"the greatest amount, quantity, or degree," 1740, from French maximum and directly from Latin maximum (plural maxima), neuter of maximus "greatest," which is superlative of magnus "great, large, big" (of size), "abundant" (of quantity), "great, considerable" (of value), "strong, powerful" (of force); of persons, "elder, aged," also, figuratively, "great, mighty, grand, important," from PIE *mag-samo-, superlative form of root *meg- "great."
word-forming element meaning "maximum, very large or very long for its kind," abstracted from maximum.
It forms all or part of: acromegaly; Almagest; Charlemagne; maestro; magisterial; magistral; magistrate; Magna Carta; magnate; magnitude; magnum; magnanimity; magnanimous; magni-; Magnificat; magnificence; magnificent; magnify; magniloquence; magniloquent; Magnus; maharajah; maharishi; mahatma; Mahayana; Maia; majesty; major; major-domo; majority; majuscule; master; maxim; maximum; may (v.2) "to take part in May Day festivities;" May; mayor; mega-; megalo-; mickle; Mister; mistral; mistress; much; omega.
It is the hypothetical source of/evidence for its existence is provided by: Armenian mets "great;" Sanskrit mahat- "great, mazah- "greatness;" Avestan mazant- "great;" Hittite mekkish "great, large;" Greek megas "great, large;" Latin magnus "great, large, much, abundant," major "greater," maximus "greatest;" Middle Irish mag, maignech "great, large;" Middle Welsh meith "long, great."
"to reach the maximum level," by 1986, colloquial, from maximize or related words. Related: Maxed; maxing. As a noun, by 1811 in reference to a kind of gin said to be the best, apparently an abbreviation of French maxime.