c. 1400, massif, "forming or consisting of a large mass, having great size and weight or solidity," from Old French massif "bulky, solid," from masse "lump" (see mass (n.1)). Of immaterial things, "substantial, great or imposing in scale," 1580s. Related: Massively; massiveness.
U.S. Cold War deterrent strategy of massive retaliation "threat of using thermonuclear weapons in response to aggression against the United States or its allies by the Soviet Union," whether nuclear or conventional, was introduced by Secretary of State J.F. Dulles in a speech on Jan. 12, 1954.