General English

  • noun the skin of certain animals used to make things such as shoes and bags


  • noun the skin of an animal, tanned and prepared for use


  • noun the cricket ball, so called because of the material from which its outer cover is made; the term is best known from the cliché ‘the sound of leather on willow’, but it is also used in other cricket contexts
    Citation ‘They [the French] can see no delight in being bowled at over 22 yards, or of getting in the way of “leather” at a much longer range’ (Box 1868)
    Citation ‘They gave us a fine bit of leather-hunting in their second innings, scoring 341’ (W. G. Grace, Cricket 1891)


Information & Library Science

  • noun material made from the skins of animals, used for binding expensive books


  • noun a middle-aged male jet-setter, an ageing sun-tanned playboy. This term was coined by the upper-class young and their imitators in the late 1970s to refer disparagingly to the more prominent members of the international white trash frequenting ski resorts, yacht basins, etc. The word could occasionally be extended to apply to women too. Leather refers to the skin texture of the subgroup in question (perhaps compounded by their characteristic wearing of expensive leather clothes in the period in question).
  • noun a wallet or purse. A long established item from the underworld lexicon.

Origin & History of “leather”

The Indo-European ancestor of leather was *letrom. It has descendants in two branches of the Indo-European language family: in Celtic, Welsh lledr, Irish leathar, and Breton ler; and in Germanic, German leder, Dutch leer, Swedish läder, Danish læder, and English leather.