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See also: Leech


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a leech (animal)


Etymology 1[edit]

From Middle English leche (blood-sucking worm), from Old English lǣċe (blood-sucking worm), akin to Middle Dutch lāke ("blood-sucking worm"; > modern Dutch laak).


leech (plural leeches)

  1. An aquatic blood-sucking annelid of class Hirudinea, especially Hirudo medicinalis.
    • 2003, William W. Johnstone, The Last Of The Dog Team, page 195
      The leech on his leg had swelled to more than five inches long, puffed and swollen on his blood.
  2. A person who derives profit from others in a parasitic fashion.
    • 2000, Ray Garmon, The Man Who Just Didn't Care, page 20
      'Wrecked his body and his mind, no use to hisself or his family or nobody, just a leech on society'.
    • 2006, D. L. Harman, A State of Nine One One, page 106
      At this point, I felt this man was a leech. I suspected that he had spent a lifetime living off the good will of women that he met.
  3. (medicine, dated) A glass tube designed for drawing blood from damaged tissue by means of a vacuum.
Derived terms[edit]


leech (third-person singular simple present leeches, present participle leeching, simple past and past participle leeched)

  1. (transitive) To apply a leech medicinally, so that it sucks blood from the patient.
    • 2003, George R.R. Martin, A Storm of Swords
      The poppy made him sleep and while he slept they leeched him to drain off the bad blood.
  2. (transitive) To drain (resources) without giving back.
    Bert leeched hundreds of files from the BBS, but never uploaded anything in return.
    • 1992, AfricAsia 2 (1): 12
      Guinea is also blocking Strasser's efforts to stop illegal fishing in Sierra Leone's territorial waters and the smuggling of gold and diamonds, which leech hundreds of millions of dollars from the country's economy.
Usage notes[edit]

Do not confuse this verb with the verb to leach.

  • (to drain resources): drain
Derived terms[edit]

Etymology 2[edit]

From Middle English leche (physician), from Old English lǣċe (doctor, physician), from Proto-Germanic *lēkijaz (doctor), from Proto-Indo-European *lēg(')- (doctor). Cognate with Old Frisian lētza (physician), Old Saxon lāki (physician), Old High German lāhhi (doctor, healer), Danish læge (doctor, surgeon), Gothic 𐌻𐌴𐌺𐌴𐌹𐍃 (lēkeis, physician), Old Irish líaig (exorcist, doctor).


leech (plural leeches)

  1. (archaic) A physician.
    • 1663, Hudibras, by Samuel Butler, part 1, canto 2
      Thus virtuous Orsin was endued / With learning, conduct, fortitude / Incomparable; and as the prince / Of poets, Homer, sung long since, / A skilful leech is better far, / Than half a hundred men of war [...]
    • 1992, Hilary Mantel, A Place of Greater Safety, Harper Perennial 2007, p. 11:
      He coughed sputum stained with blood, and a scraping, crackling noise came from his chest, quite audible to anyone in the room. ‘Lungs possibly not too good,’ the leech said.
  2. (paganism, Heathenry) A healer.
    • 1900, Augustus Henry Keane, Man, Past and Present, The University Press (Cambridge)
      Their functions are threefold, those of the medicine-man (the leech, or healer by supernatural means); of the soothsayer (the prophet through communion with the invisible world); and of the priest, especially in his capacity as exorcist
    • 1996, Swain Wodening, “Scandinavian Craft Lesson 6: Runic Divination”, Theod Magazine 3 (4)
      In ancient times runesters were a specialized class separate from that of the witch or ordinary spell caster (much as the other specialists such as the leech or healer and the seithkona were different from a witch), and even today many believe it takes years of training to become adept at using the runes in spell work.
    • 2003, Brian Froud and Ari Berk, The Runes of Elfland, Pavillion Books, ISBN 1 86205 647 1, page 22
      "Leech?" "Not another doctor".
    • 2004, Runic John, The Book of Seithr, Capall Bann Publishing, ISBN 186163 299 0, page 282
      There are many kinds of "Leech" or "healer" as there are healing techniques, some are more powerful than others and some are very specific to certain illnesses and complaints; some use potions and unguents, others crystals and stones, others galdr and some work their healing from within the hidden realms themselves.
Derived terms[edit]

Etymology 3[edit]

Middle English lek, leche, lyche, from Old Norse lík (leechline), from Proto-Germanic *līką (compare West Frisian lyk (band), Dutch lijk (boltrope), Middle High German geleich (joint, limb)), from Proto-Indo-European *leiĝ- ‘to bind’ (compare Latin ligō (tie, bind), Ukrainian нали́гати (nalýhaty, to bridle, fetter), Albanian lidh (to bind)).


leech (plural leeches)

  1. (nautical) The vertical edge of a square sail.
    • 1984, Sven Donaldson, A Sailor's Guide to Sails, page 130
      To help combat these problems, almost all sailmakers trim the leeches of their headsails to a hollow or concave profile and enclose a LEECHLINE within the leech tabling.
  2. (nautical) The aft edge of a triangular sail.
    • 2004, Gary Jobson, Gary Jobson's Championship Sailing, page 176
      Trim the leech of the jib parallel to the main by watching the slot between the mainsail and the jib.
Derived terms[edit]
See also[edit]

West Frisian[edit]



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