Intermediate+ Word of the Day: log

log (noun, verb) /lɔg/ LISTEN

A log is a piece of wood cut from the trunk or a large branch of a tree, most often used for firewood, and, figuratively, anything heavy that doesn’t move. A log is also a record of the progress of an activity. Related to this, the verb to log means ‘to keep a record of something.’ The verb log also relates to the first noun and means ‘to cut down a tree to get logs.’

Example sentences

  • The fire is dying down; you'd better put another log on it.
  • The drunk man just lay on the sidewalk, like a log.
  • The captain's log showed that the ship had encountered pirates, but fought them off.
  • It is important to log any accidents that occur in the workplace.
  • Those trees are going to be logged in the spring.

Words often used with log

log in, log off/out: to sign in or out of a secured computer system or Internet service. Example: “Everyone has a password to log in to their computers at work.” “Make sure you log out of your Internet banking before leaving the computer.”

as easy (or: simple) as falling off a log: very, very easy. Example: “Linda thought her new job was going to be difficult, but actually it turned out to be as easy as falling off a log.”

sleep like a log: sleep very soundly. Example: “Eugene was exhausted after a long day at work and an evening studying. Once he got to bed, he slept like a log.”

ants on a log: a popular children’s food: a piece of celery with peanut butter or cream cheese spread on the top and raisins placed on top of the peanut butter. See how it looks!

log cabin: a house (usually old-fashioned) made of logs. Check it out on Wikipedia.

In pop culture

Perhaps the most famous use of the word log as a record of something is the captain’s log from Star Trek, where the captain would make a voice recording of the events the Starship Enterprise and its crew had experienced. Here is a clip of the captain’s log from Star Trek The Next Generation:

Additional information

In Australia, jails used to be in buildings made of logs and so, in Australian slang, although dated now, logs (always in the plural) can mean ‘jail.’

Did you know?

-log- comes from Greek, where it has the meaning ‘speak; word; speech.” While it is completely unrelated to the English word log, this meaning is found in many English words, such as: analog, apology, chronology, decalogue, dialogue, doxology, epilogue, eulogy, ideology, logarithm, logic, logo, monologue, neologism, philology, syllogism, tautology, terminology.

Origin

The noun log, meaning ‘large piece of tree,’ dates back to the mid-14th century, as the Middle English logge. It was a variant of lugge (pole, limb of tree), but the origin is uncertain. It is probably related to the Old Norse lag (felled tree), but some linguists actually think its origin is different: the expression of something very large with an appropriate sound, and could be related to clog (which as we saw before, originally meant lump of wood). Log, meaning a record of activities, dates back to the 19th century, and is a shortened form of ‘log-book’ (which dates back to the 17th century), a term used by sailors. It was called a log book because it recorded speed measurements that were made using the weighted chip of a tree log on the end of a log line with knots. The sailors counted how long the line took to stretch out in the water, and the knots on the rope are the reason speed at sea is still measured in units called knots. The verb log (to fell a tree) comes from the noun and first appeared in the early 18th century, while the verb meaning ‘to record something’ comes from the other meaning of the noun, and dates back to the 19th century.

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