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verb (used with object), left, leav·ing.
  1. to go out of or away from, as a place: to leave the house.
  2. to depart from permanently; quit: to leave a job.
  3. to let remain or have remaining behind after going, disappearing, ceasing, etc.: I left my wallet home. The wound left a scar.
  4. to allow to remain in the same place, condition, etc.: Is there any coffee left?
  5. to let stay or be as specified: to leave a door unlocked.
  6. to let (a person or animal) remain in a position to do something without interference: We left him to his work.
  7. to let (a thing) remain for action or decision: We left the details to the lawyer.
  8. to give in charge; deposit; entrust: Leave the package with the receptionist. I left my name and phone number.
  9. to stop; cease; give up: He left music to study law.
  10. to disregard; neglect: We will leave this for the moment and concentrate on the major problem.
  11. to give for use after one's death or departure: to leave all one's money to charity.
  12. to have remaining after death: He leaves a wife and three children.
  13. to have as a remainder after subtraction: 2 from 4 leaves 2.
  14. Nonstandard. let1(defs 1, 2, 6).
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verb (used without object), left, leav·ing.
  1. to go away, depart, or set out: We leave for Europe tomorrow.
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Verb Phrases
  1. leave alone. alone(def 7).
  2. leave off,
    1. to desist from; cease; stop; abandon.
    2. to stop using or wearing: It had stopped raining, so we left off our coats.
    3. to omit: to leave a name off a list.
  3. leave out, to omit; exclude: She left out an important detail in her account.
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Origin of leave1

before 900; Middle English leven, Old English lǣfan (causative formation from base of lāf remainder; see lave2); cognate with Old High German leiban (compare German bleiben to remain), Old Norse leifa, Gothic -laibjan
Related formsleav·er, noun


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1, 2. join.

Usage note

Leave is interchangeable with let when followed by alone with the sense “to refrain from annoying or interfering with”: Leave (or Let ) her alone and she will solve the problem easily. When he was left (or let ) alone without interruptions, the boy quickly assembled the apparatus. The use of leave alone for let alone in the sense “not to mention” is nonstandard: There wasn't any standing room, let (not leave ) alone a seat, so I missed the performance.
Other substitutions of leave for let are generally regarded as nonstandard: Let (not Leave ) us sit down and talk this over. Let (not Leave ) her do it her own way. The police wouldn't let (not leave ) us cross the barriers. See also let1.


  1. permission to do something: to beg leave to go elsewhere.
  2. permission to be absent, as from work or military duty: The firm offers a maternity leave as part of its benefit program.
  3. the time this permission lasts: 30 days' leave.
  4. a parting; departure; farewell: He took his leave before the formal ceremonies began. We took leave of them after dinner.
  5. Metallurgy. draft(def 23).
  6. Bowling. the pin or pins in upright position after the bowl of the first ball.
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Origin of leave2

before 900; Middle English leve, Old English lēaf; akin to believe, furlough, lief


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1–3. liberty. 2, 3. vacation, furlough.


verb (used without object), leaved, leav·ing.
  1. to put forth leaves; leaf.
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Origin of leave3

1250–1300; Middle English leven, derivative of lef leaf
Dictionary.com Unabridged Based on the Random House Unabridged Dictionary, © Random House, Inc. 2018

Related Words


Examples from the Web for leave

Contemporary Examples

Historical Examples

  • They administer stinging rebukes that leave the adversary writhing.

    The Spenders

    Harry Leon Wilson

  • Then go down and leave it where you found it, and I will let you come up.

    Brave and Bold

    Horatio Alger

  • But nevertheless he could not leave it behind since it was for this he had incurred his present peril.

    Brave and Bold

    Horatio Alger

  • Your brother was foolish enough to leave his boat in Rushton's care.

    Brave and Bold

    Horatio Alger

  • Halbert thought it was time to be going, and accordingly got up and took his leave.

