1620s, "equality in value or circumstances," also "value of one currency in terms of another," from Latin par "equal, equal-sized, well-matched," also as a noun, "that which is equal, equality," a word of unknown and disputed origin. De Vaan is noncommittal. Watkins suggests perhaps from PIE root *pere- (2) "to grant, allot," with suggestion of reciprocality. Another guess connects it with PIE root *per- (5) "to traffic in, sell" (on notion of "give equal value for"). Meaning "a standard fixed by consent or by natural conditions, average or usual amount" is first attested 1767. Golf sense is attested by 1898, which led to the figurative use of par for the course for "fairly normal, what can be expected" (by 1928).