- lemon (n.1)
- type of ovate, pale yellow citrus fruit, c. 1400, lymon, from Old French limon "citrus fruit" (12c.), which comes via Provençal or Italian from Arabic laimun, from Persian limu(n), a generic terms for citrus fruits (compare lime (n.2)). Cognate with Sanskrit nimbu "the lime."
Meaning "person with a tart disposition" is from 1863. For the sense "worthless thing," see lemon (n.2). Slang meaning "a Quaalude" is 1960s, from Lemmon, name of a pharmaceutical company that once manufactured the drug. The surname is from Middle English leman "sweetheart, lover." Lemon-juice is attested from 1610s; the candy lemon-drop from 1807. The East Indian lemon-grass (1837) is so called for its smell.
- lemon (n.2)
- "worthless thing, disappointment, booby prize," 1909, American English slang; from lemon (n.1), perhaps via a criminal slang sense of "a person who is a loser, a simpleton," perhaps an image of someone a sharper can "suck the juice out of." A pool hall hustle was called a lemon game (1908); while to hand someone a lemon was British slang (1906) for "to pass off a sub-standard article as a good one." Or it simply may be a metaphor for something which leaves a bad taste in one's mouth. Specific sense of "second-hand car in poor condition" is by 1931.
- lemon (v.)
- 1767 (implied in lemoned), from lemon (n.1).