on the lam


2 [lam] Slang.
a hasty escape; flight.
verb (used without object), lammed, lamming.
to run away quickly; escape; flee: I'm going to lam out of here as soon as I've finished.
on the lam, escaping, fleeing, or hiding, especially from the police: He's been on the lam ever since he escaped from jail.
take it on the lam, to flee or escape in great haste: The swindler took it on the lam and was never seen again.

1885–90; special use of lam1. Compare beat it! be off!

Dictionary.com Unabridged
Based on the Random House Dictionary, © Random House, Inc. 2014.
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World English Dictionary
lam1 (læm)
vb , lams, lamming, lammed
1.  (tr) to thrash or beat
2.  (intr; usually foll by into or out) to make a sweeping stroke or blow
[C16: from Scandinavian; related to Old Norse lemja]

lam2 (læm)
1.  a sudden flight or escape, esp to avoid arrest
2.  on the lam
 a.  making an escape
 b.  in hiding
vb , lams, lamming, lammed
3.  (intr) to escape or flee
[C19: perhaps from lam1 (hence, to be off)]

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 & History

"flight," as in on the lam, 1897, from a U.S. slang verb meaning "to run off" (1886), of uncertain origin, perhaps somehow from the first element of lambaste, which was used in British student slang for "beat" since 1596; if so, it would give the word the same etymological sense as beat it.
Online Etymology Dictionary, © 2010 Douglas Harper
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American Heritage
Abbreviations & Acronyms
The American Heritage® Abbreviations Dictionary, Third Edition
Copyright © 2005 by Houghton Mifflin Company.
Published by Houghton Mifflin Company. All rights reserved.
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American Heritage
Idioms & Phrases

on the lam

Running away, especially from the police, as in He's always in some kind of trouble and perpetually on the lam. The origin of this slangy term of the 1800s is not known.

The American Heritage® Dictionary of Idioms by Christine Ammer.
Copyright © 1997. Published by Houghton Mifflin.
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