c. 1300, nacioun, "a race of people, large group of people with common ancestry and language," from Old French nacion "birth, rank; descendants, relatives; country, homeland" (12c.) and directly from Latin nationem (nominative natio) "birth, origin; breed, stock, kind, species; race of people, tribe," literally "that which has been born," from natus, past participle of nasci "be born" (Old Latin gnasci), from PIE root *gene- "give birth, beget," with derivatives referring to procreation and familial and tribal groups.
The word is used in English in a broad sense, "a race of people an aggregation of persons of the same ethnic family and speaking the same language," and also in the narrower sense, "a political society composed of a government and subjects or citizens and constituting a political unit; an organized community inhabiting a defined territory within which its sovereignty is exercised."
In Middle English it is not easy to distinguish them, but the "political society" sense emerged by 16c., perhaps late 14c. and it has gradually predominated. The older sense is preserved in the application of nation to the native North American peoples (1640s). Nation-building "creation of a new nation" is attested by 1907 (implied in nation-builder). Nation-state "sovereign country the inhabitants of which are united by language, culture, and common descent" is from 1918.
A nation is an organized community within a certain territory; or in other words, there must be a place where its sole sovereignty is exercised. [Theodore D. Woolsey, "Introduction to the Study of International Law," 1864]
"of or pertaining to a nation or a country regarded as a whole; established and maintained by the nation; peculiar to the whole people of a country," 1590s, from French national (16c., from Old French nacion), and also from nation + -al (1). Opposed to local or provincial (or in the U.S., state).
Meaning "peculiar or common to the whole people of a country" is by 1620s. From 1802 as "established and maintained by the nation or its laws." As a noun, "citizen of a (particular) nation," from 1887. Related: Nationally.
National guard is from 1793, originally in reference to an armed force in France identified with the revolution; U.S. use is from 1847, originally a name sometimes given to the organized militia. National anthem is recorded by 1806.
A King though he's pestered with cares,
For the most part he's able to ban them;
But one comes in a shape he never can escape—
The implacable National Anthem!
[W.S. Gilbert, "His Excellency," 1894]
*genə-, also *gen-, Proto-Indo-European root meaning "give birth, beget," with derivatives referring to procreation and familial and tribal groups.
It forms all or part of: Antigone; autogenous; benign; cognate; congener; congenial; congenital; connate; cosmogony; cryogenic; degenerate; engender; engine; epigone; eugenics; -gen; gendarme; gender; gene; genealogy; general; generate; generation; generic; generous; genesis; -genesis; genial; -genic; genital; genitive; genius; genocide; genotype; genre; gens; gent; genteel; gentile; gentle; gentry; genuine; genus; -geny; germ; german (adj.) "of the same parents or grandparents;" germane; germinal; germinate; germination; gingerly; gonad; gono-; gonorrhea; heterogeneous; homogeneous; homogenize; homogenous; impregnate; indigenous; ingenious; ingenuous; innate; jaunty; kermes; kin; kindergarten; kindred; king; kind (n.) "class, sort, variety;" kind (adj.) "friendly, deliberately doing good to others;" Kriss Kringle; malign; miscegenation; nada; naive; nascent; natal; Natalie; nation; native; nature; nee; neonate; Noel; oncogene; ontogeny; photogenic; phylogeny; pregnant (adj.1) "with child;" primogenitor; primogeniture; progenitor; progeny; puisne; puny; renaissance; theogony; wunderkind.
It is the hypothetical source of/evidence for its existence is provided by: Sanskrit janati "begets, bears," janah "offspring, child, person," janman- "birth, origin," jatah "born;" Avestan zizanenti "they bear;" Greek gignesthai "to become, happen," genos "race, kind," gonos "birth, offspring, stock;" Latin gignere "to beget," gnasci "to be born," genus (genitive generis) "race, stock, kind; family, birth, descent, origin," genius "procreative divinity, inborn tutelary spirit, innate quality," ingenium "inborn character," possibly germen "shoot, bud, embryo, germ;" Lithuanian gentis "kinsmen;" Gothic kuni "race;" Old English cennan "beget, create," gecynd "kind, nature, race;" Old High German kind "child;" Old Irish ro-genar "I was born;" Welsh geni "to be born;" Armenian cnanim "I bear, I am born."
"one devoted to his nation," 1715, from national (adj.) in a now-otherwise-obsolete sense of "patriotic, characterized by attachment or devotion to one's own race or country or its institutions" (1711) + -ist. In 19c. Britain often particularly "one who advocates independence for a nation" (especially Ireland). Also used in theology for "one who holds to the divine election of entire nations," as distinguished from that of particular individuals (1836). Related: Nationalistic; nationalistically.
1690s, "separate existence as a nation, national unity and integrity," from national + -ity (in some usages perhaps from French nationalité. As "fact of belonging to or being a citizen of a particular state," from 1828, gradually shading into "race, ethnicity." Meaning "a racial or ethnic group" is by 1832. Related: Nationalities.
But I do love a country that loves itself. I love a country that insists on its own nationality which is the same thing as a person's insisting on his own personality. [Robert Frost, letter, April 21, 1919]