1640s, "give a false or incorrect account of, whether intentionally or not," from mis- (1) "badly, wrongly" + represent. Meaning "to fail to represent correctly as an agent of" is by 1860. Related: Misrepresented; misrepresenting.
prefix of Germanic origin affixed to nouns and verbs and meaning "bad, wrong," from Old English mis-, from Proto-Germanic *missa- "divergent, astray" (source also of Old Frisian and Old Saxon mis-, Middle Dutch misse-, Old High German missa-, German miß-, Old Norse mis-, Gothic missa-), perhaps literally "in a changed manner," and with a root sense of "difference, change" (compare Gothic misso "mutually"), and thus possibly from PIE *mit-to-, from root *mei- (1) "to change."
Productive as word-forming element in Old English (as in mislæran "to give bad advice, teach amiss"). In 14c.-16c. in a few verbs its sense began to be felt as "unfavorably," and it came to be used as an intensive prefix with words already expressing negative feeling (as in misdoubt). Practically a separate word in Old and early Middle English (and often written as such). Old English also had an adjective (mislic "diverse, unlike, various") and an adverb (mislice "in various directions, wrongly, astray") derived from it, corresponding to German misslich (adj.). It has become confused with mis- (2).
late 14c., representen, "show, display, express; bring to mind by description," also "to symbolize, serve as a sign or symbol of (something else, something abstract); serve as the type or embodiment of;" also be a representative of" (the authority of another).
This is from Old French representer "present, show, portray" (12c.) and directly from Latin repraesentare "make present, set in view, show, exhibit, display," from re-, here perhaps an intensive prefix (see re-), + praesentare "to present," literally "to place before." Latin praesentare is from praesens, "present, at hand, in sight; immediate; prompt, instant; contemporary," itself from the present participle of the verb præesse "be before (someone or something), be at hand," from prae- "before" (see pre-) + esse "to be" (from PIE root *es- "to be").
Specifically in legal actions, "speak and act with authority on behalf of another by deputed right," by 1500. Also from c. 1500 as "describe as having a specified character or quality." The legislative sense "be accredited deputy for (a body of people) in a legislative assembly" is attested from 1650s.
The meaning "serve as a specimen or example of" is by 1858, at first usually passive (the Dead Rabbits were represented by, etc.). Related: Represented; representing.