early 15c., separaten, transitive, "remove, detach completely; divide (something), sever the connection or association of," from Latin separatus, past participle of separare "to pull apart," from se- "apart" (see secret (n.)) + parare "make ready, prepare" (from PIE root *pere- (1) "to produce, procure"). Sever (q.v.) is a doublet, via French. Intransitive sense of "to part, be or become disunited or disconnected" is by 1630s of things, 1680s of persons. Related: Separated; separating.
"detached, kept apart, divided from the rest," c. 1600, from separate (v.) or from Latin separatus. Separate also was used as a past-participle adjective in Middle English, "cut off from the main body," also, of a spouse, "estranged." The meaning "individual, particular" is from 1670s, on the notion of "withdrawn or divided from something else," hence "peculiar to one but not others."
Separate but equal in reference to U.S. segregation policies on railroads, etc. is attested by 1890 (Henry W. Grady); it was used in 1870s of medical courses for women at universities. Separate development, official name of apartheid in South Africa, is from 1955. Related: Separately (1550s); separateness.
Frequently the colored coach is little better than a cattle car. Generally one half the smoking car is reserved for the colored car. Often only a cloth curtain or partition run half way up separates this so-called colored car from the smoke, obscene language, and foul air of the smokers' half of the car. All classes and conditions of colored humanity, from the most cultured and refined to the most degraded and filthy, without regard to sex, good breeding or ability to pay for better accommodation, are crowded into this separate, but equal (?) half car. [Rev. Norman B. Wood, "The White Side of a Black Subject," 1897]
"tending to separate," 1590s, from French séparatif (16c.), from Late Latin separativus "pertaining to separation," from Latin separare "to pull apart" (see separate (v.)).
c. 1600, "separatist, one who separates," agent noun in Latin form from separate (v.) or from Late Latin separator "one who separates." As a mechanical device for separating one thing from another, by 1831.