"to pledge, engage by solemn promise" (obsolete except in archaic plight one's troth), Middle English plighten, from Old English pligtan, plihtan "to endanger, imperil, compromise," verb form of pliht (n.) "danger, risk" (see plight (n.2)), from Proto-Germanic *plehti-, which ultimately is perhaps from PIE root *dlegh- "to engage oneself, be or become fixed," or else a substratum word. The notion is "to put (something -- honor, troth) in danger or risk of forfeiture;" it is rarely used of physical things. Related: Plighted; plighting.
late Old English pliht, "danger, harm, trouble; strife," from Anglo-French plit, pleit, Old French pleit, ploit "condition" (13c.), originally "way of folding," from Vulgar Latin *plictum, from Latin plicitum, neuter past participle of Latin plicare "to fold, lay" (from PIE root *plek- "to plait"). A doublet of plait (n.).
Originally "condition or state," usually "a bad condition or state" but sometimes in a neutral sense (as in modern French en bon plit "in good condition"); the predominant sense of "harmful state" (and current spelling) probably is from convergence and confusion with plight (n.2) via a notion of "entangling risk, pledge or promise with great risk to the pledger."
mid-13c., "solemn pledge, promise," usually concerning a serious matter and involving risk or loss in default, from Old English pliht "danger, risk, peril, damage," from Proto-Germanic *pleg- (source also of Old Frisian plicht "danger, concern, care," Middle Dutch, Dutch plicht "obligation, duty," Old High German pfliht, German Pflicht "obligation, duty," which is perhaps from PIE root *dlegh- "to engage oneself, be or become fixed," or it might be a substratum word. Compare Old English plihtere "look-out man at the prow of a ship," plihtlic "perilous, dangerous."
It forms all or part of: indulge; indulgence; play; pledge; plight (v.) "to pledge;" replevin.
It is the hypothetical source of/evidence for its existence is provided by: Sanskrit drmha-, drhya- "to fix, make firm;" Old Avestan derez- "fetter;" Gaulish delgu "to hold," Middle Welsh dala "to hold," Old Breton delgim "to hold;" Old Saxon plegan "vouch for," Gothic tulgjan "to fasten."
It forms all or part of: accomplice; application; apply; complex; complexion; complicate; complication; complicity; deploy; display; duplex; duplicate; duplicity; employ; explicate; explicit; exploit; flax; implex; implicate; implication; implicit; imply; multiply; perplex; perplexity; plait; plash (v.2) "to interlace;" pleat; -plex; plexus; pliable; pliant; plie; plight (n.1) "condition or state;" ply (v.1) "work with, use;" ply (v.2) "to bend; ply (n.) "a layer, fold;" replica; replicate; replication; reply; simplex; splay; triplicate.
It is the hypothetical source of/evidence for its existence is provided by: Sanskrit prasna- "turban;" Greek plekein "to plait, braid, wind, twine," plektos "twisted;" Latin plicare "to lay, fold, twist," plectere (past participle plexus) "to plait, braid, intertwine;" Old Church Slavonic plesti "to braid, plait, twist," Russian plesti; Gothic flahta "braid;" Old Norse fletta, Old High German flehtan "to plait;" Old English fleax "cloth made with flax, linen."
Middle English pleien, from Old English plegan, plegian "move lightly and quickly, occupy or busy oneself, amuse oneself; engage in active exercise; frolic; engage in children's play; make sport of, mock; perform music," from Proto-West Germanic *plegōjanan "occupy oneself about" (source also of Old Saxon plegan "vouch for, take charge of," Old Frisian plega "tend to," Middle Dutch pleyen "to rejoice, be glad," German pflegen "take care of, cultivate"), which is apparently connected to the root of plight (v.), but the ultimate etymology is uncertain and the phonetic development is difficult to explain.
Meaning "to take part in" a martial or athletic game is from c. 1200. It has been opposed to work (v.) since late 14c. Meaning "perform or act on the stage" (transitive) is by late 14c., as are the senses of "take the role of" and "make a pretense of, make believe" and "act thoughtlessly or wantonly." Sense of "put forward, move, throw, lay on the table, etc." in the course of a game or contest is by 1560s of chess pieces, 1670s of playing cards. Sense of "operate or cause to operate with continuous or repeated action" is from 1590s. Meaning "to cause (a recording) to reproduce what is on it" is by 1903, probably from the "make music" sense. Related: Played; playing.
Many expressions are from the stage, sports and games, or music, and it is not always easy to say which is from which. To play up "emphasize" is from 1909 (perhaps originally "play music more vigorously"); to play down "minimize" is from 1930; to play along "pretend to agree or cooperate" is from 1929. To play fair "be nice" is from mid-15c. To play house as a children's activity is from 1958.
To play for keeps is from 1861, originally of marbles or other children's games with tokens. To play (something) safe is from 1911; to play favorites is attested from 1902. To play second fiddle in the figurative sense is from 1809 ("Gil Blas"). To play into the hands (of someone) "act in such a way as to give the advantage to one's opponent or a third party" is from 1705. For play the _______ card see card (n.1). For play the field see field (n.). To play with oneself "masturbate" is from 1896 (to play with "have sexual intercourse with" is from mid-13c.). Playing-card "one of a pack of cards used for playing games" is from 1540s.
also schlimazel, "born loser," 1948, from Yiddish shlim mazel "rotten luck," from Middle High German slim "crooked" + Hebrew mazzal "luck." British slang shemozzle "an unhappy plight" (1889) is probably from the same source.
A shlemiel is the fellow who climbs to the top of a ladder with a bucket of paint and then drops it. A shimazl is the fellow on whose head the bucket falls. [Rep. Stephen J. Solarz (D.-N.Y.), 1986]
Usually specifically of pardons or offers of pardon for a class of offenses against a government. As a verb from 1809. The non-governmental organization Amnesty International was founded 1961 to call attention to the plight of prisoners of conscience, as Appeal for Amnesty; the name was changed 1963.