c. 1300, principalite, "position of a prince," from Old French principalite "principal matter; power, sovereignty" (12c., Modern French principauté) and directly from Late Latin principalitatem (nominative principalitas), from principalis "first in importance; original, primitive" (see principal (adj.)).
Mid-14c. as "government by a prince." Meaning "region or state ruled by a prince or monarch" is attested from late 14c. Also in Middle English "state of being superior" (late 14c.).