Meaning "to bring up a child with parental care" is from c. 1200; that of "to encourage or help grow" is early 13c. of things; 1560s of feelings, ideas, etc. Old English also had the word as an adjective meaning "in the same family but not related," in fostorfæder, fostorcild, fostormodoretc. Related: Fostered; fostering.
It forms all or part of: antipasto; appanage; bannock; bezoar; companion; company; feed; fodder; food; forage; foray; foster; fur; furrier; impanate; pabulum; panatela; panic (n.2) "type of grass;" pannier; panocha; pantry; pastern; pastor; pasture; pester; repast; satrap.
It is the hypothetical source of/evidence for its existence is provided by: Greek pateisthai "to feed;" Latin pabulum "food, fodder," panis "bread," pasci "to feed," pascare "to graze, pasture, feed," pastor "shepherd," literally "feeder;" Avestan pitu- "food;" Old Church Slavonic pasti "feed cattle, pasture;" Russian pishcha "food;" Old English foda, Gothic fodeins "food, nourishment."
"pupil or graduate of a school," 1640s, from Latin alumnus "a pupil," literally "foster son," vestigial present passive participle of alere "to suckle, nourish" (from PIE root *al- (2) "to grow, nourish"). With ending akin to Greek -omenos. Plural is alumni. The fem. form is alumna (1882), plural alumnae.
c. 1300, norishen, "to supply with food and drink, feed; to bring up, nurture, promote the growth or development of" (a child, a young animal, a vice, a feeling, etc.), from Old French norriss-, stem of norrir "raise, bring up, nurture, foster; maintain, provide for" (12c., Modern French nourrir), from Latin nutrire "to feed, nurse, foster, support, preserve," from *nutri (older form of nutrix "nurse"), literally "she who gives suck," from PIE *nu-tri-, suffixed form (with feminine agent suffix) of *(s)nau- "to swim, flow, let flow," hence "to suckle," extended form of root *sna- "to swim." Related: Nourished; nourishing.
c. 1200, norice, nurrice, "wet-nurse, woman who nourishes or suckles an infant; foster-mother to a young child," from Old French norrice "foster-mother, wet-nurse, nanny" (source of proper name Norris), from Late Latin *nutricia "nurse, governess, tutoress," noun use of fem. of Latin nutricius "that suckles, nourishes," from nutrix (genitive nutricis) "wet-nurse," from nutrire "to suckle" (see nourish).
The modern form of the English word is from late 14c. By 16c. also "female servant who has care of a child or children" (technically a dry-nurse). As "one who protects or that which nurtures, trains, or cherishes," from early 15c. Meaning "person (usually a woman) who takes care of sick or infirm persons" in English is recorded by 1580s.
Roman goddess of fertility, Latin Maia, literally "she who brings increase," from PIE *mag-ya- "she who is great" (suffixed form of root *meg- "great"). Maia, one of the Pleiades, is from Greek Maia, daughter of Atlas, mother of Hermes, literally "mother, good mother, dame; foster-mother, nurse, midwife," said by Watkins to be from infant babbling (see mamma). The maiasaura dinosaur is so called from 1979, in reference to the fossil preservation of its nesting colonies.