late 14c., rigour, "harshness, severity in dealing with persons; force; cruelty," from Old French rigor "strength, hardness" (13c., Modern French rigueur), from Latin rigorem (nominative rigor) "numbness, stiffness, hardness, firmness; roughness, rudeness," from rigēre "be stiff" (from PIE root *reig- "stretch; be stretched; be stiff").
Also, in medieval medicine, "a sudden chill" (c. 1400). From early 15c. as "exactness, strictness without indulgence" (of discipline, the law, etc.). Compare rigidity. Rigorism "rigidity in principles or practice" (originally religious) is from 1704. Rigidist is by 1716.