preposition, "out of; from, away from; outside of, beyond; except; without, lacking;" mid-13c., from the adverb.

Meaning "from harmonious relations, into quarreling" (as in to fall out) is from 1520s. Meaning "from one's normal state of mind" (as in put out) is from 1580s; out to lunch "insane" is student slang from 1955. Adjectival phrase out-of-the-way "remote, secluded" is attested from late 15c. Out-of-towner "one not from a certain place" is from 1911. Out of this world "excellent" is from 1938; out of sight "excellent, superior" is from 1891. To (verb) it out "bring to a finish" is from 1580s. Expression from here on out "henceforward" is by 1942. Out upon, expressing abhorrence or reproach, is from early 15c.

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make-work 

1913 (adj.); 1937 (n.), "busy-work, activity of no value," American English, from the verbal expression to make work (see make (v.) + work (n.)).

A big fire devoured a street; "It will make work," I heard my father say; a ship was lost at sea laden with silk, and leather, and cloth; "It will make work," said my father; a reservoir broke jail, and swept the heart of the town away. "It will make work," my mother said; so all human calamities were softened blessings to me; they made "work," and work made wages, and wages made bread and potatoes, and clothes for me. ["The Radical Review," Chicago, Sept. 15, 1883]
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