c. 1300, "being in the same place as someone or something;" early 14c., "existing at the time," from Old French present "evident, at hand, within reach;" as a noun, "the present time" (11c., Modern French présent) and directly from Latin praesentem (nominative praesens) "present, at hand, in sight; immediate; prompt, instant; contemporary," from present participle of præesse "be before (someone or something), be at hand," from prae- "before" (see pre-) + esse "to be" (from PIE root *es- "to be").
Meaning "abiding in a specified place" is from mid-14c. in English. As a grammatical tense expressing action or being in the present time, recorded from late 14c.
c. 1300, presenten, "bring into the presence of, introduce (someone or something) formally or ceremonially;" also "make a formal presentation of; give as a gift or award; bestow; approach with a gift, bring or lay before one for acceptance," from Old French presenter (11c., Modern French présenter) and directly from Latin praesentare "to place before, show, exhibit," from stem of praesens (see present (adj.)).
From late 14c. as "exhibit (something), demonstrate, reveal, offer for inspection, display;" also, in law, "accuse to the authorities, make a formal complaint or charge of wrongdoing." From c. 1400 as "represent, portray." Related: Presented; presenting. To present arms "bring the firearm to a perpendicular position in front of the body" is by 1759.
c. 1300, "the present time, time now passing, this point in time" (opposed to past and future), also "act or fact of being present; portion of space around someone," from Old French present (n.) "the present time" (11c.), from Latin praesens "being there" (see present (adj.)).
In Middle English also "the portion of space around someone" (mid-14c.). In old legalese, these presents means "these documents, the documents in hand" (late 14c.).
c. 1200, "thing offered, what is offered or given as a gift," from Old French present and directly from Medieval Latin presentia, from phrases such as French en present "(to offer) in the presence of," mettre en present "place before, give," from Latin in re praesenti "in the situation in question," from praesens "being there" (see present (adj.), and compare present (v.)). The notion is of "something brought into someone's presence."
The difference between present and gift is felt in the fact that one may be willing to accept as a present that which he would not be willing to accept as a gift : a gift is to help the one receiving it; a present does him honor, or expresses friendly feeling toward him. A present is therefore ordinarily to an individual; but in law gift is used, to the exclusion of present, as including all transfers of property without consideration and for the benefit of the donee. [Century Dictionary]