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Etymology 1[edit]

From Middle English lither, lyther (deceitful; evil; false; treacherous; sinful, wicked; leading to cruelty, injustice, or wickedness, perverted; of a country: filled with wicked people; cruel, fierce; dangerous, deadly; frightening; grievous, painful; harmful, injurious; miserable, paltry, poor, worthless; feeble, sluggish; cowardly) [and other forms],[1] from Old English lȳþre (bad, wicked; base, mean, wretched; corrupt) [and other forms], from Proto-Germanic *lūþrijaz (bad; dissolute; neglected; useless), from Proto-Indo-European *(s)lew- (limp, slack).[2]

Sense 1.2 (“flexible, supple; agile, lithe”) is influenced by lithe.[2]



lither (comparative more lither, superlative most lither)

  1. (archaic or Britain, dialectal)
    1. Lazy, slothful; listless.
      Synonyms: see Thesaurus:lazy
      Antonyms: see Thesaurus:active
    2. Flexible, supple; also, agile, lithe.
      • 1591 (date written), William Shakespeare, “The First Part of Henry the Sixt”, in Mr. William Shakespeares Comedies, Histories, & Tragedies [] (First Folio), London: [] Isaac Iaggard, and Ed[ward] Blount, published 1623, →OCLC, [Act IV, scene vii], page 113, column 2:
        Thou antique Death, vvhich laugh'ſt vs here to ſcorn, / Anon from thy inſulting Tyrannie, / Coupled in bonds of perpetuitie, / Tvvo Talbots vvinged through the lither Skie, / In thy deſpight ſhall ſcape Mortalitie.
        Used here to mean “easily passed through; flexible”.
  2. (obsolete)
    1. Bad, evil; false.
      • a. 1530 (date written), John Skelton, “Poems against Garnesche. Skelton Laureate Defendar ageinst Lusty Garnyshe Well Beseen Crystofer Chalangar, et cetera.”, in Alexander Dyce, editor, The Poetical Works of John Skelton: [], volume I, London: Thomas Rodd, [], published 1843, →OCLC, page 130, lines 145–147:
        The follest slouen ondyr heuen, / Prowde, peuiche, lyddyr, and lewde, / Malapert, medyllar, nothyng well thewde, []
        The foullest sloven under heaven, / Proud, peevish, lither, and lewd, / Malapert, meddler, nothing well thewed, []
      • c. 1515–1516 (date written; published 1568), John Skelton, “Against Venemous Tongues Enpoysoned with Sclaunder and False Detractions, &c.”, in Alexander Dyce, editor, The Poetical Works of John Skelton: [], volume I, London: Thomas Rodd, [], published 1843, →OCLC, page 133:
        For though some be lidder, and list for to rayle, / Yet to lie vpon me they can not preuayle: []
    2. In poor physical condition.
Alternative forms[edit]
Derived terms[edit]

Etymology 2[edit]

See the etymology of the corresponding lemma form.




  1. comparative form of lithe: more lithe


  1. ^ lither(e, adj.”, in MED Online, Ann Arbor, Mich.: University of Michigan, 2007.
  2. 2.0 2.1 Compare “lither, adj. and adv.”, in OED Online Paid subscription required, Oxford, Oxfordshire: Oxford University Press, September 2021.

Further reading[edit]