c. 1300, discoveren, "divulge, reveal, disclose, expose, lay open to view, betray (someone's secrets)," senses now obsolete, from stem of Old French descovrir "uncover, unroof, unveil, reveal, betray," from Medieval Latin discooperire, from Latin dis- "opposite of" (see dis-) + cooperire "to cover up, cover over, overwhelm, bury" (see cover (v.)).
At first with a sense of betrayal or malicious exposure (discoverer originally meant "informant"). Also in Middle English used in lteral senses, such as "to remove" (one's hat, the roof from a building). The meaning "to obtain the first knowledge or sight of what was before not known," the main modern sense, is by 1550s.
Discover, Invent, agree in signifying to find out; but we discover what already exists, though to us unknown; we invent what did not before exist: as, to discover the applicability of steam to the purposes of locomotion, and to invent the machinery necessary to use steam for these ends. ... Some things are of so mixed a character that either word may be applied to them. [Century Dictionary]
Sense of "make famous or fashionable" is by 1908. Related: Discovered; discovering.
That man is not the discoverer of any art who first says the thing; but he who says it so long, and so loud, and so clearly, that he compels mankind to hear him—the man who is so deeply impressed with the importance of the discovery that he will take no denial, but at the risk of fortune and fame, pushes through all opposition, and is determined that what he thinks he has discovered shall not perish for want of a fair trial. [Sydney Smith, in Edinburgh Review, June 1826]
1550s (Hakluyt), "fact of discovering what was previously unknown;" see discover + -y (1). Earlier in this sense was discovering (mid-14c.). Meaning "that which is discovered" is from 1630s. Sense "act of revealing" (1580s) preserves the usual Middle English sense of discover but is now obsolete except in the legal sense of "disclosure by a party to an action" (of facts, documents, etc.), attested from 1715.
early 15c., "uncover, lay bare, expose, disclose, reveal," a sense now obsolete, from Latin detectus, past participle of detegere "uncover, expose," figuratively "discover, reveal, disclose," from de "un-, off" (see de-) + tegere "to cover," from PIE root *(s)teg- "to cover."
Sense of "to find out the secret action or character of" is from 1580s. Meaning "discover, find out, ascertain" is from 1756. Related: Detected; detecting.
early 15c., "skilled in invention," from Old French inventif (15c.), from Latin invent-, past-participle stem of invenire "devise, discover, find" (see invention). Related: Inventively; inventiveness.
"make trial, operate (on something) so as to discover some unknown fact or to establish it when known," late 15c., from experiment (n.). Intransitive sense by 1787. Related: Experimented; experimenting.