humor (n.)

mid-14c., "fluid or juice of an animal or plant," from Old North French humour "liquid, dampness; (medical) humor" (Old French humor, umor; Modern French humeur), from Latin umor "body fluid" (also humor, by false association with humus "earth"); related to umere "be wet, moist," and to uvescere "become wet" (see humid).

In ancient and medieval physiology, "any of the four body fluids" (blood, phlegm, choler, and melancholy or black bile) whose relative proportions were thought to determine physical condition and state of mind. This led to a sense of "mood, temporary state of mind" (first recorded 1520s); the sense of "amusing quality, funniness, jocular turn of mind" is first recorded 1680s, probably via sense of "whim, caprice" as determined by state of mind (1560s), which also produced the verb sense of "indulge (someone's) fancy or disposition." Modern French has them as doublets: humeur "disposition, mood, whim;" humour "humor." "The pronunciation of the initial h is only of recent date, and is sometimes omitted ..." [OED]. For types of humor, see the useful table below, from H.W. Fowler ["Modern English Usage," 1926].

motive/aim discovery throwing light amendment inflicting pain discredit exclusiveness self-justification self-relief
province human nature words & ideas morals & manners faults & foibles misconduct statement of facts morals adversity
method/means observation surprise accentuation inversion direct statement mystification exposure of nakedness pessimism
audience the sympathetic the intelligent the self-satisfied victim & bystander the public an inner circle the respectable the self

humor (v.)

1580s, "comply with (someone's) fancy or disposition;" see humor (n.). Related: Humored; humoring.