1640s, "developed before the usual time" (of plants), with -ous + Latin praecox (genitive praecocis) "maturing early," from prae "before" (see pre-) + coquere "to ripen," literally "to cook" (from PIE root *pekw- "to cook, ripen"). Originally of flowers or fruits. Figurative use, of persons, dates from 1670s. Related: Precociously; precociousness.
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