1580s, Latin form of Greek lykeion, name of a grove or garden with covered walks in the eastern suburb of ancient Athens, also the site of an athletic facility. Aristotle taught there. The name is from the neuter of Lykeios, an epithet of Apollo under which he had a temple nearby, which probably meant or was understood to mean "wolfish" (the exact legend appears to have become muddled), from lykos "wolf" (see wolf (n.)). Frazer (Pausanias) notes "The same epithet was applied to Apollo at Sicyon and Argos," and adds that "Wolves were dear to Apollo ... and they frequently appear in the myths told of him," and lists several.
But what gives the Lyceum its chief interest is that here, pacing the shady walks of the gymnasium, Aristotle expounded to his disciples that philosophy which was destined to influence so profoundly the course of European thought for two thousand years. [Frazer, "Pausanias's Description of Greece"]
Hence lycée, name given in France to secondary schools maintained by the state (a pupil is a lycéen). In England, early 19c., lyceum was the name taken by a number of literary societies (based on a similar use in late 18c. French); in U.S., after c. 1820, it was taken by institutes that sponsored popular lectures in science and literature, and their halls. Related: Lyceal