early 15c., "carefully selected," from Latin exquisitus "choice," literally "carefully sought out," from past participle stem of exquirere "search out thoroughly," from ex- "out" (see ex-) + quaerere "to seek" (see query (v.)).
Originally in English of any thing (good or bad, torture and diseases as well as art) brought to a highly wrought condition, sometimes shading into disapproval. The main modern meaning, "of consummate and delightful excellence" is first attested 1579, in Lyly's "Euphues." Related: Exquisitely; exquisiteness. The noun meaning "a dandy, fop" is from 1819. Bailey's Dictionary (1727) has exquisitous "not natural, but procured by art."