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Etymology 1[edit]

From Middle English lepen, from Old English hlēapan, from Proto-Germanic *hlaupaną (compare West Frisian ljeppe ‘to jump’, Dutch lopen ‘to run; to walk’, German laufen ‘to run; to walk’, Danish løbe), from Proto-Indo-European *klAub-, *klAup- (to spring, stumble) (compare Lithuanian šlùbti ‘to become lame’, klùbti ‘to stumble’).


leap (third-person singular simple present leaps, present participle leaping, simple past leaped or leapt or (archaic) lept or (archaic) lope, past participle leaped or leapt or (archaic) lopen)

  1. (intransitive) To jump.
    • c. 1450, anonymous, Merlin
      It is grete nede a man to go bak to recouer the better his leep
    • 1600, anonymous, The wisdome of Doctor Dodypoll, act 4
      I, I defie thee: wert not thou next him when he leapt into the Riuer?
    • 1783, Hugh Blair, from the “Illiad” in Lectures on Rhetoric and Belles Lettres, lecture 4, page 65
      Th’ infernal monarch rear’d his horrid head, Leapt from his throne, lest Neptune’s arm should lay His dark dominions open to the day.
    • 1999, Ai, Vice: New & Selected Poems, page 78
      It is better to leap into the void.
  2. (transitive) To pass over by a leap or jump.
    to leap a wall or a ditch
  3. (transitive) To copulate with (a female beast); to cover.
  4. (transitive) To cause to leap.
    to leap a horse across a ditch
Usage notes[edit]

The choice between leapt and leaped is mostly a matter of regional differences: leapt is preferred in British English and leaped in American English. According to research by John Algeo (British or American English?, Cambridge, 2006), leapt is used 80% of the time in UK and 32% in the US.



leap (plural leaps)

  1. The act of leaping or jumping.
    • L'Estrange
      Wickedness comes on by degrees, [] and sudden leaps from one extreme to another are unnatural.
    • H. Sweet
      Changes of tone may proceed either by leaps or glides.
  2. The distance traversed by a leap or jump.
  3. (figuratively) A significant move forward.
    • 1969 July 20, Neil Armstrong, as he became the first man to step on the moon
      That's one small step for [a] man, one giant leap for mankind.
  4. (mining) A fault.
  5. Copulation with, or coverture of, a female beast.
    • 1865, British Farmer's Magazine (issue 48, page 8)
      Much difference of opinion exists as to the number of bullings a cow should receive. Here, I think, good judgment should be used. If the bull is cool and quiet, and some time has intervened since he had his last cow, one good leap is better than more []
  6. (music) A passing from one note to another by an interval, especially by a long one, or by one including several other intermediate intervals.
  7. (obsolete) A basket.
    (Can we find and add a quotation of Wyclif to this entry?)
  8. A weel or wicker trap for fish.
  9. (calendar) Intercalary, bissextile.
  10. (figuratively) Synonym of exaggeration

Part or all of this entry has been imported from the 1913 edition of Webster’s Dictionary, which is now free of copyright and hence in the public domain. The imported definitions may be significantly out of date, and any more recent senses may be completely missing.

The translations below need to be checked and inserted above into the appropriate translation tables, removing any numbers. Numbers do not necessarily match those in definitions. See instructions at Help:How to check translations.
Derived terms[edit]

Etymology 2[edit]

From Middle English leep, from Old English lēap (basket), from Proto-Germanic *laupaz (container, basket). Cognate with Icelandic laupur (basket).

Alternative forms[edit]


leap (plural leaps)

  1. basket
  2. a trap or snare for fish
  3. half a bushel