"to strip off" the skin, bark, or rind from, developed from Old English pilian "to peel, skin, decorticate, strip the skin or ring," and Old French pillier, both from Latin pilare "to strip of hair," from pilus "hair" (see pile (n.3)). Probably also influenced by Latin pellis "skin, hide." Related: Peeled; peeling. Intransitive sense of "to lose the skin or rind" is from 1630s.
The figurative expression keep (one's) eyes peeled "be observant, be on the alert" is by 1852, American English, perhaps a play on the potato "eye," which is peeled by stripping off the skin. Peel out "speed away from a place in a car, on a motorcycle, etc.," is hot-rodders' slang, attested by 1952, perhaps from the notion of leaving behind a "peel" of rubber from the tire as it skids. Aircraft pilot phrase peel off "veer away from formation" is from World War II; earlier American English had slang peel it "run away at full speed" (1860).
"piece of rind, bark, or skin," especially of a citrus fruit, 1580s, from earlier pill, pile (late 14c.), from the source of peel (v.).
"wooden shovel with a broad blade and a long handle," used by bakers, etc., late 14c.. pele, from Old French pele (Modern French pelle) "shovel," from Latin pala "spade, shovel, baker's peel, shoulder blade," related to pangere "to insert firmly," probably from PIE *pag-slo-, suffixed form of root *pag- "to fasten."
updated on July 31, 2020