mid-14c., from Old French perpetuel "without end" (12c.) and directly from Latin perpetualis "universal," in Medieval Latin "permanent," from perpetuus "continuous, universal," from perpetis, genitive of Old Latin perpes "lasting," probably from per "through" (from PIE root *per- (1) "forward," hence "through") + root of petere "to seek, go to, aim at" (from PIE root *pet- "to rush, to fly"). Related: Perpetually. Perpetual motion is attested from 1590s.
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