"companion," 1834, American English, from Spanish compadre "godfather," hence "benefactor, friend," from Medieval Latin compater, from com "with, together" (see com-) + pater "father" (see father (n.). Compare compere, compeer, also gossip (n.).
word-forming element usually meaning "with, together," from Latin com, archaic form of classical Latin cum "together, together with, in combination," from PIE *kom- "beside, near, by, with" (compare Old English ge-, German ge-). The prefix in Latin sometimes was used as an intensive.
Before vowels and aspirates, it is reduced to co-; before -g-, it is assimilated to cog- or con-; before -l-, assimilated to col-; before -r-, assimilated to cor-; before -c-, -d-, -j-, -n-, -q-, -s-, -t-, and -v-, it is assimilated to con-, which was so frequent that it often was used as the normal form.
Old English fæder "he who begets a child, nearest male ancestor;" also "any lineal male ancestor; the Supreme Being," and by late Old English, "one who exercises parental care over another," from Proto-Germanic *fader (source also of Old Saxon fadar, Old Frisian feder, Dutch vader, Old Norse faðir, Old High German fatar, German vater; in Gothic usually expressed by atta), from PIE *pəter- "father" (source also of Sanskrit pitar-, Greek pater, Latin pater, Old Persian pita, Old Irish athir "father"), presumably from baby-speak sound "pa." The ending formerly was regarded as an agent-noun affix.
My heart leaps up when I behold
A rainbow in the sky:
So was it when my life began;
So is it now I am a man;
So be it when I shall grow old,
Or let me die!
The Child is father of the Man;
I could wish my days to be
Bound each to each by natural piety.
The classic example of Grimm's Law, where PIE "p-" becomes Germanic "f-." Spelling with -th- (15c.) reflects widespread phonetic shift in Middle English that turned -der to -ther in many words, perhaps reinforced in this case by Old Norse forms; spelling caught up to pronunciation in 1500s (compare mother (n.), weather (n.), hither, gather). As a title of various Church dignitaries from c. 1300; meaning "creator, inventor, author" is from mid-14c.; that of "anything that gives rise to something else" is from late 14c. As a respectful title for an older man, recorded from 1550s. Father-figure is from 1954. Fathers "leading men, elders" is from 1580s.