c. 1400, renovacyoun, in theology, "spiritual rebirth wrought by the Holy Spirit," also in a general sense, "rebuilding, reconstruction; a making new after decay, destruction, or impairment," from Old French renovacion (13c.) and directly from Latin renovationem (nominative renovatio) "a renewing, renewal; a rest," noun of action from past-participle stem of renovare "renew, restore," from re- "again" (see re-) + novare "make new," from novus "new" (see new).
acquired name (Russian, literally "debauchee") of Grigory Yefimovich Novykh (c. 1872-1916), mystic and faith healer who held sway over court of Nicholas II of Russia. His nickname is from his doctrine of "rebirth through sin," that true holy communion must be preceded by immersion in sin. His name has been used figuratively in English from 1937 for anyone felt to wield an insidious and corrupting influence.
... so the great movement which goes by the name of the Renaissance (but why should we not give to this foreign word, destined to become of more common use amongst us, a more English form, and say Renascence?) was an uprising and re-instatement of man's intellectual impulses and of Hellenism. [Arnold, "Anarchy and Authority," in Cornhill Magazine, June 1868]
Related: Renascency (1660s in a general sense).
"great period of revival of classical-based art and learning in Europe that began in the fourteenth century," 1840, from French renaissance des lettres, from Old French renaissance, literally "rebirth," usually in a spiritual sense, from renastre "grow anew" (of plants), "be reborn" (Modern French renaître), from Vulgar Latin *renascere, from Latin renasci "be born again, rise again, reappear, be renewed," from re- "again" (see re-) + nasci "be born" (Old Latin gnasci, from PIE root *gene- "give birth, beget").
An earlier term for it was revival of learning (1785). In general usage, with a lower-case r-, "a revival" of anything that has long been in decay or disuse (especially of learning, literature, art), it is attested by 1855.
[Renaissance] was so far established as the English word for the thing before it was latinized or anglicized into renascence that it is still the more intelligible of the two, & may well be left in possession. [Henry W. Fowler, "Modern English Usage," Oxford: 1926. He does, however, recommend pronouncing it as English, "rinā'sns."]
As an adjective, "of or pertaining to the Renaissance," by 1842. Renaissance man is attested by 1885 in the basic sense of "a man alive during the Renaissance;" by 1898 particularly with a notion of "exhibiting the virtues and characteristics of an idealized man of the Renaissance," humanism, scholarship, varied attainments, freedom of thought and personality; used by 1949 of modern or living persons, sometimes merely meaning "well-rounded."