mid-14c. (c. 1200 as a surname), "intelligence; discretion, foresight; practical wisdom to see what is suitable or profitable;" also one of the four cardinal virtues, "wisdom to see what is virtuous;" from Old French prudence (13c.) and directly from Latin prudentia "a foreseeing, foresight, sagacity, practical judgment," contraction of providentia "foresight" (see providence, which is a doublet). The secondary sense of "knowledge, science" (late 14c.) is preserved in jurisprudence.
"confoundedly" 1833, later also as an adjective (1840), from past participle of blame (v.), as a "euphemistic evasion of the horrible word damn." [Bartlett, "Dictionary of Americanisms," 1848].
This adjective 'blamed' is the virtuous oath by which simple people, who are improving their habits, cure themselves of a stronger epithet. [Edward Everett Hale, "If, Yes, and Perhaps," 1868]
Compare also blamenation (1837) as an expletive. The imprecation blame me is attested from 1830.
c. 1200, "virtuous, pure from unlawful sexual intercourse" (as defined by the Church), from Old French chaste "morally pure" (12c.), from Latin castus "clean, pure, morally pure" (see caste).
Transferred sense of "sexually pure" is by 15c., perhaps by influence of chastity, though chaste as a noun meaning "virgin person" is recorded from early 14c. Of language, etc., "free from obscenity," 1620s. Of artistic or literary style, "severely simple, unadorned," 1753. Related: Chastely.
1828, "out of the ordinary course, forming an exception, unusual," from exception + -al (1). Related: Exceptionally. Exceptionalism "fact or quality of being exceptional" in some way, usually implying superiority to the unexceptional, is attested from 1864; the phrase American exceptionalism is attested by 1929, originally among communists, in reference to the argument about whether the United States is in some sense not subject to the historical rules of Marxism; it has been used in other ways since, often implying (and implicitly criticizing) a belief that the U.S. is somehow uniquely virtuous. Other noun forms include exceptionalness (1868), exceptionality (1851).
1560s, "government by those who are the best citizens," from French aristocracie (Modern French aristocratie), from Late Latin aristocratia, from Greek aristokratia "government or rule of the best; an aristocracy," from aristos "best of its kind, noblest, bravest, most virtuous" (see aristo-) + abstract noun from kratos "rule, power" (see -cracy).
In early use contrasted with monarchy; after the French and American revolutions, with democracy. Meaning "rule by a privileged class, oligarchy, government by those distinguished by rank and wealth" (best-born or best-favored by fortune) is from 1570s and became paramount 17c. Hence, the meaning "patrician order, the class of hereditary nobles" (1610s) and, generally, "persons notably superior in any way, taken collectively" (1650s).
1704, "woman who affects or upholds modesty in conduct and thought in a degree considered rigid and excessive," from French prude "excessively prim or demure woman," first recorded in Molière.
Perhaps it is a false back-formation or an ellipsis of preudefemme "a discreet, modest woman," from Old French prodefame "noblewoman, gentlewoman; wife, consort," the fem. equivalent of prudhomme "a brave man" (see proud (adj.)). Or perhaps the French noun is from the French adjective prude "prudish," from Old French prude, prode, preude, which however is attested only in a laudatory sense, "good, virtuous, modest," a feminine form of the adjective preux. Also occasionally as an adjective in English 18c.; the application of the noun to a man was still considered rare at the end of 19c.
c. 1200, prēven, pruven, proven "to try by experience or by a test or standard; evaluate; demonstrate in practice," from Old French prover, pruver "show; convince; put to the test" (11c., Modern French prouver), from Latin probare "to make good; esteem, represent as good; make credible, show, demonstrate; test, inspect; judge by trial" (source also of Spanish probar, Italian probare, and English probe), from probus "worthy, good, upright, virtuous."
This is from PIE *pro-bhwo- "being in front," from *pro-, extended form of root *per- (1) "forward," hence "in front of," + root *bhu- "to be," source also of Latin fui "I have been," futurus "about to be;" Old English beon "to be;" see be.
From early 13c. as "render certain, put out of doubt," also "establish the validity or authenticity of a will, etc." By c. 1300 as "test and find worthy, virtuous, false, etc.," also "find out, discover, ascertain; prove by argument." By mid-14c. as "check the accuracy of." The meaning "be found to be (a hero, coward, etc.) by experience or trial" is by late 14c.
The word had many more senses and broader application in Middle English than Modern English: "to experience; to strive, endeavor; act, accomplish; thrive, succeed." Also in Middle English in a now-obsolete sense of "approve, sanction, praise" (c. 1300; compare approve). Related: Proved; proven; proving. Proving ground "place used for firing cannons for making ballistics tests and testing powder" is by 1837.
late 14c., moralite, "moral qualities, virtuous conduct or thought," from Old French moralite (Modern French moralité) "moral (of a story); moral instruction; morals, moral character" (13c.) and directly from Late Latin moralitatem (nominative moralitas) "manner, character," from Latin moralis "of manners or morals; moral" (see moral (adj.)). Meaning "doctrine or system of ethical duties" is from mid-15c. Meaning "goodness, characteristic of being moral, virtuousness" is attested from 1590s.
Where there is no free agency, there can be no morality. Where there is no temptation, there can be little claim to virtue. Where the routine is rigorously proscribed by law, the law, and not the man, must have the credit of the conduct. [William H. Prescott, "History of the Conquest of Peru," 1847]