mid-13c., "property" of any kind, including money, land, income; from Anglo-French catel "property" (Old North French catel, Old French chatel), from Medieval Latin capitale "property, stock," noun use of neuter of Latin adjective capitalis "principal, chief," literally "of the head," from caput (genitive capitis) "head" (from PIE root *kaput- "head"). Compare sense development of fee, pecuniary.
in later Middle English especially "movable property, livestock" (early 14c.), including horses, sheep, asses, etc.; it began to be limited to "cows and bulls" from late 16c.
early 13c., chatel "property, goods," from Old French chatel "chattels, goods, wealth, possessions, property; profit; cattle," from Late Latin capitale "property" (see cattle, which is the Old North French form of the same word). Application to slaves is from 1640s and later became a rhetorical figure in the writings of abolitionists.
c. 1500, "consisting of money;" 1620s, "relating to money," from Latin pecuniarius "pertaining to money," from pecunia "money, property, wealth," from pecu "cattle, flock," from PIE root *peku- "wealth, movable property, livestock" (source of Sanskrit pasu- "cattle," Gothic faihu "money, fortune," Old English feoh "cattle, money").
Livestock was the measure of wealth in the ancient world, and Rome was essentially a farmer's community. That pecunia was literally "wealth in cattle" was still apparent to Cicero. For a possible parallel sense development in Old English, see fee, and compare, evolving in the other direction, cattle. Compare also Welsh tlws "jewel," cognate with Irish tlus "cattle," connected via the notion of "valuable thing," and, perhaps emolument.
An earlier adjective in English was pecunier (early 15c.; mid-14c. in Anglo-French), from Old French; also pecunial (late 14c.).
1610s, "a person's wealth," from Medieval Latin capitale "stock, property," noun use of neuter of Latin capitalis "capital, chief, first" (see capital (adj.)). From 1640s as "the wealth employed in carrying on a particular business," then, in a broader sense in political economy, "that part of the produce of industry which is available for further production" (1793).
[The term capital] made its first appearance in medieval Latin as an adjective capitalis (from caput, head) modifying the word pars, to designate the principal sum of a money loan. The principal part of a loan was contrasted with the "usury"—later called interest—the payment made to the lender in addition to the return of the sum lent. This usage, unknown to classical Latin, had become common by the thirteenth century and possibly had begun as early as 1100 A.D., in the first chartered towns of Europe. [Frank A. Fetter, "Reformulation of the Concepts of Capital and Income in Economics and Accounting," 1937, in "Capital, Interest, & Rent," 1977]
Also see cattle, and compare sense development of fee, and pecuniary. Middle English had chief money "principal fund" (mid-14c.). The noun use of the adjective in classical Latin meant "a capital crime."
It forms all or part of: achieve; behead; biceps; cabbage; cabochon; caddie; cadet; cap; cap-a-pie; cape (n.1) "garment;" cape (n.2) "promontory;" capital (adj.); capital (n.3) "head of a column or pillar;" capitate; capitation; capitulate; capitulation; capitulum; capo (n.1) "leader of a Mafia family;" capo (n.2) "pitch-altering device for a stringed instrument;" caprice; capsize; captain; cattle; caudillo; chapter; chef; chief; chieftain; corporal (n.); decapitate; decapitation; forehead; head; hetman; kaput; kerchief; mischief; occipital; precipice; precipitate; precipitation; recapitulate; recapitulation; sinciput; triceps.
It is the hypothetical source of/evidence for its existence is provided by: Sanskrit kaput-; Latin caput "head;" Old English heafod, German Haupt, Gothic haubiþ "head."
"a herd, especially of cattle," Old English draf "beasts driven in a body; road along which cattle are driven," originally "act of driving," from drifan "to drive" (see drive (v.)).
"to keep moving round and round without purpose in a mass," 1874 (originally of cattle, implied in milling), originally of cattle, from mill (n.1) on resemblance to the action of a mill wheel. Related: Milled.