Etymology
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top (n.1)

"highest point," Old English top "summit, crest, tuft," from Proto-Germanic *toppa- (source also of Old Norse toppr "tuft of hair," Old Frisian top "tuft," Old Dutch topp, Dutch top, Old High German zopf "end, tip, tuft of hair," German Zopf "tuft of hair"); no certain connections outside Germanic except a few Romanic words probably borrowed from Germanic.

Few Indo-European languages have a word so generic, which can be used of the upper part or surface of just about anything. More typical is German, which has Spitze for sharp peaks (mountains), oberfläche for the upper surface of flat things (such as a table). Meaning "highest position" is from 1620s; meaning "best part" is from 1660s. To go over the top is World War I slang for "start an attack," in reference to the top of the trenches; as "beyond reasonable limits, too far" it is recorded from 1968. Top of the world as "position of greatest eminence" is from 1670s. Top-of-the-line (adj.) is by 1950.

top (n.2)

"toy that spins on a point," late Old English top, probably a special use of top (n.1), but the modern word is perhaps via Old French topet, which is from or influenced by a Germanic source akin to the root of English top (n.1). As a type of seashell, first recorded 1680s. Another old word for a child's top-like toy was scopperil, Middle English scopperel (early 15c., in use through 17c.), which is probably from Scandinavian or Dutch.

top (v.)

"put a top on," 1580s, perhaps mid-15c., from top (n.1). Earlier "cut the top off, shave the head" (c. 1300). The meaning "be higher or greater than" also is first recorded 1580s. Meaning "strike (a ball) towards its top" is from 1881. Related: Topped; topping. To top off "to finish" is colloquial from 1836; in sense "fill up, add more to to bring to fullness" it is from 1917.

top (adj.)

"being at the top," 1590s, from top (n.1). Top dollar "high price" is from 1942. Top-drawer (1920) is from British expression out of the top drawer "upper-class." Top ten in popular music is from 1945 ("Billboard"). The top dog is the one uppermost in a fight, from 1868 in figurative use, opposed to the underdog.

But if the under dog in the social fight runs away with a bone in violation of superior force, the top dog runs after him bellowing, "Thou shalt not steal," and all the other top dogs unite in bellowing, "This is divine law and not dog law;" the verdict of the top dog so far as law, religion, and other forms of brute force are concerned settles the question. [Van Buren Denslow, "Modern Thinkers: What They Think and Why," 1880]

updated on February 05, 2022

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Definitions of top from WordNet
1
top (n.)
the upper part of anything;
the mower cuts off the tops of the grass
the title should be written at the top of the first page
top (n.)
the highest or uppermost side of anything;
only the top side of the box was painted
put your books on top of the desk
Synonyms: top side / upper side / upside
top (n.)
the top or extreme point of something (usually a mountain or hill);
Synonyms: peak / crown / crest / tip / summit
top (n.)
the first half of an inning; while the visiting team is at bat;
a relief pitcher took over in the top of the fifth
Synonyms: top of the inning
top (n.)
the highest level or degree attainable; the highest stage of development;
at the top of his profession
Synonyms: acme / height / elevation / peak / pinnacle / summit / superlative / meridian / tiptop
top (n.)
the greatest possible intensity;
he screamed at the top of his lungs
top (n.)
platform surrounding the head of a lower mast;
top (n.)
a conical child's plaything tapering to a steel point on which it can be made to spin;
he got a bright red top and string for his birthday
Synonyms: whirligig / teetotum / spinning top
top (n.)
covering for a hole (especially a hole in the top of a container);
he couldn't get the top off of the bottle
he removed the top of the carton
Synonyms: cover
top (n.)
a garment (especially for women) that extends from the shoulders to the waist or hips;
he stared as she buttoned her top
top (n.)
a canvas tent to house the audience at a circus performance;
they had the big top up in less than an hour
Synonyms: circus tent / big top / round top
2
top (v.)
be superior or better than some standard;
She topped her performance of last year
Synonyms: exceed / transcend / overstep / pass / go past
top (v.)
pass by, over, or under without making contact;
the balloon cleared the tree tops
Synonyms: clear
top (v.)
be at the top of or constitute the top or highest point;
A star tops the Christmas Tree
top (v.)
be ahead of others; be the first;
she topped her class every year
Synonyms: lead
top (v.)
provide with a top or finish the top (of a structure);
the towers were topped with conical roofs
Synonyms: top out
top (v.)
reach or ascend the top of;
The hikers topped the mountain just before noon
top (v.)
strike (the top part of a ball in golf, baseball, or pool) giving it a forward spin;
top (v.)
cut the top off;
top trees and bushes
Synonyms: pinch
top (v.)
be the culminating event;
Synonyms: crown
top (v.)
finish up or conclude;
They topped off their dinner with a cognac
top the evening with champagne
Synonyms: top off
3
top (adj.)
situated at the top or highest position;
the top shelf
From wordnet.princeton.edu, not affiliated with etymonline.