1731, "pronounce with an accent," from Medieval Latin accentuatus, past participle of accentuare "to accent," from Latin accentus "song added to speech," from ad "to" (see ad-) + cantus "a singing," past participle of canere "to sing" (from PIE root *kan- "to sing"). Figurative meaning "emphasize, place an accent or emphasis on" is recorded from 1865.
You've got to accentuate the positive
Eliminate the negative
Latch on to the affirmative
Don't mess with Mister In-Between
["Ac-Cent-Tchu-Ate the Positive," 1944, music by Harold Arlen, lyrics by Johnny Mercer]
Related: Accentuated; accentuating.