mid-15c., from Latin conectere "join together," from assimilated form of com "together" (see com-) + nectere "to bind, tie" (from PIE root *ned- "to bind, tie"). Displaced 16c. by connex (1540s), from Middle French connexer, from Latin *connexare, a supposed frequentative of conectere (past participle stem connex-). Connect was re-established 1670s.
A similar change took place in French, where connexer was superseded by connecter. Meaning "to establish a relationship" (with) is from 1881. Slang meaning "get in touch with" is attested by 1926, from telephone connections. Meaning "awaken meaningful emotions, establish rapport" is from 1942. Of a hit or blow, "to reach the target," from c. 1920. Related: Connected; connecting; connectedness.
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