late 14c., "middle point of a circle; point round which something revolves," from Old French centre (14c.), from Latin centrum "center," originally the fixed point of the two points of a drafting compass (hence "the center of a circle"), from Greek kentron "sharp point, goad, sting of a wasp," from kentein "stitch," from PIE root *kent- "to prick" (source also of Breton kentr "a spur," Welsh cethr "nail," Old High German hantag "sharp, pointed").
The spelling with -re was popularized in Britain by Johnson's dictionary (following Bailey's), though -er is older and was used by Shakespeare, Milton, and Pope. The meaning "the middle of anything" attested from 1590s. Figuratively, "point of concentration" (of power, etc.), from 1680s. The political use, originally in reference to France, "representatives of moderate views" (between left and right) is from 1837. Center of gravity is recorded from 1650s. Center of attention is from 1868.
1764, "the act or practice of visiting shops for the purpose of examining and purchasing goods," a verbal noun from shop (v.). The meaning "goods that have been purchased" is attested by 1934.
Shopping bag is attested from 1864; shopping cart by 1929. Shopping list, of purchases to be made or stores to be visited, is by 1874; transferred and figurative use is by 1959. The modern shopping center is attested by 1922 in reference to the shopping district in a city (New York's upper Fifth Avenue); by 1926 in reference to planned outlying commercial developments. Shopping day "day in which stores are open" is by 1859; specifically in advertisements announcing the time remaining to purchase Christmas gifts, by 1881.
Twenty-One Days Only and Christmas will be here. Deduct Three (Sundays) leaves Eighteen Shopping Days. Again deduct Six Days (the last) monopolized by the Grand Army of Put-Offs, leaves but 12 DAYS in which Common-Sense Customers may buy their Holiday Gifts in Comfort, Convenience and Pleasure. [from an advertisement for Rosenbaum's store, Philadelphia Times, Dec. 4, 1881]
1590s, "to concentrate at a center," from center (n.). The meaning "to rest as at a center" is from 1620s. The sports sense of "to hit toward the center" is from 1890. Related: Centered; centering. To be centered on is from 1713. In combinations, -centered is attested by 1958.
"in the exact middle," 1874, the noun phrase (1836) in reference to lathes or other rotating machinery, meaning the point which does not revolve; see dead (adj.).
1737, "shaded walk serving as a promenade," generalized from The Mall, name of a broad, tree-lined promenade in St. James's Park, London (so called from 1670s, earlier Maill, 1640s), which was so called because it formerly was an open alley that was used to play pall-mall.
This was a once-popular game played with a wooden ball in a kind of smooth alley boarded in at each side, in which the ball was struck with a mallet to send it through an iron arch placed at the end of the alley. The game's name is from French pallemaille, from Italian pallamaglio, from palla "ball" (see balloon (n.)) + maglio "mallet" (from Latin malleus "a hammer, mallet," from PIE root *mele- "to crush, grind"). Modern sense of "enclosed shopping gallery" is from 1962 (from 1951 in reference to city streets set aside for pedestrians only). Mall rat "one who frequents a mall" is from 1985 (see rat (n.)).
The short history of malls goes like this: In 1954, Victor Gruen's Northland Center, often credited as the first modern shopping mall (though earlier examples existed), opens in Southfield, Michigan. The suburban location is fitting because the rise of the automobile, helped along by the Federal-Aid Highway Act, led to the widespread creation of large shopping centers away from urban centers. This, among other factors, nearly killed downtowns, and malls reigned supreme for some 40 years. By the 1990s, however, a new urbanism movement revived the urban shopping experience and eroded the dominance of malls. Next, the rise of big box stores and online shopping sounded the death knell for mall culture. [Steven Kurutz, "An Ode to Shopping Malls," New York Times, July 26, 2017]
word-forming element meaning "having a center (of a certain kind); centered on," from Latinized form of Greek kentrikos "pertaining to a center," from kentron (see center (n.)).
1630s, "to bring or come to a common center," from concenter (1590s), from Italian concentrare, from assimilated form of Latin com "with, together" (see con-) + centrum "center" (see center (n.)).
Meaning "condense" is from 1680s; that of "intensify the action of" is from 1758. Sense of "mentally focus" is from 1860s, on the notion of "concentrate the mind or mental powers." Related: Concentrated; concentrating.