1540s, "miserable person, wretch," from Latin miser (adj.) "unhappy, wretched, pitiable, in distress," a word for which "no acceptable PIE pedigree has been found" [de Vaan]. The oldest English sense now is obsolete; the main modern meaning of "money-hoarding person" ("one who in wealth conducts himself as one afflicted with poverty" - Century Dictionary) is recorded by 1560s, from the presumed unhappiness of such people. The older sense is preserved in miserable, misery, etc.
Besides general wretchedness, the Latin word connoted also "intense erotic love" (compare slang got it bad "deeply infatuated") and hence was a favorite word of Catullus. In Greek a miser was kyminopristes, literally "a cumin seed splitter." In Modern Greek, he might be called hekentabelones, literally "one who has sixty needles." The German word, filz, literally "felt," preserves the image of the felt slippers which the miser often wore in caricatures. Lettish mantrausis "miser" is literally "money-raker."
late 14c., "state of grievous affliction, condition of external unhappiness," from Old French misere "miserable situation, misfortune, distress" (12c.), from Latin miseria "wretchedness," from miser "wretched, pitiable" (see miser). Meaning "condition of one in great sorrow or mental distress" is from 1530s.
"feel sorrow, regret, or compassion for through sympathy," c. 1600, from Latin commiseratus, past participle of commiserari "to pity, bewail," from com-, here perhaps an intensive prefix (see com-) + miserari "bewail, lament," from miser "wretched" (see miser). Related: Commiserated; commiserating; commiserable. An Old English loan-translation of commiserari was efensargian.
"sympathetic suffering of grief or sorrow for the afflictions or distress of another," 1580s, from French commisération, from Latin commiserationem (nominative commiseratio) "part of an oration intended to excite compassion," noun of action from past-participle stem of commiserari "to pity," from com-, here perhaps an intensive prefix (see com-) + miserari "bewail, lament," from miser "wretched" (see miser).
early 15c., "full of misery, causing wretchedness" (of conditions), from Old French miserable (14c.) and directly from Latin miserabilis "pitiable, miserable, deplorable, lamentable," from miserari "to pity, lament, deplore," from miser "wretched" (see miser). Of persons, "existing in a state of want, suffering, wretchedness, etc.," it is attested from 1520s. Meaning "mentally full of misery, wretched in feeling unhappy," by 1590s. Related: Miserableness.
The sense associated with miser, "covetous, miserly," is attested from late 15c., but by 1895 (Century Dictionary) was "obsolete or Scotch." As a noun, "an unfortunate, an unhappy creature," 1530s (reinforced later by the French cognate, as in Hugo's "Les Misérables").
c. 1200, "recitation of the 51st Psalm" (in Vulgate, the 50th), one of the "Penitential Psalms," so called from the phrase Miserere mei Deus "Have mercy upon me, O God," the opening line of it in the Vulgate, from Latin miserere "feel pity, have compassion, commiserate," second person singular imperative of misereri "to have mercy," from miser "wretched, pitiable" (see miser).
From 15c.-17c. it was used as an informal measure of time, "the time it takes to recite the Miserere." The musical settings of the psalm are noted for their striking effectiveness. The Latin verb also is in miserere mei "kind of severe colic ('iliac passion') accompanied by excruciating cramps and vomiting of excrement" (1610s); literally "have mercy on me."
"leprous" (adj.); "a leper" (n.); both c. 1300, from Old French mesel "wretched, leprous; a wretch," from Latin misellus "wretched, unfortunate," as a noun, "a wretch," in Medieval Latin, "a leper," diminutive of miser "wretched, unfortunate, miserable" (see miser). A Latin diminutive form without diminutive force. Also from Latin misellus are Old Italian misello "sick, leprous," Catalan mesell "sick." The English word is archaic or obsolete since the 1500s, replaced by leper, leprous, but its lexical DNA survives, apparently, as a contamination of measles.