Etymology
Advertisement
sell (v.)

Old English sellan "to give, furnish, supply, lend; surrender, give up; deliver to; promise," from Proto-Germanic *saljanan "offer up, deliver" (source also of Old Norse selja "to hand over, deliver, sell;" Old Frisian sella, Old High German sellen "to give, hand over, sell;" Gothic saljan "to offer a sacrifice"), ultimately from PIE root *sel- (3) "to take, grasp."

Meaning "to give up for money" had emerged by c. 1000, but in Chaucer selle still can mean "to give." Students of Old English learn early that the word that looks like sell usually means "give." An Old English word for "to sell" was bebycgan, from bycgan "to buy."

Slang meaning "to swindle" is from 1590s. The noun phrase hard sell is recorded from 1952. To sell one's soul is from c. 1570. Sell-by date is from 1972. To sell like hot cakes is from 1839. Selling-point attested from 1959.

To sell (someone) down the river figuratively is by 1927, probably from or with recollection of slavery days, on notion of sale from the Upper South to the cotton plantations of the Deep South (attested in this literal sense since 1851).

Related entries & more 
Advertisement
seller (n.)
c. 1200, agent noun from sell (v.).
Related entries & more 
unsold (adj.)
mid-14c., from un- (1) "not" + past participle of sell (v.).
Related entries & more 
sold 
past tense and past participle of sell (v.); from Old English salde.
Related entries & more 
oversell (v.)

also over-sell, 1879, "sell more than one can deliver," from over- + sell (v.). Figurative sense of "make unrealistic or excessive claims for" is by 1928.

Related entries & more 
Advertisement
resell (v.)

also re-sell, "to sell again, sell a second time," 1570s; see re- "back, again" + sell (v.). Related: Resold, reselling.

Related entries & more 
sellout (n.)
also sell-out, "corrupt bargain," 1862 (in Mary Chesnut's diary), from the verbal phrase (at that time often meaning "dispose of one's interests" in a company, etc.), from sell (v.) + out (adv.). Meaning "event for which all tickets have been sold" is attested from 1923. The verbal phrase sell out "prostitute one's ideals or talents" is attested from 1888.
Related entries & more 
*em- 

Proto-Indo-European root meaning "to take, distribute." 

It forms all or part of: assume; consume; emption; example; exemplar; exemplary; exemplify; exempt; exemption; impromptu; peremptory; pre-emption; premium; presume; presumption; prompt; pronto; ransom; redeem; redemption; resume; sample; sejm; subsume; sumptuary; sumptuous; vintage.

It is the hypothetical source of/evidence for its existence is provided by: Sanskrit yamati "holds, subdues;" Latin emere "buy," originally "take," sumere "to take, obtain, buy;" Old Church Slavonic imo "to take;" Lithuanian imu, imti "to take."

For the sense shift from "take" to "buy" in the Latin verbs, compare Old English sellan "to give," source of Modern English sell "to give in exchange for money;" Hebrew laqah "he bought," originally "he took;" and colloquial English I'll take it for "I'll buy it." 

Related entries & more 
market (v.)

1630s (intransitive), "to buy or sell;" 1640s (transitive) "to carry to or sell in a market;" from market (n.). Related: Marketed; marketing.

Related entries & more 
bibliopole (n.)

"bookseller," 1775, from Latin bibliopola, from Greek bibliopōlēs "bookseller," from biblion "book" (see biblio-) + pōlēs "merchant, seller," from pōlein "to sell" (from PIE root *pel- (4) "to sell"). Especially a dealer in rare or curious books. French has bouquinist "a dealer in second-hand books of little value."

Related entries & more