early 14c. (late 12c. as a surname), "mercy, tenderness, pity," from Old French piete "piety, faith; pity, compassion" (12c.), from Latin pietatem (nominative pietas) "dutiful conduct, sense of duty; religiousness, piety; loyalty, patriotism; faithfulness to natural ties," in Late Latin "gentleness, kindness, pity;" from pius "kind" (see pious). Meaning "piousness" attested in English from c. 1600. Also see pity (n.).