c. 1200, resoun, "the intellectual faculty that adopts actions to ends," also "statement in an argument, statement of explanation or justification," from Anglo-French resoun, Old French raison "course; matter; subject; language, speech; thought, opinion," from Latin rationem (nominative ratio) "reckoning, understanding, motive, cause," from ratus, past participle of reri "to reckon, think" (from PIE root *re- "to reason, count").
Meaning "sanity; degree of intelligence that distinguishes men from brutes" is recorded from late 13c.; that of "that which recommends itself to enlightened intelligence, a reasonable view of a matter" is from c. 1300.
The sense of "grounds for action, motive, cause of an event" is from c. 1300. The Middle English sense of "meaning, signification" (early 14c.) is preserved in the phrase rhyme or reason. Phrase it stands to (or with) reason is from 1520s. A reason of state (1610s) is a purely political grounds for action.
The Enlightenment gave reason its focused sense of "intelligence considered as having universal validity ... so that it is not something that belongs to any person, but is something partaken of, a sort of light in which every mind must perceive" [Century Dictionary]. Reason itself has long been personified, typically as a woman. Age of Reason "the European Enlightenment" is first recorded 1794 as the title of Tom Paine's book.
Reason is never a root, neither of act nor desire.
[Robinson Jeffers, "Meditation on Saviors"]
c. 1400, resounen, "to question (someone)," also "to challenge," from Old French resoner, raisoner "speak, discuss; argue; address; speak to," from Late Latin rationare "to discourse," from Latin ratio "reckoning, understanding, motive, cause," from ratus, past participle of reri "to reckon, think" (from PIE root *re- "to reason, count").
The intransitive sense of "to think in a logical manner, exercise the faculty of reason" is from 1590s; transitive sense of "employ reasoning (with someone)" is from 1680s. Related: Reasoned; reasoning.
updated on May 14, 2021