Sense of "facial characteristic" is mid-14c.; that of "any distinctive part" first recorded 1690s. Entertainment sense is from 1801; in journalism by 1855. Meaning "a feature film" is from 1913. Latin factura also is the source of Spanish hechura, Portuguese feitura, Italian fattura.
*dhē-, Proto-Indo-European root meaning "to set, put."
It forms all or part of: abdomen; abscond; affair; affect (v.1) "make a mental impression on;" affect (v.2) "make a pretense of;" affection; amplify; anathema; antithesis; apothecary; artifact; artifice; beatific; benefice; beneficence; beneficial; benefit; bibliothec; bodega; boutique; certify; chafe; chauffeur; comfit; condiment; confection; confetti; counterfeit; deed; deem; deface; defeasance; defeat; defect; deficient; difficulty; dignify; discomfit; do (v.); doom; -dom; duma; edifice; edify; efface; effect; efficacious; efficient; epithet; facade; face; facet; facial; -facient; facile; facilitate; facsimile; fact; faction (n.1) "political party;" -faction; factitious; factitive; factor; factory; factotum; faculty; fashion; feasible; feat; feature; feckless; fetish; -fic; fordo; forfeit; -fy; gratify; hacienda; hypothecate; hypothesis; incondite; indeed; infect; justify; malefactor; malfeasance; manufacture; metathesis; misfeasance; modify; mollify; multifarious; notify; nullify; office; officinal; omnifarious; orifice; parenthesis; perfect; petrify; pluperfect; pontifex; prefect; prima facie; proficient; profit; prosthesis; prothesis; purdah; putrefy; qualify; rarefy; recondite; rectify; refectory; sacrifice; salmagundi; samadhi; satisfy; sconce; suffice; sufficient; surface; surfeit; synthesis; tay; ticking (n.); theco-; thematic; theme; thesis; verify.
It is the hypothetical source of/evidence for its existence is provided by: Sanskrit dadhati "puts, places;" Avestan dadaiti "he puts;" Old Persian ada "he made;" Hittite dai- "to place;" Greek tithenai "to put, set, place;" Latin facere "to make, do; perform; bring about;" Lithuanian dėti "to put;" Polish dziać się "to be happening;" Russian delat' "to do;" Old High German tuon, German tun, Old English don "to do."
late 15c., "shot, missiles;" later "a stroke in drawing, a short line" (1580s), from French trait "line, stroke, feature, tract," from Latin tractus "drawing, drawing out, dragging, pulling," later "line drawn, feature," from past participle stem of trahere "to pull, draw" (see tract (n.1)). Sense of "particular feature, distinguishing quality" in English is first recorded 1752.
1827 as "an adherent of romantic virtues in literature," from romantic (adj.). Earlier "a feature suggestive of romance" (1670s).
early 15c., liniament, "distinctive feature of the body, outline," from Latin lineamentum "contour, outline; a feature," literally "a line, stroke, mark," from lineare "to reduce to a straight line" (here apparently in an unrecorded sense "trace lines"), from linea "string, thread, line" (see line (n.)). Figurative sense of "a characteristic" is attested from 1630s.