Origin of "Giving a Lift" and Other Idioms

My mom has been teaching an ESL class in the evenings. One of the students lives near her, and this week, my mom offered her a lift home. The student didn’t understand what she meant by “a lift.” My mom explained it, and the student asked why that was called a lift. My mom had no idea.

So, does anybody know why we call a ride a lift?

And does anybody know of any good online source for information of this type? (I couldn’t find anything too useful via Google.) My mom would like to give the students a better answer than “that’s just the way it is” if she can.

Thanks in advance for your help.

Been around in English since at least 1732.

Because one has to lift oneself, or be lifted into, the vehicle that will carry you?

I can’t help you with this specific phrase, but a good source for meanings of words and phrases is here:

The Word Detective

I couldn’t however find ‘giving a lift’ with a quick search there but in general I find it very handy.

There’s a few other sites out there, but I find The Word Detective very readable

A rather useful site which searches four different English useage sites is alt.useage.English.

It searches
John Lawler’s English Grammar FAQ
Paul Brians’ Common Errors in English
Garbl’s Editorial Style Manual
Jack Lynch’s Guide to Grammar and Style
Evan Morris’s Word Detective
Random House Mavens’ Word of the Day
Dave Wilton’s Etymology Page
Michael Quinion’s World Wide Words
The Yaelf site

from one seach engine. If you can’t find it there, then you ask here. :slight_smile:


Originally Posted by OED

bolding mine

Hijack: it’s fascinating how memory works, when I read the question I had a visual, not verbal memory of that very scene in Martin Chuzzlewit(which I have read) from the BBC’s adaptation.

This is a really fascinating topic (at least to a word geek and self-styled philologist like me it is!). I have had no luck figuring this out either, but knowing that “lift” means to change in elevation, and is also the British English term for an elevator, I suspect the idiom originally came into being as a logical extension of meaning. The word “lift” dates from the Middle Ages (according to Dictionary.com) when most people walked, and getting a ride up a steep hill or mountain in a wagon would be desirable. Not having to walk would also tend to make one happy, or “lift” one’s spirits.

Thanks for all the answers, everyone. It’s too bad we didn’t solve the “lift” problem, but I think the resources you gave will be very helpful for future questions of the same sort.