early 15c., "full of misery, causing wretchedness" (of conditions), from Old French miserable (14c.) and directly from Latin miserabilis "pitiable, miserable, deplorable, lamentable," from miserari "to pity, lament, deplore," from miser "wretched" (see miser). Of persons, "existing in a state of want, suffering, wretchedness, etc.," it is attested from 1520s. Meaning "mentally full of misery, wretched in feeling unhappy," by 1590s. Related: Miserableness.
The sense associated with miser, "covetous, miserly," is attested from late 15c., but by 1895 (Century Dictionary) was "obsolete or Scotch." As a noun, "an unfortunate, an unhappy creature," 1530s (reinforced later by the French cognate, as in Hugo's "Les Misérables").
updated on January 29, 2019