General English

Information & Library Science

  • verb to allow somebody to use something one owns in return for regular payments of rent


  • verb to lend a property such as house, office, farm to someone for a payment


  • noun in games such as tennis and squash, a service in which the ball is obstructed and the shot has to be played again


  • noun a period during which somebody leases a property

Origin & History of “let”

English has two distinct verbs let, of diametrically opposite meaning, but they are probably ultimately related. The one meaning ‘allow’ goes back to a prehistoric Germanic *lǣt- (source also of German lassen and Dutch laten) which, like the related late, is connected with a range of words denoting ‘slowness’ or ‘weariness’. It therefore appears that the underlying etymological meaning of let is ‘let go of something because one is too tired to hold on to it’. By the time the verb reached Old English this had developed to ‘leave behind’ and ‘omit to do’, senses now defunct, as well as to ‘allow’.

A close relative of the base *lǣt- was *lat-, direct ancestor of English late. from this was formed the Germanic verb *latjan, which gave English its other verb let, meaning ‘prevent’, now largely obsolete except as a noun, in the phrase without let or hindrance or as a tennis term.