Printable Version
Pronunciation: lees Hear it!

Part of Speech: Noun, Verb

Meaning: 1. [Noun] A contract for the use of property for a specified period of time in exchange for a specified amount of money. 2. [Verb] To allow someone the use of a property under a lease agreement (as in 1.) 3. To gain the use of a property from someone under a lease agreement.

Notes: If you sell something, the recipient buys it (different verbs). However, if you rent or lease something, the recipient also rents or leases it: I lease the car to Bo; Bo leases the car from me. Interestingly, the paronyms of this word do make the distinction: a leaser (lessor in legal parlance) leases a property to a lessee, the person who pays the lease. The same applies for let, which is used for lease in some dialects of Engish.

In Play: Leases are, in and of themselves, rather boring, but even the boring can be fun to play with: "Phyllis Glass's lease on her boss's affection ran out when she accidentally mailed pictures of the two of them at the shore in swim togs to a client." This word is often used already as a metaphor for any relationship with fixed initiation and termination dates: "Harry Dworkin complained at being fired so abruptly and got a new lease on his job for the next three months."

Word History: No language beats English for making the most of a single Proto-Indo-European root. Today's good word came from Anglo-Norman lesser "to lease", a variant of Old French laissier "to let go". The French word descended peacefully from Latin laxare "to loosen", a verb built from laxus "loose". This adjective emerged in Old French as lasche "soft, succulent", which English also took in and converted to lush, while at the same time transforming the original Latin laxus into lax, laxative, and others. The original root, *(s)leg- "loose, slack, to be slack", had a Fickle S which stuck in English, producing slack. Only English! (Today we thank reader Marlene Johnson for being neither lax nor slack in supplying us with a very good word.)

Dr. Goodword,

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