out on a limb

limb

1 [lim]
noun
1.
a part or member of an animal body distinct from the head and trunk, as a leg, arm, or wing: the lower limbs; artificial limbs.
2.
a large or main branch of a tree.
3.
a projecting part or member: the four limbs of a cross.
4.
a person or thing regarded as a part, member, branch, offshoot, or scion of something: a limb of the central committee.
5.
Archery. the upper or lower part of a bow.
6.
Informal. a mischievous child, imp, or young scamp.
verb (used with object)
7.
to cut the limbs from (a felled tree).
Idioms
8.
out on a limb, in a dangerous or compromising situation; vulnerable: The company overextended itself financially and was soon out on a limb.

Origin:
before 900; Middle English, Old English lim; akin to Old Norse lim foliage, limr limb, līmi rod, Latin līmus aslant, līmen threshold

limbless, adjective


1. extremity. 2. See branch.
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World English Dictionary
limb1 (lɪm)
 
n
1.  an arm or leg, or the analogous part on an animal, such as a wing
2.  any of the main branches of a tree
3.  a branching or projecting section or member; extension
4.  a person or thing considered to be a member, part, or agent of a larger group or thing
5.  chiefly (Brit) a mischievous child (esp in limb of Satanorlimb of the devil)
6.  out on a limb
 a.  in a precarious or questionable position
 b.  (Brit) isolated, esp because of unpopular opinions
 
vb
7.  (tr) a rare word for dismember
 
[Old English lim; related to Old Norse limr]
 
limbed1
 
adj
 
'limbless1
 
adj

limb2 (lɪm)
 
n
1.  the edge of the apparent disc of the sun, a moon, or a planet
2.  a graduated arc attached to instruments, such as the sextant, used for measuring angles
3.  botany
 a.  the expanded upper part of a bell-shaped corolla
 b.  the expanded part of a leaf, petal, or sepal
4.  either of the two halves of a bow
5.  Also called: fold limb either of the sides of a geological fold
 
[C15: from Latin limbus edge]

Collins English Dictionary - Complete & Unabridged 10th Edition
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Etymonline
Word Origin & History

limb
O.E. lim "limb, joint, main branch of a tree," from P.Gmc. *limu- (cf. O.N. limr "limb," lim "small branch of a tree"), a variant of *liþu- (cf. O.E. liþ, O.Fris. lith, O.N. liðr, Goth. liþus "a limb;" with prefix ga-, source of Ger. glied "limb, member"), from PIE base *lei- "to
bend, be movable, be nimble." The parasitic -b began to appear late 1500s for no reason. In O.E., M.E., and until lately in dial., it could mean "any visible body part."
"The lymmes of generacion were shewed manyfestly." [Caxton, "The subtyl historyes and fables of Esope, Auyan, Alfonce, and Poge," 1484]
Hence, limb-lifter "fornicator" (1570s). To go out on a limb in figurative sense is from 1897. Life and limb in ref. to the body inclusively is from c.1200.

limb
1590s, "edge of a quadrant or other instrument," from L. limbus "border, hem, fringe, edge," cognate with Skt. lambate "hangs down," English limp. Astronomical sense of "edge of the disk of a heavenly body" first attested 1670s.
Online Etymology Dictionary, © 2010 Douglas Harper
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American Heritage
Medical Dictionary

limb (lĭm)
n.

  1. One of the paired jointed extremities of the body; an arm or a leg.

  2. A segment of such a jointed structure.

The American Heritage® Stedman's Medical Dictionary
Copyright © 2002, 2001, 1995 by Houghton Mifflin Company. Published by Houghton Mifflin Company.
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American Heritage
Science Dictionary
limb   (lĭm)  Pronunciation Key 
  1. One of the appendages of an animal, such as an arm of a starfish, the flipper of dolphins, or the arm and leg of a human, used for locomotion or grasping.

  2. The expanded tip of a plant organ, such as a petal or corolla lobe.

  3. The circumferential edge of the apparent disk of a celestial body.


The American Heritage® Science Dictionary
Copyright © 2002. Published by Houghton Mifflin. All rights reserved.
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American Heritage
Idioms & Phrases

out on a limb

In a difficult, awkward, or vulnerable position, as in I lodged a complaint about low salaries, but the people who had supported me left me out on a limb. This expression alludes to an animal climbing out on the limb of a tree and then being afraid or unable to retreat. [Late 1800s]

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