1 [leech]
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

leechlike, adjective

2. bloodsucker; extortioner; sponger.
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Based on the Random House Dictionary, © Random House, Inc. 2014.
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World English Dictionary
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
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Word Origin & History

"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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American Heritage
Medical Dictionary

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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Encyclopedia Britannica


the application of a living leech to the skin in order to initiate blood flow or deplete blood from a localized area of the body. Through the 19th century leeching was frequently practiced in Europe, Asia, and America to deplete the body of quantities of blood, in a manner similar to bloodletting. Today, however, leeching is resorted to only on occasion to restore blood flow to areas of damaged veins after an appendage has been reattached or a tissue grafted. The species of leech most commonly used for this purpose is the European medicinal leech, Hirudo medicinalis, an aquatic segmented worm whose bloodsucking capabilities once made it a valuable commercial item

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Encyclopedia Britannica, 2008. Encyclopedia Britannica Online.
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