Three sheets in the wind

sheet

2 [sheet]
noun
1.
Nautical.
a.
a rope or chain for extending the clews of a square sail along a yard.
b.
a rope for trimming a fore-and-aft sail.
c.
a rope or chain for extending the lee clew of a course.
verb (used with object)
2.
Nautical. to trim, extend, or secure by means of a sheet or sheets.
Idioms
3.
three sheets in/to the wind, Slang. intoxicated.

Origin:
1300–50; Middle English shete, shortening of Old English scēatlīne, equivalent to scēat(a) lower corner of a sail (see sheet1) + līne line1, rope; cognate with Low German schote

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World English Dictionary
sheet1 (ʃiːt)
 
n
1.  a large rectangular piece of cotton, linen, etc, generally one of a pair used as inner bedclothes
2.  a.  a thin piece of a substance such as paper, glass, or metal, usually rectangular in form
 b.  (as modifier): sheet iron
3.  a broad continuous surface; expanse or stretch: a sheet of rain
4.  a newspaper, esp a tabloid
5.  a piece of printed paper to be folded into a section for a book
6.  a page of stamps, usually of one denomination and already perforated
7.  any thin tabular mass of rock covering a large area
 
vb
8.  (tr) to provide with, cover, or wrap in a sheet
9.  (intr) (of rain, snow, etc) to fall heavily
 
[Old English sciete; related to sceat corner, lap, Old Norse skaut, Old High German scōz lap]

sheet2 (ʃiːt)
 
n
nautical a line or rope for controlling the position of a sail relative to the wind
 
[Old English scēata corner of a sail; related to Middle Low German schōte rope attached to a sail; see sheet1]

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

sheet
O.E. sciete (W.Saxon), scete (Mercian) "cloth, covering," from P.Gmc. *skautijon, from base *skauta- "project" (cf. O.N. skaut "corner of cloth," Goth. skauts "seam, hem of a garment;" Du. schoot Ger. Schoß "bosom, lap"), from PIE base *skeud- "to shoot, chase, throw" (see
shoot). Sense of "piece of paper" first recorded 1510; that of "any broad, flat surface" (of metal, open water, etc.) is from 1592. Of falling rain from 1697. Meaning "a newspaper" is first recorded 1749. Sheet lightning is attested from 1794; sheet music is from 1857. Between the sheets "in bed" (usually with sexual overtones) is attested from 1599; to be white as a sheet is from 1751.

sheet
"rope that controls a sail," O.E. sceatline "sheet-line," from sceata "lower part of sail," originally "piece of cloth," from same root as sheet (1) (q.v.). The sense transferred to the rope by 1294. This is probably the notion in phrase three sheets to the wind "drunk and
disorganized," first recorded 1821, an image of a sloop-rigged sailboat whose three sheets have slipped through the blocks are lost to the wind, thus out of control.
Online Etymology Dictionary, © 2010 Douglas Harper
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