mid-14c., "adherent of a heretical Christian sect in 4c. North Africa," from Medieval Latin Donatista, from Donatus name of two of the principal men in it. The schism had more to do with episcopal succession in Carthage than with doctrine. The name is literally "bestowed, given," from past participle of Latin from donare "give as a gift" (from PIE root *do- "to give"). Related: Donatism.
updated on September 27, 2018