Old English lang "having a great linear extent, that extends considerably from end to end; tall; lasting," from Proto-Germanic *langa- (source also of Old Frisian and Old Saxon lang, Old High German and German lang, Old Norse langr, Middle Dutch lanc, Dutch lang, Gothic laggs "long").
The Germanic words perhaps are from PIE *dlonghos- (source also of Latin longus "long, extended; further; of long duration; distant, remote," Old Persian darga-, Persian dirang, Sanskrit dirghah "long"), from root *del- (1) "long" (source also of Greek dolikhos "long," endelekhes "perpetual"). Latin longus (source of prolong, elongate, longitude, etc.) thus is probably cognate with, but not the source of, the Germanic words. The word illustrates the Old English tendency for short "a" to become short "o" before -n- (also retained in bond/band and West Midlands dialectal lond from land and hond from hand).
Also in Old English in reference to time, "drawn out in duration," with overtones of "serious." The old sense of "tall" now appears to be dialectal only, or obsolete. For long "during a long time" is from c. 1300. To be long on something, "have a lot" of it, is from 1900, American English slang. A long vowel (c. 1000) originally was pronounced for an extended time. Mathematical long division is from 1808. Sporting long ball is from 1744, originally in cricket. Long jump as a sporting event is attested from 1864. A long face, one drawn downward in expression of sadness or solemnity, is from 1786. Long in the tooth (1841 of persons) is from horses showing age by recession of gums (but not in this sense until 1870). Long knives, name Native Americans gave to white settlers (originally in Virginia/Kentucky) is from 1774, perhaps a reference to their swords. Long time no see, supposedly imitative of American Indian speech, is first recorded 1919 as Chinese English.
Middle English longen, from Old English langian "to yearn after, grieve for," literally "to grow long, lengthen," from Proto-Germanic *langojan, which probably is connected with the root of long (adj.). Cognate with Old Norse langa, Old Saxon langon, Middle Dutch langhen, Old High German langen "to long," German verlangen "to desire." Related: Longed; longing.
Old English lange, longe "for a length of time, a long time; far, to a great extent in space," from long (adj.). Old English also had langlice (adv.) "for a long time, long, at length." Longly (adv.) is rarely used. No longer "not as formerly" is from c. 1300; to be not long for this world "soon to die" is from 1714.
updated on October 14, 2021