1530s, "examine by comparison;" 1540s (intransitive) "consult together on some special subject;" 1560s, "bestow as a gift or permanent possession," from Old French conférer (14c.) "to give; to converse; to compare," from Latin conferre "to bring together," figuratively "to compare; consult, deliberate, talk over," from assimilated form of com "together" (see con-) + ferre "to bear, carry," from PIE root *bher- (1) "to carry," also "to bear children."
The sense of "taking counsel" led to conference. The oldest English meaning, that of "compare" (common 1530-c. 1650), is largely obsolete, but the abbreviation cf. still is used in this sense. Related: Conferred; conferring.
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