Word Origin & History
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
). 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.
"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.