1580s, "a metal disk bearing a figure or inscription," from French médaille (15c.), from Italian medaglia "a medal," according to OED from Vulgar Latin *metallea (moneta) "metal (coin)," from Latin metallum (see metal). The other theory [Klein, Barnhart, Watkins] is that medaglia originally meant "coin worth half a denarius," and is from Vulgar Latin *medalia, from Late Latin medialia "little halves," neuter plural of medialis "of the middle" (from PIE root *medhyo- "middle").
Originally in reference to a trinket or charm; by 1610s as a commemorative of a person, institution, or event. As a reward for merit, proficiency, etc., it is attested by 1751. A medal is distinguished from a coin by not being intended to serve as a medium of exchange, but in 18c. English, as in older French and Italian, it was applied to old coins no longer in circulation kept as curiosities. Related: Medallic.
1857, "award (someone or something) a medal," from medal (n.); intransitive sense is by 1967. From 1845 as "stamp (an inscription, etc.) onto a medal." Related: Medaled; medalled; medaling; medalling.
"a large medal," also applied to anything shaped like one, 1650s, from French médaillon (17c.), from Italian medaglione "large medal," augmentative of medaglia (see medal (n.)).
It forms all or part of: amid; intermediate; mean (adj.2) "occupying a middle or intermediate place;" medal; medial; median; mediate; medieval; mediocre; Mediterranean; medium; meridian; mesic; mesial; meso-; meson; Mesopotamia; Mesozoic; mezzanine; mezzo; mezzotint; mid (prep., adj.); middle; Midgard; midriff; midst; midwife; milieu; minge; mizzen; moiety; mullion.
It is the hypothetical source of/evidence for its existence is provided by: Sanskrit madhyah, Avestan madiya- "middle," Greek mesos, Latin medius "in the middle, between; from the middle," Gothic midjis, Old English midd "middle," Old Church Slavonic medzu "between," Armenian mej "middle."
1550s, originally in mathematics, from converse (adj.). From 1786 as "thing or action that is the exact opposite of another." As an example, Century Dictionary gives "the hollows in a mold in which a medal has been cast are the converse of the parts of the medal in relief." Chaucer has in convers, apparently meaning "on the other side."
1727, "adorned, ornamented, embellished," past-participle adjective from decorate (v.). From 1816 as "invested with a badge or medal of honor."
early 15c., decoracioun, "the covering of blemishes with cosmetics;" 1580s, "action of adorning with something becoming or ornamental," from Medieval Latin decorationem (nominative decoratio), noun of action from past-participle stem of Latin decorare "to decorate, adorn, embellish, beautify," from decus (genitive decoris) "an ornament; grace, dignity, honor," from PIE root *dek- "to take, accept" (on the notion of "to add grace"),
Meaning "that which decorates" is from 1670s. As "a badge or medal worn as a mark of honor" (often in plural, decorations), also "the conferring of a badge or medal of honor," by 1816. In U.S., Decoration Day (by 1870) was another old name for Memorial Day (q.v.), when the graves of the Civil War dead from the North were decorated with flowers.
1520s, "deck with something becoming or ornamental, adorn, beautify," from Latin decoratus, past participle of decorare "to decorate, adorn, embellish, beautify," from decus (genitive decoris) "an ornament; grace, dignity, honor," from PIE root *dek- "to take, accept."
Earlier was decoren (early 15c.) with past-participle adjective decorat. Meaning "confer distinction upon by means of a badge or medal of honor" is from 1816. Related: Decorated; decorating.