Etymology
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step (n.)
Old English steppa (Mercian), stæpe, stepe (West Saxon) "stair, act of stepping," from the source of step (v.). Compare Old Frisian, Middle Dutch, Dutch stap, Old High German stapfo, German Stapfe "footstep"). From late Old English as "degree on a scale." Figurative meaning "action which leads toward a result" is recorded from 1540s. In dancing, from 1670s. Meaning "type of military pace" is from 1798. Warning phrase watch your step is attested from 1911 (Wyclif (late 14c.) has keep thy foot in essentially the same sense). Step by step indicating steady progression is from 1580s. To follow in (someone's) steps is from mid-13c.
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step (v.)
Old English steppan (Anglian), stæppan (West Saxon) "take a step," from West Germanic *stap- "tread" (source also of Old Frisian stapa, Middle Dutch, Dutch stappen, Old High German stapfon, German stapfen "step"), from PIE root *stebh- "post, stem; to support, place firmly on" (see staff (n.); source also of Old Church Slavonic stopa "step, pace," stepeni "step, degree"). The notion is perhaps "a treading firmly on; a foothold."

Transitive sense (as in step foot in) attested from 1530s. Related: Stepped; stepping. Originally strong (past tense stop, past participle bestapen); weak forms emerged 13c., universal from 16c. To step out "leave for a short time" is from 1530s; meaning "to go out in public in style" is from 1907. Step on it "hurry up" is 1923, from notion of gas pedal.
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step-ladder (n.)
also stepladder, one with flat steps instead of rungs, 1728, from step (n.) + ladder.
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step-daughter (n.)
Old English stepdohtor; see step- + daughter (n.). Similar formation in German Stieftochter.
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step-son (n.)
also stepson, Old English steopsunu; see step- + son.
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step-sister (n.)
also stepsister, mid-15c., from step- + sister (n.).
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step-dance (n.)
one in which the steps are more important than the figure, especially one with difficult steps, 1857, from step (n.) + dance (n.). Related: Step-dancing (1872).
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quick-step (n.)

1802, "step used in marching in quick-time" (110 steps per minute); by 1811 as "a march in quick-time," from quick (adj.) + step (n.). Also of music adapted to such a march. By 1880 as "a fast dance." From 1906 as a verb. Related: quick-stepped; quick-stepping.

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lock-step (n.)

1802, in military writing, to describe a very tight style of mass marching, from lock (n.1) + step (n.).

Lock-step. A mode of marching by a body of men going one after another as closely as possible, in which the leg of each moves at the same time with and closely follows the corresponding leg of the person directly before him. [Thomas Wilhelm, "Military Dictionary and Gazetteer," Philadelphia, 1881]

Figurative use by 1836.

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stepper (n.)
"horse with a showy gait," 1835, agent noun from step (v.).
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