late 14c., "act of governing or ruling;" 1550s, "system by which a thing is governed" (especially a state), from Old French governement "control, direction, administration" (Modern French gouvernement), from governer "to steer, be at the helm of; govern, rule, command, direct," from Latin gubernare "to direct, rule, guide, govern," originally "to steer, to pilot"(see govern). Meaning "governing power" in a given place is from 1702. Compare governance.
c. 1300, "man consecrated to service in the Christian Church, an ecclesiastic;" also "an agent acting for a superior, one who acts upon the authority of another," from Old French menistre "servant, valet, member of a household staff, administrator, musician, minstrel" (12c.) and directly from Latin minister (genitive ministri) "inferior, servant, priest's assistant" (in Medieval Latin, "priest"), from minus, minor "less," hence "subordinate" (from PIE root *mei- (2) "small") + comparative suffix *-teros. Formed on the model of magister (see master (n.)).
Minister views a man as serving a church; pastor views him as caring for a church as a shepherd cares for sheep; clergyman views him as belonging to a certain class; divine is properly one learned in theology, a theologian; parson, formerly a respectful designation, is now little better than a jocular name for a clergyman; priest regards a man as appointed to offer sacrifice. [Century Dictionary, 1895]
The political sense of "high officer of the state, person appointed by a sovereign or chief magistrate of a country as the responsible head of a department of the government" is attested from 1620s, from notion of "one who renders official service service to the crown." From 1709 as "a diplomatic representative of a country abroad." A minister without portfolio (1841, in a French context) has cabinet status but is not in charge of a specific department.
early 14c., ministren, "to perform religious rites, provide religious services;" mid-14c., "to serve (food or drink);" late 14c. "render service, aid, or medicine; furnish means of relief or remedy" from Old French menistrer "to serve, be of service, administer, attend, wait on," and directly from Latin ministrare "to serve, attend, wait upon," from minister "inferior, servant, priest's assistant" (see minister (n.)). Related: Ministered; ministering.
["way of management"], late 14c., policie, "study or practice of government; good government;" from Old French policie (14c.) "political organization, civil administration," from Late Latin politia "the state, civil administration," from Greek politeia "state, administration, government, citizenship," from politēs "citizen," from polis "city, state" (see polis).
From early 15c. as "an organized state, organized or established system of government or administration of a state," but this sense has gone with polity. Also from early 15c. as "object or course of conduct, or the principles to be observed in conduct," and thus "prudence or wisdom in action" generally, but especially "the system of measures or the line of conduct which a ruler, minister, government, or party adopts as best for the interests of the country in domestic or foreign affairs."
1560s, in religion, "pertaining to the office, character, or habits of a clergyman;" 1650s, in politics, "of or pertaining to a minister or ministry of the state;" in some uses from French ministériel and directly from Medieval Latin ministerialis "pertaining to service, of a minister," from Latin ministerium "office, service, attendance, ministry," from minister "inferior, servant, priest's assistant" (see minister (n.)). In some cases probably directly from minister or ministry. Related: Ministerially.
c. 1200, ministerie, "the office or function of a priest, a position in a church or monastery; service in matters of religion," from Old French menistere "service, ministry; position, post, employment" and directly from Latin ministerium "office, service, attendance, ministry," from minister "inferior, servant, priest's assistant" (see minister (n.)).
From late 14c. as "personal service or aid." From 1560s as "the body of ministers of religion, the clerical class." From 1710 as "the body of ministers of state in a country." It began to be used 1916 in the names of certain departments in the British government.