(Greek, pod'; Latin, ped'; French, pied; Dutch, voet; Saxon, fot. Foot and pedal are variants of the same word.)
Best foot foremost. Use all possible dispatch. To “set on foot” is to set agoing. If you have various powers of motion, set your best foremost.
“Nay, but make haste; the better foot before.”
Shakespeare: King John, iv. 2.
I have not yet got my foot in. I am not yet familiar and easy with the work. The allusion is to the preliminary exercises in the great Roman foot-race. While the signal was waited for, the candidates made essays of jumping, running, and posturing, to excite a suitable warmth and make their limbs supple. This was “getting their foot in” for the race. (See Hand.)
I have the measure or length of his foot. I know the exact calibre of his mind. The allusion is to the Pythagorean admeasurement of Hercules by the length of his foot. (See Ex Pede.)
To light on one's feet. To escape a threatened danger. It is said that cats thrown from a height always light on their feet.
To put down your foot on [a matter]. Peremptorily to forbid it. To show the cloven foot. To betray an evil intention. The devil is represented with a cloven foot.
Turn away thy foot from the Sabbath (Isa. 1viii. 13). Abstain from working and doing your own pleasure on that day. The allusion is to the law which prohibited a Jew from walking on a Sabbath more than a mile. He was to turn away his foot from the road and street.
Withdraw thy foot from thy neighbour's house, lest he get weary of thee, and so hate thee. Never outstay your welcome.
With one foot in the grave. In a dying state. You have put your foot in it nicely. You have got yourself into a pretty mess. (In French, vous avez mis le pied dedans.) When porridge is burnt or meat over-roasted, we say, “The bishop hath put his foot in.” (See Bishop.)
Afoot. On the way, in progress. (See Game's Afoot, Matter Afoot.)
Mischief, thou art afoot, Take thou what course thou wilt.
Shakespeare: Julias Caesar, iii. 2.
Source: Dictionary of Phrase and Fable, E. Cobham Brewer, 1894