c. 1200, "quality of being willing to bear adversities, calm endurance of misfortune, suffering, etc.," from Old French pacience "patience; sufferance, permission" (12c.) and directly from Latin patientia "patience, endurance, submission," also "indulgence, leniency; humility; submissiveness; submission to lust;" literally "quality of suffering." It is an abstract noun formed from the adjective patientem (nominative patiens) "bearing, supporting; suffering, enduring, permitting; tolerant," but also "firm, unyielding, hard," used of persons as well as of navigable rivers, present participle of pati "to endure, undergo, experience," which is of uncertain origin.
Patience, n. A minor form of despair, disguised as a virtue. [Ambrose Bierce, "Devil's Dictionary," 1911]
Meaning "constancy in effort" is attested from 1510s. Meaning "card game for one person" is from 1816.