Entries linking to fineness
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."
word-forming element denoting action, quality, or state, attached to an adjective or past participle to form an abstract noun, from Old English -nes(s), from Proto-Germanic *in-assu- (cognates: Old Saxon -nissi, Middle Dutch -nisse, Dutch -nis, Old High German -nissa, German -nis, Gothic -inassus), from *-in-, originally belonging to the noun stem, + *-assu-, abstract noun suffix, probably from the same root as Latin -tudo (see -tude).
updated on November 07, 2014