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See also: liþe and -lithe



Etymology 1[edit]

From Middle English lithen, from Old English līþan (to go, travel, sail, be bereft of), from Proto-Germanic *līþaną (to go, leave, suffer), from Proto-Indo-European *leyt- (to go, depart, die). Cognate with North Frisian lyen, lije (to suffer), Dutch lijden (to suffer, dree, abide), German leiden (to suffer, brook, permit). See also lode, lead.


lithe (third-person singular simple present lithes, present participle lithing, simple past lithed or lode, past participle lithed or lidden)

  1. (intransitive, obsolete) To go.

Etymology 2[edit]

From Middle English lithe, from Old English līþe (gentle, mild), from Proto-Germanic *linþaz, from Proto-Indo-European *lentos. Akin to Saterland Frisian lied (thin, skinny, gaunt), Danish and German lind (mild), Icelandic linur (soft to the touch). Not attested in Gothic. Some sources also list Latin lenis (soft) and/or Latin lentus (supple) as possible cognates.


lithe (comparative lither, superlative lithest)

  1. (obsolete) Mild; calm.
    lithe weather
  2. slim but not skinny
    lithe body
    • 1914, Louis Joseph Vance, Nobody, chapter III:
      She was frankly disappointed. For some reason she had thought to discover a burglar of one or another accepted type—either a dashing cracksman in full-blown evening dress, lithe, polished, pantherish, or a common yegg, a red-eyed, unshaven burly brute in the rags and tatters of a tramp.
  3. Capable of being easily bent
    the elephant’s lithe proboscis.
    Synonyms: pliant, flexible, limber
Derived terms[edit]
Related terms[edit]

Etymology 3[edit]

From Middle English lithen, from Old English līþian, līþiġian (to soften, calm, mitigate, assuage, appease, be mild), from Proto-Germanic *linþijaną (to soften), from Proto-Indo-European *lento- (bendsome, resilient). Cognate with German lindern (to alleviate, ease, relieve).



  1. (intransitive, obsolete) To become calm.
  2. (transitive, obsolete) To make soft or mild; soften; alleviate; mitigate; lessen; smooth; palliate.
    • Hamilton (1552)
      The holy spirit, by his grace, lithes and turns out heart to God.
    • T. Adams (1614)
      England.. hath now suppled, lithed and stretched their throats.
    • Rogers Naamen (1642)
      Give me also faith, Lord,.. to lithe, to form, and to accommodate my spirit and members.

Etymology 4[edit]

From Middle English lithen, from Old Norse hlýða (to listen), from Proto-Germanic *hliuþijaną (to listen), from Proto-Indo-European *ḱlewe- (to hear). Cognate with Danish lytte (to listen). Related to Old English hlēoþor (noise, sound, voice, song, hearing), Old English hlūd (loud, noisy, sounding, sonorous). More at loud.


lithe (third-person singular simple present lithes, present participle lithing, simple past and past participle lithed)

  1. (intransitive, obsolete) To attend; listen.
  2. (transitive) To listen to.

Etymology 5[edit]

Origin uncertain; perhaps an alteration of lewth.


lithe (plural lithes)

  1. (Scotland) Shelter.
    • 1932, Lewis Grassic Gibbon, Sunset Song:
      So Cospatric got him the Pict folk to build a strong castle there in the lithe of the hills, with the Grampians dark and bleak behind it, and he had the Den drained and he married a Pict lady and got on her bairns and he lived there till he died.