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late 12c., from Old French lion "lion," figuratively "hero," from Latin leonem (nominative leo) "lion; the constellation leo," from Greek leon (genitive leontos), from a non-Indo-European language, perhaps Semitic (cf. Hebrew labhi "lion," plural lebaim; Egyptian labai, lawai "lioness").
A general Germanic borrowing from Latin (cf. Old English leo, Anglian lea; Old Frisian lawa; Middle Dutch leuwe, Dutch leeuw; Old High German lewo, German Löwe); it is found in most European languages, often via Germanic (cf. Old Church Slavonic livu, Polish lew, Czech lev, Old Irish leon, Welsh llew). 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 1701.
the most powerful of all carnivorous animals. Although not now found in Palestine, they must have been in ancient times very numerous there. They had their lairs in the forests (Jer. 5:6; 12:8; Amos 3:4), in the caves of the mountains (Cant. 4:8; Nah. 2:12), and in the canebrakes on the banks of the Jordan (Jer. 49:19; 50:44; Zech. 11:3). No fewer than at least six different words are used in the Old Testament for the lion. (1.) _Gor_ (i.e., a "suckling"), the lion's whelp (Gen. 49:9; Jer. 51:38, etc.). (2.) _Kephir_ (i.e., "shaggy"), the young lion (Judg. 14:5; Job 4:10; Ps. 91:13; 104:21), a term which is also used figuratively of cruel enemies (Ps. 34:10; 35:17; 58:6; Jer. 2:15). (3.) _'Ari_ (i.e., the "puller" in pieces), denoting the lion in general, without reference to age or sex (Num. 23:24; 2 Sam. 17:10, etc.). (4.) _Shahal_ (the "roarer"), the mature lion (Job 4:10; Ps. 91:13; Prov. 26:13; Hos. 5:14). (5.) _Laish_, so called from its strength and bravery (Job 4:11; Prov. 30:30; Isa. 30:6). The capital of Northern Dan received its name from this word. (6.) _Labi_, from a root meaning "to roar," a grown lion or lioness (Gen. 49:9; Num. 23:24; 24:9; Ezek. 19:2; Nah. 2:11). The lion of Palestine was properly of the Asiatic variety, distinguished from the African variety, which is larger. Yet it not only attacked flocks in the presence of the shepherd, but also laid waste towns and villages (2 Kings 17:25, 26) and devoured men (1 Kings 13:24, 25). Shepherds sometimes, single-handed, encountered lions and slew them (1 Sam. 17:34, 35; Amos 3:12). Samson seized a young lion with his hands and "rent him as he would have rent a kid" (Judg. 14:5, 6). The strength (Judg. 14:18), courage (2 Sam. 17:10), and ferocity (Gen. 49:9) of the lion were proverbial.