1520s, "manner or style of expression," also "group of words with some unity," from Late Latin phrasis "diction," from Greek phrasis "speech, way of speaking, enunciation, phraseology," from phrazein "to tell, declare, indicate, point out, show, inform," also passively (phrazomai), "indicate to oneself, think or muse upon, consider; think up, contrive; suppose, believe, imagine; perceive, observe." Of uncertain origin; perhaps connected with phrenes "wits, senses, sanity," phren "the mind, the heart," literally "midriff, diaphragm" (see phreno-). The musical sense of "short passage" is from 1789.
"to put into a phrase," 1560s; see phrase (n.). Related: Phrased; phrasing.