1550s, "act of consulting together," from Middle French conférence (15c.), from Medieval Latin conferentia, from Latin conferens, present participle of conferre "to bring together; deliberate, talk over," literally "to bring together," from assimilated form of com "together" (seecon-) + ferre "to bear, carry," from PIE root *bher- (1) "to carry," also "to bear children." Meaning "formal meeting for consultation, discussion, instruction, exchange of opinions, etc.," is from 1580s. As a verb from 1846 (implied in conferencing).
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