From late 14c. as "act or process of explaining or interpreting; an explanation; construction placed upon an action." Meaning "dramatic or musical representation" is from 1880.
Sense of "characterized by a high degree of intellect" is from 1819. Meaning "appealing to or engaging the mental powers" is from 1834. Intellectual property "products of the intellect" is attested from 1845. Adjective formations in the sense "of or pertaining to the intellect" included intellective (early 15c.), intellectile (1670s).
"perceive or recognize the difference or distinction between (two or more things);" also "distinguish (an object) with the eyes, see distinctly, behold;" also "perceive rationally, understand;" late 14c., from Old French discerner (13c.) "distinguish (between), separate" (by sifting), and directly from Latin discernere "to separate, set apart, divide, distribute; distinguish, perceive," from dis- "off, away" (see dis-) + cernere "distinguish, separate, sift" (from PIE root *krei- "to sieve," thus "discriminate, distinguish"). Related: Discerned; discerning.
late 14c., "to arrange the words of (a translation) in their natural order," hence "to interpret, explain, understand the meaning of," from Late Latin construere "to relate grammatically," in classical Latin "to build up, pile together," from assimilated form of com "with, together" (see con-) + struere "to pile up" (from PIE root *stere- "to spread").
mid-15c., "fortified place, stronghold," from Old French fort "fort, fortress; strong man," noun use of adjective meaning "strong, stout, sturdy; hard, severe, difficult; hard to understand; dreadful, terrible; fortified" (10c.), from Latin fortis "strong, mighty; firm, steadfast; brave, spirited," from Old Latin forctus, which is of unknown etymology. Possibly from PIE root *bhergh- (2) "high, elevated," with derivatives referring to hills and hill-forts, or possibly from *dher- "to hold firmly, support." Figurative use of hold the fort attested from 1590s.
The one employment from which Americans turn their faces in righteous horror is that of the barmaid. They consider it a degrading position, and can not understand how English people reconcile with their professions of Christianity the barbarous practice of exposing women to the atmosphere of a liquor bar at a railway station, where they must often run the gauntlet of the insolent attentions of the "half-intoxicated masher," endure vulgar familiarity, and overhear low conversation. [Emily Faithfull, "Three Visits to America," 1884]
by 1882, from hemorrhage (n.). Related: Hemorrhaged; hemorrhaging.
Slang in Reports: B.I.D. for "Brought in Dead" and "Dotty" are, [Mr. Sidney Holland of London Hospital] considers, permissible expressions, but he draws the line at "fitting" and "hæmorrhaging." Only such terms, he says, should be used as outside doctors will understand. We would say that on a point of such odiously bad taste he might have been much more severe. [Lavinia L. Dock, "The American Journal of Nursing," May 1906]
also double-entendre, "word or phrase with two meanings or admitting of two interpretations," usually one of them obscure or indecent, 1670s, from French (where it was rare and is now obsolete), literally "a twofold meaning," from entendre (now entente) "to hear, to understand, to mean," from Latin intendere "turn one's attention" (see intend).
The proper Modern French phrase would be double entente, but the phrase has become established in English in its old form. Native phrase double meaning in the same sense is recorded from 1550s.