late 14c., "to press or pack (something) together, force or drive into a smaller compass," from Old French compresser "compress, put under pressure," from Late Latin compressus, past participle of compressare "to press together," frequentative of comprimere "to squeeze," from com "with, together" (see com-) + premere "to press, hold fast, cover, crowd, compress" (from PIE root *per- (4) "to strike"). Related: Compressed; compressing. Compressed air is attested from 1660s.
1590s in the surgical sense of "soft mass of linen or other cloth to press against some part of the body (with the aid of a bandage)," from compress (v.).
updated on February 17, 2018