mid-14c., "make clear (an obscure subject) in the mind, explain, elucidate;" late 14c., "make clean, cleanse, purify; clarify (a liquid), remove what clouds or diminishes brightness or transparency;" also "prove innocent, vindicate;" of the weather, sea, sky, clouds, etc., "clear up, become fair or calm;" from clear (adj.). Related: Cleared; clearing.
Intransitive sense of "become free from murkiness" is from 1580s. Meaning "to free from obstructions" is from 1520s; that of "to free from entanglement" is from 1590s; that of "pass (an obstacle) without entanglement or collision" is from 1630s. Sense of "to remove (something) out of the way" is from 1670s; that of "to clear land of trees and underbrush" is from 1690s. Meaning "to leap clear over" is first attested 1791. Meaning "to gain (a sum of money) in clear profit" is from 1719. Meaning "get approval for (a proposal, etc.) from authority" is from 1944; meaning "establish as suitable for national security work" is from 1948.
To clear (one's) throat is from 1881; earlier clear (one's) voice (1701). To clear out "depart, leave" (1825), perhaps is from the notion of ships satisfying customs, harbor regulations, etc., then setting sail. To get clear of is from 1590s. To clear up is from 1620s of weather, 1690s as "make clear to the mind." Clear the deck (1802) is from sailing ships. Clear the air in the figurative sense is from late 14c. To clear the coast (1520s) was to make it suitable for landing.
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.
early 13c., in place names, "a clearing, a forest glade," from Old French noun use of the adjective (see clear (adj.)). In Middle English also "a beautiful person" (mid-14c.). From c. 1500 as "brightness." The notion in in the clear (1715) is "a clear space."
c. 1300, "giving light, shining, luminous;" also "not turbid; transparent, allowing light to pass through; free from impurities; morally pure, guiltless, innocent;" of colors, "bright, pure;" of weather or the sky or sea, "not stormy; mild, fair, not overcast, fully light, free from darkness or clouds;" of the eyes or vision, "clear, keen;" of the voice or sound, "plainly audible, distinct, resonant;" of the mind, "keen-witted, perspicacious;" of words or speech, "readily understood, manifest to the mind, lucid" (an Old English word for this was sweotol "distinct, clear, evident"); of land, "cleared, leveled;" from Old French cler "clear" (of sight and hearing), "light, bright, shining; sparse" (12c., Modern French clair), from Latin clarus "clear, loud," of sounds; figuratively "manifest, plain, evident," in transferred use, of sights, "bright, distinct;" also "illustrious, famous, glorious" (source of Italian chiaro, Spanish claro), from PIE *kle-ro-, from root *kele- (2) "to shout."
The prehistoric sense evolution to light and color involves an identification of the spreading of sound and the spreading of light (compare English loud, used of colors; German hell "clear, bright, shining," of pitch, "distinct, ringing, high").
Also in Middle English "beautiful, magnificent, excellent" (c. 1300); of possession or title, "unrestricted, unconditional, absolute," early 15c. Of complexion, from c. 1300. Sense of "free from encumbrance," later largely nautical, developed c. 1500. Meaning "obvious to the senses" is from 1835. Clear-sighted is from 1580s (clear-eyed is from 1520s); clear-headed is from 1709. For coast is clear see clear (v.).
"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.
c. 1300, "completely, quite, entirely, wholly," c. 1300, from clear (adj.) or adverbial use of the adjective in Old French. From early 14c. as "plainly, lucidly;" mid-14c. as "loudly, with distinctness of sound;" late 14c. as "brightly, brilliantly."
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]
"pretense, false or fanciful representation," 1811, from the verbal phrase make believe, which was used in children's talk by 1773 for "pretend;" see make (v.) + believe. As an adjective, "unreal, sham, pretended," by 1824. The noun form make-belief (1833) was "Substituted by some writers for MAKE-BELIEVE; the formation of the latter, being misunderstood, was imagined to be incorrect" [OED].
Let's-pretend (n.) in the same sense is attested by 1904 (the verbal phrase is from 1848). To make believe (v.) in the sense "cause to believe" is from late 14c.
also makeup, "manner in which something is put together," 1821, from the verbal phrase (see make (v.) + up (adv.)). To make up "build, collect into one form by bringing together" is from late 14c., also "prepare." It is attested from late 15c. as "supply as an equivalent," from 1660s as "end a quarrel, reconcile, settle differences, become friends again," by 1825 as "to fabricate artfully" (a story, etc.).
In reference to an actor, "prepare for impersonating a role" (including dress and the painting of the face), by 1808. Hence the noun sense of "appearance of the face and dress" (1858) and the sense of "cosmetics," attested by 1886, originally of actors.