early 15c., "of or pertaining to material nature" (in medicine, opposed to surgical), from Medieval Latin physicalis "of nature, natural," from Latin physica "study of nature" (see physic). Meaning "pertaining to matter" is from 1590s; meaning "having to do with the body, corporeal" is attested from 1780. Meaning "characterized by bodily attributes or activities" is attested from 1970. Physical education first recorded 1838; abbreviated form phys ed is from 1955. Physical therapy is from 1922. Related: Physically.
"a physical examination," by 1934, from physical (adj.).