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Old English helfe, hielfe "handle of an axe" or other tool or weapon, from Proto-Germanic *halb- (cf. Old Saxon helvi, Middle Dutch helf, Old High German halb "handle of an axe," Old High German helmo "tiller"); related to halter and helm (1), from PIE *kelp- "to hold, grasp." In Middle English, to holden the axe bi the helve (c.1200) meant "to take something by the right end."