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").
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 The oldest English sense now is obsolete; the main modern meaning of "money-hoarding person" ("one who in wealth conducts himself as one afflicted with poverty" - Century Dictionary) is recorded by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."