Word Origin & History
O.E. blæd "a leaf," but also "a leaf-like part" (of spade, oar, etc.), from P.Gmc. *bladaz (cf. O.Fris. bled "leaf," Ger. blatt, O.N. blað), from PIE *bhle-to-, suffixed form (p.p.) of *bhel- (3) "to thrive, bloom," possibly identical with *bhel- (2) "to blow, swell" (see
). Extended in M.E. to shoulders (c.1300) and swords (early 14c.). The modern use in reference to grass may be a M.E. revival, by influence of O.Fr. bled "corn, wheat" (11c., perhaps from Germanic). The cognate in Ger., blatt, is the general word for "leaf;" laub is used collectively as "foliage." O.N. blað was used in reference to herbs and plants, lauf in reference to trees. This might have been the original distinction in O.E., too.