c. 1200, "stern;" early 13c., of suffering, death, etc., "attended by much distress;" c. 1300, "inclined or willing to make another suffer, disposed to inflict suffering, mental or physical, on any sentient being," from Old French cruel (12c.), earlier crudel, from Latin crudelis "rude, unfeeling; cruel, hard-hearted," related to crudus "rough, raw, bloody" (see crude). Related: Cruelly.
Latin medial -d- began to disappear 10c. in French: compare chance/cadentia, cheoir/cadere, joyeux/gaudiosus, juif/judaeus, moyen/medianus, obéir/obedire, séance/sedentia.