late 14c., designacioun, "notation, representation, action of pointing or marking out," from Old French designacion or directly from Latin designationem (nominative designatio) "a marking out, specification," noun of action from past participle stem of designare "mark out, devise, choose, designate, appoint," from de "out" (see de-) + signare "to mark," from signum "identifying mark, sign" (see sign (n.)).
Sense of "nomination, a selecting and appointing" is from c. 1600. Meaning "a descriptive name" which designates, originally especially an addition to a name of a title, profession, trade, or occupation, is from 1824.
1791, "appoint or select for a particular purpose," from designate (adj.) or else a back-formation from designation, or formed from Latin designatus. Meaning "to mark out or indicate" is from 1801; that of "distinguish from others by a name, give a name to" is by 1818. Related: Designated; designating.
1660s, "average, middling," from medium (n.). The Latin adjective was medius. Meaning "intermediate" is from 1796. As a designation of size or weight, by 1711. As a designation of cooked meat between well-done and rare, it is attested from 1931; earlier was medium-rare (1881).
native name for "Lapp," preferred by modern scholars, 1797, from the Lapp self-designation; it is of uncertain origin.