c. 1300, from Old French nacion "birth, rank; descendants, relatives; country, homeland" (12c.) and directly from Latin nationem (nominative natio) "birth, origin; breed, stock, kind, species; race of people, tribe," literally "that which has been born," from natus, past participle of nasci "be born" (Old Latin gnasci), from PIE root *gene- "give birth, beget," with derivatives referring to procreation and familial and tribal groups.
Political sense has gradually predominated, but earliest English examples inclined toward the racial meaning "large group of people with common ancestry." Older sense preserved in application to North American Indian peoples (1640s). Nation-building first attested 1907 (implied in nation-builder).
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