- sheet (n.1)
- Old English sciete (West Saxon), scete (Mercian) "cloth, covering," from Proto-Germanic *skautijon, from base *skauta- "project" (cf. Old Norse skaut "corner of cloth," Gothic skauts "seam, hem of a garment;" Dutch schoot German Schoß "bosom, lap"), from PIE root *skeud- "to shoot, chase, throw" (see shoot (v.)).
Sense of "piece of paper" first recorded c.1500; that of "any broad, flat surface" (of metal, open water, etc.) is from 1590s. Of falling rain from 1690s. Meaning "a newspaper" is first recorded 1749. Sheet lightning is attested from 1794; sheet music is from 1857. Between the sheets "in bed" (usually with sexual overtones) is attested from 1590s; to be white as a sheet is from 1751.
- sheet (n.2)
- "rope that controls a sail," Old English sceatline "sheet-line," from sceata "lower part of sail," originally "piece of cloth," from same root as sheet (n.1). The sense transferred to the rope by late 13c. This probably is the notion in phrase three sheets to the wind "drunk and disorganized," first recorded 1821 (in form three sheets in the wind), an image of a sloop-rigged sailboat whose three sheets have slipped through the blocks are lost to the wind, thus out of control. Apparently there was an early 19c. sailors' drunkenness scale involving one, two, and three sheets, three signifying the highest degree of inebriation; there is a two sheets in the wind attested from 1815.