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Tuesday, April 28, 2009

Where does the term "on the lam" come from?

: on the lam

Why: Marge went on the lam.

Answer: The root of lam is the Old Norse word lamja, meaning "to make lame." The original meaning of lam, when it first appeared in English back in the 16th century, was "to beat soundly" (from Icelandic lemja: "thrash or beat").

The change in the meaning of lam from "beat" to "run away" probably echoed another slang term for running away - "beat it." To "beat it" or "lam it" is to rapidly beat the road with one's feet by running.


The More You Know: The English word lame is from the same source, as is lambaste, a double whammy: the baste part is from a Scandinavian root meaning "to beat with a stick."

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