late 14c., "standing or being apart from a given point or place," from Old French distant (14c.), from Latin distantem (nominative distans), present participle of distare "to stand apart, be remote," from dis- "apart, off" (see dis-) + stare "to stand," from PIE root *sta- "to stand, make or be firm."
Sense of "separated by an unspecified but large space" is from early 15c.; meaning "remote or far off in time" is from c. 1600. Sense of "not cordial or familiar" is by 1709. Related: Distantly.