1560s, "debate, discussion" (on the notion of "a mental tossing to and fro"), from French agitation, from Latin agitationem (nominative agitatio) "motion, agitation," noun of action from past-participle stem of agitare "move to and fro," frequentative of agere "to set in motion, drive forward; keep in movement" (from PIE root *ag- "to drive, draw out or forth, move").
The physical sense of "state of being shaken or moving violently" is from 1580s; the meaning "state of being mentally agitated" is from 1722; that of "arousing and sustaining public attention" to some political or social cause is from 1828. Old English glossed Latin agitatio with unstilnis.
coined 1958 by British sociologist Michael Young (1915-2002) and used in title of his book, "The Rise of the Meritocracy"; from merit (n.) + -cracy. Related: Meritocratic.
[Young's book] imagined an elite that got its position not from ancestry, but from test scores and effort. For him, meritocracy was a negative term; his spoof was a warning about the negative consequences of assigning social status based on formal educational qualifications, and showed how excluding from leadership anyone who couldn't jump through the educational hoops would create a new form of discrimination. And that's exactly what has happened. [Lani Guinier, interview, New York Times, Feb. 7, 2015]
c. 1610, "action of rising, upward movement," from ascend on model of descend/descent. The meaning "act of climbing" is from 1753.
social networking Web site, founded in late 2003 and dominant from 2005 to 2009.
"a gliding or sliding movement," 1861, from slither (v.).