mid-15c., peplen, "to provide (a land) with inhabitants" (transitive), also "inhabit, populate, fill or occupy as inhabitants" (intransitive, implied in peopled), from people (n.), or else from Old French popler, peupler, from Old French peuple. Related: Peopling.
c. 1300, peple, "humans, persons in general, men and women," from Anglo-French peple, people, Old French pople, peupel "people, population, crowd; mankind, humanity," from Latin populus "a people, nation; body of citizens; a multitude, crowd, throng," a word of unknown origin. Based on Italic cognates and derivatives such as populari "to lay waste, ravage, plunder, pillage," Populonia, a surname of Juno, literally "she who protects against devastation," the Proto-Italic root is said to mean "army" [de Vaan]. An Etruscan origin also has been proposed. The Latin word also is the source of Spanish pueblo, Italian popolo. In English, it displaced native folk.
Sense of "Some unspecified persons" is from c. 1300. Meaning "body of persons comprising a community" is by mid-14c. (late 13c. in Anglo-French); the meaning "common people, masses" (as distinguished from the nobility) is from late 13c. The meaning "members of one's family, tribe, or clan" is from late 14c.
The word was adopted after c. 1920 by Communist totalitarian states, according to their opponents to give a spurious sense of populism to their governments. It is based on the political sense of the word, "the whole body of enfranchised citizens (considered as the sovereign source of government power," attested from 1640s. This also is the sense in the legal phrase The People vs., in U.S. cases of prosecution under certain laws (1801).
The people are the only censors of their governors: and even their errors will tend to keep these to the true principles of their institution. To punish these errors too severely would be to suppress the only safeguard of the public liberty. The way to prevent these irregular interpositions of the people is to give them full information of their affairs thro’ the channel of the public papers, and to contrive that those papers should penetrate the whole mass of the people. [Jefferson to Edward Carrington, Jan. 16, 1787]
People of the Book "those whose religion entails adherence to a book of divine revelation" (1834) translates Arabic Ahl al-Kitab.
c. 1200, frensh, frenche, "pertaining to France or the French," from Old English frencisc "French," originally "of the Franks," from franca, the people name (see Frank). A similar contraction of -ish is in Dutch, Scotch, Welsh, suggesting the habit applies to the names of only the intimate neighbors.
In some provincial forms of English it could mean simply "foreign." Used in many combination-words, often dealing with food or sex: French dressing (by 1860); French toast (1630s); French letter "condom" (c. 1856, perhaps on resemblance of sheepskin and parchment), french (v.) "perform oral sex on," and French kiss (1923) all probably stem from the Anglo-Saxon equation of Gallic culture and sexual sophistication, a sense first recorded 1749 in the phrase French novel. (In late 19c.-early 20c., a French kiss was a kiss on each cheek.) French-Canadian is from 1774; French doors is by 1847. To take French leave, "depart without telling the host," is 1771, from a social custom then prevalent. However, this is said to be called in France filer à l'anglaise, literally "to take English leave."
1903, American English, earlier French fried potatoes (by 1856); see French (adj.) + fry (v.). Literally "potatoes fried in the French style." The name is from the method of making them by immersion in fat, which was then considered a peculiarity of French cooking.
There are 2 ways of frying known to cooks as (1) wet frying, sometimes called French frying or frying in a kettle of hot fat; and (2) dry frying or cooking in a frying pan. The best results are undoubtedly obtained by the first method, although it is little used in this country. ["The Household Cook Book," Chicago, 1902]
French frieds (1944) never caught on. Simple short form fries attested by 1973. In the Upper Midwest of the U.S., sometimes called, with greater accuracy, American fries (1950), and briefly during a period of mutual ill feeling, an attempt was made at freedom fries (2003; compare liberty-cabbage for sauerkraut during World War I). Related: French-fry.
the form of Old French written in England from the Norman Conquest (1066) through the Middle Ages; the administrative and legal language of England 12c.-17c.; the name is attested from 1887 and was popularized, if not coined, by Skeat.
And Frenssh she spak ful faire and fetisly,
After the scole of Stratford-atte-Bowe,
For Frenssh of Parys was to hir unknowe.
native American people of the Great Plains or their (Algonquian) language, 1778, from French Canadian, from Dakota Sahi'yena, a diminutive of Sahi'ya, a Dakotan name for the Cree people.