1580s, "description," from display (v.). Meaning "exhibition" is from 1680s.
late 13c., "unfurl" (a banner, etc.), from Old French desploiir (Modern French déployer) "unfold, unfasten, spread out" (of knots, sealed letters, etc.), from Latin displicare "to scatter," from dis- "un-, apart" (see dis-) + plicare "to fold" (from PIE root *plek- "to plait").
Properly of sails or flags (and unconnected to play); meaning "reveal, exhibit" is late 14c. Related: Displayed; displaying.
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