1550s, "of or pertaining to a polity, civil affairs, or government;" from Latin politicus "of citizens or the state" (see politic (adj.)) + -al (1). Meaning "taking sides in party politics" (usually pejorative) is from 1749. Political prisoner first recorded 1860; political science is from 1779 (first attested in Hume). Political animal translates Greek politikon zōon (Aristotle, "Politics," I.ii.9) "an animal intended to live in a city; a social animal."