1918, "x-ray dose unit," a shortened form of radiation (q.v.). The meaning "unit of absorbed dose of ionizing radiation" is by 1954, an acronym from radiation absorbed dose. As shortened form of radical (n.), it is attested in political slang from 1820. Teen slang adjectival sense of "extraordinary, wonderful" is from late 1970s (see radical (adj.)).
updated on March 29, 2021