[leech] /litʃ/
any bloodsucking or carnivorous aquatic or terrestrial worm of the class Hirudinea, certain freshwater species of which were formerly much used in medicine for bloodletting.
a person who clings to another for personal gain, especially without giving anything in return, and usually with the implication or effect of exhausting the other's resources; parasite.
Archaic. an instrument used for drawing blood.
verb (used with object)
to apply leeches to, so as to bleed.
to cling to and feed upon or drain, as a leech:
"His relatives leeched him until his entire fortune was exhausted."
Archaic. to cure; heal.
verb (used without object)
to hang on to a person in the manner of a leech:
"She leeched on to him for dear life."
before 900; Middle English leche, Old English lǣce; replacing (by confusion with leech2) Middle English liche, Old English lȳce; cognate with Middle Dutch lieke; akin to Old English lūcan to pull out, Middle High German liechen to pull
Related forms
leechlike, adjective
2. bloodsucker; extortioner; sponger.


[leech] /litʃ/
noun, Archaic.
a physician.
before 1150; Middle English leche, Old English lǣce; cognate with Old Saxon lāki, Old High German lāhhi, Gothic lēkeis; akin to Old Norse lǣknir


[leech] /litʃ/
noun, Nautical
either of the lateral edges of a square sail.
the after edge of a fore-and-aft sail.
Also, leach.
1480–90; earlier lek, leche, lyche; akin to Dutch lijk leech, Old Norse līk nautical term of uncertain meaning


[leech] /litʃ/
Margaret, 1893–1974, U.S. historian, novelist, and biographer.
Example Sentences for leech
Scientists have developed a mechanical version of the leech that removes blood and promotes wound healing.
The leech is actually a highly sophisticated medical tool.
One of the problems with boiling veggies is that the nutrients leech out into the water.
Leech neurons were used for reasons of convenience, but the technique can presumably be adapted to human nerve cells.
So you see, a leech may be a lot of mouth, but it isn't all bad.
It's easier to get money to study a panda than it is to study a leech.
Even if you think it is perfectly clean, you'll probably leech out enough oil to collapse your eggs.
Crews' approach is akin to judging modern medicine based on the fact that doctors once believed in leech cures.
It soon proved its efficacy, and redeemed the leech's pledge.
The same result has followed from keeping together different varieties of the medicinal leech.
British Dictionary definitions for leech
leech1 (liːtʃ)
1.  horseleech See also medicinal leech any annelid worm of the class Hirudinea, which have a sucker at each end of the body and feed on the blood or tissues of other animals
2.  a person who clings to or preys on another person
3.  a.  an archaic word for physician
 b.  (in combination): leechcraft
4.  cling like a leech to cling or adhere persistently to something
5.  (tr) to use leeches to suck the blood of (a person), as a method of medical treatment
[Old English lǣce, lœce; related to Middle Dutch lieke]

leech or leach2 (liːtʃ)
nautical the after edge of a fore-and-aft sail or either of the vertical edges of a squaresail
[C15: of Germanic origin; compare Dutch lijk]
leach or leach2
[C15: of Germanic origin; compare Dutch lijk]

Collins English Dictionary - Complete & Unabridged 10th Edition
2009 © William Collins Sons & Co. Ltd. 1979, 1986 © HarperCollins
Publishers 1998, 2000, 2003, 2005, 2006, 2007, 2009
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Word Origin and History for leech
"bloodsucking aquatic worm," from O.E. læce (Kentish lyce), of unknown origin (with a cognate in M.Du. lake). Commonly regarded as a transf. use of leech (2), but the O.E. forms suggest a distinct word, which has been assimilated to leech (2) by folk etymology. Figuratively applied to human parasites since 1784.
obsolete for "physician," from O.E. læce, from O.Dan. læke, from P.Gmc. *lælijaz "healer, physician" (cf. O.N. læknir, O.H.G. lahhi, Goth. lekeis "physician"), lit. "one who counsels," perhaps connected with a root found in Celt. (cf. Ir. liaig "charmer, exorcist, physician") and/or Slavic (cf. Serbo-Croatian lijekar), with an original sense of "speak, talk, whisper, conjurer." The form and sense merged with leech (1) in M.E. by folk etymology. In 17c., leech usually was applied only to veterinary practitioners. The third finger of the hand, in O.E., was læcfinger, translating L. digitus medicus, Gk. daktylus iatrikos, supposedly because a vein from that finger stretches straight to the heart.
Online Etymology Dictionary, © 2010 Douglas Harper
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leech in Medicine

leech 1 (lēch)
Any of various chiefly aquatic bloodsucking or carnivorous annelid worms of the class Hirudinea, one species of which (Hirudo medicinalis) was formerly used by physicians to bleed patients. v. leeched, leech·ing, leech·es
To bleed with leeches.

The American Heritage® Stedman's Medical Dictionary
Copyright © 2002, 2001, 1995 by Houghton Mifflin Company. Published by Houghton Mifflin Company.
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Slang related to leech



A human parasite (1784+)


: insisted that MCI was not leeching off the successful campaign of its competition (1960s+)

Dictionary of American Slang
Copyright © 1986 by HarperCollins Publishers
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leech in Technology

Someone who downloads files but provides nothing for others to download. The term is common on BitTorrent, which relies on having multiple sources for files to improve download speed.

The Free On-line Dictionary of Computing, © Denis Howe 2010 http://foldoc.org
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