late Old English, "benevolence for the poor," also "Christian love in its highest manifestation," from Old French charité "(Christian) charity, mercy, compassion; alms; charitable foundation" (12c.), from Latin caritatem (nominative caritas) "costliness; esteem, affection," from carus "dear, valued," from PIE *karo-, from root *ka- "to like, desire."
In the Vulgate the Latin word often is used as translation of Greek agape "love" -- especially Christian love of fellow man -- perhaps to avoid the sexual suggestion of Latin amor). The Vulgate also sometimes translated agape by Latin dilectio, noun of action from diligere "to esteem highly, to love" (see diligence).
Wyclif and the Rhemish version regularly rendered the Vulgate dilectio by 'love,' caritas by 'charity.' But the 16th c. Eng. versions from Tindale to 1611, while rendering agape sometimes 'love,' sometimes 'charity,' did not follow the dilectio and caritas of the Vulgate, but used 'love' more often (about 86 times), confining 'charity' to 26 passages in the Pauline and certain of the Catholic Epistles (not in I John), and the Apocalypse .... In the Revised Version 1881, 'love' has been substituted in all these instances, so that it now stands as the uniform rendering of agape. [OED]
General sense of "affections people ought to feel for one another" is from c. 1300. From c. 1300 as "an act of kindness or philanthropy," also "alms, that which is bestowed gratuitously on a person or persons in need." Sense of "charitable foundation or institution" in English attested by 1690s. Meaning "liberality in judging others or their actions" is from late 15c. A charity-school (1680s) was one maintained by voluntary contributions or bequests.
c. 1200, in reference to the Christian virtue, "benevolent, kind, manifesting Christian love in its highest and broadest form," from Old French charitable, from charité (see charity). Meaning "liberal in treatment of the poor" is from c. 1400; that of "inclined to impute favorable motives to others" is from 1620s. Related: Charitableness; charitably.
It forms all or part of: caress; charity; cherish; Kama Sutra; whore; whoredom.
It is the hypothetical source of/evidence for its existence is provided by: Sanskrit Kama, name of the Hindu god of love, kamah "love, desire;" Old Persian kama "desire;" Latin carus "dear;" Old Irish cara "friend;" Old English hore "prostitute, harlot."
digraph used in Old French for the "tsh" sound. In some French dialects, including that of Paris (but not that of Picardy), Latin ca- became French "tsha." This was introduced to English after the Norman Conquest, in words borrowed from Old French such as chaste, charity, chief (adj.). Under French influence, -ch- also was inserted into Anglo-Saxon words that had the same sound (such as bleach, chest, church) which in Old English still was written with a simple -c-, and into those that had formerly been spelled with a -c- and pronounced "k" such as chin and much.
It turns up as well in words from classical languages (chaos, echo, etc.). Most uses of -ch- in Roman Latin were in words from Greek, which in Greek would be pronounced correctly as /k/ + /h/, as in modern blockhead, but most Romans would have said merely /k/, and this was the regular pronunciation in English. Before c. 1500 such words were regularly spelled with a -c- (Crist, cronicle, scoole), but Modern English has preserved or restored the etymological spelling in most of them (chemical, chorus, monarch).
Sometimes ch- is written to keep -c- hard before a front vowel, as still in modern Italian. In some languages (Welsh, Spanish, Czech) ch- can be treated as a separate letter and words in it are alphabetized after -c- (or, in Czech and Slovak, after -h-). The sound also is heard in words from more distant languages (as in cheetah, chintz), and the digraph also is used to represent the sound in Scottish loch.
"of or pertaining to alms, derived from or provided by charity, charitable," 1610s, from Medieval Latin eleemosynarius "pertaining to alms," from Late Latin eleemosyna "alms," from Greek eleēmosynē "pity" (see alms).
Meaning "established law or practice" is from 1550s. Meaning "establishment or organization for the promotion of some charity" is from 1707. Jocular or colloquial use for "anything that's been around a long time" is from 1837.