Middle English folwen, from Old English folgian, fylgian, fylgan "to accompany (especially as a disciple), move in the same direction as; follow after, pursue, move behind in the same direction," also "obey (a rule or law), conform to, act in accordance with; apply oneself to (a practice, trade, or calling)," from Proto-Germanic *fulgojanan (source also of Old Saxon folgon, Old Frisian folgia, Middle Dutch volghen, Dutch volgen, Old High German folgen, German folgen, Old Norse fylgja "to follow"). Probably originally a compound, *full-gan, with a sense of "full-going," the sense then shifting to "serve, go with as an attendant" (compare fulfill). Related: Followed; following.
Sense of "accept as leader or guide, obey or be subservient to" was in late Old English. Meaning "come after in time" is from c. 1200; meaning "to result from" (as effect from cause) is from c. 1200. Meaning "to keep up with mentally, comprehend" is from 1690s. Intransitive sense "come or go behind" is from mid-13c. To follow one's nose "go straight on" first attested 1590s. "The full phrase is, 'Follow your nose, and you are sure to go straight.' " [Farmer]. The children's game follow my leader is attested by that name from 1812 (as follow the leader by 1896).
1540s, "follower or attendant of a superior person" (but rare in this sense before late 18c.), from French satellite (14c.), from Latin satellitem (nominative satelles) "an attendant" upon a distinguished person; "a body-guard, a courtier; an assistant," in Cicero often in a bad sense, "an accomplice, accessory" in a crime, etc. A word of unknown origin.
Perhaps it is from Etruscan satnal (Klein), or a compound of roots *satro- "full, enough" + *leit- "to go" (Tucker); for the latter, compare English follow, which is constructed of similar roots. De Vaan has nothing on it.
Meaning "planet that revolves about a larger one" is attested 1660s, on the notion of "an attendant," in reference to the moons of Jupiter, from Latin satellites, which was used in this sense 1610s by German astronomer Johannes Kepler (1571-1630). Galileo, who had discovered them, called them Sidera Medicæa in honor of the Medici family.
Meaning "man-made machinery orbiting the Earth" is recorded by 1936 as theory, by 1957 as fact. Meaning "country dependent and subservient to another" is recorded by 1800 (John Adams, in reference to America). Related: Satellitic; satellitious.
late 13c., "follow with hostile intent, follow with a view of overtaking," from Anglo-French pursuer and directly from Old French poursuir (Modern French poursuivre), variant of porsivre "to chase, pursue, follow; continue, carry on," from Vulgar Latin *prosequare, from Latin prosequi "follow, accompany, attend; follow after, escort; follow up, pursue," from pro- "forward" (see pro-) + sequi "follow" (from PIE root *sekw- (1) "to follow").
The meaning "to proceed, to follow" (a path, etc.), usually figurative (in reference to a course of action, etc.), is from late 14c. This sense also was in Latin. The meaning "seek, seek to obtain" also is late 14c. Related: Pursued; pursuing. For sense, compare prosecute.
1530s, in logic, "an inference or conclusion that does not follow from the premise," a Latin phrase, "it does not follow," from non "not" + third person singular present indicative of sequi "to follow" (from PIE root *sekw- (1) "to follow").