"new, strange, unusual, previously unknown," mid-15c., but little used before 1600, from Old French novel, nouvel "new, young, fresh, recent; additional; early, soon" (Modern French nouveau, fem. nouvelle), from Latin novellus "new, young, recent," diminutive of novus "new" (see new).
"fictitious prose narrative," 1560s, from Italian novella "short story," originally "new story, news," from Latin novella "new things" (source of French novelle, French nouvelle), neuter plural or fem. of novellus "new, young, recent," diminutive of novus "new" (see new). Originally "one of the tales or short stories in a collection" (especially Boccaccio's), later (1630s) "long prose fiction narrative or tale," a type of work which had before that been called a romance.
A novel is like a violin bow; the box which gives off the sounds is the soul of the reader. [Stendhal, "Life of Henri Brulard"]
The word was used earlier in English in the now-obsolete senses "a novelty, something new," and, in plural, "news, tidings" (mid-15c.), both from Old French novelle.
"short fictitious narrative dealing with a single situation or aspect of a character," 1670s, French nouvelle (11c.), literally "new" (see novel (adj.)). Applied by Henry James to a kind of fiction work longer than a short story and shorter than a novel.
"a short novel or long short-story," 1901, from Italian; see novel (n.).
It is not quite so clear as to when and where a piece of fiction ceases to be a novella and becomes a novel. The frontiers are so vague that one is obliged to recognize a middle species, or rather a middle magnitude, which paradoxically, but necessarily enough, we call the novelette. [W.D. Howells, "Some Anomalies of the Short Story," The North American Review, vol. CLXXIII, August, 1901]
late 14c., novelte, "quality of being new," also "a new manner or fashion, an innovation; something new or unusual," from Old French novelete "newness, innovation, change; news, new fashion" (Modern French nouveauté), from novel "new" (see novel (adj.)). Meaning "newness" is attested from late 14c.; sense of "useless but decorative or amusing object" is attested by 1888 (as in novelty shop, by 1893). An earlier word was novelry (c. 1300).
"a novel," 1765, from French roman, from Old French romanz (see romance (n.)). Roman à clef, novel in which characters represent real persons, literally "novel with a key" (French), is attested in English by 1893. And, in the days when a tec was popular reading, roman policier "a story of police detection" (1928).