late 15c., "accomplishment, completion" (of something), from perform + -ance. Meaning "that which is accomplished, a thing performed" is from 1590s; that of "action of performing a play, etc." is from 1610s; that of "a public entertainment" is from 1709. The earlier noun in Middle English was performing (late 14c.) "state of completion, accomplishment of an act." Performance art is attested from 1971.