"flourishing or thriving condition, good fortune, wealth, success in anything good or desirable," c. 1200, prosperite, from Old French prosprete (12c., Modern French prospérité) and directly from Latin prosperitatem (nominative prosperitas) "good fortune," from prosperus (see prosper).
early 13c., chatel "property, goods," from Old French chatel "chattels, goods, wealth, possessions, property; profit; cattle," from Late Latin capitale "property" (see cattle, which is the Old North French form of the same word). Application to slaves is from 1640s and later became a rhetorical figure in the writings of abolitionists.
mid-13c., "box or chest used for keeping valuables," from Old French cofre "a chest" (12c., Modern French coffre), from Latin cophinus "basket" (see coffin). Hence coffers, in a figurative sense, "a treasury; the wealth and pecuniary resources of a person, institution, etc.," late 14c.
"course of action," late 14c., from mean (n.); sense of "wealth, resources at one's disposal for accomplishing some object" is recorded by c. 1600. Compare French moyens, German Mittel. Phrase by no means is attested from late 15c. Man of means is from 1620s. Means-test "official inquiry into the private resources of an applicant for public funds" is from 1930.
mid-15c., "high official, great man, noble, man of wealth," from Late Latin magnates, plural of magnas "great person, nobleman," from Latin magnus "great, large, big" (of size), "abundant" (of quantity), "great, considerable" (of value), "strong, powerful" (of force); of persons, "elder, aged," also, figuratively, "great, mighty, grand, important," from suffixed form of PIE root *meg- "great."
"abundant, plentiful," mid-14c., from Latin copiosus "plentiful," from copia "an abundance, ample supply, profusion, plenty; riches, prosperity; ability, power, might," also the name of the Roman goddess of abundance," from assimilated form of com "with, together" (see com-) + ops (genitive opis) "power, wealth, resources," from PIE root *op- "to work, produce in abundance." Related: Copiously; copiousness.
1854, "condition of having capital;" from capital (n.1) + -ism. Meaning "political/economic system which encourages capitalists" is recorded from 1872, originally used disparagingly by socialists. Meaning "concentration of capital in the hands of a few; the power or influence of large capital" is from 1877.
"Capital" may be most briefly described as wealth producing more wealth; and "capitalism" as the system directing that process. This latter term came into general use during the second half of the 19th century as a word chiefly signifying the world-wide modern system of organizing production and trade by private enterprise free to seek profit and fortune by employing for wages the mass of human labour. There is no satisfactory definition of the term, though nothing is more evident than the thing. [J.L. Garvin, "Capitalism" in Encyclopaedia Britannica, 1929]