mid-13c., "unblemished, refined, pure, free of impurities," also "of high quality, choice," from Old French fin "perfected, of highest quality" (12c.), a back-formation from finire or else from Latin finis "that which divides, a boundary, limit, border, end" (see finish (v.)); hence "acme, peak, height," as in finis boni "the highest good." The English word is from c. 1300 as "rich, valuable, costly;" also in a moral sense "true, genuine; faithful, constant." From late 14c. as "expertly fashioned, well or skillfully made," also, of cloth, "delicately wrought." Of weapons or edges, "sharp" from c. 1400. In reference to quality of gold and silver, late 15c.
In French, the main meaning remains "delicate, intricately skillful;" in English since c. 1300 fine has been also a general broad expression of admiration or approval, the equivalent of French beau (as in fine arts, "those which appeal to the mind and the imagination," 1767, translating French beaux-arts). Related: Finer; finest. Fine print is from 1861 as "type small and close-set;" by 1934 in the extended sense "qualifications and limitations of a deal."
c. 1200, "termination, end; end of life," from Old French fin "end, limit, boundary; death; fee, payment, finance, money" (10c.), from Latin finis "end" (see finish (v.)), in Medieval Latin also "payment in settlement, fine or tax."
Modern meaning "exaction of money payment for an offense or dereliction" is via sense of "sum of money paid for exemption from punishment or to compensate for injury" (mid-14c., from the same sense in Anglo-French, late 13c.) and from phrases such as to make fine "make one's peace, settle a matter" (c. 1300). Meaning "sum of money imposed as penalty for some offense" is first recorded 1520s.
late 13c., "pay as a ransom or penalty," from fine (n.). Inverted meaning "to punish by pecuniary penalty" is from 1550s. Related: Fined; fining.
updated on February 11, 2017