Definitions

from The American Heritage® Dictionary of the English Language, 4th Edition

  • n. A well-developed sinew or muscle.
  • n. Muscular power or strength. Often used in the plural.

from Wiktionary, Creative Commons Attribution/Share-Alike License

  • adj. Bond; servile.
  • n. A bondman; a slave.
  • n. Muscle or sinew.
  • n. A good quality or habit; virtue.
  • n. An attractive physical attribute, especially muscle; mental or moral vigour.
  • v. Instruct in morals or values; chastise.
  • v. To oppress; enslave.

from the GNU version of the Collaborative International Dictionary of English

  • n. Manner; custom; habit; form of behavior; qualities of mind; disposition; specifically, good qualities; virtues.
  • n. Muscle or strength; nerve; brawn; sinew.

from The Century Dictionary and Cyclopedia

  • Bond; servile.
  • To oppress; enslave.
  • n. A bondman; a slave.
  • n. Custom; habit; manner; usually in the plural, customs; habits; manners; morals; qualities; moral traits; conditions.
  • n. A muscle; a sinew: used generally in the plural.
  • n. A cucking-stool; perhaps, also, a form of pillory.
  • n. An old or provincial or artificial preterit of thaw.

Etymologies

Middle English, individual habit, virtue, strength (sense influenced by sinew), from Old English thēaw, a custom, habit.
(American Heritage® Dictionary of the English Language, Fourth Edition)
From Middle English thew, theow, from Old English þēow, þēo ("servant, slave"), from Proto-Germanic *þewaz, *þegwaz (“servant”), from Proto-Indo-European *tekwos (“runner”), from Proto-Indo-European *tekw- (“to run, flow”). Cognate with Old High German diu ("servant"), Gothic  (þius, "bondman, slave, servant"), Dutch dienen ("to serve"), German dienen ("to serve"), Old English þegn ("servant, minister, vassal"). See thegn, thane. (Wiktionary)
From Middle English thew, from Old English þēow ("servile, not free, bond"), from Proto-Germanic *þewaz, *þegwaz (“subject, servile”), from Proto-Indo-European *tekwos (“runner”), from Proto-Indo-European *tekw- (“to run, flow”). Cognate with Old High German dio ("unfree"). (Wiktionary)
From Middle English thewen, from Old English þēowan, þȳwan ("to press, impress, force, press on, urge on, drive, press with a weapon, thrust, pierce, stab, threaten, rebuke, subjugate, crush, push, oppress, check"), from Proto-Germanic *þewjanan (“to enslave, oppress”), from Proto-Indo-European *tekw- (“to run, flow”). Cognate with Middle Dutch douwen, Middle Low German duwen, Middle High German diuhen, dūhen, diuwen ("to oppress"). (Wiktionary)
From Middle English thew, theaw (often in plural thewes), from Old English þēaw ("usage, custom, general practise of a community, mode of conduct, manner, practise, way, behaviour"), from Proto-Germanic *þawwaz (“custom, habit”), from Proto-Indo-European *(s)tāu-, *(s)te- (“to stand, place”). Cognate with Old Frisian thāw, Old Saxon thau ("custom"), Old High German *gathau, kathau ("discipline"). (Wiktionary)

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