"over the side of a ship," late Old English, from the phrase ofor bord, from over + bord "side of a ship" (see board (n.2)). To throw (something) overboard in the figurative sense of "cast aside, discard, reject" is from 1640s. Figurative sense of "excessively, beyond one's means" (especially in phrase go overboard) is attested by 1931 in Damon Runyon.
Entries linking to overboard
Old English ofer "beyond; above, in place or position higher than; upon; in; across, past; more than; on high," from Proto-Germanic *uberi (source also of Old Saxon obar, Old Frisian over, Old Norse yfir, Old High German ubar, German über, Gothic ufar "over, above"), from PIE root *uper "over."
As an adjective from Old English uffera. The senses of "past, done, finished; through the whole extent, from beginning to end" are attested from late 14c. The sense of "so as to cover the whole surface" is from c. 1400. Meaning "leaning forward and down" is from 1540s. The meaning "recovered from" is from 1929. In radio communication, it is used to indicate the speaker has finished speaking (1926).
Above expresses greater elevation, but not necessarily in or near a perpendicular direction; over expresses perpendicularity or something near it: thus, one cloud may be above another, without being over it. Over often implies motion or extension where above would not; hence the difference in sense of the flying of a bird over or above a house, the hanging of a branch over or above a wall. In such uses over seems to represent greater nearness. [Century Dictionary]
Phrase over and above (mid-15c.) is pleonastic, for emphasis. Adjective phrase over-the-counter is attested from 1875, originally of stocks and shares. To be (someone) all over "be exactly what one expects of (someone)" is by 1721.
"side of ship," Old English bord "border, rim, ship's side," from Proto-Germanic *burdan (source also of Old Frisian bord, Old Saxon bord, Dutch boord "border, edge, ship's side," German Bord "margin, border," Old High German bart, Old Norse barð "margin, shore, ship-board"), perhaps from the same source as board (n.1), but not all sources accept this. Connected to border; see also starboard.
If not etymologically related to board (n.1), the two forms represented in English by these words were nonetheless confused at an early date in most Germanic languages, a situation made worse in English because this Germanic word also was adopted in Medieval Latin as bordus (source of Italian and Spanish bordo) and entered Old French as bort "beam, board, plank; side of a ship" (12c., Modern French bord), via either Medieval Latin or Frankish, and from thence it came over with the Normans to mingle with its native cousins. By now the senses are inextricably tangled. Some etymology dictionaries treat them as having been the same word all along.
To go by the board originally was "fall overboard" (1757), of a mast, etc., hence, generally, "be completely lost or destroyed" (1835). To be on board is from c. 1500, originally nautical, "close alongside;" then, less technically, "on the ship" (1708), perhaps by influence of aboard, or from the noun in the sense "plank;" subsequently extended to trains, planes, general situations.
updated on October 28, 2019