Etymology
Advertisement
dead-weight (n.)

also deadweight, 1650s, "weight of an inert body," from dead (adj.) + weight (n.). Hence, "a heavy or oppressive burden" (1721).

Related entries & more 
Advertisement
dead (adj.)

Middle English ded, from Old English dead "having ceased to live," also "torpid, dull;" of water, "still, standing," from Proto-Germanic *daudaz (source also of Old Saxon dod, Danish død, Swedish död, Old Frisian dad, Middle Dutch doot, Dutch dood, Old High German tot, German tot, Old Norse dauðr, Gothic dauþs "dead"), a past-participle adjective based on *dau-, which is perhaps from PIE *dheu- (3) "to die" (see die (v.)).

Meaning "insensible, void of perception" is from early 13c. Of places, "inactive, dull," from 1580s. Of sound, "muffled," 1520s. Used from 16c. as "utter, absolute, quite" (as in dead drunk, 1590s); from 1590s as "quite certain, sure, unerring;" by 1881 as "direct, straight." To be dead-set against "wholly opposed to" (1843) is from earlier noun phrase a dead-set in reference to resolute opposition (1787). Dead heat, a race in which more than one competitor reaches the goal at the same time, is from 1796. The dead-nettle (c. 1400) resembles the nettle but does not sting.

Dead on is 1889, from marksmanship. Dead duck "person defeated or soon to be, useless person" is by 1844, originally in U.S. politics. Dead letter is from 1703, used of laws lacking force as well as uncollected mail. Dead soldier "emptied liquor bottle" is from 1913; the image is older (compare dead men "bottles emptied at a banquet," c. 1700). Dead man's hand in poker, "pair of aces and pair of eights," is supposedly what Wild Bill Hickock held when Jack McCall shot him in 1876. Expression not be (seen/found/caught) dead "have nothing to do with" is by 1915.

Related entries & more 
weight (n.)

Old English gewiht "weighing, weight, downward force of a body, heaviness," from Proto-Germanic *wihti- (source also of Old Norse vætt, Danish vegt, Old Frisian wicht, Middle Dutch gewicht, German Gewicht), from *weg- (see weigh).

Figurative sense of "burden" is late 14c. To lose weight "get thinner" is recorded from 1961. Weight Watcher as a trademark name dates from 1960. To pull one's weight (1921) is from rowing. To throw (one's) weight around figuratively is by 1922. Weight-training is from 1945. Weight-lifting is from 1885; weight-lifter (human) from 1893.

Related entries & more 
dead (adv.)

"in a dead or dull manner, as if dead," also "entirely," late 14c., from dead (adj.). As "directly," by 1800.

Related entries & more 
dead (n.)

Old English, "a dead person; the dead collectively, those who have died," noun use of dead (adj.).  As "the most intense or culminating point" of anything (usually something low, flat, still, or cold, as night, winter) from 1540s. To leave (someone) for dead is from late 14c.

Related entries & more 
Advertisement
weight (v.)
"to load with weight," 1747 (figuratively, of the mind, from 1640s), from weight (n.). Of horses in a handicap race, 1846. Sense in statistics is recorded from 1901. Related: Weighted; weighting.
Related entries & more 
feather-weight (n.)
also featherweight, "lightest weight allowable by rules," 1812 (earlier as simply feather, 1760), from feather (n.) + weight (n.). Originally in horse-racing; boxing use as a specific weight class dates from 1889.
Related entries & more 
dead reckoning (n.)

"ascertaining of the position of a ship by measurement of the distance run" (without observation of heavenly bodies), 1610s, perhaps from nautical abbreviation ded. ("deduced") in log books, but it also fits dead (adj.) in the sense of "unrelieved, absolute."

Related entries & more 
paper-weight (n.)

"small, heavy object used to hold down loose papers," by 1832, from paper (n.) + weight (n.).

Related entries & more 
Dead Sea 

lake of the River Jordan, mid-13c., from dead (adj.); its water is 26 percent salt (as opposed to 3 or 4 percent in most oceans) and supports practically no life. In the Bible it was the "Salt Sea" (Hebrew yam hammelah), also "Sea of the Plain" and "East Sea." In Arabic it is al-bahr al-mayyit "Dead Sea." The ancient Greeks knew it as he Thalassa asphaltites "the Asphaltite Sea." Latin Mare Mortum, Greek he nekra thalassa (both "The Dead Sea") referred to the sea at the northern boundaries of Europe, the Arctic Ocean.

Related entries & more