1630s, apparently from baste "to thrash" (see baste (v.3)) + the obscure verb lam "to beat, to lame" or the related Elizabethan noun lam "a heavy blow" (implied by 1540s in puns on lambskin). Compare earlier lamback "to beat, thrash" (1580s, used in old plays). A dictionary from c. 1600 defines Latin defustare as "to lamme or bumbast with strokes." Related: Lambasted; lambasting.
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