c. 1300, "go astray;" mid-14c., "come to harm; come to naught, perish;" of persons, "to die," of objects, "to be lost or destroyed," from mis- (1) "wrongly" + caryen "to carry" (see carry (v.)). Meaning "deliver an unviable fetus" is recorded from 1520s (compare abortion); that of "fail to reach the intended result, come to naught" (of plans or designs) is from c. 1600. Related: Miscarried; miscarrying.
a 16c. Latinizing revision of the spelling of Middle English fecond, fecound (early 15c.), from Old French fecond, fecont "fruitful" and directly from Latin fecundus "fruitful, fertile, productive; rich, abundant," from *fe-kwondo-, suffixed form (adjectival) of PIE root *dhe(i)- "to suck, suckle," with derivatives meaning also "produce, yield."
Also from the same Latin root come felare "to suck;" femina "woman" (literally "she who suckles"); felix "happy, auspicious, fruitful;" fetus "offspring, pregnancy;" fenum "hay" (probably literally "produce"); and probably filia/filius "daughter/son," assimilated from *felios, originally "a suckling."
1670s of plants, "part of the ovary of flowering plants which bears the ovules," 1690s of mammals, "organ of attachment of a vertebrate embryo or fetus to the wall of the uterus or womb of the female," from Modern Latin placenta uterina "uterine cake" (so called 16c. by Italian anatomist Realdo Colombo), from Latin placenta "a cake, flat cake," from Greek plakoenta, accusative of plakoeis "flat," from plax "flat, flat land, surface, plate," from PIE root *plak- (1) "to be flat." So called from the shape.
early 14c., "close-fitting cap worn by women," from French cale "cap," back-formation from calotte, from Italian callotta, from Latin calautica "type of female headdress with pendent lappets," a foreign word of unknown origin.
The "cap" sense was the main one until 17c. Medical use, in reference to various membranes, dates to late 14c.; especially of the amnion enclosing the fetus before birth from 1540s. This, if a child was born draped in it, was supersititously supposed to betoken prosperity, give the gift of eloquence, and protect against drowning (18c. seamen paid dearly for one, and cauls were advertised for sale in British newspapers through World War I).
Intransitive sense "come into being" is from c. 1200; that of "beget or bear offspring" is from mid-13c. Of livestock, etc., "procure by the mating of parents and rear for use," mid-14c. Sense of "grow up, be reared" (in a clan, etc.) is late 14c.; meaning "form by education" is from mid-15c. Related: Bred; breeding.
It is an established fact, that under the fifth month no foetus can be born alive—from the fifth to the seventh it may come into the world alive, but cannot maintain existence. The French term these non viable. We may designate them non-rearable, or more properly immature—in distinction to those between the seventh and the ninth month, which may be reared, and are termed premature. [John Gordon Smith, M.D., "The Principles of Forensic Medicine," London, 1821]
1540s, "the expulsion of the fetus before it is viable," originally of deliberate as well as unintended miscarriages; from Latin abortionem (nominative abortio) "miscarriage; abortion, procuring of an untimely birth," noun of action from past-participle stem of aboriri "to miscarry, be aborted, fail, disappear, pass away," a compound word used in Latin for deaths, miscarriages, sunsets, etc., which according to OED is from ab, here as "amiss" (see ab-), + stem of oriri "appear, be born, arise" (see origin).
Meaning "product of an untimely birth" is from 1630s; earlier in this sense was abortive (early 14c.). Another earlier noun in English for "miscarriage" was abort (early 15c.). In the Middle English translation of Guy de Chauliac's "Grande Chirurgie" (early 15c.) Latin aborsum is used for "stillbirth, forced abortion." Abortment is attested from c. 1600; aborsement from 1530s, both archaic. Aborticide (1875) is illogical. Compare miscarriage.
In 19c. some effort was made to distinguish abortion "expulsion of the fetus between 6 weeks and 6 months" from miscarriage (the same within 6 weeks of conception) and premature labor (delivery after 6 months but before due time). The deliberate miscarriage was criminal abortion. This broke down late 19c. as abortion came to be used principally for intentional miscarriages, probably via phrases such as procure an abortion.
Criminal abortion is premeditated or intentional abortion procured, at any of pregnancy, by artificial means, and solely for the purpose of preventing the birth of a living child : feticide. At common law the criminality depended on the abortion being caused after quickening. [Century Dictionary, 1899]
Foeticide (n.) appears 1823 as a forensic medical term for deliberate premature fatal expulsion of the fetus; also compare prolicide. Another 19c. medical term for it was embryoctony, with second element from a Latinized form of Greek kteinein "to destroy." Abortion was a taboo word for much of early 20c., disguised in print as criminal operation (U.S.) or illegal operation (U.K.), and replaced by miscarriage in film versions of novels. Abortium "hospital specializing in abortions," is from 1934, in a Soviet Union context.
Elliptical sense of "fine kind of leather made from the skin of a calf" is from 1727 (short for calf-skin, 1580s). Extended by 1725 to the young of marine mammals, the adults of which are called bulls and cows. Used of icebergs that break off from glaciers from 1818 (perhaps from Scandinavian use in reference to a small islet lying near a large one). Finnish kalpe is from Germanic. Golden calf "idol" is from Exodus.
1570s, "to miscarry in giving birth," from Latin abortus, past participle of aboriri "to miscarry, be aborted, fail, disappear, pass away," a compound word used in Latin for deaths, miscarriages, sunsets, etc., which according to OED is from ab, here as "amiss" (see ab-), + stem of oriri "appear, be born, arise," from PIE *heri- "to rise" (see origin). [Watkins, contra de Vaan, etc., derives the second element from a suffixed form of PIE root *er- (1) "move, set in motion."]
The English word is attested from 1610s as "to deliberately terminate" anything (intransitive), but especially a pregnancy in a human or animal. Intransitive use in aeronautics and space-flight is by 1946. Transitive meaning "to cause (a woman) to miscarry" is recorded by 1916; with the fetus or pregnancy as the object of the action, by 1966. Related: Aborted; aborting. The Latin verb for "produce an abortion" was abigo, literally "to drive away."