Word Origin & History
O.E. rap, from P.Gmc. *raipaz (cf. O.N. reip, M.Du., Du. reep "rope," Goth. skauda-raip "shoe-lace," O.H.G., Ger. reif "ring, hoop"). Technically, only cordage above one inch in circumference and below 10 (bigger-around than that is a cable). Nautical use varies. Finnish raippa "hoop, rope, twig" is
a Gmc. loan-word. The verb is attested from c.1300. To know the ropes (1840) is originally a seaman's term. Phrase on the ropes "defeated" is attested from 1924, a fig. extension from boxing. To be at the end of (one's) rope "out of resources and options" is first attested 1686. Formerly also in many slang and extended uses related to hanging, e.g. John Roper's window "a noose," rope-ripe "deserving to be hanged," both 16c.