before vowels hom-, word-forming element meaning "same, the same, equal, like" (opposed to hetero-), from Greek homos "one and the same," also "belonging to two or more jointly" (from PIE *somo-, from root *sem- (1) "one; as one, together with").
word-forming element meaning "homosexual," abstracted since early 20c. from homosexual, and ultimately identical to homo- (1).
1892, in C.G. Chaddock's translation of Krafft-Ebing's "Psychopathia Sexualis," from German homosexual, homosexuale (by 1880, in Gustav Jäger), from Greek homos "same" (see homo- (1)) + Latin-based sexual.
'Homosexual' is a barbarously hybrid word, and I claim no responsibility for it. It is, however, convenient, and now widely used. 'Homogenic' has been suggested as a substitute. [H. Havelock Ellis, "Studies in Psychology," 1897]
Sexual inversion (1883, later simply inversion, by 1895) was an earlier clinical term for "homosexuality" in English, said by Ellis to have originated in Italian psychology writing. See also uranian. Unnatural love was used 18c.-19c. for homosexuality as well as pederasty and incest. In 17c.-18c., pathic was used as a noun and adjective in reference to a man that submits to sexual intercourse with another man. Related: Homosexually.
before vowels heter-, word-forming element meaning "other, different," from Greek heteros "the other (of two), another, different; second; other than usual." It is a compound; the first element means "one, at one, together," from PIE root *sem- (1) "one; as one, together with;" the second is cognate with the second element in Latin al-ter, Gothic an-þar, Old English o-ðer "other."
Compounds in classical Greek show the range of the word there: Heterokretes "true Cretan," (that is, of the old stock); heteroglossos "of foreign language;" heterozelos "zealous for one side;" heterotropos "of a different sort or fashion," literally "turning the other way;" heterophron "raving," literally "of other mind."