One of the mysteries of the English language finally explained.
Water containing alkaline salts leached from wood ashes, lye; (more widely) any solution obtained by leaching and especially used for washing or soaking. Now chiefly historical.
Late 16th century; earliest use found in John Jones (fl. 1562–1579), physician. From classical Latin lixīvium lye, use as noun of neuter of lixīvius, variant of lixīvus (adjective) made into lye from post-classical Latin lixa water, lye + classical Latin -īvus.
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