    Brave and Bold

    Horatio Alger

British Dictionary definitions for leave


verb leaves, leaving or left (mainly tr)
  1. (also intr) to go or depart (from a person or place)
  2. to cause to remain behind, often by mistake, in a placehe often leaves his keys in his coat
  3. to cause to be or remain in a specified statepaying the bill left him penniless
  4. to renounce or abandonto leave a political movement
  5. to refrain from consuming or doing somethingthe things we have left undone
  6. to result in; causechildhood problems often leave emotional scars
  7. to allow to be or remain subject to another person or thingleave the past to look after itself
  8. to entrust or commitleave the shopping to her
  9. to submit in place of one's personal appearancewill you leave your name and address?
  10. to pass in a specified directionflying out of the country, we left the cliffs on our left
  11. to be survived by (members of one's family)he leaves a wife and two children
  12. to bequeath or devisehe left his investments to his children
  13. (tr) to have as a remainder37 – 14 leaves 23
  14. not standard to permit; let
  15. leave be informal to leave undisturbed
  16. leave go or leave hold of not standard to stop holding
  17. leave it at that informal to take a matter no further
  18. leave much to be desired to be very unsatisfactory
  19. leave someone alone
    1. Also: let alone See let 1 (def. 7)
    2. to permit to stay or be alone
  20. leave someone to himself not to control or direct someone
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Derived Formsleaver, noun

Word Origin

Old English lǣfan; related to belīfan to be left as a remainder


  1. permission to do somethinghe was granted leave to speak
  2. by your leave or with your leave with your permission
  3. permission to be absent, as from a place of work or dutyleave of absence
  4. the duration of such absenceten days' leave
  5. a farewell or departure (esp in the phrase take (one's) leave)
  6. on leave officially excused from work or duty
  7. take leave to say farewell (to)
  8. take leave of one's senses to go mad or become irrational
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Word Origin

Old English lēaf; related to alӯfan to permit, Middle High German loube permission


verb leaves, leaving or leaved
  1. (intr) to produce or grow leaves
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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

Word Origin and History for leave


Old English læfan "to let remain; remain; have left; bequeath," from Proto-Germanic *laibijan (cf. Old Frisian leva "to leave," Old Saxon farlebid "left over"), causative of *liban "remain," (cf. Old English belifan, German bleiben, Gothic bileiban "to remain"), from root *laf- "remnant, what remains," from PIE *leip- "to stick, adhere;" also "fat."

The Germanic root has only the sense "remain, continue," which also is in Greek lipares "persevering, importunate." But this usually is regarded as a development from the primary PIE sense of "adhere, be sticky" (cf. Lithuanian lipti, Old Church Slavonic lipet "to adhere," Greek lipos "grease," Sanskrit rip-/lip- "to smear, adhere to." Seemingly contradictory meaning of "depart" (early 13c.) comes from notion of "to leave behind" (as in to leave the earth "to die;" to leave the field "retreat").

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"permission," Old English leafe "leave, permission, license," dative and accusative of leaf "permission," from West Germanic *lauba (cf. Old Norse leyfi "permission," Old Saxon orlof, Old Frisian orlof, German Urlaub "leave of absence"), from PIE *leubh- "to care, desire, love, approve" (see love (n.)). Cognate with Old English lief "dear," the original idea being "approval resulting from pleasure." Cf. love, believe. In military sense, it is attested from 1771.

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Online Etymology Dictionary, © 2010 Douglas Harper

Idioms and Phrases with leave


In addition to the idioms beginning with leave

  • leave a bad taste in one's mouth
  • leave alone
  • leave a lot to be desired
  • leave flat
  • leave hanging
  • leave holding the bag
  • leave in the lurch
  • leave no stone unturned
  • leave off
  • leave one cold
  • leave open
  • leave out
  • leave out in the cold
  • leave out of account
  • leave someone alone
  • leave someone in peace
  • leave someone in the lurch
  • leave someone to his or her resources
  • leave the door open
  • leave to someone's own devices
  • leave to someone's tender mercies
  • leave well enough alone
  • leave without a leg to stand on
  • leave word

also see:

  • absent without leave
  • (leave) high and dry
  • (leave) out in the cold
  • take it or leave it
  • take leave of
  • take one's leave

Also see underlet.

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The American Heritage® Idioms Dictionary Copyright © 2002, 2001, 1995 by Houghton Mifflin Harcourt Publishing Company. Published by Houghton Mifflin Harcourt Publishing Company.