"civility, politeness," 1717, from French politesse (17c.), from Italian politezza, properly "the quality of being polite," from polito "polite," from Latin politus (see polite). "In mod. usage generally with depreciatory connotation" [OED].
c. 1200, curteisie, "courtly ideals; chivalry, chivalrous conduct; elegance of manners, politeness," also "a courteous act, act of civility or respect," from Old French curteisie, cortoisie "courtliness, noble sentiments; courteousness; generosity" (Modern French courtoisie), from curteis "courteous" (see courteous).
From c. 1300 as "good will, kindness," also "a reward, a gift;" mid-14c. as "refinement, gentlemanly conduct." A specialized sense of curteisie is the source of English curtsy. A courtesy title (1829) is one to which one has no valid claim but which is assumed or given by popular consent. Courtesy call "visit made for the sake of politeness" is by 1898.
1560s, "that which is proper or fitting in a literary or artistic composition;" 1580s, "propriety of speech, behavior, or dress; formal politeness," from Latin decorum "that which is seemly," noun use of neuter of adjective decorus "fit, proper," from decor"beauty, elegance, charm, grace, ornament," from decus (genitive decoris) "an ornament," from PIE root *dek- "to take, accept" (on the notion of "to add grace").
late 14c., "polished, burnished" (mid-13c. as a surname), from Latin politus "refined, elegant, accomplished," literally "polished," past participle of polire "to polish, to make smooth" (see polish (v.)).
The literal sense is obsolete in English; the sense of "elegant, cultured" (of literature, arts, etc.) is from c. 1500; of persons, "refined or cultivated in speech, manner, or behavior," by 1620s. The meaning "behaving courteously, showing consideration for others" is by 1748 (implied in politely). Related: Politeness.
Polite applies to one who shows a polished civility, who has a higher training in ease and gracefulness of manners: politeness is a deeper, more comprehensive, more delicate, and perhaps more genuine thing than civility. Polite, though much abused, is becoming the standard word for the bearing of a refined and kind person toward others. [Century Dictionary, 1895]
late 14c., cerymonye, "a religious observance, a solemn rite," from Old French ceremonie and directly from Medieval Latin ceremonia, from Latin caerimonia "holiness, sacredness; awe; reverent rite, sacred ceremony," an obscure word, possibly of Etruscan origin, or a reference to the ancient rites performed by the Etruscan pontiffs at Caere, near Rome.
Introduced in English by Wyclif. Also from late 14c. as "a conventional usage of politeness, formality." Disparaging sense of "mere formality" is by 1550s.
1530s, "of or relating to cities or towns," from French urbain (14c.) and directly from Latin urbanus "belonging to a city," also "citified, elegant" (see urban). The meaning "having the manners of townspeople, courteous, refined" is from 1620s, from a secondary sense in classical Latin. Urbanity in this sense is recorded from 1530s. For sense connection and differentiation of form, compare human/humane; german/germane.
Urbane; literally city-like, expresses a sort of politeness which is not only sincere and kind, but peculiarly suave and agreeable. [Century Dictionary]
"act or expression of civility, respect, or regard" (or, as Johnson defines it, "An act, or expression of civility, usually understood to include some hypocrisy, and to mean less than it declares"), 1570s, complement, ultimately from Latin complementum "that which fills up or completes" (see complement, which is essentially the same word), the notion being "that which completes the obligations of politeness."
The spelling of this derived sense shifted in English after c. 1650 to compliment, via French compliment (17c.), which is from Italian complimento "expression of respect and civility," from complire "to fill up, finish, suit, compliment," from Vulgar Latin *complire, for Latin complere "to complete" (see complete (adj.)).
By early 19c. the meaning had been extended to "an expression of praise or admiration. Meaning "a present or favor bestowed, a complimentary gift" is from 1722.
late 14c., "relating to civil law or life; pertaining to the internal affairs of a state," from Old French civil "civil, relating to civil law" (13c.) and directly from Latin civilis "relating to a society, pertaining to public life, relating to the civic order, befitting a citizen," hence by extension "popular, affable, courteous;" alternative adjectival derivative of civis "townsman" (see city).
Meaning "not barbarous, civilized" is from 1550s. Specifically "relating to the commonwealth as secularly organized" (as opposed to military or ecclesiastical) by 1610s. Meaning "relating to the citizen in his relation to the commonwealth or to fellow citizens" also is from 1610s.
The word civil has about twelve different meanings; it is applied to all manner of objects, which are perfectly disparate. As opposed to criminal, it means all law not criminal. As opposed to ecclesiastical, it means all law not ecclesiastical: as opposed to military, it means all law not military, and so on. [John Austin, "Lectures on Jurisprudence," 1873]
The sense of "polite" was in classical Latin, but English did not pick up this nuance of the word until late 16c., and it has tended to descend in meaning to "meeting minimum standards of courtesy." "Courteous is thus more commonly said of superiors, civil of inferiors, since it implies or suggests the possibility of incivility or rudeness" [OED].
Civil, literally, applies to one who fulfills the duty of a citizen; It may mean simply not rude, or observant of the external courtesies of intercourse, or quick to do and say gratifying and complimentary things. ... Courteous, literally, expresses that style of politeness which belongs to courts: a courteous man is one who is gracefully respectful in his address and manner — one who exhibits a union of dignified complaisance and kindness. The word applies to all sincere kindness and attention. [Century Dictionary, 1895]
Civil case (as opposed to criminal) is recorded from 1610s. Civil liberty "natural liberty restrained by law only so far as is necessary for the public good" is by 1640s.