publicist (n.)

1792, "person learned in public law or the law of nations," from public (adj.) + -ist. From 1795 in English as "writer on current topics," from French publiciste. In either case a hybrid.

Then crept in the "loose" usage. Anybody who wrote or spoke about public affairs came to be dubbed a publicist. It was only a question of time when the dam would give way and the word flow in all directions and be made to cover every kind of talent, or lack of it. [The Nation, Nov. 22, 1917]

Meaning "press agent" is from 1925 (publicity agent attested by 1900); publicitor also was tried in this sense.

updated on January 22, 2021