1560s, "of or pertaining to the French middle class," from French bourgeois, from Old French burgeis, borjois "town dweller" (as distinct from "peasant"), from borc "town, village," from Frankish *burg "city" (from PIE root *bhergh- (2) "high," with derivatives referring to hills and hill-forts).
Later extended to tradespeople or citizens of middle rank in other nations. Sense of "socially or aesthetically conventional; middle-class in manners or taste" is from 1764. Also (from the position of the upper class) "wanting in dignity or refinement, common, not aristocratic." As a noun, "citizen or freeman of a city," 1670s. In communist and socialist writing, "a capitalist, anyone deemed an exploiter of the proletariat" (1883).
"Bourgeois," I observed, "is an epithet which the riff-raff apply to what is respectable, and the aristocracy to what is decent." [Anthony Hope, "The Dolly Dialogues," 1907]
"But after all," Fanning was saying, "it's better to be a good ordinary bourgeois than a bad ordinary bohemian, or a sham aristocrat, or a secondrate intellectual ...." [Aldous Huxley, "After the Fireworks," 1930]
"policy of adopting actions to circumstances while holding goals unchanged," 1870, originally a word in continental politics; see opportune + -ism. Compare opportunist. Later, in the jargon of socialism and communism, "policy of concession to bourgeois society in the course of developing socialism."
1707, "body of freemen in a French town," hence, "the French middle class," also extended to that of other countries, from French bourgeois, from Old French burgeis, borjois (12c.) "town dweller" (as distinct from "peasant"), from borc "town, village," from Frankish *burg "city" (from PIE root *bhergh- (2) "high," with derivatives referring to hills and hill-forts). Communist use for "the capitalist class generally" attested from 1886.
late 14c., "small, little; minor, trifling, insignificant," from Old French petit "small, little, young, few in numbers" (11c.), which is probably from the stem of Late Latin pitinnus "small," a word of uncertain origin; it corresponds to no known Latin form and perhaps is from a Celtic root pett- "part, piece, bit" also found in Italian pezza, English piece.
Attested as a surname from 1086. Replaced by petty in most usages, except in established forms such as petit bourgeois "conventional middle-class" (1832; used in English by Charlotte Brontë earlier than by Marx or Engels); petit mal ("mild form of epilepsy," 1842, literally "little evil"); petit-maître ("a fop, a dandy," 1711, literally "little master"); and petit four "small, fancy dessert cake" (1884), which in French means "little oven," from Old French four "oven," from Latin furnus. In Middle English a petiteskole (mid-15c.) was a school for young children.