Entries linking to shoreland
"land bordering a large body of water," c. 1300, from Old English scora, sceor- (in place-names) or from Middle Low German schor "shore, coast, headland," or Middle Dutch scorre "land washed by the sea," all probably from Proto-Germanic *skur-o- "cut," from PIE root *sker- (1) "to cut."
This is the usual theory, "but the etymological notion is not easy to determine" [OED]. It has been proposed as meaning "division" between land and water, but if the word began on the North Sea coast of the continent, it might as well have meant originally "land 'cut off' from the mainland by tidal marshes" (compare Old Norse skerg "an isolated rock in the sea," related to sker "to cut, shear").
Old English words for "coast, shore" were strand (n.), waroþ, ofer. Few Indo-European languages have such a single comprehensive word for "land bordering water" (Homer uses one word for sandy beaches, another for rocky headlands).
General application to "country near a seacoast" is attested from 1610s. In law, typically the tract between the high- and low-water marks (1620s). Shore-bird is attested from 1670s; the sailor's shore-leave by 1845.
Old English lond, land, "ground, soil," also "definite portion of the earth's surface, home region of a person or a people, territory marked by political boundaries," from Proto-Germanic *landja- (source also of Old Norse, Old Frisian Dutch, Gothic land, German Land), perhaps from PIE *lendh- (2) "land, open land, heath" (source also of Old Irish land, Middle Welsh llan "an open space," Welsh llan "enclosure, church," Breton lann "heath," source of French lande; Old Church Slavonic ledina "waste land, heath," Czech lada "fallow land"). But Boutkan finds no IE etymology and suspects a substratum word in Germanic,
Etymological evidence and Gothic use indicates the original Germanic sense was "a definite portion of the earth's surface owned by an individual or home of a nation." The meaning was early extended to "solid surface of the earth," a sense which once had belonged to the ancestor of Modern English earth (n.). Original senses of land in English now tend to go with country. To take the lay of the land is a nautical expression. In the American English exclamation land's sakes (1846) land is a euphemism for Lord.
updated on August 28, 2022