sell (v.)

Old English sellan "to give, furnish, supply, lend; surrender, give up; deliver to; promise," from Proto-Germanic *saljanan "offer up, deliver" (source also of Old Norse selja "to hand over, deliver, sell;" Old Frisian sella, Old High German sellen "to give, hand over, sell;" Gothic saljan "to offer a sacrifice"), ultimately from PIE root *sel- (3) "to take, grasp."

Meaning "to give up for money" had emerged by c. 1000, but in Chaucer selle still can mean "to give." Students of Old English learn early that the word that looks like sell usually means "give." An Old English word for "to sell" was bebycgan, from bycgan "to buy."

Slang meaning "to swindle" is from 1590s. The noun phrase hard sell is recorded from 1952. To sell one's soul is from c. 1570. Sell-by date is from 1972. To sell like hot cakes is from 1839. Selling-point attested from 1959.

To sell (someone) down the river figuratively is by 1927, probably from or with recollection of slavery days, on notion of sale from the Upper South to the cotton plantations of the Deep South (attested in this literal sense since 1851).

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Definitions of sell
sell (v.)
exchange or deliver for money or its equivalent;
He sold his house in January
She sells her body to survive and support her drug habit
sell (v.)
be sold at a certain price or in a certain way;
These books sell like hot cakes
sell (v.)
persuade somebody to accept something;
The French try to sell us their image as great lovers
sell (v.)
do business; offer for sale as for one's livelihood;
The brothers sell shoes
Synonyms: deal / trade
sell (v.)
give up for a price or reward;
She sold her principles for a successful career
sell (v.)
be approved of or gain acceptance;
The new idea sold well in certain circles
sell (v.)
be responsible for the sale of;
All her publicity sold the products
sell (v.)
deliver to an enemy by treachery;
Judas sold Jesus
Synonyms: betray
sell (n.)
the activity of persuading someone to buy;
it was a hard sell