late 14c., "act of attending to one's duties" (archaic), from Old French atendance "attention, wait, hope, expectation," from atendant, present participle of atendre "expect, wait for; pay attention" (see attend). Meaning "action of waiting on someone" dates from late 14c. (to dance attendance on someone is from 1560s); that of "action of being present, presenting oneself" (originally with intent of taking a part) is from mid-15c. Meaning "number of persons present" is from 1835. To take attendance in a classroom or lecture is by 1891.