c. 1500, variant of the masc. proper name Jack, the by-form of John. In Scotland and northern England it is the usual form. Since 1520s, like Jack, it has been used generically, as a common appellative of lads and servants, as the name of a typical man of the common folk, of a Scottish or North Country seaman, etc.
late 14c., "a number of people associated together by the fact of residence in the same locality," also "the common people" (not the rulers or the clergy), from Old French comunité "community, commonness, everybody" (Modern French communauté), from Latin communitatem (nominative communitas) "community, society, fellowship, friendly intercourse; courtesy, condescension, affability," from communis "common, public, general, shared by all or many" (see common (adj.)).
Latin communitatem "was merely a noun of quality ... meaning 'fellowship, community of relations or feelings' " [OED], but in Medieval Latin it came to be used concretely to mean "a society, a division of people." In English, the meaning "common possession or enjoyment" is from c. 1400. Sense of "a society or association of persons having common interests or occupations" also is from c. 1400.
An Old English word for "community" was gemænscipe "community, fellowship, union, common ownership," from mæne "common, public, general," and thus probably composed from the same PIE roots as communis. Middle English also had commonty (late 14c.) "the common people; a community," also later meaning "land held in common" (c. 1600).
Community service as a criminal sentence is recorded from 1972, American English. Community college, one offering post-secondary instruction geared to local needs and interests, is recorded from 1947, American English. Community chest "fund made up of individual donations to meet the needs of charity and social welfare in a community" is from 1919, American English.
The Community Chest is a device to consolidate all these separate [charitable] appeals, and go before the people once a year with a budget which appropriates to each organization the amount which it needs to make up the difference between its income from other sources, and its necessary expenses. By this means not only are the charities relieved of financial worry and adequately supported, but the public is spared the irritation of constant solicitation, which is all the more unbusinesslike because it is decentralized and not subject to outside disinterested scrutiny. ["New Jersey Municipalities," December 1919]
"of or characteristic of the lower class or the common people," 1560s in a Roman historical sense, from Latin plebeius "belonging to the plebs," earlier plebes, "the populace, the common people" (as opposed to patricians, etc.), also "commonality; the mass, the multitude; the lower class" (from PIE *ple-, from root *pele- (1) "to fill"). In general (non-historical) use from 1580s.
as a termination in certain people names (Iraqi, Israeli), it represents the common Semitic national designation suffix -i.
type of sea-turtle, by 1942, from a common name of the animals in the Florida Keys, but the word is of unknown origin.
type of lizard common in North Africa and Arabia, 1580s, from French scinc (Modern French scinque), from Latin scincus, from Greek skinkos, a name given to some kind of lizard common in Asia and North Africa, of unknown origin. Formerly thought to have medicinal qualities. The by-forms (scincoid, etc.) have the Latin spelling, from Modern Latin scincoides.
also P.O.W., initialism (acronym) for prisoner of war, coined 1919 but not common until World War II.