late 13c., "foolish, ignorant, frivolous, senseless," from Old French nice (12c.) "careless, clumsy; weak; poor, needy; simple, stupid, silly, foolish," from Latin nescius "ignorant, unaware," literally "not-knowing," from ne- "not" (from PIE root *ne- "not") + stem of scire "to know" (see science). "The sense development has been extraordinary, even for an adj." [Weekley] — from "timid, faint-hearted" (pre-1300); to "fussy, fastidious" (late 14c.); to "dainty, delicate" (c. 1400); to "precise, careful" (1500s, preserved in such terms as a nice distinction and nice and early); to "agreeable, delightful" (1769); to "kind, thoughtful" (1830).
In many examples from the 16th and 17th centuries it is difficult to say in what particular sense the writer intended it to be taken. [OED]
By 1926, it was said to be "too great a favorite with the ladies, who have charmed out of it all its individuality and converted it into a mere diffuser of vague and mild agreeableness." [Fowler]
"I am sure," cried Catherine, "I did not mean to say anything wrong; but it is a nice book, and why should I not call it so?" "Very true," said Henry, "and this is a very nice day, and we are taking a very nice walk; and you are two very nice young ladies. Oh! It is a very nice word indeed! It does for everything." [Jane Austen, "Northanger Abbey," 1803]
Proto-Indo-European root meaning "to cut, split," extension of root *sek- "to cut."
It forms all or part of: abscissa; conscience; conscious; ecu; escudo; escutcheon; esquire; nescience; nescient; nice; omniscience; omniscient; plebiscite; prescience; prescient; rescind; rescission; science; scienter; scilicet; sciolist; scission; schism; schist; schizo-; schizophrenia; scudo; sheath; sheathe; sheave (n.) "grooved wheel to receive a cord, pulley;" shed (v.) "cast off;" shin (n.) "fore part of the lower leg;" shingle (n.1) "thin piece of wood;" shit (v.); shive; shiver (n.1) "small piece, splinter, fragment, chip;" shoddy; shyster; skene; ski; skive (v.1) "split or cut into strips, pare off, grind away;" squire.
It is the hypothetical source of/evidence for its existence is provided by: Sanskrit chindhi, chinatti "to break, split up;" Avestan a-sista- "unsplit, unharmed," Greek skhizein "to split, cleave, part, separate;" Latin scindere "to cut, rend, tear asunder, split;" Armenian c'tim "to tear, scratch;" Lithuanian skiesti "to separate, divide;" Old Church Slavonic cediti "to strain;" Old English scitan, Old Norse skita "to defecate;" Old English sceað, Old High German sceida "sheath;" Old Irish sceid "to vomit, spit;" Welsh chwydu "to break open."
1580s, "natural science, the science of the principles operative in organic nature," from physic in sense of "natural science." Also see -ics. Based on Latin physica (neuter plural), from Greek ta physika, literally "the natural things," title of Aristotle's treatise on nature. The current restricted sense of "science treating of properties of matter and energy" is from 1715.
Before the rise of modern science, physics was usually defined as the science of that which is movable, or the science of natural bodies. It was commonly made to include all natural science. At present, vital phenomena are not considered objects of physics, which is divided into general and applied physics. [Century Dictionary, 1895]
"The term 'Civics,' however unfamiliar the word, could be wisely applied with a broader significance than that attached to 'Political Science,' as including not only the science of government, but political economy, and that part of social science which is related to government and citizenship." [E.E. White, quoted in The School Journal, July 25, 1885]