From Middle English blee, ble (“colour, hue”), from Old English blēo, bleoh (“colour, hue; complexion, form”), from Proto-Germanic *blīwą (“colour, blee; glad, light”), from Proto-Indo-European *bʰley-, *bʰlew- (“light, pleasant; fair (of weather)”). Cognate with Scots ble, blee, blie (“colour, complexion”), Old Frisian blī, blie (“colour, hue; complexion”) (whence North Frisian bläy), Old Saxon blī (“colour, hue; complexion”), Old High German blīo(h) (“colour, hue”), blīo (“metallic lead”) (modern German Blei), Danish bly (“lead”), Icelandic blý (“lead”). Perhaps related to Old English blīþe (“joyous”) (whence blithe). See also bly.
- (rare, chiefly poetic) Colour, hue. [from 9th to early 17th c.]
1931 October, Padraic Colum, “Before the Fair”, in Lascelles Abercrombie, editor, New English Poems: A Miscellany of Contemporary Verse Never before Published, London: Victor Gollancz Ltd., 14 Henrietta Street, Covent Garden, OCLC 263108, page 142:
- "Live, live," and "Here, here," the blackbird / From the top of the bare ash-tree, / Over the acres whistles / With beak of yellow blee.
- (archaic) Colour of the face, complexion. [from 9th to early 17th c.]
, Richard F[rancis] Burton, translator and editor, “The Porter and the Three Ladies of Baghdad”, in A Plain and Literal Translation of the Arabian Nights’ Entertainments, now Entituled The Book of the Thousand Nights and a Night: With Introduction Explanatory Notes on the Manners and Customs of Moslem Men and a Terminal Essay upon the History of The Nights, volume I, Shammar edition, [s.n.]: Printed by the Burton Club for private subscribers only, OCLC 27889116, page 85:
- Thereupon sat a lady bright of blee, with brow beaming brilliancy, the dream of philosophy, whose eyes were fraught with Babel's gramarye and her eyebrows were arched as for archery; her breath breathed ambergris and perfumery and her lips were sugar to taste and carnelian to see.
- Consistency, form, texture. [from 9th to early 17th c.]
1880, Algernon Charles Swinburne, “The Poet and the Woodlouse”, in The Heptalogia, or, The Seven against Sense: A Cap with Seven Bells (Specimens of Modern Poets), London: Chatto & Windus, Piccadilly, OCLC 70377726, page 46:
- I am thrilled half cosmically through by cryptophantic surgings / Till the rhythmic hills roar silent through a spongious kind of blee: / And earth's soul yawns disembowelled of her pancreatic organs, / Like a madrepore if mesmerized, in rapt catalepsy.
- (East Anglia) General resemblance, likeness; appearance, aspect, look.
[1830, Robert Forby, “BLEE”, in The Vocabulary of East Anglia; an Attempt to Record the Vulgar Tongue of the Twin Sister Counties, Norfolk and Suffolk, as It Existed in the Last Twenty Years of the Eighteenth Century, and still Exists; with Proof of Its Antiquity from Etymology and Authority. [...] In Two Volumes, volume I, London: Printed by and for J[ohn] B[oyer] Nichols and Son, 25, Parliament Street, OCLC 156094369, pages 27–28:
- BLEE, s[ubstantive] general resemblance, not "colour and complexion," as the dictt. [dictionaries in general] give it; Mr. Nares asserts that it was obsolete in the reign of Queen Elizabeth. If so, we have a very extraordinary instance of the renascence of a word; for it is in use every day in the sense here given to it. Ex. "That boy has a strong blee of his father." br. [Brockett's Glossary] in the sense of complexion. ch. p. g. [Chaucer; Percy's Glossary]]