late 14c., from Old French comunité "community, commonness, everybody" (Modern French communauté), from Latin communitatem (nominative communitas) "community, society, fellowship, friendly intercourse; courtesy, condescension, affability," from communis "common, public, general, shared by all or many" (see common (adj.)). Latin communitatem "was merely a noun of quality ... meaning 'fellowship, community of relations or feelings,' but in med.L. it was, like universitas, used concretely in the sense of 'a body of fellows or fellow-townsmen' " [OED].
An Old English word for "community" was gemænscipe "community, fellowship, union, common ownership," from mæne "common, public, general," probably composed from the same PIE roots as communis. Community service as a criminal sentence is recorded from 1972, American English. Community college is recorded from 1959.
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