- lynch (v.)
- 1835, "inflict severe (but not deliberately fatal) bodily punishment (on someone) without legal sanction," from earlier Lynch law (1811), in reference to such activity, which was likely named after William Lynch (1742-1820) of Pittsylvania, Virginia, who c. 1780 led a vigilance committee to keep order there during the Revolution. Other sources trace the name to Charles Lynch (1736-1796) a Virginia magistrate who fined and imprisoned Tories in his district c. 1782, but the connection to him is less likely. The surname is perhaps from Irish Loingseach "sailor."
It implies lawless concert or action among a number of members of the community, to supply the want of criminal justice or to anticipate its delays, or to inflict a penalty demanded by public opinion, though in defiance of the laws. [Century Dictionary, 1895]
Originally any sort of summary justice, done without authority of law, for a crime or public offense; it especially referred to flogging or tarring-and-feathering. At first the act was associated with frontier regions (as in the above citation), though from c. 1835 to the U.S. Civil War it also often was directed against abolitionists. The narrowing of the meaning to "extra-legal execution by hanging" is evident by the 1880s, and after c. 1893 lynching mostly meant killings of blacks by white mobs (especially in retaliation for alleged sexual assaults of white women). This shift in use seems due in part to the work of African-American journalist and activist Ida B. Wells. Lynch mob is attested from 1838. Compare earlier Lydford law, from a place in Dartmoor, England, "where was held a Stannaries Court of summary jurisdiction" [Weekley], hence:
Lydford law: is to hang men first, and indite them afterwards. [Thomas Blount, "Glossographia," 1656]
Also in a similar sense was Jedburgh justice (1706). Related: Lynched; lynching. The city of Lynchburg, Virginia, dates to the 1750s when John Lynch, brother to Charles but a peaceable Quaker, had a ferry landing on the James River there.
- lynching (n.)
- 1836, verbal noun from lynch (v.).
- lynx (n.)
- moderate-sized wildcat with a short tail, penciled ears, more or less spotted fur, and 28 teeth, inhabiting Eurasia, Africa, and North America; mid-14c., from Latin lynx (source of Spanish, Portuguese, Italian lince), from Greek lyngx, an old name of the lynx found also in Armenian, Germanic, and Balto-Slavic, though often transformed or altered. Often linked to PIE *leuk- "light" (see light (n.)), in reference to its gleaming eyes or its ability to see in the dark, but there are phonetic problems with that and Beekes suggests a loan from a non-IE substrate language.
If that men hadden eyghen of a beeste that highte lynx, so that the lokynge of folk myghte percen thurw the thynges that withstonden it. [Chaucer's "Boethius," c. 1380]
Cognates probably are Lithuanian lušis "lynx," Old High German luhs, German luchs, Old English lox, Dutch los, Swedish lo, Armenian lusanunk'.
- city in France in the former province of Lyonnais at the confluence of the Rhone and the Saône, from Gallo-Latin Lugudunum, which is perhaps literally "fort of Lugus," the Celtic god-name, with second element from Celtic *dunon "hill, hill-fort." The fem. adjectival form Lyonnaise is used in cookery in reference to types of onion sauce (1846). During the Revolution the place was renamed Ville-Affranchie "enfranchised town."
- lyre (n.)
- harp-like instrument, c. 1200, from Old French lire "lyre" (12c.), from Latin lyra, from Greek lyra, a foreign loan-word of uncertain origin. The thing itself is said to be Egyptian, though it became the national musical instrument of ancient Greece. In 18c.-19c. especially the symbol of lyric poetry. Lyra as the name of the ancient northern constellation supposed to resemble a lyre is attested in English from 1650s; the Lyraid (1876) meteors (c. April 20) appear to radiate from there. The lyre-bird (1853) of Australia is so called from the shape of its tail. Related: Lyrate "shaped like a lyre."
- lyric (n.)
- "a lyric poem" (one suggestive of music or fit to be sung), 1580s, from Middle French lyrique "short poem expressing personal emotion," from Latin lyricus "of or for the lyre," from Greek lyrikos "singing to the lyre," from lyra (see lyre). Meaning "words of a popular song" is first recorded 1876. Related: lyrics.
- lyric (adj.)
- 1580s, "pertaining to or adopted for the lyre or the harp," hence "suggestive of song or musical effect;" see lyric (n.).
- lyrical (adj.)
- 1580s, from lyric (n.) + -al (1). Related: Lyrically.
- lyricism (n.)
- 1760, perhaps an isolated use; common after mid-19c., from lyric + -ism.
- lyricist (n.)
- 1832, "one skilled in lyric composition, lyric poet;" from lyric (n.) + -ist. Meaning "one who writes words for music" is from 1908.
- lyrist (n.)
- "lyre-player," 1650s, from French lyriste, from Latin lyristes, from Greek lyristes, from stem of lyrizein, from lyra (see lyre).
- masc. proper name, from Greek Lysandros, literally "releasing men," from comb. form of lyein "to release, unfasten" (see lose) + -andros "man" (see anthropo-).
- lyse (v.)
- 1927, back-formation from lysis. Related: Lysed; lysing.
- lysergic (adj.)
- in reference to a crystalline organic compound, 1934, from the -lys- in hydrolysis (thus from Greek lysis "a loosening, a dissolution," from lyein "to loosen, dissolve;" see lose) + the first syllable of ergot (a fungus from which the chemical was first obtained) + -ic.
- lysis (n.)
- "dissolution of cells, bacteria, etc.," 1902, from -lysis or from Latin lysis, from Greek lysis "a loosening," from lyein "to unfasten, loose, loosen, untie" (see lose). Earlier in the sense "gradual recession of a disease" (1834).
- word-forming element indicating "loosening, dissolving, freeing," before vowels lys-, from Greek lysis "a loosening," from lyein "to loose, loosen" (see lose).
- lysol (n.)
- brown oily coal-tar solution used as a disinfectant, 1890, coined, perhaps in German, from Greek lysis "dissolution, dissolving" (from lyein "to unfasten, loose, loosen, untie;" see lose) + -ol, element indicating "oil."
- lysosome (n.)
- 1955, from lyso- + -some (3). So called for "their richness in hydrolytic enzymes."
- type of immune-system enzyme found in tears, saliva, egg-whites, etc., 1922, named by its discoverer, Alexander Fleming (six years before he discovered penicillin), who coined it from lyso- "loosening, dissolving" + suffix from enzyme. So called because it attack bacteria cell walls.
- lyssophobia (n.)
- "morbid dread of having caught rabies," a psychological condition which sometimes mimicked the actual disease, 1874, Modern Latin, from -phobia + Greek lyssa (Attic lytta) "rabies, canine madness," also the name given to the "worm" of cartilage under a dog's tongue," an abstract word probably literally "wolf-ness" and related to lykos "wolf" (see wolf (n.)); but some see a connection with "light" words, in reference to the glittering eyes of the mad.
- lytic (adj.)
- "pertaining to lysis," 1889, from Greek lytikos "able to loose, loosing," from lytos "loosed," verbal adjective of lyein "to unfasten, loose, loosen, untie" (see lose). Related: Lytically.