"most important piece or feature," 1831, from French pièce de résistance, originally "the most substantial dish in a meal." Literally "piece of resistance;" there seems to be disagreement as to the exact signification.
c. 1400, pecen, "to mend (clothing) by adding pieces," from piece (n.1). Sense of "to join, unite or reunite, put together again" is from late 15c. Related: Pieced; piecing.
"a person, an individual," c. 1300, from piece (n.1), but in modern use contemptuous and commonly of women; the meaning "person regarded as a sex object" is by 1785. Compare piece of ass under ass (n.2); human beings colloquially have been piece of flesh from 1590s; also compare Latin scortum "bimbo, anyone available for a price," literally "skin."
PIECE. A wench. A damned good or bad piece; a girl who is more or less active and skilful in the amorous congress. Hence the (Cambridge) toast, may we never have a PIECE (peace) that will injure the constitution. [Dictionary of Buckish Slang, University Wit and Pickpocket Eloquence, London, 1811]
c. 1200, pece, "fixed amount, measure, portion;" c. 1300, "fragment of an object, bit of a whole, slice of meat; separate fragment, section, or part," from Old French piece "piece, bit portion; item; coin" (12c.), from Vulgar Latin *pettia, probably from Gaulish *pettsi (compare Welsh peth "thing," Breton pez "piece, a little"), perhaps from an Old Celtic base *kwezd-i-, from PIE root *kwezd- "a part, piece" (source also of Russian chast' "part"). Related: Pieces.
Meaning "separate article forming part of a class or group" is from c. 1400; that of "specimen, instance, example" is from 1560s. Sense of "portable firearm" is from 1580s, earlier "artillery weapon" (1540s). The meaning "chessman" is from 1560s. Meaning "a period of time" is from early 14c.; that of "a portion of a distance" is from 1610s; that of "literary composition" dates from 1530s.
Piece of (one's) mind "one's opinion expressed bluntly" is from 1570s. Piece of work "remarkable person" echoes Hamlet. Piece as "a coin" is attested in English from c. 1400, hence piece of eight, old name for the Spanish dollar (c. 1600) of the value of 8 reals and bearing a numeral 8. Adverbial phrase in one piece "whole, undivided, without loss or injury" is by 1580s; of a piece "as of the same piece or whole" is from 1610s.
mid-14c., resistence, "moral or political opposition;" late 14c., "military or armed physical opposition by force; difficulty, trouble," from Old French resistance, earlier resistence, and directly from Medieval Latin resistentia, from present-participle stem of Latin resistere "make a stand against, oppose" (see resist).
From 1580s as "power or capacity of resisting." The meaning "organized covert opposition to an occupying or ruling power" [OED] is from 1939. The electromagnetic sense of "non-conductivity" is from 1760. Also used in science and engineering with a sense of "force exerted by a medium to retard motion through it," hence the figurative phrase path of least resistance "easiest method or course" (1825), earlier a term in physical sciences and engineering.
Latin adverb and preposition of separation in space, meaning "down from, off, away from," and figuratively "concerning, by reason of, according to;" from PIE demonstrative stem *de- (see to). Also a French preposition in phrases or proper names, from the Latin word.
active word-forming element in English and in many verbs inherited from French and Latin, from Latin de "down, down from, from, off; concerning" (see de), also used as a prefix in Latin, usually meaning "down, off, away, from among, down from," but also "down to the bottom, totally" hence "completely" (intensive or completive), which is its sense in many English words.
As a Latin prefix it also had the function of undoing or reversing a verb's action, and hence it came to be used as a pure privative — "not, do the opposite of, undo" — which is its primary function as a living prefix in English, as in defrost (1895), defuse (1943), de-escalate (1964), etc. In some cases, a reduced form of dis-.
also codpiece, mid-15c., in male costume c. 1450-1550, a bagged appendage to the front of close-fitting breeches, "often conspicuous and ornamented" [OED], from Old English codd "a bag, pouch, husk," in Middle English, "testicles" (cognate with Old Norse koddi "pillow; scrotum") + piece (n.1).