early 13c., laz, "cord made of braided or interwoven strands of silk, etc.," from Old French laz "a net, noose, string, cord, tie, ribbon, or snare" (Modern French lacs), from Vulgar Latin *lacium, from Latin laqueum (nominative laqueus) "a noose, a snare" (source also of Italian laccio, Spanish lazo, English lasso), a trapping and hunting term, probably from Italic base *laq- "to ensnare" (compare Latin lacere "to entice").
Later also "net, noose, snare" (c. 1300); and "piece of cord used to draw together the edges of slits or openings in an article of clothing" (late 14c., as preserved in shoelace). In Middle English it mostly had the sense "cord, thread," especially for tying or binding. It was used of fishing lines and perhaps the gallows rope, crossbeams in architecture, and the net Vulcan used to catch Venus in adultery. Death's lace was the icy grip of Death, and Love's lace was a binding love.
From 1540s as "ornamental cord or braid," hence the meaning "fabric of fine threads in a patterned ornamental open net" (1550s), which soon became the main meaning of the English word. "Century Dictionary" (1902) describes by name 87 varieties. As an adjective, lace-curtain "middle class" (or lower-class with middle-class pretensions), often used in reference to Irish-Americans, is attested by 1928.
c. 1200, "fasten (clothing, etc.) with laces and ties," from Old French lacier "entwine, interlace, fasten with laces, lace on; entrap, ensnare," from laz "net, noose, string, cord" (see lace (n.)). From early 14c. as "tighten (a garment) by pulling its laces." From 1590s as "to adorn with lace;" the meaning "to intermix (coffee, etc.) with a dash of liquor" (1670s) originally also was used of sugar, and comes via the notion of "to ornament or trim," as with lace. Meaning "beat, lash, mark with the lash" is from 1590s, from the pattern of streaks. Related: Laced; lacing. Laced mutton was "an old word for a whore" [Johnson].
updated on May 18, 2016