1. The lower extremity of the vertebrate leg that is in direct contact with the ground in standing or walking.
2. A structure used for locomotion or attachment in an invertebrate animal, such as the muscular organ extending from the ventral side of a mollusk.
3. Something suggestive of a foot in position or function, especially:
a. The lowest part; the bottom:the foot of a mountain; the foot of a page.
b. The end opposite the head, top, or front:the foot of a bed; the foot of a parade.
c. The termination of the leg of a piece of furniture, especially when shaped or modeled.
d. The part of a sewing machine that holds down and guides the cloth.
e. Nautical The lower edge of a sail.
f. Printing The part of a type body that forms the sides of the groove at the base.
g. Botany The base of the sporophyte in mosses and liverworts.
4. The inferior part or rank:at the foot of the class.
5. The part of a stocking or high-topped boot that encloses the foot.
a. A manner of moving; a step:walks with a light foot.
b. Speed or momentum, as in a race:"the only other Democrats who've demonstrated any foot till now"(Michael Kramer).
7. (used with a pl. verb)Foot soldiers; infantry.
a. A unit of poetic meter consisting of stressed and unstressed syllables in any of various set combinations. For example, an iambic foot has an unstressed followed by a stressed syllable.
b. In classical quantitative verse, a unit of meter consisting of long and short syllables in any of various set combinations.
9. Abbr. ft. or ftA unit of length in the US Customary and British Imperial systems equal to 12 inches (0.3048 meter). See Table at measurement.
10. footsSediment that forms during the refining of oil and other liquids; dregs.
v.foot·ed, foot·ing, foots
1. To go on foot; walk. Often used with it:When their car broke down, they had to foot it the rest of the way.
2. To dance. Often used with it:"We foot it all the night / weaving olden dances"(William Butler Yeats).
3. Nautical To make headway; sail.
1. To go by foot over, on, or through; tread.
2. To execute the steps of (a dance).
3. To add up (a column of numbers) and write the sum at the bottom; total:footed up the bill.
4. To pay; defray:footed the expense of their children's education.
5. To provide (a stocking, for example) with a foot.
at (someone's) feet
Enchanted or fascinated by another.
best foot forward
A favorable initial impression:He always has his best foot forward when speaking to his constituents. Put your best foot forward during an employment interview.
feet of clay
An underlying weakness or fault:"They discovered to their vast discomfiture that their idol had feet of clay, after placing him upon a pedestal"(James Joyce).
foot in the doorSlang
1. An initial point of or opportunity for entry.
2. A first step in working toward a goal.
get (one's) feet wet
To start a new activity or job.
have one foot in the graveInformal
To be on the verge of death, as from illness or severe trauma.
have (one's) feet on the ground
To be sensible and practical about one's situation.
on (one's) feet
1. Standing up:The crowd was on its feet for the last ten seconds.
2. Fully recovered, as after an illness or convalescence:The patient is on her feet again.
3. In a sound or stable operating condition:put the business back on its feet after years of mismanagement.
4. In an impromptu situation; extemporaneously:"Politicians provide easy targets for grammatical nitpickers because they have to think on their feet"(Springfield MA Morning Union).
on the right foot
In an auspicious manner:The project started off on the right foot but soon ran into difficulties.
on the wrong foot
In an inauspicious manner:The project started off on the wrong foot.
[Middle Englishfot, fromOld Englishfōt; see ped- in the Appendix of Indo-European roots.]
Usage Note: In Standard English, foot and feet have their own rules when they are used in combination with numbers to form expressions for units of measure: a four-foot plank, but not a four feet plank; also correct is a plank four feet long (or, less frequently, four foot long). When foot is combined with numbers greater than one to refer to simple distance, however, only the plural feet is used: a ledge 20 feet (not foot) away. At that speed, a car moves 88 feet (not foot) in a second.
Our Living LanguageIn certain contexts, some people in New England and the South use constructions such as three foot and five mile in place of Standard English three feet and five miles. Some speakers extend this practice to measures of time, as in He was gone three year, though this is not as common. See Note at plural.
(click for a larger image)
(click for a larger image)foot
top: a human foot
bottom: on a sewing machine
The American Heritage® Dictionary of the English Language, Fifth Edition copyright ©2020 by Houghton Mifflin Harcourt Publishing Company. All rights reserved.
Indo-European & Semitic Roots Appendices
Thousands of entries in the dictionary include etymologies that trace their origins back to reconstructed proto-languages. You can obtain more information about these forms in our online appendices:
The Indo-European appendix covers nearly half of the Indo-European roots that have left their mark on English words. A more complete treatment of Indo-European roots and the English words derived from them is available in our Dictionary of Indo-European Roots.