late 14c., "indisputable, clearly understood;" c. 1400, "easily seen or perceived," from Old French aparant "evident, obvious, visible," from Latin apparentem (nominative apparens) "visible, manifest," present participle of apparere "appear, come in sight" (see appear).
First attested in phrases such as heir apparent (see heir). Meaning "superficial, spurious" is from c. 1400; that of "appearing to the senses or mind but not necessarily real" is from 1640s. Apparent magnitude in astronomy (how bright a heavenly body looks from earth, as opposed to absolute magnitude, which is how bright it really is) is attested from 1875. Middle English had noun forms apparence, apparency, but both are obsolete from 17c.