1713, "that property of matter by virtue of which it retains its state of rest or of uniform rectilinear motion so long as no foreign cause changes that state" [Century Dictionary], introduced as a term in physics 17c. by German astronomer and physician Johann Kepler (1571-1630) as a special sense of Latin inertia "unskillfulness, ignorance; inactivity, idleness," from iners (genitive inertis) "unskilled; inactive" (see inert). Also sometimes vis inertia "force of inertia." Used in 1687 by Newton, writing in Modern Latin. The classical Latin sense of "apathy, passiveness, inactivity" is attested in English from 1822.
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