1759 (in translations of Voltaire), from French optimisme (1737), from Modern Latin optimum, used by Gottfried Leibniz (in "Thodice," 1710) to mean "the greatest good," from Latin optimus "the best" (see optimum). The doctrine holds that the actual world is the "best of all possible worlds," in which the creator accomplishes the most good at the cost of the least evil.
En termes de l'art, il l'appelle la raison du meilleur ou plus savamment encore, et Théologiquement autant que Géométriquement, le systême de l'Optimum, ou l'Optimisme. ["Memoires pour l'Histoire Des Sciences & des beaux Arts," (Journal de Trévoux), Feb. 1737]
Launched out of philosophical jargon and into currency by Voltaire's satire on it in "Candide." General sense of "belief that good ultimately will prevail in the world" first attested 1841 in Emerson; meaning "tendency to take a hopeful view of things" first recorded 1819 in Shelley.
Proto-Indo-European root meaning "to work, produce in abundance."
It forms all or part of: cooperate; cooperation; copious; copy; cornucopia; hors d'oeuvre; inure; maneuver; manure; oeuvre; office; official; officinal; omni-; omnibus; omnium gatherum; op. cit.; opera; operate; operation; operose; optimism; optimum; opulence; opulent; opus; Oscan.
It is the hypothetical source of/evidence for its existence is provided by: Sanskrit apas- "work, religious act," apnas- "possession, property;" Hittite happina- "rich;" Avestan huapah- "doing good work, masterly;" Latin opus "a work, labor, exertion;" Greek ompne "food, corn;" Old High German uoben "to start work, to practice, to honor;" German üben "to exercise, practice;" Dutch oefenen, Old Norse æfa, Danish øve "to exercise, practice;" Old English æfnan "to perform, work, do," afol "power."
Doctor Kearney, who formerly, with so much reputation, delivered lectures in this place on the history of Rome, observed to me once, that he was not an optimist, but an "agathist"; that he believed that every thing tended to good, but did not think himself competent to determine what was absolutely the best. The distinction is important, and seems to be fatal to the system of Optimism. [George Miller, "Lectures on the Philosophy of Modern History," Dublin, 1816]
The meaning "characterized by cheerful optimism" is perhaps on the notion of something uncommonly beautiful. In early use it often was applied to the mist or light that superficially brightened circumstances, and perhaps the earliest appearance of it in English is in the figurative phrase rose-colored spectacles, attested by 1830. The noun phrase rose-color meaning "a pleasant outlook" is said to be from or based on French couleur de rose (itself used in English poetry by 1831). Rosy is by 1775 in the secondary sense of "cheerful." There is a nonce use of rose-colourist for a cheerful optimist from 1852.
songbird of the Old World, early 14c., earlier lauerche (c. 1200), from Old English lawerce (late Old English laferce), from Proto-Germanic *laiw(a)rikon (source also of Old Saxon lewerka, Frisian liurk, Old Norse lævirik, Dutch leeuwerik, German Lerche), a word of unknown origin.
Old English and Old Norse forms suggest a contracted compound, perhaps meaning "treason-worker," but "nothing is known in folklore to account for such a designation" [OED]. Noted for its early song and high flying (in contrast to its low nest). When the sky falls, we shall catch larks was an old proverb mocking foolish optimism.
Latin alauda "the lark" (source of Italian aloda, Spanish alondra, Provençal alauza, Old French aloe) is said to be from Gaulish (Celtic). True Latin names for the skylark were galerita, corydalus.
SPLIT the lark and you’ll find the music,
Bulb after bulb, in silver rolled