mid-15c., "first in time, earliest in appearance;" late 15c. as "first in rank or importance," from French premier "first, chief," from Latin primarius "of the first rank; chief, principal; excellent," from primus "first" (see prime (adj.)).
1711 in the political sense, "the first minister of a state," a shortening of premier minister (1680s); see premier (adj.). In U.S. usage, premier formerly was applied occasionally to the Secretary of State (late 19c.).