late 14c., "possible" (as opposed to actual), "capable of being or becoming," from Old French potenciel and directly from Medieval Latin potentialis "potential," from Latin potentia "power, might, force;" figuratively "political power, authority, influence," from potens "powerful," from potis "powerful, able, capable; possible;" of persons, "better, preferable; chief, principal; strongest, foremost," from PIE root *poti- "powerful; lord."
The noun, meaning "that which is possible, anything that may be" is attested by 1817 (Coleridge), from the adjective. Middle English had potencies (plural) "a caustic medicine" (early 15c.).
Proto-Indo-European root meaning "powerful; lord."
It forms all or part of: bashaw; compos mentis; despot; hospodar; host (n.1) "person who receives guests;" idempotent; impotent; omnipotent; pasha; plenipotentiary; posse; possess; possible; potence; potency; potent; potentate; potential; potentiate; potentiometer; power; totipotent.
It is the hypothetical source of/evidence for its existence is provided by: Sanskrit patih "master, husband;" Greek posis, Lithuanian patis "husband;" Latin potis "powerful, able, capable; possible."