I looked up the etymology of "give" on etymonline and it didn't say anything about the noun form. When I say the noun form, I'm speaking about "give" used in this context:

The building foundation has some give to mitigate the effects of earthquakes.

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    It's a battle metaphor idiom. The loser gives in to the winner. The vanquished gives way to the victor. When something solid is said to give, give in, or give way, it's bending. And it's the same give, just metaphorically used. Metaphors are awfully common in every language, including English. Nov 22, 2012 at 1:15

1 Answer 1


The OED says that the noun give derives from the verb, and means:

The action, fact, or quality of ‘giving’ (cf. sense 40 of the vb.); a yielding, giving way.

And where the referenced sense 40 is:

40. intr. To yield, give way.

  • a. To yield to pressure or strain.

  • b. Of a joint, the nerves: To lose tension, to become relaxed, to fail.

  • c. (Of persons): To accommodate one’s attitude to; (of a dress) to adjust itself to (the varying curves of the figure). Also, to allow free play, yield to. Also, to give ground, draw back.

  • d. To be affected by atmospheric influences;

    • (a).of colours, to fade;
    • (b).to deliquesce, effloresce, soften, or deteriorate, from the effect of damp;
    • (c).to become damp, (appear to) exude moisture, as a stone floor after a thaw (see eve v.2);
    • (d).of timber, to shrink from dryness.
  • e. Of frosty weather: To relax its severity, to become mild; to thaw.

  • f. what gives?: what is happening? (freq. as a question or merely as a form of greeting); so what gives with (someone or something)? = what is happening to?; what is (he, etc.) doing? (Cf. G. was gibt’s?) colloq. (orig. U.S.).

You probably should not consider Etymonline, which is mostly just cribbed from the OED anyway, to be a one-stop shopping center for these researches.

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