Friday, February 29, 2008

leap year

[Late ME., f. LEAP n.1; prob. of much older formation, as the ON. hlaup-ár is presumably, like other terms of the Roman calendar, imitated from Eng.
The name may refer to the fact that in the bissextile year any fixed festival after Feb. falls on the next week-day but one to that on which it fell in the preceding year, not on the next week-day as usual. Cf. med.L. saltus lunæ (OE. mónan hlýp), the omission of a day in the reckoning of the lunar month, made every nineteen years to bring the calendar into accord with the astronomical phenomena.]

A year having one day (now Feb. 29) more than the common year; a bissextile year. {dag}to make leap year of: (fig.) to pass over.

1387 TREVISA Higden (Rolls) IV. 199 {Th}at tyme Iulius amended {th}e kalender, and fonde {th}e cause of the lepe {ygh}ere [L. rationem bisexti invenit]. 1481 CAXTON Myrr. II. xxxi. 127 Bysexte or lepe yere, whiche in iiij yere falleth ones. 1562 J. HEYWOOD Prov. & Epigr. (1867) 207 The next leape yere after wedding was first made. 1606 W. BIRNIE Kirk-Buriall (1833) 38 In civil entries to heritage, if it be for the better, men can make leap-yeare of their father and seeke farther uppe. 1704 HEARNE Duct. Hist. (1714) I. 3 That Year was called the Bissextile; and by us Leap-Year because one day of the Week is leaped over in the Observation of the Festivals. 1834 Nat. Philos., Astron. i. 44/1 (U.K.S.) The years 1600, 2000, 2400, would be leap years.

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