late 14c., divisioun, "act of separating into parts, portions, or shares; a part separated or distinguished from the rest; state of being at variance in sentiment or interest," from Old French division and directly from Latin divisionem (nominative divisio), noun of action from past-participle stem of dividere "to divide" (see divide (v.)).
Military sense "portion of an army, fleet, or ship's company" is from 1590s. Mathematical sense of "operation inverse to multiplication" is from late 14c. The mathematical division sign supposedly was invented by British mathematician John Pell (1611-1685) who taught at Cambridge and Amsterdam.
Old English tunscipe "inhabitants or population of a town;" see town + -ship. Applied in Middle English to "manor, parish, or other division of a hundred." Specific sense of "local division or district in a parish, each with a village or small town and its own church" is from 1530s; as a local municipal division of a county in U.S. and Canada, first recorded 1685. In South Africa, "area set aside for non-whites" from 1934.
Arabic form of Hebrew 'az "force, strength." Gaza Strip was created by the division of 1949.
1610s, "the point at which something splits in two," noun of action from bifurcate (v.). The meaning "a division into two forks" is from 1640s.
mid-13c., "the act of going away, departure;" c. 1300, "separation of persons, leave-taking," also "the act of dividing or putting asunder; distribution, apportionment;" verbal noun from part (v.). From late 14c. as "the act or process of dividing; a division or separation; a dividing line, a point or place of separation or division."