1640s, "capable of performance" (a sense now obsolete), also "of the branch of government that carries out the laws," from Latin executivus, from past participle stem of exequi "follow after; carry out, accomplish" (see execution). The sense of "concerned with or pertaining to the function of carrying into practical effect" is from 1670s. The noun meaning "person or persons invested with supreme executive power in a country" is from 1776, as a branch of government charged with the execution and enforcement of the laws. Meaning "high-ranking businessman, person holding an executive position in a business organization" is by 1902 in American English; hence the adjectival sense "stylish, luxurious, costly" (1970s). Executive privilege in reference to the U.S. president is attested by 1805, American English.
updated on May 03, 2020