1580s, "a master of languages;" also "one who uses his tongue freely," a hybrid from Latin lingua "language, tongue" (from PIE root *dnghu- "tongue") + -ist. Meaning "a student of language" first attested 1640s. Compare French linguiste, Spanish linguista. English in 17c. had an adjective linguacious "talkative" (1650s). Linguister (1640s) was the old name in early colonial New England for an interpreter between Europeans and Indians (Lowell used it in a sense "dabbler in philology, linguist"). Linguistician is attested from 1895.
updated on May 11, 2017