"flight," together in ~ above the lam, 1897, indigenous a U.S. Slang verb definition "to run off" (1886), of unsure origin, possibly somehow indigenous the very first element that lambaste, i beg your pardon was used in British student slang because that "beat" since 1590s.

Does anyone recognize of any other explanations?


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New come me, but the OED gives it as united state slang and also from the verb ‘lam’, definition ‘to operation off, to escape’, which, again, is us slang. The origin sems to it is in in an Old Norse word which is cognate v ‘lame’.

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This inquiry was post in 2011, but apparently there had actually been researches on the etymology the this term that haven"t been debated in existing answers. There is a 1998 short article on this exact topic in The brand-new York time Magazine: ~ above Language; top top the Lam, that Made Thee? By william SAFIRE, march 1, 1998:

In The Random house Historical thesaurus of American Slang, J.E. Lighter specifies the term together prison lingo for ""an plot of to run or flight, esp. A dash to escape from custody."" In his 1886 ""30 years a Detective,"" Allan Pinkerton, the an initial ""private eye,"" describes an operation of pickpockets: ""After he secures the wallet, he will certainly utter words "lam!" This way to let the male go and also to gain out of the way as shortly as possible."" Lighter cites do a lam, do a lam and take a lam at an early stage in this century, finally arising as the passive state of gift on the lam.

And the OED"s info on its Scandinavian beginning is echoed here:

Lighter speculates that it may be rooted in the dialect Scandinavian verb lam, together in the 1525 ""his mam sore lamming him,"" an interpretation ""to beat, pound or strike."" mark Twain supplied it twice: ""lamming the lady"" in 1855 and also ""lam choose all creation"" in 1865, both plainly meaning ""to beat."" The suggested connection is that to prevent a feared lamming (related to slamming), one lams.

So this concept speculates the there"s the verb lam first, attested by note Twain"s usage of words in his books. Then maybe a new definition evolved out of the verb: in order come not acquire lammed, one go on the lam.

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Other theories likewise exist:

At the university of Missouri in ~ Rolla, Gerald Cohen, a professor of international languages currently at job-related on a slang dictionary, has another theory. He note the i do not know lammas in Eric Partridge"s thesaurus of the Underworld, the lingo of costermongers in London roughly 1855, conversely spelled nammou, meaning ""to depart, esp. Furtively"" and also related come vamoose in the lingo of the American West.

""Namase with its variant spellings,"" Cohen says, ""was the typical cant term because that "leave/make off/depart/skedaddle." i don"t understand why nam came to be lam, yet the interpretations are the same.""