mid-14c., constitucioun, "law, regulation, edict; body of rules, customs, or laws," from Old French constitucion (12c.) "constitution, establishment," and directly from Latin constitutionem (nominative constitutio) "act of settling, settled condition, anything arranged or settled upon, regulation, order, ordinance," noun of state from past-participle stem of constituere "to cause to stand, set up, fix, place, establish, set in order; form something new; resolve" (see constitute).
Meaning "action of establishing, creation" is from c. 1400; that of "way in which a thing is constituted" is from c. 1600; that of "physical health, strength and vigor of the body" is from 1550s; of the mind, "temperament, character" from 1580s.
Sense of "mode of organization of a state" is from c. 1600; that of "system of fundamental principles by which a community is governed" dates from 1730s; since the 1780s especially of the fundamental principles and rules of a government as embodied in a written document (as in the U.S. and France). In reference to Britain, the word was a collective name for the fundamental principles established by the political development of the English people embodied in long-accepted precedents.
1680s, "pertaining to a person's (physical or mental) constitution," from constitution + -al (1). Meaning "beneficial to bodily constitution" is from 1750. Meaning "authorized or allowed by the political constitution" is from 1765. Constitutional monarchy is recorded from 1801, from French. Related: Constitutionally.
Latinized form of Greek Lykourgos, name of the traditional law-giver of Sparta and author of its extraordinary constitution.
1787, "quality of being in accord with a constitution," from constitutional (adj.) + -ity.
"one who construes or interprets" (a document, in a specified way), 1830, in reference to the U.S. Constitution, from construction in the "explanation of the words of a legal document" sense + -ist. Usually with strict or loose; the former prefers exact and strict interpretation of the provisions of the Constitution.
in U.S. history, a reference to the town in Kansas Territory where a constitution for statehood was drawn up in 1857 by pro-slavery men.
in reference to the pre-1933 democratic government of Germany, 1932, from name of city in Thuringia where German constitution was drawn up in 1919. The place name is a compound of Old High German wih "holy" + mari "lake" (see mere (n.1)).