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[lee-wey] /ˈliˌweɪ/
extra time, space, materials, or the like, within which to operate; margin:
With ten minutes' leeway we can catch the train.
a degree of freedom of action or thought:
His instructions gave us plenty of leeway.
Also called sag. Nautical. the amount or angle of the drift of a ship to leeward from its heading.
Aeronautics. the amount a plane is blown off its normal course by cross winds.
Origin of leeway
First recorded in 1660-70; lee1 + way1
2. latitude, flexibility, cushion. Unabridged
Based on the Random House Dictionary, © Random House, Inc. 2018.
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Examples from the Web for leeway
Contemporary Examples
Historical Examples
  • "She's makin' leeway the best I can do," came back from Skipper Zeb.

    Left on the Labrador Dillon Wallace
  • The plan of the scale is such as to warrant this amount of leeway.

    The Measurement of Intelligence Lewis Madison Terman
  • leeway on the starboard tack is the same as westerly Variation.

    Lectures in Navigation Ernest Gallaudet Draper
  • Once let them see you mean to give them any leeway, and they are only content with a revolution.

    Joyce's Investments Fannie E. Newberry
  • He gives it leeway as usual; he's used to passing it close because there's plenty of water.

    Smugglers' Reef John Blaine
British Dictionary definitions for leeway


room for free movement within limits, as in action or expenditure
sideways drift of a boat or aircraft
Collins English Dictionary - Complete & Unabridged 2012 Digital Edition
© William Collins Sons & Co. Ltd. 1979, 1986 © HarperCollins
Publishers 1998, 2000, 2003, 2005, 2006, 2007, 2009, 2012
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Word Origin and History for leeway

1660s, sideways drift of a ship caused by wind, from lee + way. Figurative meaning "extra space" is by 1835.

Online Etymology Dictionary, © 2010 Douglas Harper
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