c. 1300, "household allowance of any kind (food, provisions, clothing) to retainers or servants," from Anglo-French livere (late 13c.; Old French liveree, Modern French livrée), "allowance, ration, pay," originally "(clothes) delivered by a master to his retinue," from fem. past participle of livrer "to dispense, deliver, hand over," from Latin liberare "to set free" (see liberate).
The sense later was reduced to "servants' rations" and "provender for horses" (mid-15c.). The former led to the meaning "distinctive clothing given to servants" (early 14c.); the latter now is obsolete, unless livery stable (1705) survives. Related: Liveried.
c. 1300, sute, also suete, suite, seute, "a band of followers; a retinue, company;" also "set of matching garments" worn by such persons, "matching livery or uniform;" hence " kind, sort; the same kind, a match;" also "pursuit, chase," and in law, "obligation (of a tenant) to attend court; attendance at court," from Anglo-French suit, siwete, from Old French suite, sieute "pursuit, act of following, hunt; retinue; assembly" (12c., Modern French suite), from Vulgar Latin *sequita, fem. of *sequitus, from Latin secutus, past participle of sequi "to attend, follow" (from PIE root *sekw- (1) "to follow").
Legal sense of "lawsuit; legal action" is from mid-14c. Meaning "the wooing of a woman" is from late 15c. Meaning "set of clothes to be worn together" is attested from late 14c., also "matching material or fabric," from notion of the livery or uniform of court attendants. As a derisive term for "businessman," it dates from 1979. Meaning "matched set of objects, number of objects of the same kind or pattern used together" is from late 14c., as is that of "row, series, sequence." Meaning "set of playing cards bearing the same symbol" is attested from 1520s, also ultimately from the notion of livery. To follow suit (1670s) is from card-playing: "play a card of the same suit first played," hence, figuratively, "continue the conduct of a predecessor."
"the color of the clear sky," c. 1300, from blue (adj.1). From late 15c. as "blue clothing." The blue is from 1640s as "the sky" (hence bolt from the blue "lightning," 1837); from 1821 as "the sea." In reference to a particular party which has chosen blue for its color, by 1835. "In most parts of England the Conservative party" [OED], but in 17c. it often was the Whig color (opposed to royal red).
Blue was by c. 1600 the distinctive color of the dress of servants, which may be the reason police uniforms are blue, a tradition Farmer dates to Elizabethan times. Blue as the color of police uniforms in U.S. is by 1853, when New York City professionalized its force. They previously had had no regular uniforms, only badges.
An outburst of indignation followed [the order to wear uniforms]. The men declared the order was a violation of their rights as free men ; that no respecting American would wear livery, and raised a fund of five hundred dollars to test in the courts the authority of the Commissioners to compel them to wear uniforms. But the order was enforced when the day came. [John Bach McMaster, "A History of the People of the United States," vol. viii, 1913]
early 13c., "skin color, complexion," from Anglo-French culur, coulour, Old French color "color, complexion, appearance" (Modern French couleur), from Latin color "color of the skin; color in general, hue; appearance," from Old Latin colos, originally "a covering" (akin to celare "to hide, conceal"), from PIE root *kel- (1) "to cover, conceal, save." Old English words for "color" were hiw ("hue"), bleo. For sense evolution, compare Sanskrit varnah "covering, color," which is related to vrnoti "covers," and also see chroma.
Colour was the usual English spelling from 14c., from Anglo-French. Classical correction made color an alternative from 15c., and that spelling became established in the U.S. (see -or).
Meaning "a hue or tint, a visible color, the color of something" is from c. 1300. As "color as an inherent property of matter, that quality of a thing or appearance which is perceived by the eye alone," from late 14c. From early 14c. as "a coloring matter, pigment, dye." From mid-14c. as "kind, sort, variety, description." From late 14c. in figurative sense of "stylistic device, embellishment. From c. 1300 as "a reason or argument advanced by way of justifying, explaining, or excusing an action," hence "specious reason or argument, that which hides the real character of something" (late 14c.).
From c. 1300 as "distinctive mark of identification" (as of a badge or insignia or livery, later of a prize-fighter, horse-rider, etc.), originally in reference to a coat of arms. Hence figurative sense as in show one's (true) colors "reveal one's opinions or intentions;" compare colors.
In reference to "the hue of the darker (as distinguished from the 'white') varieties of mankind" [OED], attested from 1792, in people of colour, in translations from French in reference to the French colony of Saint-Domingue (modern Haiti) and there meaning "mulattoes."
In reference to musical tone from 1590s. Color-scheme is from 1860. Color-coded is by 1943, in reference to wiring in radios and military aircraft. Color-line in reference to social and legal discrimination by race in the U.S. is from 1875, originally referring to Southern whites voting in unity and taking back control of state governments during Reconstruction (it had been called white line about a year earlier, and with more accuracy).