TWTS: “Large” occupies a large space in our lexicon

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By and large, we were glad to look into “large.” That’s What They Say for April 18, 2021

“Large” was borrowed from Anglo-Norman and Old French and shows up in English by the 1200s. Its earliest meanings include “liberal,” “generous,” and “giving.” These early meanings are connected to words like “largesse” and phrases like “living large.” It’s safe to say that “large” covers a large territory in our lexicon. To hear about how the phrase “at-large” fits into all of this, listen to the audio above.

The phrase “by and large” referred to all possible points of sailing or all possible circumstances. Today, this phrase means something closer to “all things considered” or “in general.” Loading…

“Large” also delves into nautical territory, specifically old-timey sailor parlance. Basically, in talking about the wind, “the wind large” meant the wind was crossing the line of a ship’s course in a favorable direction. “By the wind” referred to sailing into or toward the wind. Early meanings also show us “large” in the familiar sense of great in size, amount or degree. It can be used to refer to something that’s broad or wide, includes many people, or is heavy, important or significant.

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