late 14c., attencioun, "a giving heed, active direction of the mind upon some object or topic," from Old French attencion and directly from Latin attentionem (nominative attentio) "attention, attentiveness," noun of action from past-participle stem of attendere "give heed to," literally "to stretch toward," from ad "to, toward" (see ad-) + tendere "stretch" (from PIE root *ten- "to stretch").
Rare in English before 17c. The meaning "consideration, observant care" is from 1741; that of "civility, courtesy" is from 1752. The meaning "power of mental concentration" is from 1871. It is used with a remarkable diversity of verbs (pay, gather, attract, draw, call, etc.). As a military cautionary word before giving a command, it is attested from 1792. Attention span is from 1903 (earlier span of attention, 1892). Related: Attentions.
(abbreviated ADD), introduced as a diagnosis in the third edition of the "Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders" (1980), from attention in the "power of mental concentration" sense. Expanded to attention deficit hyperactivity disorder ("the co-existence of attentional problems and hyperactivity, with each behavior occurring infrequently alone;" ADHD) in DSM-III (1987).
late 14c., "attention, heed, act of calling attention to," from Old French avertence, avertance, from Late Latin advertentia "attention, notice," abstract noun from past participle stem of advertere "direct one's attention to; give heed," literally "to turn toward" (see advertise).
in English writing, a characteristic German word used to command attention, from German achtung, from acht (n.) "attention, care, heed, consideration," achten (v.) "pay attention to, regard, esteem, respect," from Old High German ahton "pay attention to," a general Germanic word akin to Old English eahtian "to estimate, esteem, consider, praise," but with no living native descendants in English.
c. 1300, entenden, "direct one's attention to, pay attention, give heed," from Old French entendre, intendre "to direct one's attention" (in Modern French principally "to hear"), from Latin intendere "turn one's attention, strain (in quest of something), be zealous," literally "stretch out, extend," from in- "toward" (from PIE root *en "in") + tendere "to stretch," from PIE root *ten- "to stretch."
Sense of "have as a plan, have in mind or purpose" (late 14c.) was present in Latin. A Germanic word for this was ettle, from Old Norse ætla "to think, conjecture, propose," from Proto-Germanic *ahta "consideration, attention" (source also of Old English eaht, German acht). Related: Intended; intending.
1580s, "act of treating with slight attention;" 1590s, "omission, oversight, want of attention to what ought to be done;" from neglect (v.) or from Latin neglectus "a neglecting," noun use of past participle of neglegere.