Word Origin & History
late 12c., from O.Fr. lion, from L. leonem (nom. leo), from Gk. leon (gen. leontos), from a non-I.E. language, perhaps Semitic (cf. Heb. labi "lion," pl. lebaim; Egyptian labai, lawai "lioness"). A general Germanic borrowing (cf. Ger. Löwe) found in most European languages, often via Germanic (cf.
O.C.S. liva, Pol. lew, Czech lev, O.Ir. leon, Welsh lew). Used figuratively from c.1200 in an approving sense, "one who is fiercely brave," and a disapproving one, "tyrannical leader, greedy devourer." Lion's share "the greatest portion" is attested from 1790.