1550s, "of or pertaining to a polity, civil affairs, or government;" from Latin politicus "of citizens or the state" (see politic (adj.)) + -al (1). Meaning "taking sides in party politics" (usually pejorative) is from 1749. Political prisoner first recorded 1860; political science is from 1779 (first attested in Hume). Political animal translates Greek politikon zōon (Aristotle, "Politics," I.ii.9) "an animal intended to live in a city; a social animal":
From these things therefore it is clear that the city-state is a natural growth, and that man is by nature a political animal, and a man that is by nature and not merely by fortune citiless is either low in the scale of humanity or above it ... inasmuch as he is solitary, like an isolated piece at draughts. [Rackham transl.]
1610s, "the whole creation, the universe," from Late Latin systema "an arrangement, system," from Greek systema "organized whole, a whole compounded of parts," from stem of synistanai "to place together, organize, form in order," from syn- "together" (see syn-) + root of histanai "cause to stand," from PIE root *sta- "to stand, make or be firm."
Meaning "set of correlated principles, facts, ideas, etc." first recorded 1630s. Meaning "animal body as an organized whole, sum of the vital processes in an organism" is recorded from 1680s; hence figurative phrase to get (something) out of one's system (1900). Computer sense of "group of related programs" is recorded from 1963. All systems go (1962) is from U.S. space program. The system "prevailing social order" is from 1806.
library classification system that organizes information into 10 broad areas subdivided numerically into progressively smaller topics, by 1885, named for Melvil Dewey (1851-1931) who proposed it 1876 while acting librarian of Amherst College. He also crusaded for simplified spelling and the metric system.
system of prisons and labor camps, especially for political detainees, in the former Soviet Union; rough acronym from Russian Glavnoe upravlenie ispravitel'no-trudovykh lagerei "Chief Administration of Corrective Labor Camps," set up in 1931.
ancient German territorial and administrative division, originally comprising several villages, from Old High German gawi, from Proto-Germanic *gauja-, which is of uncertain origin. surviving in place names such as Breisgau and Oberammergau; also in gauleiter (with leiter "leader"), title of the local political leaders under the Nazi system. Compare the first element in yeoman.