late 13c., conceiven, "take (seed) into the womb, become pregnant," from stem of Old French conceveir (Modern French concevoir), from Latin concipere (past participle conceptus) "to take in and hold; become pregnant" (source also of Spanish concebir, Portuguese concebre, Italian concepere), from con-, here probably an intensive prefix (see con-), + combining form of capere "to take," from PIE root *kap- "to grasp."
Meaning "take into the mind, form a correct notion of" is from mid-14c., that of "form as a general notion in the mind" is from late 14c., figurative senses also found in the Old French and Latin words. Related: Conceived; conceiving.
Nearly all the senses found in Fr. and Eng. were already developed in L., where the primary notion was app. 'to take effectively, take to oneself, take in and hold'. [OED]