1580s, in Aristotle's logic, "a highest notion," from French catégorie, from Late Latin categoria, from Greek katēgoria "accusation, prediction, category," verbal noun from katēgorein "speak against; to accuse, assert, predicate," from kata "down to" (or perhaps "against;" see cata-) + agoreuein "to harangue, to declaim (in the assembly)," from agora "public assembly" (from PIE root *ger- "to gather").
The Greek verb's original sense of "accuse" had weakened to "assert, name" by the time Aristotle applied katēgoria to his 10 classes of "expressions that are in no way composite," perhaps "things that can be named simply." Precisely what he meant by it "has been disputed almost from his own day till the present" [OED].
What, exactly, is meant by the word "category," whether in Aristotle or in Kant and Hegel, I must confess that I have never been able to understand. I do not myself believe that the term "category" is in any way useful in philosophy, as representing any clear idea. [Bertrand Russell, "A History of Western Philosophy," 1945]
The sense of "any very wide and distinctive class, any comprehensive class of persons or things" is from 1660s.
category should be used by no-one who is not prepared to state (1) that he does not mean class, & (2) that he knows the difference between the two .... [Fowler]
late 15c., "to distribute into groups or classes," from Old French assorter "to assort, match" (15c., Modern French assortir), from a- "to" (see ad-) + sorte "kind, category," from Latin sortem (nominative sors) "lot; fate, destiny; share, portion; rank, category; sex, class, oracular response, prophecy" (from PIE root *ser- (2) "to line up"). Related: Assorted; assorting.
1979, acronym from person of opposite sex sharing living quarters; it never was an official category.
word-forming element, from Latin -plex, from PIE root *plek- "to plait." De Vaan writes, "Probably, duplex was the archetype of this category of compounds."
1882, "of or pertaining to demography," from demography + -ic. As a noun, by 1998, short for demographic group or category. Related: Demographical; demographically; demographer (1877).
early 15c., in philosophy, "category, class; one of Aristotle's 10 categories," from Medieval Latin predicamentum, from Late Latin praedicamentum "quality, category, something predicted, that which is asserted," from Latin praedicatus, past participle of praedicare "assert, proclaim, declare publicly," from prae- "forth, before" (see pre-) + dicare "proclaim" (from PIE root *deik- "to show," also "pronounce solemnly," and see diction). Praedicamentum is a loan-translation of Greek kategoria, Aristotle's word.
The meaning "unpleasant, dangerous, or trying situation" is a particular negative use of the general sense of "a state of being, condition, situation" (1580s).
1590s, as a term in logic, "unqualified, asserting absolutely," from Late Latin categoricus, from Greek katēgorikos "accusatory, affirmative, categorical," from kategoria (see category). The general sense of "explicit, unconditional" is attested from 1610s. Categorical imperative, from the philosophy of Kant, is in English by 1827. Related: Categorically.