"sweetheart, paramour, loved one" (archaic), c. 1200, lemman, "loved one of the opposite sex; paramour, lover; wife;" also "a spiritually beloved one; redeemed soul, believer in Christ; female saint devoted to chastity; God, Christ, the Virgin Mary;" also a term of intimate address to a friend or lover, contracted from late Old English leofman, a compound of leof "dear" (see lief) + man "human being, person" (from PIE root *man- (1) "man").
Originally of either gender, though in deliberate archaic usage it tends to be limited to women. Often in religious use in early Middle English, of brides of Christ, the spiritually beloved of God, etc.; by c. 1300 it could mean "betrothed lover," and by late 14c. it had the pejorative sense "concubine, mistress, gallant." For loss of medial -f-, compare had.
Proto-Indo-European root meaning "man."
It forms all or part of: alderman; Alemanni; fugleman; Herman; hetman; landsman; leman; man; manikin; mannequin; mannish; mensch; Norman; ombudsman; yeoman.
It is the hypothetical source of/evidence for its existence is provided by: Sanskrit manuh, Avestan manu-, Old Church Slavonic mozi, Russian muzh "man, male;" Old English man, mann "human being, person; brave man, hero; servant, vassal."
Proto-Indo-European root meaning "to care, desire, love."
It is the hypothetical source of/evidence for its existence is provided by: Sanskrit lubhyati "desires," lobhaya- "to make crazy;" Persian ahiftan "to be tangled, be hit down, be in love;" Latin lubet, later libet "pleases," libido, lubido "desire, longing; sensual passion, lust;" Old Church Slavonic l'ubu "dear, beloved," ljubiti, Russian ljubit' "to love;" Lithuanian liaupsė "song of praise;" Old English lufu "feeling of love; romantic sexual attraction," German Liebe "love," Gothic liufs "dear, beloved."
"ovate, pale yellow citrus fruit," c. 1400, lymon, from Old French limon "citrus fruit" (12c.), which comes via Provençal or Italian from Arabic laimun, Persian limun. Apparently brought from India to the Levant by the Arabs 9c. or 10c.; the word is perhaps ultimately from an Austronesian word of the Malay archipelago, such as such as Balinese limo "lemon," Malay limaw "citrus fruit, lime" (compare lime (n.2)).
Meaning "person with a tart disposition" is from 1863. For the sense "worthless thing," see lemon (n.2). Slang meaning "a Quaalude" is 1960s, from Lemmon, name of a pharmaceutical company that once manufactured the drug. The surname is from Middle English leman "sweetheart, lover." Lemon-juice is attested from 1610s; the candy lemon-drop from 1807. The East Indian lemon-grass (1837) is so called for its smell.
1530s, "sweetheart," a term of endearment applied to either sex, of uncertain origin; perhaps from Dutch boel "lover; brother," which probably is a diminutive of Middle Dutch broeder "brother" (compare Middle High German buole "brother," source of German Buhle "lover;" see brother (n.)).
Meaning deteriorated 17c. through "fine fellow" and "blusterer" to "harasser of the weak" (1680s, from bully-ruffian, 1650s). Perhaps this was by influence of bull (n.1), but a connecting sense between "lover" and "ruffian" might be "protector of a prostitute," which was one sense of bully (though it is not specifically attested until 1706). "Sweetheart" words often go bad in this way; compare leman, also ladybird, which in Farmer and Henley ("Slang and Its Analogues") is "1. A whore; and (2) a term of endearment." Shakespeare has bully-rook "jolly comrade."
The adjective meaning "worthy, jolly, admirable" is first attested 1680s, and preserves an earlier, positive sense of the word. It enjoyed a popularity in late 19c. American English, and was used from 1864 in expressions, such as bully for you! "bravo!"
The nautical limber "hole cut in floor timbers to allow water to drain" (1620s), however, appears to be unrelated; perhaps from French lumière "hole, perforation," literally "light."