"to treat (someone) as a celebrity," 1809 (Scott), a hybrid from lion + -ize. It preserves lion in the sense of "person of note who is much sought-after" (1715), a sense said to have been extended from the lions formerly kept in the Tower of London (proverbial from late 16c.) that were objects of general curiosity that every visitor in town was taken to see. Related: Lionized; lionizing.
Entries linking to lionize
late 12c., from Old French lion "lion," also figuratively "hero" (12c.), from Latin leonem (nominative leo) "lion; the constellation Leo," from Greek leon (genitive leontos), a word from a non-Indo-European language, perhaps Semitic (compare Hebrew labhi "lion," plural lebaim; Egyptian labai, lawai "lioness"). Old English had the word straight from Latin as leo (Anglian lea).
The Latin word was borrowed throughout Germanic (compare Old Frisian lawa; Middle Dutch leuwe, Dutch leeuw; Old High German lewo, German Löwe); it is also found in most other European languages, often via Germanic (Old Church Slavonic livu, Polish lew, Czech lev, Old Irish leon, Welsh llew).
Extended 17c. to American big cats. Sometimes used ironically of other animals (for example Cotswold lion "sheep" (16c.; lyons of Cotteswold is from mid-15c.). In early 19c., to avoid advertising breaches of the game laws, hare, when served as food was listed as lion.
Paired alliteratively with lamb since late 14c. Used figuratively from c. 1200 in English of lion-like persons, in an approving sense, "one who is fiercely brave," and a disapproving one, "tyrannical leader, greedy devourer." Lion-hearted is from 1708. Lion's share "the greatest portion" is attested from 1701. The image of the lion's mouth as a place of great danger is from c. 1200.
Lowse me, lauerd, ut of þe liunes muð. ["St. Margaret of Antioch," c. 1200]
word-forming element used to make verbs, Middle English -isen, from Old French -iser/-izer, from Late Latin -izare, from Greek -izein, a verb-forming element denoting the doing of the noun or adjective to which it is attached.
The variation of -ize and -ise began in Old French and Middle English, perhaps aided by a few words (such as surprise, see below) where the ending is French or Latin, not Greek. With the classical revival, English partially reverted to the correct Greek -z- spelling from late 16c. But the 1694 edition of the authoritative French Academy dictionary standardized the spellings as -s-, which influenced English.
In Britain, despite the opposition to it (at least formerly) of OED, Encyclopaedia Britannica, the Times of London, and Fowler, -ise remains dominant. Fowler thinks this is to avoid the difficulty of remembering the short list of common words not from Greek which must be spelled with an -s- (such as advertise, devise, surprise). American English has always favored -ize. The spelling variation involves about 200 English verbs.