late 14c., "unconditionally, completely," from absolute (adj.) + -ly (2). From mid-15c. as "without reference to anything else, not relatively;" meaning "to the utmost degree" emerged by mid-16c. As a colloquial emphatic, by 1867, American English.
"Cannot something be done in the matter?" I inquired.
"Nothing sir! nothing, absolutely," he said (his family and personal pride evidently rising as he spoke); .... [D.E. Smith, "Leaves from a Physician's Journal," New York: 1867]
1551, from Modern Latin Utopia, literally "nowhere," coined by Thomas More (and used as title of his book, 1516, about an imaginary island enjoying the utmost perfection in legal, social, and political systems), from Greek ou "not" + topos "place" (see topos). The current (since c. 1960) explanation of Greek ou "not" is an odd one, as it derives the word from the PIE root *aiw- "vital force, life; long life, eternity." Linguists presume a pre-Greek phrase *(ne) hoiu (kwid) "(not on your) life," with ne "not" + *kwid, an "emphasizing particle" [Watkins]. The same pattern is found elsewhere.
Extended to any perfect place by 1610s. Commonly, but incorrectly, taken as from Greek eu- "good" (see eu-) an error reinforced by the introduction of dystopia (by 1844). On the same model, Bentham had cacotopia (1818).
"attack with good-humored jokes and jests," 1670s, origin uncertain; said by Swift to be a word from London street slang. Related: Bantered; bantering. The noun, "good-humored ridicule," is from 1680s.
The third refinement observable in the letter I send you, consists in the choice of certain words invented by some pretty fellows; such as banter, bamboozle, country put, and kidney, as it is there applied; some of which are now struggling for the vogue, and others are in possession of it. I have done my utmost for some years past to stop the progress of mobb and banter, but have been plainly borne down by numbers, and betrayed by those who promised to assist me. [Swift, "The Tatler," No. 230, 1710]
a negative present participle used as a quasi-preposition, originally and properly two words, late 14c., notwiþstondynge "in spite of, despite," from not + present participle of the verb withstand. It has the old "against" sense of with. A loan-translation of Medieval Latin non obstante "being no hindrance," literally "not standing in the way," from ablative of obstans, present participle of obstare "stand opposite to" (see obstacle). As an adverb, "nevertheless, however," and as a conjunction, "in spite of the fact that," from early 15c.
Notwithstanding ... calls attention with some emphasis to an obstacle: as, notwithstanding his youth, he made great progress. In spite of and despite, by the strength of the word spite, point primarily to active opposition: as, in spite of his utmost efforts, he was defeated; and, figuratively, to great obstacles of any kind: as, despite all hindrances, he arrived at the time appointed. [Century Dictionary]
early 15c., "book-learning," from Latin literatura/litteratura "learning, a writing, grammar," originally "writing formed with letters," from litera/littera "alphabetic letter" also "an epistle, writing, document; literature, great books; science, learning" (see letter (n.1)). In English originally "book learning" (in which sense it replaced Old English boccræft); the meaning "activity of a writer, the profession of a literary writer" is first attested 1779 in Johnson's "Lives of the English Poets;" that of "literary productions as a whole, body of writings from a period or people" is first recorded 1812.
Great literature is simply language charged with meaning to the utmost possible degree. [Ezra Pound, "ABC of Reading"]
Meaning "the whole of the writing on a particular subject" is by 1860; sense of "printed matter generally" is from 1895. The Latin word also is the source of Spanish literatura, Italian letteratura, German Literatur.