word-forming element meaning "before," from Old French pre- and Medieval Latin pre-, both from Latin prae (adverb and preposition) "before in time or place," from PIE *peri- (source also of Oscan prai, Umbrian pre, Sanskrit pare "thereupon," Greek parai "at," Gaulish are- "at, before," Lithuanian prie "at," Old Church Slavonic pri "at," Gothic faura, Old English fore "before"), extended form of root *per- (1) "forward," hence "beyond, in front of, before."
The Latin word was active in forming verbs. Also see prae-. Sometimes in Middle English muddled with words in pro- or per-.
late 14c., publicacioun, "the act of making publicly known, notification to the people at large," from Old French publicacion (14c.) and directly from Latin publicationem (nominative publicatio) "a making public; an adjudging to the public treasury," noun of action from past-participle stem of publicare "make public," from publicus (see public (adj.)).
The meaning "the issuing of a written or printed work to the public by sale or distribution" is recorded by 1570s; as the word for the thing so issued and offered, from 1650s. Compare publicization. Parallel publishment existed alongside this word.