early 15c., invencioun, "finding or discovering of something," from Old French invencion (13c.) and directly from Latin inventionem (nominative inventio) "faculty of invention," noun of action from past-participle stem of invenire "to come upon, find; find out; invent, discover, devise; ascertain; acquire, get, earn," from in- "in, on" (from PIE root *en "in") + venire "to come" (from a suffixed form of PIE root *gwa- "to go, come").
The sense of "thing invented" is first recorded 1510s; that of "act or process of finding out how to make or do" is from 1530s.
Invention is applied to the contrivance and production of something, often mechanical, that did not before exist, for the utilization of powers of nature long known or lately discovered by investigation. Discovery brings to light what existed before, but was not known. [Century Dictionary]
The earliest sense of the word in Middle English was "devised method of organization" (c. 1400), a sense now obsolete. The meaning "finding or discovery of something" is preserved in Invention of the Cross, Church festival (May 3) celebrating the reputed finding of the Cross of the Crucifixion by Helena, mother of Constantine, in 326 C.E. The related classical Latin word for "a device, contrivance" was inventum.
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.
c. 1500, "to find, discover" (obsolete), a back-formation from invention or else from Latin inventus, past participle of invenire "to come upon; devise, discover."
The general sense of "make up, fabricate, concoct, devise" (a plot, excuse, etc.) is from 1530s, as is that of "produce by original thought, find out by original study or contrivance." Related: Invented; inventing.
The form was altered in Medieval Latin by influence of words in -orium, which became very common in post-classical and Christian use. It properly belongs with words in -ary, and French has corrected the spelling. Related: Inventorial; inventorially.
1670s, "to obtain right to land" by securing letters patent, from patent (n.). The meaning "obtain a copyright to an invention" is recorded by 1822, from the earlier meaning "obtain exclusive right or monopoly" (1789), a privilege granted by the Crown via letters patent. Related: Patented; patenting.