c. 1400, "humble, lowly, poor; of low quality; menial," from Latin abiectus "low, crouching; common, mean, contemptible; cast down, dispirited," past participle of abicere "to throw away, cast off; degrade, humble, lower," from ab "off, away from" (see ab-) + iacere "to throw" (past participle iactus; from PIE root *ye- "to throw, impel").
Figurative sense of "downcast, brought low, hopeless," is by 1510s. Also in Middle English "cast off, rejected, expelled, outcast," a sense now obsolete. Abject formerly also was a verb in English, "to cast out, expel; to degrade, humiliate" (15c.-17c.). As a noun, "base or servile person," 1530s. Related: Abjectly; abjectness.