c. 1300, borlich, "excellent, noble; handsome, beautiful," probably from Old English borlice "noble, stately," literally "bowerly," that is, fit to frequent a lady's apartment (see bower). Sense descended through "stout, sturdy" (c. 1400) to "heavily built." Another theory connects the Old English word to Old High German burlih "lofty, exalted," related to burjan "to raise, lift." In Middle English also of things; now only of persons. Related: Burliness.