Word Origin & History
"highest point," O.E. top "summit, crest, tuft," from P.Gmc. *tuppaz (cf. O.N. toppr "tuft of hair," O.Fris. top "tuft," O.Du. topp, Du. top, O.H.G. zopf "end, tip, tuft of hair," Ger. Zopf "tuft of hair"); no certain connections outside Gmc. except a few Romanic words probably borrowed from Gmc. Few
IE languages have a word so generic, which can be used of the upper part or surface of just about anything. More typical is Ger., which has Spitze for sharp peaks (mountains), oberfläche for the upper surface of flat things (such as a table). The verb meaning "put a top on" is from 1581; the meaning "be higher or greater than" is first recorded 1582. To top off "finish" is colloquial from 1836; top-hat is from 1881; topper "the best (of anything)" first recorded in slang, 1709; topping "top layer" is first attested 1839. Top-heavy is first attested 1533. Top dog first attested 1900; top-drawer (1920) is from Brit. expression out of the top drawer "upper-class." Topless "bare-breasted" first recorded 1966 (earlier it was used of men's bathing suits, 1937); tops "the best" is from 1935.
"toy that spins on a point," late O.E. top, probably a special use of top
(1), but the modern word is perhaps via O.Fr. topet, which is from a Gmc. source akin to the root of Eng. top
(1). As a type of seashell, first recorded 1682.