c. 1300, ordinaunce, "an authoritative direction, decree, or command" (narrower or more transitory than a law), from Old French ordenance (Modern French ordonnance) or directly from Medieval Latin ordinantia, from Latin ordinantem (nominative ordinans), present participle of ordinare "put in order," from ordo (genitive ordinis) "row, rank, series, arrangement" (see order (n.)). By early 14c. senses had emerged of "arrangement in ranks or rows" (especially in order of battle), also "warlike provisions, equipment" (a sense now in ordnance).
Entries linking to ordinance
c. 1200, "body of persons living under a religious discipline," from Old French ordre "position, estate; rule, regulation; religious order" (11c.), from earlier ordene, from Latin ordinem (nominative ordo) "row, line, rank; series, pattern, arrangement, routine," originally "a row of threads in a loom," from Proto-Italic *ordn- "row, order" (source also of ordiri "to begin to weave;" compare primordial), which is of uncertain origin. Watkins suggests it is a variant of PIE root *ar- "to fit together," and De Vaan finds this "semantically attractive."
The original English word reflects a medieval notion: "a system of parts subject to certain uniform, established ranks or proportions," and was used of everything from architecture to angels. Old English expressed many of the same ideas with endebyrdnes. From the notion of "formal disposition or array, methodical or harmonious arrangement" comes the meaning "fit or consistent collocation of parts" (late 14c.).
Meaning "a rank in the (secular) community" is first recorded c. 1300. Sense of "a regular sequence or succession" is from late 14c. The meaning "command, directive" is first recorded 1540s, from the notion of "that which keep things in order." Military and honorary orders grew out of the fraternities of Crusader knights.
The business and commerce sense of "a written direction to pay money or deliver property" is attested by 1837; as "a request for food or drink in a restaurant" from 1836. In natural history, as a classification of living things next below class and next above family, it is recorded from 1760. Meaning "condition of a community which is under the rule of law" is from late 15c.
In order "in proper sequence or arrangement" is from c. 1400; out of order "not in proper sequence or orderly arrangement" is from 1540s; since 20c. principally mechanical, but not originally so ("and so home, and there find my wife mightily out of order, and reproaching of Mrs. Pierce and Knipp as wenches, and I know not what," - Pepys, diary, Aug. 6, 1666).
Phrase in order to "for the purpose of" (1650s) preserves etymological notion of "sequence." In short order "without delay" is from 1834, American English; order of battle "arrangement and disposition of an army or fleet for the purposes of engagement" is from 1769. The scientific/mathematical order of magnitude is attested from 1723.
"cannon and great guns collectively, artillery," 1540s, an old, clipped form of ordinance (q.v.) which word was attested from late 14c. in the sense of "military materials, provisions of war;" a sense now obsolete but which led to the specialized meanings "engines for discharging missiles" (early 15c.) and "branch of the military concerned with stores and materials" (late 15c.). The shorter word was established in these distinct senses by 17c.
The Ordnance survey (1833), an official geographical survey of Great Britain and Ireland, was undertaken by the government under the direction of the Master-General of the Ordnance (the natural choice, gunners being thoroughly trained in surveying ranges and distances).
It forms all or part of: adorn; alarm; aristarchy; aristo-; aristocracy; arm (n.1) "upper limb of the body;" arm (n.2) "weapon;" armada; armadillo; armament; armature; armilla; armistice; armoire; armor; armory; army; art (n.) "skill as a result of learning or practice;" arthralgia; arthritis; arthro-; arthropod; arthroscopy; article; articulate; artifact; artifice; artisan; artist; coordination; disarm; gendarme; harmony; inert; inertia; inordinate; ordain; order; ordinal; ordinance; ordinary; ordinate; ordnance; ornament; ornate; primordial; subordinate; suborn.
It is the hypothetical source of/evidence for its existence is provided by: Sanskrit irmah "arm," rtih "manner, mode;" Armenian arnam "make," armukn "elbow;" Greek arti "just," artios "complete, suitable," artizein "to prepare," arthron "a joint;" Latin ars (stem art-) "art, skill, craft," armus "shoulder," artus "joint," arma "weapons;" Old Prussian irmo "arm;" German art "manner, mode."