early 14c., "one who holds an official post, one entrusted with a responsibility or share of the management of some undertaking" (originally a high office), from Old French oficier "officer, official" (early 14c., Modern French officier), from Medieval Latin officiarius "an officer," from Latin officium "a service, a duty" (see office).
In Middle English also "a servant, a retainer of a great household; an official at court" (late 14c.). From late 14c. as "a military retainer," but the modern military sense of "one who holds a commission in the army or navy" is from 1560s. Applied to petty officials of justice from 16c.; U.S. use in reference to policemen is from 1880s.
The phrase officer and a gentleman in reference to one having the qualities of both is by 1762 and was standard language in British court-martial indictments ("behaviour infamous and scandalous such as is unbecoming the character of an officer and a gentleman").
The words 'officer and gentleman,' though in general to be understood as one single and indivisible term, appear not to be so used here. The misbehaviour, entailing on it the penalty declared by this article, must be such, as I understand it, as to implicate, in the first place, the officer; that is, it must arise in some sort out of his office; and affect incidentally only, the character of the gentleman. It must be such a misconduct, as must necessarily dissever what should ever be indivisible, the consideration of the officer from the gentleman. It must be of that decisively low, humiliating, and debasing kind, as to lay prostrate the honour of the gentleman, in the degradation of the officer. [Capt. Hough and George Long, "The Practice of Courts-Martial," London, 1825]
also quarter-master, early 15c., "subordinate officer of a ship," from French quartier-maître or directly from Dutch kwartier-meester; originally a ship's officer whose duties included stowing of the hold; later (c. 1600) an officer in charge of quarters and rations for troops. See quarters.
mid-13c., "high officer of the royal court," charged with regulating ceremonies and maintaining order (early 13c. as a surname), from Old French mareschal "commanding officer of an army; officer in charge of a household" (Modern French maréchal), originally "stable officer, horse tender, groom" (Frankish Latin mariscaluis) from Frankish *marhskalk or a similar Germanic word, literally "horse-servant" (compare Old High German marahscalc "groom," Middle Dutch maerschalc).
This is from a Proto-Germanic compound of *markhaz "horse" (see mare (n.1)) + *skalkaz "servant" (source of Old English scealc "servant, retainer, member of a crew," Dutch schalk "rogue, wag," Gothic skalks "servant"). It corresponds to Old English horsþegn.
From early 14c. as "military commander, general in the army." In the U.S., a civil officer appointed by the president (with advice and consent of the Senate) in each judicial district as the executive officer of the Supreme Court and the federal courts in his district. For sense development and the tendency of officers of the stable to become chief officers of royal households, compare constable. Also from Germanic are Italian scalco "steward," Spanish mariscal "marshal."
"military officer in ancient Rome," commander of a company of infantry, late 13c., from Latin centurionem (nominative centurio), "Roman army officer, head of a centuria" (a group of one hundred); see century. Latin centurio was glossed in Old English by hundredes ealdor.
"superior officer of a religious house or order," Middle English priour, from late Old English, and directly from Medieval Latin prior "superior officer," noun use of Latin adjective meaning "former, superior" (see prior (adj.)). As short for prior arrest, by 1990, American English.
1660s, "empower or authorize by commission," from commission (n.). In the naval sense, of persons, "be given the rank of an officer (by commission from authority)," from 1793; of a ship, "to be transferred from the naval yard and placed in the command of the officer put in charge of it," 1796. Related: Commissioned; commissioning.
"one who carries a verge as an officer of the church," c. 1400, probably from Anglo-French *verger, from verge (see verge (n.)).
"officer whose duty is to receive and communicate the orders of a general officer," 1777, short for aide-de-camp (1660s), a French term in English, literally "camp assistant" (see aid (n.)). Plural of the full term is aides-de-camp.