late 15c., "laborious attempt, strenuous exertion," from French effort, from Old French esforz "force, impetuosity, strength, power," verbal noun from esforcier "force out, exert oneself," from Vulgar Latin *exfortiare "to show strength" (source of Italian sforza), from Latin ex "out" (see ex-) + Latin fortis "strong" (see fort).
Effort is only effort when it begins to hurt. [José Ortega y Gasset, writing of Goethe in Partisan Review, vol. xvi, part ii, 1949]
Related: Efforts "voluntary exertion," also "result of exertion."
1747, originally a day of military exercise and review (see field (v.)); figurative sense "any day of unusual bustle, exertion, or display" [Century Dictionary] is from 1827.
1540s, "action of acquiring by effort, act of reaching by exertion," from French atteignement, from attaindre "to come up to, reach, attain, endeavor, strive" (see attain). The sense of "that which is attained, personal accomplishment" dates from 1670s.