late 13c., "restorative powers of the body, bodily processes; powers of growth;" from Old French nature "nature, being, principle of life; character, essence," from Latin natura "course of things; natural character, constitution, quality; the universe," literally "birth," from natus "born," past participle of nasci "to be born," from PIE root *gene- "give birth, beget."
By mid-14c. as "the forces or processes of the material world; that which produces living things and maintains order." From late 14c. as "creation, the universe;" also "heredity, birth, hereditary circumstance; essential qualities, inherent constitution, innate disposition" (as in human nature); also "nature personified, Mother Nature." Nature and nurture have been paired and contrasted since Shakespeare's "Tempest."
The phrase "nature and nurture" is a convenient jingle of words, for it separates under two distinct heads the innumerable elements of which personality is composed. Nature is all that a man brings with himself into the world; nurture is every influence from without that affects him after his birth. [Francis Galton, "English Men of Science: Their Nature and Nurture," 1875]
Specifically as "the material world beyond human civilization or society; an original, wild, undomesticated condition" from 1660s, especially in state of nature "the condition of man before organized society." Nature-worship "religion which deifies the phenomena of physical nature" is by 1840.
Nature should be avoided in such vague expressions as 'a lover of nature,' 'poems about nature.' Unless more specific statements follow, the reader cannot tell whether the poems have to do with natural scenery, rural life, the sunset, the untouched wilderness, or the habits of squirrels. [Strunk & White, "The Elements of Style," 3rd ed., 1979]
Man, her last work, who seem'd so fair,
Such splendid purpose in his eyes,
Who roll'd the psalm to wintry skies,
Who built him fanes of fruitless prayer,
Who trusted God was love indeed
And love Creation's final law—
Tho' Nature, red in tooth and claw
With ravine, shriek'd against his creed—
[Tennyson, from "In Memoriam"]
late 14c., from Latin secundum naturam "according to nature" (Augustine, Macrobius, etc.), literally "following nature" (see second (adj.)). A term from medieval Aristotelian philosophy, contrasted to phenomena that were super naturam ("above nature," such as God's grace), extra naturam ("outside nature"), supra naturam ("beyond nature," such as miracles), contra naturam "against nature," etc.
early 15c. "of or given by God," from Medieval Latin supernaturalis "above or beyond nature, divine," from Latin super "above" (see super-) + natura "nature" (see nature (n.)). Originally with more of a religious sense, "of or given by God, divine; heavenly;" association with ghosts, etc., has predominated since 19c. Related: Supernaturalism.
That is supernatural, whatever it be, that is either not in the chain of natural cause and effect, or which acts on the chain of cause and effect, in nature, from without the chain. [Horace Bushnell, "Nature and the Supernatural," 1858]
c. 1300, naturel, "of one's inborn character; hereditary, innate, by birth or as if by birth;" early 14c. "of the world of nature (especially as opposed to man)," from Old French naturel "of nature, conforming to nature; by birth," and directly from Latin naturalis "by birth, according to nature," from natura "nature" (see nature).
Of events, features, etc., "existing in nature as a result of natural forces" (that is, not caused by accident, human agency, or divine intervention), late 14c. From late 14c. of properties, traits, qualities, "proper, suitable, appropriate to character or constitution;" from late 15c. as "native, native-born." Also late 15c. as "not miraculous, in conformity with nature," hence "easy, free from affectation" (c. 1600). Of objects or substances, "not artificially cultivated or created, existing in nature" c. 1400. As a euphemism for "illegitimate, bastard" (of children), it is recorded from c. 1400, on the notion of blood kinship (but not legal status).
Natural science, that pertaining to physical nature, is from late 14c.; natural history meaning more or less the same thing is from 1560s (see history). Natural law "the expression of right reason or the dictate of religion inhering in nature and man and having ethically binding force as a rule of civil conduct" is from late 14c. Natural order "apparent order in nature" is from 1690s. Natural childbirth is attested by 1898. Natural life, usually in reference to the duration of life, is from mid-15c.; natural death, one without violence or accident, is from mid-15c. To die of natural causes is from 1570s.