"margin of the land," early 14c.; earlier "rib as a part of the body" (early 12c.), from Old French coste "rib, side, flank; slope, incline;" later "coast, shore" (12c., Modern French côte), from Latin costa "a rib," perhaps related to a root word for "bone" (compare Old Church Slavonic kosti "bone," and PIE root *ost-).
Latin costa developed a secondary sense in Medieval Latin of "the shore," via notion of the "side" of the land, as well as "side of a hill," and this passed into Romanic (Italian costa "coast, side," Spanish cuesta "slope," costa "coast"), but only in the Germanic languages that borrowed it is it fully specialized in this sense (Dutch kust, Swedish kust, German Küste, Danish kyst). French also used this word for "hillside, slope," which led to verb meaning "sled downhill," first attested 1775 in American English. Expression the coast is clear (16c.) is an image of landing on a shore unguarded by enemies.
late 14c., "to skirt, to go around the sides, to go along the border" of something (as a ship does the coastline), from Anglo-French costien, from the French source of coast (n.). The meaning "sled downhill," first attested 1775 in American English, is a separate borrowing. Of motor vehicles, "to move without thrust from the engine," by 1925; figurative use, of persons, "not to exert oneself," by 1934. Related: Coasted; coasting.
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