Entries linking to tree-top
Old English treo, treow "tree" (also "timber, wood, beam, log, stake"), from Proto-Germanic *trewam (source also of Old Frisian tre, Old Saxon trio, Old Norse tre, Gothic triu "tree"), from PIE *drew-o-, suffixed variant form of root *deru- "be firm, solid, steadfast," with specialized senses "wood, tree" and derivatives referring to objects made of wood.
The line which divides trees from shrubs is largely arbitrary, and dependent upon habit rather than size, the tree having a single trunk usually unbranched for some distance above the ground, while a shrub has usually several stems from the same root and each without a proper trunk. [Century Dictionary]
In Old English and Middle English also "thing made of wood," especially the cross of the Crucifixion and a gallows (such as Tyburn tree, famous gallows outside London). Middle English also had plural treen, adjective treen (Old English treowen "of a tree, wooden"). For Dutch boom, German Baum, the usual words for "tree," see beam (n.).
Meaning "framework of a saddle" is from 1530s. Meaning "representation of familial relationships in the form of a tree" is from c. 1300. Tree-hugger, contemptuous for "environmentalist" is attested by 1989.
Minc'd Pyes do not grow upon every tree,
But search the Ovens for them, and there they be.
["Poor Robin," Almanack, 1669]
"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). The meaning "highest position" is from 1620s; the meaning "best part" is from 1660s. The sense of "dominant sexual partner" is by 1961.
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.
updated on October 10, 2017